Speaking to an audience of more than 300 at Memorial Union Tuesday evening, representatives of the Raelian Movement and Clonaid explained the science behind human cloning, the beliefs of the Raelians and UFO evidence that supports the beliefs of the Raelians and human cloning work done at Clonaid.
According to the Raelians, the Elohim, \the people who came from the sky,"" created all life on earth and whose messengers include the founders of some of the world's major religions. The founder of the movement, Rael, claims to have spoken with the aliens in 1973 when they told him to spread their message and build an embassy for their return.
""They created humans in their own image. They sent us messengers to guide us through the ages,"" said Marc Letournau, a Raelian representative.
Clonaid is the human cloning company that, on Dec. 27, 2002, announced the birth of the first cloned baby. Thomas Kaenzig, vice president of Clonaid, announced they have produced five cloned children and 20 more are on the way. One of the cloned children was created from bone marrow cells taken from a donor that had died four months earlier, according to Kaenzig.
""Yes, we are playing God, us scientists on Earth,"" Kaenzig said.
The two groups claim to be separate entities, but have similar interests. The Raelians believe eternal life can be achieved through transferring memories and personality to a clone that has undergone an accelerated growth process.
""It's going to happen much faster than people think,"" said Kaenzig.
Once their memory transfer process is perfected, the Raelians plan to establish life on another planet with humans in their own image, according to Letournau.
""The human beings we create will think we're gods,"" Letournau said.
Audience members showed a mixture of skepticism and interest in what Kaenzig and Letournau had to say. A question-and-answer session in which the Raelians' beliefs and Clonaid's practices were challenged followed the presentation. Discussion continued in small groups with the speakers after the question-and-answer session.
Some UW-Madison students who donned aluminum foil hats remained unconvinced.
""I think it's likely that there are extraterrestrials, I just haven't seen any evidence,"" graduate student Luke Jasenosky said. ""I was coming here to see if they could have a sense of humor about what they were doing. They both seemed like they were just going through the motions.""
Others expressed optimism, but remained skeptical of the philosophies.
""It was like your basic 12-year-old mentality,"" said graduate student David Peal. ""Being scientists, we all have a spark in us that wants to believe.\