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Vatican, science sceptical of Eve

Dec. 28: The Vatican and the world of science today displayed rare unanimity in casting doubt on the unsubstantiated claim that the first clone of a human being had been produced by a company owned by a maverick cult.

Ethics experts also warned that the claim might throw up new ethical barriers to the use of cloning technology to fight disease.

Reacting to news of the “birth” of Eve, the supposed clone, the Vatican said the claim was “an expression of a brutal mentality, lacking all ethical and human consideration” and noted the group had provided no proof. Clonaid, the company which had made the stunning claim yesterday, had said it would provide proof in a week.

Scientists, too, greeted the claim with scepticism. The sceptics included a doctor who had met Brigitte Boisselier, the chief executive officer of Clonaid.

Brigid Hogan, a member of a recent American committee that reported on human cloning, said the group interviewed Boisselier. “I did not come away thinking that this was a group that would clone,” Hogan said. “Let’s see some data.”

The doubts were echoed by medical ethicist Norman Frost of the University of Wisconsin. “This has to be presumed to be a hoax until they produce evidence, scientifically speaking. Politically speaking, it will stir the pot, adding support to those who want to block cloning.”

The Christian Coalition of America responded to Boisselier’s announcement by declaring its intention to lobby the US Congress for an outright ban on cloning of human beings, including the cloning of human embryos — a euphemism for stem cell research that some believe holds promise for curing diseases from Parkinson’s to cancer.

“The cloning of human embryos for the purpose of performing destructive research and experimentation, such as that which just occurred today of Baby Eve, is an aberration. It shows a total lack of respect for life and must be prevented,” the group’s president, Roberta Combs, said in a statement.

But a scientist said that while he was sceptical of the Clonaid assertions, he also thought that humans would eventually be cloned. “It’s a matter of technique and time,” he said. “The genie is out of the bottle.”

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