BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: A coalition of scientific, political and religious leaders called this week for a permanent ban on all human cloning. That ban would include therapeutic cloning, which has gained considerable scientific support because of its potential as a cure for disease. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan backed therapeutic cloning this week. Much more controversial is the idea of cloning human beings, which the Raelian sect recently claimed to have done successfully. Opponents of reproductive cloning call it "a threat to human dignity." Lucky Severson reports.
LUCKY SEVERSON: So this is Copy Cat. Appropriately named, because she is a cloned kitten. Copy Cat has no dad. Her mom, from whom she was cloned, might just as well be her twin. For millions of Americans, Copy Cat represents a frightening development and further proof that human cloning is right around the corner.
RAELIAN ANNOUNCEMENT: We have now three babies that are fully healthy and in good shape.
SEVERSON: The prevailing wisdom now is that the sect called the Raelians was telling less than the complete truth when the spokesperson announced the clonings. But could offer no proof. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from across America.
Unidentified Man: I think it is tampering with God and with what God intends.
SEVERSON: A view shared by the Catholic Church which objects to any child reproduced with the use of technology. Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
RICHARD DOERFLINGER (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops): Each human should be arising from this act of love between a husband and a wife and not reduced to a laboratory procedure.
SEVERSON: Many scientists prefer to keep a low profile on the subject, Lee Silver, a geneticist at Princeton University who has met Dolly the sheep, says the hysteria is misplaced.
Dr. LEE SILVER (Princeton Geneticist): It is unfortunate that the world is very frightened by the technology. They are afraid that somehow biotechnology is infringing upon the soul of mother nature.
Dr. PANOS ZAVOS (Fertility Specialist): We're not trying to fool Mother Nature. We're trying to help people.
SEVERSON: Fertility specialist Dr. Panos Zavos says he treats infertile couples who have no other options.
Dr. ZAVOS: We hope that within this first trimester of this year we will have an ongoing pregnancy.
SEVERSON: Zavos says he believes in God and when he clones a baby, he'll be doing God's work.
Dr. ZAVOS: The only thing that God said is you know, I created you, you take over this Earth and multiply and proliferate. And make this a better place for all of us. And that is pretty much what my spirit has been in that I help people have children.
SEVERSON: Dr. Zavos's wholesome view of cloning is not typical. It scares most of us.
Truth is, we probably have some misconceptions about cloned humans.
Dr. SILVER: The term clone is being used in the sense of scientists gaining the ability to create life, to control the soul in some way. And that is not what this technology can do. The technology really is very limited. All it allows is for the birth of an animal or a child someday who has all of its genes from one of its parents.
SEVERSON: On the surface the procedure of cloning seems quite simple. Researchers extract the nucleus, all the DNA from a woman's egg. Then they insert cells of the person wanting to be cloned into the egg which is then put into the womb. The result -- a twin brother or sister with the exact DNA.
From Film "Austin Powers": He is exactly like you in every way. Except one eighth your size.
Dr. Evil: Breathe taking. I shall call him Mini Me.
SEVERSON: Like Mini Me, a cloned child will look a lot like it's parent but will not have an identical personality.
Dr. SILVER: You wouldn't know it was a clone unless you did a DNA analysis. So that child is going to have a soul just like any other child would have a soul. In fact, that child is unique just like identical twins who have the same DNA, but are unique individuals.
Mr. DOERFLINGER: I think it is a world where we are in danger of seeing our own fellow human beings and our own children as more like objects or commodities rather than as our own equals.