A writer who claims that an unidentified scientist has made a major breakthrough and successfully produced a baby from a single cell for a millionaire who wanted to reproduce himself has rekindled the debate over biological research even before his book is published.
Although many scientistis are skeptical about the veracity of the forthcoming book by David Rorvik entitled "In His Image: The Cloning of a Man," scientists and congressional staffers would like to question Rorvik.
The author has gone into hiding. People who were in contact with him before word of his book appeared in newspapers can no longer reach him.
Rorvik's publishers, J. P. Lippincott, issued a statement saying: "To protect the child from harmful publicity, and other participants from certain controversy, Rorvik refuse to divulge names or places even to his publisher. The story he tells is an astonishing one. David Rorvik assures Lippincott that it is true. Lippincott does not know."
Robert Maher of Rep. Paul G. Rogers' subcommittee on Health and the Environment, said the panel has been trying unsuccessfully to contact Rorvik.
"The book reportedly advances the premise that the state of the art has arrived," Maher said. "This surprises us." A year ago, when the subcommittee was discussing legislation governing other genetic research, Maher said, it was told the cloning (creating an exact duplicate from a Joner's single cell) was still in the future.
"The main problem is to verify what's in the book," Maher said. "If the book is convincing, we'd like to heave a hearing to lay this new breakthrough out to the public for debate."
A public advocacy group and a number of scientists said yesterday they plan to sue in the government in U.S. District Court here to release all federal records of research and financing of research into cloning the government has undertaken.
Jeremy Rifkin and Ted Howard of the People Business Commission announced the suit. They coauthored "Who Should Play God?", a book on genetic engineerng.
One publishing house, Simon and Schuster, declined to publish Rorvik's book because, senior editor Jonathan Segal said, "Rorvik would not document his assertions."
Segal stressed that he does not have any way of judging the authenticity of Rorvik's story and called Rorvik a serious writer.
The Simon and Schuster editorial board decided not to publish, Segal said, after "we asked for verification and we weren't given it."
Segal said that decision was bout a year ago. According to the New York Post, which printed sketchy details of Rorvik's book, the cloned child is now 14 months old.
Scientistis with the ability to clone humans could create as many genetic replicas of a person as they wanted. "There are obvious dangers and obvious concerns," Maher said.
Frogs and fruit filies have been cloned, but many scientists are skeptical that Rorvik's unnamed scientist could have made the breakthrough to clone a man. Rorvik claims to have been a witness to the baby's creation in a laboratory. The embryo was then implanted in the uterus of a woman, he says.