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Daily Fail – Genetics Failure

The Daily Mail has a problem. It’s a big problem. It boils down to this. The Daily Mail will print anything and I mean anything to do with science if it is sufficiently stupid. The stupider the better. If I made a claim that Wayne Rooney is secretly a goblin sent to our world by David Bowie to pretend to lead the England Football team to glory but secretly destroy it from within, the Daily bloody Mail would be running this story (and they still may do!) with both hands as if it were the scoop of the century.

The Daily Mail is to Journalism what Horror Movies are to ethnic minorities.

This article boils down to the bold claim that an American Geneticist (A LEADING ONE!) has claimed that humans are a hybrid offspring from a male pig and a female chimpanzee. This is Eugene McCarthy…

If this is one of the leading stars of American Genetics then by thunder I can point out to this person as clearly bereft of any understanding of genetics and evidence that I consider that the American Education system is screwed up.

The human species began as the hybrid offspring of a male pig and a female chimpanzee, a leading geneticist has suggested.

The startling claim has been made by Eugene McCarthy, of the University of Georgia, who is also one of the worlds leading authorities on hybridisation in animals.

Clearly not if he is making the frankly idiotic claim that the entire fossil record and the entire genetic record is incorrect and that humans involved from cross species breeding that somehow produced viable offspring that were fertile in a single genetic event that went on to produce our entire species…. And this is without pointing out that the humans didn’t evolve from chimpanzees but that we share a common ancestor. They are not our past, they are distant cousins.

Genetics does not work that way. Hybridisation exists between closely related species that diverged recently. Think “adjacent” branches on the genetic tree of life.

It is why horses and donkeys produce mules and jennys. And why both are sterile.

And one critical part of this is EVEN and this is important. EVEN if a Pig and a Chimpanzee could breed the resulting offspring would be an odd numbered chromosome animal and would probably be sterile.

He points out that while humans have many features in common with chimps, we also have a large number of distinguishing characteristics not found in any other primates.

Which is not an argument for pig heritage but for evolution. There are Marsupial Moles and the Platypus and no one’s suggesting that Kangaroos and Moles mated or that the duck billed platypus is the amorous union of duck, beaver and scorpion.

The origin of the species? A remarkable new theory advanced by a leading geneticist suggests that human beings may have originally emerged as the hybrid offspring of a male pig and a female chimpanzee

It’s not a remarkable theory, it’s idiotic and it’s not a theory. It’s a barely formed hypothesis that I would be embarrassed to produce as a teenager in a science class.

Dr McCarthy says these divergent characteristics are most likely the result of a hybrid origin at some point far back in human evolutionary history.

What’s more, he suggests, there is one animal that has all of the traits which distinguish humans from our primate cousins in the animal kingdom.

‘What is this other animal that has all these traits?’ he asks rhetorically. ‘The answer is Sus scrofa, the ordinary pig.’

The majority of the divergent characteristics are not that divergent and are often due to our changes in lifestyle. We are nocturnal because we invented portable light sources quite early on in our evolution and our first portable light source was in fact a rather devastating weapon in itself. So it made us less scared of the dark. We don’t fall asleep when it gets dark because we do not need to.

We didn’t need to evolve night-vision to do that.

The list he makes from his article is simply weird. There is no rhyme or reason to his list and many of the conditions are self explanatory. Chimps don’t get skin cancer probably because they are covered with hair and because they don’t live all that long in the wild. While we have a lot of hair (in fact if I am correct we are hairier than chimpanzees but our hair is short and fine so we don’t really feel it.

Dr McCarthy elaborates his astonishing hypothesis in an article on Macroevolution.net, a website he curates. He is at pains to point out that that it is merely a hypothesis, but he presents compelling evidence to support it.

No it’s not evidence. It’s incredibly poorly thought out out and forgets some basic rules of how genetics works.

Scientists currently suppose that chimpanzees are humans’ closest living evolutionary relatives, a theory amply backed by genetic evidence.

However, as Dr McCarthy points out, despite this genetic similarity, there are a massive number of divergent anatomical characteristics distinguishing the two species.

They aren’t massive. I mean if they were so massive we wouldn’t have triggered on to our similarity to chimpanzees which we did not via genetics but through anatomical similarity.

These distinguishing characteristics, including hairless skin, a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, light-coloured eyes, protruding noses and heavy eyelashes, to name but a few, are unmistakeably porcine, he suggests.

We have had more than a million years of divergent evolution to get to this point. Using molecular clocks we estimate the split to be around 4.5 to 6 million years ago. That’s a long long time to evolve things particularly considering our range is a lot more colder than the chimpanzee and so many of these features would come about particularly since our tool usage kind of made fur redundant. Other animals need to have thick fur, we invented clothes and fire…

And light coloured eyes? Speak for yourself. Most humans are Asian and South Asian and African and South American and most eyes are dark coloured and brown. I bet it’s a higher number than 50%.

There are also a number of less obvious but equally inexplicable similarities between humans and pigs in the structure of the skin and organs.

Indeed, pig skin tissues and heart valves can be used in medicine because of their similarity and compatibility with the human body.

That’s because those specific things we take from them are LOW in antigen and so don’t trigger our immune system.

Similarities: Dr Eugene McCarthy suggests that humans’ hairless skin and subcutaneous fat could be explained by porcine ancestry

Or by actually looking at evolutionary pressures to develop those things.

Dr McCarthy says that the original pig-chimp hook up was probably followed by several generations of ‘backcrossing’, where the offspring of that pairing lived among chimps and mated with them – becoming more like chimps and less like pigs with every new generation.

This also helps to explain the problem of relative infertility in hybrids. Dr McCarthy points out that the belief that all hybrids are sterile is in fact false, and in many cases hybrid animals are able to breed with mates of the same species of either parent.

Okay that makes some sense since that is genetically “possible” however the problem is the assumption that pigs and chimpanzees are fertile in the first place.

And back-crossing is generally used in populations of breeds of species rather than such widely diverged species.

After several generations the hybrid strain would have become fertile enough to breed amongst themselves, Dr McCarthy says.

Unsurprisingly, Dr McCarthy’s hypothesis has come in for substantial criticism from orthodox evolutionary biologists and their Creationist opponents alike.

Because it’s bad science and it’s rather idiotic to print bad science.

One important criticism, which dubs his theory the ‘Monkey-F******-A-Pig hypothesis’, is that there is little chance that pigs and chimps could be interfertile. The two orders of creatures, according to evolutionary theory, diverged roughly 80million years ago, a ScienceBlogs post points out.

Oh look! The Lord and Master of FTB smacked that down himself!

‘[J]ust the gradual accumulation of molecular differences in sperm and egg recognition proteins would mean that pig sperm wouldn’t recognize a chimpanzee egg as a reasonable target for fusion,’ PZ Myers writes.

Furthermore, the blogger explains, while chimps have 48 chromosomes, pigs have just 38.

He adds: ‘Hybridizing a pig and a chimp is like taking half the dancers from a performance of Swan Lake and the other half from a performance of Giselle and throwing them together on stage to assemble something. It’s going to be a catastrophe.’

I don’t even know what analogy to make to point out how bad this is as a scientific piece. This is as bad as the creationist nonsense.

Finally, he suggests rather impudently that Dr McCarthy do the experimental work himself and try mating with a pig to see how far he gets.

I disagree Mr. Myers. The pig’s done nothing to deserve this.

But Dr McCarthy believes that, in the case of humans and other creatures, his hybrid modification to evolutionary theory can account for a range of phenomena that Darwinian evolution alone has difficulty explaining.

Despite the opinions of some peer reviewers that Dr McCarthy’s work presents a potentially paradigm-shifting new take on conventional views of the origins of new life forms, he has had difficulty finding a publisher, so he has chosen to publish a book-length manuscript outlining his ideas on his website.

Because the idea is fundamentally flawed in important and vital ways. And science publishers have pointed that out. I am not an expert on genetics to the point of Dr. Myers but frankly even I can see the flaws in this theory. I would have seen the flaws in the theory in high school. This is such a fundamental flaw that I fear that this man is just another crackpot in charge of the education of scientists who is tarnishing that education with a misunderstanding of the basics of the field he claims (or atleast the Daily Mail claims) he is an expert in.

In its conclusion he writes: ‘I must admit that I initially felt a certain amount of repugnance at the idea of being a hybrid. The image of a pig mating with an ape is not a pretty one, nor is that of a horde of monstrous half-humans breeding in a hybrid swarm.

‘But the way we came to be is not so important as the fact that we now exist. As every Machiavellian knows, good things can emerge from ugly processes, and I think the human race is a very good thing. Moreover, there is something to be said for the idea of having the pig as a relative.

‘My opinion of this animal has much improved during the course of my research. Where once I thought of filth and greed, I now think of intelligence, affection, loyalty, and adaptability, with an added touch of joyous sensuality — qualities without which humans would not be human.’

The Daily Mail is irresponsible. It’s giving a platform to a complete quack. It’s not evolutionary science but woeful pseudoscientific conspiracy theory. There is no evidence for any of the claims he made and/or any of the understanding he has of hybrids. His understanding of such may be solid but the genetics is simply wrong.

To produce such blatantly faulty science as “Mainstream Evolution” and “from leading scientists” harms the scientific community because it includes these pseudo-scientists in the ranks of science.

Comments

  1. Querent says

    The Daily Mail, indeed, has a problem. It’s a fascist rag run by ignorant twats, who wouldn’t acknowledge a scientific argument if it beat them over the head. And who have, as far as I can see, a political agenda to glorify stupidity, as per the Republicans on the other side of the water.

  2. Pen says

    The thing is, it does seems quite plausible that the people behind the Daily Mail could be a cross between a chimp and a pig. It doesn’t reflect in any way on the rest of us. Chill out and let them get in touch with their roots if they want to.

    (end snark)

  3. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    Wish he had stuck to identifying limited hybridization in avians instead of dragging the rest of the university through his pigsty. The drunken horde of football fans and the bible thumpers are embarassing enough; they don’t need the help of postdocs.

  4. Rich Woods says

    On the plus side, it does rightly say that pigs are quite intelligent and sociable. On the negative side, erm, everything else…

    Still, what else would you expect from the Daily Fail? An approximation of reality?

  5. stever says

    The Daily Fail strikes again. Over here we have the WorldNutDaily. The number of people who take that shit seriously is scary, because there are enough of them that politicians feel a need to pander to them.

  6. grumpyoldfart says

    The Daily Mail is irresponsible. It’s giving a platform to a complete quack.

    The Daily Mail checked its sources and found a leading scientist with a PhD who is employed by an accredited University in the USA – and now it’s the Daily Mail copping all the flack.

    Might be better to start asking some questions about the education system in America, because that seems to be where the problem lies.

  7. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    @ grumpyoldfart
    The fuckwit has not been at the university in several years and, as far as I can tell, was never more than a postdoc. His one claim to fame prior to this MFAP article is a large book collecting known avian hybrids. He claims to specialize in avian and mammal hybridization on google+, but the only peer-reviewed papers I can find from him are entirely about LTR retrotransposons in the genomes of rice and mice.

    While he may know a great deal about gene sequences, his BS in Math probably did not require more than one introductory undergrad biology course. From the short summaries of GENE class listing, it seems the genetics program focuses more on training lab technicians for genetic analysis rather than the actual biological mechanisms that underly genetics. Case in point: his MS thesis is a computer simulation (the paper it spawned) and his PhD dissertation is a data mining tool for genetics.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I had a “driveway moment” last night listening to Alex Jones rant about science topics on his radio program. He was obsessed with the hypothesis that humans are the descendents of a primate-pig hybridization. I had heard of it as it first made the rounds back in July, but I assumed that no one would take it seriously and ignored it. But the Daily Mail recently has not only reported it uncritically, it also called Dr. Eugene McCarthy’s evidence for this hypothesis “compelling”. I guess I shouldn’t find that surprising, because the Daily Mail routinely presents quackery as mainstream scientific findings. […]

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