The pig-man gets more press


The media do like their kooks. They’re far more entertaining than the truth. So once again, the ludicrous Eugene McCarthy, the man who believes humans are the product of hybridization between pigs and chimpanzees, gets a long write-up that dwells far too long on McCarthy’s pathetic rationalizations. His justifications are superficial and often wrong: they amount to looking in a mirror, and noticing that we’re kinda mostly hairless, just like pigs, and we have lots of body fat, like pigs, and we have organs, just like pigs, and we’re bipedal, just like pigs, and we have tusks, just like pigs, and we have nipples, just like pigs, and we have 12 of them, just like pigs, and we’re even-toed ungulates, just like pigs…you get the idea. He’s an idiot, but he’s an idiot who makes long pseudoscientific lists with sciencey terms, so he impresses the rubes.

His ill-informed views get another long airing in which he gets to present his self-pitying schtick of being a martyr to intolerant scientists, and how he’s a true revolutionary who’s going to change the modern paradigm. He’s basically full of shit. The whole article could have been truncated to its early statement of the premise:

Since the early ‘80s, he has believed that humans are the result of an errant sexual encounter between our closest relative, the chimpanzee, and the animal with which we seemingly share all aforementioned traits: the pig.

Followed by this one paragraph buried deep in the story:

The most damning refutation of McCarthy’s hypothesis is “the absence of any pig or pig-related genes in the human genome,” according to Roger Butlin, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Sheffield in Britain. Instead, the human genome is “entirely consistent” with the explanation that humans are great apes, most recently sharing an ancestor with living chimps and bonobos, he said.

Yep. If we were pig-chimp hybrids, it would jump out at us from the data. The sequences aren’t there. We’re done.

But the article goes on. McCarthy has an excuse — he always has an excuse.

If McCarthy did crave more recognition from mainstream experts (he doesn’t, he insists), his best bet would be to look for a signature unique to pigs in the DNA of humans but not other apes, said John McDonald, a biology professor at the University of Georgia and a former advisor of McCarthy’s.

A few years ago, McCarthy tried to do just that. He and a friend wrote a computer program to search the human genome for traces of pig hybridization. But the task was too computationally intensive. “It would have taken a lifetime to process the data on the small computers we had access to,” he said.

So he tried to reinvent BLAST, a publicly accessible program that you can run on NIH’s computers over the internet, and couldn’t get it to go. You know, ya great goofy loon, you could also pick up any of a number of molecular phylogeny papers and find that other people have done the work for you. That’s what molecular phylogeny is all about: you gather a bunch of DNA sequences from a bunch of different species, and you compare them and weigh the differences, and you throw them into a computer program that churns through all the species and all the genes and spits out a summary of how closely related they are. It’s been done! The pig and chimp lineages separated in the Cretaceous.

Can we just be done with this? Media, ignore the clown capering over there — there are good science stories to discuss.

I do have to end with one final quote from McCarthy.

There’s also another reason McCarthy remains so attached to his ideas: He believes altruism, not competition, is the way of the world. With neo-Darwinism and natural selection, competition is a fact of life, and that logic can be used to justify war, conflict, and ethnic cleansing (“Darwin’s biggest fan was Hitler,” he said).

That’s a common creationist claim, but it’s wrong. Hitler was not a fan of Darwin, and even if he were, it would not have the slightest implications for the truth of the theory.

Comments

  1. peptron says

    Didn’t the Nazis ban The Origin of Species, among other things because it explains that lack of genetic variety (aka racial purity) is a bad thing to have in a population?

  2. llyris says

    Pigs aren’t *that* hairless. So… maybe men are half pig, but women are half elephant?
    And sure, a lack of pig DNA could be seen as a clue, but more compelling is why aren’t there thousands of human / sheep hybrids all over New Zealand?

  3. llyris says

    @ 2 Ed Seedhouse.
    LOL.
    But he’s still wrong. It looks like a pig and it acts like a pig (!) but is orange, so it must be part orangutan, not chimpanzee.

  4. Dunc says

    Pigs aren’t *that* hairless.

    And it’s only domestic pigs that are more-or-less hairless… But since pigs were domesticated by humans, there is only one possible conclusion: humans are the result of hybridisation between chimpanzees and time travelling pigs.

  5. wcorvi says

    Now now – tolerance. And remember, they laughed as Einstein, so this guy could be ….
    .
    Of course, they laughed at Bozo the Clown, too.

  6. says

    So he tried to reinvent BLAST, a publicly accessible program that you can run on NIH’s computers over the internet, and couldn’t get it to go.

    More like, he couldn’t get it to give the result he wanted. I can just see him, cursing at yet another negative result and deciding that the problem must be with BLAST itself, not his hypothesis.

  7. says

    When I saw the headline on this post, I thought it was going to be about Rush Limbaugh.

    BTW it’s interesting that whales are ungulates. (Taking a look at the whole tree is fascinating.) I took a marine mammal biology course taught at the New England Aquarium and watched a guy dissect a porpoise. He called it a “puffer pig” and drew our attention to how pig-like it was. It’s amazing how radically they were reshaped while retaining that recognizable kinship.

  8. busterggi says

    Given the propensity of rural humans to attempt breeding with their livestock there shouldn’t be that large a gap.

  9. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Hitler was a huge fan of Isaac Newton. If it weren’t for gravity, all those bombs and rockets would never have fallen.

    Jim Carroll was right–we need a world without gravity.

  10. lucifersbike says

    @2@3 In the case of Trump and our very own Boris Johnson I prefer the Moreau hypothesis.

  11. Anton Mates says

    There’s also another reason McCarthy remains so attached to his ideas: He believes altruism, not competition, is the way of the world.

    …yes, and??? I’m not clear why chimpanzees shagging pigs is particularly altruistic. Were the pigs really lonely on Saturday night and the chimpanzees were doing them a favor? Or vice versa?

    I mean, I like altruism and self-sacrifice too! I’m just not sure how we get to there from the interspecies orgy.

  12. zetopan says

    So PZ, are you claiming that Eugene McCarthy is PIG IGNORANT? That seems a little extreme … for the pigs.

  13. Owlmirror says

    The most damning refutation of McCarthy’s hypothesis is “the absence of any pig or pig-related genes in the human genome,” according to Roger Butlin, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Sheffield in Britain. Instead, the human genome is “entirely consistent” with the explanation that humans are great apes, most recently sharing an ancestor with living chimps and bonobos, he said.

    Yep. If we were pig-chimp hybrids, it would jump out at us from the data. The sequences aren’t there. We’re done.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that we wouldn’t expect anything in the sequences to match, because there’s nothing in our skeletal or reproductive anatomy that looks even vaguely piglike (as you allude to ironically in the first paragraph).

    (“The males [of Suids] possess a corkscrew-shaped penis, which fits into a similarly shaped groove in the female’s cervix.”, says WikiP on the Suidae)

    The pig and chimp lineages separated in the Cretaceous.

    Technically, the artiodactyl and primate lineages.

    Or even more pedantically, the Laurasiatherian and Euarchontoglires lineages. (OK, I had to check WikiP for that, and I’m not 100% sure I got it right.)

    And there’s nothing that suggests the possibility of horizontal gene transfer between the late descendants of those lineages.

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