I had no idea how deeply Eugene McCarthy had descended into absurdity. He’s arguing that humans have hybridized with…chickens.
Also with dogs, apes, goats, cows, and turtles.
His ‘evidence’ consists of mythological accounts (satyrs are evidence of goat-human hybrids, for instance), and terrible stories of women who had grossly deformed stillborn babies with peculiarly warped features that, if you impose your biases on them, can be seen to vaguely resemble other animals. These are always severe teratological defects, but McCarthy always interprets them as hybrids. The Hühnermensch, or chicken-baby, drawn above is an example. That’s not a comb growing out of its head, but its brain — this is a condition called exencephaly. It often occurs as a precursor to anencephaly, because usually that bubble of extruded brain matter will degenerate. His ape-human ‘hybrids’ are all photos of anencephalic stillbirths.
It’s a rather disgusting section of McCarthy’s work, not just because the pages have lots of images of tragic and almost always lethal birth defects, but because he misinterprets them as evidence that the mother, who has already suffered enough with the loss of a baby, must have also become pregnant by having sex with an animal.
He’s just an ignorant and terrible person.
Apparently he has also published his own “reconstruction” of the Epic of Gilgamesh (as an ebook, naturally), which he believes is firm evidence of human-animal hybrids in the Bronze Age past.
I’m no scholar of Akkadian and Babylonian, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that his grasp of ancient near eastern language and literature is as shaky as his biology.
Reginald Selkirk says
You had me confused. This is not Senator Eugene “Clean Gene” McCarthy, he died in 2005. I don’t know who this other person is, or why I should care.
@ 2 Reginald Selkirk
My first thought too though I was not sure if Senator McCarthy was still alive or not.
Is his PhD in genetics for real?
It’s Chickenman! “He’s everywhere,he’s everywhere!”
Sorry, I just couldn’t keep from thinking of Dick Orkin’s work when reading this. I blame my mis-spent youth.
Please suggest that Mr McCarthy’s hybridization theory needs to be tested against the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC., particularly regarding the apparent symbiont on his head.
And, for that matter, all of the staff there.
The Mellow Monkey says
Yep. And a lot of those pregnancies went near or full term, to provide him with images of an infant sized body instead of a fetus. Meaning that in many cases, there was an eager family who got very close to having their baby before discovering the lethal birth defects. A loss of a wanted pregnancy is terrible anyway, but to have happy anticipation turn to grief when they were that close… I don’t know what it’s like personally, but I’ve held the hands and wiped the tears of some who do and they were devastated.
Whatever willful ignorance he suffers from, Eugene McCarthy’s lack of empathy is grotesque.
Although this is not the Eugene McCarthy I didn’t vote for I am going on record that I will not vote for this one either.
Joe Felsenstein says
PZ, McCarthy’s outrageous travesty reminds me of D. I. Williamson’s equally ridiculous assertion that insect metamorphosis originated by hybridization of an insect with an onychophoran. This was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in its Nov 24, 2009 issue (volume 106(47): pages 19901–19905) thanks to improper pressure from the late Lynn Margulis. It was believed by basically no biologist, and was crushingly refuted in the same issue of PNAS by Michael Hart and Rick Grosberg. I think outraged reaction to the online printing of the Williamson paper was so great that held the print version until Hart and Grosberg’s rebuttal could be published with it.
I looked for your account of this but didn’t find it — apologies if I missed it. No matter, it was trashed by many biological bloggers at the time. People should be reminded of that ridiculous failure of the scientific publishing system too.
Joe Felsenstein says
… that they held the print version …