Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bigfoot DNA paper: I'm not impressed.

I WANTED to be impressed.  I wanted Dr. Melba Ketchum's paper on Bigfoot DNA to be persuaive.  It's not.  It's just weird.  A viable species sired by two parent species, one so unknown it has no known fossil ancestors or descendants?  And then there is the journal - it has never published (it's Web-only, which isn't necessarily a problem - there are very legitimate Web journals - except that anyone can do it, so we have only the author's word that the paper was peer reviewed). Dr. Ketchum says she did not self-publish, she only acquired the journal and execised no influence.  That's not an explanation.  How does one acquire a journal that did not exist prior to this paper? And the video clip floating around of a sleeping sasquatch doesn't impress, either: you can't see any detail that would help to determine if it's a real animal or a person in a suit.
Granted, I am not a DNA expert.  I can't critique the description of the genome.  But everything else feels wrong.
  Doubtful News has a good recap. 


Matt Bille said...

It's been argued to me (the comments came to my email but don't seem to be showing up on this page) that the Texas tests ruled out contaminated samples. I don't profess expertise in the techniques, but I will note that not a single geneticist from outside the project has endorsed the findings: all those quoted in the popular and scientific media have dismissed them, and even the “paranormal” media can’t find any independent geneticist to agree the findings could be valid. What I have a problem with is the logic of the findings. If I calculate the thrust of a rocket engine, and the result varies significantly from the engine as tested, then I have either mucked up the figures, there's a manufacturing defect, or the propellants were contaminated: there has to be some reason the engine didn’t work in the real world, even if I was initially sure about all the factors. Likewise, I can't figure out Ketchum's conclusions without thinking there must be an error somewhere. (I do not think her a hoaxer - I grant that she is sincere.) Her scenario doesn't make sense: any human hybrid creature from the Gigantopithecus line is impossible (Given the time span involved since the split from a common ancestor, the DNA would be too dissimilar) and anything from the human line is simply not big enough to match sasquatch reports, many of which seem to cluster around robust, broad-shouldered adults about eight feet tall. (I do not consider century-old newspaper clippings about giant skeletons found and hidden by the government as evidence of anything except that sloppy, sensational, and/or hoaxed journalism has always been around.) The species hypothesized by Ketchum has no ancestors or descendants in the fossil record anywhere in the world: it simply appears one time and vanishes. I'm the first to agree fossilization is a rare event that is not, in itself, required for a species to be present - we have no fossils of the Vu Quang ox and almost none of chimps and gorillas. However, we have no record of a species close enough to human and evolving toward the size needed to make this work. I can accept, as unlikely but possible, that a smaller upright ape descended from our friend Giganto may have eluded fossil discovery in N. America: I have much more trouble coming up with an evolutionary scenario that would let Ketchum's idea work.

Matt Bille said...

I'll clarify the statement that no independent authority has supported the results - one Ph.D. biochemist has.
I do note there is still no geneticist on the pro side, and if you have one relevant scientist who agrees and many who do not, you can't just cite the one positive as definitive.