Everything’s coming up Bigfoot DNA

Paranthropus_boisei_560In answer to those who’ve asked, “Have you heard about the Bigfoot DNA story?”  Yes.  Yes. A thousand times, yes!  My take on it is there’s really nothing new to report other than it’s the first time Dr. Ketchum has publicly stated the findings of her teams study.

Her claim is basically this.  Bigfoot is a species of hominid that came about as a result of hybrid speciation.  What does that mean?  It means some unknown hominid (unknown to the current DNA database) and modern humans got it on about 15,000 years ago in Eastern Europe.  Her team not only reportedly sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of various samples.  They sequenced the nuclear DNA of three samples contributed by three different researchers.  The latter is what is most intriguing to those in the scientific community.  Nuclear DNA testing is far more complicated and harder to dispute.

She is calling her findings novel and unexpected.  The mainstream scientific community is calling her findings unconventional and unlikely.  Now, mind you all this talk stems from a press release by Dr. Ketchum about the findings.  None of it addresses the actual paper because the paper is as yet unpublished.  Dr. Ketchum has stated that it will be published in a matter of weeks.  Again, this is the first time she’s given even a vague timeline, so you have to think she’s gotten confirmation from the journal that it will be released and they’ve lifted any kind of embargo so she could finally address rumors.

Some points to ponder

  • Dr. Ketchum has vehemently denied she ever used the term “angel DNA” to describe the unknown hominid found in the full sequencing of the Nuclear DNA.  Even if she did, I’m not particularly bothered by it because the scientific community uses theological terms to describe scientific findings and studies all the time.  Just ask physicists if they really believe they expect to find traces of God in the “God Particle.”
  • Mainstream scientists aren’t hoping Dr. Ketchum is wrong.  They would love nothing more than for her to be right.  In fact, I’m betting many of them are secretly excited about the possibility of Bigfoot being real.  That they are expressing doubt and skepticism shouldn’t be viewed as them dismissing her findings.  They are all anxious to get their hands on the paper.
  • Dr. Ketchum used a dozen or so independent labs to verify her findings.  The chances that they all got the same results are highly improbable unless they all got the only results that could be found.  In other words, they didn’t all find the same “novel” DNA unless there actually was “novel” DNA.  I think that Dr. Ketchum’s five year study used contaminated samples is unlikely. She’s described the precautions her team took to ensure that no contamination took place.  They took DNA samples from every member of the team and field researchers and tested for contamination.  However, only time will tell if indeed the samples were actually contaminated.
  • Matt Moneymaker is clearly upset by the findings and has been speed-tweeting his dismay.  One must remember that Dr. Ketchum lured Moneymaker’s sugar daddy away from his organization in order to fund the DNA project.  Therefore, we have to take Moneymaker’s claims with a grain of salt.  I’m not saying he’s a dishonest guy.  I simply saying his judgment may be impaired.
  • Hybrid speciation in the animal kingdom does take place in nature a lot.  Polar bears and grizzly bears have produced offspring in the wild.  It’s widely known that different species of primates have and do create offspring frequently.  Some claim that chimps and gorillas have crossbred in Africa which results in a creature called the Koolakamba. And those who think it’s too farfetched to believe modern humans bred with “sub-human” hominids are clearly not familiar with the concept of bestiality.  Humans are freaks!
  • There apparently is substantial physical evidence that was used in this study.  More than a few sources are saying that included in Dr. Ketchum’s study is a sample taken from a 2.5 lbs piece of flesh collected in the Sierra Mountains in 2010.  Two and half pounds of flesh is a hell of a lot of flesh, and I’ve been told samples of it are included in Dr. Syke’s Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project, as well.  In addition, samples from the flesh were submitted to labs outside of both of these studies.  And for what it’s worth, those independent labs have been baffled by their findings.  Beyond that I don’t know what their findings were.

In the end, none of this is more than speculation until Dr. Ketchum’s team’s study is released, and other scientists have had an opportunity to do their own tests to either verify or eviscerate her findings.  I will say this.  If Dr. Ketchum is proven to be wrong, either because she’s incompetent or deceitful, her career is over.

What makes Homo sapiens human?

Is this a human?

The debate continues in the Bigfoot community over the as yet revealed unrevealed results of Dr. Melba Ketchum’s DNA study. Most of the participants in the debate have no idea what Dr. K’s paper will reveal, yet through various fruitful and fruitless sleuthing techniques they believe they have uncovered what the study will conclude, Bigfoot is almost human. They, of course, have come up with more precise scientific jargon to express what that means in the world of lab coats and test tubes, but for those of us that don’t have letters after our names that is essentially what they are saying; Bigfoot differs from Homo sapiens in only the slightest way, genetically speaking.

Whether or not Dr. K’s study will stand up to scientific scrutiny remains to be seen. In fact, whether or not Dr. K’s study concludes the above even remains to be seen. The quality and conclusion of the paper can’t be debated with any degree of intelligence because no one outside of a handful of people has seen it. But that doesn’t mean this discussion has been all for naught. On the contrary, I think something very important has come out of the guessing and wishing surrounding Dr. K’s unpublished paper. What does being human really mean?

Not everyone is buying into the “almost human” moniker. Old schoolers insist we are dealing with a bipedal ape. They argue that we are simply looking at a highly intelligent animal that walks like us. Nothing more. That is where we find ourselves today on the issue of Bigfoot. There are three fairly reasonable sides to consider.

    • Bigfoot does not exist
    • Bigfoot is human
    • Bigfoot is an ape

Discounting the “Bigfoot does not exist” crowd for a moment, the divide between the two latter sides is so slim it’s hard to see. Let’s forget the DNA study for this discussion. From a moral perspective, we have to decide amongst ourselves what being human means before we can decide whether something is human or not.

As a society, we have decided that medical testing on Chimpanzees is morally acceptable because they are so genetically similar to us we can save our species  by sacrificing members of theirs. Think about it. We are knowingly killing and causing harm to something we’ve deemed an animal because its genetic structure is dissimilar to ours in the smallest degrees. Why aren’t Chimps, Gorillas and Orangutans considered human? Because they aren’t Homo sapiens? What if Neanderthals had survived and lived in our mountainous regions today? Would they be humans? Their scientific identification is Homo sapiens neanderthalensis or Homo neanderthalensis depending on who you ask. They are almost like us. More similar to us than our great ape brethren. Would it be morally acceptable to conduct medical testing on Neanderthals if they lived today?

What is it that strips something of its rights? Is it lack of language? It can’t be stated with any kind of scientific certainty that Neanderthals had language. Some of the genetic markers for speech have been discovered, so the scientific community is leaning towards the use of language by Neanderthals. So let’s pretend that language is where we draw the line in the sand. Whales and dolphins demonstrate a highly sophisticated form of sounds that some have interpreted as language. Yet, we allow countries like Japan to hunt whales for food. Koko the gorilla has demonstrated the capacity to learn and use American Sign Language, but she is not considered human. Legally, the argument could be made that we could conduct medical experiments on her despite her ability to communicate outside of her species. In fact, some would even say that teaching research apes sign language could be beneficial because they could actually describe how they are feeling. The mental state of the animal could be more accurately monitored and as a result we Homo sapiens could avoid the same kind of mental anguish.

Clearly language is not enough to consider something human. Is it culture? Is it intelligence? Is it tool us? Is it belief in a higher being? I submit that none of these are factors in determining if something is human or not. There are animals that demonstrate a cultural structure. There are highly intelligent animals. There are animals that use tools on a regular basis. And, there are Homo sapiens who do not believe in a higher being. I would even go further and say that we do not use genetics to determine if something is human or not. We decided Homo sapiens were human long before the field of genetic study even existed.

As far as I can tell, as a society we decide if something is human or not purely based on physical attributes alone. If something isn’t bipedal, it’s not human. If something is covered in hair or fur or feathers or scales, it’s not human. There are anomalies within our species that are exceptions to those rules, but overall that’s the way we’ve come to the moral determination that something is human or not. Based on those two criteria, Bigfoot puts us in a tough spot being a hairy biped.

I’ve said all that to say this. I believe debating whether Bigfoot is ape or human is putting the cart before the horse. We have to first determine what makes something human and leave genetics out of the discussion. Does something that doesn’t quite look like us deserve the same rights as we do? We may find that Bigfoot is governed by their own set of laws. They may have a language. They may even have little inside jokes about the hairless creatures that roam their forests with guns and cameras. It’s not even outside of the realm of possibility that they believe in a higher being and have communal rituals they perform in observance of their higher being. We don’t know enough to know what we don’t know.

Now you may be one of those on the third side of this issue and can’t believe for a second that Bigfoot exists. In which case, you are probably having a good chuckle right about now. Consider this. Something left behind DNA samples to be included in that study. The study revealed something that merits publication in a scientific journal. There is something out there. What it is may bring Homo sapiens to a cross roads. We may have to decide if something outside our species or something that is defined as a Homo sapiens subspecies can be considered human.

The tale of a Bigfoot fetus?

If Bigfoot have opposable thumbs, we're in trouble.

If you are not a fan of rumor and conjecture, you aren’t going to like today’s post because that’s all I have.  In addition, if you’re not one of my Bigfoot (BF) readers, you’re really not going to like today’s post because rumor and conjecture are swirling around the big guy, or should I say big gal.  The distinction will make sense as you read on.

Now, there are a number of sources for what you will see on this blog today, and I don’t have qualified verification for any of their claims. Granted, I’m of the position that the only verification that is worthwhile is actual physical proof, so even if I did have multiple sources that I trusted, I would advice that you view all of this with a skeptical eye.  On with the story.

Those of you with an interest in BF are probably well aware of Dr. Melba Ketchum (Dr. K) and her DNA study. I wrote about it initially in a post called The Ketchum Report.  Dr. K has become somewhat of a folk hero among a majority of the BF devotees.  She has done something that only a select few have done before her; apply science to the BF question.  Her report has been frustratingly dangled in front of the BF community as a carrot of hope for a few years now.   There has been plenty of buzz about the report and what it says, but there has been no actual report produced.  Proponents will tell you that it is because this is a paper that has been submitted for peer review to a scientific journal, and these things take time.  I’ve made this argument myself.  Opponents say the delays are simply due to the fact that Dr. K’s paper reveals nothing, so she and her cohorts are milking as much publicity out of this as possible.  The two sides have been waging a war of words virtually since the first hints of the DNA study.  For Dr. K’s part, she’s said remarkably little about the study.  Her reason for keeping quiet?  Scientific journals don’t like a lot of pre-publication chatter about the studies they publish.  They tend to prefer that the science take center stage and not over-hyped sensationalism.   A study about a living non-human 8’ tall bipedal hominid comes with a lot of tabloid baggage, and that a scientific journal of any merit would give it serious consideration is a miracle in and of itself, which leads us to our first rumor.

Blogger Robert Lindsay has been cranking out some fascinating posts about Dr. K and her study for some time now. Lindsay is an interesting character. The number of people who revile him is only matched by the number of people who admire him.  To put it kindly, he is a lightning rod of controversy.  I dare say if you ever read his blog, you will find something that will disgust and anger you.  And, that is exactly how Lindsay wants it.  In the interest of complete disclosure, I don’t like his views on race or politics, but I can’t help but like him.  He’s an open book and there’s something inherently likable about that.

Lindsay has much more faith in his sources than I do.  He’s started a number of his posts with “We can now report.”  Meaning, he’s confident enough in his sources to share their information as fact.  He started his latest blog post on BF, Bigfoot News October 10, 2011, in just such a way.  In this particular post, he is making the claim that the science journal Nature has accepted Dr. K’s (and her co-authors) paper for review.  Normally, I would pass this off as wishful thinking by Lindsay’s source, but I was contacted on this blog and via private messaging by an individual weeks ago insisting the paper was under peer review by Nature.  Is my source the same individual?  I don’t know, but I do find it interesting that Lindsay, and I both received the same information.  I didn’t report on it then, because there was just no way for me to confirm it.  I present it to you here as still unconfirmed information.

The second part of the Nature rumor is the second most sensational thing you will read here today.  Lindsay is reporting that the editors of the journal called Dr. K in for a meeting with them at their headquarters in London.  Separately, an AJ Ciani reported on the BF Forums that Dr. K met with members of a review panel in Europe.  Again, how reliable the sources are in this case is unknown.  If true, it is an unprecedented move by a scientific journal.  They don’t meet with the authors of a study as a rule, and this has skeptics dismissing the rumors out of hand.  I am of the belief if Dr. K’s study has met all criteria and is credible, they would almost have to meet with her and members of her team before publishing a paper about a topic that is usually relegated to the pages of tabloid magazines.  If the paper unquestionably proves the existence of such a creature, they must take every precaution before publication.  But that’s just my opinion.

Now for the most sensational thing you will read here today.  I wrote an article for Blogcritics titled The Mystery Over The Existence of Bigfoot Continues.  In that article, I talked about a man by the name of Justin Smeja and his claim that he shot and killed two BF creatures in the Sierra Mountains in California.  His story would have been tucked away as complete nonsense if not for the Olympic Project (OP). The OP is a group of BF researches that has a stellar reputation within the BF community. They verified Smeja’s story. Smeja, in fact, joined their group after contacting them about his story.  Without boring you with all the details, Smeja didn’t just have a story, he had a specimen.  What that specimen actually is, has come under some speculation.  Smeja claims publicly that it is a piece of flesh from the thigh of the adult that was killed (an adult and juvenile were supposedly killed).  He cut a piece from this specimen and sent it to Dr. K to include in her study, and “read between the lines” statements from Smeja and the OP suggest that the sample did match other samples in the study as being from a BF.

Things started to get weird (believe it or not, I haven’t even scratched the surface of weird yet) when the OP talked about the gender of the adult.  It was referred to as “she,” on a number of occasions, but at some point, an emphasis was made that the gender could not be disclosed because of a nondisclosure agreement (NDA).  Some of us wondered publicly why the gender would come under an NDA.  What possible difference could it make?  It just didn’t make sense, until this week.  It was revealed in a public chat group that the adult that was allegedly shot was indeed a pregnant female.  Now, Smeja originally claimed he saw the adult at a distance of 80 yards through his rifle scope, and by his own admission, he didn’t know what it was beyond describing it as a monster.  Once he shot the BF, it ran off, never to be seen whole again.  He found the flesh sometime later.  How then could he know that the BF was pregnant?  Asking that question led to the revelation that a fetus may have been recovered from the shooting.  While this sounds completely whacky, it does match up with previous claims that they have hair, flesh, blood and bones included in Dr. K’s study.  Before Smeja’s Sierra shooting story, the only things mentioned in the study were blood, saliva and hair.  After Smeja’s story, flesh and bone were included in the samples description.

I have to reiterate.  What you read here today is not presented as fact in any way.  These are all public conversations currently going on throughout the BF community.  Skeptics are having a good laugh and marveling at the gullibility of those who believe in BF.  But, I can tell you that very few of those involved in the conversation are accepting it for anything other than what it is, speculation. Dr. K is not talking, and I can tell you from personal experience people with connections to the study are giving  the standard, “I cannot confirm or deny” response to inquiries.  For now, this is just an interesting collection of stories.  Nothing can be verified beyond a shadow of a doubt until Dr. K’s paper is published.