Bigfoot 2008

Myth, wonder, mysticism these are just a few concepts that has entertained and has fascinated the human mind for thousands of years. Be it from boredom of life’s seemingly casual existence or drawn by aspirations of a higher self, many people have been, currently are and will be for a long time seduced by what they can’t explain themselves – though few search a bit farther for answers – or by the outworldly.

Some people have discredited and feel dishearten by science because it “kills the joy of life and mystery”. Now, this couldn’t be more wrong. If anything, science does the opposite and actually springs from the same mechanisms that attract the easily gullible cheap mystery hunters – questions as to why nature, phenomena or even life itself exists. However, where as the mystery hunter is easily satisfied by the seductive power of wonder, those who  sincerely look for truth need to embark on a journey governed by uncertainty – until all things point to the truth.

It’s remarkable how in the 21st century so many people choose to blindly accept without questioning some, let’s say, seductive ideas with no reasonable basis. God forbid you engage in heated conversations with unreasonable people, it won’t get you anywhere. It’s true, skeptics aren’t burned to the stake like in the middle ages – they just lose friends nowadays, and I guess from this perspective, society has evolved, yet it’s still a shame. It’s an even greater shame when self professed scientists settle to make great claims, with little to few evidence. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“, Carl Sagan said once, but apparently a group of scientists, with a forensic science background, took little consideration for this aspect.

Back in November, the group boasted that they have finally found evidence that Bigfoot (Sasquatch, Yeti, whatever) truly exists. Not surprisingly, they found a tough time getting their paper published by any journal. So, of course, they proceeded in making their own journal, called DeNovo Journal of Science (I chose not to link to their website, but you can find it if you’re interested).

The journal’s first volume and edition is comprised of only one paper – of course the one discussing Big Foot, and while the website advertises the journal as open-access, apparently those interested in actually reading the paper need to pay $30. Credibility? Well wait until you hear about their conclusions.

Little foot

Dr. Melba S. Ketchum along with colleagues analyzed 111 samples, either collected or received from other parties, allegedly  coming from Big Foot, or Homo sapiens cognatus as the paper’s authors call it, since they believe we’re dealing with a surviving hominid, the result of interbreeding between humans and some sort of ape. Samples include hair, fur, and even blood (the researchers hypothesize that the blood was spilled after a Sasquatch chewed on a pipe. Yeeeeesh!).

The researchers sequenced 20 whole, and 10 partial mitochondrial genomes, as well as 3 whole nuclear genomes. Mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, comes from mitochondria and is passed down on maternal lineage across generations. Nuclear DNA (nuDNA) is the genetic information contained in the cell nucleus, and is the equal combination of DNA from parents of an individual.

“Clearly non-human hair (morphologically), washed thoroughly as is accepted procedure in forensic science to remove contaminates by two laboratories with two techniques, yielded human mitochondrial DNA sequence in all 111 samples in the study,” she said. “Thirty samples were taken past the screening to yield human mitochondrial haplotypes with twenty of those being entire mitochondrial genomes 16,500 bases long. Since species identification depends on the mitochondrial DNA in forensics, this clearly placed the samples in the family Homo, ie hominin. Screening by sequencing with universal primers would have also shown contamination if it had been there.”

Typically, in similar identification work procedure requires that all data needs to be run across a DNA database in order to establish if they belong to a known species. This hasn’t been done, however. There are numerous glitches to the paper actually, as Ars Technica which has had access to the paper clearly outlines in one of their articles. It’s enough to say that the paper in question is riddled with all sort of unfounded references, likes pictures of said-Sasquatch footprints, dubious photos and even a video of said-Sasquatch embedded in the paper that actually looks like a moving carpet. Sigh.