The Starchild Skull and Its DNA Testing: No Proof of an Alien Hybrid

Frank Johnson of the Ancient Aliens Debunked (AAD) blog recently posted this lengthy essay concerning alleged DNA evidence that the Starchild Skull was that of a human0alien hybrid child: “A Bone to Pick with the Starchild Skull.”

It’s well worth the read, and you should follow the links that relate to the testing itself. The post not only goes into the selective use (and discarding) of DNA evidence, but also its misinterpretation. The post features comments (which have been public for some time) by Dr. Robert Carter. Carter’s PhD is in marine biology, but he’s knowledgeable about the interpretation of DNA evidence.

I’ve been holding some email comments for years from my own go-to expert in genetics (PhD in biology whose doctoral work was DNA-related) about the Starchild skull’s DNA testing and Carter’s own comments. I was waiting for the Starchild’s keeper, Lloyd Pye, to go through with his promise of further DNA testing. In the wake of Pye’s recent passing, I doubt that will happen.

I’ve decided to post excerpts of the comments below, without identifying the geneticist. There’s no point unless we get further testing. My resource thinks the alien claims for the skull and its DNA defense are bunk. Interestingly, he has bones to pick with Carter’s analysis (my guy is a real geneticist, so he’s bound to see flaws in Carter’s analysis). He also knows Carter. I’ve taken the liberty of inserting a few editorial remarks of my own (MSH) that have a bearing on what my guy says and what the AAD essay says.

Mike,

I skimmed over the links you sent, and here are my thoughts for what they’re worth:

1.  Based on the description of the mtDNA results, the normal skull is not the mother or sibling of the abnormal one.  They have different mtDNA types, and mtDNA is (nearly) always maternally inherited.  So they cannot be maternally related.  Could be father/son though.

[MSH: This strikes me as important since, as the AAD post points out, initial Starchild DNA tests had the child as a male. These results were set aside by Pye because of "contamination" - more likely, because they didn't support his ideas; see the AAD post for that discussion.]

2.  The description of the “shotgun” sequencing [in the Starchild report - MSH] is very crude, obviously written by someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Assuming that they’re describing real sequences from the abnormal skull, the conclusions they reach do not follow.  In particular, this statement is totally false: “To have recovered a string of base pairs 342 nucleotides long with NO reference in the NIH database is astounding because it means there is NO known earthly corollary for what has been analyzed!”

All it means is that we haven’t encountered that particular nucleotide sequence yet.  It happens all the time.  Usually, with every genome of a new genus or species that we sequence, some measurable fraction (10-30%) is DNA sequence we’ve never seen before (i.e., has no match in the public database).  In the case of the skull, the novel DNA is probably just contamination from bacteria or fungi or some other critter that
participated in the decomposition of the body.

[MSH: Note the contamination issue again - and make sure to zero in on that in the AAD post.  Pye's claims of contamination were self-serving. He used that as an excuse when something didn't suit his alien hybrid view, but ignore that possibility in other contexts.]

3. … Yes, the description of the shotgun sequencing is incompetent (for the reasons [Carter] cites), but I see no reason to suspect that the description is intentionally deceptive.  Not only that, but from my perusal it looks like Carter entirely missed the issue of contamination, which is the probable source of the novel DNA sequence.

[MSH: In other words, my source chalks this up to incompetence, not deliberate deception. Who knows?]

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Graham Hancock and Bad Archaeology

Professional archaeologist Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, the force behind the Bad Archaeology blog, recently posted a series of articles detailing the (poor) research techniques and (flawed) argumentation of Graham Hancock. Here are the links to the series:

Some of the posts are lengthy — Hancock’s archaeology is, well, bad.

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Scholarly Online Bibliographies for the Study of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia

One word for this site: wow.

The above link leads to a gateway site for online bibliographies related to the study of the ancient Near East. It’s an amazing resource.

You’re welcome!

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Just in Time for Christmas: David C. Brown’s Catalogue for Books in Egyptology and Other Ancient Near Eastern Studies

David C. Brown / Oxbow Books is perhaps the “go to” site and catalog for finding books related to ancient Egypt, Mesopotamian, Israel, and other civilizations of the ancient Near East. They have hundreds of titles in each area — lots of stuff you won’t find anywhere else, including used books and back issues of journals in these areas.

In a word, it’s an awesome site and resource. Enjoy!

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Ancient Astronauts and Comic Books

Jason Colavito has an informative post on the “big-business-factual-data-be-damned” approach of Ancient Aliens. The early section of his post notes connections between ancient astronaut theory and pop-culture, specifically with respect to Marvel comics.

The connections between ancient astronaut worldview and the sort of science fiction of comic books are deep. The comic book worlds pre-date the work of Sitchin and von Daniken. As Jason notes, there are secure roots in the writings of Lovecraft and others, but the more “vulgar” genre of the comic book also plays a significant role in where ancient astronaut theory really gets its “data”.

I recommend to readers two works in this regard. The first is a popular work of non-fiction. The second is a scholarly work (Univ of Chicago Press). Both are fascinating. The second, naturally, is dense and a harder read.

Christopher Knowles, Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes

Jeffrey Kripal, Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction. Superhero Comics. and the Paranormal

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Another Ancient Alien Fail: Moving 300 Ton Stones to Build China’s Forbidden City

The Live Science blog reported recently that Jiang Li, an engineer at the University of Science and Technology Beijing, has successfully translated an ancient Chinese document that reveals how stones in excess of 300 tons were moved over 70 miles without the wheel to build the famous Forbidden City.

Better sit down: the ancient document doesn’t credit aliens. Nor does it credit nephilim or talk about levitation.

From the article:

Vast numbers of huge stones were mined and transported there for its construction in the 15th and 16th centuries. The heaviest of these giant boulders, aptly named the Large Stone Carving, now weighs more than 220 tons (200 metric tons) but once weighed more than 330 tons (300 metric tons).

The ancient document Li translated revealed that workers dug wells every 1,600 feet (500 meters) or so to get water to pour on the ice to lubricate it. This made the ice even more slippery and, therefore, easier upon which to slide rocks.

The researchers calculated that a workforce of fewer than 50 men could haul a 123-ton stone on a sledge over lubricated ice from the quarry to the Forbidden City. In contrast, pulling the same load over bare ground would have required more than 1,500 men.

 

I’ll bet this won’t be part of the Ancient Aliens series. Just a guess. You just can’t make money telling people the truth.

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Ancient Aliens Malpractice

Jason Colavito just posted a review of the Ancient Aliens episode “Alien Operations.” As usual, the review is informed and insightful, while the episode was disturbingly dumb –another ode to incoherence. My favorite paragraph:

Tsoukalos adopts Thomas Aquinas’s argument from first cause to argue that human medical knowledge could not have developed spontaneously because every surgeon alive today learns from previous surgeons who learned from previous surgeons; therefore, invention is impossible and only aliens could have been the first cause. The idea of gradual evolution is for him inconceivable; a discipline must exist as an unchanging, complete whole or it cannot exist at all. This is the cultural version of the creationist staple about what good half an eye is. How then does he explain the fact that treatments exist today that did not exist ten years ago, like, say the 3D printing that the show discussed only minutes earlier?

 

 

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Review of Ancient Aliens’ Craptastic Anunnaki Episode

Jason Colavito has courageously reviewed the latest ode to asininity from the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens series. I strongly encourage readers to check it out. It’s an informative and fun read. It’s a cornucopia of  My favorite portion:

William Henry, who believes telephone booths are secret symbols for trans-dimensional portals, lies about Sumerian texts regarding the Anunnaki, claiming without evidence that they were described as humanoids who could “phase in” to human form, which cannot be found in any ancient text.

It’s really hard to beat William Henry for incoherence. When all others simply ignore data – like the fact that none of this Anunnaki alien nonsense can be found in the cuneiform texts – Henry is bound to take it to the next level: that of utter absurdity.1

  1. William Henry brings back some good memories. Way back in 2001 after my first appearance on Coast to Coast AM, Henry was the guy who accused me of making money off Zecharia Sitchin’s work. I responded by posting my tax returns on the internet, asking William – and Mr. Sitchin – to do the same. I did that for three years in a row – just looked on my computer – I still have the web page. I was a struggling graduate student. I’m guessing they were doing better duping the masses. Anyway, neither of them took the challenge.

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Sanctified Gullibility is Still Gullibility

It doesn’t get much more embarrassing than this.

Jason Colavito has a short write up on how Christian apologists are using a prop — a giant human skeleton that isn’t a skeleton at all — from von Daniken’s ancient astronaut theme park for the gullible.

Since when is defending one’s faith with a lie a good idea?

Pretty pathetic. It leads people to follow several bogus thought trajectories:

1. That belief in a creator needs to be defended via the idea of giants (it doesn’t, and that “approach” is absurd).

2. That belief in a creator is synonymous with young earth creationism and rigid biblical literalism (it isn’t).

3. That those who defend the young earth view of creationism will basically stoop to any level to do so (many would not; that is, they aren’t ethically challenged).

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