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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Testing of “Jesus Wife” Coptic Fragment Ongoing

CNN’s religion blog recently posted that testing of the Coptic fragment that includes Jesus referring to his wife has delayed publication of an article by Karen King on the fragment in the Harvard Theological Review. The short piece is a useful one, as it asks some needed questions about the fragment in a concise way for readers.

I’m not sure what the hubbub is about testing the actual fragment. I expect the material itself is very old, but that proves nothing about the authenticity of the text, since all one would need to do to create such a forgery is access to the same material and the “recipe” for ancient ink.  Irving Wallace showed us how to do that decades ago in his novel, The Word. But maybe other scholars don’t read novels. Additionally, genuine physical material won’t answer the syntactical irregularities and borrowed vocabulary in the text that led scholars to think it a fraud in the first place (see here and here).

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More on the Noah’s Ark Fraud

Here’s a link to a short post from the Bible Places blog that contains links to Carbon-14 analysis of the wood from the recent Noah’s ark “discovery” (read: fraud). It’s nice that someone bothers to do scientific research and pursue problems (the hoaxers do not) and report all the data (the hoaxers do not report everything in their upcoming “documentary”). Granted, the source for this critique comes from a site that itself many readers (and me) will question in regard to some of its own presuppositions, but this is the sort of research and analytical critique that needs to happen (note that the author of the critique does have a PhD in geology). This sentence in the post says it all:

In short, the burden of proof is on those who claim that they have discovered Noah’s Ark. Their unwillingness to report their data so that it can be analyzed by scholars suggests that they are perpetuating a fraud.

“Suggest” is far too nice.

I’ll be leaving tomorrow for the annual scholarly conferences in religion and biblical studies. I hope to catch a session or two that are about the recent Noah’s ark “research” (one is a session by Randall Price, and then there’s another on recent advances in satellite technology).  If I get to those on the schedule, hopefully I’ll have something to share.

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Lead Codices Update

As I suggested might be the case when news of the testing of the codices was announced, the lead is apparently ancient according to the results. I’m kind of amazed that the academic community isn’t saying “who cares?” — I guess they never read Wallace’s The Word. All this proves is that forgers used ancient material, not that the texts themselves are authentic, especially when there is abundant evidence to the contrary.

To the academic blogging community (I’d address the breathless media, but they haven’t listened from the beginning): Let’s use a little imagination. If you were going to fake these, wouldn’t you anticipate your work would be tested this way? I would, and I’d make sure to use real material before copying my content.

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Lead Codices to Be Tested

Todd Bolen reports today that the lead codices already widely considered to be fraudulent will be undergoing testing by antiquities authorities. For those of you just getting up to speed on this, here’s a link to an overview of the reasons they are considered fakes.

I can only hope that the results of scientific materials testing isn’t allowed to trump the other data. What I mean here will be familiar to anyone who has ever read (or remembers the TV mini-series back in the 70s I think) a book by Irving Wallace called “The Word.” In that thriller, a fake Aramaic gospel was produced on authentic manuscript material via authentic ink dating to the first century. How it was pulled off in the story was ingenious, but relatively simple. So if the lead materials date to the first century, that settles nothing. The other data are still telling.

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