That rumor is starting to spread again: the one that says your uncle was a monkey (OK, chimpanzee) and your aunt was a … pig?
Or more likely, vice versa, claims geneticist and species-hybridization scholar Eugene McCarthy.
Earlier this summer, McCarthy publicized on his website Macroevolution.net the notion that humans evolved from a distant-history cross of chimp and swine. The theory popped up again in newspapers around the world over the Thanksgiving weekend, thanks to London’s Daily Mail, which resurrected the story Nov. 30.
In summary, McCarthy proposes that while it’s been demonstrated humans share many genetic similarities to chimpanzees, several outward characteristics – including relative hairlessness, blue or other fair-colored eyes, a protruding, cartilaginous nose, a layer of subcutaneous fat beneath the skin and so forth – suggest humanity had a distant ancestor of a different species.
“What is this other animal that has all these traits?” he asks rhetorically. “The answer is Sus scrofa, the ordinary pig.”
“Unsurprisingly,” the Daily Mail reports, “Dr. McCarthy’s hypothesis has come in for substantial criticism from orthodox evolutionary biologists and their Creationist opponents alike.”
Indeed, McCarthy’s idea was initially mocked, prompting one science blog to host a contest to name the first primate-porker offspring. Meanwhile, late night TV comedian Jimmy Kimmel spoofed the theory on his July 11 program.
But the Daily Mail stirred up discussion again by reporting, “The startling claim has been made by Eugene McCarthy, of the University of Georgia, who is also one of the world’s leading authorities on hybridisation in animals.”
However, McCarthy is not listed in University of Georgia’s 2013-2014 campus directory as either faculty, staff or student. He did, though, author “Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World,” with Oxford University Press, when he was a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of UGA Professor Jeffrey Bennetzen.
McCarthy even admits his contract to publish his chimp-pig idea was terminated after his editor at Oxford received criticism from the scientific community.
Today, McCarthy explains, “Rather than submit the manuscript for yet another round of lengthy, and perhaps fruitless, review, I decided to simply publish it … on the Macroevolution.net website with a slightly altered title, ‘On the Origins of New Forms of Life: A New Theory.’”
Biologist David Menton, who spent over 30 years in the department of anatomy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and who today writes and speaks for Answers in Genesis, explained to WND why McCarthy’s pig ideas won’t fly.
“The whole idea is so ludicrous, I can’t believe I’m discussing it with you,” said Menton. “I think it’s going too far to even call it a hypothesis. A hypothesis has to be testable in some way. Not every speculation qualifies. You have to be able to imagine an experiment to potentially disprove it.
“What sort of critical experiment could we do to disprove a claim that modern humans are the result of chimp/pig crossbreeding?” Menton asked. “This is at best speculation.”
Menton also isolated reasons why positing a pig as humanity’s ancestor is flawed, particularly McCarthy’s pointing to hog heart valves in human cardiac surgery and the relative “hairlessness” of pigs and people.
“It’s true pig skin is used to cover massive wounds, but use of pigs for cardiac valves is not because the valve is necessarily more similar than that of other mammals; just that they’re a very common creature, raised in immense numbers,” Menton said. “Transplants from other animals with a valve of about the same size could be used, but they’re not as common. It doesn’t necessarily mean that pig valves are optimal, just that they’re economical.”
As for the “hairlessness,” Menton said, “I happened to have done a great deal of research on skin, published several papers. There are superficial resemblances, but to say the skin is “naked” in man just isn’t true. We have approximately as many hairs per square inch as many primates do.”
Menton explained that people tend to think only of terminal hairs, which grow long and dark. But humans have thousands of tiny, almost invisible vellus hairs growing all over their bodies, save for palms and foot pads.
“We have as many hairs on our forehead as the top of our head,” he said. “Just because you don’t see hairs, doesn’t mean they’re not there.”
Menton also pointed out other superficial similarities between humans and other species – such as the way they sweat, more similar to horses than hogs – and suggested people would have required a cornucopia of critters in their lineage to produce all the traits through hybridization, as McCarthy suggests.
Yet Menton, an advocate for biblical creationism, did say McCarthy had some intriguing points in his work with hybrid studies.
“These hybridizing experiments he’s doing are of interest to us, because many species of animals could come from just one ‘kind,'” Menton said. “The Bible uses the word ‘kind’ to describe the animals aboard Noah’s ark; such as all dogs, wolves and coyotes could be considered of one ‘kind.’ One pair, then, could lead to the diversity we see within kind today; so hybridizing experiments are extremely interesting.
“I agree that there’s more hybridization possible than people realize,” Menton continued. “We even have a zdonkey and a zorse here at the Creation Museum, the crossbreeds of zebras and others of the horse ‘kind.'”
Menton also pointed out the admission McCarthy makes on his website that evolutionary theory doesn’t adequately explain the emergence of human traits different from their allegedly ape-like ancestors. That frustration led McCarthy to wonder if another species could have contributed DNA to the human family tree.
“There is, in fact, a growing dissatisfaction among scientists, even those who are not coming at this from a creationist viewpoint, decidedly non-creationist scientists,” Menton said. “The claim is that evolution is the fact, the phenomenon we observe, and Darwin created the theory about how evolution happens.
He said, however, that many evolutionists, “even those who are crass materialists, know there has to be something else besides ‘survival of the fittest’ to explain what we see. ”
“Evolutionists need to find something besides [Darwin’s] 150-year-old, tired ideas of random mutation and natural selection. They’re reaching for something,” he said.
“But when we go from recognizing zebra/donkey or sheep/goat animals of same kind to mixing chimp and pig to get humans, that is off the map,” Menton concluded.