THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM…:GENETICIST McCARTHY: ARE HUMANS ...December 27, 2015
Mr. R.G. shared this article, and I thought I would pass it along for its intrinsic interest. Geneticist Dr Eugene M. McCarthy is proposing a serious genetic model for humanity's hybrid organizations, via a kind of process of genetically "reverse engineering" the human genome. In this, he traces humanity back to the chimpanzee and "something else":
I have to admit that I was so intrigued when I read this article that I thought "it's almost too good to be true," and so did a quick search on Dr. McCarthy, and found this reference to a very academic tome on avian hybrids - work which he mentioned in the article linked above - published by Oxford University Press:
McCarthy follows the standard line of evolutionary theory that at least one parent of humanity comes from the chimpanzee family, given that creature's very close genetic structure to humans. This is where it gets interesting. Writes McCarthy:
So in the specific case of humans, if the two assumptions made thus far are correct (i.e., (1) that humans actually are hybrids, and (2) that the chimpanzee actually is one of our two parents), then a list of traits distinguishing human beings from chimpanzees should describe the other parent involved in the cross. And by applying this sort of methodology, I did in fact succeed in narrowing things down to a particular candidate. That is, I looked up every human distinction that I could find and, so long as it was cited by an expert (physical anthropologist, anatomist, etc), I put it on a list. And that list, which includes many traits (see the lengthy table on next page), consistently describes a particular animal. Keep reading and I’ll explain.
Noting the usual infertility of hybrids, McCarthy comments:
The fact that even modern-day humans are relatively infertile may be significant in this connection. If a hybrid population does not die out altogether, it will tend to improve in fertility with each passing generation under the pressure of natural selection. Fossils indicate that we have had at least 200,000 years to recover our fertility since the time that the first modern humans (Homo sapiens) appeared. The earliest creatures generally recognized as human ancestors (Ardipithecus, Orrorin) date to about six million years ago. So our fertility has had a very long time to improve. If we have been recovering for thousands of generations and still show obvious symptoms of sterility (see previous section), then our earliest human ancestors, if they were hybrids, must have suffered from an infertility that was quite severe. This line of reasoning, too, suggests that the chimpanzee might have produced Homo sapiens by crossing with a genetically incompatible mate, possibly even one outside the primate order.
By listing an extensive set of species specific traits, Dr. McCarthy then goes on to question what other species might account for their presence in mankind via a species-cross,
The animal in question is quite a surprise, and prompts my usual "high octane" speculation:
What is this other animal that has all these traits? The answer is Sus scrofa, the ordinary pig. What are we to think of this fact? If we conclude that pigs did in fact cross with apes to produce the human race, then an avalanche of old ideas must crash to the earth. But, of course, the usual response to any new perspective is “That can’t be right, because I don’t already believe it.”
Like all scientific hypotheses, time and more research will tell, but I personally found this idea intriguing for the following reason, namely, the religious food-cleanliness prohibitions on pork common to certain religions, beginning with the ancient Hebrews. And that makes one wonder about the origins of the prohibitions. Was this, perhaps, a kind of legacy handed down from an earlier more scientifically advanced culture? Whatever one makes of Dr. McCarthy's hypothesis, time and more research will tell. The human genome is indeed a mystery, having signs of sequences from a variety of species. Perhaps, that too, is some sort of clue. The ancients viewed man as a "microcosm" of the world, including the living world, and viewed man as having descended from the mineral, vegetable, and animal words, as a kind of "recapitulation" of other life forms and thus as related to them all, a kind of cosmic "rags to riches" story, or in this case, a "star dust to intelligent life form" story.
Of course, it's wild high octane speculation, but worth, perhaps, tucking in the back of the mind, and watching the story as genetics attempts to unravel the history of our past.
See you on the flip side...