Georgia geneticist challenges evolution, links humans to pigs

By Ben Smith

Photo of pigs

Our ancestor may have looked like this.

To Athens geneticist Gene McCarthy, pigs used to conjure filth and greed. But after years of research into this species, McCarthy sees a kindred spirit. Pigs, according to his Hybrid Hypothesis published last month on his website, Macroevolution.net, helped create humans by mating with chimpanzees.

As radical as it sounds—not to mention a coupling that many of us would rather not visualize—McCarthy is also following the steps of scientists like Galileo who risked derision to revolutionize how we understand our world and how we got here. McCarthy has offended evolutionists and creationists alike and even had a ribald comedy sketch aired on late night TV.

“I tell you what, my body makes a lot more sense to me now,” quipped talk show host Jimmy Kimmel before introducing the sketch.

This is no joke, however. Phys.org, a respectable science research news website, published its first article by reporter John Hewitt on McCarthy’s theory July 3. The reaction was so strong that Phys.org followed up with a second article July 25.

Chimpanzees are the closest evolutionary link to humans. (Photo D. Bruyere/Wiki Commons)

Chimpanzees are the closest evolutionary link to humans, scientists believe. (Photo D. Bruyere/Wiki Commons)

“Extraordinary theories require extraordinary evidence and McCarthy does not disappoint,” wrote Hewitt. “Rather than relying on genetic sequence comparisons, he instead offers extensive anatomical comparisons, each of which may be individually assailable, but startling when taken together.”

Like Tarzan

Gene McCarthy of Athens with his twins Margaret and Clara

Gene McCarthy of Athens with his twins Margaret and Clara

Science currently supposes the chimpanzee to be our closest living relative. McCarthy believes humans evolved from an original pig-chimp mating, likely a female chimpanzee and a male pig, followed by several generations of  “backcrossing.” In other words, the offspring and descendants of that pairing, like Tarzan, lived among chimpanzees, but unlike Tarzan, McCarthy says, they mated repeatedly generation after generation with chimps, becoming more and more like chimps and less and less like pigs.

Eventually, probably at least three or more generations later, they became humanlike creatures, who began to think of themselves as different from chimpanzees, and thereafter mated only among themselves.

McCarthy’s been working on this theory for decades. He first told me about it 20 years ago, when I first met him through his wife Rebecca, a former colleague at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Since then, he’s become an acknowledged expert on hybrids, having authored the Oxford University reference book, Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, published in 2006. On his website, he is publishing his massive collection of information on hybridization in mammals.

In his research into human origins, McCarthy employed the same methods he had seen other biologists use in identifying unknown hybrids. So he first made the assumption, based on chimpanzees being our closest living relative, that the chimpanzee would likely have been one of the two parents in the cross. He then made a list of all the characteristics that distinguish us from the chimpanzees. That list he realized would describe the traits of the second parent, if it still existed.

Among them: largely hairless skin, a comparable layer of fat beneath the skin, thermoregulatory sweating, light-colored eyes, a protruding rubbery (cartilaginous) nose, vocal cords, heavy eyelashes, humanlike molars, a short pelvis, a curved sacrum with short dorsal spines, similarities in the structure of the kidneys and other internal organs, tiny hooves (called ungual tuberosities) just beneath the skin on the tips of our fingers and toes, and a wide variety of other features.

Photo of a leopan

This leopon is an example of an animal hybrid: a cross between a leopard and lion (From macroevolution.net)

All characteristics except two—big brain and upright posture—turned out to be  present in pigs. McCarthy was shocked. Looking further, he found anatomical characteristics in either pigs or chimps that when combined in a hybrid would produce an increase in brain size and allow that hybrid to walk erect. Everything seemed to fit.

As you probably know, pig heart valves and pig skin tissue are used in surgeries because of their compatibility with the human body.

McCarthy’s conclusions have startled others in his field, and not always in a good way.

“Hilarious,” wrote the author of the science blog, Pharyngula, P.Z. Myers. He ridiculed McCarthy personally and gave only a glancing critique of the science behind the theory: “I’ve decided that this explanation for human origins must be called the Monkey-(expletive)-A-Pig hypothesis, or MFAP for short).”

Challenging conventional wisdom

McCarthy’s theory collides with common misconceptions about hybrid animals. Critics say his theory can’t be true because hybrid animals, such as mules, are most likely to be sterile.

It is true that hybrids are usually less fertile than their parents – an interesting point because humans, according to McCarthy, are generally less fertile than other animals – but he also notes that many crosses among mammals produce hybrids, especially female hybrids, which are much more fertile than a mule.

Photo of Pippi the zedonk, a hybrid.

This zedonk named Pippi, produced by a zebra father and donkey mother, was born at an exotic animal facility in north Georgia.

For example, in the case of both the “liger” (the offspring of a tiger and lion) and the “zedonk” (the product of zebra-donkey coupling), female hybrids have produced progeny in backcrosses with the species from which they were derived.

A more contentious argument is that the genetic differences between certain animals, say, between those of different taxonomic orders or classes, make hybrid offspring from their pairing all but impossible.

But McCarthy has many examples of strange hybrids on his website. He also points out that research published in the journal Nature in 2004 showed that the egg-laying platypus was found to have sex chromosomes of both bird and mammal origin, raising the probability of an ancient crossbreeding of species even more distant than pigs and monkeys.

Dosage effects

In terms of DNA sequence similarity, humans and chimps are about 98 percent alike, which might suggest there isn’t much room for pigness in us. And McCarthy agrees that repeated generations of backcrossing—to only one of the two parental species from which the original hybrid was derived—would result in the DNA of hybrids in later generations being quickly homogenized back toward the DNA of that parent in terms of sequence similarity, which would render the task of tracing pig DNA in humans very difficult.

However, he also says that shifts in gene counts caused by reshuffling of the genome during this backcrossing process might well result in a creature more pig-like than a chimpanzee, because the number of copies of each kind of gene would be shifted away chimpanzee and toward pig.

Such changes are called “dosage effects.” An example of a dosage effect is Down’s syndrome, in which an extra copy of chromosome 21, and therefore an extra copy of each gene on that chromosome, results in a whole suite of changes during development (without any change whatsoever in the DNA sequences themselves).

Answering his critics

McCarthy says he hasn’t been surprised by the critics.

Duck-billed platypus has features of birds and mammals, suggested a cross between species.

Duck-billed platypus has features of birds and mammals, suggested a cross between species. (From macroevolution.net)

“It almost like some of the evolutionists are reacting in a parallel way to the creationists. It’s like they’re saying, ‘this is a most blasphemous thing that you’re saying. We know the truth. We know that you are misinformed,” McCarthy said. “It (the hybrid theory) seems to raise the same hackles among some of them as making fun of Jesus does to Baptists.”

Phys.org’s second article July 25 defended McCarthy and his hybridization theory against “those coming out against the theory (who) had surprisingly little science to offer in their sometimes personal attacks.”

Furthermore, “as many critics noted, the advancement of scientific knowledge does not require disproving every radical theory that comes along. Lots of incorrect theories exist that cannot, for all practical purposes, be formally disproven. It seems, however, that decent arguments against the hybrid origins theory are surprisingly hard to find, and moreover, the established elders of the field, well, they know it.”

What if this theory is true —how might it change the way we see ourselves?

“I must admit that I initially felt a certain amount of repugnance at the idea of being a hybrid,” writes McCarthy in the conclusion to Hybrid Hypothesis. “The image of a pig mating with an ape is not a pretty one, nor is that of a horde of monstrous half-humans breeding in a hybrid swarm.

“But the way we came to be,” he says, “is not so important as the fact that we now exist. As every Machiavellian knows, good things can emerge from ugly processes, and I think the human race is a very good thing. Moreover, there is something to be said for the idea of having the pig as a relative. My opinion of this animal has much improved during the course of my research. Where once I thought of filth and greed, I now think of intelligence, affection, loyalty, and adaptability, with an added touch of joyous sensuality — qualities without which humans would not be human.”

Ben Smith can be reached at benzmyth@gmail.com

 

 

About Michelle Hiskey

Michelle Hiskey is a freelance writer and writing coach based in Decatur, and her day job is senior editor on Emory University's development communications team. Michelle worked at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 22 years as a sports reporter, columnist and Sunday feature writer, and her stories of recovery and redemption bridge unexpected places and people across Atlanta. She lives in Decatur with her husband Ben Smith, also a journalist, and their two awesome daughters. She can be reached at michelle.hiskey@gmail.com.
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34 comments
Peter Scripture
Peter Scripture

If "scientists" would just accept the fact that we were created by aliens, all their questions would be answered. Only and idiot would believe that we are the result of an chimp having sex with a pig. A vast amount of evidence shows that this is the most likely answer. I am 75, and have an of the top of the scale intelligence, and have read vastly, and I will say again, this IS what happened.

ChristineErikson
ChristineErikson

Two scenarios. The pig chimp hybrid - frankly, this makes me all the more humble and grateful towards God, that He picked up such a mess, tweaked it to be a human and cloned off a marrow cell a mate (tweaked a chromosome into the X so its Eve) and put them in a perfect environment (which we then screwed up). Given chimpanzee omnivorousness and violence, I doubt such a hybrid would live long enough to grow up and have sex with chimps. Well, maybe bonobos? That's a scenario, non violent and oversexed I could see one getting it on with a pig. Why a pig would want to mate with a chimp I don't know. 

second scenario, we start with the biblical picture, mankind has features perfect for being the superintendant over nature under God, which incl. the mix of features to some extent, but it gets more extreme later here's why. Before The Flood, things got very evil, very amoral, very violent, and a fast development of technology of the simpler sort. Supposing the idea of high tech antiquity is correct? Mad scientists re engineer some humans for extreme environments, and these are mostly offworld when The Flood is sent when God gets fed up. These reengineered humans with animal, insect, etc. DNA are the "aliens" we see now. (google alien abduction. Also get my book A Possible History of Life on Mars on amazon.com kindle. Hint, we got a flood, Mars got drought.)

Some effort was made to make heavy workers mix human and lemur DNA get chimps. And there was cannibalism getting out of control, amoral and violent time, remember? So someone decided to engineer the pig with a lot of human DNA to provide something instead of humans for cannibals to eat. (We taste alike, which is why some cannibals used to call us "long pig.")

Chances are, modern humans have some reengineering back of us, and the original pure human bloodline was lost. Noah was not "pure in his generations" in terms of blood but behavior, lived through many generations, but even if this crazy nephilim hybrid story some put about using the non canonical Book of Enoch is true, ONLY Noah was pure not his wife, sons or their wives. Consider Genesis as very telescoped history. 

We might descend from an effort involving adding aquatic mammal DNA to us to get the subcutaneous fat thing. Whatever.

I am a mid range age earth creationist. http://politicallyunclassifiable.blogspot.com

Joe Degimedia
Joe Degimedia

The subtitle of Gene Mccarthy's book is, "Superb Dark Humor from the Ivory Tower."

I'm just sayin'...


markx
markx

"Are rat-mouse hybrids possible?


Rats and mice are not that closely related. Under normal circumstances, rats and mice are not attracted to each other and will not mate. Even if the sperm of one and the eggs of the other are mixed together artificially, fertilization will not occur: the eggs of one do not allow entry of the other's sperm.

These natural barriers can be overcome in a laboratory, at least at first. Such attempts typically result in a hybrid embryo which dies after a few cell divisions.

Another technique involves removing the nucleus (which contains most of the DNA) from a mouse egg and replacing it with a rat's nucleus. The resulting embryo has 100% rat nuclear DNA, enclosed in a mouse egg with mouse cell contents (cytoplasm). These nuclear transplant hybrids sometimes live to the 2-cell stage, but then they degenerate. The rat nucleus and the mouse cytoplasm are fundamentally incompatible. "

More here- including the failure to produce chimeras:

http://www.ratbehavior.org/RatMouseHybrid.htm

markx
markx

"Leading geneticist Dr Eugene McCarthy claims humans descended from sex between a chimp and a pig" - I thought it was an erroneous headline but that seems to be the theory all right.

This guy is an expert on hybridization.
And can speak in great detail about the technicalities of that subject.
And seems to understand absolutely nothing about evolution and parallel evolution.

Some of his 'proof' is the hairless skin of people and pigs, the "shared" large cartilaginous nose (??!) and "short fat digits"!!

ALL pigs have a full coat of body hair (including domestic breeds!) and it is very different hair from the fine body hair of humans (remember pig bristle brushes? You think they all come from catching wild boar?). Pigs have very few sweat glands which function differently from those of humans and are completely ineffective in regulating temperature. Pigs are wallowing animals. 

The pig's cartilaginous nose is adapted for digging and is tremendously effective for that. A few pigs can plow a paddock in no time.

And, short digits?!! Pigs have hooves!

He comments on the 'similar internal organ structures' of pigs. Heart valves? A matter of matching size - take your pick, pigs range from a body weight of 1.5 kg up to sexual maturity at about 100 kg ... big adults after years can reach 250+ kg. He ignores the intestinal differences in intestines, with the pig being a substantial hindgut fermenter with a very large caecum and a large spiral colon. 

Kidneys? Dog, sheep and cat kidneys are a perhaps more similar to human kidneys than is the elongated multi-lobular pig kidney.

The fact that hybrids are possible between quite closely related species (birds of various types, horses/zebras, lions/tigers) and are very occasionally fertile, is a helluva stretch from the hybridization he proposes. 

This also ignores all the fossil evidence of interim species between ancient ape like ancestors and modern man and apes.

I am not sure of the motivations here, and it may be the case of a man so completely immersed in his subject that he does not even consider other science.

Something very strange has happened here.

Illuminated888
Illuminated888

I think that this theory fills in a lot of gaps. I just wanted to throw my two cents in so I am posting now a few months after this article was written. This is a very interesting theory and it has yet to be debunked.

JasonDowd
JasonDowd

So I find this theory very interesting and worth further investigation. For me the primary question at this point -- which I haven't seen discussed in any of the articles I've read either by supporters, detractors, or neutral parties -- is, "What now?"

That is, we have a hypothesis. Now we need experiments to determine whether we can find additional evidence to either support or contraindicate this hypothesis. What will those experiments be? What are our next steps?

I also have been very surprised by the negative comments from scientific circles cast towards this hypothesis. Here we are 400 years after Galileo and individuals who really should know better still don't seem to understand that science isn't a matter of personal opinion.

Guest
Guest

Eating of pork may have been frowned upon because according to cannibal stories, human flesh tastes like pork - and is referred to as "long pig" in some tribes.

Chris Koch
Chris Koch

That explains the Judao-Muslin prohibition of eating pork.

UkMerv
UkMerv

Apologies - just  to show you can learn something new every day! How ignorant of me not to realise there is also an Athens in the USA. Just shows how fixed a mindset can be lol

UkMerv
UkMerv

I have been following this hypothesis via Physorg and Dr McCarthy's own website Macroevolution.net. Apart from the fact that he seems to be tagged with "Athens" - well done Ben Smith for getting this out into the public domain sine prejudice.

Richard Lionheart
Richard Lionheart

@Peter Scripture  

PETER! I common soul. What you say is what actually makes sense. I have also come to that conclusion. I am 54 and when I was a youngster I was very interested in the concept of Atlantis and Science Fiction (Jules Verne etc) I used to say to my father (now deceased) that man had reached this same level of technological advancement before and it had all fallen apart and these were the "Gods". Thanks for your comment. If I say this I am usually called a whacko by both the religious and Evolutionists.

RebeccaDalmas
RebeccaDalmas

@markx The point was to not compare human anatomy to the closest fit among pig, sheep, and cat kidneys (as you referenced,) but to see if the anatomy of humans that is not easily explained as evolving from chimps can be accounted for by a pig ancestor.

markx
markx

Parallel evolution. Note the physical similarities between sheep, cattle, horses, dogs, cats, pigs.

Consider the likelihood that humans, chimps, pigs, dogs, ruminants etc all descended from some distant common ancestor. With the common ancestors of man and chimp (and dog and cat for that matter) branching off more recently.

I don't think anywhere is there an evolutionary theory that man descended directly from chimps or the immediate ancestors of chimps.

The more I think about McCarthy's theories, the more off target they seem.

markx
markx

A little bit of in vitro fertilization would seem to be a useful start.

UKMervSanders
UKMervSanders

@JasonDowd

Hi Jason.

There is a growing forum of like-minded people  who share your opinion. We are in contact with Dr Eugene McCarthy who is surprisingly easily accessible. He has expressed an unwillingness to take the next "Frankenstein" step on ethical grounds - see his Kindle release fiction "The Department" (too late in the evening to find you the link but it is available via Physorg). So is his "interrupting cow radio podcast" and the link to all his "circumstantial evidence" research on Macroevolution.net. He claims to lack the funding to taking the laboratory approach - not that any of us are offering lol.

If you are seriously interested after imbibing all that, please get in touch. "Crank" hypothesis it may well turn out to be, but crank can have at least 2 interpretations:

A person who promotes a profound belief which conflicts with the academic establishment (e.g.Galileo/Darwin)

Or: in mechanical engineering, a bent portion of an axle, or shaft, or an arm keyed at right angles to the end of a shaft, by which motion is imparted to or received from it.

"But it still moves" after surviving heresy trial (Galileo).

A few of us have science backgrounds, a few of us are just open-minded laymen. Any skills you can bring to the forum appreciated, any thoughts considered and often dismissed (that might just be in my case).


All Best Whatever





Marcello
Marcello

@Chris Koch no it doesn't. There should then also be a prohibition against eating chimpanzees. 

markx
markx

@RebeccaDalmas @markx  

Yes Rebecca, I see that... account for them by noting physical similarities...., whilst ignoring  such similarities with other randomly selected animals. .. and ignoring DNA evidence.

...Well, it pretty well defies everything we know about genetics breeding and evolution... and simple logic.... but you go with it if you like it.


markx
markx

Well, it would at least disprove the thoughts of those (like me) who see the whole thing as physically impossible, physiologically impossible, and embryonically impossible.


But, given the apparent reluctance to deal directly with such doubts, and the almost absolute certainty of failure of such endeavors, I think you may be wise sticking to the comparative anatomy, you may get a bit more mileage out of that path.


A few more practical 'tit-bits' for you to consider: 

The boar's penis has a corkscrew twist, with a curved and pointed end, with no glans, and is between 45 and 65 cm in length. The penis is structured to be accommodated by the spiral transverse ridges of the sow's cervix, - the penis "locks in" during mating, which is a fairly protracted process. And boars can be trained to mount an inanimate dummy, but it really helps to have a sow in oestrus there to kickstart the process of training. And a boar is a heavy animal (60 to 200 kg) which will mount for at least 3 to 5 minutes and up to 20 minutes before ejaculation. Semen collection from a boar on a dummy mount is almost invariably done with a gloved hand, which can grip the spiral penis in a manner similar to the sow's cervix.

RebeccaDalmas
RebeccaDalmas

@markx Credibility is a political problem, not necessarily scientific one. Such a success could neither prove nor disprove the hypothesis.  The answer is of historical nature, thus we would have to look for historical evidence.

That's where the relevance of anatomy is of interest.  It sounds like Dr McCarthy has a method already in mind, of looking for historical genetic evidence.

markx
markx

The successful invitro creation of a fertilized zygote by combining the ovum and spermatozoa would seem to be the only way you could give the idea the smallest amount of credibility.

 No need to create any monsters, though given the inability ofscientists to create even mouse/rat fertilizations, I'd think you should have few concerns of creating anything worrying.


Gene McCarthy
Gene McCarthy

@markx Many people have been suggesting that I create this hybrid. For example, here's a verbatim email message (name of correspondent X-ed out) I received two days ago: 

"I admire your excellent work and complex thought processes as well as your integration of biological principles with your extensive scientific and observable data. Question.  Why can't pig and chimp populations be placed in proximity, such as a 200 acre fenced park,to see if this mating is behaviorally possible and genetically viable? Could the offspring actually survive as a member of a chimpanzee troop in terms of socialization and survival  behavior  ex food competition,foraging ,alliances etc. do you have drawings that show your impressions of what the phenotypic appearance  of the hybrid might look like.    Sincerely, XXXXX XXXXX, a physician but originally and still a biologist at heart"

But I have large reservations about doing anything of the sort. The result of the first (F1) cross would be something much more piglike than a human being. Half its genome would be pig, something, perhaps, more like the creature born in China five years ago (http://www.macroevolution.net/pig-primate-hybrids.html). Perhaps it would even be intelligent and have self awareness like ours; I explore this possibility in my novel, The Department (http://www.amazon.com/The-Department-Eugene-M-McCarthy-ebook/dp/B0091JJED0 ). Like Victor Frankenstein's creation, such a creature would have no place in this world, and I think it might well be very unhappy with its life as an intelligent specimen. I wouldn't want to be a party to that. I would, of course, be interested in the results of an in vitro experiment such as the one you describe, but I have no facilities to carry out such experimentation. Moreover, in many distant hybrid crosses, only a very small percentage of the eggs are successfully fertilized, so it might be a lot of work for anyone who tried such an experiment. The in vitro creation of fertilized eggs (zygotes) also might be the beginning of a slippery slope. That is, once you had eggs, you might be tempted to try to produce an embryo, then you might think, why not a fetus? etc., until you ended up trying to produce a mature hybrid.

But all this is perhaps beside the point. Judging from my emails, I would say that someone out there is already trying to do this.

RebeccaDalmas
RebeccaDalmas

@markx I agree, a fairly simply-made database program could be quite useful, it would very labor intensive to fill, but would make the gathered information more accessible by making it easier to look for patterns and relationships.

markx
markx

Comparative anatomy is the key here.

It would be useful to set up tables to cross tabulate differences and similarities of a range of species, not just the two discussed. Not as "impressive" as a densely packed book, but more informative, You would see many similarities.

markx
markx

It would be an interesting exercise for you to try to use boar sperm to fertilize some chimpanzee ovum in an in vitro situation.

Boar sperm is readily available commercially. Finding a source of chimpanzee ovum may well be a bottle neck.


I imagine you will need a lot of each before you perfect the process.

I look forward to your publication. Good luck.

Gene McCarthy
Gene McCarthy

@RebeccaDalmas @markx Btw, we're making progress with the in silico chromosome painting mentioned below. Our new computer program is almost complete and we should be getting results of scanning the human genome soon.

Gene McCarthy
Gene McCarthy

@RebeccaDalmas @markx Thanks, Rebecca. It sometimes strikes me as ironic how much some people think they know about "genetics, breeding and evolution."  I've studied those subjects for thirty years and still have many blanks to fill in.  In fact, I think Shakespeare describes my status accurately:  "In nature's infinite book of secrecy a little I can read."

RebeccaDalmas
RebeccaDalmas

@markx @RebeccaDalmas You're still sidestepping the point.  If you want to make a point with "randomly selected animals" then how about referencing some that have as roughly many similarities to those human traits that are not easily explainable if one only assumes evolution from chimp ancestry.  Picking a few animals with one or few traits does not say much.

How does it defy "everything we know about genetics and breeding and evolution?" 

I guess I am not just as ready to dismiss his ideas off-hand as you seem to be.  I'd like to see more study of the subject, whatever the eventual conclusions.

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