Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Real Bigfoot?

Back in February I covered the story of the DeNovo Scientific Journal, a publication apparently created for the sole purpose of publishing a research paper by geneticist Melba Ketchum regarding the supposed sequencing of bigfoot DNA. As I noted at the time, the trouble with this is that publishing your own paper in your own scientific journal bypasses the process of peer review and as such cannot meaningfully be called scientific. The whole point of peer review is to allow other researchers to check your findings, to rule out any possibility of experimental error that might happen in any individual study.

Yesterday science blogger Eric Berger published his account of having Ketchum's "bigfoot DNA" analyzed by another geneticist - that is, performing the sort of peer review that would be necessary to validate that bigfoot indeed represents an unknown species.

I am first and foremost a journalist, and I figured if there was even a 1 percent chance that the Bigfoot evidence was real, it was worth my time to check the story out.

So I agreed to be an intermediary between Ketchum and a highly reputable geneticist in Texas, whom I trusted and knew personally. I also knew that this geneticist was first and foremost a scientist, and if there was even a 1 percent chance the Bigfoot evidence was real, he’d want check out the story. I asked, and he was willing to approach the evidence with an open mind.

(Why am I maintaining my source’s anonymity? Because some of his peers would question his engagement on such a topic, believing it unworthy of valuable research time. But make no mistake, he is a top-notch scientist at the top of his field.)

The deal was this: I would hold off writing anything until this geneticist had his lab test the DNA samples obtained by Ketchum that were purportedly a novel and non-human species. If the evidence backed up Ketchum’s claims, I had a blockbuster story. My geneticist source would have a hand in making the scientific discovery of the decade, or perhaps the century. Ketchum would be vindicated.

However, these new results identified the very sort of experimental error peer review is designed to catch. Ketchum's paper claimed that the sequenced DNA supported the notion of bigfoot as an ape-human hybrid, whereas Berger's geneticist identified it as a mixture of opossum and another species. So instead of the DNA coming from a guy in a suit as I previously hypothesized, it would seem that the culprit is in fact a mere opossum - a common species in the area in which the DNA was collected. Either that or the half-man-ape, half-possum pictured above is out there somewhere - and terrifyingly real.

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Moonfire Publishing said...

This is im-POSS-ibly great artwork! I feel as if I'm there...

Scott Stenwick said...

And that artwork is original, demonstrating my mad skills with Microsoft Paint. ;-)