Tag Archives: testing

Paracas Skull Groundhog Day

This past Friday, Feb 2, Lynn Marzulli’s second round on Paracas skull DNA was revealed to a pay-per-view audience. The Groundhog Day timing was appropriate. We’ve seen this before.

I’d love to say “good job; thanks for doing the hard work on this.” But I can’t. This isn’t doing the hard work. It’s pretending to have experts, doing sloppy work, and steering an audience toward a pre-determined conclusion. It’s a bad testimony to the unbelieving world. Someone has to say it.

For the record (again), these skulls have nothing to do with nephilim and are nothing but human. They are well known and have been thoroughly researched. But believers won’t care. The veracity of the Bible does not depend on such academic chicanery. And that’s the problem. For outsiders looking in, this will be another conformation in how Christians not only don’t think well, but just aren’t interested in thinking well. It’s another reinforcement of the myth that faith and reason are incompatible, and that pre-determined conclusions can be considered honest when it comes to the Bible. Sorry, but the ends don’t justify the means when it comes to presenting Scripture and representing Jesus.

If you think I’m being harsh, read Jason Colavito’s summary of the event. It will tell you how thinking people are processing this sort of sideshow. So far as I know, Jason is not a Christian. With enough exposure to stuff like this, I can’t blame him for never wanting to be one. And he won’t be alone in that by a long stretch. My apologies to Jason and other serious people who may have little interest in the gospel, and who will have even less interest now. I wish I could instead introduce them to some of the hundreds of scientists and scholars I personally know with sterling academic reputations and long histories publishing under peer review who are serious (not “name only”) Christians. Some of them leading experts in fields relevant to DNA research. In other words, they’re exactly the sort of people Marzulli doesn’t want involved and could never convince to endorse his “research.” (Look at Jason’s description of Marzulli’s team). All I can do is apologize and wish that, at some point, you’ll be exposed to serious people who have thought long and hard about the questions that represent obstacles to faith in the minds and hearts of so many, and who have embraced the gospel on the other side of that journey. I hope the same for Marzulli’s audience.

I’ve blogged before about the problems in Marzulli’s first round of DNA testing. Specific examples from someone who actually does that sort of thing can be found here.  It’s a long post, but has a lot of detail. It details the sampling and testing problems that researchers like Colavito presume (with good reason) were not addressed by the second round of testing.

Second time around. Groundhog Day. Maybe it’s God’s way of injecting some humor into this. It’s not working, Lord.

The post Paracas Skull Groundhog Day appeared first on Dr. Michael Heiser.

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PEERANORMAL Episode 11: Bigfoot DNA

Back in 2012 the world heard that Bigfoot DNA had been isolated and genetically tested under controlled laboratory conditions. Those involved claimed that the testing had proven the existence of Bigfoot (aka, Sasquatch), and that the creature was a hybrid between modern homo sapiens and an unknown primate species.In a short time, the story unraveled and the research was scrutinized by experts revealing a number of flaws. But this was not the only attempt at producing genetic evidence for Bigfoot. There were earlier and subsequent tests. Is there genuine evidence for Bigfoot DNA?

The episode is now live.

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Elongated Skulls and Christian Ethics

Those of you with an interest in the elongated skull paleobabble (that they have something to do with aliens or nephilim) will find this short essay of interest. It’s from the Hot Cup of Joe blog. It’s basically an overview of the methodological problems of the research and testing put forth by Lynn Marzulli and Brien Foerster on elongated skulls from Peru.

Sadly, there’s nothing new here. Claims of submitting the skulls for testing without revealing the identity of those doing the tests, which labs did (or are doing) the work, failure to follow protocols that everyone who does this sort of testing for real follow, etc.  I just don’t understand why Christian researchers somehow feel compelled to be secretive, sloppy, or cavalier in research. Would you want a plumber who just did things his own way? A tax attorney? A pediatrician? How about a hair stylist? To quote Captain Obvious, research isn’t valid unless it can be validated. That means going the extra mile in careful method; transparency in sharing data, method, and results; and of course peer review. Instead we get the kind of amateurish work that mimes the “secular” ancient astronaut carnival. The tragedy is that, if there really is something to discover, the way the research has been done puts the whole effort under the pall of suspicion out of the gate. Sigh.

I’ve blogged before about artificial cranial modification in antiquity. It’s actually pretty well understood in terms of the how, but not necessarily the why. There are several academic journal articles at this link specifically about Peruvian skulls. The most exhaustive recent scientific study on these skull is Tiesler’s work, The Bioarchaeology of Artificial Cranial Modifications: New Approaches to Head Shaping and its Meanings in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and Beyond. These skulls are well known.

I’ve also commented before on non-artificial cranial malformation, where the skull does not form as it should. Among the terms associated with this condition is craniosynostosis. I mention this condition because, as the Wikipedia overview makes clear, various brain sutures (including the sagittal suture — see the essay on the elongated skull — may not be visible due to early fusion. In fact, in some conditions, sagittal sutures may not even be visible in X-rays.1 Anyone with access to medical journal databases can discover that strange skull features like elongated shape and (apparent) absence of sutures isn’t proof of nephilim or aliens (and I’m still waiting to see the verse in the Bible about how nephilim had elongated skulls).

None of these data are going to matter, of course. But I’d hope that the lack of transparency and obfuscation would matter. Christian researchers ought to be among the most diligent in this regard to be above reproach. Maybe someday we’ll see that.

  1. See page 370 of this journal article for an example.

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DNA and the Starchild Skull: No Alien Hybrids Here

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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DNA and the Starchild Skull: No Alien Hybrids Here

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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