Monday, November 26, 2012

First Bigfoot DNA "Peer Review" Results are In-- But, Not as Expected

Bigfoot DNA Causes More Questions Among the Scientific Community
The word peer review is in quotes in the title, because we are using it ironically and with reservation. We do not mean peer review in the scientific publication sense. We do mean, however, that scientific peers are interested in Dr. Melba Ketchum's Bigfoot DNA Press release. We have reactions from an invertebrate neuroethologist, a genome informatic expert, a DNA lab owner, and a professor of microbiology. There is a great consensus among these academics, they seem to have two reactions.
  1. While intriguing, the press release seems pre-mature and the timing seems odd since the manuscript has not been published and the peer review has not been completed.
  2.  Dr. Melba Ketchum does have credentials, let's hope it is legit.
NeuroDojo, run by Zen Faulkes, is a popular award-winning neuroscience blog has this to say. 
It’s not just the subject matter of the press release that is strange, though. There’s the little fact that it’s for a paper that is in review, not one that has been published. Usually, papers in review don’t get press releases, because goodness knows Reviewer Number 2 has taken a lot of manuscripts out of contention and they never see the light of day.

In fact, I have to admit: I am so pulling for Reviewer Number 2 to take this manuscript down. Preferably with sniper-style precision and finality. As one Twitter commenter said, this is something that most journal editors would not even send out for review.
NeuroDojo, seems to also be rooting for Dr. Melba ketchum.
That Ketchum is a published author on DNA techniques makes me think this is not a hoax. And I've smelled sasquatch hoaxes before...This feels much more like... overly enthusiastic interpretation, if I’m being charitable about it.
Dr. Mary Mangan of OpenHelix.com, has experience in the private and academic sectors of Genome Informatics, has this reaction:
It was irresistible. I had to read the release, and all I could think about was finding the Sasquatch Genome Browser. It eludes me right now.

Oh, I can’t wait to see this paper. For a laugh I searched PubMed to see what kind of Bigfoot data there is already, and to my surprise he’s in there.  Of course, the paper is about the psychology of monster hunters. And also about the tension between “amateur naturalists and professional scientists”.
Roberta Estes founder of DNAeXplain was in yesterday's post, "DNA Consulting Company is Intrigued by Melba Ketchum's Bigfoot DNA." Her enthusiasm and caution for the the project is clear.
There has been no smoking gun.  If this research is valid and passes peer review, it not only confirms that Sasquatch is real, it vindicates many of the people who have had “sightings” over the years.  It becomes the smoking gun.  But as with much science, it raises more  questions than it answers.

Indeed, I look forward to seeing this published paper and I hope it is legitimate and not pseudo-science of some sort.
And finally we got an email from Tyler A. Kokjohn, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology atMidwestern University.
It seems that we may have to wait for definitive information on the sequences.  Clearly, many people are quite interested in the outcome and it is a bit frustrating to be teased...Please note that these questions can be answered without compromising the research paper now under peer review.  Since the scientists elected to communicate with the public, they should be willing to offer clarifications and answer questions.  
Dr. Kokjohn had a series of fascinating questions that I would hope the Melba camp could answer.
What method was employed to sequence the DNA?  Some have interesting quirks.

Which gene(s) were sequenced, i.e., which genes did you use to decide the Bigfoot relationship to humans?

The statement was made that the mitochondrial genome is identical to human, but the nuclear DNA is distinct.  Moreover, a 15,000 year divergence point is estimated.  This is quite contrary to expectations.  Usually, the genes in a mitochondrion will yield a ‘faster’ evolutionary clock than the nuclear genes (higher mutation rate), that is partially why mitochondrial genes are used for the rapid identification of species.  It seems odd that the mitochondria sequence would be invariant.  This requires an explanation.

How deep was the sequencing of the genes in question?  To get at infrequent mutations, one must have gone over the same DNA multiple times to reach an accurate consensus.  A single pass sequence will have many errors in it and comparisons based on it may inflate the apparent evolutionary distances.  This is vital because Bigfoot and human sequences will be (apparently) VERY closely related.  To get a feel for the challenges of working with closely-related species, search the work of Svante Paabo with Neanderthal DNA on PubMed.

Are the gene(s) you used for the Bigfoot-human comparisons protein coding?  Would the sequence changes you found in the homologous genes yield amino acid codons that are synonymous (no amino acid change), substitutions (new amino acids) or nonsense (protein chain terminated)?  This can help one decide whether or not the new sequence makes sense or contains deletions/insertions and other errors.

What was the nature of the sample from which DNA was obtained?  Had it been exposed to the elements?  How do you know it is from Bigfoot? If the sample is degraded, DNA sequences will likely exhibit alterations.

How did they avoid contamination with authentic human DNA?
So, in a manner of speaking, this is as close to a peer review for now. These are the initial reactions and questions of well-respected authorities;  an invertebrate neuroethologist, a genome informatic expert, a DNA lab owner, and a professor of microbiology.

More questions then answers? What did the late Richard Stubstad know? Richard Stubstad claims to have worked on the first four of the 20 sequences Melba mentions in her press release.





24 comments:

  1. Fantastic Guy! I love to see the scientists getting involved in the hard questions.

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  2. Your title is misleading. These people are giving an opinion on the TOPIC: this is NOT what "peer-review" is. "Peer-review" is about other scientists and acedemics going over the data and processs and seeing if it is legit.

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    1. Anonymous is 100% correct. The publication process works as follows. The primary author submits the paper to a scientific journal. The editorial staff examine it briefly for content then send it to three reviewers with expertise (as judged by their publications) in the subject matter, whether it be anthropology, human genetics, and whatever else may be appropriate.

      In this situation, if the reviewers think it passes muster, I would not at all be surprised for the editor to send it to even more reviewers to make *damn* sure the journal, editors, staff, reviewers, and their institutions don't wind up looking amateurish.

      You can bet this topic will probably be more scrutinized than general relativity was. It is just that controversial.

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    2. Anon, "Peer Review" in the title is in quotes. Quotes used in this manner indicate words used ironically or with some reservation. In other words, we are saying this is not REALLY peer review.

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  3. And please do change the title. It is quite misleading and inaccurate to say the least. No peer-review is in, they haven't even read the paper!

    What you report were the opinions and questions of people with scientific background, some of which are professionals.

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    1. Read the first paragraph.. lol.. it explains this is not a " peer review" but just some reactions to the information and alot of questions by actual scientist.. fn trolls

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  4. How has Meldrum reacted? This kind of wipes out the ape line is appears, and assuming good science. I bet he doesn't. Thanks for the updates.

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    1. Dr. Jeff Meldrum is participating in a parallel Sasquatch DNA study with Bryan Sykes of Oxford University. This study will most likely be published early next year, and, in our opinion, Dr. Jeff Meldrum has been careful not to make any premature conclusions. http://www.bigfootlunchclub.com/2012/05/its-official-oxford-universitys-bryan.html

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    2. I agree I'd love to hear what Meldrum is thinking...

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  5. as always , you know how to bring it home Guy.. nice compilation...

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  6. The Peer Review is going to have a problem with the Precurssors used in the study. I believe based on Disscussions with proffessionials while working on a similar project, thAt these Precurssor errors are enough to table the report.

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    1. Sorry Ed to burst your bubble, but you are wrong.
      Love these guys with their own agenda, they know
      their self labeled "Bigfoot expert" they believe they are,is going to be over. Their fighting tooth and nail to keep their self righteous beliefs alive.
      a perfect example was the "We can't confirm or deny"
      BS that you and your cronies started was sad to say
      the least. It took almost a week and a full hour of an interview, just come out and say you don't have a body. That's why they keep so called researchers like you out of the loop.

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    2. Actually you are mis informed and sadly mistaken. Keep believing if it makes you feel better.

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  7. The questions posed by Dr. Kokjohn should be sent to Dr. Ketchum's new press person. (Tee-hee)

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  8. This going to be out sooner than you think and in a usa
    journal, Just get ready for the landing, it's gonna be a
    hot one.

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  9. Ketchum is dishonest. Just ask the BBB about all the fraudulent claims filed against her DNA testing business. Do you think this paper will ever be released? It's just another big hoax.

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    1. Because some $25.00 samples of dogs and horses were not handled by the help makes her DNA work wrong ? she did for DNA analysis for police,FBI, Helped identify numerous victims after 911 through DNA.
      I guess she hoaxed all that also. People preform hoaxes for a reason,mostly to get a kick out of fooling people.
      Do you really think someone with a professional background as specialized as hers, would spend 5 minutes, never mind 5 years on a hoax that would bankrupt here ?
      If that's what you think than you should have spent 8 years as a high school freshmen, instead of 7.

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    2. The BBB is a huge scam that rates a business's quality not on quality at all but on whether or not the business payed them a membership fee.

      ABC's 20/20 reported in a segment titled "The Best Ratings Money Can Buy" about the irregularities in BBB ratings. They created two dummy companies which received A+ ratings as soon as he had paid the membership fee. One dummy company had a C rating and was turned to an A immediately after a payment and in another case a C‑minus became an A+.

      Ketchum may or may not be dishonest but the BBB is not a reliable way to find that out.

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  10. That is the full on truth about the BBB. I had a complaint once, my mistake taking a customer off the street to do a $50 part more as a favor, when we only did huge orders of items from two big customers. He was upset that the service wasn't perfect (didn't kiss his butt) so he called BBB. Either I paid them and joined up, or I got a negative rating. Now when I see a BBB membership logo, I think that they got a complaint and had to sign up to make it go away. Legal extortion. But how many complaints did she get?

    As far as the DNA, you guys need to listen to the Bigfoot Show podcast that came out last night. They interview a real DNA expert, who does work for Meldrum and is an actual "peer" who does reviews, and get his take on her announcement. Very interesting and really makes you have no faith in Ketchums non scientific approach to a scientific venture. I agree with these guys on that she put out a review to sink her peer review, knowing it isn't going to pass. A PR statement with your findings is not protocol and in a lot of instances they will reject if just for that. Then she can say that they never looked at her data, that they dismissed her because of her announcement and thus giving her core believers a sliver of hope to hold on to. "See, she had it proven but they rejected it for a dumb reason". I can hear it now. Also, it's interesting his opinion that if the DNA was really what she claims, it would be way different than ours. It's worth listening to, just to get an experts unbiased opinion and a clear explanation of how the peer review works.

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    1. You said, "They interview a real DNA expert, who does work for Meldrum and is an actual "peer" who does reviews, and get his take on her announcement. Very interesting and really makes you have no faith in Ketchums non scientific approach to a scientific venture." I don't agree. The expert (who indeed was clearly qualified) was skeptical of Ketchum's claims and explained why, but clearly stated he really could not know whether her claims were valid without looking at her data. He made it clear her claims could be valid, depending on the data.

      He did say the alleged hybridization 15,000 years ago made no sense to him, but it was clear it made no sense to him because he assumed she was implying that a functioning hybrid animal could result from the mating of (a) humans who had crossed the Bering land bridge around 15,000 years ago with (b) a highly divergent primate that had existed in North America from a far earlier time -- the two species would necessarily have been too far apart, genetically. But the expert apparently did not consider the possibility that the pre-hybrid Sasquatch came into North America at around the same time as the modern humans, and was therefore far more closely-related to modern humans. Jeff Meldrum has suggested Sasquatches and Yetis may be the same species (see the footprint comparison paper on his relic homonid site). So there is no reason to think the pre-hybrid sasquatch was isolated in North America starting several million years ago. Thus the expert's criticism of the relatively recent hybridization ("makes no sense") is based on an unnecessary, and incorrect, assumption. (The hybridization could in fact have occurred in Asia, before the sasquatch migrated into North America.)

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  11. you all are coo coo for cocoa puffs

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  12. Next time, go to University of California at Berkeley for your experts. Their staff is comprised of a who's who of world renown experts in virtually every scientific field. Moreover, many of the previous generation of world renown professors where witnesses in a Bigfoot captivity study at nearby Lawrence Livermore national laboratories in the 60's. It is likely that the previous generation of professors, attempted to pass their knowledge down to the current generation of world renown professors. And your study would not be complete without Stephen Hawkings peer review. I would guess that his reply will go something like this. "What took you so long? I have been waiting for the last 50 years to be asked these questions. You bet they are real because I have seen them on film and read the DOD study cover to cover, while I was on sabatical in the States in 1974/1975"

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  13. Just one more question (or a follow up or 2). How many papers has Dr. Ketchum published on DNA sequencing or for that matter on any scientific subject?

    If the answer is zero, why would she try to tackle this earth-shattering discovery without the aid of a top research scientist both well published and well respected?

    In other words, if the data is that good, why chance muddying it up with inexperience?

    If these questions lead you to think there is something wrong with this whole picture, then your mind is engaged.

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