Friday 13 December 2013

Are Humans related to Pigs?

A leading expert on biology has made a shocking announcement: man is not an ape-descended creature after all, in fact we are not even a pure primate; we are partly related to pigs! See: Dr Eugene McCarthy has postulated that humans have so many features that distinguish us from other apes that he doesn't think it's possible that we share a common ancestor, thus he is contradicting one and a half centuries of biological scholarship dating back to Charles Darwin. Despite the fact that we share over 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees, gorillas and the other great apes; we have a very different anatomy. We are actually one of the most remarkable species in the entire animal kingdom. We are the only simian which always lives on the ground and never climbs trees, hence our unique flat and non-prehensile feet; other apes' feet are more like a second pair of hands. We have very little fur and most of our body is naked; we have a layer of subcutaneous fat instead. We also have an unusual nose with downward-pointing nostrils. This makes us far better swimmers than any other primate because we can put our head underwater without flooding our airway; indeed some people theorize that we actually went through an evolutionary phase when we were amphibious, like seals or penguins. Most obvious of all is our huge brain relative to our body size; compared to other animals we basically are a brain with a body attached to carry it along. This has given us a phenomenal intelligence which surpasses all other creatures by far. It's hardly surprising that serious questions have been raised over the origin of our species.    

But where is the evidence that pigs were involved? According to Dr McCarthy, it's because the traits that make us different from general primates are all found in the Suidae, the pig family; the lack of a fur coat, very similar eyes, eyelashes, the aforementioned subcutaneous fat and protruding nose. It's true that a lot of our tissues and organs do resemble those of a pig. It's a gruesome thing to talk about, but one thing I noticed during my twenty-three year career as a Hospital Porter was that when patients were admitted with severe burns, their wounds give off the same smell as roasting pork. In fact porcine organs have been used for transplantation and some scientists are even breeding pigs specifically to donate their organs to human recipients. Dr McCarthy suggests that at some point in the past, a female chimpanzee mated with a male member of a pig species and this union produced humanity; I know, it makes the mind boggle! Animals of different species do sometimes have sex. In fact a friend of mine once reported to me the distressing tale of how her pet rabbit was raped by her friend's dog. If an interspecies mating results in offspring then this is called hybridization. This is quite common in some cases; a horse and a donkey will produce a hybrid easily, a mule. Other species have been hybridized in captivity when geographical separation doesn't allow them to do so in the wild; like tigers and lions, the "liger", see: Plants can also sometimes be crossbred; indeed peppermint is a common crop achieved by hybridization, see: But in order to produce a hybrid offspring the two species have to be closely related so that the sperm and ovum are compatible enough to fertilize, part of the same family at least. Pigs and chimpanzees are much more distant from each other on the tree of life. Dr McCarthy has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from other biologists. PZ Myers, a close friend of Richard Dawkins, has ridiculed this "Monkey fucking a pig hypothesis". Dr McCarthy may well be asking the right questions, but postulating the wrong answers.

If humans are not pure and natural primates then what are we? Perhaps we could turn to indigenous mythology for a solution, because mythology is often based on fact; like the "great flood" story being confirmed as a recollection of the real end of the last ice age. Another recurring myth that is found in native folklore all over the world is that man was created by "gods from the sky" through marriage and procreation with these "gods". The best known of these legends is found in the Bible; in Genesis 6:4 we see the line: "There were giants on the Earth in those days, when the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair and took from them many heirs. These then grew to men of might and renown". The word "God" in much of the Bible is a translation of the Hebrew Jehovah, but in the Book of Genesis it is translated from a very different word: Elohim, which means something very different; it's a plural for a start. So was there more than one God back then? This same basic storyline is repeated in myths all over the world, as Erich von Daniken discovered, see: The notion is that human beings did not reach their present form by evolution alone; we were partly created, at least partly, by intelligent visiting beings from another world. Is it possible? Maybe. Recurring ancient myths have a habit of supporting what is later discovered by scientific study. What's more, thanks to the late great Lloyd Pye, we may be able to prove it, see: How do I feel about the idea that my ancestors were bred by mixing DNA in a test tube on board a flying saucer? Better than the idea that one in my distant maternal line canoodled with a boar? I'm not so sure; pigs are lovely animals in fact. They're highly intelligent and, contrary to popular belief, very clean. They only cover themselves in mud to protect themselves from sunburn. In fact I'd go as far as to say that I feel more comfortable with the idea of being related to pigs than I do some members of my completely human immediate family whom I could name. Oink oink!

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