Well here goes a blog, I’ve had to think out a while. Last week I highlighted an article in this blog where Houston Chronicle science reporter, Eric Berger, belittles Dr. Ketchum using an anonymous geneticist who wishes to remain out of the fray for the sake of ridicule.
Houston Chronicle science reporter Eric Berger.
Some have criticized the fact that the source was from an anonymous source. I won’t hold that against the scientist, because how many times have we kept a witness confidential?
Would it be fair to discount the encounter reports by witnesses wishing to remain anonymous?
But on the other hand, was it fair for this reporter to just state the results were this without any factual basis to back it up to be verified by the public?
(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.)
-Eric Berger, 7/1/13
What the journalist is asking us is to trust him, rather than trust Melba. He said she said…
Sorry, I call shenanigans.
More matter of fact, we reached out to Berger for him to come on the radio show and explain how his test came about, how the samples were provided what types of testing were done, insuring the anonymity of his source, and answer other questions. Of course our inquiries were not answered at all.
What does Mr. Berger have to hide? Why the professional discourtesy? A week is enough time to at least answer the request.
In my opinion an ethical journalist would find a source that would go on record and test the sample data, and provide some documentation in the article that condemns another scientist’s work. Not a “trust me” demeanor.
Even as a “mere little blogger and podcaster,” my ethics would have only allowed information with that standard to be allowed on my media outlets.
Since Berger’s article lacks that, is mere here say.
Does the Ketchum Study reveal all the scientists and labs that worked on the samples? Could there be some equal ethical consideration on that side as well?
If not, it’s shenanigans as well. What’s good for the goose IS good for the gander as well. And I say to the proponents of the study, you can’t have it both ways.
There was one scientist more recently, who took to task the Ketchum study, not testing a sample from the project but rather reading the report itself and finding flaw with it.
Perhaps if Dr. Ketchum feels this scientist is in error she can send him a sample.
Thanks to Matt Knapp over at Bigfoot Crossroads, in this blog he highlights the Ars Technica website and a scientist who has written a rather lengthy article, technical, yet enough in layman’s terms to be understood, as he breaks down everything for us.
To me it is the best breakdown to date, why myself and many of my colleagues feel the study went askew.
The scientist, is Ph.D in Molecular and Cell Biology, Dr. John Timmer, not just a science reporter like Berger.
His bio is rather quite impressive, from his online bio:
John (Timmer) is Ars Technica’s science editor. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. John has done over a decade’s worth of research in genetics and developmental biology at places like Cornell Medical College and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He’s been a speaker at the annual meeting of the National Association of Science Writers and the Science Online meetings, and he’s one of the organizers of the Science Online NYC discussion series. In addition to being Ars’ science content wrangler, John still teaches at Cornell and does freelance writing, editing, and programming.
What we have is a breakdown by a science writer. who is credentialed, perhaps even more so in genetics than Dr. Ketchum, who’s doctorate is in veterinarian medicine.
Here is one such sample from the article condemning the study to turning a blind eye to the truth, for a more romantic idea, which is the summation (not that we’ve seen that in the Bigfoot community over the years..ha..ha) :
If the DNA was human and had not degraded much during its time in the environment, then most of these reactions should produce a clear, human-like signal. The same would be true if, as Ketchum concluded, the samples contained DNA from a close relative of humans (remember, chimps’ DNA is over 95 percent identical to ours). If the animal were more distantly related, you might expect some reactions to work and some to fail, with the percentage of failures going up as the degree of relatedness fell. In some cases, you might expect the reactions to produce a PCR product that was the wrong size due to changes in DNA content that occur during evolution.
But you can’t necessarily expect the DNA to sit outdoors and remain intact. DNA tends to break into fragments, with the size of the fragments shrinking over time. Depending on how degraded the sample is, you might see more or fewer reactions failing.
What they saw was a chaotic mix of things. As Ketchum herself put it, "We would get these crazy different variants of sequence. We would get these things that were novel in genbank. We would get a lot of failure, and we’d get some that would have regular human sequence," Ketchum said. "We could not account for this, and it was repeatable."
All of which suggested that there was likely to be DNA present that was only distantly related to humans; anything that was from a human or close relative was probably seriously degraded…
…So all the initial data suggested that the DNA was badly preserved and probably contaminated. Which in turn suggests that whatever techniques they used to get DNA from a single, uncontaminated source just wasn’t sufficient for the samples they were working with. But instead of reaching that conclusion, the bigfoot team had an alternative: their technique worked perfectly fine. It was the sample that was unusual.
Ars Technica, 7/7/13
Too often, as we’ve seen in the field, people get romantic about the existence of the Sasquatch and alleged evidence they have found. And they get dead set on it without stepping out of the area and looking at it without bias.
“Bottom line, nobody except a few of you here even care about the truth. Most would rather perpetuate that BF is a myth or an ape.”
– Dr. Melba Ketchum statement
And that is the usual blanket excuse (as well as untrue) of those committed to an opinion rather than to the science and review of such.
Coming from a scientist, who needs to look at their own results without bias, I find the statement disappointing and typical of the same type of witness who insists there blobsquatch is a Bigfoot no matter what inconsistencies you point out.
Usually when the conversation devolves to a statement as such, any debate and constructivism is lost upon the statement maker.
Read Dr. Timmer’s article.
I will let the audience and time to be the judge.
Till next time,