As we updated yesterday, Bryan Sykes’ claim of mystery DNA is being hyped by the media apparently ahead of his new book about his Yeti/Bigfoot project (the results of the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project which had a goal of collecting organic material for so called “cryptids”, including that which people believe may be from Bigfoot, and analyzing the DNA in the samples). His television coverage was sound, the paper was published in a reputable journal, but then it was all downhill from there.
His results were challenged twice. Here and here. The second rebuttal prompted a defensive (and rather ignorant) response from Sykes regarding molecular taxonomy. Not only does he continue to dismiss application of statistical methods to DNA, but now he’s accused of making up an institute. It’s catching the attention of other professionals in the community and they are not amused.
A GENETICIST at Oxford University whose new book claims to offer “the first scientific evidence on the survival ” of apemen such as the yeti and Bigfoot, has been attacked by colleagues who say the claims are nonsense and his research institute does not exist.
[The 2014 Royal Society journal paper] gave Sykes’s affiliation as the Institute of Human Genetics at Wolfson College, Oxford. Sykes is a fellow of Wolfson but he admitted the institute was mythical. “The journal required some sort of additional address in the college and, hey presto, I became an institute!”
Sykes’s book says he has been professor of human genetics at Oxford since 1997, but university officials said he had not held that post for a decade or so.
What is going on here? Is this standard practice to embellish your credentials and to dismiss other professionals in order to support a book that so far has been promoted as concluding something more sensational than it really does? I’m baffled. This does not bode well. As I remarked on a Facebook post, “This is turning into a fiasco.” A friend remarked “Turning into?” Yes, indeed, it’s clearly already there. Bad form all around.
I’d also like to address the probable accusation that Sykes is being put upon because of the controversial subject, cryptids. Well, that’s deserved. He is making an extraordinary claim – one had better have the ducks in line, so to speak. It’s curious that this project is garnering more interest from other professionals but rather sailing clear over the heads of the non-scientific Bigfoot community who is not in any position to support it.
Tip: Eliecer Gutierrez and Ron Pine
UPDATE: (15-Apr-2015) The Proceedings of the Royal Society B paper, “Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti, bigfoot and other anomalous primates,” is being corrected to remove the non-existent affiliation. (Rearranging deck chairs…?)