Monday, October 21, 2013

Yeti DNA?

The Yeti, not as adorable as in Monsters, Inc.
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Numerous news sources (Fox News, CNN, The Guardian, BBC, and others) reported an interesting story last week, claiming that Bryan Sykes, a genetics professor at Oxford University, analyzed two hair samples from the Himalayas that were purported to belong to the Yeti, the Asian Bigfoot.  According to Sykes, the mitochondrial DNA within the hairs were a near perfect match to an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Norway dated at 40,000 years old, from about the time brown bears and polar bears are thought to have split.  Sykes says that the results will be published in a peer-review journal soon, but for now, details are scarce.  He implies that the Yeti may be a rare relative of the polar and brown bears that somehow made its way to the Himalayas.

There are, of course, many reasons to remain skeptical.  It is difficult to verify the origin of the hairs used in the analysis.  They could have come from a local zoo, or even from another spot on the globe entirely.  Also, DNA degrades quite rapidly, so there is some question on how complete the sequences were, both in the jawbone and in the hair samples.  Without the details of the study, it's still possible that the hairs were from a plain-old polar bear from the polar regions.

Cryptozoology isn't exactly the focus of this website, so what does this have to do with the creation/evolution debate?  The existence of the Yeti does not directly support either side of the debate in terms of scientific accuracy.  Rather, the significance is more philosophical.  Science is frequently viewed as being the source of all knowledge, and there is an unfortunate attitude among the western world that science already knows everything about our world.  That is not to say that any particular person specifically believes this, but, again, it is an attitude.  Reported sightings of anything unusual, whether UFOs, Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or angels, are immediately dismissed "because science didn't find them."  If science hasn't proven it exists, then it doesn't exist.  This is the conclusion that one must draw from the naturalistic worldview, in which science can be the only reliable source of knowledge.  This, ultimately, is the foundation of the grand debate.

I have nothing against science.  Science is a very useful method for acquiring knowledge.  However, I contend that it is not the only source of knowledge.  I believe that God reveals knowledge through His Word, the Bible, and as far as my experience has shown, science and the Bible do not conflict.

As for the Yeti, he can relax until we have more evidence.

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