14 thoughts on “Unearthed: The world’s first retraction”

  1. The “bonus” isn’t art criticism. It’s an early example of peereview.

    Sorry, but it had to be said.

  2. This is actually not quite so far-fetched as it may seem: each newer religion forced older beliefs into “retraction” mode, whether by forced conversions or other methods of gradual annihilation. But when it comes to cave-men and prehistoric man in general, “science” has recently started to “retraction-proof” its “reasoning: for example: we have Neanderthal genes. Now, the two having been believed to have co-existed but separately, they would have had to be two different species. Now species cannot mate and create living offspring that then can procreate independently. This is the very definition of a species. It is a commune of procreators. Anything “below” that are races. So by that definition Neanderthals just were a different-looking race, just as the Maori or Kalahari bushmen were to colonists rather a different “species”, yet if no one was looking, even the US’ founding fathers had sexual relationships with their slaves. So by making the species definition less rigid (and believing a gullible public had forgotten what they were taught in high school biology class) the paleontologists have circumvented an outright retraction of their two-species theory. They are actually arguing that we are pigs with wings, i.e. have 4% or so (one loses count …) “bird” genes” in our “human” nature. I find it esp. gregarious that these “scientists” do not make these closeted confessions but make press releases of such patent nonsense to e.g. the New York Times (AND get published with such quackery).

    1. So you’re saying that with the passage of time palaeontologists have advanced scientific knowledge and come to the conclusion that earlier theories were incorrect? And that ‘species’ has turned out not to be as useful or rigidly definable a concept as was thought in the past? Sounds like normal scientific progress to me.

      No scientists are arguing that we are pigs with wings, given the quite obvious empirical evidence that a) we are not pigs, and b) we do not have wings. They are arguing that we and pigs share a common ancestor some tens or hundreds of millions of years ago, which is supported by a whole bunch of evidence.

      Since we share 50-60% of our genes with the banana plant, I’m going to guess we share a lot more than 4% of our genes with birds. If you consider the fact that we and birds share a lot of our biochemical processes, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that we also share the genes that control them.

    2. The claim that modern humans have neanderthal genes is still a hypothesis with only limited (and contradictory evidence). However, even if we take it as true, you make an incorrect claim about the definition of a species. The “living offspring” part of the species definition can be found in many popular accounts, but taxonomists know well that this is not a conditio sine qua non. That is, it is *not* the very definition of a species. In fact, there is no clear and uniform definition of a species that can be applied, and in essence *there has never been*! Darwin was well aware of what is called the “species problem” – i.e., the problem of giving a precise definition – and well before him also Mendel came to the conclusion that the decision of what constituted a species was almost by necessity arbitrary.

      There are plenty of examples where animals have been grouped as different species, but where fertile offspring is produced when these two species procreate, even if there are only a small percentage that is fertile. There are even very well-known examples of fertile offspring from different genera, such as the Bengal cat, which is a hybrid of the Felis and Prionailurus genera. You could even take the Savannah cat, since the serval has moved from the Felis to Leptailurus genus (where it is the sole species) some time ago.

  3. To judge by the animal images and clothing, these guys were Homo sapiens sapiens from the Upper Paleolithic period in Europe. Although archaeologists can only document the human use of psychotropic plants back as far as the later Neolithic (agricultural) period, the pig with wings looks like these guys were experimenting with drugs much earlier. The fact that the bogus image was publicly retracted supports the view of early humans as rational scientists, and not magic-ruled brutes. Great cartoon!

    1. I’m not so certain. A hallmark feature of Homo Sapiens Sapiens is the distinctly protruding chin portion of the lower jaw (a strong chin – other hominids have a rearward sloping or weak chin). The guy on the right does not appear to have a strong chin, so could be a Neanderthal. The guy on the left has a beard, so we are left to speculate! Did Neanderthals predate Sapiens as scientists? Still a great cartoon.

  4. I guess that being ‘retraction-happy’ is not a new phenomenon. Except for the pig, the rest of the animals seem to have been depicted accurately. Shouldn’t this mural have deserved a correction rather than a retraction?


  5. I remember having read a PG Wodehouse novel … pigs have wings…. this similarity should have sparked a plagiarism charge and retraction later 😛

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