An American scientist of renown claims an old legend of a human-chimp hybrid creature born in the 1920s may actually be true.
Evolutionary psychologist Gordon G. Gallup is known for his pioneering work in the 1970s that showed how chimps could learn to recognize themselves in the mirror. In a recent interview with The Sun, he said that a hybrid creature was born in a lab where he once worked, as he was told by his former university professor.
"One of the most interesting cases involved an attempt which was made back in the 1920s in what was the first primate research centre established in the US in Orange Park, Florida," Gallup told The Sun. “They inseminated a female chimpanzee with human semen from an undisclosed donor and claimed not only that pregnancy occurred but the pregnancy went full term and resulted in a live birth."
Whether such an experiment actually took place and a humanzee was really born is not proven by other sources, but Gallup, who is currently a researcher at the University of Albany, maintains that he heard this from a “credible scientist in his own right.”
The researchers who created the chimp-human hybrid fairly quickly got rid of the product of their experiment out of ethical concerns, according to Gallup.
"In the matter of days, or a few weeks, they began to consider the moral and ethical considerations and the infant was euthanized," Gallup explained.
The lab he’s referring to would have been the Anthropoid Breeding and Experiment Station in Orange Park, Florida during the 1920s, wrote ScienceAlert. In the 1930s, it became the Yerkes National Primate Research Center - a lab run by psychologist and primatologist Robert Yerkes. He was a controversial figure, who supported eugenics but made advancements in the study of human and primate intelligence.
Check out a video of other experiments carried out by the lab:
This is not the first time Gallup has made claims of the humanzee’s supposed brief existence, and the somewhat vague details along with the lack of any correlating proof make it debatable whether such an event really happened. On the other hand, we do know that scientists like the Soviet Union’s biologist Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov, have attempted ethically questionable research to to create a human-ape combo in the 1920s. In 1967, a Chinese scientist supposedly had success impregnating a chimp with human sperm - a trial that was shut down by the authorities.
Oliver, a chimp once promoted as a humanzee for his tendency to walk upright. He was eventually found not to be a humanzee after all.
Scientists debate whether a human-chimp hybrid is possible at all. While 95% of our DNA and 99% of DNA coding sequences are similar, humans have an extra pair of chromosomes compared to chimps, which would make hybridization and subsequent offspring impossible.
So why would a respected scientist push such a story? Gordon G. Gallup proposed other ideas that didn’t quite hit mainstream acceptance, like his research that showed human semen can act as an anti-depressant and that oral sex can help fight morning sickness in pregnant women.
While these ideas didn’t find enough scientific support, they speak to the fact that many scientists with proven and even groundbreaking ideas can also entertain ones that may find little acceptance and even ridicule.
The theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson, known for his award-winning work in quantum electrodynamics and for influential concepts that bear his name like the Dyson sphere, has come out as a global warming critic, saying that extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may actually help plants grow and that many of the climate change models are imprecise and should not be causing much alarm yet.
Why would a respected scientist go against the grain, with 97% of climate scientists having the opposite of his opinion? One answer lies in the scientific method itself. Science works by trying out ideas, even ones that most people don’t agree with - in fact, there have been enough scientists vindicated for holding extremely unpopular ideas at some point that having them seems almost a requirement for progress.
As Dyson himself points out - it may be important for science to have “heretics”.
"I like to express heretical opinions," Dyson said to Scientific American. "They might even happen to be true."
Of course, this is not to imply his climate change ideas might eventually turn out to be true. But are they not necessary to consider the full scientific picture?
In another instance of a scientist who was famous for good ideas but eventually started to promote some questionable ones is Linus Pauling. He won two unshared Nobel Prizes (one for chemistry and one for peace) but advocated everyone take vitamin C to cure their cold, while saying high doses could even be used to attack cancer.
As of 2017, there're still no studies that really prove that - vitamin C is considered of only marginal use in fighting colds and doesn't really help the general population. There's also no evidence the vitamin helps cancer - in fact, it may hasten its growth.