Take a look at this image. A crocodile/buffalo hybrid. It must be, because it is so obvious and shows significant attributes of both, and this (untouched, unedited) picture is photographic evidence and it says so and has been declared in the reliable media who have reputations to protect. Case closed… right?
Given these multiple lines of evidence, see how obvious it is from the photo alone, that it is true. Many people would seem perfectly justified, as being more than reasonable, to share, tell others, believe and recite it when need be. And millions do, in a range of areas, on a daily basis, and would be offended to be challenged or questioned or disbelieved. We hold to similar views when it comes to our views or experiences on UFOs, ghosts, religion, re-incarnation/the afterlife and communicating with loved ones who have, ‘passed on’, miracle herbal ingredients, luck, pre-destination etc.
Members of the Phylogeny Explorer Project of any standing or time honour will have reason (and may well want) to question this image, for several reasons.
Everyday standards of proof.
It is quite common to find the media reporting strange creatures in the forests, rivers, grasslands, trees and skies or even more suburban areas around the world, often taken, even today, in fuzzy, single pixel Low Definition, with results (in an everyday HD era) that resemble amateur 19th C pinholes.
Washed up beasts, allegedly from genetic labs or creatures of fable, known only to the few. They are all fun to see and we are beguiled by the associated or accompanying stories which all the more impress or convince us.
Inevitably, there are very down to earth explanations. That’s if anyone cares to skim away an onion skin layer or two. Decomposition, missing body parts; perhaps found or placed (perhaps photographed) in a particular (and visually confusing) position. They can deceive the eyes, like bedroom shadows on the walls. Bigfoot testimonies (especially when DNA tested hair samples are available), turn out to be bears or hoaxes and so on. Giant snakes shrink at the sight of a tape measure and testimonies, dared to be scrutinised, crumble. But crypto-zoology is certainly very interesting and has its own Forum here, as do some other controversial topics, and one got a picture on this intro!
Fortunately, with science, the search for truth is not so easily deceived by the superficial or such eyewitness accounts (however well meaning, exaggerated, partially remembered or self-believed) or fictional stories. The truth can usually be less (or sometimes more) exciting, harder to come by and takes longer to determine, but such is the proud role or duty of seeking out the conclusive, dusting off the fake and sifting wheat from chaff. It’s never personal, it’s just showing how it is.
We can easily follow the trail of selectivity or a path of hype. They make for better media scoops, appeal to the widest audience and tend to particularly include an often simplistic reader or milder vocabulary. But pictures and stories sell, even if forgotten tomorrow.
But try telling your child that the vegetable van is better for them than the ice cream van. Or just sit in a waiting room and see what YOU select, out of a small print, picture-rare journal vs a brightly coloured, visually appealing and lavishly populated magazine with sparse, large-print! To get to an end point, science is not always easy. What we are presented with in science, on a plate, be it on TV or in books, was hard won, and the motive was education, knowledge and/or truth. Media soundbites are simpler to find and present, more digestible and more quickly and easily satisfied for a wide audience.
Less than strict.
There are those who have beliefs, agendas or motives which are impure, hidden or disassociated from a topic. Some have closed minds, are ignorant, deceptive or simply follow a crowd. These can miss the fuller truth.
Quick fix, fake news, conspiracy or bad/pseudo-science don’t help, and cloud the subject. Those who present an unwillingness to reason, who don’t view things independently or fail to put the effort in, in doing so, must not expect anyone to take them seriously. Likewise, if you won’t let others access or challenge your own findings, beliefs or claims or if you get side tracked by the methods you are unable to justify.
Chimeras et al.
Not least, (and what is pertinent to this post is that) we have a phylogeny issue with this image - the crocodile/buffalo hybrid. Is it a reptile and/or a mammal? We have mammal-like reptiles and reptile-like mammals predating the dinosaurs, (remember Dimetrodon? Did you think that was a dinosaur?). We have extant mammals with reptile-like features (e.g. the platypus). But the same things which distance species over time, like change and geographical separation, have, even more increasingly, separated families, orders, classes, phyla and kingdoms – or their cladistical alternatives. In fact, the inability to interbreed is the single most distinguishable, natural, evolutionary branching determiner, and the one which is not (supposed to be at least) man-made, as all others are, in order to help us distinguish and classify life.
When I say, ‘man-made’, I don’t mean made up or not real. Evolution is fluid, but in order for us to work with it and understand it, we need to bracket things. That’s the same with lots of things. A new-born, baby, toddler, child, teen, youth, adult, pensioner etc. Man-made terms of reference for a single entity (person) to aid our understanding.
The terms ‘intermediate’, ‘gap’ and, ‘missing link’ have been hijacked by some and used as a strawman diversion, and resonates with familiarity to virtually everyone. It has been misapplied to suggest that the tree of life is either false, or has huge and significant spaces, especially in key or more recognisable areas, such as between vertebrate classes like reptiles and mammals. These imaginary gaps or supposed missing links, deceptively imply that we should, according to evolution, find Frankensteinien concoctions. To present a Griffin, Hydra, Pegasus, Centaur, Minotaur, Unicorn, Lycanthrope, Buffadile or other Chimera is pure mythology without evidence, beyond reason of any kind and against what we would expect to find in evolution. It is fine in Ray Harryhousen films, but it’s not science. If you suspect or know that a square evolved into a circle, does it follow that a quarter cake/pizza shape had to have existed? No. You can’t impose such specifics on the unknown. But we don’t find the head of one thing on the body of another. Weird taxidermy might do that, but evolution doesn’t work that way. And likewise, we don’t find the head and body of a crocodile on the legs of a buffalo. Ever.
The more you understand about evolution, its mechanism and therefore its possibilities and limitations, the easier and more likely it will be that you can be a good detective and spot likely fake news, when it comes to weird biological or hybrid claims. Further blogs on this in the future.
If you do an internet search for crocodile buffalo hybrid (images or video) and also harlequin syndrome or ichthyosis, (and consider the selective still image used to best show a chimera-looking creature for disingenuous purposes), things might start to fit into place.