The Prevention of Unicorns Act

I’m indebted to the wonderful PZ Myers for drawing my attention to what has to be the most hysterical and ill-conceived political smear in living memory:

Minutes ago I spoke with friend Dr. Norman G. Marvin, M.D. and he is so concerned at what he has learned about Barack Obama’s family in Kenya that he is calling a special prayer meeting in his home to pray against the witchcraft curses attempted by them against John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Dr. Marvin sent me the below e-mail from Flo Ellers.  Flo is credentialed with the International Fellowship of Ministries which is based in Washington State.  She is also a member of EndTime Handmaidens and Servants of Jasper, Arkansas.



Hey, wait until see the email…

From Flo Ellers.  Excerpt.  (Emphasis supplied in bold and underlines.)

Two days ago, I listened to a 9-6-08 message by Bree Keyton, a young woman evangelist who had just traveled to Kenya and visited Obama’s home village and what she found out about his relations with his tribal people was chilling. And his “cousin” Odinga was dreadful. She said the witches, warlocks and those involved in satanism and the occult get up daily at 3 a.m. to release curses against McCain and Palin so B. Hussein Obama is elected.

Bree Keyton told the tribal “Christians” you are NOT Christian if you practice “tribalism” where they do voodoo to conjure up a goddess spirit or a “genie” and then come to church on Sunday to worship Jesus! What she discovered there is apparent in most churches around the world; namely, mixture in the church. Some renounced their devilish practices of blood covenant by killing sheep, goats, humans to be inducted into the tribe or to get a wife or to get revenge.

She said the current president of Kenya is a Christian. However, Obama’s cousin Odinga ran aganist him and said he rigged the election and stirred up the masses to rape woman and boys, kill and burn and torture Christians, etc. until Obama contacted Condeleeza Rice and she granted Obama the right to contact Odinga and other ruling elders and he “convinced” them to stop terrorizing the Christians. Bree Keyton said the current Christian President was forced by our government (!) to “create” an office for Odinga (to make “peace”) so he was made the Prime Minister (!) to make peace between the Christians and Odinga’s Muslim religion!

Bree Keyton went and visited Obama’s tribal people and she found out Obama is 75% Arab and his family are Muslims. Odinga is strill trying to become the President of Kenya. If he does, he will make a law forbidding all public preaching and institute Sharia Law. Bree K. said Odinga has made a pact with satan.

Bree K. also said when Obama visited his tribe in ’06 and as late as Jan. ’08 he went to every elder’s home which has a “shrine” inside to worship the genie and asked for their blessing. She was told Obama and Odinga were both “destined” before they were born to be president/leader of their nation. They say “he is the chosen one”. She said Obama’s grandmother sacrificed a black and a white chicken to the “goddess of the river” so both whites and blacks will vote for Obama. All Islam loves and worships Obama. The world is mesmerized by him. Oprah’s 200 million followers are out to elect Obama. Also, Dick Morris of Fox News was sent to Kenya to help Odinga run his campaign! I find that unbelievable.

The occultists are “weaving lazy 8’s around McCain’s mind to make him look confused and like an idiot”. Bree K. said we need to break these curses off of him that are being sent from Kenya.

I read a portion of “Obama Nation” book and looked at several websites and found most of this information to be true, all except the curses part, of course….

No, its not from The Onion – this crap really is circulating amongst right-wing Christian wingnuts and they are taking it seriously for all that it is absolutely littered with basic factual errors that even an idiot could track down in a matter of seconds.

For example, the email claims that Obama’s ‘cousin’ [Raila] Odinga is a Muslim who, if he becomes President of Kenya, will forbid public preaching and institute Sharia Law, which will certain come as news to Kenya’s Anglican Communion, of which he’s a member – the current President, Mwai Kibaki is a Roman Catholic, btw.

I have to admit I ma curious about one or two things here…

Does anyone have any idea why Kenyan witches, warlocks and Satanists are getting up at precisely 3am to release their curses against McCain and Palin rather than at the much more traditional ‘witching hour’ of midnight? Is this a specifically Kenyan thing or is just evidence of the same kind of laid-back attitude to time-keeping that you tend to get in Black communities in the Caribbean?

And as for this ‘Genie’ business – which, if we really were dealing with the Islamic tradition would be written as ‘Djinn’ or “Djinni” – where the hell has that come from? Has Obama recently been endorsed by Robin Williams and Barbara Eden and I missed the announcement? Maybe Elizabeth Montgomery and Nicole Kidman are Democrats – Kidman has dual citizenship and was born in Hawaii… and OMFG, Obama was born in Hawaii too!!!

Oh boy – if you’re female, wearing a Obama t-shirt and don’t fancy being burned at the stake then, whatever you, don’t wrinkle your nose anywhere within line of sight of McCain or Palin.

It’s tempting to see this as some kind of malicious pisstake – and a few people have questioned whether the email is kosher, even to point of wondering whether there really is a bona fide wingnut out there called ‘Bree Keyton’…

…and it turns out that there is. She has her own website ‘Bree Keyton Ministries’, where you can become a ‘partner’ for a regular donation of anything from $25 to $1000 a month and on her biography page she gives this tidy little explanation of her background:

Dr. Bree Keyton began her career as a warm-up act for rock stars and traveled the country with her own nightclub act. One night, while the band was playing, Bree was shot in the head.

Funny, that las sentence seems to have considerably more explanatory power than just anything else on Bree’s website:

(If you can’t stomach a visit to Bree’s site to see for yourself then just imagine an 80’s female televangelist with a fixation on Stevie Nicks and you won’t be too far off the mark)

Meanwhile, here is dear old Blighty, its been the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill through the Commons that’s been stirring our our native nutballs into a frenzy of hysterical bullshitting, with – yes – Nadine Dorries leading the race for insensibility as usual with the absurd suggestion that:

the new law could lead to a “humanzee,” adding that it was ‘serious, sinister and absolutely, ultimately ridiculous” not to explicitly outlaw such a procedure.

Although even Dorries failed to match Jeffrey Donaldson of the Democratic Unionists who threw in:

“The image that people have in their heads and the image that they find most abhorrent is of scientists producing GM babies or cloned adults or minotaurs.”


Well, I guess that might see the members of the Amalgamated Union of Labyrinth-Builders and Allies Trades safely through the burgeoning recession.

So what’s the problem?

Well, as far as I can tell, absolutely nothing – Dorries et al are scaremongering about an alleged loophole in the legislation that appears to exist only in their own febrile and utterly ignorant imaginations, which suggests either that they’re lying for sake of shit-stirring or they’re genuinely too stupid under the contents of the bill they’ve voted on and the science it seeks to regulate.

Theoretically, the bill allows for the creation not only of cytoplasmic hybrids, in which only the mitochondrial DNA is derived from a non-human source (and makes up less than 1% of the genetic material in the cell) but also true hybrids created from gametes (egg and sperm cells) in which 50% of the DNA would be human and 50% would come from an animal, which is where the whole ‘humanzee’ thing comes into play.

But, the fact that law of the land makes this theoretically possible in no sense means that the laws of nature are going play ball – the big obstacle facing anyone who did want to dabble with creating a human/ape hybrid lies in the fact that although we do share about 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees, while we have 46 chromosomes, arranged as 23 pairs, chimpanzees and gorillas have 48, and genetic hybridisation isn’t like putting together a flat-pack cupboard where you can just put any spare parts away in a draw – the extra pair of chromosomes makes a hell of difference.

(Oh, BTW – cows have 60 chromosomes, so we can forget all about any possibility of minotaurs).

And even if someone were to obtain a licence that would allow them to work on a true human/ape hybrid embryo, the law does not allow admixed hybrid embryos to be implanted into with humans or animals or for their retention beyond 14 days or the point at which ‘the primitive streak‘ appears, not to mention that the new clause 4A, paragraph 4 states that –

(4) A licence cannot authorise placing a human admixed embryo in an animal.

While the bill completely rules out the implantation of an admixed embryo in humans under any circumstances.

So, all the bases are covered aren’t they?

Apparently not, according to Dorries and Dr John Pugh of the Lib Dems who is apparently concerned at the law doesn’t explicitly prohibit ‘the placing of human gametes [egg or sperm cells] in an animal for experimental purposes’ – human embryos are already covered by the original 1990 Act, as is Dorries who stated, later in the debate that:

“Of all the experimental possibilities debated in the course of this Bill, surely none is quite so utterly repulsive as the possibility of seeking to inseminate animals with human sperm.”

A statement which suggest that the what the Nadster’s worried about is the prospect of creating Welshmen who can grow their own cardigans – not content with interfering in all manner of other real, but fundamentally private matters, Dorries wants parliament to legislate against biologicial impossibilities, in which case I look forward to her next stab at introducing a private member’s bill, ‘The Prevention of Unicorns, Griffons and other Mythological Creatures Bill’.

No bout of high-quality bullshit would be complete without a foray into batshit conspiracism, and the Nadster delivers in spades with the hoary old myth of Stalin’s Apemen…

This is a sinister matter, because of the connotations. It is impossible to discuss insemination of animals with human gametes for very long without considering the infamous Soviet hybridisation trials of the 1920s. There are a huge number of historians on the Conservative Benches—I do not know how many there are on the Labour Benches—and one of the great pleasures for me, since becoming an MP, has been listening to some of those amazing and learned historians. I am sure that they will forgive me if I get anything wrong in the following paragraph.

At that time, the Soviet authorities were struggling to rebuild Stalin’s red army after it had suffered many deaths and huge defeats. Stalin told his top scientist, Ilya lvanov, to turn his skills to breeding an ultimate soldier by crossing human beings with apes. Stalin told him to breed a soldier who would not be fussy about what he ate, who did not feel pain and who was invincible. Stalin told Ivanov to use all his scientific knowledge and know-how to cross apes with humans and breed that soldier for him.

Yes, that really is on the public record in Hansard, but getting back to reality…

Ivanov does, indeed, appear to have conducted a number of unsuccessful hybridisation experiments during the late 1920’s, initially at the Pasteur Institute’s Kindia Primate Station in what was then French Guinea (now just Guinea) and from 1927 onwards at the the Institute of Experimental Pathology and Therapy in Sukhumi. Ivanov did, indeed, inject human sperm into female chimpanzees in the hope of repeating his earlier success in hybridising closely related animal species (Zebras/Donkeys, mice and rats, etc.) using artificial insemination. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that any of Ivanov’s work on apes was carried out under the orders of Stalin nor for the purpose of creating apemen either as ‘super-soldiers’ or as a sub-human labour force nor had the Red Army suffered any deaths or huge defeats at the time – the Russian Civil War had ended in 1921 with the Bolsheviks victorious and Russia hadn’t been involved in any kind of war with a foreign power since it withdrew from World War 1 following the October Revolution.

The late 20s was the era of Stalin’s first great 5 year plan, which is undoubtedly where the ficition of creating hybrid ape-man labour originates but if you’re looking for a significant number deaths in the ranks of the Red Army then you’ll have to wait for the infamous purge of 1937 and for the brief war with Finland in 1939/40 for any hint of a defeat.

Ivanov died while living in internal exile in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan, in March 1932, and there’s no evidence to suggest that he ever even communicated with, let alone received any orders from Stalin – his main supporter was Nikolai Gorbunov, head of the Department of Scientific Institutions, and it was when Gorbanov fell out of favour with Stalin that Ivanov lost his position at Sukhumi and was exiled to Alma Ata. Whatever else Ivanov might have been, he was never Stalin’s ‘top scientist’.

Ivanov, like many other Soviet scientists, was caught up in the doctrine of Lysenkoism (or Lysenko-Michurinism) which eschewed Mendelian genetics in favour of theories of the heritability of acquired characteristics (i.e. Lamarckism) for no better reason than the fact that Mendelian theory was considered to be a capitalist doctrine. If Ivanoz was working to any kind of political brief at all then, like the majority of other Soviet scientists of the period, it was that of demonstrating the superiority of Soviet science over that of the capitalist West as a means of proving the superiority of the Soviet system, but the truth seems to be that Ivanov’s story in no more that of an over-enthusiastic scientist doggedly pursuing his pet theory which, like Lamarckism, turned out to be wrong – he actually first proposed the idea of ape-human hybridisation in 1910 in a presentation to the World Congress of Zoologists in Graz, at which time Stalin was living in internal exile in Solvychegodsk in Northern Russia.

Dorries’ wild talk of ‘humanzees’ and Stalin’s mythical ape-men has no more foundation in reality than unicorns, griffons and leprechauns and things that go bump in the night – Pugh actually had the nerve to ask, during the debate,  ‘Why should we leave it to scientists to set limits on what is morally permissible?, oblivious to the fact that he gave the answer in his speech – because at least they know what’s they’re talking about.

And in any case, its not just a matter for scientists to determine what research can be carried out under the revised law. Parliament has laid down what are a very clear set of regulations and, quite rightly, left the detail or reviewing research application to a Licencing Authority and to ethics committees and bio-ethicists who will determine exactly what research will be permitted to take place within this overarching legal framework.

In terms of hysterical stupidity there is little to choose between the Obama e-mail at the start of this article and the interventions of Pugh and, particularly, Dorries in yesterday’s debate, although the former does have one saving grace – the idiot promoting that particular piece of errant bullshit only has one vote out of millions that will be cast in the upcoming Presidential election…

…unfortunately our own home-grown wingnuts currently have votes in the legislature.

5 thoughts on “The Prevention of Unicorns Act

  1. If Oprah owns 200million voters, the US election is over, isn’t it?

    If Obama’s tribal god is planning to make him and his cousin presidents, and they nearly are, isn’t that god better than Bree K’s god?

  2. Has NAdine been watching the CHarles Dance vehicle “First Born” (now out on DVD)?

    The humanzee nonsense can be traced back to a guy called Calum McKellar – who had articles published in the Scotsman in April when the bill was being considered. McKellar was touted by the Scottish press at the time as an independent expert, being a director of research at the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, an independent non-religious body (according to its own publicity) which you have discussed previously (pointing out the flaws in this assertion). McKellar’s line was trotted out with little criticism in the Scottish media and picked up by various Scottish MPs and MSPs (including a sojourn to the Scottish Parliament petitions committee).

    I traced a few things in relation to this in April – and had thought it has died a death, given MacKellar’s other interests, and the palpable nonsense of the assertions he made. That the “Threat” has been revived by one MP in particular saadly comes as little surprise.



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