Pharyngula

A correspondent just reminded me of this classic paper from the literature—it’s the only contemporary scientific work I know of that managed to combine a discussion of the induction of a tissue by TGF-β and BMP proteins with a discussion of the Hebrew noun tzela to suggest that the book of Genesis wasn’t talking about thoracic ribs at all. All us sneering atheist professors who’ve had to exhibit human skeletons to show the creationists in our classrooms that men are not missing a rib apparently should have been pointing a little lower — where humans are missing a bone.

i-ccbc028bf567ec6e49f3b515a2c4c149-old_pharyngula.gif

This comment on the Panda’s Thumb leads to a very interesting entry on OMIM, the database of human genetic characters. We’re missing something.

OS PENIS, CONGENITAL ABSENCE OF

Deletion of the gulonolactone oxidase gene on 8p21 is a genetic disease that affects 100% of humans. Lack of the enzyme causes severe connective tissue disease and makes humans dependent upon dietary supplements of ascorbic acid; see 240400. Gilbert and Zevit (2001) pointed out that another genetic condition, affecting 100% of human males, is congenital lack of a baculum (os priapi; os penis). Whereas most mammals (including common species such as dogs and mice) and most other primates (except spider monkeys) have a penile bone, human males lack this bone and must rely on fluid hydraulics to maintain erections. The size of the rodent baculum is regulated by the posterior members of the HOXD (142987) set of transcription factors. Gilbert and Zevit (2001) suggested that it was not a costal rib but rather the penile ‘rib’ or baculum that God removed from Adam to create Eve (Genesis 2:21-23). Genesis also states that ‘the Lord God closed up the flesh.’ Gilbert and Zevit (2001) suggested that the raphe on the penis and scrotum was thought to be the surgical scar.

I’m a deformed mutant, a pathetic shadow of my bold, upright ancestors. My only consolation is that all you other guys are, too.

Comments

  1. #1 ctenotrish, FCD
    July 24, 2007

    Make no bones about it, this “lack” does not make women (at least this one) at all sad!

  2. #2 John Danley
    July 24, 2007

    If anything is a bone-crusher, it would be reading a copy of Dembski’s latest.

  3. #3 Alex
    July 24, 2007

    We’re all mutants PZ. Crafted by Nature.

    Some more than others though.

  4. #4 Ryan S.
    July 24, 2007

    Heck, why stop at evolution. Lets denounce heliocentrism. Thank you Blogs for Brownback

  5. #5 Tom@Thoughtsic.com
    July 24, 2007

    It is astounding that there are still people who believe men have one less rib than women. Not even six month’s ago my wife’s aunt and her boyfriend (certainly indicative of someone less than classy) were arguing over this very notion. When they got to our house, they asked my wife, an MSN candidate, whether it was true. Of course she said it wasn’t, to which he replied, “Ah, what do you know?” Fortunately I didn’t overhear the conversation, and he would have been smacked down twice: once with an anatomy textbook, and the other with my fist for talking to my wife like that.

  6. #6 Alex
    July 24, 2007

    “It is astounding that there are still people who believe men have one less rib than women.”

    You just don’t understand how dieties work. You see, while it is not being observed, men do indeed carry 1 less rib then women. But, as soon as one attempts to count them or view them, the diety uses their supreme magic and replaces the missing rib. This is done to test the faith of the observer.

    Your wits and empiricism are no match for magic!!

  7. #7 Bob
    July 24, 2007

    Wait, that is dependent on a genetic relationship between humans, i.e. the benevolent overlords of the planet, and apes or monkeys. How can they hold such a dichotomy in their heads? We all know we aren’t descended from (non-xian) apes, right? 😉

  8. #8 Dictyranger
    July 24, 2007

    Ah. A human genetic disorder with very high penetrance.

  9. #9 VWXYNot?
    July 24, 2007

    So… we don’t have any evolved genetic differences from our primate ancestors, we just have genetic diseases that affect 100% of humans?

    Well that makes sense. Guess I’d better go and find a religion to join now that the whole evolution thing has been written off.

    Quotemine in 10–9–8–

  10. #10 kemibe
    July 24, 2007

    As I prepare to transition to a career as a full-time actor in porn films, I’ve decided I should adopt as my nom de carne “Scott Baculum.” The genre could stand to make a quantum leap.

  11. #11 Russell
    July 24, 2007

    What is it with Yahweh that he is so focused on penises?

  12. #12 Blader
    July 24, 2007

    Intromission lost, the story of the lost baculum, is the the best absolute PROOF that we have that evolution is a myth. After all, what is the point of evolving a perfectly useful copulatory organ, only to lose it?

    Makes no sense.

  13. Sounds like a very intriguing Enterprise there, kemibe–you could leave quite the Legacy.

  14. #14 Firemancarl
    July 24, 2007

    So, gods to blame that i’m hung like a lightswitch? I knew it! Er….I mean….

    Just a little self depracating humor folks…

  15. #15 Erasmus, FCD
    July 24, 2007

    I was always told that the definition of a bacculum was: Never having to say “I’m sorry”.

  16. #16 Kelson
    July 24, 2007

    So wait? are they arguing that women are made out of man’s missing penis bone? because wasn’t eve supposed to be made of the missing rib.

  17. #17 jaim klein
    July 24, 2007

    Our ancestors must have had quite a baculum, being massive enough to make a woman. We are pathetic shadows of our mighty ancestors, indeed.

  18. #18 Azkyroth
    July 24, 2007

    So wait? are they arguing that women are made out of man’s missing penis bone? because wasn’t eve supposed to be made of the missing rib.

    Put it this way: there’s a passage that’s clearly talking about the monster Behemoth’s penis. The prudes who did the English translation rendered that one as “tail.”

  19. #19 Sastra
    July 24, 2007

    So there is Biblical support for the widespread male opinion that women are all a bunch of castrating b*tches.

  20. #20 Anton Mates
    July 24, 2007

    It is astounding that there are still people who believe men have one less rib than women. Not even six month’s ago my wife’s aunt and her boyfriend (certainly indicative of someone less than classy) were arguing over this very notion. When they got to our house, they asked my wife, an MSN candidate, whether it was true. Of course she said it wasn’t, to which he replied, “Ah, what do you know?” Fortunately I didn’t overhear the conversation, and he would have been smacked down twice: once with an anatomy textbook, and the other with my fist for talking to my wife like that.

    Textbook wouldn’t have worked. My wife’s had her anatomy students refuse to believe her, even when she was standing directly in front of male & female display skeletons pointing at them. It’s all a great conspiracy, you see.

    Finally my wife resorted to, “There must be at least one male in your life whose chest you’re allowed to touch. Please, count his ribs, count your ribs, compare.” Of course she’d have gotten in trouble if she’d pointed out that Genesis never said Adam’s loss was heritable.

  21. #21 Tatarize
    July 24, 2007

    I had read the Gilbert and Zevit paper a few years back and was quite impressed. The genesis story is clearly an etiology and trying to explain the missing rib in men. But, men aren’t missing a rib. They not only explain which bone human men are missing, but give a pretty good argument that it would need the same noun would be used. More a noun meaning “supporter” than rib.

    I think Dawkins in the Selfish Gene noted that without that bone human ancestors could more easily judge the health of potential mates. Personally I think with the major redesign our hips have gone through in the last four million years we could easily have lost fairly worthless bones at certain steps. I certainly don’t want one installed. Though I could take that gene that would make me produce Vitamin C.

  22. #22 Brownian
    July 24, 2007

    So lemme get this straight: God made Adam, and gave him a penis. God saw that Adam was lonely, and since Eden was devoid of snow for signing, Adam had no use for his penis.

    God decides to kill two birds with one stone; he’ll create a female so Adam has company and together they’ll find a use for Adam’s penis.

    In typical Intelligent Desiger fashion, what part of Adam’s body does he mutilate in order to create a female?

  23. #23 Nes
    July 24, 2007

    I heard something like this two or three years ago, and similar to what Tatarize @ #21 said, what I read said that the word that was translated to rib meant a “support structure” or something along those lines. If I recall correctly, it said that the word could mean any number of things (probably based on the context), such as pillar, or rib, or penis bone…

    Sadly, what ever it was I read is yet another thing I wish I had bookmarked, as I doubt I’d ever be able to find it again.

  24. #24 Kseniya
    July 24, 2007

    In typical Intelligent Desiger fashion, what part of Adam’s body does he mutilate in order to create a female?

    Yes, how inane! But what few people realize, Brownian, is that God had just dumped a zeusload of cash into the Pfizer Pharmaceuticals IPO.

    So you see, His ways are not so mysterious after all!

  25. Maybe it all goes back to a faulty translation of the Classical Hebrew meaning “ribbed for her pleasure”.

  26. #26 VWXYNot?
    July 24, 2007

    A Molly for the Raven!

  27. #27 Coragyps
    July 24, 2007

    “But, as soon as one attempts to count them or view them, the diety uses their supreme magic and replaces the missing rib.”

    Schroedinger’s Rib?

  28. #28 Winawer
    July 24, 2007

    Hmm… if we *did* have this bone, I bet that milk commercials would take on a whole new dimension.

  29. #29 speedwell
    July 24, 2007

    Heh, Molly for Brownian for that crack about the part that the Intelligent Designer chose to mutilate.

  30. #30 ABR
    July 24, 2007

    Winawer, you may be on to something with the milk commercials. But I wonder what the diners at Adam’s Ribs in Chicago might make of this discussion?

  31. #31 Bunjo
    July 24, 2007

    The really interesting question is not why humans rarely have os penis (baculum – Latin “staff”) or os clitoris (baubellum – Latin “little gem”) but why chimpanzees and gorillas, the modern descendants of our common ancestor, still retain them.

  32. #32 Tatarize
    July 24, 2007

    I think the translation information was cited in the original paper. It actually was quite complete.

    >>In typical Intelligent Desiger fashion, what part of Adam’s body does he mutilate in order to create a female?

    Actually, they noted that this makes more sense. As ribs aren’t know for their reproduction ability. However, men’s penises as everybody knew in Biblical times were the core of reproduction. They were the seed drills of freakish views on reproduction. So naturally if you’re going to take something to make another person you’d take something from the part of man that makes more people.

  33. #33 Calladus
    July 24, 2007

    Sorry for getting my biology information from Wikipedia, but is this right?

    Humans occasionally are born with the penile bone. It is generally surgically removed.

    A boy is born with an extra endowment that will someday make him a hit with the ladies at the retirement center, and it’s removed? That’s just mean!

  34. #34 Scott Hatfield, OM
    July 24, 2007

    “Gilbert and Zevit (2001) suggested that the raphe on the penis and scrotum was thought to be the surgical scar.”

    A few comments:

    1) The claim is, in effect, Lamarckian—who knew that the ancient scribes were so close to adaptive explanations?

    2) The perineal raphe is found in other primates which still possess a baculum: what scar are they carrying?

    3) The perineal raphe is more prominent, to the point of a (shudder) bifid scrotum, in males who suffer from the genetic disorder Townes-Brock Syndrome—an unkind cut, albeit deeper, from the deity?

    4) One gets the impression that Gilbert and Zevit’s suggestion was definitely tongue-in-buccal raphe.

  35. #35 Bertok
    July 24, 2007

    Well, I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m glad I don’t have this “advantage.” Can you imagine the consequences of breaking this bone (it would absolutely happen, and often)? I have a sneaking suspicion that we, as men, would have a whole new set of problems if we had penile bones. What happens when it’s broken too many times? Would we be more likely to snap it during intercourse? Talk about a turn-off.

  36. #36 PZ Myers
    July 24, 2007

    Spoken like a true invertebrate. Who needs those internal bones? They’d just splinter and snap and break! Hydraulics are so much cleverer.

    Now you all just need to take it to the next level. Ever broken a leg? Doesn’t it just make you wish you had tentacles?

  37. #37 djlactin
    July 24, 2007

    ahh, but we are compensated for our lack of a bone by our majestic hydraulics! consider that a gorilla has a penis about the size of a woman’s little finger and you can grasp my point.

  38. #38 GodlessHeathen
    July 24, 2007

    …and you can grasp my point.
    Posted by: djlactin | July 24, 2007 07:49 PM

    Not on the first date.

  39. #39 Calladus
    July 24, 2007

    Can you imagine the consequences of breaking this bone

    Imagine having the plaster cast removed with a vibrating saw.

  40. #40 Carlie
    July 24, 2007

    Imiagine it having to be set in an emergency fashion on the football field in front of 40,000 fans.

  41. #41 grasshopper
    July 24, 2007

    Brownian, that is something that has long puzzled me.

    God created Adam in his own image i.e. with a penis, but Adam had no-one to have sex with.

    Unless he used to go on dates with himself at Chez den and sit at an intimate, candle-lit table for one.

    Anyways, this rib thing: it is just an erectile tissue of lies.

  42. #42 P. Whirler
    July 24, 2007

    “Humans occasionally are born with the penile bone. It is generally surgically removed.”

    So, the surgeons are playing God?

  43. #43 Kseniya
    July 24, 2007

    LOL@ Carlie! K8^D

    And of course, the 40,000 people all applaud when he… you know… gets up.

    I’m feeling juvenile enough to state that this is the funniest thread of the week. No, month. Ok, week.

    Ummm… is the handle “P. Whirler” supposed to be a sly joke? (Or am I just being a crank?)

  44. #44 CortxVortx
    July 24, 2007

    That’s okay — my wife gives me a bone on frequently.

    — CV

  45. #45 Michael Suttkus, II
    July 24, 2007

    Grasshopper, this is about my all-time favorite way to annoy creationists: Ask them just how literally “in his image” is supposed to mean. They’re all sure it’s literal until you start pressing them with details.

    Does God have a penis? What does he use it for? An anus? A stomach? Sweat glands? A bladder? Again, what’s their purpose? Does God eat? Excrete?

    Does god have a hole in His periteneum caused by the descent of His divine testicles?

    Does God have a back improperly adapted to life on two legs as we do? Does God have the retina in his eyes on backwards?

    All of these things are universal in male humans. If we’re built in God’s image, God should have them.

    If I may say so, God doesn’t seem to be very intelligently designed…

  46. #46 Brownian
    July 25, 2007

    Hmm, those are all good questions. Does God have cranial sutures? What about a blessed belly button? If not, where does He keep His lint? Do God’s toenails grow? His hair and beard should grow because He’d be unable to trim His split ends if they didn’t. Can God metabolise lactose? If so, most humans are not made in His image. Does His gut swarm with holy E. coli? Does He wear sandals to protect His feet from cherubic chiggers? Is God a vegetarian? He certainly made the Jews grill a lot of barbeque for Him. How does He floss His teeth? If God is infinite, then those wisdom teeth must be really far back in there. Does His breath stink when He wakes up? And did Adam and Eve dream? Did they dream of falling before the Fall? When they dreamt of being naked in public did they think it was a nightmare or that they were back in the Garden?

    Man, a religious upbringing just leaves so many questions unanswered.

  47. #47 grasshopper
    July 25, 2007

    … holy E. coli ..
    … cherubic chiggers ..
    … Eat? Excrete? .. Petite! (homage to The Addam’s Family, not Adam’s family)

    Is God a vegetarian?

    Perhaps God Himself orchestrated the Fall, so that DEATH (and Death of Rats) would come to Eden, and T-bones could replace the tofu burgers at Chez den. It would have been impossible to worship God through animal sacrifice if The Fall had not occurred, so on balance The Fall was a Good Thing.

  48. #48 G. Tingey
    July 25, 2007
  49. #49 ssjessiechan
    July 25, 2007

    I think I’m amused less by the implications of being made out of a penis, and more by the implication that spider monkeys are as honored by god as humans. Because on the 6th day, god created Adam and the spider monkey. And Adam had no-one to bonk, and the spider monkey had no-one to bonk, and the lord looked upon their masturbation and frowned. And lo, he punished them for their obscenity by removing their penis bones and making women, so that they would need to convince their penises to let them touch them.

  50. #50 Peter Ashby
    July 25, 2007

    I reckon the loss of the bacculum is an example of sexual selection. It goes like this: if you have a bone in your penis you can get it up to some degree regardless. The lack of one means there is no room for subterfuge. Just as you cannot fake a truly magnificent male peacock’s tail so we puny male humans cannot fake our ability to get it up. More examples than just the peacock tell us that the most robust sexual signals are those that cannot be faked (boob jobs must be redone periodically, they are not robust).

    Those trapezoidal blue pills would therefore subvert evolution if they were needed by males of peak reproductive age. Fortunately this is not, yet, so.

  51. #51 HPLC_Sean
    July 25, 2007

    Has it occurred to anyone that the disappearance of the penile bone may have something to do with the recent development of our bipedality? Surely, having a bone between your legs would be an impediment to walking on them. The penile bone apparently does not interfere with walking on all fours or swinging on branches.
    Also, from a biblical point of view, our penile rib was hijacked by females in the form of the mons pubis. The mons is surely one of the most obvious examples of a bone that human females have that males don’t have.

  52. #52 chris y
    July 25, 2007

    If anybody took any of this seriously for a moment, it would be easy enough to construct an evolutionary just-so story for this.

    – The human penis is both absolutely and proportionately much larger than that of other apes: this can be attributed to the relative repositioning of the vaginal canal to accommodate upright posture;
    – A human bacculum would have to be longer and correspondingly more delicate and subject to fracture than in those other apes. A man with a fractured bacculum would be at a considerable reproductive disadvantage;
    – There would therefore be massive selective pressure in favour of penes with purely hydraulic stiffening. QED.

    Complete bullshit, of course, straight off the top of my head. Ignore.

  53. #53 N.Wells
    July 25, 2007

    There is a fascinating evolutionary story here, even better than Bunjo’s question of why the other apes still have bacula. The baculum is present in chimps, but it is unusable, being only 10 mm long. Our lineage lost the baculum, but since there was already an assist system at hand (hydraulic engorgement), the loss was not a problem. Chimps provide a perfect intermediate stage, ‘half pump, half stump’, with a relict of the os penis that has been reduced to near-uselessness. We just went ahead and lost it completely. Why would an intelligent designer design the chimp that way?

    Note that the loss was gradual, and presumably involved neutral or negative mutations plus genetic drift, rather than beneficial mutations and natural selection, which evolution-deniers insist on focussing on.

    The evolutionary aspects of this get even better. Humans have been described as neotenic chimpanzees (i.e., chimps that put off developing most signs of maturity, thus becoming sexually mature while still otherwise immature). It turns out that juvenile chimps also lack an os penis: that only develops as male chimps pass puberty. Likewise, baby female chimps have a hymen (which they lose as they grow through late childhood). The story is identical for the labia majora (present only in infancy in chimps but through life in humans). Also, the rectum, urethra, and vagina are aligned with the spine in most mammals, including most apes, notably excepting humans and infantile chimpanzees. (See http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/epc/srb/cyber/rbednarik6.pdf )

    I posted some more on all this a while ago over at ARN
    http://www.arn.org/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=30321419&page=0&fpart=1&vc=1

  54. #54 AL
    July 25, 2007

    I think this is far too generous a retcon to the author of Genesis (Moses?) in assuming he knew anything about the baculum when he fabricated the Adam and Eve story.

    Kind of reminds me of those who are so enamored of the idea that the ancient Greeks were “ahead of their time,” they insist the Greek concept of the atom is the basis for the modern chemical notion of it when they are not at all the same.

  55. #55 YetAnotherKevin
    July 25, 2007

    I see what you’re saying AL, but assuming the story began with nomadic desert herdsmen, they were intimately familiar with the anatomies of sheep, goats and cattle. They would have known that those animals had something they lacked.

  56. #56 KeithB
    July 25, 2007

    “intimately familiar with the anatomies of sheep, goats and cattle. ”

    These all have horns, too, but I see no myths about how mankind lost *those*.

  57. #57 James Orpin
    July 26, 2007

    “They would have known that those animals had something they lacked.” These animals also lack bacula. Insectivores, primates, bats, rodents and carnivores are the main mammal orders to posses a baculum. I’ve done some research on this for a dissertation.

  58. #58 Laura in Mpls
    July 27, 2007

    Adam’s body part is not mutilated. He merely is modified to enable the face-to-face “missionary position” that dogs and apes do not use. How nice for us females – we get more clitoral stimulation, while having to work harder (oy) to fake a big O.

  59. #59 emissrto
    February 20, 2008

    Antennapedia-like homeobox genes is confirmed by cDNA(s) in a particular subgroup of homeobox genes are the Hox genes in the length of a CAG triplet repeat (INTRON OMIM: 147265 ITPR1 Inositol). Hence the phrase [in] GPI besides the phrases of English idiom perfectly clear for full clarity perhaps, earlier. At the expense of nuclear export as RNA toxin entry to the cell surface without a new approach that involved a way of [HOXD] escaping the burden of proof and strong associations against.

  60. #60 John Morales
    January 15, 2010

    pusatbelanja, I’ve noticed you posting on various threads in desuetude, and always with a little pointless snipe.

    Re your contribution above, what is this organ that you imply has been lost?

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