The Missing Link? Ida Know About That


They used to say that only beauty was in the eye of the beholder.

Now apparently “scientific” breakthroughs have been added to the list.

Consider this hyperventilating headline that ran on The Sky News web site earlier today.

Scientists Unveil Missing Link In Evolution

Fossil

The search for a direct connection between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom has taken 200 years – but it was presented to the world today at a special news conference in New York.

The discovery of the 95%-complete ‘lemur monkey’ – dubbed Ida – is described by experts as the “eighth wonder of the world”.

They say its impact on the world of palaeontology will be “somewhat like an asteroid falling down to Earth”.

Researchers say proof of this transitional species finally confirms Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and the then radical, outlandish ideas he came up with during his time aboard the Beagle.

Sir David Attenborough said Darwin “would have been thrilled” to have seen the fossil – and says it tells us who we are and where we came from.

“This little creature is going to show us our connection with the rest of the mammals,” he said.

“This is the one that connects us directly with them.

“Now people can say ‘okay we are primates, show us the link’.

“The link they would have said up to now is missing – well it’s no longer missing.”

Wow!

Pretty extraordinary claims.

Looks like the creation/evolution debate is officially over, right?

So what was it about “Ida” that inspired all this champagne cork popping among the “goo to you by way of the zoo” set?

Scientists say Ida – squashed to the thickness of a beer mat by the immense passage of time – is the most complete primate fossil ever found.

With her human-like nails instead of claws, and opposable big toes, she is placed at the very root of human evolution when early primates first developed features that would eventually develop into our own.

Another important discovery is the shape of the talus bone in her foot, which humans still have in their feet millions of lifetimes later.

Not to interrupt a victory celebration – but first, a question.

What does the presence of nails and a talus bone in a lemur like fossil prove, exactly?

Consider what we actually know about this fossil find.

  • The well-preserved fossil (95 percent complete, including fossilized fur and more) is about the size of a raccoon and includes a long tail. It resembles the skeleton of a lemur (a small, tailed, tree-climbing primate). In no way does the fossil (see the picture, right) resemble a human skeleton.
  • The fossil was found in two parts by amateur fossil hunters in 1983. It eventually made its way through fossil dealers to the research team.
  • Ida has opposable thumbs, which the ABC News article states are “similar to humans’ and unlike those found on other modern mammals” (i.e., implying that opposable thumbs are evidence of evolution). Yet lemurs today have opposable thumbs (like all primates). Likewise, Ida has nails, as do other primates. And the talus bone is described as “the same shape as in humans,” despite the fact that there are other differences in the ankle structure.3
  • Unlike today’s lemurs (as far as scientists know), Ida lacks the “grooming claw” and a “toothcomb” (a fused row of teeth) In fact, its teeth are more similar to a monkey’s. These are minor differences easily explained by variation within a kind.

Underwhelmed?

You aren’t alone.

Even secular sources like the New York Times are beginning to question what all the hub bub is about.

But despite a television teaser campaign with the slogan “This changes everything” and comparisons to the moon landing and the Kennedy assassination, the significance of this discovery may not be known for years. An article to be published on Tuesday in PLoS ONE, a scientific journal, will report more prosaically that the scientists involved said the fossil could be a “stem group” that was a precursor to higher primates, with the caveat, “but we are not advocating this.”

All of this seems a departure from the normal turn of events, where researchers study their subject and publish their findings, and let the media chips fall where they may. But this campaign is only the latest example of the scientific media blockbuster, of which the National Geographic Society has become perhaps the most successful practitioner. It often gives grants to researchers, with National Geographic gaining the rights to produce television shows and magazine articles related to any discoveries.

And these kinds of publicity campaigns can backfire. In 2007, for example, the Discovery Channel ran a documentary called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” which had its share of detractors in the academic community.

So is “Ida” a history making discovery – or a histrionic offering from the hype machine?

Consider this justification of this full frontal media assault.“Any pop band is doing the same thing,” said Jorn H. Hurum, a scientist at the University of Oslo who acquired the fossil and assembled the team of scientists that studied it. “Any athlete is doing the same thing. We have to start thinking the same way in science.”

Question for Dr. HurumDoes this mean we can we expect future evolutionary breakthroughs to be announced at the Super Bowl Half Time Show?

I can’t wait to see the Back Street Boys perform the “Trippin’ Wif a Talus, Opposable Thumb Review”.

The most interesting question the Ida incident poses in my mind has nothing to do with fossil strata and competing theories of origins.

It is one of human nature.

The hype says that now, for the first time, we have proof positive of Darwinian evolution.

That makes me wonder what the honorable David Attenborough would have said if we had asked him whether evolution was a proven fact, or if the missing link had already been found, oh say, last week?

Does saying that “Now the link is no longer missing!” mean that all the other times evolutionists have declared their theory fact they were, well, exaggerating for effect?

Engaging in wishful thinking?

Lying to us?

We report, you decide.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:20-23)

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