Religious Artifact or Scientific Discovery?

The latest in the saga of nature worship is the discovery of a ’47 million year old’ fossil given the name Ida.  Hailed in the popular press as the long-sought-after ‘missing link,’ Darwinius masillae is being held up in some circles as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Perhaps my impression that this is being held up with a religious artifact for naturalism is hyperbole, but perhaps not. You decide. Here is a quote:

“This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists,” lead scientist Jorn Hurum said at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History.

“It is the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next 100 years.”(1)

Lost Ark? Holy Grail? All that in one? It certainly seems like the whole question of human evolution is solved. However, things are not so wonderful. You know there’s a problem when someone from Scienceblogs (atheistblogs?) criticizes the findings.(2)

This shoddy scholarship is matched by a weak attempt to show that Darwinius has more anthropoid-like traits than tarsiers or omomyids do. In order for the authors of the paper to make a convincing case they would have to undertake a careful, systematic analysis of the anatomy of Darwinius in comparison to other primates, yet they did not do this. Instead they combed the literature for 30 traits that might help ascertain the placement of Darwinius in the primate family tree and filled in whether each trait was present or absent in Ida’s skeleton.

This find may be interesting and have some scientific value, but the primary value at this time appears to be as a religious symbol for naturalism.

(1). “Missing link found? Scientists unveil fossil of 47 million-year-old primate, Darwinius masillae”
(2). Poor, poor Ida, Or: “Overselling an Adapid”


Update: Others have weighed in on the issue.

ID: Darwinius masillae: The Religion in Evolution

IDA: THE HOLY GRAIL OF MISSING LINKS?

Creationism: Ida: the Missing Link at Last?


Update 2: It seems the Darwnists are running for cover after their bluff was called. New Scientist has posted an article today entitled, Why Ida fossil is not the missing link. Regardless, we can look for this to show up in textbooks as ‘proof’ of evolution.

What does Ida’s anatomy tell us about her place on the family tree of humans and other primates? The fact that she retains primitive features that commonly occurred among all early primates, such as simple incisors rather than a full-fledged toothcomb, indicates that Ida belongs somewhere closer to the base of the tree than living lemurs do.

But this does not necessarily make Ida a close relative of anthropoids – the group of primates that includes monkeys, apes – and humans. In order to establish that connection, Ida would have to have anthropoid-like features that evolved after anthropoids split away from lemurs and other early primates. Here, alas, Ida fails miserably.

So, Ida is not a “missing link” – at least not between anthropoids and more primitive primates. Further study may reveal her to be a missing link between other species of Eocene adapiforms, but this hardly solidifies her status as the “eighth wonder of the world”.

Instead, Ida is a remarkably complete specimen that promises to teach us a great deal about the biology of some of the earliest and least human-like of all known primates, the Eocene adapiforms. For this, we can all celebrate her discovery as a real advance for science.

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33 Responses

  1. This shoddy scholarship is matched by a weak attempt to show that Darwinius has more anthropoid-like traits than tarsiers or omomyids do. In order for the authors of the paper to make a convincing case they would have to undertake a careful, systematic analysis of the anatomy of Darwinius in comparison to other primates, yet they did not do this. Instead they combed the literature for 30 traits that might help ascertain the placement of Darwinius in the primate family tree and filled in whether each trait was present or absent in Ida’s skeleton.

    Now here’s a surprise, “…yet they did not do this…”? They (Darwinian “scientists”) evidently never do this!!

    The surprising thing is, as you point out, that the atheists are finally calling their own pseudo-science bobble-heads on an issue like this!

    In text books! Sure it will be in text books: along with all the other Darwinian/atheistic delusions, fabrications and outright lies! The “tree of life” and that false poster of chimp slowly standing up into man is still there, so why wouldn’t this fairy tale be?

  2. DB. I’d expect them to keep it in textbooks for 50 years after they figure out it’s not that impressive of a find (other than being well preserved).

  3. Bingo! Why not, as the word puts it, their father is the father of lies,” and he runs this world system, after all! At least for the present moment!

  4. I think the scientists were simply saying that finding this artifact has been the exciting EQUIVALENT for them. In other words, they are as excited as religious scholars (or any scholars really) to find something as major as the “missing link”. Its not as if they have proclaimed to have SOLVED evolution, they are simply excited at the prospect of finding something that COULD solve the “missing link”. It would be naive to think that the scientists will simply sit on a pedestal now, and ask the world to see what they have found. Now that they have FOUND something to look at, countless hours of research will ensue. No matter what your personal belief, this is far from over.

  5. Certainly they found something interesting. All it means is that this animal existed and lived a long time ago, whatever it is. There’s zero proof it “turned into” anything or anything “turned into” it. But one can easily imagine it turning into something, if one wishes. Show me another hundred or so “transitional” fossils, with the correct relative geological dating to accompany them, filling in the gaps between this thing and a human, and I might think differently.

    But we will never see that (I could be wrong!). There’s much more likely a chance that scientists will be able to take DNA samples from one of these things one day, and see that it’s 95% or closer to human DNA, which will make them proudly declare they don’t even need the fossil evidence to prove it! Of course, that’s like saying: “The hydrogen atoms in the protein molecules of this creature are 100% similar to the hydrogen atoms in humans, therefore, these things evolved into humans”. Or worse: “This creature had opposable thumbs just like humans, so therefore it evolved into humans. And no further fossil evidence is necessary!” (…oh wait, they are saying that…)

  6. I’ve found several Sciencebloggers who are highly critical of how this discovery has been drastically overblown in media reports. I don’t see this as a “religious symbol for naturalism” but as just one more piece of sensationalistic journalistic fluff.

  7. Well, check out Google’s logo today:
    http://www.google.com/

    They’ve certainly gotten into the ‘spirit’ of this.

  8. I think the scientists were simply saying that finding this artifact has been the exciting EQUIVALENT for them.

    The same could be said of finding a religious text describing past events or a religious artifact believed to be involved in religious history or a miraculous event.

    In other words, they are as excited as religious scholars…

    Exactly, because their beliefs about the past can fairly be called religious. The term religion is used as a stigma word by some but there are religious ideas which are more rational and have greater knowledge behind them than many ideas which are scientific.

    …they are simply excited at the prospect of finding something that COULD solve the “missing link”.

    No ancestral relationship can be identified empirically by looking at skeletal remains, instead what emerges is a vague mythological narrative in which language itself gives rise to a mythology of ancestry in which classifications like “fish” are said to be the ancestors of “amphibians” and so on. Even if the sort of hypothetical goo which gives rise to creation myths of this sort is refined a specific ancestry or trajectory of adaptation is never identified theoretically and verified empirically.

    It would be naive to think that the scientists will simply sit on a pedestal now, and ask the world to see what they have found. Now that they have FOUND something to look at, countless hours of research will ensue.

    The same could be said of finding a religious text which is thought to describe past events, countless hours of theology would ensue. The problem with invoking a mythology of Progress on issues like this is that if the foundation is wrong from the beginning then people are perfectly capable of making a lot of progress towards ignorance and stupidity.

    No matter what your personal belief, this is far from over.

    Indeed, if history is any measure it is likely that progress towards more stupidity and charlatanism will ensue. Given the history of mankind and his capacity to believe in mythologies for millenia mixed with his science and technology (as is evidenced by the pyramids) why do you seem to assume that progress towards knowledge that is correct is inevitably assured? At any rate, the history of science shows that progress in knowledge/science is linked to religion.

  9. Mike, yes that’s nice isn’t it?

    I’d say there’s some of that Carl, but the person quoted in the original post is the lead scientist.

  10. Isn’t it funny how the capitalist whatevers, like Google, are quick to jump on the atheistic bandwagon every time. Oh wow, it’s cool, man! Like, for sure, dude!

    Here’s the moral of the whole story (thanks to mynym):

    Indeed, if history is any measure it is likely that progress towards more stupidity and charlatanism will ensue. Given the history of mankind and his capacity to believe in mythologies for millenia mixed with his science and technology (as is evidenced by the pyramids) why do you seem to assume that progress towards knowledge that is correct is inevitably assured? At any rate, the history of science shows that progress in knowledge/science is linked to religion.

    Or, “It’s the religious-nature-of-it, stupid!”

  11. As in, “it’s the economy, stupid” No offense intended to any responders here!

  12. Isn’t it funny how the capitalist whatevers, like Google, are quick to jump on the atheistic bandwagon every time.

    Sorry, but I still don’t get this, DB? You often vilify “capitalists” as a group, for some reason. Is there some tie-in to atheism there? Does having funds to invest (not that I have) in things one believes in or has a passion for make one evil?

  13. No, Mike, but capitalism is part of the system of this world, and who runs the system of this world? Not the lord! Also, I “believe” in nothing of man and his worldly system, so, when one brings up what people believe in, if they’re not speaking of the Lord, then I am not interested.

    Actually, my point, which I didn’t make well, in this comment was to say that Google, a capitalist corporation, plays it both ways (as with all other money-at-all-cost enterprises): appeasing the atheist and the believer whenever it’s “good for business.”

    I make no apologies for my opinions on man’s economic ideologies, whether they be communism or capitalism, since I have history and the word of God to back up my opinions! I am not a conservative nor a liberal American, I find the same amount of truth and error on both sides of that political coin. I will give the liberal side credit though, that is for those who profess atheism, at least they’re not using the Lord for a political or economic advantage, as many who worship at the feet of this government and economic system do (“Woe, to you hypocrites…” etc.).

    BTW, I don’t believe that you are one of these individuals, and if you’re offended by what I said, then I’m sorry, since you were not on my mind. But I also know that you and I don’t see eye to eye on many of these issues. That’s alright with me, if it’s alright with you?

  14. Not offended at all, DB. It just seemed a peculiar observation. To me, it just signified that the powers-that-be at Google probably are enthusiastic evolutionists, that’s all.

  15. Or, “It’s the religious-nature-of-it, stupid!”

    It’s curious that modern adherents of nature based religions naturally fall into using metaphors like “Mother Nature” to state their beliefs. Their statements about her bringing order out of chaos echoes mental patterns typical to ancient mythologies and some of their statements about Mother Nature could be used to describe ancient gods like Asherah.

    It seems that natural selection keeps selecting the same language for those anxious to crawl back in the womb of their Mother Nature. I’ve been meaning to read the book Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism by Robert T. Pennock because it seems to be an inversion of patterns represented by Babel. After all, as servants of the Word the Jewish prophets attacked the metaphoric “Whore of Babylon” that babels on in the language of some yet he seems to claim that Babel represents the exact opposite position. (The problem with his pseudo-scientific position based on babel has always been that it leaves one with nothing left to say.)

    At any rate, the point is not that something is or is not “religious” in nature because religious is not the equivalent of incorrect, false or even “faith based.” It’s whether or not what is being said is true, likely to be true or closer to the truth than another view of things given all forms of evidence, including evidence that is not scientific.

  16. It’s whether or not what is being said is true, likely to be true or closer to the truth than another view of things given all forms of evidence, including evidence that is not scientific.

    Science is a way of evaluating evidence, not a specific type of evidence — unless you’re trying to include, under the category of ‘evidence,’ certain types of personal (mystical?) experiences.

    I would never want to discount the immense value of personal experiences, including spiritual or religious experiences, but to call those sorts of thing ‘evidence’ strikes me as stretching the sense of the term to the point of uselessness, because it fails to capture the dimension of objective orientation implicit in the notion.

  17. “It just seemed a peculiar observation…”

    That’s me, friend. I appreciate what you said to me, Mike.

  18. It’s whether or not what is being said is true, likely to be true or closer to the truth than another view of things given all forms of evidence, including evidence that is not scientific.

    The thing is, what is scientific and what isn’t is completely dependent on our current state of understanding.

    There most definitely IS a science that can explain spiritual experiences. It’s just that we aren’t able to formulate the science itself (yet?). Our existing flesh-based conceptual models do not suffice to completely cover the evidence, that’s all.

  19. On this subject, Mike, I just happened to run across this article:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104310443

  20. But now Newberg and others are turning their attention to people who want to enrich their spiritual lives, but don’t have that kind of time.
    And there’s hope for people with jobs and kids.

    Wow! And I always thought people with jobs and kids were beyond all hope of having enriched lives. Praise Science (as Shrink might say)!

  21. “On this subject, Mike, I just happened to run across this article:”

    But really, what they’re doing is simply looking at footprints in the snow. Do they realize that the snow didn’t produce the footprint, but rather, the Bigfoot that walked through it?

  22. I don’t agree with the article, Mike, I just found it right after reading your comment here and found that a little odd:

    There most definitely IS a science that can explain spiritual experiences. It’s just that we aren’t able to formulate the science itself (yet?). Our existing flesh-based conceptual models do not suffice to completely cover the evidence, that’s all.”

  23. Well, they’re trying to formulate a science. It’s just that they’re trying to understand the snow instead of the bigfoot.

  24. Science is a way of evaluating evidence, not a specific type of evidence — unless you’re trying to include, under the category of ‘evidence,’ certain types of personal (mystical?) experiences.

    I was including history, philosophy, religious traditions, etc. It’s actually not that important to try to label a bit of knowledge religion or science. It’s unimportant, yet more difficult to do than many seem to think when they place a purely objective “science” on one side and totally subjective religious experiences on another. Many scientists and wise men have been perfectly capable of being mystics with respect to knowledge while engaged in science. At any rate, many religious ideas have far more epistemic weight and are far more likely to be true than scientific ideas.

    I would never want to discount the immense value of personal experiences…but to call those sorts of thing ‘evidence’ strikes me as stretching the sense of the term to the point of uselessness…

    All evidence is made evident by personal experience.

  25. All evidence is made evident by personal experience.

    This quote is proof that logic (wisdom) doesn’t have to be the length of a dissertation, in order to be substantial and transmit its message effectively. It can be simple, concise and filled with truth, as this quote shows so well.

  26. I think Carl’s objection is to subjective experience being presented as objective evidence.

    For instance, I’ve had crystal-clear precognitive experiences that I know were true, but there is nobody who can verify that objectively. All they have is my word, which counts for zero because it cannot be counted or measured scientifically. Maybe scientists can examine the effects on by brain (like the article you cited), but they cannot see the vision I saw. They can’t examine my mind quantitatively. All they can do is believe me or not.

  27. I think Carl’s objection is to subjective experience being presented as objective evidence.

    No one here is presenting their personal experience as being the equivalent of objective evidence gleaned with scientific tools.

    For instance, I’ve had crystal-clear precognitive experiences that I know were true, but there is nobody who can verify that objectively. All they have is my word, which counts for zero…

    No it doesn’t.

    Maybe scientists can examine the effects on by brain…

    Or they could study your words, your history, your behaviors, etc.

    All they can do is believe me or not.

    The way that we make our minds up when it comes to belief is based on evidence, whether scientific or not.

  28. This quote is proof that logic (wisdom) doesn’t have to be the length of a dissertation…

    Thanks DB.

  29. Thank you, mynym!

  30. Scientists disagreeing is one of the most basic aspects of the scientific method. I’d be shocked if their wasn’t evidence based discussion! I wouldn’t use scientists being wary of overinterpreting evidence as proof of a divine creator. Instead, be sensible and realise that we need discussion to ensure we have fully evaluated the evidence.

    And your blog is dreadful.

    • John,

      We’re all aware here that science is supposed to be an adversarial process. The emphasis is on supposed to be. ID contributes to that adversarial process, but it’s not allowed. I don’t think anyone here looked at what happened with the Ida fossil and said, “Aha!! This is proof God exists!!” It would be nice if some of the restraint would occur before outlandish claims are made, which will continue to be reported for many years. Instead of this being proof that God exists, it is rather proof that there is some religion going on with respect to evolutionary theory.

      And your blog is dreadful.

      Sorry you feel that way.

  31. Great reply, Shrink!

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