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.
Update: Others have weighed in on the issue.
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.