The Missing Link - Worth The Hype?
by Robert Bazell
chief science correspondent
May 19, 2009
With great fanfare, New York's Mayor Bloomberg and others today
unveiled a model of a 47-million-year-old fossil of a baby
monkey-like creature at the American Museum of Natural History. The
unveiling was part of a promotion effort by the History Channel and
Little, Brown Book Group, which are producing a documentary and a
book about the discovery.
There is no question that this is an important scientific finding.
The fossil purchased by scientists at a market in Europe is
exceptionally well preserved. But the documentary is titled "The
Link - This Changes Everything," and the press kit for the event
declares that reporters are about to "witness the most important
find in 47 million years."
So I phoned Dr. Tim White at the University of California, Berkeley.
White is a renowned paleontologist who
played a key role in the discovery of "Lucy," the first ape-like
creature to stand erect and many other important findings about the
evolution leading to humans.
"Three words," he said. "Over the
The people who promoted this event make
a big deal out of the possible place this newly discovered fossil
plays in the evolution leading to humans.
But if you read their
actual scientific paper (Complete
Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany -
Morphology and Paleobiology) in a respectable
peer-reviewed scientific journal (from
the scientists make no such claim.
The big question about this finding, White said,
"is whether it is
the 'Mother of All Monkeys?' and that is not even resolved. With
years of study the scientists will learn whether this is the
creature that stands at the intersection of one group of primates
that went on to be best represented by lemurs today or another group
that went on to be chimps and humans. But they don't know yet."
The event organizers do seem to know, however,
the potential value
Watch Robert Bazell's Nightly News
report, "Fossil Frenzy":
Missing Link Found?
Scientists Unveil Fossil of 47 Million-Year-Old
Primate, Darwinius Masillae
by Samantha Strong and
DAILY NEWS WRITERS
May 19, 2009
The 47 million year old fossilized remains of a primate is seen at
the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Feast your eyes on what a group of scientists call the
Holy Grail of
A team of researchers Tuesday unveiled an almost perfectly intact
fossil of a 47 million-year-old primate they say represents the
long-sought missing link between humans and apes.
Officially known as Darwinius masillae, the fossil of the lemur-like
creature dubbed Ida shows it had opposable thumbs like humans and
fingernails instead of claws.
Scientists say the cat-sized animal's hind legs offer evidence of
evolutionary changes that led to primates standing upright - a
breakthrough that could finally
confirm Charles Darwin's theory of
"This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists," lead
scientist Jorn Hurum said at a ceremony at the American Museum of
"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."
A team of amateur fossil hunters discovered the near-perfect remains
inside a mile-wide crater outside of Frankfurt in 1983.
Experts believe the pit was a volcanic caldera where scores of
animals from the Eocene epoch were killed and their remains were
kept remarkably well-preserved.
Though the pit has been a bountiful source of other fossils, the
inexperienced archeologists didn't realize the value of their find.
Years later, the University of Oslo bought the 95%-intact fossil,
and Hurum studied it in secret for two years.
His colleague, Jens Franzen, hailed the discovery as "the eighth
wonder of the world."
"We're not dealing with our grand, grand, grandmother, but perhaps
with our grand, grand, grand aunt," Franzen said.
The unveiling of the fossil came as part of a carefully-orchestrated
publicity campaign unusual for scientific discoveries.
A History Channel film on the discovery will air next week.
A book release and a slew of other documentaries will follow.
Purported “Missing Link” Found
by Bryan McAffee
May 19, 2009
I guess someone had to post the obligatory missing link story.
So, in case you did not hear, scientists have unveiled what they
claim to be the fossil remains of a 47 million old skeleton that may
explain the key link between early formed primates and modern
Homo Sapiens. The remains has both non-human and human-like features
which may provide key evidence that human beings evolved from
earlier form of primate like being.
From the article:
It has, among other things,
opposable thumbs, similar to humans’ and unlike those found on
other modern mammals. It has fingernails instead of claws. And
by examining the structure of its hind legs (one of which is
partly missing), scientists say they can see evidence of
evolutionary changes that would eventually lead to primates
Okay, sounds convincing, but it sounds
like there is some clear publicity going on as well.
One of the scientists states:
“Ida is a direct human
But he said he was comfortable with the
publicity surrounding it.
”That’s part of getting science out
to the public, to get attention,” he said. “I don’t think that’s
The only question I have is, if this
find is so amazing, why did it take them 20 years to bring it to the
public’s attention. The fossil was found in 1983. It sounds more to
me like scientists looking for more grant money and publicity,
but I could be wrong.
The whole evolution debate is very similar to the global warming
one. Many want to claim that the “science is settled” and are so
dogmatic that they don’t even wish to engage in discussion or actual
science that might contradict their world view. Evolution is
somewhat similar, however both sides are very dogmatic. If you want
a good read about the dogmatism of Evolution I would
recommend GK Chesteron’s article
Its a long read, but its funny and worth
it. Among other points he makes he argues that the difference in man
and beast is really a difference in type more then anything. If man
did come from beast then the implication is that at some point a
“person” was born which was no longer a beast and was fully human,
even if this transition took millions of years to reach the magic
point, which certainly could happen.
The other point he makes (which I
appreciate) is that scientists are so interested in proving
Darwin was right that they end up being at least as dogmatic as
the craziest religious sect whom they scoff at. It is easy to
reconcile Christianity with science... both are a matter of
So, did evolution occur?
Personally I buy at least some form of
evolution. I don’t know if we evolved from ape or not, but I do
believe that if so, there is some intelligence that guided that
evolution. I find nothing contradictory between Christanity/Judaism
and evolution myself. I will say that it is at least as likely that
our DNA was planted here by aliens as evolution occurred, at
least there is about equal amounts of evidence to suggest either
Richard Dawkins (the famous
atheist) find more evidence that that we are in fact descended by
aliens than created by God, so that tells you a little
about the evolutionists mindset right there.