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Media blitz: 'We found missing link'

Posted By Drew Zahn On 05/19/2009 @ 5:15 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled


Darwinius masillae, the fossil known as “Ida”

A book, a movie, a press release, news reports, television specials and an interactive website – all launched today – have converged in a multi-media exclamation, set to shout to the world that the “missing link” in man’s evolution has supposedly been found.

“This little creature is going to show us our connection with the rest of the mammals. This is the one that connects us directly with them,” trumpeted Britain’s nature television star Sir David Attenborough about today’s announcement that “Ida,” a lemur-like fossil that has been studied in secret for years, is now being unveiled to the world.

“Now people can say, ‘OK, we are primates, show us the link,’” Attenborough said. “The link they would have said up to now is missing – well, it’s no longer missing.”

As WND reported, Attenborough, who for 50 years has been the face and voice of the BBC’s natural history programs popular in both the U.S. and U.K., has been a staunch advocate of evolutionary theory, calling it a historical fact “as certain as the fact that William the Conqueror landed in 1066, except it’s more certain.”

Attenborough has also been a harsh critic of creationist theory, claiming the Bible is to blame for humanity’s destruction of the environment and mocking the idea that an “all-merciful God” created parasitic creatures.

In the unveiling of Ida, however, Attenborough and a handful of scientists behind the announcement are proclaiming the find as the final vindication of Darwin’s evolutionist theory.

Professor Jorn Hurum of Norway’s National History Museum, who is leading the team of fossil experts, explains on the website announcing Ida’s discovery:

“Darwin said a lot about transitional species and how they were missing from the geological record. And he said that if a transitional species is never found, his whole theory will be wrong,” Hurum states. “Ida is very comparable to some of the most significant fossils that have been described like Lucy, the Neanderthals, Tyrannosaurus rex, and Archaeopteryx. It’s a really important specimen that will become an icon of evolution. So I think Darwin would be really happy about this specimen.”

He also added, “This fossil will probably be pictured in all the text books for the next 100 years.”

But not so fast, say creationists, who remain skeptical that the marketing blitz over Ida is more about pushing an ideology than advancing science.

“There is a lot of media hype right now, and the claim is that this is a missing link, this is it: the evidence of evolution,” said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis.

But Ham pointed to a line in the scientific report on the Ida findings – published today in the online journal Public Library of Science One – that countered the bold claims made by Attenborough and others in the news.

“[The species] could represent a stem group from which later anthropoid primates evolved [the line leading to humans],” states the report, “but we are not advocating this here.”

The British newspaper Guardian also reports that scientific reviewers of the research asked that others “tone down” claims that the fossil was on the human evolutionary line.


Ken Ham

“The reviewers said we don’t know this is a missing link, and they asked the people who wrote [the newspaper reports] to tone it down,” Ham told WND, “and yet we have this media hype claiming this is it, this is the missing link.”

As the New York Times reported, the fossil was unveiled at a news conference at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In addition to the website promoting Ida’s significance, television’s A&E has produced a two-hour documentary touting the find to be shown on Memorial Day on the History Channel, followed by release on the BBC in Britain and ZDF in Germany.

A&E executives, the Times reports, also brokered a deal for an exclusive Ida appearance tomorrow morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” as well as appearances on the network’s “Nightline” and “World News”. The documentary’s backers also lined up a publisher for a book on the fossil called “The Link,” set to be released tomorrow with 110,000 copies already shipped.

The Times of London reports that some scientists have joined in criticism of the media coverage, arguing it is wrong for a discovery to receive such heavy publicity before other researchers can evaluate it.

“It’s obviously a lot of media hype to promote an ideology,” Ham told WND. “In the wake of a lot of controversies in creation vs. evolution, evolutionists want to be able to announce they have the ultimate proof. … It’s obviously a ploy to promote a book and a television special and to indoctrinate the public in evolution by making a lot of statements that are way beyond what the scientists themselves wrote.”

Hurum, however, defended the campaign, telling the New York Times, “Any pop band is doing the same thing, any athlete is doing the same. We have to start thinking the same way in science.”


Dr. Jonathan Wells

Jonathan Wells, author and biologist at the Seattle-based  Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, helped WND take a closer look at the science vs. hype debate.

“I have in front of me the technical paper published about the specimen, a fossil primate that looks a lot like a lemur,” Wells told WND. “Some of the people who analyzed this also claim [Ida] is not in the subgroup that includes lemurs, but is in the subgroup from which humans theoretically evolved.

“There are many primatologists who already disagree with that interpretation and see this as a lemur,” Wells explained to WND. “That’s a controversy within the scientific community that has nothing to do with evolution, simply classification of the specimen.”

When WND asked Wells if this creature could have traits of both lemurs and apes, the biologist explained that even a combination of the two groups’ anatomy doesn’t necessarily mean that evolution used the animal as a “bridge” to cross from one to other. Similarity in animal traits, he explained, even in a theoretical “missing link,” doesn’t prove evolution.

“In every case, what you’ve got is a fossil, a dead animal,” Wells explained. “The theory of evolution says we have to have come from ancestors, so scientists go out looking, and then they find this particular animal that fits the theory better than other candidates. But there’s absolutely no way to know – and many Darwinists acknowledge this – whether in fact any other animals evolved from this one or not, much less humans. So the line of ancestry and descent is completely speculative.”

The fossil now known as Ida, a nearly complete skeleton about the size of a raccoon, was given its nickname after Hurum’s daughter. His team of scientists believes the female specimen was about 9 months old, in maturity equivalent to a six-year-old human, the age of Hurum’s child.

The scientific name given to the specimen is Darwinius masillae, named in honor of Charles Darwin, who is being celebrated this year, the 200th anniversary of his birth and 150th anniversary of the publication of his “On the Origin of Species.”

The fossil itself, according to Sky News, was actually discovered by an amateur fossil-hunter 25 years ago in Messel Pit, a location near Frankfurt, Germany, famous for its fossils. Ida was then cleaned, set in polyester resin and hung on a wall as part of a collection for 20 years.

Professor Hurum encountered Ida in 2006, in the hands of a private fossil dealer and reportedly knew the almost complete skeleton was a prize. Apparently, so did the dealer, for the asking price was over $1 million – reportedly 10 times what even top fossils fetch on the black market.

Hurum nonetheless raised enough money to purchase Ida and brought it to Norway for study. According to an ABC News report, examination of the fossil went on for two years in secret, before news of the upcoming announcement and media blitz leaked last week.

According to reports, Ida has been dated at 47 million years old, significantly older than Lucy, a partial skeleton believed by some to be a more direct ancestor of modern humans, which has been dated at only 3.18 million years old.

Evolutionist scientists point to several features that make Ida unique and make her a candidate to be a transitional form between lower mammals and the ape line that supposedly gave rise to the evolution of humankind.

According to the Times of London, unlike modern lemurs, Ida lacks a grooming claw and a fused row of teeth on her lower jaw known as a toothcomb. Her opposable thumbs, fingernails instead of claws and talus bone on her foot further resemble apes more than lemurs.

“She is a transitional species showing characteristics from both the non-human (prosimians and lemurs) and human (anthropoids, monkeys, apes and man) evolutionary lines,” said the producers of the upcoming TV special about Ida in a statement.

And while several scientists pointed out the term “missing link” is a misnomer, claiming Ida is more likely humanity’s “great aunt” as opposed to “great grandmother,” evolutionists are no less enthused about her discovery.

“Now, for the first time, an incredibly complete early primate fossil has been discovered which provides us with direct evidence of an intermediate link between the human primate lineage and earlier mammals,” states The Link website devoted to publicizing the find. “Ida is an example of a transitional fossil between primitive primates and the prosimian and anthropoid branches, the latter of which eventually led to humans … She is the earliest, and one of the most significant links, ever found.”

Both Wells and Ham, however, told WND the hype and significance attached to this one fossil only points to how intense the debate is becoming between creation and evolution. It is not, they said, as decided in Darwin’s favor as David Attenborough has asserted.

“For Attenborough to come out and say, ‘We have the missing link; it’s no longer missing,’ only admits they haven’t had missing links before this time,” Ham told WND. “If evolution is so decided, why would they get all excited about one fossil that they find now, when they claim they’ve had proof of evolution for years?”

“When you listen to Darwinists, they claim their theory is as well established as gravity,” Wells told WND. “If that were really the case, we wouldn’t be getting these startling announcements that we finally found the proof that we need. There wouldn’t be any controversy. This would be like someone running up and saying, ‘Stop the presses. I just saw another apple fall from the tree; Newton was right!’ In the evolutionists’ own framework, it’s nonsense. It demonstrates their theory is not as well established as they claim.”

 



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