Tuesday, May 26, 2009

IDA Never Believed It If I Hadn't Seen It Myself

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about Ida (technical name: Darwinius masillae), the latest of the missing links that claims to "prove" the Evolutionary connection between we humans and our earliest ancestors. Because the story has been so big in the news, I feel compelled to pause from the topic I have been pursuing and throw in a comment about it. The actual research report about the find can be read (here) but a quick summary of the scientific facts includes these characteristics that have made her so famous. Ida:
  • has nails instead of claws
  • does not have a "toothcomb" or a "grooming claw"
  • has opposable thumbs
  • has the dental features of a monkey
  • has the ankle bone of a monkey, not a lemur
Ida, in other words, seem to be one of the first specimens of a group known as the haplorrhines which includes monkeys, the great apes and humans, that make her distinct from her lemur "cousins." But even if that is true -- and I have no reason to doubt that it is -- I am no paleontologist or biology expert, but there are obvious discrepancies in the story that make me question the significance of this specimen.

First, Ida is 47 million years old. Even if full-blown Darwinian Evolution were true, her relationship to modern humans could not be described in any way as a "missing link." Even Darwinists seem to agree that modern humans appeared on the scene at most 100,000 years ago. And the oldest hominids that we are presumed to have evolved from date to only 7 million years ago. So simple logic tells us that the missing link would be found between the more recent ancestors (the hominids) and us. Ida is a precursor to both, not a link between them.

Second, Ida is anything but a "new find." She was discovered in 1983, split into two parts, and only recently pieced back together. The hype surrounding this story just happens to correspond with the release of the History Channel documentary about her and a book, "The Link," that was released the same week ("... was $60.94, but you can get both the DVD and book today for just $48.75! ..."). Ida, in other words, is little more than a marketing gimic.

Finally, this just seems to be another in a long line of empty promises about "missing links." Evolutionary theory posits that we should find billions of such links all over the place. So it constantly amuses me when the media makes such a big deal about finding one. If the theory that proposes them is an indisputable fact -- as we are constantly told -- why would finding one of these intermediary fossils demand all the dramatic hoopla? It seems they celebrateth too much. My guess is that Ida will slowly be found to lead down the same path as Lucy -- a find that at least promised some level of hope in demonstrating the human-ape link these folks so want to find -- which was later shown to be a dead end.

I do not want to give the impression that no amount of evidence will convince me that common descent (CD) is true. I am always willing to look at the evidence. But so far, every find that proposes to "prove" CD requires that you assume it in order to see it in the evidence put forth. Beyond that, even if common descent does prove to be true, it does nothing to establish the molecules-to-man, naturalistic theory of Evolution or the design we find in even the simplest living organism.

I'm sure Ida's a nice lady, but she doesn't seem to be too promising as a potential relative.

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