Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Missing Link? Again?

It’s been all over the news this week. The search is over! The “Missing Link” has been found! Sure it has…

Before we get all excited, there have been “Missing Links” found before this, that, after time, have turned out to be nothing more than monkey business. In the 60’s & 70’s, the paleontological world was abuzz with the discoveries that Dr. Louis Leakey had made in the Olduvai Gorge of East Africa. Australopithecus boisei, also known as “Zinjanthropus” and “Nutcracker Man,” was proclaimed far and wide as the “Missing Link.” But, today, none of the members of the Robusta group of Australopithecines is considered part of mankind’s family tree.

By the time I was in college, Australopithecus afarensis, commonly known as “Lucy”, had replaced Au. Boisei as what was considered the “Missing Link.”

Donald Johanson discovered “Lucy” in 1974, and, through the 80’s and 90’s, “Lucy” was pushed as the “Missing Link.” But, by the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century, “Lucy” was losing her place in the family tree. Slowly, like others before her, “Lucy” has drifted from the Human-ancestor column fully into the Ape column.

Now, they give us “Ida!” “Ida” has been identified as Darwinus masillae (yes, named after Charles Darwin in this, the 200th anniversary of his birth), and appears to be a fossilized lemur monkey. And, of course, they’ve dated the fossil at 47 million-years-old. Of “Ida” Sir David Attenborough has said, “"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. Now people can say 'okay we are primates, show us the link'. The link they would have said up to now is missing - well it's no longer missing.”

Of course, actual scientific articles do not make the same sensational claims that we’re seeing on Fox News and reading in National Geographic (SkyNews was the most fawning that I’ve seen so far, saying things like, “Researchers say proof of this transitional species finally confirms Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, and the then radical, outlandish ideas he came up with during his time aboard the Beagle.”.) The conclusions in the scientific article states, “Darwinius masillae is important in being exceptionally well preserved and providing a much more complete understanding of the paleobiology of an Eocene primate than was available in the past.” The phrase “Missing Link” in not found in the article published at PLoS ONE.

Time, I’m sure, will, in a matter of a few decades at the most, cause “Ida” to also fade out of the spotlight, as new candidates for “Missing Link” are brought forth. Meanwhile, here are a few things from Answers in Genesis to keep in mind:

Nothing about this fossil suggests it is anything other than an extinct, lemur-like creature. Its appearance is far from chimpanzee, let alone “apeman” or human.

A fossil can never show evolution. Fossils are unchanging records of dead organisms. Evolution is an alleged process of change in live organisms. Fossils show “evolution” only if one presupposes evolution, then uses that presupposed belief to interpret the fossil.

Similarities can never show evolution. If two organisms have similar structures, the only thing it proves is that the two have similar structures. One must presuppose evolution to say that the similarities are due to evolution rather than design. Furthermore, when it comes to “transitional forms,” the slightest similarities often receive great attention while major differences are ignored.

The remarkable preservation is a hallmark of rapid burial. Team member Jørn Hurum of the University of Oslo said, “This fossil is so complete. Everything’s there. It’s unheard of in the primate record at all. You have to get to human burial to see something that’s this complete.” Even the contents of Ida’s stomach were preserved. While the researchers believe Ida sunk to the bottom of a lake and was buried, this preservation is more consistent with a catastrophic flood.4 Yet Ida was found with “hundreds of well-preserved specimens.”

If evolution were true, there would be real transitional forms. Instead, the best “missing links” evolutionists can come up with are strikingly similar to organisms we see today, usually with the exception of minor, controversial, and inferred anatomical differences.

Because the fossil is similar to a modern lemur (a small, tailed, tree-climbing primate), it’s unlikely that creationists need any interpretation of the “missing link” other than that it was a small, tailed, probably tree-climbing, and now extinct primate—from a kind created on Day 6 of Creation Week.

It turns out that the publicity surrounding this fossil is the result of a concerted campaign, "including a film detailing the secretive two-year study of the fossil, a book release, an exclusive arrangement with ABC News and an elaborate Web site," orchestrated by the History Channel. Looks like the Link is still Missing!

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