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Media Overblows Claims of “Human Evolution”: Examining the Newest “Missing Link”

Recently I highlighted how the coverage of Tiktaalik revealed the fascinating phenomenon that only after discovering a new “missing link” will evolutionists acknowledge the previously paltry state of fossil evidence for evolution. This behavior is again witnessed in coverage of the discovery of Australopithecus anamensis fossils in Ethiopia. The media has also exaggerated and overblown claims that this evidence supports “human evolution.”

The latest “missing link” is actually comprised of a few tooth and bone fragments of Au. anamensis, an ape-like species that lived a little over 4 million years ago. Incredibly, claims of “intermediacy” are based upon 2-3 fragmented canines of “intermediate” size and shape. This has now led to grand claims in the media of finding a “missing link.” Because some bone fragments from Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus afarensis were also found in the area, MSNBC highlighted these finds on a front-page article calling this “the most complete chain of human evolution so far.” Media coverage of this find thus follows an identical pattern to that of Tiktaalik: incredibly overblown claims of a “transitional fossil” follow stark admissions of how previously bleak the evidence was for evolution. Moreover, claims that this find enlightens “human evolution” are misleading, as these fossils come from ape-like species that long-predate the appearance of our genus Homo, and thought to be far removed from the origin of “humans.”

Evolution was “obscure” then and it’s obscure now:

As noted, evolutionists only admit how weak the evidence was for evolution after they have some new allegedly “transitional” fossil in their hands. Compare how identical diction was used in Nature to concede the previously “obscure” evidence for tetrapod, and then now australopithecine evolution after recent fossil discoveries were made:

Tiktaalik: “[T]he origin of major tetrapod features has remained obscure for lack of fossils that document the sequence of evolutionary changes” (Daeschler et al., “A Devonian tetrapod-like fish and the evolution of the tetrapod body plan,” Nature, Vol 440:757-763 (April 6, 2006); emphasis added)

Australopithecus: “Until recently, the origins of Australopithecus were obscured by a sparse fossil record.” (White et al., “Asa Issie, Aramis and the origin of Australopithecus,” Nature, Vol 440:883-889 (April 13, 2006); emphasis added)

Apparently the MSNBC article even felt comfortable enough to admit that we never previously had a continuous sequence of fossils documenting “human evolution” in one place:

“Until now, what scientists had were snapshots of human evolution scattered around the world. Finding everything all in one general area makes those snapshots more of a mini home movie of evolution.”

(Fossil discovery fills gap in human evolution, by Seth Borenstein, Associated Press, 4/12/06)

Of course the lack of a “mini home movie” never bothered evolutionists before: critics have always been told not to request continuous fossil sequences exhibiting evolution because species can migrate, and often the evolution takes place in small, isolated populations that don’t get preserved as fossils. As Niles Eldredge once said, evolution seems to always be “going on somewhere else.”

We wouldn’t expect to find a continuous sequence of fossil species evolving all in on place; at least, that’s what we were told before they found these fossil specimens.

If the origin of Australopithecus was previously “obscured by a sparse fossil record,” then one would presume that now we have the answers. Turns out the evidence still remains very “obscure.”

What did they really find?
What has really been found has been said to be nothing “new,” just an interesting new “location”:

“The species anamensis is not new, but its location is what helps explain the shift from one early phase of human-like development to the next, scientists say.” (MSNBC article, emphasis added)

According to the National Geographic news article, the find consisted “mainly of jawbone fragments, upper and lower teeth, and a thigh bone”–not an impressive array of bones. The Nature article notes that the teeth they found are nothing new because they “definitively place the Asa Issie sample within expected ranges of Au. anamensis variation.” (Nature 440:883-889.) So in other words, they found a few tooth and bone fragments representative of a pre-existing species–nothing truly new!

Missing Link or Missing Teeth?
Incredibly, the entire claim that this species represents a “transitional form” is due to a couple teeth which have intermediate size:

“‘This appears to be the link between Australopithecus and Ardipithecus as two different species,’ White said. The major noticeable difference between the phases of man can be seen in Australopithecus’ bigger chewing teeth to eat harder food, he said.” (MSNBC article)

If this incredible new evidence isn’t about to make you a convert, then consider how impressive the media has stated this evidence is:

“The latest fossil unearthed from a human ancestral hot spot in Africa allows scientists to link together the most complete chain of human evolution so far.” (MSNBC article)

But here’s where the evolutionists make their public relations error: if this is “the most complete chain,” then their best “chain” has a lot of missing “links.” These bone fragments purportedly tell us how the ape-like genus Australopithecus evolved from the ape-like genus Ardipithecus. Let’s look at 3 graphics to asses just how impressive this evidence actually is:

1. Photo of the bone and tooth fragments from which came this “missing link”:

(from MSNBC article)

Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.