“Hype and Over-Interpretation” Causing Family Feud Over New Hominid Fossil (Updated)

Long ago a wise king solved an interfamily dispute with a simple solution: split the baby. Now paleoanthropologists are fighting–with little resolution in sight–about how to interpret newly discovered hominid fossils, which comprise about 130 bones from multiple individuals. Focused on a single juvenile specimen, the debate is over whether the fossils represent human evolutionary ancestors, just a new species that split off and went extinct, or another previously known species of little significance to human evolution. While many news articles are touting the fossil as a human ancestor or even a “missing link” (see, for example, AOL news or the London Telegraph), what’s encouraging is a couple sources in the mainstream media (though just a couple) are functioning like Read More ›

Ida’s Critics Demolish Claims That Fossil Is Human Evolutionary Link

Remember Ida? The fossil hailed as the “eighth wonder of the world” whose “impact on the world of palaeontology” would be like “an asteroid falling down to Earth”? She was promised to be “the link that connects us directly with the rest of the animal kingdom.” She was touted on a History Channel / BBC documentary, but then there was the bust. Well, Ida’s critics have now gotten around to publishing technical articles critiquing the hyped view promoted to the public last year. A recent news release at the University of Texas, “Recently Analyzed Fossil Was Not Human Ancestor As Claimed, Anthropologists Say,” explains: A fossil that was celebrated last year as a possible “missing link” between humans and early Read More ›

Smithsonian’s New Human Origins Exhibit Targets Students Who Doubt Darwinism

The Smithsonian has a new human origins exhibit, “What does it mean to be human?” specially targeted at swaying student visitors who might doubt Darwinian evolution. The most amusing part of the exhibit proudly explains that evolution predicted we’d lack evidence for evolution; that’s how we know it’s true! That’s right, this is how the nation’s most prestigious natural history museum presents evolution: evolution predicts that evolution is supported both when we do and when we don’t find confirming fossil evidence. Consider the following from the educator’s guide: Misconception: Gaps in the fossil record disprove evolution. Response: Science actually predicts gaps in the fossil record. Many species leave no fossils at all, and the environmental conditions for forming good fossils Read More ›

The Evolution of “Ida”: Darwinius masillae Fossil Downgraded From Ancestor to Pet

A few months ago, “Ida” was sitting on top of the world. She’d been lauded as the “eighth wonder of the world” whose “impact on the world of palaeontology” would be like “an asteroid falling down to Earth.” Falling, indeed. On October 21, Nature published an article announcing that “[a] 37-million-year-old fossil primate from Egypt, described today in Nature, moves a controversial German fossil known as Ida out of the human lineage.” Wired also published a story, noting that, “[f]ar from spawning the ancestors of humans, the 47 million-year-old Darwinius seems merely to have gone extinct, leaving no descendants,” further quoting a paleontologist calling Ida “a third cousin twice removed … only very distantly related to living and fossil anthropoids.” Read More ›

Artificially Reconstructed “Ardi” Overturns Prevailing Evolutionary Hypotheses of Human Evolution

The missing link presently being touted in the media, Ardipithecus ramidus, has had more reconstructive surgery than Michael Jackson. Assuming that their “extensive digital reconstruction” of its “badly crushed and distorted bones” is accurate, what does A. ramidus (or “Ardi” as the fawning media is affectionately calling it) really show us that we didn’t already know? We already knew of upright walking / tree-climbing, small-brained hominids–that’s what Lucy, an australopithecine, was. We already knew that there were australopithecine fossils dating back to before 4 million years, and this fossil is only a little bit older. So what does this fossil teach us? Assuming all the reconstructions of Ardi’s crushed bones are objective and accurate, this fossil teaches us at least Read More ›