November 16, 2018

Lemur-Like Fossil, “Ida,” Says Nothing About Alleged Human Evolution

by Joshua Gurtler

The popular press has been raving about the fossilized primate skeleton nick-named “Ida.” She has been hailed as the “eighth wonder of the world” and is supposedly evolution’s “missing link” between humans and what are considered “early” primates. A quick review of the literature and scientific commentary surrounding this controversy, however, reveals that Ida is nothing for creationists to lose sleep over. By all appearances, the uproar is only another smoke and mirrors publicity campaign orchestrated by Darwinian paleontologists, publishers, and museum curators vying for the spotlight and a return on their investment. The pro-evolution, left leaning, online encyclopedia Wikipedia has done a thorough job describing the exaggerations and sensationalism surrounding Ida, leaving the impression that there is little here to fuss over.

What We Know

The fossilized remains of a supposedly 47 million-year-old lemur-like creature were, according to reports, uncovered in 1983 in the Messel pit outside Darmstadt Germany. Half of the skeleton was sold to a museum in Wyoming. The other half was held in secrecy until 2007 when it was sold for $750,000 to a University of Oslo professor, Dr. Jorn Hurum, and a scientific team he assembled. Hurum and team reportedly bought the specimen after two other museums turned down offers to buy the piece as too expensive. The fossil was purchased to be put on display in the University of Oslo Museum of Natural History. The significance of the finding is that it is 95% complete, and represents a new genus and/or species of animal. The new genus was named Darwinus, in honor of Charles Darwin, and its unveiling was arranged to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the naturalist.

When you filter through all the media hype, here are the less-than-convincing facts. (1) Darwinists classify apes, monkeys, and humans into a group of “higher” primates known as anthropoids. However, for 150 years there has been no consensus as from what line of “early” primates the anthropoids descended. (2) A splinter group of evolutionists (including Jorn Hurum and his team) believe the evolutionary line of anthropoids should be traced back to a group of “lower” primates called adapids. (3) Adapids are currently classified in the superfamily Strepsirrhines, a group that includes living lemurs. (4) The Hurum team argues that adapids (including Ida) should be reclassified out of the lemur line and into the Superfamily Haplorhini along with anthropoids. Thus, Hurum argues, Ida is the link between the most primitive primates and modern anthropoids.

Darwinists Answer Darwinists

Many renowned pro-Darwin scientists have dissented from Hurum’s conclusions. Here are eight examples.

1. Standard analysis of a primate specimen involves comparing 200 – 400 traits with the latest Eosimias fossils from Asia as well as anthropoids from Egypt. Hurum’s team did not include these fossils in their analyses and examined only thirty characteristics from Ida. In this regard, Dr. Richard Kay of Duke University stated, "There is no phylogenetic analysis to support the claims, and the data is cherry-picked" (as quoted in Gibbons, 2009).

2. University of Chicago paleontologist, Callum Ross also disagrees with Hurum’s conclusions, stating, “Their claim that this specimen should be classified as haplorhine is unsupportable in light of the modern methods of classification” (Ibid.).

3. Christopher Beard, curator of paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, commenting on the failure of Hurum’s team to consider the latest research stated, “It’s like going back to 1994. . . . They’ve ignored 15 years of literature” (Ibid.). Beard also disagrees that Ida should be reclassified with anthropoids. In an article in New Scientist he stated, “In order to establish that connection, Ida would have to have anthropoid-like features that evolved after anthropoids split away from lemurs and other early primates. Here, alas, Ida fails miserably. So, Ida is not a ‘missing link’ – at least not between anthropoids and more primitive primates” (Beard 2009a). In another interview, Dr. Beard stated, "This fossil is not as close to monkeys, apes, and humans as we are being led to believe" (Beard 2009b). Beard was further quoted as saying, "I actually don't think it's terribly close to the common ancestral line of monkeys, apes and people. I would say it's about as far away as you can get from that line and still be a primate" (Ritter, 2009). Beard said that he "would be absolutely dumbfounded if it [Ida] turns out to be a potential ancestor to humans" (McGourty, 2009).

4. University of New England paleoanthropologist Peter Brown states that Hurum’s team did not offer sufficient proof that Ida was ancestral to humans. “It's nice it has fingernails, something we have, as do most primates . . . but they've cherry-picked particular characters and they've been criticised (by other scientists) for doing that" (Dayton, 2009).

5. John Fleagle of the State University of New York at Stony Brook called Ida a “pretty weak link” and stated, "It doesn't really tell us much about anthropoid origins, quite frankly” (Ritter, 2009).

6. Matt Cartmill, an anthropologist from Duke University said "The P.R. campaign on this fossil is I think more of a story than the fossil itself" (Moskowitz, 2009).

7. Dr. Henry Gee, a senior editor for the most esteemed scientific journal in the world, Nature, has repeatedly stated that it is misleading to claim that Ida is a “missing link.”

8. To be accepted for publication in a scientific peer-reviewed journal, the editors required that Hurum’s team remove wording from their manuscript suggesting that the fossil was in the evolutionary line to humans

Questionable Motivation

Darwinists and intelligent design advocates, alike, have suggested that the manner in which Ida was unveiled to the world bears the marks of profiteering rather than an investment in the advancement of science. "You need an icon or two in a museum to drag people in," said Hurum, "this is our Mona Lisa and it will be our Mona Lisa for the next 100 years" (Randerson, 2009).

Dr. Hurum, already well known for profiting from pro-evolution TV documentaries, arranged for the production and broadcast of documentaries on Ida to be aired on BBC Television and the History Channel (owned by A&E Television Networks). This was all done before the scientific community was permitted to review his claims. Hurum also worked with Little, Brown publishers and Colin Tudge on the book “The Link – Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor” prior to official peer review by fellow paleontologists.

One article described the media controversy as follows: “Ida’s debut to the world was comprised of an astonishingly slick, multi-component media package. . . .‘The way these things used to work is that a finding was released in the scientific journals and then it finds its way into the more popular media, and then production companies find out about it and do a TV show.’ In the case of Ida, a production company got in on the ground floor, filming the entire research process as it happened” (Cline, 2009). In other words, Ida’s missing link status was predetermined before the claims could be corroborated or refuted by the scientific establishment.

One individual on Hurum’s team, Dr. Philip Gingerich, said they would like to have published their findings in a more credentialed scientific journal such as Nature or Science but told the Wall Street Journal, “There was a TV company involved and time pressure. We’ve been pushed to finish the study. It’s not how I like to do science.” In response, Dr. Peter Brown says, “That sounds all sorts of warning bells” (Dayton, 2009).

Questionable Scientific Scrutiny

To be accepted for publication in PloS One, the authors were required to remove wording that suggested the fossil was in the evolutionary line to humans. PloS One, published by the Public Library of Science, is an open access “inclusive” online journal. It is currently known as a newer venue with a less rigorous review process and a higher acceptance rate than other more prestigious journals. Whereas most journals typically require two or more reviewers to critique and approve a manuscript for publication, publishing in PloS One often includes only one peer reviewer and a $1,250 fee. If the discovery of Ida really is the “missing link” Darwinists have been searching for since the 1859 publication of The Origin of Species, you can be assured it would have been published in a journal of notoriety such as Paleobiology, Nature, or Science.

Ida Appears to be a Mosaic, not a Transition

Creationists and ID advocates should take comfort that for the past 150 years, Darwinists continue to grasp at straws in attempts to prove that humans evolved from primates. To date, there is no scientific consensus as to the uncontested validity of a series of missing links in line to humans. The fact that Ida has fingernails, typical of most primates, is less significant than has been suggested. The presence of nails only proves that Ida represents a mosaic ( a term also used to describe other animals such as the Duck-Billed Platypus, Red Panda, Hoatzin, Archaeopteryx, Spiny Anteater, and the Pronghorn Antelope). There is no continuum of finely graduated transitional fossils that predate any of these animals. Where did they come from? Mosaics are creatures that look as if they have been piecemealed together by someone with an imagination. Were gradualistic Darwinian evolution true, there would be countless millions of transitional fossils exhibiting all the intermediary animal forms between the amoeba and man. What is really found are animals appearing suddenly and, apart from special creation, inexplicably. The late Harvard paleontologist Stephen J. Gould said, "The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution" (1980).

Concluding Thoughts

The good that can come from this controversy is another opportunity for the wheat to be separated from the chaff by testing individual honesty and scientific integrity. Like-minded truth-seekers (Darwinists and creationists alike) can unite and find common ground in opposing what is falsely called knowledge, potentially opening doors for meaningful and productive dialogue as Paul had in with the Athenians. “And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean’” (Acts 17:19, 20).

References

Beard, Christopher. 2009a. Why Ida Fossil is not the Missing Link. New Scientist. Accessed on 15 June, 2009 at:

www.newscientist.com/article/dn17173-why-ida-fossil-is-not-the-missing-link.html

Beard, Christopher. 2009b. The Missing Link? (An Interview) Nightline, ABC News television, May 20, 2009.

Cline, Elizabeth. Ida-lized! The Branding of a Fossil. Seed Magazine

. May 22, 2009.

Accessed on June 7, 2009 at http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/idalized_the_brand_of_a_fossil

Dayton, Leigh. Scientists divided on Ida as the missing link. 21 May, 2009. The Australian Newspaper. Accessed on 14 June, 2009 at: www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25515021-2702,00.html

Gibbons, Ann. "Revolutionary" Fossil Fails to Dazzle Paleontologists. ScienceNOW Daily News published by Science Magazine. May 19, 2009. Accessed on June 14, 2009 at: sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2009/519/1

Gould, Stephen, J. 1980. Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging? Paleobiology 6:119-130.

Moskowitz, Clara. Amid Media Circus, Scientists Doubt that Ida is Your Ancestor. 20 May, 2009. Live Science. Accessed on 16 June, 2009 at:

www.livescience.com/animals/090520-fossil-reactions.html

McGourty, Christine. Scientists Hail Stunning Fossil. BBC News. May 19, 2009.

Naik, Gautam. 2009. Fossil Discovery is Heralded. The Wall Street Journal. Accessed on 14 June, 2009 at:
online.wsj.com/article/SB124235632936122739.html.

Randerson, James. Fossil Ida: Extraordinary find is 'missing link' in human evolution. The Guardian. 19 May, 2009. Accessed on June 14, 2009 at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/may/19/ida-fossil-missing-link

Ritter, Malcolm. Early Skeleton Sheds Light on Primate Evolution. Associated Press Article. May 20, 2009. Accessed on 14 June, 2009 at:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090520/ap_on_sc/ancient_primate.

Truth Magazine Vol. LIII: 8 August 2009
Share