Is IDA the ‘Missing Link’?

The discovery of the 95%-complete ‘lemur monkey’

Ida FossilNow that “95%-complete lemur monkey” is one of the few factual statements in the various press releases about the new fossil named Ida announced last May 20, 2009. -when it is described as a Lemur-monkey! But there also were some incredible statements made such as:    “This little creature is going to show us our connection with the rest of the mammals,” and “The link they would have said up to now is missing – well it’s no longer missing.”

And just what did these fossil experts, led by Professor Jorn Hurum, of Norway, actually have? A 95% complete fossil of a 1 foot 9 inch tall young female monkey that was first discovered 25 years ago. The hype around the public announcement including journalists gushing over it and saying Darwin’s theory is now proven, was incredible on the day the press releases were made. (Whoa! Was this an admission that it wasn’t proven before Ida?)

But hype about Darwin is what most of the press releases were really about, and the fanfare even embarrassed the more serious evolutionists. The articles at the time and since then have very few specifics as to why its a missing link. This hype will fade away just like all the other false starts with missing links before it, only quicker.

So let’s look at the fossil itself. It is not even 2-feet tall. Just from the picture you can see it has the tail of a monkey, the feet of a monkey, the cranium of a monkey. It is a monkey. The type is still to be determined – perhaps an immature lemur or close relative. But it is a well preserved fairly complete fossil of a MONKEY. (Ever notice how when these fossils of what’s obviously part of a squished monkey or ape are always heralded as ancestors of humans, never as an ancestor of one of today’s apes or monkeys? Don’t monkeys get to have ancestors?)

Ida LemurThe articles also say the fossil has signs of its fur. And we can see what it ate for dinner – undigested leaves and fruit. It was squished down to the thickness of a beer mat long before it had a chance to rot, decay in shallow water, be eaten, or be consumed by insects and scavengers.  IT WAS RAPIDLY BURIED by TONS and TONS of mud that turned to sedimentary rock mixed with volcanic ash much like we see all over the Earth. It is as if it had just eaten dinner, got caught in a flood-induced giant mudslide or tsunami, broke its hand, (so it could not keep up with its friends) and was immediately buried in ocean sediments that included volcanic ash very much like what we see in massive mud slides that are part of big floods and tsunamis today. Only this was bigger. Perhaps part of the world wide flood that produced these kinds of fossils of fully developed recognizable animal-types all over the earth? – and all with no transitional kinds – including Ida!

Why all the Hype now?

So, what was wrong with all the other fossils over the years? Why all the excitement about this one? It is an admission that they don’t have much after 150 years of looking, and looking desperately. All the supposed fossil transitional forms are too few and too tenuous under scrutiny. The story of humans descending from apes is falling apart due to lack of evidence. That’s why the extreme hype and excitement now. They have nothing else.

Sky News reported that the researchers said that this ‘proof’ of a transitional species finally confirms Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.  BBC announcer Attenborough commented that the missing link “is no longer missing”. This sounds like an obvious admission that Darwin’s theory was not proven all this time, that they had no ‘missing links’, and that they had nothing but ‘stories’ up until now. It is quite obvious that they still have nothing but an extinct little monkey. As Ken Ham has said, if evolution is so decided, why would they get all excited about one fossil that they find now, when they claim they’ve had proof of evolution for years?

Much of the excitement over Ida appears to stem from a well-coordinated public relations effort to promote an upcoming documentary and a new book titled The Link.

“The PR campaign on this fossil is, I think more of a story than the fossil itself”, said anthropologist Matt Cartmill of Duke University in North Carolina. “Its a very beautiful fossil, but I didn’t see anything in this paper that told me anything decisive that was new.”  From article: Amid Media Circus, Scientists Doubt Ida Is Your Ancestor – Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience, May 20, 2009

Supposed age is why some felt they NEED it to be a human ancestor

The theory of evolution is based on ideas of significant biological changes over long periods of time. By their own dating methods, this fossil is supposed to be 47 million years old. In their storyline, humans did not exist then, just the forerunners of today’s humans and monkeys and apes. So this fossil, HAS to be different, it HAS to be an ancestor of humans to some extent. And that’s the story they WANT and went with. Darwin would be happy about this, so they say. But close examination shows its just a type of small monkey like today’s small monkeys. And no amount of paleo-babble is going to change that.

Whenever you read similar articles of these finds you may have to dig carefully, but you can usually find how the specimen was dated,  – how they came up with millions of years. It is never from the dating of the actual bones or creature itself. Sometimes its based on the surrounding rocks using index fossils (a method of circular reasoning)  to provide their desired answers.

In this case, it was radiometric dating based on the location’s (Messel shale pit near Frankfurt Germany) volcanic rocks. Most people should know by now that radiometric dating has enormous assumptions and is often dismissed. Especially when used on volcanic rocks. The amounts of daughter & parent elements are unknowns but big assumptions are made in order to do the math. When radiometric dating is done on volcanic rocks of known ages (such as rocks known to be less than 200 years old or even younger from the actual dates of eruptions) the radiometric dating always comes back at millions of years, and has to be dismissed. Its only when we do not know the actual age of the volcanic rock are we told to trust it!  Through other research we know today that radioactive decay rates have also changed (slowed down) to todays rates. We know radiometric dating is unreliable and is typically off by millions of years.

The early articles about Ida also mention Lucy. In Lucy’s case the surrounding rocks were also radiometric dated. But then further research on the rocks above and below Lucy, made their dating scheme look wrong. So those radiometric dates were abandoned in favor of index fossils (ancient pig bones) also in Lucy’s rock layer. That’s how they finally got the “right answer” – at least according to the false theory of Darwinism.

The Lesson:  Think critically. Learn to separate the hype from the facts and that what we get from evolutionists (especially their liberal journalistic friends) is a lot of hype and little science.


Additional notes:

Thus, rather than an apeman-like missing link that some media sources have irresponsibly implied, the real story is quite underwhelming and should in no way faze creationists. Let’s first review the facts:

  • The well-preserved fossil (95 percent complete, including fossilized fur and more) is about the size of a raccoon and includes a long tail. It resembles the skeleton of a lemur (a small, tailed, tree-climbing primate). The fossil does not resemble a human skeleton.
  • The fossil was found in two parts by amateur fossil hunters in 1983. It eventually made its way through fossil dealers to the research team.
  • Ida has opposable thumbs, which the ABC News article states are similar to humans and unlike those found on other modern mammals (i.e., implying that opposable thumbs are evidence of evolution). Yet lemurs today have opposable thumbs (like all primates). Likewise, Ida has nails, as do other primates. And the talus bone is described as the same shape as in humans, despite the fact that there are other differences in the ankle structure.
  • Unlike todays lemurs (as far as scientists know), Ida lacks the grooming claw and a toothcomb (a fused row of teeth) In fact, its teeth are more similar to a monkeys. These are minor differences easily explained by variation within a kind. And in no way proves Darwinian evolution.


Yet within a few hours of the unveiling of the fossil  “coordinated to coincide with the publication of the scientific paper on Ida”  some better media outlets began to report some worrying things about the research. It seems as though the scientific process had been rushed and the claims exaggerated in a bid to promote a new documentary and book on the fossil. Sadly, media pressures sometimes trump full research integrity (something we’ve seen before), and careless media sources reprint explosive (and unjustified) quotations without consulting as many scientists as they should. Thankfully, though, many in the scientific community are questioning the research and beginning to become more vocal about their concerns regarding how good science and the media aren’t the best mix.

Jorn Hurum at the University of Oslo, the scientist who assembled the international team of researchers to study Ida is relaxed about using the phrase “missing link” to describe Ida.  Why not? I think we could use that phrase for this kind of specimen, he said. [People] have a feeling that if something is important, then it is a missing link.

In the paper published in PLoS ONE from the Public Library of Science on the fossil [the author] is more circumspect. 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 authors wrote:   ” [The species] could represent a stem group from which later anthropoid primates evolved [the line leading to humans], but we are not advocating this here.”

The paper’s scientific reviewers also asked that the writers tone down their original claims that the fossil was on the human evolutionary line.

One of those reviewers, Professor John Fleagle at Stony Brook University in New York state said that would be a judgment for the scientific community. That will be sorted out or at least debated extensively in the coming years once the paper is published, he said.

Is Fossil Ida a Missing Link in Evolution?
James Randerson, The Guardian, May 19, 2009

Despite a television teaser campaign with the slogan “This changes everything” and comparisons to the moon landing and the Kennedy assassination, the significance of this discovery may not be known for years. An article to be published on Tuesday in PLoS ONE, a scientific journal, will report more prosaically that the scientists involved said the fossil could be a stem group that was a precursor to higher primates, with the caveat, but we are not advocating this.

All of this seems a departure from the normal turn of events, where researchers study their subject and publish their findings, and let the media chips fall where they may.

Seeking a Missing Link, and a Mass Audience
Tim Arango, The New York Times, May 19, 2009

University of New England paleoanthropologist Peter Brown remains skeptical. He pointed to a story in the Weekend Australian in which one of  Jorn Hurum’s coauthors, University of Michigan paleontologist Philip Gingerich, said the team would have preferred to publish in a more rigorous journal such as Science or Nature.   Dr. Gingerich told the Wall Street Journal:  “There was a TV company involved and time pressure. Weve been pushed to finish the study. Its not how I like to do science.”

“That rings all sorts of warning bells,” Professor Brown cautioned. He said that however it was prepared, “the paper did not provide sufficient proof that Ida was the ancestral anthropoid.”

“Its nice it has fingernails, something we have, as do most primates . . . but they’ve cherry-picked particular character[istics] and they’ve been criticized (by other scientists) for doing that.”

Scientists Divided on Ida as the Missing Link
Leigh Dayton, The Australian, May 21, 2009

On the whole I think the evidence is less than convincing, said Chris Gilbert, a paleoanthropologist at Yale University. They make an intriguing argument but I would definitely say that the consensus is not in favor of the hypothesis they’re proposing. . . .

The PR campaign on this fossil is I think more of a story than the fossil itself, said anthropologist Matt Cartmill of Duke University in North Carolina. Its a very beautiful fossil, but I didnt see anything in this paper that told me anything decisive that was new.

Most experts agree that the find is significant, if only for its impressive degree of completeness, but some were put off by the bells and whistles that went along with the publicity campaign around Ida. . . .

Its not a missing link, its not even a terribly close relative to monkeys, apes and humans, which is the point theyre trying to make, [Carnegie Museum of Natural History curator of vertebrate paleontology Chris] Beard said.

Amid Media Circus, Scientists Doubt Ida Is Your Ancestor
Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience, May 20, 2009

Many paleontologists are unconvinced. They point out that Hurum and Gingerich’s analysis compared 30 traits in the new fossil with primitive and higher primates when standard practice is to analyze 200 to 400 traits and to include anthropoids from Egypt and the newer fossils of Eosimias from Asia, both of which were missing from the analysis in the paper. There is no phylogenetic analysis to support the claims, and the data is cherry-picked, says paleontologist Richard Kay . . . of Duke University. Callum Ross, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois agrees: Their claim that this specimen should be classified as haplorhineis unsupportable in light of modern methods of classification.

Other researchers grumble that by describing the history of anthropoids as somewhat speculatively identified lineages of isolated teeth, the PLoS paper dismisses years of new fossils. Its like going back to 1994, says paleontologist K. Christopher Beard of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who has published jaw, teeth, and limb bones of Eosimias. Theyve ignored 15 years of literature.

Revolutionary Fossil Fails to Dazzle Paleontologists
Ann Gibbons, ScienceNOW, May 19, 2009

Science is supposed to be methodical, and usually it is, sometimes to the point of being dull. But there are times when a little hoopla is called for. Major discoveries that rewrite the textbooks deserve big headlines and ubiquitous media coverage and lots of scientific slaps on the back and all that.

The discovery of the Ida fossil, announced this week as though the 47-million-year-old lemur-like female were a rock star, seemed at first like one to celebrate.

Today we know better. . . . [T]here are doubts about whether [humans are] really descended from Ida. Problem is, most of the coverage is done, and the public could be left with the impression that Ida is a rock-solid missing link in the human evolutionary chain. . . .

Its not a missing link, its not even a terribly close relative to monkeys, apes and humans, which is the point theyre trying to make, said Chris Beard, a curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. . . .

The debacle started to unfold when the finding, cloaked in secrecy while a media engine was being primed, leaked out in The Wall Street Journal, and then in Londons Daily Mail. Then The New York Times wrote about the media circus that was to ensue. All this was published before anyone but the research team (and its tightly controlled media team) knew the details of the finding. . . .

Ida’s unveiling was highly scripted (with “some Barnum and Bailey aspects”, said paleontologist Richard Kay of Duke University). More important, it can now be said the findings may well have been significantly overstated. We won’t know for sure until further research is done. But if this event causes the public to distrust science and media, that distrust is well placed.

Ida Fossil Hype Went Too Far
Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience, May 20, 2009


One Comment on “Is IDA the ‘Missing Link’?”

  1. Good article. There’s a David Attenborough documentary on Ida, and they say directly that the person who actually dug up the fossil is anonymous. But this person managed to coat the fossil slate in amber; then “25 years” later a seller of rare artfacts mysteriously discovered it and sold it for over $1 million at an artfacts market. The age and location of the find are therefore impossible to determine; which makes this whole discovery a bundle of assumptions, guesses, and wishful thinking… possibly even an amber-entombed hoax on the order of Piltdown Man. For all we know, it’s a Lemur from 10,000 years ago, from Madagascar. It would be nice if truth ruled science again.

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