Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


The Missing Link?

Darwinius_masillae.jpg

Source: Public Library of Science journal

Could the fossil above, revealed to the public today at a news conference, be the long sought after “missing link” for evolution that some news outlets are claiming?  In actuality, the idea of a missing link is somewhat of a misnomer.  Evolutionary relations are more like a complex family tree, and no one species will ever link everything together.  Still, this fossil provides a glimpse at what our ancient evolutionary ancestors may have looked like.  Named Darwinius masillae after Charles Darwin and its place of discovery, the fossil shows a creature about the size of a small cat with four legs and a long tail.  To date, it is the best preserved fossil ever recovered of a primate, even revealing the contents of the creature’s stomach.
The fossilized creature is more like an “aunt” than a direct parent, says Jens Frazen, one of the German scientists who presented the new find.  However, other experts believe the link between the specimen to anthropoids may be much weaker.  “I would say it’s more like a third cousin twice removed,” said K. Christopher Beard of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

Still, even if it is only in a peripheral way, the new fossil offers a glimpse at our evolutionary ancestors.  While it may not revolutionize our understanding of evolution, the fossil is just another piece of evidence showing that evolution has occurred, as Darrel addressed in his blog yesterday.

You can read the entire Associated Press story here and watch video of the official press conference on The History Channel.


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Comments read comments(13)
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bob

posted May 20, 2009 at 11:21 am


this is fake and i do not beleave that u came from that thing apart from a guy called jake cassie allan stewart



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Bill

posted May 20, 2009 at 11:42 am


This is to be expected with the 200th anniversary of Darwin. Trying to salvage a hopeless theory. 200 years of investigation has not produced one shred of evidence for evolution. If the truth of special creation can’t be accepted because that means accoutability to God, at least come up with a theory that has some solid evidence. This horse is DEAD!



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Steven Sullivan

posted May 20, 2009 at 12:25 pm


The only thing hopeless is the ignorance of those who think evolution is somehow ‘in trouble’. I’m a biologist; I assue you that when scientists hear that, they laugh or shake their heads; it’s just so ludicrously wrong as to be absurd. It’s like insisting that the round-earth model is ‘in trouble’. There’s THAT much evidence for the fact of evolution.
Bill and bob are living in a bizarro world where mainstream science — where the fact that evolution occurs is uncontroversial — is filtered through fearful, ignorant religious ideology. It’s a pity Bill and bob his fellows are getting all their information from preachers and misinformation groups like the Discovery Institute, rather than mainstream scientists.



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JT

posted May 20, 2009 at 12:26 pm


It looks like a monkey.



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KW

posted May 20, 2009 at 12:53 pm


It’s not a ‘missing link’, really. It’s not like evolution was missing something desperately important. There’s quite a lot of evidence out there, aside from this.
With that being said, it does seem interesting. I’m curious to see what eventually happens.
Steven, good comment.



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The BioLogos Foundation

posted May 20, 2009 at 1:52 pm


If you have the time, we encourage you to read through our Questions at BioLogos.org for more about evolutionary theory. In particular, Question 2 and Question 24 may provide some useful responses.



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Matt Hartman

posted May 20, 2009 at 1:59 pm


To understand these kinds of finds you need to picture a huge family tree which includes every living thing that has lived on this planet over the past couple billion years. Now select one individual, which this fossil represents. The likelihood of it being a direct ancestor of any modern branch is pretty much negligiable, so of course it’s going to be an “aunt” or “third cousin twice removed.” I’m not sure why that would be any kind of detraction from its significance.
Providing yet another peice of confirmational evidence of evolution in general or the even larger tree of life is not very significant either. There is already such an abundance of evidence that it’s kind of like doing yet another experiement to proove once again, that yes, an object falls to the ground when released – but I digress. The significance is that it allows us to narrow in on the date when the branch that includes modern lemurs separated from the monkeys and apes (which include us).
So why the title “Missing Link?” There is no missing link, simply uncertainties when certain divergences occurred and some uncertainty of the proper placement of earlier branches.



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The BioLogos Foundation

posted May 20, 2009 at 2:52 pm


Thank you for this response! We certainly were not trying to assert that a “missing link” truly exists but were merely playing off the wording some other news outlets were using to describe the find. To clear things up, I have gone through and made sure to let everyone know the idea of a “missing link” proving evolution is not scientifically sound and that we are not claiming Darwinius masillae to be it.



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Beaglelady

posted May 20, 2009 at 11:21 pm


I’ll be going to the American Museum of Natural History on Saturday so I’ll get to see the cast of Ida!



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Your Name

posted May 21, 2009 at 7:06 am


From my reading on evolution, most of it is a theoretical hypothesis. There are many problems with the theory of evolution, yet it is guarded with religious fervor. Could you please provide me with a linkor information that demonstrates the scientific proof that makes evolution through natural selection a law? Thank you.



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The BioLogos Foundation

posted May 21, 2009 at 10:30 am


If you have time, Darrel Falk’s “Coming to Peace with Science” provides some excellent reasons why evolution is scientifically sound, including evidence from both genetics and the fossil record. You may also find our “Questions” at BioLogos.org of value. Thanks for your response!



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Beaglelady

posted May 21, 2009 at 7:23 pm


The Understanding Evolution website has some excellent information that should get you started.



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Beaglelady

posted May 21, 2009 at 7:26 pm


Please see this site for some good information: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/



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