There is some irony in calling Ida the missing link. She was named Darwinius in honour of Charles Darwin, but the phrase “missing link” harkens back to a pre-evolutionary idea of nature. Called the Great Chain of Being, this interpreted all life as forming an immutable hierarchy, ordained by God, from “lower” to “higher”. Scholars believed that God favoured a full creation and each rank connected to the next, but “missing links” presented a problem. The link between humans and lower animals was the most elusive of all.There has already been one ill-conceived Answers in Genesis paper because of the hype.
Our understanding of evolution could scarcely be more different. There is no evolutionary end point or fore-ordained hierarchy of beasts. Life is better understood from Darwin's perspective - as a wildly branching bush constantly being pruned and sending out new shoots through evolution. Calling Ida a missing link may grab attention, but it is incongruous with what Darwin proposed.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A Warning About Ida
Brian Switek writes for the Times Online that the hype surrounding Ida, the 47 million year old primate fossil only gets in the way of real research and misleads people into thinking evolution predicts that which it does not. He writes: