Three weeks ago, with much fanfare, a team of scientists unveiled the fossil skeleton of Ardi, a 4-foot-tall female primate who lived and died 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia. According to her discoverers, Ardi - short for Ardipithecus ramidus, her species - is our oldest known ancestor. She predated Lucy, the fossilized Australopithecus afarensis that previously had claimed the title, by 1.2 million years.
The papers announcing the find described a transitional specimen, with the long arms and short legs of an ape and strong, grasping big toes suited to life in the trees, but also a pelvis whose shape allowed her to walk upright on the ground below.
That, at least, is what one discovered by following the coverage in the Western press, or by reading the scientific papers themselves, published in the journal Science. If you learned about Ardi on the Arabic-language version of Al Jazeera’s website, however, you discovered something else: The find disproved the theory of evolution.
“Ardi Refutes Darwin’s Theory,” Al Jazeera announced, in an Oct. 3 article not available on the English version of the website. “American scientists have presented evidence that Darwin’s theory of evolution was wrong,” the article opened. “The team announced yesterday that Ardi’s discovery proves that humans did not evolve from ancestors that resemble chimpanzees, which refutes the longstanding assumption that humans evolved from monkeys.”