Oct. 21, 2009 – Remember Ida, the fossil discovery announced last May with its own book and TV documentary? A publicity blitz called it “the link” that would reveal the earliest evolutionary roots of monkeys, apes and humans.
Experts protested that Ida wasn’t even a close relative. And now a new analysis supports their reaction.
In fact, Ida is as far removed from the monkey-ape-human ancestry as a primate could be, says Erik Seiffert of Stony Brook University in New York.
He and his colleagues compared 360 specific anatomical features of 117 living and extinct primate species to draw up a family tree. They report the results in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.
One disturbing thing about today’s media is that they create a great deal of buzz around a story, but they barely cover retractions and clarifications later on. The result is the initial buzz of the story is taken as truth, and accuracy gets secondary treatment. This fossil will be no different.
It’s not just evolution issues either. Remember the disappearance of bees? I haven’t heard an update in years. Yet the press made the issue seem dire; why no follow up?
Those wacky scientists. Always reviewing and reevaluating evidence, trying to discover new evidence, and then changing their theories if warranted. Why can’t they just proclaim the revealed truth and stick with it forever?
Some of them even think that diseases are caused by germs and not demons.
It is often uninformed, or half-informed people who make a big deal out of a discovery that even scientists are not in agreement about, giving the impression that something (such as this “missing link”) is settled science, when indeed it is not.
Bad science is bad science. I find it ironic that people in the scientific community jump all over the Intelligent Design folks and call them pseudo-scientists, yet they overpublicize poorly thought out theories all the time.
When other scientists debunk them, we get pathetic responses about “reviewing and reevaluating evidence.” If they had scientifically reviewed and evaluated the evidence properly in the first place, they wouldn’t have made such wild statements. :shrug:
Apparently, the scientist who was pushing the idea of “Ida” as an important missing link, wasn’t in line with much scientific thinking, anyway, and, didn’t do the computer analysis that is customary in these circumstances (my SIL is a computational phylogeneticist who does this sort of thing.)
Here is a clearly written analysis of the whole situation:
The analysis of Perry’s team, published Wednesday in Nature, would likely be of purely academic interest had Darwinius been introduced according to paleontological custom. That would have been in carefully written papers presented for review to the scientific community, who already had some informal familiarity with the research. But that’s precisely what didn’t happen.
As prominent paleontologists soon pointed out, Hurum’s team was pushing a theory that most researchers had already dismissed, that anthropoids — monkeys and apes, including ourselves — are descended from lemur-like members of a primate subfamily called adapids, of which Darwinius was one.
This back-and-forth is typical of science and especially paleoanthropology, a research field predicated on competing interpretations of tiny bone fragments. It’s also the sort of dialogue that was missing from Darwinius’ overhyped debut.
“Ultimately it’s about science, and how sound the science is,” said Perry.
This is the money quote from Hurum that shows what a poor excuse for a scientist he is:
At the time, asked by The New York Times about his team’s promotion, Hurum said that “any pop band is doing the same thing,” and that “we have to start thinking the same way in science.”
Sir David Attenborough went right along with him in the documentary, so his credibility is also shot. I think it is a matter of someone finding the conclusion they wanted to find.
Seiffert's team carried out a phylogenetic analysis of 117 extinct and extant primates that looked at 360 morphological characteristics. Their analysis places both *Afradapis* and *Darwinius* firmly on the strepsirrhines branch. The researchers suggest that the characteristics *Darwinius* appears to share with the haplorrhines are the result of convergent evolution.