‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Mega-hyped 'Missing Link' quietly dropped

Back in May the BBC trumpeted its ‘missing link’ fossil documentary as “the exclusive story behind a scientific discovery that could revolutionise our understanding of human evolution” – but already the ‘Ida’ fossil is being relegated to the backwaters of evolutionary discussion.

The flagship BBC1 60-minute documentary ‘Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor: The Link’, presented by David Attenborough, was shamelessly promoted as revealing a devastating discovery for evolution-doubters.

Dr Jørn Hurum, leader of the scientists analysing the lemur-like fossil, confidently asserted: “This is the first link to all humans.” The media jumped on the evolution bandwagon, proclaiming Ida as a ‘ground-breaking’ find.

Before even having seen the programme, I predicted in a report on Lifebite that once all the hoopla had died down, Ida may well turn out to be a lame duck. I said: “Be wary of the media when you see TV programmes or headlines that deal with evolution – someone might well be making a monkey out of you.”

On the eve of the broadcast, some commentators were even then beginning to have qualms about the claims for Ida. Times science writer Mark Henderson said: “I am baffled as to how they [the scientists] could stress the significance of this fossil without undertaking the requisite research to support their hypothesis.”

In July, only two months after the headline-hitting documentary, America’s leading science journal, Scientific American, let the cat out of the bag.

In ‘Weak Link: Fossil Darwinius has its 15 minutes: Skepticism about a fossil cast as a missing link in human ancestry’ (Scientific American, July 21, 2009), Kate Wong described the original hype: “In an elaborate public relations campaign in which the release of a website, a book and a documentary on the History Channel were timed to coincide with the publication of the scientific paper describing her… Ida’s significance was described in no uncertain terms as the missing link between us humans and our primate kin. In news reports, team members called her ‘the eighth wonder of the world,’ ‘the Holy Grail’ and ‘a Rosetta Stone’.

“The orchestration paid off, as Ida graced the front page of countless newspapers and made appearances on the morning (and evening) news programmes… And Google incorporated her image into its logo on the main search page for a day.”

Wong also described the subsequent scientific downgrading of Ida: “Critics concur that Ida is an adapiform, but they dispute the alleged ties to anthropoids [the line leading to humans]. Robert Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago charges that some of the traits used to align Ida with the anthropoids do not in fact support such a relationship. Fusion of the lower jaw, for instance, is not present in the earliest unequivocal anthropoids, suggesting that it was not an ancestral feature of this group…

“Martin further notes that Ida also lacks a defining feature of the anthropoids: a bony wall at the back of the eye socket. ‘I am utterly convinced that Darwinius [Ida] has nothing whatsoever to do with the origin of higher primates,’ he declares.”

In other words, the so-called great missing link in human evolution is no more. But will BBC1 be broadcasting an hour-long documentary to rectify their mistake and let the public know that what was proclaimed as evidence of human evolution is no such thing? Will they heck.

As I said in my article in May: “Anyone who keeps a critical eye on the overblown claims of evolutionists has been here before. It’s certainly not the first time that a so-called ‘missing link’ has been hyped to the media as the holy grail of evolution, only later to be quietly debunked in the back corridors of academia away from the media’s prying eyes.”

The real story that the media should be reporting is that scientists rushed prematurely into publicising a ‘missing link’ to humans because they are desperate for proof of evolution, and came a cropper – yet again. Perhaps they need the PR to keep their evolution research budget fed, and perhaps the TV channels and newspapers are just too eager for evidence to support their own liberal, atheistic opinions.

Meanwhile, truly ground-breaking evidence for the Intelligent Design (ID) behind life is ignored by both scientists and the media.
Leading ID theorist Dr Steve Meyer has a new book out called ‘Signature in the Cell’ which is described by a review in The American Spectator as “a defining work in the discussion of life’s origins and the question of whether life is a product of unthinking matter or of an intelligent mind. For those who disagree with ID, the powerful case Meyer presents cannot be ignored in any honest debate.”

The review explains that the chance of life arising by itself, with no input from a Designer, is less than the chance of accidentally finding one atom in the entire galaxy: “It has been calculated that the mathematical chance of producing a functional protein of a modest length of 150 amino acids long, is about one in 1074. Since the number of atoms in our galaxy may be estimated to be 1065, it would be a billion times easier to find a single marked atom in the Milky Way by a completely random search than to produce functional proteins 150 amino acids long by chance.

“Historically, those advocating that life could arise from random combinations of molecules typically have invoked lengthy time periods that would permit such unlikely results to occur. In the 1950s, a biochemist quoted by Meyer explained that, ‘Time is in fact the hero of the plot…Given so much time, the impossible becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain.’

“Well, no. Life on earth, according to most scientists, developed within the first billion years or so after earth’s formation. A billion years (nine zeros) seems like a long time, but any scenario relying on chance is hopelessly, pathetically, impossibly inadequate when confronted with probabilities such as 1 out of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (74 zeros for the modest protein just mentioned).”

And that’s just for one protein. There are many more needed for life to arise, and they must all work together in an extremely complex symphony to produce a cell with its own encoded information and mechanisms for reproducing itself. All by chance. All before evolution can even begin to have any influence on life.

What will it take for our media to begin to give an equal hearing to scientists who have a more plausible theory about life’s origin?

By Andrew Halloway - first published at www.lifebite.co.uk

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