May 20th, 2009

Doctor Who: BLAH

My mocha lied to me! / The 'missing link'

Yesterday - a pipe burst in our suburb and everyone lost mains water. Today - forgot umbrella, got rained on, fridge has somehow stopped working, accidentally hit 'stop' instead of 'snooze' on my alarm and missed my bus...

...BUT...

...hot coffee and toast is in my near future, so no complaints. Also today is payday and I'm going to obtain this completely amazing shirt:

http://shirt.woot.com/Friends.aspx?k=8901

AND the media are being retards and touting about the discovery of the "missing link", a lovely and very important fossil called 'Darwinius masillae', or 'Ida' for short. She combines human traits with primate traits... as do a bunch of fossils we already have.

Now, obviously the discovery of such a beautifully-preserved 47-million-year-old fossil - complete with discernible stomach contents and fur impressions - is FANTASTIC news. But what burns me up is that apparently certain news networks who shall remain nameless (oh alright, it's Fox and our very own, very similar Nine Network) headlined this with "Scientists have found what they believe is proof that humans evolved from primates."

There's so much wrong with that headline I don't even know where to begin.

Primarily: to refer to this as the 'missing link' is to do science a disservice, lowering it to the level of gross oversimplification that creationists have been using to try to ignore. There is no ONE missing link. There will NEVER be a single fossil discovery that will somehow breathtakingly force everyone to acknowledge the tens of thousands of other intermediate forms ('missing links', if you will) that already form the fossil record. 'Missing link' is a misnomer, a myth created by creationists. It'd be like me saying "I won't believe in God until he appears in front of me, specifically in the form of a giant purple donkey." I'm told the reality of belief is far more complex. The reality of science certainly is. What we have now is a massive body of evidence that forms an overall picture. Each discovery adds more detail to the picture, which is lovely, but the point is that we already have enough of the picture to get, well, the overall picture. Adding a tiny dot of blue paint in the left corner is not going to drastically change the content of that picture. People will either choose to look at and acknowledge the picture (picture = existing fossil record and carbon-dating) or they won't.

So relax, everyone. This isn't the missing link. It's a missing link. We're finding those constantly. That's how we know evolution happens.

If you want a more balanced piece of reporting on the lovely Ida, read this: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/05/darwinius_masillae.php

DISCLAIMER: I won't be debating evolution vs creationism in the comments. To be honest, I feel that to debate creationism lends credence to it, and I won't be a part of that, anymore than I'll debate the possible existence of fairies. Furthermore, I don't like to let people's beliefs stand in the way of friendship. This entry isn't an attack on anyone's beliefs, it's an attack on the media for bad reporting. I still love all y'all.

[EDIT] This comic says it better than I ever could! From www.phdcomics.com, linked by draconox: