Ida, Media Hype, and Science
Charles Darwin once made this remark about his theory: “The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, [must] be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graded organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”
Now, 150 years on, this problem still seems to be with us. Many neo-Darwinists have noted this. For example, evolutionary paleontologist Mark Czarnecki put it this way: “A major problem in proving the theory [of evolution] has been the fossil record, the imprints of vanished species preserved in the Earth’s geological formations. This record has never revealed traces of Darwin’s hypothetical intermediate variants – instead, species appear and disappear abruptly, and this anomaly has fueled the creationist argument that each species was created by God.”
Stephen Jay Gould once stated, “The fossil record with its abrupt transitions offers no support for gradual change, and the principle of natural selection does not require it – selection can operate rapidly.” Or as Niles Eldredge put it:
“No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It seems never to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change over millions of years, at a rate too slow to really account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the organisms did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on someplace else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution.”
Therefore Darwin’s concern seems to remain. Thus it is not surprising that when some new discovery comes along purporting to document transitional forms or missing links, parts of the scientific community along with an over-eager media go ballistic. We had this not so long ago with the so-called “Hobbit man”. Debate still is raging about that find and its significance.
Now we have “Ida,” a fossil actually discovered back in 1983, but just this past week it has made the headlines. Talk of a ‘missing link’ was trumpeted around the world, and another blow for Darwinism was thought to have been made. But a closer look shows that Darwinian celebrations may be premature.
After the initial hoopla, more sober voices are now coming forward, although they often are not being heard in the mainstream media. For example, Robert Roy Britt writing in LiveScience, says this: “Despite press-conference claims, no textbooks will be rewritten any time soon.”
He cites Chris Beard, a curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh: “It’s not a missing link, it’s not even a terribly close relative to monkeys, apes and humans, which is the point they’re trying to make”.
As mentioned, some scientists and many in the media were very happy to hype this finding, not just because it seemed to offer more proof for Darwinism, but also because it seemed to put more nails in the coffin of theism. That is often the real motivation here. As Benjamin Wiker writes:
“Darwin crafted his account of natural selection specifically to eliminate any need for God as an explanation for the variety of species, and their extraordinary design. Natural selection is indeed a powerful and important concept, and other scientists had already set out aspects of natural selection decades before Darwin published his Origin of Species. But Darwin insisted on making it an all-encompassing explanation of everything in biology, an explanation that entirely eliminated God. In this, he was quite like his contemporary Karl Marx who wanted to explain everything about man through a very materialist account of economics precisely so that he could eliminate God. Darwinism is, in this, much like Marxism.”
Marxism was an anti-theistic religion, and in many respects so is Darwinism. It simply becomes a good excuse for rejecting God. Thus in many ways it is really a form of scientism, instead of genuine science. So expect to see many more such examples of Darwinian discoveries in the future, complete with uncritical media hype. The need to believe is very strong, even amongst Darwinists.
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- 21.5.09 / 2pm
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