what to make of the new ‘missing link’ fossil

This 95%-complete lemur monkey is described as the eighth wonder of the world

This 95%-complete 'lemur monkey' is described as the "eighth wonder of the world"

according to alex watts of sky news online,

Scientists have unveiled a 47-million-year-old fossilised skeleton of a monkey hailed as the missing link in human evolution.

so now what to make of this:

on the one hand, non-evolutionists always shout, ‘show us the link between humans and other primates.’ and when that link is shown, they then look at the now shortened gap between humans and the new fossil and say, ‘show us the link that goes there, between humans and primates.’ and then when that fossil is discovered, and the gap is shortened even more, they claim, ‘show us the link that…..’ well, you get the picture.

on the other hand, this fossil was discovered by an amateur fossil hunter, and spent 20 years in the private collection of an unknown collector. sound familiar? it was then sent to another private fossil dealer, who showed it (finally) to scholars.

question: should the academic community publish it? it appears to have been first revealed to the pubic via the popular media. i certainly have not read about the discovery, and the first academic account is apparently only being published today.

so to my colleagues i ask: given the rules for unprovenanced antiquities, should we publish papers about this fossil? should this fossil be held in suspicion? and will evolutionists be as eager to accept the proposed implications of this missing link as many christians are to believe sensational claims made about archaeological discoveries stemming from unprovenanced finds bought on the antiquities market??

i’m curious to see the response.

4 Responses

  1. I’m skeptical of the way this was kept under wraps and then released to the media in a big push, rather than being debated out openly by scientists first. The evidence so far looks on the up and up, but there’s no question that the claims being made in breathless headlines “THE missing link,” “Our most recent common ancestor!” (uh… common ancestor WITH WHAT???) are way overdoing it, and confusing the public to boot.

  2. I think the answer to all of your questions is “yes.” Yes, the findings and research should be published, but yes, it is the job of scholars to be skeptical about an artifact of any kind that is found under less than legitimate circumstances.
    I think no matter what scientific “proof” is found, creationists may never accept evolution, that’s why they believe in creation.
    While this is an interesting find, I’m not sure I’d mark it as a win in the evolution category.

  3. Actually, it was first reveled in PLOS.

  4. I am not a colleague, so I apologize if it is out of line for me to comment.

    That being said, it is my understanding that in both the theory and practice of scientific inquiry, process is as, if not more, important than progress – if for no other reason than for the repetition and independent discovery so necessary for ultimate confirmation and acceptance from the wider community.

    This is not to say that discoveries always have to follow a comprehensive path – but in the event of this deus ex machina discovery, the community will be best served if they use this fossil’s history to find other, less suspect fossils ASAP.

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