Ardi Ain’t

One of the big science stories this last year was that of ‘Ardi’, another presumed human ancestor, an announcement made with all the fanfare of the discovery of a new form of energy. The formula is becoming absurdly familiar:

Start with some bones,

produce some convincing artwork,

then make sensational claims about the bones relationship to humanity , add a cute nickname, produce a book, or television special which mindlessly parrots the claims made , and lay back and bask in recognition most researchers can only dream of. It is, as they say, a sweet gig if one can get it.

And it is one that has been repeated frequently as of late; just a short time ago with ‘Ida’ presumably our oldest known ancestor, our more recent ‘Hobbit’ relative, and of course ‘Lucy’ – media sensations all.

What is less widely reported is the actual investigation and critical discussions that occur after the initial media roll out. Such is the case with Ardi, whose relationship to humanity is now understood to be less certain than it was originally claimed. The article in Scientific American, called How Humanlike Was “Ardi?, records a number of surprising admissions. For example, that the claims about Ardi’s ability to walk upright may have been exaggerated:

The authors of the papers, including Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, propose that Ardipithecus was “an effective upright walker” and that it “resolves many uncertainties about early human evolution, including the nature of the last common ancestor.” But many others in the field propose that some of these statements may be overblown. In fact, Jungers says, “I think some of the things they said might have been for effect.”

Also acknowledged is the tendency to reconstruct fragmented fossils in accordance with a preconceived notion of what the creature was:

Despite the numerous images and descriptions put forth by the researchers, others are reluctant to take the reconstructions without a grain of salt. Begun says: “Maybe the pieces do fit together nicely, but the reality is they start out with a very damaged specimen, and they end up with something very similar to an australopithecine” (the group that includes “Lucy,” the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus as well as a 2.7-million-year-old Paranthropus). “It’s very difficult not to make them look like something you have in your mind if there’s any chance of play,” he says. Jungers also notes the perils of reconstruction, which in a case like Ardi’s “requires a lot of guesswork.”

Now such back and forth is not itself problematic, in fact it is part of the normal process of scientific investigation. And evolutionists will defend these follow up discussions as the ordinary course of scientific investigation, and they would be right to do that. What is of concern is the initial fanfare with which such finds are published, and the unsubstantiated and highly dubious claims which accompany these announcements.

Considering the regularity with which this now happens with regard to announcements which purport to support evolution, it is becoming obvious that what is happening here isn’t science, but propaganda – and that initial claims by scientists should perhaps be taken with no more seriousness than the statements of any wannabe celebrity or would be reality show participant.

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7 Responses to Ardi Ain’t

  1. All the claims on Ida were pure media bull that garnered plenty of criticism. Ardi is far more substantial, and the scientific papers have generally been represented well.

  2. Also, as a simple piece of blogging advice, you may want to save and then upload images rather than posting them straight from the original source. Links break, images change, etc, etc.

  3. jackhudson says:

    All the claims on Ida were pure media bull that garnered plenty of criticism. Ardi is far more substantial, and the scientific papers have generally been represented well.

    Actually, compared to the preliminary fanfare, the subsequent criticism of Ida was quite subdued, as is the criticism of Ardi.

    And thanks for the advice.

  4. Bettawrekonize says:

    I posted something you might be interested in on the CIS thread of your blog.

  5. Tawny Guiao says:

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  6. John Kupstas says:

    very informative thank you for a nice site

  7. […] course, as is typical with such finds, the news isn’t being reported with nearly the zest as the supposed transitional find. And […]

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