Here it is — a pristinely preserved fossil of the most recent common ancestor of all primates.
This lovely, 47 million year old specimen, Darwinius masillae, has been nicknamed Ida, and is presently being touted as “the missing link” on just about every bloody news outlet out there, whilst simultaneously throwing creationists into a tizzy. My problem with the media on this, is that every single fossil ever discovered is a “missing link” of sorts, being an intermediary between both its direct and ancient ancestors and its direct and distant descendents. At one point, during Darwin’s day, when the fossil record was virtually untapped, we had to draw conclusions about life’s family tree based on very little evidence. These conclusions made specific predictions, that links would be found showing transitions between one major form and another, and eventually fossils like Archaeopterix and Tiktaa’lik were found and filled those gaps neatly.
You’d think this would be enough to silence the naysayers. In fact, some especially retarded creationists occasionally state that with every new fossil found and added to the fossil record, evolution’s claim gets WORSE, rather than better, because there are now “two missing links where there used to only be one” that have to be filled. I hope I don’t have to explain why this is ridiculous on its face, but if anyone honestly (and earnestly) challenges me on this, I will be obliged to explain.
Running out of time today to post that mini-review of Star Trek, and that political post is still far from done, so this will have to do for today’s post.
Update: Ed Yong explains how Ida really DOES change *everything*. I never knew!
And here’s a video with a little more info than the above media-blowjob.