creationists start circling ida’s cadaver
Hey, does anyone remember the most important discovery of all time by paleontologist Jørn Hurum? The one absolute proof of the theory of evolution and the greatest fossil ever found? Um, yeah. About that. Turns out it’s actually just one of the countless evolutionary dead ends that has very little to do with hominids. I’ll give Jørn a moment to wipe the giant ostrich egg off his face and reconsider his ideas of doing science while acting like a circus sideshow barker and selling media and book rights without actually bothering to do the due diligence required by the scientific method and the process of peer review. And worse yet, he’s given vocal creationists fresh ammo for their constant assaults on science. All they’ll need to do is quote the recent headlines…
Just take a look at the comments on the story about Ida’s failure to deliver and it’s pretty clear that the vultures have picked up the scent and took to the air. Some are even starting to take exploratory bites. We’ll get to that issue in just a minute, but first, let’s go back to Jørn for a moment and emphasize that it’s these kinds of crazy, ridiculous stunts that the peer review process is supposed to prevent. By not letting experts review his work as he shouted his discovery from the rooftops as loudly as he could, amplified by a giant media klaxon, Hurum is now being very publicly revealed as an incompetent glory hound. When you’ve given the likes of Ken Ham good reason to laugh at you and say that the anti-science ravings of his crew were actually spot on in their analysis of an ancient fossil while you were off by a mile, you might as well just find another career.
Now, lest you think that the scientific community was enamored with the fossil until they realized that it wasn’t all that and the alchemical formula for the Philosopher’s Stone, let’s review PZ’s discontent with the hype, the skepticism voiced by Carl Zimmer, the bitterly snarky post from the astoundingly tame Ed Yong, and just for good measure, the disclaimer from New Scientist. And this is just a very cursory sampling. Keep in mind that Hurum and his team kept everything secret until the big reveal and had the media world ready to explode with the supposedly sensational news. Even if Ida really was a very distant relative, the coverage was going to be overblown by any reasonable standard. The doubt expressed by experts, and found to be correct, just adds insult to injury. But in this case, with the creationist noise machine trying to keep up the manufactroversy, Jørn should’ve been walking on eggshells and science journalists should’ve checked ten times over whether they were being sold on nothing but hype and showmanship as SEED Magazine pointed out while the story made its rounds through the international media.
So to all the creationists out there, yes, Ida was an overhyped media property rather than some sort of proof of evolution as we know it. However, the hype was in the media. Scientists were skeptical, found the fossil to be just a wonderfully preserved specimen of an evolutionary dead end and are off to study the countless known and confirmed fossils that trace our lineage. If you say that scientists were sure they confirmed everything they knew about modern biology when Ida was revealed, you’re lying, plain and simple. Your ideology hasn’t been magically validated and evidence for it still totally absent. And to Jørn Hurum, maybe spend a little more time on writing the paper and checking with other scientists before you announce that you found the remains of an alien spaceship or whatever it is you think will get you a spot in the history books, ok?