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Earth Science

Ancient Fossil Offers Clues To Primate Evolution 311

Posted by Soulskill
from the unless-you're-from-kansas dept.
langelgjm sends in an update to a story we discussed over the weekend about an extremely well-preserved fossil of an ancient primate, Darwinius masillae, that sheds light on an important area of evolution. The 47 million-year-old specimen has now been officially unveiled, and while many media outlets are stumbling over themselves with phrases like "missing link" and "holy grail," it's clearly a very impressive find. "Discovered two years ago, the exquisitely preserved specimen is not a direct ancestor of monkeys and humans, but hints at what such an ancestor might have looked like. According to researchers, 'The specimen has an unusual history: it was privately collected and sold in two parts, with only the lesser part previously known. The second part, which has just come to light, shows the skeleton to be the most complete primate known in the fossil record.' The scientific article describing the find was published yesterday in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal PLoS ONE. Google's home page is also celebrating the find with a unique image." Science blogger Brian Switek offers some criticism of the academic paper and the media swarm, saying, "I would have hoped that this fossil would receive the care and attention it deserves, but for now it looks like a cash cow for the History Channel. Indeed, this association may not have only presented overblown claims to the public, but hindered good science, as well."
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Ancient Fossil Offers Clues To Primate Evolution

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  • by MosesJones (55544) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @09:49AM (#28024657) Homepage

    Isn't it rather scary that while scientists are getting excited over this 47 million year old fossil that there are fossils in Congress who will swear on a stack of Bibles that the earth is only 6000 years old and that evolution is bunk.

    That people can get elected without having basic modern ape like intelligence is the scary bit, this primate was probably more self-aware than many of those elected officials.

  • by TheHerk (1521205) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @09:55AM (#28024725)
    Yes, but while that is pretty scary, what is more scary are the millions of people that vote for them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @09:56AM (#28024739)

    It was found over 25 years ago - why is it just now getting attention. Sound like a play for grant money to me

  • Media event (Score:5, Insightful)

    by olclops (591840) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @09:57AM (#28024751)

    This is more of a media event than a true major discovery. All orchestrated by the History Channel.

    See this article. [discovermagazine.com]

  • by halivar (535827) <bfelger.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:07AM (#28024847) Homepage

    And scariest of all? The world still turns, and objective reality refuses to accept that proper science is vital to hold the fabric of space-time together.

    Honestly, the only reason anyone ought to care what a politician thinks about creationism is if they decide what's taught in public schools. This is almost always a state matter. Your U.S. Congressman has bunk to do with it.

    And if it really, REALLY troubles you that some congressmen are anti-science, I suggest you give equal time to folks like Dennis Kucinich; after all, is seeing UFO's somehow more scientifically acceptable that an ID-proponent?

  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:11AM (#28024903)

    That people can get elected without having basic modern ape like intelligence is the scary bit, this primate was probably more self-aware than many of those elected officials.

    C'mon. They're self-aware alright, and they know all too well who's paying them. And it's not the voters.

  • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:12AM (#28024907)

    Isn't it rather scary that while scientists are getting excited over this 47 million year old fossil that there are fossils in Congress who will swear on a stack of Bibles that the earth is only 6000 years old and that evolution is bunk.

    C'mon now, slashdot always has these remarks, but you know what? NBC nightly news reported this find last night - the epitome of mainstream - and there was no mention of the Bible or controversy over the validity of evolution, none at all. Just excitement over a great find that may fill in the picture of evolution a bit more. At some point, decrying all this supposed scientific opposition which is really just a small fringe, becomes self-pity, or a persecution complex.

  • by Bob-taro (996889) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:13AM (#28024915)

    Isn't it rather scary that while scientists are getting excited over this 47 million year old fossil that there are fossils in Congress who will swear on a stack of Bibles that the earth is only 6000 years old and that evolution is bunk.

    Frankly, I find it more frightening that most of our leaders and most of the population in general have all bought into the idea that morality is just convention and that there is no higher power to answer to. I suppose they think we're more "evolved" now.

  • by linzeal (197905) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:18AM (#28024991) Homepage Journal
    I would rather more people take responsibility for their own morality than depend upon some transcendental source like a god.
  • by mhall119 (1035984) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:33AM (#28025199) Homepage Journal

    Frankly, I find it more frightening that most of our leaders and most of the population in general have all bought into the idea that morality is just convention and that there is no higher power to answer to.

    You find arbitrary morality more comforting than convention?

  • It's weird (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:37AM (#28025253) Journal

    It's weird that people think following the supposed arbitrary whims of a giant invisible daddy figure in the sky is a decent basis for morality.

  • by quanminoan (812306) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:42AM (#28025329)
    The correct answer is "Yes. I will take that bet."
  • by yourassOA (1546173) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:44AM (#28025365)
    But its foot bone look similar to a humans so it got to be a missing link. Seems like a bit of a stretch to me.
  • by McDutchie (151611) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:52AM (#28025505) Homepage

    Correlation is not causation. Just because different "racial" groups statistically have different levels of "intelligence" (a culturally defined and therefore biased concept) doesn't mean that race has anything to do with it. The assumption that this difference is caused by "racial"/genetic factors, without offering any evidence to support that assumption, is invalid and may be considered racist.

    The history of humanity suggests that culture is the overriding causal factor. Asians and Europeans are just as capable as Africans (or any other "race") of having a primitive, oppressive and destructive culture, as has been well established through the ages. For example, we saw the same abject poverty in Europe during the Middle Ages, for cultural reasons that are well known. Also, contrary to popular prejudice, there are African countries that are doing pretty well.

  • by AshtangiMan (684031) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:59AM (#28025607)
    IIRC what Kucinich did is say that he believes in UFO's. I do to, I also happen to understand that UFO != Alien intelligence flying around and snatching people up. Though apparently many are not able to make that distinction. Should Kucinich pander to the ignorance of the masses by further explaining what he meant? Probably as a congressman he should, but on the other hand I would most likely have handled it in the same way. I saw a UFO the other night, and it was not until the next day that I learned what it was, and re-labled it appropriately: weather balloon.
  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wall0159 (881759) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @11:36AM (#28026209)

    Let's just think for a moment about which branches of science contradict creationism:
    biology
    biochemistry
    genetics
    physics
    astronomy
    astrophysics

    I'm sure there are other _genres_ of science too. Are you really saying that it doesn't matter if a leader of society believes that all the scientists working in these fields are wrong?

    Believing in creationism is like believing the earth is flat, and would have huge consequences in many many public policy areas.

  • by pe1rxq (141710) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @12:07PM (#28026727) Homepage Journal

    Creationists didn't hava a any leg to stand on....
    Never did, it is simple an example of sensationalist journalism...

    Anybody who thinks that creationists will simply give up one day when you show them a missing link is wrong.... creationists will simply point out that to them you just created two new missing links in the family tree....
    The don't have arguments... just their dogma, you are not going to convince them.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @12:29PM (#28027071) Journal

    Let's just think for a moment about which branches of science contradict creationism:
    biology
    biochemistry
    genetics
    physics
    astronomy
    astrophysics

    I'm sure there are other _genres_ of science too. Are you really saying that it doesn't matter if a leader of society believes that all the scientists working in these fields are wrong?

    Believing in creationism is like believing the earth is flat, and would have huge consequences in many many public policy areas.

    I'll just take the last three, physics, astronomy, and astrophysics, and use one example to prove you wrong. Now, go read up on THIS [wikipedia.org] GUY [pbs.org] who used all three of these to support the idea that God created the universe.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I find flat eathers and young earth creationists just as annoying as you do, so please don't lump all "creationists" together. Many are brilliant scientists who present valid cases for differing levels of creationism based on actual science, much like the example I listed above.

    Religion and science are NOT mutually exclusive.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @01:11PM (#28027765) Homepage Journal

    different levels of "intelligence" (a culturally defined and therefore biased concept)

    As I understand it, IQ tests were largely developed by whites. You'd think that if they were biased, they'd have fiddled it so they came out on top.

  • by inasity_rules (1110095) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @01:17PM (#28027887) Journal
    1. Slavery was still present in the New Testament world.
    2. Wives submit to your husbands and husbands submit to your wives. You're taking other passages out of context to read other meanings into them. Stop it.
    3. A sacrifice to end all sacrifices where the one sacrificed come back from the dead? You got a problem with this? Seriously?
    Reject christianity? sure. Bash it ignorantly? You'd be stupid to do that.
  • by hitnrunrambler (1401521) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @02:24PM (#28028873)

    Lucy and the Piltdown man were allegedly impossible to fake as well...

    Sometimes it's not even intent to deceive, a desire to see results has the ability to create the results you expected to see.

    for me.... /doubtful
    I wouldn't bet $10 against "we've got an opportunity to learn something" but I'll bet $100 against "this is a world-changer!"

  • Re:It's weird (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @03:22PM (#28029707) Journal

    It's weird that people who think they were created by random chance think they or anything else is worth more than a pile of shit.

    That's silly. I'm alive, conscious, and experiencing the world. I'm the only thing I really know - it's ridiculous to think that I don't think I'm worth something. And the people that I encounter in my life, some I dislike and others I like. The latter set is far smaller than the former, and I value its members more highly.

    But of course you're talking about ultimate value, in absolute terms, I don't think is a particularly meaningful or useful thing to talk about. I don't think there's anything absolute, permanent, or unchanging, and so nothing has value or essence in the way you're thinking.

  • by Jake Griffin (1153451) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @05:35PM (#28031781)
    Judging the "age" of the Earth really depends on what you define it as. I'm a Christian (I should say believer in Christ, because I really hate the word Christian), and I believe that the Earth could be as old as whatever it is the scientific facts point to, whether it be millions of years or whatever. However, I believe that the Earth has only been around for about 6,000 years. The distinction? I believe that Adam and Eve were created "with age," and not created as newborn babies, so why couldn't the Earth and everything else have been done the same way? Do I have proof of this? No, it's faith, I'll admit that. But you really can't prove I'm wrong either, and if you think you can, you're failing to understand the concept.
  • by Capsaicin (412918) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:23PM (#28034987)

    I believe that the Earth has only been around for about 6,000 years. ... I believe that Adam and Eve were created "with age," and not created as newborn babies ... Do I have proof of this? No, it's faith, I'll admit that. But you really can't prove I'm wrong either.

    The moment there is any onus to prove wrong someone who makes claims without any proof of these claims, a fortiori claims as extraordiary and implausible as these, we are in real trouble. Perhaps it would be best for your to heed St Augustine's warning that accepting ancient Hebrew mythology as scientific facts is a misuse of scripture?

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