Ida Was Not a Missing Link

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In May 2009, there was a huge outburst of media hype worldwide about a fossil primate, advertised as a key link in the evolution of humans. Of course, if you are going to introduce some fossil primate to the world as a human ances­tor, the first thing you have to do is come up with a good humanizing name (as Don Johanson did with his fossil aus­tralopithecine from Ethiopia, whom he called Lucy). The new primate was therefore christened Ida by its promoters. She was named after the daughter of one of the scientists who led the study of her bones.

So what exactly was Ida? Ida was a small skeleton preserved in a block of shale from the Messel Shale Pit in Ger­many. Scientists theorize that she fell into an ancient lake, sank to the bottom, and was covered by sediments. The preservation of the fossil is excellent, and includes even impressions of the stomach contents, indicating Ida ate leaves and seeds. About the size of a cat or raccoon, the skeleton resembles in some respects that of a modern lemur. Ida is about 47 million years old. So where does she fit into the evolutionary picture of human origins?

Darwinist scientists now believe that humans like us first came into existence between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. Before that, there were more primitive human ancestors such as Homo erectus, who existed between about 2 million and 300,000 years ago. And before Homo erectus came the Australopithecines. The australopithecines are said to have branched off from the line leading to the modern apes about 6 million years ago.

All of these creatures (humans, apemen, apes, and monkeys, and a few others called lemur and tarsiers) belong to a biological group called the primates. The first primitive little primates recognized in the fossil record go back be­tween 50 and 60 million years. According to evolutionists, one group of these early little primates evolved into the apes, which evolved into the apemen like Australopithecus, which evolved into the Homo line, culminating in mod­ern humans. And Ida was said to be at the root of this line of early little primates (technically called anthropoids) that eventually became humans. Another line became the modern lemurs and tarsiers (technically called prosimians). As evidence for Ida being a human ancestor, scientists pointed to some critical anatomical features. For example, she had fingernails instead of claws, and she had thumbs like those of modern humans. Otherwise, she does not look hu­man at all.

The fact that scientists were able, on the basis of this slim evidence, to convince the media that they had a genu­ine human ancestor, no matter how remote, made the story newsworthy. We are all interested in our ancestors. For a few days, Ida was all over TV, radio, the newspapers, and the web.

The scientists who announced her to the world gave her the species name Darwinius massilla, which refers to Darwin and the Messel shale pit. Given that 2009 is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniver­sary of the publication of his book The Origin of Species, it is not surprising that something like this happened. Given the prominent place that Darwinism plays in modern civilization, and the continuing widespread opposition to the theory (from people like your forbidden archaeologist, among others), one could have easily predicted that during the Darwin bicentennial year, some scientists would try to come up with some kind of discovery that reinforces the idea that humans evolved from apes. And so it happened.

From all the media reports, one might have easily gotten the impression, if one did not read the fine print, that Ida was a brand new discovery. Not so. Actually, the Ida fossil skeleton was discovered in Germany by an amateur fos­sil collector in 1983. Money enters into the story. The collector, realizing he had something valuable, wanted to sell it. He engaged a fossil dealer to market it. The dealer showed the fossil to Dr. Jorn Hurum of the University of Oslo in Norway. According to a book about the discovery (The Link, by Colin Tudge), Hurum felt like he was looking at one of the “holy grails” of science. It is interesting how this kind of religious terminology is regularly used in the world of science, which regards itself as distinct from religion. Hurum called in some other experts from the University of Oslo and the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, to look at the fossil. The group of scientists ne­gotiated the payment of a hefty sum to the dealer (a reported 750,000 dollars) to get the fossil for an Oslo museum.

The scientists secretly studied the fossil for two years, and meanwhile they organized an equally secret publicity campaign. People and companies involved in the campaign agreed to keep it confidential.

It seems to me that the scientists’ naming of the fossil (Darwinius massilla) and their decision to release the re­sults of their secret studies, including the dubious claim it was a human ancestor, during the Darwin bicentennial year were deliberately calculated to get maximum publicity and money. The scientists sold media rights to the high­est bidders. In the United States, according to a report by ABC News (Ned Potter, May 16, 2009), the bidding was won by The History Channel, which aired a documentary called “The Link” on May 25. The same documentary was also shown on the BBC and several other television networks worldwide. Preceding this, there was a huge publicity blitz, which included the publication of a scientific study about Ida in Public Library of Science One (PLoS One), a carefully staged press conference at the American Museum of Natural History (where the fossil was unveiled by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg), and a presentation on the popular Good Morning America TV show. And of course there was the book, The Link, by Tudge. Ida was being sold like toothpaste or beer.

But not everyone was buying the idea that Ida was a human ancestor, including many evolutionists in the world of science. Robert Foley, professor of human evolution at Cambridge University, is quoted in an article published in The Times of London (May 24, 2009, “The Origin of the Specious”): “This animal lived around 47m years ago but hu­man-like creatures only appeared in the last 2m years. That’s a gap of around 45m years with many other species ly­ing between us and that era. Any one of them could be called a missing link. Really, the term is meaningless.” And shortly after the Ida media blitz, paleontologist K. Christopher Beard published a study of a new fossil primate from Asia, about which he said, “It shows Ida is out of the running as a [human] ancestor” (from Science magazine, NOW Daily News, July 1, 2009).

But there is another problem with the idea that Ida was a human ancestor. There is evidence that humans like us were existing at the same time as, and even before, Ida. Our alleged ancestor, Ida, is said to have existed 47 million years ago. That falls within the Eocene, a geological period that extends from about 33 million to 55 million years ago. In the nineteenth century, anatomically modern human bones and artifacts were found in the gold mining re­gion of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, in ancient river deposits covered with hundreds of feet of solid vol­canic deposits. Several of these discoveries took place in mines at Table Mountain, in Tuolumne Country, California. They were reported to the scientific world by the chief government geologist of California, Dr. J. D. Whitney, in a book published by Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology in 1880 (The Auriferous Gravels of the Sier­ra Nevada of California). Study of modern geological reports about the locations of the discoveries show that the hu­man bones and artifacts were found in deposits containing plant and animal fossils characteristic of the Early Eocene, about 50 million years old. The age has been confirmed by potassium-argon dating of the volcanic deposits covering the ancient river beds. These discoveries are not mentioned in today’s textbooks because they contradict the theory of human evolution. Anthropologist W. H. Holmes of the Smithsonian Institution, an influential critic of the California finds, wrote in a Smithsonian Institution annual report (1899, p. 424): “Perhaps if Professor Whitney had fully appre­ciated the story of human evolution as it is understood today, he would have hesitated to announce the conclusions formulated [that humans existed in very ancient times], notwithstanding the imposing array of testimony with which he was confronted.” In other words, if the facts do not agree with the favored theory, then such facts must be discard­ed.

In my book Forbidden Archeology, I have documented many more discoveries like the California gold mine finds. Together they show that Ida was not a human ancestor. But maybe she could have been a pet of the humans that lived at 47 million years ago in what is now Germany.

Michael A. Cremo is author, with Richard Thompson, of the underground classic Forbidden Archeology: The Hid­den History of the Human Race. His latest book is Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory (see www.humandevolution.com).

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