Re: [asa] Fossil Discovery Is Heralded

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Tue May 19 2009 - 14:09:31 EDT


You say:
> Now if the fossil had been found in 10000 year old glacial till or in the
> Cambrian then "evolution" would be wrong

I'm fairly certain this is incorrect.

What would happen is that we would, a la Quine's "web of belief", begin
with our least cherished assumptions and work our way inwards, discarding
or re-evaluating along the way. There would always be the option of
simply assigning the data to some anamolous shelf indefinitely.

Nothing can overturn evolutionary theory, but an alternative theory.


> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Alexanian, Moorad" <>
> To: "AmericanScientificAffiliation" <>
> Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 3:32 PM
> Subject: [asa] Fossil Discovery Is Heralded
> MAY 15, 2009
> Fossil Discovery Is Heralded
> In what could prove to be a landmark discovery, a leading paleontologist said
> scientists have dug up the 47 million-year-old fossil of an ancient primate
> whose features suggest it could be the common ancestor of all later monkeys,
> apes and humans.
> Anthropologists have long believed that humans evolved from ancient ape-like
> ancestors. Some 50 million years ago, two ape-like groups walked the Earth.
> One is known as the tarsidae, a precursor of the tarsier, a tiny, large-eyed
> creature that lives in Asia. Another group is known as the adapidae, a
> precursor of today's lemurs in Madagascar.
> Based on previously limited fossil evidence, one big debate had been whether
> the tarsidae or adapidae group gave rise to monkeys, apes and humans. The
> latest discovery bolsters the less common position that our ancient ape-like
> ancestor was an adapid, the believed precursor of lemurs.
> AP Photo/Karen Tam A fossil discovery suggests humans may be descended from
> an animal that resembles present-day lemurs like this one.
> .
> Philip Gingerich, president-elect of the Paleontological Society in the U.S.,
> has co-written a paper that will detail next week the latest fossil discovery
> in Public Library of Science, a peer-reviewed, online journal.
> "This discovery brings a forgotten group into focus as a possible ancestor of
> higher primates," Mr. Gingerich, a professor of paleontology at the
> University of Michigan, said in an interview.
> The discovery has little bearing on a separate paleontological debate
> centering on the identity of a common ancestor of chimps and humans, which
> could have lived about six million years ago and still hasn't been found.
> That gap in the evolution story is colloquially referred to as the "missing
> link" controversy. In reality, though, all gaps in the fossil record are
> technically "missing links" until filled in, and many scientists say the term
> is meaningless.
> Nonetheless, the latest fossil find is likely to ignite further the debate
> between evolutionists who draw conclusions based on a limited fossil record,
> and creationists who don't believe that humans, monkeys and apes evolved from
> a common ancestor.
> Scientists won't necessarily agree about the details either. "Lemur advocates
> will be delighted, but tarsier advocates will be underwhelmed" by the new
> evidence, says Tim White, a paleontologist at the University of California,
> Berkeley. "The debate will persist."
> The skeleton will be unveiled at New York City's American Museum of Natural
> History next Tuesday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and an international team
> involved in the discovery.
> According to Prof. Gingerich, the fossilized remains are of a young female
> adapid. The skeleton was unearthed by collectors about two years ago and has
> been kept tightly under wraps since then, in an unusual feat of scientific
> secrecy.
> Prof. Gingerich said he had twice examined the adapid skeleton, which was "a
> complete, spectacular fossil." The completeness of the preserved skeleton is
> crucial, because most previously found fossils of ancient primates were small
> finds, such as teeth and jawbones.
> It was found in the Messel Shale Pit, a disused quarry near Frankfurt,
> Germany. The pit has long been a World Heritage Site and is the source of a
> number of well-preserved fossils from the middle Eocene epoch, some 50
> million years ago.
> Prof. Gingerich said several scientists, including Jorn Hurum of Norway's
> National History Museum, had inspected the fossil with computer tomography
> scanning, a sophisticated X-ray technique that can provide detailed,
> cross-sectional views. Dr. Hurum declined to comment.
> Although the creature looks like a lemur, there are some distinctive physical
> differences. Lemurs have a tooth comb (a tooth modified to help groom fur); a
> grooming claw; and a wet nose. Dr. Gingerich said that the adapid skeleton
> has neither a grooming claw nor a tooth comb. "We can't say whether it had a
> wet nose or not," he noted.
> Since the fossilized creature found in Germany didn't have features like a
> tooth comb or grooming claw, it could be argued that it gave rise to monkeys,
> apes and humans, which don't have these features either.
> Write to Gautam Naik at
> Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A4
> Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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Received on Tue May 19 14:10:00 2009

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