Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Newer Missing Link Possibly Found, but NPR Botches Coverage

Christopher Joyce, has written a severely misinformed article called 'Mosaic' Fossil Could Be Bridge From Apes To Humans, presenting facts accurately but in a way that is (probably unintentionally) very misleading.

He avoids the term "missing link", using the euphemism "bridge from apes to humans" in the title instead, perhaps in the hope that this will deflect some of the creationist's inevitable vitriol towards him (euphemisms won't help you, man). But this isn't the problem with the article. The parts of the article I take issue with most, apart from the title:
[This finding] could be the long-sought transition between ape-like ancestors and the first humans.
and also
Ask anthropologists what they dream about, and many will tell you it's the fossil of the last pre-human ancestor that led directly to us. Nobody's found it, and any who claim to usually get publicly whacked by their peers.
WRONG: There is no single "last" fossil, only a "latest" fossil. The narration suggests there were only one single fossil that they need to find to prove humans evolved from apes. This is a common misconception of the science of anthropology that is quite often exploited by the "equal time for intelligent design" political agenda. For example, the religious right will often tell people that the fossil record is incomplete or that the missing link hasn't been found yet, and that evolution is still controversial for this reason -- these are lies.

The fact is, there are many evolutionary branches between humans and earlier ancestors, and each branch has "missing link" fossils associated with them. Some branches have had their "missing links" found, others branches are still missing the connecting fossils, and still other branches have fossils that suggest there could be more branches in the ape/human family history that we haven't discovered yet. There are countless fossils, found around the world, show in museums around the world, researched in science laboratories around the world, that indicate the many links between humans and other modern day apes through common ancestors in our distant, prehistoric past.

So then this Joyce fellow at NPR writes some article as if this fossil might be the one!!! This is ignorance. Had he said something like "yet another missing link fossil has been found", it might have been more accurate. A better title would have been "'Mosaic' Fossil Could Be Another Bridge From Apes To Humans", or even better: "A More Recent Bridge", or "A Newer Missing Link", which is more true to the content of the article. An even better title would be "'Mosaic' Fossil Could Be Even Newer Missing Link from Apes to Humans". The "even" perhaps making this title seem more "partisan" according to right-wing zealots, but since the right-wing is provably wrong on this issue, that would not actually be "partisan," it would be simply a fact.

NPR is a pretty good news organization, and over the years I have often been impressed with their coverage of several issues important to me. But quite often they disappoint, either being too cautious about trying to be non-partisan, or simply showing general ignorance towards an issue, but to be fair that's a mistake many news companies make. To all those news organizations out there (News Corp is NOT a news organization, its a propaganda factory) please take note: no matter how non-partisan you are, you will always be a liberal propaganda outlet to your detractors, so stop trying so hard, and just present the facts as they are without softening them, otherwise you just make matters worse. No doubt, Joyce's article will be placed in a portfolio at the Discover Institute and elsewhere as "examples of leftist news outlets admitting that all missing links have been refuted!"

To Christopher Joyce I say, before publishing anything else on human evolution or anthropology, at least watch the 2005 History Channel documentary called "Ape to Man", your reputation is at stake after all.

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