Friday, 22 May 2009

Ida fever

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We're in the eye of the storm of fossil mania at the moment - last week Colin Tudge's new book The Link came out on the same day as the Guardian splashed with the discovery of this new 47 million year-old fossil, even making a picture of the young primate skeleton their pull-out centrefold. Talk of 'missing links' has been growing louder ever since. To be fair the Guardian never actually definitively said that Ida was the missing link – the answer to whether she was or not was, according to David Attenborough's lead article, "yes and no", and science correspondent James Randerson repeated the same thing on the same page to hammer home the point. I suppose it was silly of any of us to assume that the title of the book, and the the documentary film that will be screened in the UK next week, voiced by Attenborough himself - The Link - had anything to do with the claim that Ida was the missing link. She might just be the link that we hadn't heard from for a while but we were sure was doing fine and would get in touch when she had a moment.

In fact this synchronicity in the UK is only a small part of a truly global hype-fest that has been running of several years, and involves millions of pounds, absurdly restrictive embargoes, and a great deal of PT Barnum-style flim flam. In an exclusive piece for New Humanist Kenan Malik tells the tawdry tale, and considers the consequences. Read it.

Comment here if you feel like it.


Anonymous said...

Great background article on the Ida hype. Thanks Kenan.

Garkbit said...

On the way into work today I was listening to The News Quiz podcast and was very impressed that they actually got the science of Ida more correct than 95% of the serious newsmedia - e.g. Francis Wheen pointing out that there is no such thing as a missing link and that Ida is an aunt rather than an ancestor - plus a sideswipe at mitochondrial Eve for being a bit of a tart. said...

Ida is biologically meaningless. It is as if we had found a new sub-type of ancient lemur monkey. Wholly philosophically meaningless. Morons from the Communist Atheist Left and the "Revealed Religion" Right attempt to distort every fact for their own neurotic agendas. Let the facts speak for themselves.