19 May 2009

Of Mice and Ancestors to Men

There are some people who insist that, just because science cannot explain the evolution of the elbow joint, it proves some divine entity "created" it. Okeh, whatever. Science does not work like that. In science, you take evidence and draw a conclusion. When new evidence surfaces it either confirms that conclusion or makes you re-think it. Put together thousands of conclusions drawn on thousands of pieces of evidence and you come up with the probability that your conclusion is correct.

But nothing in science is ever cast-in-stone -- unlike some books that some might have us believe possess the very positive and very complete answer to everything in the universe.

That's not science.

Science has gaps of knowledge. Scientists readily admit that. So, deal with it. There are sections where we hypothesize what might be the answer, awaiting confirmation or refutation by the evidence. Just because there is no piece of evidence to conclude something does not mean that it is not explainable. It is just not explainable yet.

Now with that primer out of the way, feast your eyes, if you will, on a fossil primate that dates more than 47,000,000 years and may be a common ancestor to modern humans. Some are calling it the missing link between more primitive primates and humans. Whether it is or is not is really not relevant to me. What matters is the beauty of this preserved animal that died at the bottom of a lake or river bed and comes to us, millions of years later, as an exquisite example of its species -- an animal that ate and breathed, and broke a wrist and tried to survive. It is a breathtaking example of the forces of nature at work and the skill of scientists who reveal the beauty inherent in such a splendid example of life after life.

Sure, it will be tremendous if this creature's remains help scientists draw new conclusions about what led us to where we are. But, until then, just marvel at it for what it is. (Click on the image to enlarge. I intentionally left it quite large so you can see more detail.)

You can read more about the fossil here.

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