Ida is the stunningly well-preserved fossil that has been hailed as "our connection with the rest of all the mammals."1 A massive publicity campaign, including books, videos, a website, and public unveilings, coincided with the May 2009 publication of a scientific study conducted on the fossil.2 But published statements from creation and evolutionary scientists alike indicate that Ida's accolades as a "missing link" are thoroughly undeserved.
University of Oslo paleontologist Jørn Hurum, co-author of the PLoS report detailing the fossil, claimed, "This fossil is part of our evolution."3 Although Ida appears very lemur-like, Hurum considers her transitional to haplorhines, a broad grouping of primates thought to exclude lemurs but include monkeys and apes. However, Chris Beard of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History wrote that "Ida is not a 'missing link'--at least not between anthropoids and more primitive primates."4 And Duke University paleontologist Richard Kay stated, "There is no phylogenetic analysis to support the claims" that Ida is a missing link.5
Not only does Ida not have transitional features that a missing link should have, but she was found in a rock layer that is too young for her to even be a candidate for a "missing link" status. Harvard-trained paleontologist Kurt Wise told the Baptist Press that, according to evolutionary timescales, "Ida is much younger than both good fossils of lemurs and good fossils of monkeys."6
What was Ida, then? Other than a few different teeth, a single ankle bone that is unlike that of modern lemurs, and the absence of modern lemurs' "toilet claw," she appears very lemur-like. To be an evolutionary link, "Ida would have to have anthropoid-like features that evolved after anthropoids split away from lemurs and other early primates. Here, alas, Ida fails miserably."4 She appears to be just what biblically-informed science would predict--a fully-formed distinct creature with no transitional features that was buried in a catastrophic event.
With such strong evidence that Ida is not a missing link, why has there been such a widespread campaign claiming that she is? Ida is so well-preserved, and evolutionary theory is currently in such need of an icon, that the match is being made, with or without supporting science. The extravagant marketing of this fossil purported to be "proof of evolution"7 seems to have been timed for the effective sale of the evolutionary theory itself. With so many fossils like "Lucy" having been confirmed as evolutionary dead ends, the evolutionary camp is running out of missing links. As Hurum told UK news outlet The Guardian, "You need an icon or two in a museum to drag people in."8
So, Ida is destined to join the ranks of over a century of fossil fizzles, including Neandertal (human), Ramapithecus (orangutan), and Homo habilis (not a real taxon)--not to mention Archaeopteryx (bird), Archaeoraptor (a fake), Pakicetus (land mammal fragments), and many others. Since each evolutionary "link" turns out to be false, what does that say about the whole theory?
How much better it would be to rely on God-inspired rather than man-invented history. From the perspective of the Scriptures, one can understand not only why the "links" are missing, but how catastrophic events related to the Flood caused fossilization in the first place. No amount of media hype can truly replace real science and biblical history.
- A quotation from British naturalist Sir David Attenborough, contained in Attenborough on Ida: this little creature is going to show our connection with all other mammals. The Guardian. Posted on guardian.co.uk May 19, 2009, accessed May 20, 2009.
- Franzen, J. L. et al. 2009. Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology. PLoS One. 4 (5): e5723.
- The Missing Link? Nightline, ABC News television, May 20, 2009.
- Beard, C. Why Ida fossil is not the missing link. New Scientist. Posted on newscientist.com May 21, 2009, accessed May 21, 2009.
- Gibbons, A. "Revolutionary" Fossil Fails to Dazzle Paleontologists. ScienceNOW Daily News. Posted on sciencenow.sciencemag.org May 19, 2009, accessed May 20, 2009.
- Roach, E. Experts: Fossil find exciting but lacks significance. Baptist Press. Posted on bpnews.net May 20, 2009, accessed May 20, 2009.
- Randerson, J. Is fossil Ida a missing link in evolution? The Guardian. Posted on guardian.co.uk May 19, 2009, accessed May 20, 2009.
- Randerson, J. Fossil Ida: extraordinary find is 'missing link' in human evolution. The Guardian. Posted on guardian.co.uk May 19, 2009, accessed May 19, 2009.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Thomas, B. 2009. The Ida Fossil: A Clever Campaign for a Lackluster "Link." Acts & Facts. 38 (7): 17.