How Much Can One Bone Say?
Two fossil discoveries are generating a lot of news from a single bone. The first is a dinosaur hip. The second is a human finger. How much weight can a single bone carry?
- Australian tyrannosaur: The tyrannosaurid dinosaurs had a distinctive hip bone. Live Science cast any doubt on the claims: “it’s still a hypothesis that will need to be backed up by further research.” Nevertheless, Science Daily was confident that “This find has major significance for our knowledge of how this group of dinosaurs evolved.”
- Finger pointing: What does a pinky finger bone in Siberia say? A lot, according to the science media. National Geographic claims it represents a new kind of human. The BBC News gave the bone a name right out of Hollywood: X-Woman. Because mitochondrial DNA was extracted from her 40,000 year old cells, X-Woman can now tell her amazing story of having evolved in Africa and migrating to the far reaches of Asia. This migration, the scientists tell us, was separate from the other hypothesized migrations of human ancestors and represents a whole new chapter in human evolution. Science Daily announced, “New Human Species Discovered.” One finger yielded a tribe of “previously unknown hominins,” the headline blared. PhysOrg called it a new branch on the human family tree, but did include some doubts about the interpretations. The doubts are drowned out by shouts of overconfidence: “As shown by a detailed analysis of the mitochondrial genome, these hominins shared a common ancestor with modern humans and Neanderthals about 1.0 million years ago,” Science Daily told its readers. “In addition, the age of the fossil suggests that these unknown people in Southern Siberia lived close in time and space with Neanderthals as well as with modern humans.” Some of the reporters are even ready to tell the relationship of X-Woman and her people to the hobbits of Indonesia – all based on a single pinky finger.
Scientists used to respect “evidential modesty.” They used to restrict their interpretations to observable facts, and check each other’s extrapolations via a culture of peer pressure that discouraged unwarranted assertions. As Colin Macilwain pointed out last month (02/18/2010), a weekly routine has grown in science reporting that “converts original scientific findings, via a production line of embargoed press releases from journals and universities, into a steady stream of largely uncritical stories.”
You thought it was just the cosmologists who had gone stark raving mad (03/19/2010). Evolutionists and their lackeys in the news are completely out of control. If this keeps up, they will lose what little credibility they have left. The strong evidence for design is being completely ignored, and the tiniest finger bone that gives the Darwin storytellers something to yack about for the media gets front page coverage, especially if it “sheds light on evolution” by one black-light photon aimed at empty space. It’s disgraceful. Who will shame them back to the founding principles of science? Who will hold their feet to the fire of logical integrity? Who will remind them of the reasonable limits of evidential modesty? We can’t do it alone. Join the Dragnet campaign: tell a scientist, “Just the Facts, Please!”