Monday, 16 July 2012

Is Evolution Really That Difficult?

No, no it's not.

A friend of mine – an intelligent, well-read, scientifically-minded friend, I might add – was recently chatting to me about an archaeological dig which had revealed a 2-million-year-old skeleton that appeared vaguely human. The significance of the story was that it was the most complete and intact skeleton that had been recovered in all the digging-up of ancient bodies. I found it quite interesting. So did he.

Then he asked if scientists had “discovered the missing link, yet, or have they given up?”

This concerned me. Of all my friends – and I have a few – he is one of the few that I might consider about as nerdy as I am. I might have imagined that he would know the answer to this question, already, particularly as it isn’t a difficult one to answer for anyone who knows much about the current state of evolutionary science.

The fact is that scientists have had the ‘missing link’ for years. There are dozens of transitional fossils between Sahelanthropus tchadensis and Homo sapiens, the oldest being about seven million years old and the most recent being, well, us. All the different species have been found in fragments and are usually separated via the skull, particularly the brow and jaw lines. As far as I was aware, the only people who don't believe in a ‘missing link’ these days are religious morons who refuse to accept evidence when it is staring them in the face, and the poor neglected people who have been brainwashed by said religious morons into not looking at evidence. On top of that, scientists are finding new links, between links, every day. There are complete lists of them all over the internet, and there was an article about a new species of Australopithecus in New Scientist magazine just a couple of months ago. I know because I bought it (I’ve wanted a subscription for a while, but couldn’t afford it, so I bought it this time because I needed a magazine for an assignment at uni, and thought it was a perfect opportunity to indulge my nerdism). I remember it because it also had a picture of Professor Brian Cox on the front, which is always a bonus.

Alright, so the evolutionary line is still not perfect and there are still some species left to be discovered. But, so what? There is enough evidence for it that there really is no room for debate about evolution any more. Religious or not, there is no empirical evidence against evolution (the Bible doesn’t count as evidence). Quite frankly, anyone who ignores all the substantial evidence for evolution is going to get dumped in with the nutter who wrote the letter on the right.

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