I think fossils are pretty neat. Do you think fossils are neat? You do? Fantastic!
Say hello to Ardi, an Ethiopian find of indeterminate relation to good old Homo sapiens. There are two really notable things about the fossils (for someone like me, anyway; I’m sure a paleontologist could list a lot more than just two); it was actually discovered in 1990, and the media has dutifully commenced misrepresenting it. Hopefully we won’t get anything like the cringe-inducing coverage of the Ida announcement, but the signs are not good. The Guardian article about seems to seriously overstate its relation to modern humans, and the comment thread over there is filled with the usual Creationism insanity as a result. There’s also a pervasive idea that the actual research scientists are somehow involved in the media coverage of a new fossil announcement, which they aren’t. (Well, okay, apart from the damn Ida thing…) If you actually read something written by one of the scientists involved in these things, or somebody else in the field who’s commenting on it, you’ll find them constantly warning their readers that any proposed direct link between fossil X and humans is tenuous at best. Somehow, that never seems to stop the media from loudly declaring that ‘We’ve found the missing link ZOMG!’
And I’m going to cut this one short before it turns into a rant on mass media stupidity. Consider yourselves lucky!