The New Great Darwinian Hype


The other day, when the breath-less announcment of “Ida” shook the world, I was one of the skeptics.  There was just too much hype.

I am so glad I’m not alone.

Evidently someone is trying to publish a book and make a little money on what is an interesting discovery, but…

What if the fossil had not been recently discovered, but has been around for nearly 20 years, and purchased from a private collector?

From what I gather some of the leading paleontologists are already starting to complain about the alleged discovery, but that is another story.

There is the book
There is a movie
There is hype
There is a TV special

“…The specimen itself was not, in fact, dug up a couple of years ago. It was instead purchased, for a reported $1 million, from an obscure private collector, who had held it for at least 20 years. From the beginning, the “research program” was an exercise in entrepreneurship, with an investment to be recouped. In the end, direct participants in this circus included the History Channel, the BBC, Little Brown, Hachette Livre, and other mainstream media “content providers.”

All of these agreed to prepare the media hit in secret. As part of the launch, a formal scientific paper by the team that studied the fossil was published in the open-access online journal PLoS One.

Actually read that paper, and the hype evaporates. The authors methodically distance themselves from every sensational claim in the fine print:

“Note that Darwinius masillae, and adapoids contemporary with early tarsioids, could represent a stem group from which later anthropoid primates evolved, but we are not advocating this here, nor do we consider either Darwinius or adapoids to be anthropoids.”…”