Missing link and evolution
Date: Around 1993
Has there ever been a so-called "missing link" found that later
was not rejected, and that could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the theory
of evolution? What I mean is that over the years there have been numerous
fossil finds, and they were supposed to be the missing link but they were all
later rejected. One in particular I remember was an Ora.
The "missing link" refers to the gaps in the knowledge base of
the sequence of what type of being existed between homo sapiens (smart man or
modern humans) and the presumed beast from which we evolved (be it ape, monkey
or orangutan). There have been a few anthropological finds that later were
rejected as being a part of this evolutionary line but I think those are in
the minority. The reason there is still a missing link is because as evidence
is unearthed further back in time then we can start looking even farther back
in time. Also (arguably) the gaps in the record get smaller with new finds.
This is like much of science, there is always something that is unknown yet
hypothetically knowable. In the case of human evolution, the unknown is
referred to as the "missing link."
Yes there has been, many times. Perhaps the best account of all
this you could read would be Stephen Jay Gould's book "Wonderful Life" about
the finds in the Burgess Shale in Canada. At least two considerations make it
hard to argue completely from the fossil record, though. First, fossils are
not a random sampling of evolution, because they favor hard-bodied, or hard
skeleton animals. Second, in Gould's theories, evolution may not always be
gradual, but may proceed in many discrete leaps, so that the chance of finding
transitional animals (missing links) may be low. The 747 analogy is not very
good, because natural selection directs in some sense the fate of animals.
All the failures die without reproducing, so the improbably successes survive
and reproduce, even though the probability of getting them in the first place
is low. Given enough time this works.
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Update: June 2012