About That ‘Dog-Cat’ Thing Again…


During the recent debate over science curriculum standards in Texas, State Board of Education member Ken Mercer argued that science hadn’t found transitional fossils that would back up the science of evolution. He demanded to know why scientists couldn’t show him a “dog-cat” or a “cat-rat,” for example.

It made no difference that some of the state’s most respected scientists — some of the world’s most respected scientists — were telling the board that there were countless examples of transitional fossils. Moreover, they argued, genetic evidence for evolution was even more solid.

They were met by skepticism and not a little derision by Mr. Mercer and other creationists on the board.

Now European scientists are pointing to yet another transitional fossil — although not quite Mr. Mercer’s ‘dog-cat’ — that creationists will ignore. From CNN:

Scientists hailed Tuesday a 47-million-year-old fossil of an ancient “small cat”-sized primate as a possible common ancestor of monkeys, primates and humans.

Scientists say the fossil, dubbed “Ida,” is a transitional species, living around the time the primate lineage split into two groups: A line that would eventually produce humans, primates and monkeys, and another that would give rise to lemurs and other primates.

An Associated Press story about the same finding quotes researchers who believe another fossil found in China provides far better evidence of a transitional species in the early monkey-ape-human ancestral line.

In any case, the point here is that the evidence for evolution is clear and abundant. Scientists repeatedly have pointed that out. But evidence for willful and determined ignorance on the Texas State Board of Education has also been clear and abundant. Some board members themselves have repeatedly pointed that out by their own words and actions.

11 thoughts on “About That ‘Dog-Cat’ Thing Again…

  1. I’m still angry about the “Someone has to stand up to the experts!” comment by McLeroy.

  2. I happen to have a couple of those “cat-dogs” living at my house. Though one is clearly feline, she has a bob tail and takes great delight in converting large pieces of paper into confetti. And that’s especially true if she happens to find the paper on my desk.
    The other “cat-dog” does have a full length tail for a cat. Her favorite treat is one of the rawhide chews savored by out two goofy Labs. Her claws are sharp enough and fast enough to keep the Labs at bay while she munches.
    The two cat-dogs are not kin, or at least not close with one being about ten years older than the other. So given the gestation period of cats, thse “cat-dogs” had to begin evolving about thirty generations back.

  3. Ida is indeed an interesting fossil and apparently worthy of some notoriety. But there are problems with the extent of hysterical notoriety she is receiving. Much of the press is behaving in an unfortunate unrestrained manner – obviously because Ida is a primate, our order of mammals. Ida seems actually no more amazing as a paleospecies with transitional features than are countless others (Pakicetus, Tiktaalik, Acanthostega, Archaeopteryx, Rhonavis, Confusciousornis, and on and on ad infinitum). In their zeal for Ida, they’re trotting out shoddy journalistic sensationalism – “missing link” – “leading to humans” – “Darwin’s theory finally proved” and senseless word associations “monkeys, primates, and humans” for example. Monkeys and humans are primates. And as if Darwin’s theory hadn’t been confirmed 19,000 times or more over the past 150 years.
    It is a really cool fossil with important transitional features, but Ken Mercer could just as easily be lashed with Tiktaalik. Our transitional cudgle doesn’t have to be a member of our order of mammals. The hype over Ida diminishes in the lay public eye the significance to evolution of non-primate transitional forms.

  4. McLeroy will say that fossil was put into the earth by God! Mark my words. Remember…God can do anything! I hear the cracking of the walls of Religiondumb slowly but surely

  5. Blind leading the blind, come on, CNN and the AP? There is more than that to the story of Ida! This isn’t exactly the stamp of approval most scientists look for…lol The fossil of this animal is “astonishingly complete” for something that is supposedly 47 million years old. Only two things are different from a modern version, the grooming claw, and a grooming tooth, other than than it looks like a modern version. Even the authors of the paper in PLOS put on a disclaimer, that it’s not a claim they’ve proved it. Yet, we got people in here proclaiming it’s evidence for a transitional from before much needed study. I think we really do need critical thinking even more now than ever before!

  6. “something that is supposedly 47 million years old”

    Wild guess: Michael thinks Ida can’t possibly be more than about six thousand years old.

  7. Despite the inexcusable hype from some of the media, this can be a real teachable moment because of all the attention. Given the abysmal understanding of evolution in this country, we need all the chances we can get. I just heard a physicist say that he had gotten the most invitations to speak that he ever had because of the “Black Hole” speculation associated with the Large Hadron Collider. He used these chances to explain the physics in lay terms and reach a much larger audience than he ever had before. We can use this hyped situation to show that the scientists are rational and have the honesty and humility to present the true story.

    That said, Michael needs to read the scientific reports on Ida again, paying closer attention this time. They do not refer to a grooming tooth, but to a tooth comb. This refers to the physical arrangement of the dentition, not to a comb used for grooming.