The center of the front page of today’s New York Times proclaims, “Rat-Size Ancestor Said to Link Man and Beast.” Accompanying a cute illustration (shown at right) is this lead: “Humankind’s common ancestor with other mammals may have been a roughly rat-size animal that weighed no more than a half a pound, had a long furry tail and lived on insects.”
Well, that clinches it. Next paragraph: “In a comprehensive six-year study of the mammalian family tree, scientists have identified and reconstructed what they say is the most likely common ancestor of the many species on the most abundant and diverse branch of that tree—the branch of creatures that nourish their young in utero through a placenta.”
Game, set, match. “Comprehensive study”—must be thorough, not speculative. “Scientists”—not just several scientists, but must be millions and millions. Published, the net paragraph tells us, “in the journal Science.” Sounds definitive.
But wait a minute—what exactly is the evidence for the rat-size animal being our ancestor? “The animal had several anatomical characteristics for live births that anticipated all placental mammals and led to some 5,400 living species, from shrews to elephants, bats to whales, cats to dogs and, not least, humans.”
So because the animal apparently gave birth like mammals and humans give birth, that’s proof of ancestry? Hmm. Couldn’t it be evidence for intelligent design, with God having a group of His creatures giving birth in similar ways?
Surely, since this is science, the researchers were open to a variety of possibilities, right? Well, read on: “The project was financed primarily by the National Science Foundation as part of its Assembling the Tree of Life program.” That program’s website states the goal of the Assembling the Tree of Life project: “to reconstruct the evolutionary origins of all living things.”
Not to ask basic questions. Not “to explore origins.” No, “assemble” and “reconstruct,” as if the issue were settled—but it’s not. The Discovery Institute website includes Casey Luskin and Logan Paul Gage’s “Barking up the Wrong Tree,” a 2008 article that notes, “Scientists have also recently unearthed all kinds of evidence that actually challenges common ancestry.”
Luskin and Gage cite the Cambrian explosion, during which “nearly all of the major living phyla (or basic body plans) of life appeared in a geological instant with no apparent evolutionary precursors. … The Cambrian explosion even included vertebrate fish, which appeared without any hint of an evolutionary past. As even Richard Dawkins concedes, ‘it is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history.’”
The authors quote from PhysOrg.com article and from several National Academy of Sciences members, including biologist W.F. Doolittle who states, “Evolutionary scientists will have failed to find the ‘true tree,’ not because their methods are inadequate or because they have chosen the wrong genes, but because the history of life cannot properly be represented as a tree.” Bottom line: “Modern genetic discoveries challenge Darwin’s universal Tree of Life.
Toward the end of its article, the New York Times reporter does mention “years of dispute between fossil and genetic partisans over when placental mammals arose.” But on the basic question, the Times gives us all the news that’s fit to print—and criticism of Darwinian evolution evidently does not pass the gray newspaper’s “survival of the fittest” test.