That’s what the most recent DpSU from Frank Sherwin says: 2011 Another Frustrating Year for Evolution
Why does he think that last year was ‘frustrating’ for evolution? It’s based, it seems, off the selection provided in the 2011 Editors’ choice article in Nature from back in December. As Sherwin says:
Of the nine stories, only one addressed evolution—a paleoanthropology article by Fred Spoor entitled “Malapa and the genus Homo.” Nature reported that scientists uncovered “a newly discovered hominin species, Australopithecus sediba” and “the same [research] group has now published five reports detailing additional fossils and further analyses.”
Here’s a list of all nine, for some context:
- Epidemiology: How common is autism?
- Organic chemistry: Overcoming catalytic bias
- Complex systems: Unzipping Zipf’s law
- Cosmology: A monster in the early Universe
- Palaeoanthropology: Malapa and the genus Homo
- Precision measurement: A search for electrons that do the twist
- Behavioural neuroscience: Fruity aphrodisiacs
- Stem cells: The dark side of induced pluripotency
- Forum ageing: Longevity hits a roadblock
If it comes down to it, they would probably be complaining if there were more evolution stories in that list. It’s really a case of the stories all being from different disciplines.
Also, the palaeoanthropology story isn’t directly evolution – it’s not about the mechanisms, more findings in the context of evolution. And the same is true, to a lesser degree, about all the other biology stories (the stem cells for example, and especially the neuroscience one). And the Cosmology story, while not at all ‘evolution’, would most likely be labelled as ‘evolutionary’ by the creationists at the ICR, if it came up. Why has Sherwin picked up on the A. sediba story? Because we’ve encountered it from the ICR before:
ICR News reported in 2010 that A. sediba was an out-of-place fossil that had primitive feet and supposedly 1.9 million-year-old residual brain tissue. Both of these facts show that the creature was not human or a human transition and that it couldn’t be very old if it still had intact organic tissue—which would’ve decayed after only thousands of years.
The cite for that is an old DpSU, A New Evolutionary Link? Australopithecus sediba Has All the Wrong Signs. It falls to the same problems as the ‘why are there still monkeys?’ argument – namely, what we would consider an earlier link in the ‘ladder to man’ (or whatever) isn’t going to just die out. Here’s an old post from me on the subject of A. sediba, btw.
The rest of the editors’ choices for 2011 included a supermassive black hole, alkene metathesis reaction, autism, and other scientific stories.
But isn’t evolution supposed to be an all-encompassing theory that—if omitted—makes science null and void? Is this story on A. sediba the best on evolution out of the whole of 2011?
It would seem the editors had to shoehorn in an evolution story among the science contributions even though it was unconvincing and had a number of serious scientific problems.
There is this year, but it’s likely that 2012’s discoveries will not help evolution any better.
This story was not billed as ‘the evolution story’. As I’ve already said, there are many others that also have an evolutionary context to them – it is Sherwin that is doing the shoehorning here.