In 1891, a Dutch doctor named Eugene Dubois unearthed in Java a skull fragment with a low forehead, buried only a few metres from where a human thigh bone was later found. Concluding (incorrectly) that both fossils came from the same creature, he announced the discovery of evolution’s missing link, an extinct primate called Pithecanthropus erectus that was neither fully ape nor fully human.1 The evolution of ideas also implicates a search for connections and missing links. Sometimes the hunt yields only dead ends, like Dr Dubois’s hypothetical primate. Sometimes,...
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