I admit it. I knew better when I posted the story about the kraken lair to my Facebook for my less scientifically literate friends to awe and wonder at. I could tell from the scant evidence provided in the press release that there really wasn’t anything there but a collection of bones from 45-foot-long ichthyosaurs mysteriously piled together at a site in Nevada. To infer the bones were gathered together by a gigantic ancient cephalopod whose soft tissues left no trace in the fossil record was an admirably imaginative idea, but I knew this extraordinary claim didn’t pass the Sagan Standard’s “extraordinary evidence” requirement. As Samuel Clemens best expressed it, “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such trifling investment of fact.”
And still I posted it to Facebook, where it got eight Likes, three comments, and one share. That’s eight more Likes than my link to Discovery’s Faces of Our Ancestors gallery, featuring facial reconstructions for 11 ancestors of Homo sapiens and for which there is plenty of direct fossilized evidence to support their stories.
Stories. We only have a few millennias’ worth of stories from the written and oral history of the human race, but the archeological record is brimming with billions of years’ worth of them. Like detectives at the scene of a crime, archeologists have reconstructed events out of the shared story of our origins to tell engaging tales of our ancestors trials and tribulations.