Here’s a not-exactly-topical metaphor I just thought of.
Remember Ida, the fossil that was shown off sometime last year and got the media all in a fluster about Darwin’s theory “finally being proved right”? Even though it had actually been uncovered over 25 years ago, it was widely hailed as the final clinching proof of evolution that scientists have been searching for in vain this past century and a half.
It’s a really neat find, showing almost a complete body of a lemur-like primate from around 47 million years ago. But some scientists claimed that that’s all it is, and insisted that the media’s portrayal of this one fossil as the lone linchpin of decades of collaborative effort was somewhat overhyped.
But consider it this way. Ida is like the final piece in the jigsaw, which concludes the search for evidence of evolution.
When you’re doing, say, a 1000-piece jigsaw, you’ve no idea what the picture might turn out to be before you’ve put in that one last piece. There’s absolutely no way of telling what pattern the other 999 pieces are going to form, or even whether they’ll form any coherent pattern at all. It’s incomplete, so how can you possibly draw any conclusions about the overall image which acts as a basis for the jigsaw you’ve carefully fitted together? Anyone who’s ever done a jigsaw will confirm that this is definitely how it works.
But then, when you slot that one last piece into place, it suddenly and immediately becomes clear. Without that one piece, all the work you’ve done before is essentially worthless; you’ve got no chance of being able to determine anything about your jigsaw picture with only 999 pieces. But, when you find it, everything will all suddenly come together and make perfect sense.
And that’s what Ida did for the theory of evolution. See, doesn’t it all make so much more sense now?