Homo Habilus, Erectus, and Piltdown
April 14, 2008
We've all seen those lineups of our evolutionary roots...a parade of characters emerging from the slime. The first figure’s barely slithering with butt yet in the water, but each successive fellow is more and more erect, till finally, there’s the guy in the front with briefcase and tie. Sometimes, when satirists are illustrating the backward evolution of something, say….the American school system, they turn the whole troupe around and march them back into the muck.
But the ancestors in the lineup aren’t so orderly as they appear. Since the parade’s inception, for example, the apelike homo habilis has been faithfully tailing the manlike homo erectus, and heaven help you if you were to question that order. But in 2005, scientists in Kenya found fossil specimensof each within walking distance of the other. Moreover, they were dated equally ancient. They weren’t ancestor-descendent at all, but contemporaries, more like Clint Eastwood and his orangutan!Evolutionists muttered about it some in scientific journals, but I never saw a word in the popular media. Ah well, they seem to say….if it wasn’t that slobbering ancestor, then it must have been some other.
The marcher who really takes the cake, though, is Piltdown man. He snuck into the lineup in 1912 and remained for forty years before he was unmasked as a fraud in 1953 and kicked out!
It was a laborer who discovered the bones at the small English village of Piltdown. In time, the place would yield forty separate discoveries. He turned them over to Charles Dawson, a local lawyer, who trotted them off to the museum. They sure looked old. Yes, they represented the missing link, proof that Darwin’s fifty year old theory applied even to humans! The find was announced to the scientific world, which swooned in ecstasy.
But forty years later they began to smell a rat. Weren’t those bones merely chemically stained so as to look old? And hadn’t they been filed here and there in order to mimic the passage of time? More tests were made and…..sonuvagun….it was just a pile of old bones, largely a run-of-the-mill contemporary ape with some other critters fused in! Someone had made asses of the world’s most respected evolutionists! “It really was a horrible, nasty, vicious piece of work!” grouses Andy Currant, featured on the NOVA documentarychronicling the farce.
Who would play such a mean trick?
Suspects were not few. Even Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator Sherlock Holmes, was considered! He lived nearby, he was a medical doctor, he collected fossils, and he was a showman. He even had motive. See….he believed one could communicate with the dead. He took photographs of ghosts, but when he showed them to scientists, they laughed at him. “Frauds, double exposures,” they declared, “easily faked!” “I’ll show you what a fraud is,” he supposedly schemed, and so planted evidence that would give him the last laugh for forty years!
(This better not happen again, Romulus Crowe, If it does, I’m on to you!)
The lawyer Charles Dawson also emerges as a suspicious character. When his Piltdown man was revealed as phony, researchers tested his other ancient treasures on display at museums. They were all forgeries!
Still another fellow comes to light….were they all in cahoots? Martin Hinton, a staff scientist at the British Natural History Museum (where Piltdown was housed) died in 1961. When they found his trunk decades later in a museum storage room, it contained all the chemicals and tools required to create the hoax. Moreover, there were bones doctored similarly, as if he were practicing for the great joke. (or was he only recreating the deception?) Mr. Hinton’s motive? He was peeved at toiling in obscurity, annoyed that his Museum superior passed him over for promotion, denying him fame and money! “I’ll plant a phony caveman,” he supposedly reasoned. “The ass will discover it, parade it as genuine. Scientists will see right through it, and laugh him into oblivion” What he didn’t reckon on was that evolutionists, desperate for any scrap proving human evolution, would lap it all up uncritically….just as they have in modern times with homos habilis and erectus!
Says Giles Oakley, son of the man who uncovered the fraud, “Egotism, pride, ambition, rivalry, these things affect [gasp!] even scientific judgments.”
Incredibly, nationalism even played a part in fooling the “great men,” as the NOVA documentary makes clear. British evolutionists were frustrated in the early 1900’s. The Germans had discovered Neanderthal man. “Prehistoric” men had also been found in France and Spain, and yet the Brits had squat. But these were the days of the British empire, on which the sun never set. Surely they must also be the cradle of civilization! Piltdown man put the Brits on the map scientifically, and British scientists were the last to acknowledge that they had been duped.
Sigh…..how to sum up? Shouldn’t we really defer to the words of Malcolm Muggeridge:
Posterity will surely be amazed, and I hope vastly amused, that such slipshod and unconvincing theorizing should have so easily captivated twentieth-century minds and been so widely and recklessly applied.
Alas, there is little sign as yet that anyone's amazed.
I often keep up with the ID debate these days. "Lucy", Tiktaalik and others they've found usually force Darwinists to plead retroactive ignorance.
It's funny. They KNOW until they don't know. But until it's proven that they don't know something you'd better not dispute them on their ignorance! However, when those of us who believe God did it but we don't quite understand all of the mechanics they scream:"God-of-the-Gaps" or "Argument from incredulity."
But I suppose in the case of "Piltdown Man" and others, retroactive fraud must be thrown in the mix too! LOL!
Posted by: vargas | April 15, 2008 at 12:02 AM
I really can't claim to follow it too closely. And given where these guys are coming from, I really don't find fault with them for playing with the puzzle pieces and reaching tentative conclusions. But they generally impose their tentative conclusions as axioms on everyone else. As you say, "until it's proven that they don't know something you'd better not dispute them..."
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | April 15, 2008 at 07:37 AM
When I was a kid, I was taught that evolution was an hypothesis, (educated guess). From what I understand it is still considered an hypothesis. However, I'm not sure if the science teachers in schools are telling their students that. Frankly I found the whole thing hard to swallow.
Tom, my RSS feed has gone bad. Please subscribe to my knew feed. ;o)
Posted by: Awake In Rochester | April 16, 2008 at 06:21 AM
This week's New Scientist (out tomorrow) has an evolution special. That's certain to fight the ID argument, even though there's no need at all.
Evolution has been shown in animals but not proven in humans. All those old 'humans', Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon etc, aren't ancestors. They were around for a while but they weren't us. I have wondered whether references such as 'There were giants in the earth in those days' (KJV: it's 'Nephilim' in some versions) might be a reference to these 'others'. Can't claim to be an expert either way.
One thing you might find interesting in the current New Scientist is an article on the 'big bang'. The problem with it is that it should have created matter and antimatter in equal amounts. So they should have cancelled each other out and there should be nothing here. Somehow, there was more matter than antimatter.
Someone worked out that there must have been 30,000,001 matter particles for every 30,000,000 antimatter particles.
The next line will raise your eyebrows - quote - "It seems very unlikely that such a fine-tuned situation appeared accidentally" - unquote -
They don't elaborate but it does sound like a dangerous thing for a scientist to say, in the current climate.
If we leave the fundamentalists on both sides to fight amongst themselves, I'm sure the rest of us can find common ground.
There are, as Vargas said, many gaps in scientific knowledge. Claiming that 'God did this' is as valid a position as any. Perhaps God really is in the gaps?
Even where things are known, such as the matter/antimatter above, it's still possible to argue 'God did that' because science, for all the bluster of our own extremists, can't prove he didn't.
I think you might enjoy Lawrence Krauss' article on page 48 too. He talks about 'scientism' and 'religionism'. The latter takes the view that God exists and everything must be interpreted in view of this unproven fact, while the former, rather than restricting itself to what science can show to be real, insists that what science has shown to be real is all there is.
These extremes aren't so different, really.
I'm of the view that science should stick to what it knows and seek to know more. Science should not extrapolate into unresearched areas at all because that destroys credibility and credibility, really, is essential to a scientist. Research first. Conclusions later. You can't just skip the difficult part.
But scientists are human, and have prejudices and unshakeable beliefs just like anyone else.
Anyway, I won't be burying any bones, I promise. I have other forms of proof in mind.
Posted by: Romulus Crowe | April 16, 2008 at 08:37 AM
I think the way it works is that an hypothesis is formed, as you say, an educated guess, though scientists would probably characterize it a little stronger than that. The hypothesis is subjected to various tests and experiments. If it holds up, it eventually passes into theory. The ultimate step is “law,” as in the Law of Thermodynamics or Law of Gravity. Evolution will not reach this status, I think because it lacks the capacity for repeatable experiments. Nevertheless, within the scientific community, it is mostly regarded and taught as law.
Is that reasonably accurate, Romulus?
“Someone worked out that there must have been 30,000,001 matter particles for every 30,000,000 antimatter particles.
The next line will raise your eyebrows - quote - "It seems very unlikely that such a fine-tuned situation appeared accidentally" - unquote - "
Yes! Absolutely. PROOF our side is right.
Kidding aside, I have no idea. I mean, I’ll TAKE it as an point for the good guys. But if I can’t trust these guys to line up some old bones properly, I don't necessarily give them a free pass on counting matter & anti-matter particles. I can get my head around fossils; not so anti-matter particles. I’ll accept it as tentative. And I suspect they themselves regard it that way, or at least they wouldn’t be overly put out were they to find I didn’t trumpet their findings as revealed truth.. The only time scientists seem seriously put out is when you question something about their evolution views.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | April 17, 2008 at 10:32 AM
There was once a huge scientific meeting on evolution, where some radicals (who weren't real scientists, just stirrers of the stinky stuff) tried to persuade the scientists to refer to 'the Law of Evolution'.
They declined, very sensibly, on the grounds that it's not a 'law' and can never be.
Gravity is a 'law'. If you throw something in the air, it falls back down. It always happens. You'll never throw an apple in the air and make it stay there, because gravity is a 'law' which means physical objects will always do what it says. The same is true of the 'laws of thermodynamics' or Boyles' Law and Charles' Law as applied to gases in equilibrium. The physical world always reacts in the same way as described by their equations, so they are scientific laws.
Animals are never compelled to evolve. if the environment changes, a species can adapt, evolve, move somewhere else or die out. They don't 'have to' evolve when the environment changes, so it's not a 'law' in the scientific sense.
Besides, for evolution to work, the changes to the animal must be in place before the change of environment. It's too late afterwards. Evolution is luck, not law.
If you hear of anyone referring to the 'law' of evolution, then they're an idiot. A double-first idiot with honours, and you can say this scientist said so.
By the way, that New Scientist issue is out today, and as I expected they're taking a few shots at you guys. Not all of them fair, in my view, but then it's been a dirty fight from the outset.
Oh, all this antimatter stuff fascinates me, but I won't pretend to understand what they'e on about most of the time. I take their word for it. It's best, because otherwise they might start explaining!
Posted by: Romulus Crowe | April 17, 2008 at 05:30 PM
I agree with romulus. Scientists should stick with science. If your a biologist stick with biology. But if your a biologist masquerading as a theologian then you start loosing credibility. Heck, I don't get my electrician to do my plumbing.
Piltdown man is part of a syndrome that effects anyone who believes in the infallibility of human knowledge.
Posted by: Showme | April 17, 2008 at 08:25 PM
Tom Sheep and Goats,
"The apelike homo habilis has been faithfully tailing the manlike homo erectus, and heaven help you if you were to question that order. But in 2005, scientists in Kenya found fossil specimens of each within walking distance of each other. Moreover, they were dated equally ancient. They weren’t ancestor-descendent at all, but contemporaries, more like Clint Eastwood and his orangutan! Evolutionists muttered about it some in scientific journals, but I never saw a word in the popular media. Ah well, they seem to say….if it wasn’t that slobbering ancestor, then it must have been some other."
The scientific community is in many cases is so hung up on their own pet theory that no other theory, that conflicts with theirs could possibly be correct, according to them. It is now fairly well accepted by the world of Archaeology, Anthropology and Paleontology that the tree of evolution as they call it has branched in many directions and most of these branches became extinct over time. Evolutionists feel the surviving branch today, homo sapiens evolved from one of the lesser orders of homo ------- and they all do not agree which one.
"The marcher who really takes the cake, though, is Piltdown man. He snuck into the lineup in 1912 and remained for forty years before he was unmasked as a fraud in 1953 and kicked out! But the ancestors in the lineup aren’t so orderly as they appear. Since the parade’s..."
Some scientists are not beyond fraud and it is has generally ended by degrading their efforts and the efforts of others, but the world is full of people; scientists, politicians, preachers, generals and privates, teachers, fisherman and hunters, and those of any other human endeavor that can be named, that have used fraud and deception to make and have their point become recognized. “Diogenes, an ancient philosopher spent his life looking for an honest man. And it is said he never found one!” This is probably true today as each of us humans try to make our point in life.
There is one thing that applies to religion and also the last couple of posts from, Tom Sheep and Goats. The religious writings and interpretations have gotten so that I can no longer understand or make sense of the changes in these things that religion uses as Gods guidance to man. Since I was a child and attended Church and Sunday School regularly I had been told that man had been given dominion over all living animals, fish, birds and every herb bearing seed or tree. I could go back to Genesis and find the words, but just like the scientists and their stumbling over the fraud and deception they have produced the theologist’s have altered their opinion of dominion and now say it means tend their flocks. I am sure the different translations of the bible have changed over time to reflect the errors of thinking in the past. Is this type of change any less dishonest than the substitution of some bones. The difference in my opinion is this, the evolutionist is not restricted by the 10 Commandments, or the 14 deadly sins. In most cases he might be familiar with some of these Laws but does not follow them in his daily routine. The theologist on the other hand must obey the laws or he is not what he claims to be. Who is worse?
Posted by: Ed Hughes | April 19, 2008 at 04:56 AM