Conservapedia has finally gotten around to saying something on human evolution. Specifically, they have an entry on Piltdown.
In the entry we are informed that Piltdown “…was one of many frauds perpetrated by promoters of the theory of evolution.” and that:
Real science consists of rigorous testing to verify or falsify theories, but the scientific method was ignored with respect to the Piltdown Man and many artifacts like “him” such as Nebraska Man, Java Man, Ocre Man, and Neanderthals
I have written some stuff on Piltdown, however, if you really want to see how scientists analyzed the fossil you can consult Richard Harter’s Piltdown Man Website or The Clark University Piltdown Plot Project. The latter website has links to scanned copies of the relevant research papers. For example, the paper announcing the find is located here.
I bring this up because of the statement about the scientific method being ignored in the case of Piltdown and other finds. How accurate is this statement? Leaving aside the fact that we now now that Piltdown was a fraud, how scientific were some of the protagonists being in regard to Piltdown? I will leave you to read some of the papers collected at the above website, basically you can judge for yourself. I would like to look at a few of the other fossils in Conservapedias litany of frauds.
I would like to point out, again, that when you here someone talking about Nebraska “Man” or Orce “Man” or any other type of “man” you can be sure they do not know the first thing about paleoanthropology.
I have already mentioned Hesperopithecus in several posts. So how scientific was the examination of that particular tooth? Here is Gregory:
A careful consideration of the characters afforded by the badly
eroded and worn type, an upper molar, leads us to distribute them under
the following categories.
I.-CHARACTERS DUE TO LONG EXPOSURE TO WEATHERING, EROSION AND STREAM
OR WIND ACTION
(a) Extreme rounding of all angles margins, ridges, and projections of crown
(b) Breaking off of postero-external (disto-buccal) root and smoothing of site
(c) Loss of enamel on entire external and half of posterior surface.
(d) Presence of numerous large and small cracks and fissures and rounding of
the margins of the cracks, causing them to simulate the natural
fissures between cusps.
II.-CHARACTERS DUE TO EXTREME NATURAL WEAR OF THE CROWN
(a) Extreme shortness or apparent brachyodonty of crown and loss of all
(b) Close apparent approximation of hypocone to protocone.
(c) Evenly concave wearing surface.
(d) Deposition of secondary dentine on roof of pulp cavity, beneath wearing
(e) Diminished size of root canals.
III.-CHIEF DIAGNOSTIC CHARACTERS OF Hesperopithecus TYPE
(a) Upper molar crown conforming to the general type that is common to the
anthropoids and man.
(b) Evenly concave masticating surface, as in Pithecanthropus, certain chimpanzees’
and Australian aborigines.
(c) Very large divergent roots, a primitive character retained in the gorilla,
in Pithecanthropus, and in certain human teeth.
(d) Transverse diameter of antero-external root smaller than in human molars.
(e) Floor of pulp-cavity raised well above bifurcation of roots, as in man (Fig.
(f) Form of floor of pulp-cavity resembling that of anthropoids and man.
Over and above that, the tooth was subjected to a wide variety of metric and radiographic analyses. Here for example is the conclusion based on radiographic analyses:
Radiographic examination of the type molar tooth of Hesperopithecus
reveals a triangular outline of the floor of the pulp chamber. At the
angles of this triangle corresponding to the position of the roots there are
three openings corresponding with the root canals. The floor of the
pulp-cavity is well raised above the bifurcation of the roots, as in man
(cf. Fig. 5). The floor of the pulp-cavity resembles that of anthropoids
It is clear to me, after reading a number of the papers on the subject, that they performed the best analysis they could, given the eroded condition of the find. More importantly, they did not stop their analysis. A few years later Gregory would positively ID the tooth as belonging to a peccary. So far from giving Hesperopithecus a pass, scientist spent a lot of time trying to determine exactly what the tooth was. A secondary question. If scientists wrongly identify a tooth or bone as being human – or in this case an ape – and the identification later turns out to be incorrect is this fraud? In 1923 Gregory said that the tooth:
… of Hesperopithecus haroldcookii
represents an hitherto unknown form of the higher primates. It combines
characters seen in the molars of the chimpanzee, of Pithecanthropus,
and of man, but, in view of the extremely worn and eroded state of the
crown, it is hardly safe to affirm more than that Hesperopithecus was
structurally related to all three.
Yet a few years later he correctly identified as that of a peccary. So where is the fraud here? What about Orce? I, personally, am not too familiar with the Orce find. I had to look it up on Talk Origins The story concerns some fragmentary bone found in Spain that is, apparently, 1.8 million years old. Part of the problem is that the material seems to be from the parietal area, as this picture from Talk Origins demonstrates:
and here is a picture of the real thing:
The problem being that this is a relatively featureless part of the skull. As a matter of fact there is some doubt that it comes from the parietal rather than the frontal. At any rate, it has been suggested that the bone belongs to an equid of some sort. In order to settle the question the find has been subjected to a number of examinations including radiographic exams and examination of the albumin Immunospecificity. So, who suggested that the fragment belonged to an equid? Salvador Moya-Sola and Meike Kohler better known as two of the discoverers of Pierolapithecus catalaunicus. So, where is the fraud here? Clearly there is some question as to the species the bone belongs too, and just as clearly evolutionists are the ones voicing doubts and trying to scientifically prove their case one way or the other
Getting back to Piltdown, Conservapedia asks:
If evolutionists knew that there were problems with the Piltdown Man, why did they keep it secret from the public until 1953? Such silence begs more questions than it answers.
Actually, most evolutionists familiar with Piltdown did go public with their doubts. For example, Weidenreich had this to say about Piltdown:
“The sooner the chimaera ‘Eoanthropus’ is erased from the list of human fossils, the better for science.”
Quite a few other evolutionists were skeptical of Piltdown as well. As far as why it wasn’t finally laid to rest until 1953, the answer is simple: Proof. It wasn’t until the 1950′s that we had sufficient technology to conclusively prove Piltdown a fraud.
There is more absurdity in Conservapedia’s article but I will leave that to the reader…