Picking-up Piltdown

The 1908 discovery of “Piltdown Man” is universally considered a forgery and hoax. PluribusOne™ agrees that the skull is a careful fabrication that does not represent a stage in the evolution of Man as theorized by Charles Darwin. We have been challenged to address not the matter of whether the skull found in the Piltdown gravel pit represents a hoaxed “missing link,” but the matter of the perpetrator/s’ motivation for this apparent crime against science, and the potential effects of the fiasco on future research into the mystery of the origin of Life and shaping of life-forms over eons on Earth and elsewhere. 

It seems certain that the fabricated assemblage consisting of a human skull, an orangutan’s jaw, and modified chimpanzee’s teeth, was engineered to fill a gap in the imagined and anticipated chain of evidence for Darwin’s theory. However, the party responsible for the false evidence and his purpose was never proved. In fact, the whole matter to this day involves more mystery than certainty. It is somewhat similar to the Kennedy Assassination where the only absolute certainty is that the president is dead. It remains arguable whether there was one shooter, or two, or three, and controversial whether the fatal shot came from behind, from the front, or from a side angle. Etcetera. 

In the Kennedy mystery someone wanted him dead—that much is clear. Kennedy was not killed by a meteorite or shot by a man cleaning his gun somewhere across town. In the Piltdown matter the impetus is harder to determine. Did the apparent hoaxer/s (Dawson and friends) want to convince the world that Darwin was correct, or did an unidentified hoaxer trick Dawson and expect the hoax to be discovered eventually and thereby discredit Darwin, Dawson, and all evolutionists? Or did Dawson and friends do such a fine job of deluding themselves that they un-maliciously assembled false evidence? Without firsthand examination, the third possibility seems closest to the truth. 

If so, within that truth lie potent implications for future research into the nature of Life, its origin and unfolding, and for scientific methodology. What PluribusOne™ is seeing, beyond reasonable doubt, are researchers whose perceptions were so influenced by long-held belief and deep desire—by indelible personal bias—that the line between discovery and creativeness became blurred such that the natural artifacts could not escape the force of unbridled subjectivity. And, at this point, ever-closer skeptical meta-examinations of the researchers and tangible evidence can never do more than add to the uncertainties surrounding the Piltdown fiasco. Somewhere, Heisenberg is laughing. 

The fact that acceptance of the reality of “Piltdown Man” persisted for forty years is alarming. Yet we find far more alarming the posture of a renowned man of science—namely Sherwood Washburn (1911-2000), Harvard-trained anthropologist—who was quoted as having said this about the Piltdown affair: “I remember writing a paper on human evolution in 1944, and I simply left Piltdown out. You could make sense of human evolution if you didn’t try to put Piltdown into it.” It is hard to misinterpret that astonishing admission of an unscientific attitude borne of academic inbreeding and intellectual prejudice. Similar thinking infests every field of science although few scientists are arrogant enough to express their narrow-mindedness so bluntly and publicly. 

Subjectivity cannot and should not be completely eliminated from the processes of science; however, it can be controlled and guided through Enhanced Human Perception™ enabled by use of the Noetitek™ system of mind-tools available exclusively through PluribusOne™ Consulting.


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6 Responses to “Picking-up Piltdown”

  1. Valiant Says:

    You’ may be alarmed by Washburn’s apparent bias but aren’t you overlooking the fact that Washburn was correct?

  2. PluribusOne™ Says:

    The point is that Washburn was measuring the evidence presented by Dawson against Darwin’s Theory as if the theory was “a priori” knowledge, conceptualizing beyond questioning. Darwin’s Theory was nothing more than an interesting hypothesis based on limited observation propelled by a 19th century zeitgeist.

    Washburn could just as easily have omitted—and may have omitted—any number of other anthropological finds, valid or not, simply because they failed to fit into the then current Darwin-based view.

    “Piltdown Man” had been widely accepted because it matched with what was expected in Dawson’s day, based on Darwin’s theory. Decades later, Washburn discounted it on the same flawed basis.

  3. Valiant Says:

    Is there other evidence that Washburn was more of a “believer” than a scientist and theorist?

  4. PluribusOne™ Says:

    Yes. For starters, the title of his book “Ape into Man: A Study of Human Evolution” (1974) makes it clear that Washburn was not open to evidence or thinking that might lead in any new direction. Washburn’s Gospel is peppered with closed-minded phraseology such as: “it can no longer be doubted.”

    His chapter headed “Missing Links” includes only carefully selected material; no mention is made of Dawson, or Piltdown Man, or anything that would hint that there might possibly be evidence contradicting the established perspective on evolution. The book’s mission, like that of a Bible tract, is to inculcate, not educate.

    Washburn pits science directly against religion by presenting Darwin’s logical theory against the potent myth of Adam and Eve, as if the challenge to understand the unfolding of life on Earth can only be resolved underneath one of those conceptual tents or the other—black or white. Like a Republican discussing the ideology of Democrats, his mention of the sacred story has a mocking tone that betrays the mindset of a believer—dogma versus dogma, as if no other view has any value at all.

  5. Peace Trainer Says:

    It was reported in Issue 98, 2013, of Atlantis Rising magazine, p. 12, that a Bournemouth University archeologist has used forensic analysis to determine that Charles Dawson is to blame for the Piltdown hoax.

  6. PluribusOne™ Says:

    We read the magazine article, which has a surprisingly low information value. It fails to even inform the reader about availability of source material.

    The Bournemouth University website, found via Google, presents a synopsis of doubts, speculation, and reasoned argument, although the reader is not given a description, or detailed results, of applications of the “latest forensic techniques” mentioned in the magazine. The website does refer the reader to a book that might contain scientifically-derived data, although the preview of the book, available at Amazon.com, shares not one word of it. At some point we may gamble its cost that the recently published book presents some actual evidence that Dawson was a malicious “lone gunman.”

    No matter how well-reasoned the contentions against Dawson’s integrity or diligence, the whining scientific establishment cannot blame the Piltdown scandal entirely on him. Even if he conjured the skull without assistance, or together with one or more co-conspirators, it does not alter the larger reality that scientists, academicians, and publishers did eagerly and religiously accept and promote bogus evidence mainly because it sealed Charles Darwin’s case and affirmed their atheistic beliefs.

    Worse, to this day the scientific establishment continues to shirk responsibility for the Dawson debacle, while some leading scientists continue to zealously espouse Darwin’s flawed theory as if the Piltdown proof existed. The attack on Dawson is somewhat analogous to blaming Nazism and WWII entirely on Adolph Hitler while embracing the dysfunctional mentality that gave rise to both in the first place. Dawson is a diversion from the crucial issue, a convenient lightning rod.

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