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Early Man - The Emperor Has No Clothes

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Sean Pitman, MD
March 2006
Piltdown Man
• Eanthropus dawsoni or "dawn man“
• “Discovered” by Charles Dawson in
1912 (an ape-like mandible with
human-like teeth and a human-like
piece of skull)
• In 1953 Kenneth Oakley, Joseph
Weiner and Wilfred Le Gros Clark
exposed the fact that Piltdown Man
was a hoax
• Interesting because this rather
obvious hoax was accepted by the
scientific community as real
evidence of human-ape ancestry for
over 40 years
Nebraska Man
• Hesperopithecus haroldcookii
• Mr. Harold Cook discovered
one tooth in 1922 in the
“Pliocene” deposits of
• An attempt was made to use
Nebraska Man as evidence in
Scopes “Monkey” Trial
• Drawing published in Illustrated
London News, 1922
• Since William Jennings Bryan, former Secretary
of State and a special prosecutor in the Scopes
case, was himself from the state of Nebraska,
Osborn chided him about Nebraska Man in the
– “The earth spoke to Bryan from his own state of
Nebraska. The Hesperopithecus tooth is like the
still, small voice. Its sound is by no means easy to
hear ----. This little tooth speaks volumes of truth, in
that it affords evidence of man’s descent from the
ape.” – Osborn
• Osborn himself commented on Forestier's
drawing by saying:
– “Such a drawing or 'reconstruction' would doubtless
be only a figment of the imagination, of no scientific
value, and undoubtedly inaccurate.” - Osborn
• Little did Osborn know Just how
inaccurate this drawing was
• Turned out to be a tooth from an extinct
type of pig (peccary)
– I wonder how the history would remember
the Scopes trial if this little bit of information
had become available during the trial?
Java Man
• Pithecanthropus erectus
• Found by Eugene Dubois
between 1891 and 1892
• Association of a humanlike femur with a very large
gibbon-like skullcap, found
12 meters apart
“The skull has a deep suture between the low vault and the
upper edge of the orbits. Such a suture is found only in
apes, not in man. Thus the skull must belong to an ape. In
my opinion this creature was an animal, a giant gibbon in
fact. The thigh bone has not the slightest connection with
the skull.”
- Dr Rudolph Virchow, Director of the Berlin Society for Anthropology and
founder of the science of pathology
• While in Sumatra, Dubois heard about a skull
found on the nearby island of Java, which he
secured along with another similar skull at the
same location
• These skulls were “too human” looking
• Then, in 1891, he found a molar tooth along the
Solo River and later another molar and an apelike skullcap
• The following year he found a human femur some
yards from where he found the skullcap
• After consulting with Haeckel, Dubois declared
the whole collection to belong to one and the
same creature, stating that it was “admirably
suited to the role of missing link.”
• Leg bone is now accepted as being modern
• Skullcap is still debated to be either from a
giant gibbon-like creature or hominid ancestor
• Either way, the association of the skullcap
with the femur was never justified – as
originally explained by Virchow
• It was in recognition of this fact that the
restoration of Java Man, paid for by Ernst
Haeckel, was removed from the Leiden
Museum to its basement in the mid 1980s.
The exhibit of Java Man was also removed
from public display in the American Museum
of Natural History.
Getting it in the Right Ballpark
Sort of . . .
Evolutionary Sequence
from ape to human
Ramapithecus lufengensis
• In 1932 Louis Leaky discovered a
fragmented maxilla and some teeth in
southwest Kenya
• Assembled to form a parabolic shape
similar to the human condition
• Presented as the first branch of ape
to evolve into humans 12 to 14 million
years ago
• Noted scientist Dr. Elwyn Simons stated
confidently [regarding Ramapithecus],
– “The pathway can now be traced with little
fear of contradiction from generalized
hominids -- to the genus Homo.”
• The importance of Ramapithecus as
an early ancestor of hominids is evident in
this comment by Simons in Time
Magazine (Nov. 7, 1977):
– “Ramapithecus is ideally structured to be an
ancestor of hominids. If he isn't, we don't
have anything else that is.”
• Then, a little problem surfaced for
Ramapithecus (same year: 1977)
• A full jaw (mandible) was discovered
• This jaw bone was U-shaped, not
parabolically shaped
• Zilman and Lowenstein attempt to explain
the reason for the earlier thinking of most of
the worlds most prominent
– “Ramapithecus walking upright has been
reconstructed from only jaws and teeth. In 1961
an ancestral human was badly wanted. The
prince's ape latched onto position by his teeth
and has been hanging on ever since, his
legitimacy sanctified by millions of textbooks and
Time-Life volumes on human evolution.”
“A group of creatures once thought to be our oldest
ancestors may have been firmly bumped out of the
human family tree. Many paleontologists have
maintained that Ramamorphs are our oldest known
ancestors. These conclusions were drawn from little
more than a few jawbones and some teeth. Truthfully,
it appears to be nothing more than an orangutan
ancestor.” - David Pilbeam, Science, 1982
• Australopithecus means "southern ape" –
found in S. Africa
• Tuang Child – Raymond Dart, 1924
– Dart thought teeth human-like
– Most not convinced – skull of a young 3year-old chimp
• Later Dart and Broom found other
Australopithecines at Kromdraii, Swartkrans
and Makapansgat
• Two parallel lines of development, one
being a small “gracile” (slender) type and
the other a larger “robust” type
– “africanus” and “robustus” (now thought
to be female and male forms)
Gorilla Skull
• Anatomist Dr. Charles Oxnard of the
University of Chicago claimed in a paper
published in a 1975 edition of Nature that:
"Multivariate studies of several anatomical
regions, shoulder, pelvis, ankle, foot, elbow, and
hand are now available for the australopithecines.
These suggest that the common view, that these
fossils are similar to modern man, may be
incorrect. Most of the fossil fragments are in fact
uniquely different from both man and man's
nearest living genetic relatives, the chimpanzee
and gorilla.” (Nature 258:389)
However, many evolutionists, such as those that
frequent Talk.Origins, argue that, "Howell et al. (1978)
criticized this conclusion [of Charles Oxnard] on a
number of grounds. Oxnard's results were based on
measurements of a few skeletal bones which were
usually fragmentary and often poorly preserved. The
measurements did not describe the complex shape of
some bones, and did not distinguish between aspects
which are important for understanding locomotion
from those which were not. Finally, there is 'an
overwhelming body of evidence', based on the work
of nearly 30 scientists, which contradicts Oxnard's
work. These studies used a variety of techniques,
including those used by Oxnard, and were based on
many different body parts and joint complexes. They
overwhelmingly indicate that australopithecines
resemble humans more closely than the living apes."
Compare this statement with Spoor’s work on hominid semicircular canals
afarensis "LUCY"
• Discovered in 1974 by Donald Johanson
• Angle of knee joint matched that of humans =
obviously walked upright
• The joint angle also matched that of tree
climbing apes
• Also had curved toes bones, high arm to leg
length ratio, and many other features identical
to tree climbing apes
• Was Lucy just a tree climbing ape or did she
walk upright?
• Stern and Susman detail many features
consistent with tree-climbing apes for A. afarensis
• Yet, they believe that A. afarensis spent much
time running around on two legs? Why?
“The most significant features for bipedalism include
shortened iliac blades, lumbar curve, knees
approaching midline, distal articular surface of tibia
nearly perpendicular to the shaft, robust metatarsal I
with expanded head, convergent hallux (big toe), and
proximal foot phalanges with dorsally oriented proximal
articular surfaces.” (McHenry 1994)
Interpreting the Same Things
in Different Ways
• The perpendicular tibia, lumbar curve, and angled knee
joints that are "approaching midline" are seen in modern
tree-climbing monkeys
• The "robust" first metatarsal with an expanded head is
also consistent with Stern and Susman's comment that
the hand bones (and reasonably the foot bones as well),
"have large heads and bases relative to their parallel
sided and somewhat curved shafts, an overall pattern
shared by chimpanzees" and that this, "might be
interpreted as evidence of developed grasping
capabilities to be used in suspensory behavior." This
might especially be true if the first digit was favored by
Lucy to carry most of her body weight during suspension.
• Nature, 2000:
• Lucy was in fact a “Knuckle Walker”
• Richmond and Strait, identified four skeletal
features of the distal radius of living knucklewalking apes, chimps and gorillas with similar
features found on Lucy as well as on another
"A UPGMA clustering diagram … illustrates the
similarity between the radii of A. anamensis and A.
afarensis and those of the knuckle-walking African
apes, indicating that these hominids retain the
derived wrist morphology of knuckle-walkers."
Richmond, B.G. and Strait, D.S., Evidence that humans evolved from a knuckle-walking ancestor, Nature 404(6776):382-385, 2000
• 3.6 million year old
footprints with modern
human features, adult
and child
• Happen to be about
as old as Lucy
• How can Lucy be a
“missing link” if
modern human
posture and gait were
already evolved?
“As I kneel beside the large print and lightly touch its sole, I am
filled with quiet awe. It looks perfectly modern. �I thought that at
three and a half million years ago their prints might be somehow
different from ours,’” says Latimer. “But they aren’t. The bipedal
adaptation of those hominids was full-blown.” - Gore, R.
National Geographic, Feb. 1997
• “Make no mistake about it, they are like modern human
footprints. If one were left in the sand of a California beach
today, and a four-year old were asked what it was, he would
instantly say that somebody had walked there. He wouldn't be
able to tell it from a hundred other prints on the beach, nor
would you. The external morphology is the same. There is a well
shaped modern heel with a strong arch and a good ball of the
foot in front of it. The big toe is straight in line. It doesn't stick out
to the side like an ape toe” – paleoanthropologist, Timothy White
• "The arch is raised, the smaller individual had a higher arch
than I do -- the toes grip the ground like human toes. You do not
see this in other animal forms“- Louis Robins of the University of
North Carolina, Science News
• Johanson insisted strongly that the
Laetoli footprints simply would have to
have been made by his A. afarensis (i.e.
“The foot prints would have to be from A.
afarensis. They substantiate our idea that
bipedalism occurred very early, and our
contention that the brain was too small to
master tools.”
• Lucy is thought to be an ancestor or early form
of A. africanus because of Lucy's more
chimpanzee-like skull
• Problem: The foot bones and lower leg of A.
africanus have been recently found
• These foot and leg bones are a lot more
apelike than the hypothesized foot of Lucy
• Also, A. africanus does not have the knucklewalking morphology that Lucy has
• Depending on what part of the body one
concentrates on, one might be able to find
evidence for just about any theory of
locomotion that one wishes to find
• In a recent article, in Science News 122:116 titled,
“Was Lucy a Climber?”, two groups of scientists,
working independently, challenged the claim that
Lucy had completely abandoned the trees and
walked fully upright on the ground
– Anthropologist Russel Tuttle from the University of
Chicago said that the Laetoli footprints that Leakey
discovered in Tanzania were made by another more
human species of ape-man that coexisted with A.
afarensis about 3.7 million years ago and that it was this
unknown hominid that is the direct ancestor to man.
After a careful examination of the Laetoli prints and foot
bones of the Hadar A. afarensis, he concluded that,
“The Hadar foot is ape-like with curved toes" whereas
the footprints left in Laetoli are “virtually human.”
• Collard and Aiello, in an article for Nature,
commented on this confusing phylogenic
mess by saying:
"The work by Richmond and Strait further
complicates the picture: it suggests that A.
afarensis retained some knuckle-walking features,
whereas A. africanus did not. It is no longer a case
of the skull pointing to one set of phylogenetic
relationships, and the postcranial skeleton—
everything but the skull—to another. Rather,
different parts of the postcranium may not support
the same phylogenetic hypothesis."
Collard, M. and Aiello, L.C., From forelimbs to two legs, Nature 404(6776):339-340, 2000
Semicircular Canals
• Fred Spoor, early 1990s
• Used CT-scanner on fossil
• Results: The canals of
Australopithecus africanus
and robustus were most
similar to the great apes
“The labyrinthine evidence is consistent with
proposals that bipedalism in
australopithecines was characterized by a
substantial postural component [non-bipedal],
and by the absence of more complex
movements such as running and jumping.”
- Fred Spoor, Nature, 1994
Homo Habilis
• “Handy Man” – first discovered in
1959 by Mary Leakey
• Found with stone tools and
evidence of “butchered” animals
• 1470 with larger dome-shaped
skull, higher forehead, small brow
ridges, and associated humanlike femur and leg bones found in
the same layer just a few
kilometers away
• Louis Leakey (Mary’s Husband) not
impressed at first
• Commented that it was nothing more
than a “damned Australopithecine”
• Quickly changed his mind when what
appeared to be stone tools were found
near the site - giving rise to the name
“Homo habilis” or Handy Man
• Most other investigators not comfortable with
such an extremely primitive beast being such a
fancy toolmaker
• Like Australopithecus robustus, Leakey's “Homo
habilis” had huge very unhuman molars (4X),
huge temporalis muscles (for chewing), a very
small brain (~400cc), and a large bony sagital
crest on the top of its skull
– Average adult human skull cranial capacity (~1350cc)
• Later, Leaky thought better of the whole idea of
his “Homo habilis” as a tool maker and demoted
him to the classification of Zinjanthropus boisei
(East African Man) – “Zinj” for short
– Known today as just another “robust” australopithecine
• KNM-ER 1470 – to the rescue
• Found in 1972 near Lake Turkana, Kenya
• Richard Leakey's wife, Meave (a palaeontologist),
assembled the fragments to make a nearly
complete large skull (~800cc) minus lower jaw
• A human-like femur was also found a few
kilometers away, but associated with the skull
since they were both found within the same
sedimentary layer)
Human-like Traits of 1470
• Large endocranial volume (~800cc)
• A high forehead with a dome-shaped cranial
vault relative to the fairly flat and low
forehead of australopithecines and modern
• Lack of prominent brow ridges
• A "flat" face lacking the usual "protruding
prognathous" of australopithecines
• As an extra - Associated femur and leg bones
very similar to that of modern humans (found
a few kilometers away in the same layer)
Problem – Too Human
• Original reconstruction started to be doubted,
even by evolutionists, because it did not
seem to fit with prevailing beliefs about
human origins
• Such a modern looking skull, as the original
reconstruction of KNM-ER 1470 came out,
dated at an older age than many other much
older looking australopithecines
• At odds with the prevailing paradigm
• KNM-ER 1470 began to evolve!
"When it [KNM-ER 1470] was first reconstructed, the face
was fitted to the cranium in an almost vertical position,
much like the flat faces of modern humans. But recent
studies of anatomical relationships show that in life the face
must have jutted out considerably, creating an ape-like
aspect, rather like the faces of Australopithecus."
– Bromage, New Scientist, 1992
Dr. Spoor’s research on semicircular canals of H. erectus,
Australopithecus, and many other hominids indicates that
H. habilis, "relied less on bipedal behavior than the
australopithecines." And yet, H. Habilis is supposed to be
more advanced than australopithecines? Does this make
any sense at all?
• Dating KNM-ER 1470
Skull found under layer of ash
Skull should be older than ash
Ash sent to Cambridge in 1969 for K-Ar daing
Three different tests returned an age of ~220
million years
– These dating "errors" were blamed on
"extraneous“ argon
– Over the following decade, the rocks surrounding
1470 were dated many times using various
methods – with widely varying results
– Finally the “best” or “most acceptable date” was
placed at around 2.61 million years
• Richard Leakey, June of 1973, in an
interview with National Geographic:
"Either we toss out the 1470 skull or we toss
out all our theories of early man. It simply fits
no previous models of human beginnings.
1470 leaves in ruin the notion that all early
fossils can be arranged in an orderly
sequence of evolutionary changes."
• Main problem: A date of 2.61my made 1470
contemporaneous with Australopithecus, if not
older, and yet 1470, as assembled by Leakey's
wife, looked quite similar to modern man
• So, what to do?
• Leakey, 1990 PBS documentary:
“If pressed about man's ancestry, I would have to
unequivocally say that all we have is a huge question
mark. To date, there has been nothing found to truthfully
purport as a transitional specie to man, including Lucy,
since 1470 was as old and probably older. If further
pressed, I would have to state that there is more
evidence to suggest an abrupt arrival of man rather than
a gradual process of evolving.”
• Problem for Johanson
• Human-like 1470 at 2.61 my
• A. afarensis (Lucy) no longer
evolutionary link
– More human-like 1470 as old or older
• Lucy had previously been dated by
several radiometric methods with
varying results, finally settling on 2.9 my
as the most “probable” age
• Basil Cooke to the rescue
• Fossil pig teeth sequences
– Constant but rapid evolution in the length of the third
molar of certain pig fossils of southern Ethiopia
• Supposedly consistent over a wide geographic
• “Index pigs” used to re-date 1470 to less than
2my, placing it on the desired “human side” of
• Lucy also re-dated to maker her a little older
• All very scientific and unbiased of course
• Johanson, In his book Lucy, The Beginnings
of Human Kind:
– “That meant turning to Basil Cooke and his pig
sequences. These had already straightened out a
dating puzzle at Lake Turkana and shoved
Richard Leakey's 1470 H. habilis skull forward
from 2.9my to less than 2.0my. Perhaps they
could do it for Lucy too. But, in this case, they
would be stretching her age not shrinking.”
• Cooke came through as expected and said
that his pig sequence showed that, “An age of
3.0 - 3.4my would give a better fit than the
previous 2.9my age for Lucy.”
A Big Subjective Mess
“ . . . In other words, with the hypodigms of H.
habilis and H. rudolfensis assigned to it, the
genus Homo is not a good genus. Thus, H.
habilis and H. rudolfensis . . . should be
removed from Homo. The obvious taxonomic
alternative, which is to transfer one or both of
the taxa to one of the existing early hominin
genera, is not without problems, but we
recommend that, for the time being, both H.
habilis and H. rudolfensis should be
transferred to the genus Australopithecus."
- Bernard Wood and Mark Collardm, Science, April 1999
“The australopithecines are rapidly
shrinking back to the status of peculiarly
specialized apes…”
– Matt Cartmill, Duke; David Pilbeam,
Harvard; Glynn Isaac, Harvard, American
Scientist, July-August 1986, p.419
• Neandertal (Neanderthal) Man (Homo neanderthalensis)
• Thought to have died out over 20,000 years ago.
• First found in 1856 in Neander Valley, Germany, by the school teacher
Johann Fahlrott
• Dozens of skeletons have since been found
• In 1908, Professor Boule of The Institute of Human Paleontology in Paris
declared Neanderthal an ape-man because of his low eyebrow ridges
and the stooped over posture of some of the specimens
• In 1950s it was found that Neanderthal man's
average brain capacity was larger than modern
man's by over 200 cc's.
• Some also claim that Neanderthal man, at least the
stooped over ones, suffered from osteoarthritis
• Even as far back as1872, Dr. Rudolph Virchow, the
father of pathology, claimed that these skeletons
were nothing more than modern man with rickets
and arthritis
• The Chicago Field Museum has since put in a
newer exhibition of Neanderthal man looking more
fully human
• What’s the latest “scientific” explanation?
– Neanderthal man was an “evolutionary dead-end”
• Obviously Neandertals can’t really be human:
– The skull is lower, broader, and elongated in contrast to the higher
doming of a modern skull.
– The average brain size (cranial capacity) is larger than the average
modern human by almost 200 cubic centimeters.
– The forehead is low, with heavy brow ridges curving over each eye.
– There is a slight projection at the rear of the skull (occipital bun).
– The cranial wall is thick compared to modern humans.
– The facial architecture is heavy, with the mid-face and the upper jaw
projecting forward (prognathism).
– The nose is prominent and broad.
– The frontal sinuses are expanded.
– The lower jaw is large and lacks a definite chin.
– The body bones are heavy and thick and the long bones somewhat
• Donald Johanson (discoverer of Lucy) wrote
something very interesting about what Huxley
did in setting up a sequence of modern skulls
to link Neanderthals to modern humans:
"From a collection of modern human skulls
Huxley was able to select a series with features
leading �by insensible gradations’ from an average
modern specimen to the Neandertal skull. In other
words, it wasn’t qualitatively different from presentday Homo sapiens."
• What about DNA?
• July 11, 1997, Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA
(mtDNA) successfully recovered and
sequenced by Svante Pääbo et. al. (Cell)
• mtDNA recovered three times
• Conclusion: Evolutionary divergence from
modern humans some 550,000 to 690,000
years ago
• Max difference between human and human:
Ave. human difference: 8 В± 3.0
Intra-Human Range: 1 – 35 differences (1999)
Ave. Human-Neandertal Difference: 25.6 В± 2.2
Human-Neandertal Range: 20 – 34
Ave. Human-Chimp Difference: 55.0 В± 3.0
Human-Chimp Range: 46-67
Intra-Chimp Range: (1-81)
• Overlaps between humans and Neandertals
• A human-chimp “relationship” might be closer
than a chimp-chimp relationship
Using Pääbo’s logic, one might
rightly call their next-door
neighbor a “Neandertal”
• Further confusion from Pääbo’s article:
– Wording seems to indicated Neanderthals
are more closely related to chimps than are
modern humans
– Neanderthal mtDNA was actually farther
away from chimp mtDNA
• August of 2002, Gabriel Guitierrez et al., from the Universidad de
Sevilla, Spain, Molecular Biology and Evolution, "A Reanalysis of
the Ancient Mitochondrial DNA Sequences Recovered from
Neandertal Bones”:
"Recent reports analyzing mitochondrial DNA sequences from
Neandertal bones have claimed that Neadnertals and modern
humans are different species. The phylogenetic analyses carried out
in these articles did not take into account the high substitution rate
variation among sites observed in the human mitochondrial D-loop
region and also lack an estimation of the parameters of the
nucleotide substitution model. The separate phylogenic position of
Neandertal-Human and Human-Human pairwise distance
distributions overlap more than what previous studies
suggested. We also show that the most ancient Neandertal HVI
region is the most divergent when compared with modern human
sequences. However, the opposite would be expected if the
sequence had not been modified since the death of the
specimen. Such incongruence is discussed in the light of diagenetic
modifications in ancient DNA sequences."
Evolving After Death?
• Guitierrez et al., went on to note that:
"The main conclusion can be extracted
from our analyses: the phylogenetic
position of the ancient DNA sequences
recovered from Neandertal bones is
sensitive to the phylogenetic methods
employed. It depends on the model of
nucleotide substitution, the branch support
method, and the set of data used.”
• Jonathan Marks (Yale University)
declared mtDNA determined
relationships to be highly biased:
"Most analysis of mitochondrial DNA are
so equivocal as to render a clear solution
impossible, the preferred phylogeny relying
critically on the choice of outgroup and
clustering technique."
• mtDNA as a Molecular Clock:
– Recently called into question by articles in
several well-known journals like Science
– Clock off by as much as “20-fold”
– Mitochondrial Eve, once thought to be
100,000 to 200,000 years old, might now
have to be revised to as young as “6,000
years old” (Parsons et al)
Thinking at
• In 1937, Germaine
Henri-Martin, a very
well respected
archeologist, began
excavations in a cave in
southwestern France
called FontГ©chevade
and continued her work
here until 1954,
removing over 900
cubic meters of
• Discovered “first
Frenchmen older than
• Many layers found
• The topmost layers: "Aurignacian"
• Underneath the Aurignacian:
"Mousterian" layers, laid down during
the time of the Neandertals
• Below the Mousterian: "Tayacian" layers
within which she found several human
skull fragments and evidence for the
living conditions of these “first
• Germaine found lots of evidence of how the first
Frenchmen lived
– The site is full of flint, which was interpreted as being
worked into tools
– Various "hearths" were also found throughout the site
where the first families cooked, prepared their food,
and ate
– Evidence of meals, in the form of animal bones, were
– Bones of the hominids themselves
• The evidence for a rather complete an intricate
life for the earliest French people seemed rather
obvious and fairly easily interpreted
The Rest of the Story
• In the 1970s Shannon McPherron and Harold Dibble
decided to do some reinvestigation
• Laser mapped of thousands of stone objects and bones
• Everything in the cave was oriented horizontally or
vertically with respect to the cave walls and there was
evidence of water sorting
• The stone “tools” turned out to be no different than
naturally carved stones
• Source of water found – an opening at the back of the
cave that drained water and sediments from above
• The narrator of the 2002 PBS documentary,
"Neanderthals on Trial" concluded:
"What made it look real to the archaeologists was an
overwhelming desire to see the past in a certain way. The urge
to distance ourselves from Neanderthals or to pull them closer
to us is a surprisingly powerful force. Archaeologists Jean
Philippe Rigaud and Jan Simek are well aware of the
problem." [Jan Simek added], "I think that we're as guilty of it
today, of that kind of preconceived approach to our data, as
anybody has been in the history of archaeology or
anthropology. It's almost inevitable that our own views of the
world will be brought to bear. . .
So it appears that FontГ©chevade was an elaborate illusion
and not a human habitation site at all. What made it look real
to the archeologists was an overwhelming desire to see the
past in a certain way"
• It is also interesting to consider comments made by the journalist, Mark
Davis, who investigated this story on Neanderthals for NOVA.
"I spoke with many Neanderthal experts in the course of making this
film, and I found them all to be intelligent, friendly, well-educated people,
dedicated to the highest principles of scientific inquiry. I also got the
impression that each one thought the last one I talked to was an idiot, if
not an actual Neanderthal. . . The more people I spoke with, the more
confusing it got. . . Listening to the archeologists and anthropologists
talk about their work (and their colleagues' work), I heard the same
frustrations voiced again and again: People are driven by their
preconceptions. They see what they want to see. They find what they're
looking for. . . I learned that what people see in Neanderthals often has
as much to do with philosophy as it does with science. What does it
mean to be human? Some definitions are broad and inclusive, others
are narrow and exclusive. Scholars have been known to attack one
another's views on Neanderthals as "racist" or "politically correct." . . .
What I found most interesting in all this is that every scientist I talked to
encouraged me to explore the issue of self-delusion, and no one
claimed to be immune. They are all aware that the history of the field is
littered with brilliant scholars who completely missed the boat because
of the power of their preconceptions."
Dr. David Pilbeam, an anthropologist from Harvard:
. . . “Introductory books - or book reviews - are hardly
the place to argue that perhaps generations of
students of human evolution, including myself, have
been flailing about in the dark: that our data base is
too sparse, too slippery, for it to be able to mold our
theories. Rather the theories are more statements
about us and ideology than about the past.
Paleoanthropology reveals more about how humans
view themselves than it does about how humans
came about. But that is heresy.”
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