Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Anti-evolutionists love to trot out the old Piltdown Man hoax as if it were some sort of proof against evolution, but if they understood what actually happened a bit better, they would not be so quick to do this.
Piltdown Man was a hoax. It was, however, never actually accepted by most of the scientific community. The reason for this was that it didn't quite fit the rest of the data that supported evolution. It was an outlier. Scientists were skeptical from the outset.
While the press was eating up this new find, scientists went to work testing the find, examining, trying to verify - in short, they did science. And, they soon discovered that their skepticism was well founded, the Piltdown Man was a fake. This was good news for evolutionary scientists, as the Piltdown Man was hard to reconcile with prevailing theory, so the realization that it was not real meant there was no more challenge. Further, it showed that science works. Scientists were able to police themselves by using further study, by using the process of science itself! This was not a black mark for science, it was a triumph!
In summary, when creationists trumpet Piltdown Man, they are effectively shooting themselves in the foot. It was never part of evolutionary theory, so the realization that it was a hoax presents no problem for evolution. Further, it wasn't creationists who even discovered the hoax, but real scientists doing real science that discovered it and set things right.