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The Frauds of Evolution: #4

Piltdown Man Illustrated London News cover

The Piltdown Man Hoax (continued):
“Whodunit?” and Why the Identity of the Perpetrator is Important.

Charles Dawson was the perpetrator of the Piltdown Man hoax.

Charles Dawson had a certain duality of role in the Piltdown Man affair. He was in certain respects an insider, and in other respects an outsider. He was a lawyer by profession without a university degree. But do not underestimate Dawson. More relevant here, he was an amateur archaeologist, geologist, etc. He was amazingly diverse in his interests and talents and activities. Dawson was a force to be reckoned with. For example, he did not hesitate to take on England’s leading anatomist, Sir Arthur Keith, over the interpretation of the Piltdown Man skull. This fact should give the reader a good idea of Dawson’s own self-estimation of his knowledge and expertise.

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Like a magician working a crowd of spectators, Charles Dawson knew his audience, the greatest scientists of the time, and he knew how to dazzle them with his wizardry. (Dawson was even known locally as “The Wizard of Sussex” due to his great string of “successes” of seemingly significant archaeological “finds.”) In Dawson’s case, he literally knew them, not just knew of them. He was personally acquainted with many of the scientists involved, especially Arthur Smith Woodward. He knew what made them tick. Dawson had a very firm grasp of their internal clockwork and he used that knowledge not so much to deceive them, but–to get them to deceive themselves. This was Dawson’s true talent. If we do not grasp this point, then we do not fully understand what happened at Piltdown and exactly what it is that Dawson did. Dawson knew what Arthur Smith Woodward, Grafton Elliot Smith, Sir Arthur Keith, Ray Lankester and the others wanted to hear. And by giving them what they wanted, a plausible story of ape-to-man evolution, he managed to manipulate them. In Woodward’s case, Dawson gave Woodward precisely what he wanted, which was “evidence” of human brain evolution occurring prior to jaw and tooth evolution, a point of contention among evolutionists of the time.

Charles Dawson, perpetrator of the Piltdown Man hoax
Charles Dawson, perpetrator of the Piltdown Man hoax

After all of the numerous investigations into the Piltdown Man fraud, there can be no question about who the culprit was. The perpetrator of the Piltdown Man fraud was Charles Dawson and only Charles Dawson. There was no co-conspirator. Having researched nearly everything written on the Piltdown Man fraud, and weighed the case against every suspect named, I am prepared to be dogmatic on that point.

Almost the entire case against Charles Dawson was made from the very beginning of the exposure of the hoax by Joseph Weiner. In addition to the actual Piltdown affair, Weiner also exposed the fact that Dawson had been involved in a whole series of scientific frauds prior to Piltdown Man over approximately a 25 year time frame, although Weiner in 1953 had no idea that Dawson’s frauds were greatly more extensive than he uncovered. Weiner also exposed Dawson’s real estate chicanery against the Sussex Archaeological Society (this certainly goes to the character issue), and extensive plagiarism regarding the history of Hastings Castle. Charles Dawson, it turned out, was a very naughty boy.

It is hard to know where to begin or what to focus upon in the labyrinthine tale of the Piltdown Man fraud, the subsequent examination, quarrels about the nature and significance of the “remains,” the fraud’s exposure, and the hunt for the perpetrator. There are so many names involved in the original events, and then numerous names accused as the guilty party after the fraud was exposed, that the whole affair has become in certain respects like a gigantic, tangled ball of string. It is important in the Piltdown Man hoax to not lose sight of the forest for the trees, and to discern what is truly significant, and what is mere unfounded speculation. And that is what has happened to many commentators. It is my judgment that all of the investigators who accuse someone other than Charles Dawson have either gotten lost in the labyrinth, or perhaps have some ax to grind, or are simply trying to make a name for themselves.

I would urge anyone who wants to research the Piltdown Man hoax in depth to begin by reading Joseph Weiner’s, The Piltdown Forgery, and Miles Russell’s, The Piltdown Man Hoax: Case Closed. Another worthwhile treatment of the subject is Unraveling Piltdown by John Evangelist Walsh. This present article is by no means an in-depth treatment of the subject, but just an overview with some miscellaneous observations I believe to be significant about the affair.

Piltdown Man is not just an interesting story, although it certainly is that. As I noted in my previous article, the Piltdown Man affair shines the spotlight upon some very significant things about modern paleoanthropology (the study of ancient man) and it tells us something significant about the scientists involved in paleoanthropology, and the nature of the conclusions they draw about the evidence they examine.

The question of who perpetrated the fraud is equally illuminating. The rampant speculations and wild flights of fancy about the identity of the perpetrator both by scientists and laymen, and the numerous men accused of the fraud, are every bit as loaded with subjective imaginings as is the evaluation of the Piltdown “evidence” and “artifacts.” The list of accused suspects is almost as long as anybody who ever uttered a word on the subject. As I noted above, the true perpetrator, Charles Dawson, was exposed right from the beginning by Joseph Weiner along with the exposure of the fraud. At this late date, there ought to be no more wild imaginations about alternate culprits or co-conspirators. All the basic elements of Dawson’s culpability were exposed by Weiner (see The Piltdown Forgery). Weiner may have done us all a disservice in this regard, however, because he stopped just barely short of a formal accusation against Dawson. This created the impression that Weiner’s identification of the guilty party was tentative. But this was due to angry responses from Dawson’s defenders and threats of lawsuits by Dawson’s heirs (his stepchildren). Understandable, I guess, but Weiner’s reticence to make a formal accusation against Dawson spawned virtually a whole genre of speculative literature. It is very clear in The Piltdown Forgery whom Weiner believed to be the perpetrator.

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As I began to obtain a good familiarity with the Piltdown fraud, the role of Charles Dawson as the perpetrator seemed to me beyond dispute. In light of the facts, Dawson absolutely towers above every other named suspect by a long shot. Why, then, are so many others accused as the perpetrator? With the entire basic case laid out plainly by Joseph Weiner with all of the critical elements, WHY do we find paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould accusing Pierre Tielhard de Chardin of complicity? Or why do we find Gerrell Drawhorn accusing Arthur Smith Woodward? Or how is it that L. Harrison Matthews accuses Martin Hinton of joining in the fun? Or why does author Ronald Millar accuse the preeminent Grafton Elliot Smith in his full-length book on the subject, The Piltdown Men? One would almost think that Weiner had never published The Piltdown Forgery. If Charles Dawson enlisted the aid of a co-conspirator in the Piltdown Man fraud, it was the first time he did so in his twenty-five year career in fraud.

One reason, if not the major reason, why some evolutionists posit a different perpetrator other than Dawson is to attempt to lessen the obvious culpability of the evolutionists involved; if Arthur Smith Woodward or Grafton Elliot Smith, or Sir Arthur Keith, or Teilhard de Chardin or another one of the great minds of the time was the perpetrator, then the fraud can be characterized as a consummate masterpiece of great expertise of one scientist against other scientists. One could understand the success of the fraud if one of the scientists had been the perpetrator. The fraud, indeed, had a certain kind of genius about it. A lot of preparation and planning went into the fraud. But it also had some glaring defects as a work of deception, and these defects went inexplicably unexamined, untested, misunderstood or passed over by virtually all of the principals involved.

There are many commentators on Piltdown Man who indulge in labyrinthine obfuscation, delibertate (in my view) muddying of the waters, by suggesting (or strenuously defending) the assertion that one of the many scientists involved in the investigation was also the perpetrator or co-perpetrator with Dawson or some third party. The attempt by many to lessen the culpability of the scientists involved in the Piltdown Man affair is done for propaganda value. It is indulged in with an eye to the present, not the past. The underlying motivation behind all of the accusations against the great names of the time is to insulate the current Darwinian establishment against skepticism regarding their evolutionary assertions. Better to sacrifice one great name than to let the entire field of evolutionary speculation be called into question!

The CREDIBILITY of the Darwinian establishment is absolutely essential to the ability to maintain the façade of scientific objectivity. The Piltdown Man fraud (and the Nebraska Man hoax, for that matter) blows this myth to pieces no matter who perpetrated the hoax. But the proposition that it was accomplished by a layman, a NON-member of the Darwinian academic elite by means of a hoax with some glaring weaknesses makes the matter much, much worse for the Darwinian establishment. Their extreme readiness in near unanimity to take a marginally plausible scenario and vastly exaggerate the certitude of (evolutionary) assertions which could be legitimately deduced from the evidence at hand speaks volumes about the nature of the Darwinian establishment. The commentators who have undertaken thorough works on the subject of Piltdown Man are sensitive to this fact. Note what Ronald Millar has to say:

“But the spectacle of the learned hoodwinked by the layman appeals to the vulgar sense of humour. An otherwise disinterested public picked on this aspect alone…Charles Dawson became a folk hero for a very brief period.” –pg. 10, The Piltdown Men.

This clearly bothers evolutionist Millar; note the use of the prejudicial adjective “vulgar.” As a faithful team player and good “company man,” Millar closes ranks with the Darwinian-academic-scientific elite to buttress their credibility. Not willing to challenge the façade of infallible objectivity, or something close to infallibility, of the Darwinian establishment, Millar accuses the preeminent anatomist Grafton Elliot Smith as the guilty perpetrator of the Piltdown Man hoax. Of this, says Millar, “I firmly believe.”

Anatomist Grafton Elliot Smith, Cambridge; chairholder of anatomy at the Cairo School of Medicine; British Museum
Anatomist Grafton Elliot Smith, Cambridge; chairholder of anatomy at the Cairo School of Medicine; British Museum

So what is Millar’s evidence which is so compelling against Grafton Elliot Smith? What is Millar’s smoking gun? What evidence supplies the ground for such firm conviction? It is Grafton Elliot Smith’s silence about the defects of the fraud and Woodward’s faulty reconstruction of the skull! Says Millar:

“His complete failure to assist [Arthur Smith] Woodward is in my opinion, highly incriminatory.”—pg. 234

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Huh? Am I missing something here? ALL of the scientists in the affair were self-deluded by the hoax. Why should Grafton Elliot Smith be any different? Inaction cannot prove anything. Millar goes on to acknowledge , “at the time of the ‘planting’ of the fossils, Smith was in what might be considered a backwater appointment in Cairo” and “At the time of the Piltdown discoveries Smith was mostly in Egypt.” This consideration at a minimum conclusively removes any possibility whatsoever that Grafton Elliot Smith perpetrated the actual mechanics of the hoax. Realizing this, Millar proposes possible collusion between Dawson and Smith. Millar admits, “Try as I may, I have not been able to come up with concrete evidence of the Australian’s [Smith’s] participation.” But then Millar turns right around and says that Dawson as perpetrator “does not fit the bill. And that Smith does” (–pg. 236). This suggests Smith as the lone perpetrator!

Millar must be kidding! Frankly, this is way too much incoherence for me! Millar’s accusation against Grafton Elliot Smith is reckless and irresponsible and patently not credible at all. Millar obviously had no rational basis whatsoever for accusing Smith. Millar simply had a preference, for reasons not explicitly stated, that somebody other than Dawson should be the perpetrator. There is not even any plausible evidence, to say nothing of proof, of a Dawson-Smith nexus. Yet Millar had the effrontery to write a book making a formal, public accusation against Smith.

This effort on Millar’s part was all on behalf of a “higher cause.” This accusation of Millar’s is a propaganda effort to edify and defend the Darwinian establishment. Millar, on the basis of the flimsiest basis conceivable, offers up Grafton Elliot Smith, a preeminent scientist, as a kind of scapegoat to take away the sins of the Darwinian establishment as a whole. If Grafton Elliot Smith was the perpetrator, this provides a plausible scenario regarding how and why nearly the entire leadership of evolutionary paleoanthropology was duped. The inference Millar is making is that the hoax was so expertly conceived, and so expertly planned and so expertly executed by a fellow scientist, that it is perfectly understandable why they were fooled.

But this is all hogwash. It is perfectly understandable why the Darwinian establishment was duped, but it is not for Millar’s reasons. The fraud of layman, Charles Dawson, was successful because it gave nearly all of the leading evolutionary scientists what they so desperately wanted, that is, support for their religious convictions, the religion of Naturalism, and the graven image, evolution, erected in honor of their false god, to which they bow down and worship and dismiss all rationality in doing so.

I turn now to a specific detail of the Piltdown Man storyline going right to Dawson’s guilt like a bullseye. Dawson’s story about how he came into possession of the original “artifact,” part of a human cranium, is that it was given to him by (unnamed) workers digging a pit for road fill material. Dawson’s claim is that they gave him what they assumed to be part of a coconut found in the pit, which Dawson recognized to be part of an ancient skull.

John Evangelist Walsh notes:

“If Charles Dawson was innocent of all complicity in the Piltdown affair, then it is plain that everything he told about it from his own knowledge, barring oversights, must be true. His story about the diggers at the pit finding an intact skull, which they took to be a coconut, smashing it to fragments while saving a piece for him, must be true if he was blameless. But the coconut story is the very element in the tangled tale of Piltdown’s beginnings that, in strict logic cannot be true. Once the fact of forgery has been established, especially a forgery so far-reaching and demanding of such great pains to prepare, any such haphazard beginning is ruled out.

“The notion that the original forged cranium was planted intact in the pit, its discovery left to the whim of busy, unconcerned diggers is nonsense. The forger in that case would have lost control of his project at the start, for he never could have been assured of the outcome…

“Further, if the men did find and proceed to smash the skull, deliberately or otherwise, the breakage pattern certainly would not be the particular one required by the forger.”— (i.e., the condyle connecting the jaw to the skull was conveniently missing making proof-positive association of the two artifacts impossible to determine.) emph. suppl., pg. 212, Unraveling Piltdown

These considerations are decisive, proving Charles Dawson lied about the origin and provenance of the finds, thus directly connecting Dawson with fraud in the case. Any reasonable person, wishing to accuse anyone else as perpetrator, must surely concede both the weight and solidity of Walsh’s observations here.

Another aspect of the Piltdown Man hoax which I find highly significant concerns the basic scenario manufactured by Dawson, which is the alleged close proximity to which skull and jaw had to one another when they were “found.” This was Dawson’s primary persuading element for it would have been quite a coincidence for the skull and jaw to be found so closely together if they did not have some relation to one another. Dawson understood this and so did the whole cadre of scientists involved in the case. However, absolute proof that skull and jaw belonged together could only have been supplied by the connecting condyle which was, of course, conveniently broken off of the skull and missing. The other persuading element supplied by Dawson was a second find, “Piltdown II,” allegedly found about a mile away and also providing more skull and jaw material of an identical creature. Now there were TWO Piltdown Men.

Piltdown II won over a lot of scientists who had remained skeptical up to that point, including Americans Henry Fairfield Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History, along with his fellows there, William Diller Matthew, James H. McGregor and, most significantly, William King Gregory (pg. 105, 110, Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery by Frank Spencer). This was a major defection from the camp of Gerrit Miller of the Smithsonian who was maintaining the jaw and skull came from two separate creatures.

Frank Spencer comments:

“(T)he fact that it had been recovered from a spot immediately adjacent to where Woodward had found a cranial fragment, led them to conclude that the jaw had belonged to the shattered skull. To have supposed otherwise, as several critics later did, was, in Woodward’s opinion, unjustified. The likelihood of making such a find ‘in a single cubic yard of gravel’, would not only be ‘startling’, but also defied the laws of probability.”—pg. 34, Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery, emph. supp.

Evolutionists, however, are very SELECTIVE about recognizing the validity of probability and mathematical significance of data. When Charles Dawson snookered the top scientists in Britain with the Piltdown Man hoax, he was successful in doing so by making sure he gave the scientists not merely one but two specimens of Piltdown Man to eliminate any possibility in their minds about the likelihood of chance deposition of remains, and he made sure the jaw and cranium were (allegedly) in unusually close proximity to one another. The scientists of the time did not require three or four such occurrences to draw their conclusions, and certainly not hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of such occurrences to convince them that the ape jaw and human skull fragments belonged together.

Yet when it comes to thousands upon thousands (indeed millions) of startling “coincidences” of living organisms sporting organic structures with irreducible complexity indicating intelligent design, the evolutionists are in complete psychological denial of the significance of mathematical probability. (See Darwin’s Black Box by Michael J. Behe.) Moreover, with the (astronomical) statistical odds against the likelihood of random formation of even a single one of the simplest of biologically functional proteins to form the basics of living organisms to get life started in the first place, the evolutionists are again in complete defiance of the significance of what the laws of mathematics loudly shout out to them. Again, with millions of unlikely coincidences in the form of specified coded information arrayed in the genetic makeup of living organisms, the evolutionists are in complete denial of the laws of mathematical probability. Two or three such coincidences is not enough for them. Neither are millions. (See Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen C. Meyer.)

One lone, single unlikely coincidence at Piltdown was enough to get evolutionists to rush to conclusions favorable to evolutionary hypotheses (without closely examining the evidence), but they remain unmovably entrenched in denial against literally millions of unlikely coincidences in the makeup of living organisms indicating intelligent creation. Such is the hypocrisy of evolutionists.

In our next installment, we will look at the Nebraska Man hoax.

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Written by Tom Shipley

I am a former atheist and was an evolutionist during my college days, but came to faith in Christ at the age of 20. I regard my pro-creation activities as part of the work of the kingdom of God. I believe that a very tough, strident and unapologetic stance against evolution is called for though I may soften my tone if and when Mark Armitage and David Coppedge, fired for their creationist beliefs, are given their jobs back. Articles copyright Tom Shipley. All Rights Reserved.

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  1. Creation club, I’m afraid you’ve been misled on this or are intentionally misleading others

    Creationist sites like to you claim that “evolutionists” unquestioningly accepted Piltdown Man for 40 years.

    They…how can I put this gently? Oh, right: I can’t. You lie.

    Articles critical of Piltdown Man started coming out within a few months of the announcement of the “discovery.”

    1. David Waterson correctly identified the specimen as an ape jaw coupled with a human skull in Nature…in 1913.

    2. Marcelin Boule idenfitied the specimen as an ape jaw coupled with a human skull in 1915.

    3. G.S. Miller declared that the “reconstruction” of Piltdown Man was highly suspect in 1915.

    4. Fritz Weidenreich went further, identifying the specimen as a modern human cranium coupled with an orangutan jaw in 1923.

    Why did it take until 1953 to definitively debunk the hoax, when scientists correctly identified it as one within months of the report? This was before the Internet. You couldn’t just casually Google the latest research. It took decades to actually get enough experts to travel to the site and examine what was generally regarded as a suspect aberration, rather than an important discovery.

    Test everything; keep that which is good.

    Creationist claims on Piltdown Man, like so many other Creationist claims, fail the test.

    • Dear Koine Greek: Thank you for your response to my article.Three of the four names you mentioned were NOT BRITISH. As I said in my previous installment of my series on Piltdown Man: “Piltdown Man was basically, though not exclusively, a BRITISH affair.” If you had done your due diligence here, you would not have distorted what I said in my article. Much of the criticism of what happened at Piltdown comes from evolutionists. Quoting one such evolutionist, Roger Lewin, as I did in my preceding installment of this series:

      “Piltdown Man, the ‘fossil’ that held the British anthropological establishment in its thrall for nigh on four decades…
      “…the British anthropological establishment concluded in near unanimity that [orangutan] jaw and [human] cranium were indeed from one individual…Virtually every major voice in British anthropology proclaimed that although the cranium was clearly very modern in aspect, many apelike features could also be discerned; and that while the jaw certainly looked like that of an ape, the trained eye could readily discern important human characteristics in it…
      “‘Due to their devotion to these new [evolutionary] ideas,’ says Hammond, ‘a protective screen emerged around the forgery and played a crucial role in its initial acceptance and later defence’.”—Bones of Contention, pg. 60-62

      Claiming that it took 40 years to debunk Piltdown Man due to slow communication is simply an absurd claim in the extreme. As you noted yourself: “Articles critical of Piltdown Man started coming out WITHIN A FEW MONTHS of the announcement of the “discovery.” Your question, however, is a good one: “Why did it take until 1953 to definitively debunk the hoax, when scientists correctly identified it as one within months of the report?” SOME scientists did, indeed, correctly identify the specimens, but most, especially the British scientists, did not accept their conclusions. Nationalism played a strong role here, but so did religious faith–the religious faith of Naturalism and pre-logical (a priori) commitment to that faith. There was also a lot of in-house disagreement over the precise course of evolution, and some of the skeptical voices were raised because Piltdown Man did not conform to THEIR SPECIFIC VERSION of evolutionary “history.”

      You need to learn to do your own thinking instead of relying on evolutionist propaganda mills for your information. As a former atheist and evolutionist, I know whereof I speak.

      The fact remains that Piltdown Man was presented to the public, and in school textbooks, by evolutionists as “proof” of ape-to-man evolution. Both the British and American Museums of Natural History so presented it with their “reconstructions,” and, if it were not for Joseph Weiner, Kenneth Oakley and their associates, Piltdown Man might STILL be in the textbooks and the museums as “proof” of evolution.

      Test passed.

  2. Dear Sirs,
    I have in my possession The Antiquity of Man by Sir Arthur Keith, Williams & Norgate 1920. I quote “With these cranial fragments, and associated animal remains and human implements, Dr Smith Woodward returned to his work-rooms in the British Museum (Natural History) early in the summer of 1912, and set himself down to study their character and their significance “(p.305).
    “The various fragments of the skull had been pieced together; the missing parts had been filled in; a complete skull was thus brought before the meeting. It was quite plain to all assembled that the skull thus reconstructed by Dr Smith Woodward was a strange blend of man and ape. At last, it seemed, the missing form -the link which early followers of Darwin had searched for – had really been discovered.” (p.306).This account is by an unsuspecting eye-witness. Why look elsewhere for the hoaxer?
    Silvano Borruso

  3. Silvano, thank you for your response. The initial skull fragments were hand-delivered by Charles Dawson to Arthur Smith Woodward. Charles Dawson claimed the bones were discovered in a gravel pit by road workers who brought it to him. The alleged road workers were never identified by name. Sir Arthur Keith also made his own “reconstructed” ape-man of the skull and Woodward made his. There was a considerable amount of debate surrounding the proper reconstruction of the skull. Woodward was duped by Dawson, as well as the rest of the scientists who were involved. Dawson had a better relationship with Woodward than any of the other scientists involved. That is why Dawson targeted Woodward. The fact that Woodward took the bones given to him by Dawson and reconstructed an ape-man does not mean that Woodward was the perpetrator. The bones WERE part man and part ape. They just simply did not come from the same living being as Dawson made it appear by his shenanigans.

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