The Frauds of Evolution #5: the “Nebraska Man” Hoax
“The study and description of this part of the collection was assigned by Professor [Henry Fairfield] Osborn to the writers, and its results appear in the following pages… The anterior molars and premolars of this genus of peccaries show a startling resemblance to the teeth of Anthropoidea, and might well be mistaken for them by anyone not familiar with the dentition of Miocene peccaries.”– W. D. Matthew and Harold Cook, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 1909 p.361, 390. ( Note carefully the date of this publication, 1909.)
Introducing the Main Players
I said in my introductory article to this series that I would be advancing a thesis regarding the Nebraska Man hoax that no one else, as far as I knew, had heretofore advanced. That thesis is this: both geologist Harold Cook and the esteemed Henry Fairfield Osborn, former President of the American Museum of Natural History in New York (1908-1933), are to be held culpable in the Nebraska Man fraud and are rightly accused of perpetrating a deliberate hoax.
Since saying I would be advancing this thesis that no one else has made, I have done a little more digging and come across an article by Andrew Sibley, “A Fresh Look at Nebraska Man,” which also makes more or less the same claim. Sibley’s article is an excellent article, and I encourage the reader to read it. It was published originally by the Journal of Creation 22(2):108–113, August 2008 and can be found online here. Sibley’s article is, in large measure, a response to an article by evolutionists Wolf and Mellett on Nebraska Man, published by the National Center for Science Education, Creation/Evolution Journal, Issue 16 (Summer 1985). I will give Wolf and Mellett their due: their article is a very sophisticated piece of propaganda.
I will get to what happened and what constituted “Nebraska Man” shortly but first, so the reader may get acquainted with who the players are in the Nebraska Man hoax, let us introduce the principals starting with Osborn himself.
1. Who was Henry Fairfield Osborn? Henry Fairfield Osborn was the driving force behind the Nebraska Man hoax. I think it is relevant and enlightening to start with observing that Osborn was a prominent member of the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, in New York. As for me, this solitary fact of Osborn’s membership in the ACLU makes me “smell a rat” in the Nebraska Man hoax. This fact may very well be much more relevant and, indeed, explanatory, of the whole Nebraska Man fraud than what most commentators on this story cite about him, which is that Osborn was the Director of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and a Professor at Columbia University.
2. Another major player in the Nebraska Man hoax is geologist Harold Cook. Harold Cook was a close associate of Osborn at the American Museum of Natural History. Harold Cook, in 1917, was the excavator of the site in Nebraska where the “artifact” constituting “Nebraska Man,” a presumed ape-man and missing link, was found. (For those of you unfamiliar with the hoax, wait till you find out what the “artifact” was!)
3. Another major player in the Nebraska Man hoax was famed anatomist Grafton Elliot Smith in Britain, who enthusiastically promoted Nebraska Man to the public as proof of ape-to-man ancestry of humans in the Western world. We encountered Grafton Elliot Smith in the preceding article of this series as a promoter of the Piltdown man hoax.
4. There were also the editors of the newspaper, the New York Times, chiming in editorially with their own comments about Nebraska Man and the debate surrounding “him.” The New York Times comments centered around the public debates between Osborn and famed creationist William Jennings Bryan, and other pronouncements of Osborn.
5. In addition to these pro-evolution advocates, during this same time period creationist William Jennings Bryan was conducting his own pro-creation and anti-evolution campaign. In the years leading up to the Scopes trial in July of 1925, and concluding just one week before the Scopes trial, Henry Fairfield Osborn took it upon himself to challenge Bryan in very high-profile public disputations with Bryan in the pages of the New York Times, etc. regarding evolution and Nebraska Man. William Jennings Bryan was perceived by evolutionists as doing too much damage to the cause of evolution and the religion of Naturalism not to challenge.
William Jennings Bryan
6. Another major player was the ACLU, specifically the New York office of the American Civil Liberties Union. The reason I include the ACLU in this list is because of the historical context. It is important to understand that the Nebraska Man fraud is not a stand-alone event. The Nebraska Man fraud is inseparably intertwined with the “Scopes Monkey Trial” caper. As Andrew Sibley notes, “At the time of the Nebraska find he [Osborn] was aware of moves by the ACLU to challenge the ban that was in place that prevented the teaching of evolution in some schools.” It was the New York ACLU, of which Henry Fairfield Osborn was a prominent member, which placed the imfamous ad in the Chattanooga Times newspaper in Tennessee seeking a local teacher willing to help them challenge the State law prohibiting the teaching of evolution (see Evolution: Fact, Fraud or Faith?—pg.263 by Don Boys, Ph.D.). The ad read that the ACLU was: “looking for a Tennessee teacher who is willing to accept our services in testing this law in the courts. Our lawyers think a friendly test case can be arranged without costing a teacher his or her job… All we need now is a willing client.” This ad was run by the ACLU on May 4, 1925.
7. Then there was William King Gregory, another close associate of Osborn’s at the American Museum of Natural History. It was Gregory who completed the Nebraska excavation in the Spring of 1925, just a few months before the start of the famous Scopes trial. Again, note well the timeline.
The Nebraska Man hoax began when geologist Harold Cook, conducting an archaeological dig in 1917, unearthed a molar tooth, a single, lone molar tooth in the state of Nebraska (“coincidentally”–?– the home state of outspoken creationist William Jennings Bryan, who was causing so much consternation to evolutionists.). Harold Cook retained the tooth in his own possession for five years, until March of 1922, when he turned it over to Osborn. Believe it or not, this lone molar tooth was the ENTIRE “evidence” constituting “Nebraska Man.”
An entire ape-man and “missing link” find was proclaimed hastily within a single month by Osborn before the National Academy of Science in 1922 on the basis of a single tooth! Three years later, in the Spring of 1925, William King Gregory completed the excavation in Nebraska–but there was an embarrassing problem. Unexpectedly, the full skeleton of Nebraska Man was still there in the ground. Nebraska Man, it turned out, was actually Nebraska PIG, a Miocene peccary! The whole skeleton, minus the one molar already found, was unearthed. Cook, Matthew and Osborn had already documented their knowledge of and familiarity with Miocene peccary molars in 1909, including noting that they could be mistaken for anthropoid molars “by anyone not familiar with the dentition of Miocene peccaries”! This realization may very well have been the inspiration for the hoax. Cook, Matthew and Osborn already WERE “familiar with the dentition of Miocene peccaries.” Why, then, had they proclaimed that a pig molar, of which they were familiar and knowledgeable, was proof of an ape-man, a missing link? They knew better but made an ape-man out of a pig molar anyway. This whole scenario can hardly be anything other than deliberate deception. The question must be asked, If Harold Cook truly believed the molar he had in his possession was an anthropoid molar, would he not have forwarded it to Osborn immediately in 1917 instead of waiting for five years? Would Cook have actually sat on such a momentous discovery saying nothing about it for five years?
At this same time in history, it was public knowledge that the ACLU was looking to challenge state laws which banned the teaching of evolution in public schools. In 1922, as the ACLU was planning and preparing to mount a legal challenge in the courts against state laws banning the teaching of evolution, Harold Cook forwarded the molar tooth to Osborn, who was, I stress, a member of the ACLU in New York.
Osborn, who was America’s, if not the world’s, leading expert on mammalian molar teeth, examined the tooth handed over to him by Cook and proceeded almost immediately to announce to the world that proof of a missing link, an anthropoid ape, an ape-man, in North America had been found. Osborn, signifying authoritative identification, gave an official name to the presumed original owner of the tooth, “Hesperopithecus haroldcookii,” meaning “Harold Cook’s Ape of the Western World,” in honor of Harold Cook, its finder.
Henry Fairfield Osborn, as the leading expert on the subject of mammalian molar teeth, had already written a full-length book on the subject, “Evolution of Mammalian Molar Teeth,” published in (note well) 1907. The book is 237 pages of commentary and a virtual catalogue of diagrams of mammalian molars. If anyone knew mammalian molars, it was Osborn. I am not aware of anyone else who has pointed out the relevance of this publication to the current topic.
No claim of ignorance on Osborn’s part can hold any water.
After being given the tooth by Cook, Osborn announced to the world:
“The anthropoid Primate characters of the tooth are confirmed by another water-worn third upper molar previously found by William D. Matthew in the same beds but not described because it was not sufficiently distinctive. These two teeth establish the existence in the Pilocene period of a new and independent type of anthropoid, intermediate in the structure of its grinding teeth between the anthropoid ape and the human type.” –Henry Fairfield Osborn, see http://bevets.com/nebraska.htm
On March 22, 1923, the New York Times wrote:
“Hesperopithecus is represented only by a single tooth, but the evidence which Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn, Professor W. K. Gregory have collected regarding the tooth has been generally accepted as proving that a higher anthropoid, which may have closely resembled a man, lived in Nebraska about a million years ago. Dr. Elliot Smith, the English scientist, recently wrote to Professor Gregory that British scientists were practically a unit in accepting the interpretation placed by the authorities of the American Museum of Natural History on the tooth”.—pg. 30
Clearly, a lot was being claimed about what could be known about the original owner of the tooth. And many scientists on both sides of the Atlantic were on board with Osborn’s interpretation. In England, famed anatomist Grafton Elliot Smith enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon. He went on later to write:
“Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn’s announcement of the discovery, in the Pliocene beds of Nebraska, of a fossil tooth, which he and his distinguished colleagues in the American Museum of Natural History are unanimous in regarding as evidence of the former existence in America of a higher representative of the Order Primates, either a new genus of anthropoid apes or an extremely primitive member of the human family, is an event of momentous importance to every student of the history of the human family… the accuracy and reliability of Mr. Cook’s identification of its geological age and provenance was not questioned… His claim that “whatever it is, it is certainly a contemporary fossil of the Upper Snake Creek horizon, and agrees far more closely with the anthropoid-human molar than that of any other mammal known,” has been fully confirmed by the investigations of Professor Osborn and Drs. Matthew and Gregory, who have an unrivalled experience of the scientific study of mammalian fossilized teeth.” From http://bevets.com/nebraska.htm
Cook and Osborn knew that what they had in their possession was a peccary molar. This is abundantly clear from the history of their publications. As we examine the story of Nebraska Man, I admonish the reader to keep in mind that Harold Cook, one of the authors of the AMNH Bulletin quoted at the head of this article, WAS “familiar with the dentition of Miocene peccaries,” as his entry puts it, and, as the expert on the subject and evaluator of Cook’s work, so was Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn. As noted above, he even wrote an entire book exclusively on that subject. The distinction between peccary and anthropoid dentition, though very similar, was distinguishable and KNOWN by Cook , Osborn, Matthew, and probably by William King Gregory as well. Cook and Osborn knew the distinction between peccary and anthropoid molars at least as early as 1909 and maybe earlier. It is this fact that makes the Nebraska Man con job so shocking because it was the tooth of a peccary (pig), and one single tooth at that (!!!), which was the justification for concocting the Nebraska Man hoax almost out of thin air. Both Harold Cook and the esteemed Henry Fairfield Osborn are rightly accused of perpetrating a deliberate hoax.
In all fairness to Grafton Elliot Smith, Smith was probably not aware that Harold Cook had already documented his (and Osborn’s) knowledge of the particulars of “Miocene” pig molars in 1909.
Osborn’s endeavor here does not make a lot of sense unless the hoax had a planned obsolescence to it, a deliberate “shelf life” with limited necessary duration. Osborn and Cook had to know that the cataloging of the Miocene peccary molars in the AMNH Bulletin in 1909 would always be in danger of being pointed out at any time in the course of the hoax. It is my contention that Osborn’s only critical goal was to prolong the hoax for the duration of the Scopes trial, and possible appeal, and then long enough afterward to let the furor from the trial die down. If it lasted longer, so much the better from his perspective.
Let us take the Cook-Osborn story for a moment at face value. What is it that they were claiming? They were claiming to have found a unique tooth, previously attached to a hitherto unknown living creature, a type of tooth never discovered before and uncatalogued anywhere in the world. Now consider this: even if the tooth were in fact what they were claiming, which it was not, then there would be NOTHING that could be rationally claimed about the original possessor of the tooth. There are, after all, even fish whose teeth have an uncanny resemblance to human teeth. What conceivable justification, then, was there for Osborn to concoct an entire anthropoid creature from a single tooth? Even if the tooth had been a unique specimen not assignable to a peccary and not previously cataloged, making an anthropoid out of the tooth constitutes a hoax in and of itself. There was NEVER any rational justification for Osborn’s flight of fancy. In reality, Osborn, in his zeal for the religion of Naturalism and its’ primary idol, evolution, was engaged in a blitzkrieg of evolutionary propaganda designed to mold public perception in anticipation of the upcoming ACLU challenge which became the Scopes trial (in which Osborn was named as one of the expert witnesses for the defense). Osborn, Cook, and Gregory probably never dreamed that the entire skeleton of the pig was still preserved in the ground in Nebraska.
As evidence that Osborn’s actions regarding Nebraska Man were conducted out of zeal for his faith in the religion of Naturalism, and his devotion to its idol, evolution, consider this heated public exchange between Osborn and William Jennings Bryan. This will give the reader a good sense of Osborn’s mindset:
“Three years ago William Jennings Bryan made a pledge which he has not fulfilled. This pledge was published on the Lord’s Day, February 26, 1922, and was read by a million people. It was so sincere in tone and was accompanied by so earnest a statement that I for one took it at its face value… To those serious and earnest seekers after the Truth, from 500 B.C. to the present time, we have the contrasting attitude of the Great Commoner; if all the evidence for the Truth [Note: notice all the capital “T”’s in Osborn’s polemic here.—T.S.] were piled as high as Ossa upon Pelion, if proof were heaped upon proof, the Truth would not prevail with him, because all the natural avenues of the Truth are tightly closed… It is noteworthy that shortly after his pledge to accept the Truth appeared in 1922, the Earth spoke to Bryan and spoke from his own native state of Nebraska, in the message of a diminutive tooth, the herald of our knowledge of anthropoid apes in America… The world-wide interest aroused by the discovery in Nebraska of Hesperopithecus, “the ape of the western world“, is in widest possible contrast to the diminutive and insignificant appearance of the single grinding tooth … this little tooth speaks volumes of truth, — truth consistent with all we have known before, with all that we have found elsewhere… Certainly we shall not banish this bit of Truth because it does not fit in with our preconceived notions and because at present it constitutes infinitesimal but irrefutable evidence that man-apes wandered over from Asia into North America… The truth of these records is truth of the most imperishable order, and it must prevail. It may inconvenience us, it may disturb us, it may completely upset many of our scientific ideas, it may run counter to our religious views; our duty is not to avoid the consequences of the truth but to face them and overcome them.” ~ Henry Fairfield Osborn
“In the June Forum, Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn assumed to speak for the earth, and, as its interpreter, administered a rebuke to me in its name. Those, who are unacquainted with the sublime self-confidence of the evolutionists, may be surprised at this presumptuousness; but compared with other illustrations of conceit, the Professor is humility itself. The more inflated of his class do not hesitate to claim an infallibility which they deny to the Bible… Professor Osborn is so biased in favor of a brute ancestry, and so anxious to substantiate his claims to jungle blood, that he exultantly accepts as proof the most absurd stories. When a few bones and a piece of skull are fashioned into a supposed likeness of a prehistoric animal [Bryan is referring here to Piltdown Man. -T.S.], described as an ape-man, he falls down before it and worships it, although it contains a smaller percentage of fact than the one-half per cent of alcohol permitted in a legal beverage. Each new exhibit, — no matter how largely the product of an inflamed imagination, — lifts him to a new altitude of exultation, and each one in itself furnishes him sufficient foundations for unchangeable convictions; and yet, in spite of his doubled and redoubled certainty, he grasps at each new bit of evidence, no matter how frail and flimsy it is, as a drowning man clutches at a straw… His latest “newly discovered evidence” is a long lost witness captured in Nebraska. He would probably have declared it “irrefutable” even if it had been found in some other State, — all the evidence on his side seems “irrefutable” to him, — but the fact that it was found in Nebraska, my home State for a third of a century, greatly multiplied its value… not even a jaw bone survived to supply this Samson of the scientific world with a weapon to use against the Philistines of today. But a tooth in his hand is, in his opinion, an irresistible weapon…The finder of this priceless tooth [i.e., Harold Cook—T.S.], conscious that it could impose upon but a few, even among those who prefer speculation to reason, wisely chose Professor Osborn. He hastily summoned a few congenial spirits, nearly as credulous as himself, and they held a post mortem examination on the extinct animal, which had at one time been the proud possessor of this “infinitesimal” and “insignificant” tooth. After due deliberation, they solemnly concluded and announced that the tooth was the long looked-for and eagerly longed-for missing link which the world awaited… Give science a fact and it is invincible. But no one can guess more wildly than a scientist, when he has no compass but his imagination, and no purpose but to get away from God.” ~ William Jennings Bryan
Wolf and Mellett comment:
“This spirited exchange sounded like a prelude to a spectacular confrontation between Osborn and Bryan at the Scopes trial. Osborn appeared to be gearing up for a clash with Bryan when, in a series of essays published in May 1925, he singled out the Great Commoner as the man who would be on trial in Tennessee (Osborn, 1925b). Late in June he was listed as one of eleven ‘scientists who will be called to testify in the defense of John T. Scopes’.” (Anon., 1925a.)
In England, shortly after Osborn’s initial announcement, Grafton Elliot Smith, in collaboration with artist Amédée Forestier, published an article in The Illustrated London Times on June 24, 1922, which is the featured image of this present article. Note the headline, which is a summary, claiming that “the earliest man” had been discovered. Along with the article by Smith, there was featured the illustration of our famed ape-man and his “wife” (what a cutie!) grabbing what looks like a beaver-toothed rodent for lunch (yum-yum), and presumably “Pliocene” fauna (rhinoceros and camels). And for icing on the cake, Nebraska Man was depicted by Forestier complete with his caveman club. For Elliot Smith and Forestier, playing to the common caveman conception, that was a detail which absolutely could not be left out.
Excavations continued and were finished in Nebraska by William King Gregory, another close associate of Henry Fairfield Osborn from the American Museum of Natural History. In the Spring of 1925 (note the timeline) Gregory dug up the remainder of “Nebraska Man” which turned out to be the full skeleton of a pig. Bear in mind that the unearthing of the entire pig skeleton occurred before the start of the Scopes trial which began on July 10 of 1925. Osborn, as Gregory’s superior at the American Museum of Natural History, was unquestionably privy to all of this information, yet he remained conspicuously silent about what Gregory had found. Not one word of the true identity of the molar was divulged to the public until 1927, two and one half years after the Scopes trial ended! This is clear proof of deceit on Osborn’s part. Even if it could be shown that there was no hoax at the beginning of the Nebraska Man affair, it indisputably BECAME a hoax at this point.
Wolf and Mellett admit:
“What had happened? Quite simply, Hesperopithecus had come to the end of its short life, although most of the world would not learn of the demise for another two-and-one-half years. By mid-July, Osborn had undoubtedly received the first specimens from the renewed collecting at the Hesperopithecus discovery site. This material, as we have noted, probably caused doubts in the minds of Osborn and Gregory over the reality of Hesperopithecus. And what if Bryan had found out about the uncertain status of Hesperopithecus? If such doubts had been raised at the Scopes trial, it could have led to disastrous consequences for Scopes’ defense and even for the public image of evolution. Clearly, it would have been best for Osborn to back off and stay out of reach in New York. So, having fulfilled his obligation to Scopes’ defense [i.e., to the ACLU—T.S.]… Osborn sat out the Scopes trial, not even submitting written testimony.”
Osborn stayed in New York during the Scopes trial despite being named as an expert witness for the defense. It does not require a genius to figure out why: Osborn did not want to be forced to perjure himself in a Court of law or–worse yet–publicly admit that the greatly touted ape-man from Nebraska was actually a pig. “Stay home” and especially “stay silent” was the game plan. At least until the Scopes trial was over. As evolutionists Wolf and Mellett acknowledge (albeit with understatement): “Osborn apparently began to have doubts about his identification of the tooth shortly before the Scopes ‘monkey trial’ in July 1925, and he stopped mentioning it in his publications.” But Osborn did not stop his zealous campaigning; he published a full page defense of evolution in the New York Times on July 12, 1925, two days into the Scopes trial.
On March 22, 1923, the New York Times commented:
“Hesperopithecus is represented only by a single tooth, but the evidence which Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn, Professor W. K. Gregory have collected regarding the tooth has been generally accepted as proving that a higher anthropoid, which may have closely resembled a man, lived in Nebraska about a million years ago. Dr. Elliot Smith, the English scientist, recently wrote to Professor Gregory that British scientists were practically a unit in accepting the interpretation placed by the authorities of the American Museum of Natural History on the tooth”. ~ New York Times March 22 1923 p.30
Writing in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature, Osborn also pronounced:
“Finally, of the utmost rarity are the remains of the Primates, because during the eight seasons of continuous and expert search we have only discovered two teeth, namely, the tooth now regarded as a third superior molar of an old individual of Hesperopithecus found by Dr. W. D. Matthew in 1908, and the type tooth of Hesperopithecus haroldcookii found by the geologist Harold J. Cook in 1921. [Note: Harold Cook actually had the tooth in his possession for five years and only forwarded it to Osborn in 1922 as the ACLU challenge in Dayton Tennessee was nearing.—T.S.] We are this season renewing the search with great vigour and expect to run every shovelful of loose river sand which composes this deposit through a sieve of mesh fine enough to arrest such small objects as these teeth. Even by this laborious and painstaking method the probability of finding more material is not very great…My original characterization and description has been fully justified by intensive research of the past two months. I have not stated that Hesperopithecus was either an Ape-man or in the direct line of human ancestry, because I consider it quite possible that we may discover anthropoid apes (Simiidae) with teeth closely imitating those of man (Hominidae), just as we have discovered in the true Piltdown man (Eoanthropus) teeth closely imitating those of the chimpanzee.” ~ Henry Fairfield Osborn, Nature August 26 1922 p.283
Note well that we have the esteemed Henry Fairfield Osborn, in one sentence, promoting two evolutionary hoaxes at the same time. Notice also, now that Osborn is writing in the scientific journal Nature speaking to scientists, a little bit of reserve comes back into his speculations, a reserve not evident in his more public pronouncements. One week after Osborn’s article appeared in Nature, the New York Times wrote:
“It is an irony of fate that what certain anthropologists consider the fossil remains of a primitive member of the human family, or of a new higher genus of the primate family, should have been found in the State of Nebraska. It is as if the anti-evolutionary protagonist were judged out of his own State… The poet has long used the “tooth of time” figuratively, but here in a riverbed in Nebraska it has become literally more enduring than SHAKESPEARE imagined who found in brass a “forted residence” against it and the “razure of oblivion.” And sharper than a serpent’s tooth must it seem to Mr. BRYAN. Perhaps he will insist, with some other paleontological authorities, that it is only a Pliocene bear’s tooth, after all. But an English professor of anatomy, Dr. ELLIOTT SMITH, after reviewing the evidence, says that one can place implicit trust in the claims that the tooth found in the Pliocene beds of Nebraska is “really that of a primitive member of the human family.” ~ The New York Times September 3 1922 p.E2
Just months before the Scopes trial began, it was written:
“Obese volumes have been written in this country about this famous molar and it has appeared frequently in the anthropological literature of Europe. It was the first proof that an ape-man or a man-ape had existed in America.” ~ The New York Times February 19, 1925 p.21
In his public exchanges with Bryan, Osborn comes off as a self-assured know-it-all, pompous, arrogant and mockingly condescending, and we should probably add presumptuous as well to the list of adjectives. But this was deliberate public posturing on Osborn’s part. He was trying to project an aura of supreme knowledge and infallibility in comparison to Bryan. Osborn, as a dutiful team player for the ACLU, was basically acting, projecting a persona, though the prize was not the Academy Award but public and legal acceptance of his ideas. These exchanges with Bryan were all for mass public consumption. Osborn wanted to convey to the public at large that his pronouncements were the assured results of the most exacting scientific analysis, and he the infallible expert whose analysis and conclusions should be beyond question—and Bryan a kind of country bumpkin, “the Great Commoner.”
Unfortunately, there are multitudes of the naïve, even to this day, who fall prey to this kind of con job in the form of our current academic evolutionary establishment, who are far more concerned with protecting their “turf,” their position in society, and – most important of all—the steady stream of public money flowing in their direction, than with true science. Theirs is a pseudo-science and, more to the point, a swindle of the taxpayers. They are the modern version of the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes whom we find in the pages of the New Testament, looking to be seen and praised of men, who offer, not long hypocritical prayers, but books and articles and public lectures to their idol, evolution, in search of financial gain, social privilege and egocentric, narcissistic vainglory.
My own considered opinion is that Harold Cook and Henry Fairfield Osborn knowingly conspired together with the conscious, intended purpose of deceiving a naïve public and especially influencing public opinion and shaping judicial policy regarding the teaching of creation and evolution in American schools. They would have rationalized it, of course, as a mere “white lie” in service of a higher Truth, with a capital “T.” The Nebraska Man hoax was not aimed at or intended for scientists but at a general public naively trustful of scientists; it was also aimed at ignorant politicians and judges, dupes, grappling with educational policy and jurisprudence regarding human origins. To reiterate, Harold Cook knew the imfamous tooth was a peccary tooth according to his own testimony in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. It is 100% clear from his own publication in the Bulletin that Cook knew the difference between a peccary molar and an anthropoid molar.
Many creationists writers have made Osborn’s naming of the tooth (or, actually, the presumed ape-man it came from) an object of ridicule and scorn, and rightly so. But let us note well the significance of Osborn giving it a name. To give a name to the creature means that this declaration was an official, authoritative scientific conclusion, presumably arrived at after the most careful and exacting of scientific analysis and investigation. That, after all, sums up Osborn’s duties. And Osborn was famed precisely for his meticulousness and attention to detail.
The Nebraska Man fraud surely ranks as one of the most successful con jobs in history. In and of itself, even accepting the principals’ representations at face value, the Nebraska Man fraud was an unsurpassed, egregious and shameless indulgence in unbounded, licentious imagination run amok. But this headlong dive into the realm of imagination on the part of Henry Fairfield Osborn was a very calculated imagination with bigger purposes. It was a hoax with planned obsolescence. It was not a hoax designed to stand up to scientific scrutiny forever but as a bridge to get from A to B—that is to say, to sway public opinion (and hopefully judicial opinion) during the upcoming Scopes trial and to get evolution established as official curriculum in American schools. It had a limited intended shelf life as a scientific postulate.
For my money, the Nebraska Man fraud surpasses the Piltdown Man hoax by a long shot. Charles Dawson, the perpetrator of the Piltdown Man hoax, was a kindergarten prankster compared to the likes of Henry Fairfield Osborn. Charles Dawson, the perpetrator of the Piltdown Man hoax, carried out his fraud (actually frauds, plural—about 38 in all) under a cloak of secrecy with very carefully planned, prepared (sometimes for years) and planted “evidence” for the scientists; Henry Fairfield Osborn carried out his fraud in the full light of day on the basis of nothing but a single molar within about one month of receiving the tooth. Now that is a real salesman, one to make the best used car salesmen green with envy! In both cases, the scientists who were fooled (many of them the same names) were more than willing to uncritically gobble up anything which fit into their preconceptions.
I will conclude with a quote from Andrew Sibley, regarding the Scopes trial and the relevance of Nebraska Man:
“(I)t would seem that the defence team at the Scopes trial wanted to lose so as to appeal to a higher court for a constitutional judgment. It is therefore more likely that the Nebraska tooth was used as a tool for attacking Bryan, who was seen as an important and dangerous critic of evolution. It is hard to escape the conclusion that all of this falsification of evidence was done as part of a political campaign, fought through the courts, to get evolution taught in schools and to remove the teaching of creation.
“The famous Scopes court case was staged to counterattack the influence of creationist thinking in America and the teaching of creation in schools. The evolutionary scientists who claimed to be guardians of good science standards should have acted with greater integrity with their level of education and training, instead of apparently fabricating evidence. Despite their position in society, they made very bold statements about the tooth on the flimsiest of evidence and promoted their conclusions widely and loudly. Despite protestations to the contrary by the evolutionists, it looks very much like part of a deliberate campaign or even a confidence trick on the part of the leading American paleontologists and cannot be dismissed as a simple error.”
We will proceed in our next installment with an analysis of commentary on Nebraska Man by evolutionary propagandists.