Friday, November 26, 2004

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge -- Part 2

My wife asks, "What was the phony Piltdown skull?" Well, it turned out to be fragments of a human skull and an orangutan jawbone, doctored, even painted, to make them look appropriately ancient and as if they belonged together.

Who dunnit?

The obvious villain is the amateur geologist and archeologist Charles Dawson who "found" the bones.

Some people point a finger of guilt at the French Jesuit anthropologist Teilhard de Chardin, who was part of the dig. His motive, presumably, was to pull a Gallic joke on his English colleagues.

Possibly the bones were planted by Charles Chatwin, a young staff member at the British Museum of Natural History who chafed under the leadership of his deeply unpopular and dictatorial boss, Arthur Smith Woodward. His motive would have been to embarrass the pompous and gullible Woodward.

The list goes on. At least a dozen possible perpetrators have been suggested, including Arthur Conan Doyle, the inventor of Sherlock Holmes.

Creationists never fail to use the Piltdown caper to flog evolutionists. "See how wrong scientists can be," they say. Yes, scientists can be wrong because scientists are human. Which is why there is in science a constant checking and rechecking, and a willingness to say "We were wrong" when the jig is up.