A few years ago, T. H. Leith (28) underscored the fact, which I
27. Medawar, Sir Peter B., The Art of the Soluble, Methuen, London, 1967, p. 55.
28. Leith, T. H., “Some Logical Problems with the Thesis of Apparent Age,” Journal of the American Sci.entifc Affiliation, vol.17, (4), Dec., 1965, p.119.
In the meantime, it may be useful enough, heuristically, or even as a philosophy which ministers to our materialism, but it is nevertheless held as an act of faith ï¿½ indeed Huxley would even define it as a religion. (30) As such, there is a large element of emotion involved in its defense. In his recent book This View of Life, Simpson reveals this quite remarkably. There are some sections in which he reiterates ad nauseam the basic tenet of his faith: “Evolution is a fact.” (31)
29. Medawar, Sir P. B., The Uniqueness of the Individual, Basic Books, New York., 1957, p.76. Similarly, Rudolf Flesch remarked, “The most important thing about science is this: that it isn’t a search for truth but a search for error. . .” (see his book, The Art of Clear Thinking, reviewed by H. Kreighbaum in Scientific Monthly, vol.74, (4), April, 1952, p.240). See also the editorial comment under “The Discipline of the Scientific Method,” (Nature, Aug. 1, 1959, p.295): “Since, according to the code of science, no positive assertions are final and all propositions approximations, and indeed provisional, science is seen to advance more by denying what is wrong than by asserting what is right — by reducing, and eventually eradicating, errors rather than by heading straight towards some preconceived final truth.”
30. Huxley Julian, “New Bottles for New Wine: Ideology and Scientific Knowledge,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol.80, 1950, p.7-23, especially p.15b; and see also his Introduction to Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, Collins, 1959, where Huxley hails him as the new prophet of the new faith!
31. Simpson, Gaylord G., This View of Life, Harcourt, Brace and World, New. York, 1964:
p. vii “one of the basic facts….”
p. 10 “Fact — not theory….”
p. 12 “no one doubts….”
p. 40 “all the facts support it…. ”
p. 51 “only dishonest biologists disagree….”
p. 62 “unassailable now….”
p. 63 “all problems being solved ‘triumphantly’….”
p. 151 “Evolution is a fact … creation a dogma….”
p. 193 “Evolution a fact… the truth of evolution… proofs… all agree…proofs of evolution.”
In his article, “The Biological Nature of Man,” (Science, vol.152, 1966, p.475), he wrote, “We are no longer concerned with whether man evolved, because we know that he did”! (emphasis his).
This kind of evolutionary sequence was once very popular in cultural anthropology: artifacts developed progressively from simple to complex by known stages; religion evolved continuously from animism to monotheism; art passed from a very low stage of crude representation to its modern sophisticated (?) level of abstraction; in short, everything evolved. Little by little most of these classically familiar evolutionary schemes have been discarded as being either purely arbitrary mental creations or positively contrary to fact. Christian readers sometimes see references to the abandonment of these cultural evolutionary constructs and unfortunately gather the impression that all evolutionary ideas are being abandoned ï¿½ which is not so at all: Unfailingly, human and prehuman fossil remains are still being set forth in such a way as to create the impression that linear relationships actually have been demonstrated between them. As Howell put it, “Man . . . is most closely related to the living African anthropoid apes”!
It is too soon for us to be able to see the true significance of the many new fossils from Africa and elsewhere, each of which tends, by its discoverer, to be hailed as the missing link, until it is challenged
32. R. H. Rastall of Cambridge wrote “It cannot be denied that from a strictly philosophical standpoint geologists are here arguing in a circle. The succession of organisms has been determined by a study of their remains buried in the rocks, and the relative ages of the rocks are determined by the remains of organisms that they contain.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1956, Article on Geology, vol.10, p.168). W. R. Thompson says of Simpson, “Simpson states that homology is determined by ancestry and concludes that homology is evidence of ancestry”! (“Evolution and Taxonomy,” Studia Entomologica, vol.5, 1962, p. 567).
In describing the pithecanthropus-sinanthropus fossils from Java and China and the various “Neanderthals,” much is commonly made of differences between them and us. According to textbook descriptions (usually copied from previous textbook descriptions), these old-world fossils were unique in various ways. “Fossils” are supposedly characterized by unusually thick skulls, exceptionally large teeth, extra-massive mandibular symphyses, and pattern of tooth size and tooth eruption not found in living man. Such characterizations heightened student acceptance of the notion that a “taxonomic chasm” separates the classical old-world fossil from contemporary man. . .
Now many of the fossils selected for description were thick-skulled, if published measurements can be trusted. But they were not so unique in skull thickness as we were wont to believe. And it is not necessary to search museums for isolated cranial extremes simply to demonstrate this important point, nor is it necessary to center upon the thick-vaulted Florida and California coastal Indians. A contemporary series of living Americans extends well into the fossil range of skull thickness. With due precautions to exclude possible cases of Paget’s disease, it is quite possible to show that contemporary Americans and paleanthropic fossils do not form separate distributions: the fossils are quite overlapped by living men and women.
Many fossils have been described as big-toothed, and surely the megadonts of Asia and Africa were as big-toothed as their name properly suggests. But from Pithecanthropus on, the exceptional nature of fossil-tooth size (at least for premolars and molars) is again open to question. With perhaps one classical exception (Pithecanthropus 4) modern and fossil tooth sizes quite overlap. The Neanderthals, as variously described, fit comfortably within contemporary ranges, and this observation is remarkably true for the Lower-K teeth from Choukoutien…It is clear that the distribution of tooth sizes in contemporary American whites encompasses the “fossil” range to the extent that, as with skull thickness, there is no suggestion of a true taxonomic chasm. . . .
For some years, too, the notion has been current that fossil man
33. Garn, Stanley M., “Culture and the Direction of Human Evolution,” Human Evolution: Readings in Physical Anthropology, edited by N. Korn and F. Thompson, Holt, Rhinehart & Winston, New York, 1967, pp.102-107.
and modern man were differentiated by the order of tooth eruption. Franz Weidenreich championed such a belief arguing a real toxonomic “chasm” in this respect. Broom and Robinson, and Dart, in turn, have gone further by suggesting different sequences of tooth eruption for individual Australopithecines, sequences which they claim to be “unknown” in modern man. But the idea of one tooth-eruption sequence for fossils and another for modern man falls when subjected to careful review. . . Actually, and as we have shown, the “fossil” order is the usual order of alveolar eruption in modern children. . . .
Paleoanthropic fossils, according to the textbooks are said to have massive mandibular symphyses, and high mandibular symphyses as well, as befits forms with supposedly massive dentition. Yet, by comparison to a rather small series of contemporary American adults (258 in all) it would seem that we hold equal claim to the extremes of symphyseal size and massivity. All except one or two fossil specimens fall within the contemporary combined-sex bivariate distribution. All other euhominid, erectus or sapiens (taken from the listing of Weidenreich), fall well into the contemporary American white distribution. . . Once again it would appear that the fossils are not qualitatively different from us. . . .
It would appear appropriate to observe that the facial skeletons of fossils and modern man are by no means so greatly different.
Since a great deal is made of the face of fossil man, the majority of reconstructions putting the major emphasis here pro bono publico, it is a useful corrective to have this admittedly rather long extract in front of one. Because it shows that if one is determined to provide man with ancestors from which he evolved, it is also necessary to show them as being significantly different in form in various ways, otherwise one cannot point to any evidence of “evolution.” Evolution means change; and if there is no demonstrable change one cannot argue for evolution. So because of a consuming faith in an otherwise undemonstrable theory of human origins, it is necessary to find substance for it by over-emphasizing the evidence to the extent of distorting it out of all proportion to its true significance. The facts do not justify this distortion as Garn’s paper shows unequivocally. It is generally accepted as true that a view held without adequate evidence is held as an act of faith, no matter how reasonable it may otherwise seem to be.
What I am trying to underscore here is that the whole subject of man’s supposed pedigree is loaded with dubious arguments based on an interpretation of the data which is often entirely arbitrary, its sole justification being that it lends support to a view of human origins which is held simply as an act of faith.
Even concerning the Cradle of Man the same dubious arguments are made to carry weight in the public mind because perfectly valid alternatives are ignored. Since most of the newer fossils have been turning up in Africa, it is popular to hail Africa rather than the