Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Lessons Learned

Neither meat-and-potato creationist types nor their Brie-loving city cousins, the intelligent design theorists, it seems, can manage to push away from the table when the Piltdown fraud is on the menu.

Homo Britannicus, a book about the ancient human occupation of Britain by Chris Stringer, a researcher in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum in London, tells the story of how that hoax derailed the search for human origins for nearly 40 years. Stringer also tells how scientists exposed the hoax and, perhaps most important, explains the lessons they learned and the steps taken to prevent such frauds in the future.

It's an old-fashioned detective story that shows how scientific skepticism and the self-correcting nature of science asserted themselves to set the record straight.

The creationists and intelligent design activists who have filled their bellies on the Piltdown hoax ever since the fraud was discovered will continue to dine out on the story, but they have neither contributed anything to the advance of human knowledge nor learned any lessons from it.

Even as they let out their belts, they remain frozen in time and science marches on.


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