With a cultic-like aura surrounding them, these men and women are seen as the paragons of virtue in the intellectual community. They are a priesthood, arrayed in white apparel, tinkering with test tubes and peering through microscopes in a sophisticated “holy of holies.” I am speaking, of course, of the 20th century scientist. He is not to be questioned as he pontificates upon matters that have baffled the intellects of the ages; his dogmatic theories are sacrosanct; and never are his motives to be suspect. Though this is quite a common notion in today’s world, it’s woefully inaccurate. While it is true that there are many good people in science, it is also only fair to point out that there have been, and continue to be, some real charlatans in the scientific community. Consider, for example, the following:
“Exalted views of the objectivity of science and scientists were shattered recently when The New Scientist reported in its November 1976 issue on the results of a survey it conducted on the subject of ‘Cheating in Science.1 Out of 204 scientists replying to the journal’s questionnaire, 175 reported they were aware of cheating by their colleagues. They judged that 58% of the cheating was intentional, and they reported that only 10% of these intentional cheaters were dismissed; most of them, in fact, were promoted” (George Koshy, A Challenge To Biology, Bible-Science Assoc., 1977, p. 86).
Let us briefly review a couple of the more notorious instances of “scientific fraud.”
Ernst Heinrich Haeckel (1834-1919) was a German biologist and philosopher, who asserted that the entire universe, including the human mind, is solely the result of material processes—a mere machine in motion. He was a devoted follower of Chas. Darwin—so much so, in fact, that he was dubbed “the apostle of Darwinism in Germany.”
Haeckel received most of his fame as a consequence of his popularization of the so-called “recapitulation theory.” This is the defunct notion that successive stages of individual embryonic development repeat the evolutionary stages of one’s animal ancestry. The argument is, of course, entirely specious. As evolutionist George Simpson admitted: “It is now firmly established that ontogeny (development of the individual) does not repeat phylogeny (development of the race)” (Simpson, Pittendrigh, & Tiffany, Life: An Introduction to Biology, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1957, p. 352).
Anyhow, Haeckel had a passion for promoting the recapitulation theory which he termed “the fundamental biogenetic law.” “To support his theory, however, Haeckel, whose knowledge of embryology was self taught, faked some of his evidence. He not only altered his illustrations of embryos but also printed the same plate of an embryo three times, and labeled one a human, the second a dog and the third a rabbit ‘to show their similarity’” (M. Bowden, Ape-Men Fact Or Fallacy, Sovereign Publications, 1977, p. 11). Haeckel was exposed by Professor L. Rutimeyer of Basle University. He was charged with fraud by five professors and convicted by a university court. During the trial, Haeckel admitted that he had “altered” his drawings but sought to defend himself by saying: “I should feel utterly condemned and annihilated by the admission, were it not that hundreds of the best observers and biologists lie under the same charge. The great majority of all morphological, anatomical, histological, and embryological diagrams are not true to nature but are more or less doctored, schematized, and reconstruct (Ibid.). Such “doctoring” is called quackery!
Not only did Haeckel misrepresent evidence in his own drawings, he even “went so far as to alter pictures of embryos drawn by someone else. A Professor Arnold Bass charged that Haeckel had made changes in pictures of embryos which he had drawn. Haeckel’s reply to these charges was that if he is to be accused of falsifying drawings, many other prominent scientists should be accused of the same thing…” (Bolton Davidheiser, Evolution and Christian Faith, Presbyterian & Reformed, 1969, p. 76).
In spite of the fact that Haeckel’s dishonest drawings proved to be quite an embarrassment to evolutionists—H. H. Newman of the University of Chicago said that Haeckel’s works “did more harm than good to Darwinism” (Evolution, Genetics, and Eugenics, University of Chicago Press, 1932, p. 30)—it is an absolutely astonishing fact that the German biologist’s drawings are still used in modern biology textbooks to “prove” evolution on the basis of embryonic development.
The Piltdown Hoax
In December of 1912, Charles Dawson, an amateur archaeologist, and Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, of the British Museum, announced that they had discovered a man-like skull in a pit near Piltdown, England. Along with the skull was a jawbone that appeared to be very ape-like except for the teeth which were more flattened, as would be expected in humans. Working with Dawson and Woodward was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest in his late 20s, who incessantly labored to harmonize evolution and the Christian faith.
Although a few scientists questioned the association of the skull with the jaw, most evolutionists were convinced that Eoanthropus dawsoni (or as he was more commonly known, the “Piltdown Man”) was an authentic link in human evolution. It has been estimated that some 500 publications appeared on this subject. It is a curious thing, however, that the bones were kept under tight security—even from evolutionary authorities. Arthur Keith, an eminent British authority in this field, was allowed to view the fossils for only 20 minutes, and then was forced to henceforth work with plaster casts of the originals (cf. S. J. Weiner, The Piltdown Forgery, Oxford Press, 1955, p. 121). The famous anthropologist L. S. B. Leakey also complained that he was denied adequate access to the fossils (cf. Adam’s Ancestors, Harper & Bros., 1960, p. vi).
By 1950 a dating method (the fluorine method) had become available for assigning a relative age to the fossil bones. After a series of tests, it was determined in 1953 that the Piltdown skull and jaw were of completely different ages! The skull was a few thousand years old (not one million, as formerly alleged) and the jaw bone was that of a modern ape! As a consequence of this startling revelation, a careful study of the bones was begun. It was discovered that the teeth had been artificially ground down to appear human—and it had been a sloppy job at that. Abrasive marks were still evident, the surfaces were too flat for natural wear, different teeth were flattened at different angles, etc. Moreover, as a result of chemical tests, it was determined that the jaw bone had been stained with potassium bichromate and iron salts for the purpose of making it appear quite ancient. Someone had really been “monkeying” (forgive the pun) with the evidence!
But who was the perpetrator of this elaborate fraud? S. J. Weiner of Oxford University, who was most instrumental in the exposure of the hoax, suggested (though not directly accusing) that the weight of the evidence was in the direction of Dawson—though he did allow that perhaps Dawson himself was a victim of this devious scheme.
Dr. A. E. Wilder Smith, though making no charge, says that “it does strike one as remarkable that Professor Smith-Woodward allowed very few other scientists to study the original skull or even to handle it. Plaster casts were always made and the studies carried out with their aid. Plaster casts, however, do not give the very fine details needed for study, nor can one determine with their help whether a find really is a fossil or not. Even more important, no one can analyze a skull chemically with only a plaster cast to work with!” (Man’s Origin, Man’s Destiny, Harold Shaw Pub., 1968, p. 133).
More recently, in a very scholarly investigation of the available data, Prof. M. Bowden (see previous reference) has concluded that Teilhard de Chardin was likely the culprit. Teilhard certainly had the motive—to him, all views must bow to evolution; evolution “is the light illuminating all facts” (Saturday Evening Post, 10/12/63, p. 44) . Moreover, he had the opportunity, for several of the fake “finds” were “discovered” by him. Also, he had the technical
expertise to carry off such a hoax. For example, he had taught chemistry at Cairo University—a knowledge of which would be essential for staining the fossils.
Perhaps as embarrassing as the fraudulent nature of the Piltdown affair, however, was the fact that a number of the world’s leading “experts” were completely fooled by the hoax for 40 years! Dogmatic, sweeping statements that had been made with an air of absolute confidence required retraction. Such was the concern in England that a motion was made (and tabled) in the House of Commons “That the House has no confidence in the Trustees of British Museum…because of the tardiness of their discovery that the skull of the Piltdown man is a partial fake” (Bowden, op. cit., p. 8).
Dr. Duane Gish expressed the matter very well when he wrote: “The success of this monumental hoax served to demonstrate that scientists, just like everyone else, are very prone to find what they are looking for whether it is there or not” (Evolution—The Fossils Say No!, ICR Publishing Co., 1973, p. 92).
There is an important lesson that many Christians need to learn from situations such as the foregoing. And it is this: we do not need to be intimidated by the so-called “discoveries” of an unbelieving world. Not all “discoveries” are faked, of course, but they are subject to the interpretation of the discoverer.