Evolution and the Piltdown Man.

I don’t like to talk much about Creationism. The fact is that there isn’t an argument for it, unless you argue for ‘God’s creation via evolution’. And I’m fine with that. I don’t believe it, it’s scientifically uncorroborated, and it has major challenges that I implore you to answer. But the argument in favour of non-evolutionary Creationism is obscure and ridiculous. I’ve been told that to believe in evolution I need to be able to account for the evolutionary lineage of Mudskippers and Duck Billed Platypuses. If I can’t, then Creationism must be true; it’s an obvious logic when you think about it.

The creationist I last spoke to went to Mudskippers and Duck Billed Platypuses because taxonomy disagrees on what these animals are. Is a Mudskipper a fish or a reptile? Is a Duck Billed Platypus an egg-laying, poisonous mammal (making it the only egg layer or poisonous member of the mammalian family), or not? The irony in this is that the creationist doesn’t see these transitional stages that don’t clearly conform to a taxonomic group is exactly what evolution predicts.

Taxonomy is a discipline that exists as if evolution weren’t true. To apply taxonomy to modern life is a fine endeavour. But if we assume Australopithecus africanus (the hominid that came immediately before the better-know Lucy; Australopithecus afarensis) is one of our ancestors, and we had a perfect-resolution fossil record right up to me, now, then taxonomists would classify me as Australopithecus africanus. No A. afarensis child would have been born to A. africanus parents. And A. africanus parents certainly wouldn’t have had Homo habilis or Homo ergaster children. From the perspective of evolution, taxonomy is a redundant discipline. Darwin should have called his book On the Illusion of Species.

The evolutionary lineage appears at a high-resolution in the fossil record. The lineages that appear in the fossil record largely agree with the lineages derived from genetic information (although, when interpretting  the fossils disagrees with the interpretation of the genetics the genetic record takes precedent because it is a more direct observation). If the genetic record and the fossil record were largely in disagreement then the evolutionary theory would have been in real trouble, but that isn’t what happened. If you want to look it up, it is called the “phylogenetic tree” of life.

The thing I meant to talk about when I opened Microsoft Word to write this, though, was about the Piltdown man. The Piltdown man is one of a few false (and falsified) pieces of evidence for evolution. That’s not even true; the Piltdown Man was not evidence, it was meant as evidence. But the evidence was fabricated. The question is how do we know the evidence was fabricated.

The creationist likes to be vague here. If the creationist can get away with simply declaring the Piltdown man a hoax without a reason, the creationist will. When pushed (and I’ve pushed a few, so I know) the creationist will declare that science proclaims the Piltdown man a fake. So, which disciple within science might do that? Neither physics nor chemistry declare the Piltdown Man a fake. Neither does biology, as it is biologically possible that for a being to have that cranium and that jaw.

It is evolutionary science that declares the Piltdown Man a hoax. It is only with evolutionary understanding we could objectively declare that the presented jaw and cranium of the Piltdown Man don’t match. This is why science is so powerful: it is not a body of knowledge, but rather a method of knowledge. The irony is that you cannot proclaim that Piltdown Man is a faked example of evidence for evolution without calling on evolutionary science.

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