Piltdown Man And The Theory Of Evolution-sayu-02

News-and-Society When Darwin had shown, in the middle of the 19th century, that existing animal species derived from animal species that have to-day disappeared, that the animal world is a connected whole, that at the beginning only the simplest animal forms existed and then had given rise to more .plex forms then, for the first time the theory of evolution experienced a great vogue, even though it had been put forward by Lamarck, a Frenchman, as early as 1809. One of the principal conclusions of all this was that on anatomical and physiological levels man was closely related to the ape. At the end of the last century man was even made to descend directly from the ape. The ideal intermediate creature, the apeman, had been found in Java in 1890 by a Dutch military doctor, Eugene Dubois. And quite naturally between the ape-man of the Dutch East Indies and real man, another intermediary was sandwiched, a little less ape and a little more man: the Neanderthal man, whose remains had been found at various points in Western Europe, especially in Germany and France, and at Gibraltar. Thus the ascent of man stood out very clearly. Man and ape (by which must be understood the larger anthropoids, gorillas, orang-utans, chimpanzees and gibbons) were second cousins, born of a .mon stock, and one could trace an imperceptible progression from the .mon ancestor, a primitive ape, to modern man. Now into this picture, which is conspicuous for its simplicity, the Piltdown man did not fit at all. This man was reckoned to be about the same age (50 to 100,000 years before our time) as the Neanderthal man, but instead of appearing as a .posite being, half-man and half-ape, he very paradoxically united the jaw of chimpanzee to the cranium of a modern man. And that was inexplicable, for very good reasons that we now know. So it happened that lively scientific quarrels developed, some scientists clinging to the authenticity of the fossil and therefore determined to refashion their views on the origins of humanity, others denying its authenticity, pointing to the chance union of pieces from two different fossils in the same stratum, and consequently scarcely modifying their ideas on the evolution of prehistoric man. Thus the Piltdown man stood at the crossroads of various opposing conceptions in human palaeontology. And although it is with the story of this fraud that we have begun this book, it is not a matter of chance. The lessons that can already be drawn from it are numerous. Badly informed by the newspapers, which sacrificed the full scientific story in order to concentrate on a few picturesque details, it seems that the general public, at the end of the year 1953, has scarcely remembered anything but the mistakes of scientists at the hands of an unknown hoaxer. And although some had had a few regrets, it was at not knowing the end of this detective story, since the identity of the f.er was uncertain. Naturally, some people have seen further. They have been stirred by the effect of the fraud on the problem of human origins. The Piltdown man has started something. But the scientists have taken the thing quite well. One might even say that the question is clarified, since an irritating enigma is now solved for better or for worse. About the Author: 相关的主题文章: