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Darwin-L Message Log 7:68 (March 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<7:68>From T20MXS1@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU  Sun Mar 20 04:02:29 1994

Date: Sun, 20 Mar 94 04:02 CST
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
From: mike salovesh <T20MXS1@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU>
Subject: Time, TIME, Piltdown, and Java

It's interesting that the same day's digest of Darwin-L should carry
passing mention to "Piltdown Man" and a discussion of possible impli-
cations of new dates for the Java H. erectus.

I remember the visit of Kenneth P. Oakley to the US, not too long
after he helped provide definitive proof that Piltdown was a fraud.
Those of us who sat in on his course on pleistocene dating learned
something from interchanges between Oakley and Sherwood L. Washburn:
when a single new find (or the results of a new dating method on a
limited number of fossils of questionable provenance) seems to imply
that you must throw out everything you think you have learned from
studying a wide range of fossils dated by a diverse series of methods
the first thing you should do is DOUBT THE SINGLE FIND.  The next is
DOUBT THE DATE.  (That's why it made sense for Oakley to do the work
on Piltdown in the first place.)

Playing around with the implications of an unexpectedly early date
for Pithecanthropus/Java H. erectus is fun, of course.  But don't
throw out your old family tree yet--go with the preponderance of the
evidence until absolutely forced to abandon it.

But for heaven's sake don't ask me what the preponderance of the
evidence DEMANDS we conclude about where habilis, erectus, and
neandertal connect or don't connect to each other or to us.  I just
don't plan to answer anybody who asks me that for 100 years or so.

mike salovesh  anthropology northern illinois univ
<t20mxs1@niu.bitnet> OR <t20mxs1@mvs.cso.niu.edu>

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