Piltdown Man was a hoax fossil of a hominid jaw and skull bone found in a gravel pit in 1912. At the time it was embraced by some as evidence for the evolution of humans from other ape-like hominids. After it was revealed as a hoax in 1954, Piltdown Man came to represent something else entirely; concrete evidence against evolution. It is repeatedly cited as as proof evolution is a hoax - despite the logical and evidential flaws in such thinking.
The "Piltdown Man" is a famous hoax consisting of fragments of a skull and jawbone collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, a village near Uckfield, East Sussex, in England. The fragments were thought by many experts of the day to be the fossilised remains of a hitherto unknown form of early human. The significance of the specimen remained the subject of controversy until it was exposed in 1953 as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutan combined with the skull of a fully developed, modern man.
The Piltdown hoax is perhaps the most famous archaeological hoax in history. It has been prominent for two reasons: the attention paid to the issue of human evolution, and the length of time (more than 40 years) that elapsed from its "discovery" to its exposure as a forgery.
The main point overlooked by detractors of evolutionary theory is only early after its initial discovery did Piltdown Man play a significant part in the overall view of the "descent of man". By 1930 a large number of other finds showed that the earliest evolutionary steps from apelike ancestors to humans were about gait and teeth, not brain, and that those early prehumans were found exclusively in Africa. Piltdown was young enough (claimed to be about 500000 years old) to be outside Africa without being an anomaly, but the combination of apelike teeth, big brain and high forehead made it very suspect, until the hoax was finally revealed. A dentist also commented that apelike canine teeth would have made humanlike chewing impossible.
 Nationalism's role (or, where are Britain's fossils?)
It has been suggested that a sense of hurt national pride played a role in the Piltdown Man hoax. By 1912, many hominid fossils had been discovered in mainland Europe, most notably Neanderthal Man in Germany and Cro-Magnon Man in France, and they were even cropping up in Africa and Java, yet Britain had none. Today, we know that this is because the British Isles were glaciated when early hominids first arrived in Europe, yet for the British people at that time, it was unacceptable that their homeland, the cradle of civilization and industry, the center of all that is right and proper in the world, played no role in the evolution of humanity and was only settled relatively late. In other words, they were nothing more than colonials compared to the mainland, something that no respectable Brit found appealing whatsoever. The fact that an elephant-bone tool that was conspicuously shaped like a cricket bat accompanied the Piltdown "discovery" lends further credence to this hypothesis.
 Problems with creationist interpretation
The fact that Piltdown Man was a deliberate fraud has repeatedly been used by creationists and intelligent design advocates (not that there's much of a difference) as evidence that the entirety of evolution is a fraud. The problem with this should be self-evident, but let's go through it anyway.
It is true that Piltdown Man was a deliberate fraud, which did confuse paleontologists for many years. Some scientists accepted it, others were skeptical right from the start. Since nature doesn't lie, most scientists take field discoveries at face value, trying to explain the discovery within the current understanding of the particular field. However, anything that falls too far outside of the expected is received with a highly skeptical eye. The case of Piltdown is no exception, and it is worth noting that experts in the field almost immediately began to question the find.
Piltdown Man was created with the objective of fooling scientists, not lay people, so it only succeeded for a short time. The very fact that it was eventually revealed to be a fake is evidence that science is capable of seeing through illusion, acknowledging errors, and refining its ideas by use of the scientific method. It is shows that Theories like Evolution are based on solid and consistent evidence  that behaves in expected ways. It is also worth noting that though the Creationists like to chirp about Evolution's errors, frauds, or simple mistakes, not one of those errors or frauds has been exposed by so-called Creation Science. Every single one of them, from Piltdown to Haeckel were found by experts in evolution, doing the work of evolutionists.
Conversely, religiously derived creationist beliefs do not change, are not capable of evaluating the quality of a specimen, cannot identify a hoax from a real specimen, and cannot adapt to new information about the world from genetics to the size of our universe. Most importantly, they fail to provide any new understanding of the world.
The fallacy of those using Piltdown Man to disprove evolution can be summed up thusly:
- A single forgery does not overturn the actual evidence that does exist and isn't a forgery.
- A single forgery does not prove that all evidence is forged (this would be a non sequitur at the very least).
- Science actually spotted the fraud and corrected the mistake. Meanwhile people still insist that the Shroud of Turin isn't a forgery made in medieval Europe.
- Piltdown Man wasn't universally accepted by the scientific establishment because of its conflict with other pieces of evidence - it takes a lot more than that to fool practicing scientists.
 See also
- ↑ http://bozosapiens.blogspot.com/2012/11/piltdown-man-lineage.html
- ↑ Dare we say, 'facts'