Feature Article - April 1999
by Do-While Jones

Scientific Honesty

We received an e-mail from someone who said, “I realize that so-called ‘scientific’ creationism is inherently dishonest by its very nature, and that creationists are by no means bound to the same ethical standards as scientists.” Later in that e-mail he asked if creationists are born dishonest, or learn to be dishonest in church. His entire message, and our response to it, is in this month’s “Action & Reaction” column.

In our response to him we said it is not profitable to attack character, so we don’t do that. In retrospect, however, perhaps we have been wrong to tiptoe around the character issue for so long. The general public seems to believe that scientists and engineers are intrinsically more honest than politicians and lawyers. We understand the reason for this belief, but we must not forget that politicians sometimes (on admittedly rare occasions) tell the truth; and scientists occasionally lie.

It concerns us that there seems to be a large number of people who blindly accept any statement that begins, “Scientists believe … .” They will accept the statement, no matter how ridiculous it is, even if they don’t know who the unnamed scientists are. If scientists say it, they think it must be true.

Our goal is to point out scientific misconceptions. One of those misconceptions is that scientists have godlike knowledge, are never wrong, and never lie. It is time to clear up that misconception, especially as it applies to evolutionists.


Perhaps the most famous scientific fraud was Piltdown Man. Although there is still some debate over who did it, there is no question that it was a hoax. Someone planted a human skull with an ape’s jaw in the Piltdown quarry. Evolutionists accepted the Piltdown Man as the “missing link” for 40 years before someone looked at the teeth closely enough to see that they had been shaped with a file. Evolutionists wanted to believe they had found the missing link so badly that they didn’t hold the evidence to very high scrutiny.

Eugene Dubois was not entirely honest in his presentation of “Java Man”, either.

Dubois first reported these remains [part of a skull and a tooth] as fossil chimpanzees, having concluded that they resembled neither gorillas nor orangutans. But he soon changed his mind.

The next year, after the floods of the rainy season had subsided, workmen found a femur [leg bone] in an extension trench at Trinil. It was reportedly recovered from the same stratigraphic level as the skullcap and tooth, but some distance away--variously reported at different times as fifteen, twelve, or ten meters. Though it bore a large pathological excrescence [abnormal outgrowth] this femur was just like that of a modern human, and it indicated that its possessor had walked erect. Since a reappraisal of the cranial vault [brain case] had shown it to be too capacious [too big] for any living ape, Dubois concluded that what he had before him were the remains of an apelike man rather than a manlike ape. In homage to Haeckel he gave it the name Pithecanthropus erectus, “upright ape-man.” Haeckel returned the compliment by wiring Dubois “congratulations to the discoverer of Pithecanthropus from its inventor.” 1

(Haeckel had taken the unusual step of naming the “missing link” before any fossil evidence had been found. We have more to say about Haeckel later.)

Dubois had gone to Java with the pre-conceived notion that he would find Haeckel’s ape-man fossils there. But did he?

Dubois claimed that the skullcap and the femur came from a rock stratum known as the Trinil layer, named after a nearby village in central Java. He believed that these rocks were below what is known as the Pleistocene-Pliocene (Tertiary) boundary. Dubois was convinced that “real” humans evolved later in the Middle Pleistocene. Hence, his dating of Java Man was quite appropriate for a missing link. However, his interpretation was not exactly straightforward, as the man who later found other Java men, G. H. R. von Koenigswald, tells us:

“When Dubois issued his first description of the fossil Javanese fauna he designated it Pleistocene. But no sooner had he discovered his Pithecanthropus than the fauna had suddenly to become Tertiary. He did everything in his power to diminish the Pleistocene character of the fauna, …”2

Dubois also found some modern man skulls, the Wadjak skulls, in the same region.

The Wadjak [modern man] skulls were found in 1888 and 1890. Dubois brought them back from Java in 1895 and kept them sequestered in his home in Haarlem, Holland. He made no public announcement about these fossils until May 1920, thirty years after they were found.3

… if Dubois had revealed the Wadjak fossils at the time he revealed Pithecanthropus, his beloved Pithecanthropus would never have been accepted as the missing link. Dubois was well aware of that fact. There is evidence that Wadjak was approximately the same age as Pithecanthropus, so to sell Pithecanthropus, Dubois had to hide Wadjak.4

To preserve the uniqueness of Pithecanthropus as the missing link, Dubois had to make sure that no fossils of more modern morphology could be assigned to the same stratigraphic level or given the same date. He did this by (1) changing the assignment of the Kedoeng Broeboes jawbone from Homo to Pithecanthropus while at the same time withholding any description or illustration of it so that no one could challenge his assignment, and (2) hiding Wadjak for thirty years so that no one would know he had found such fossils until Pithecanthropus had been thoroughly established in the human thought stream as our evolutionary ancestor.5

One of the most amazing facets of the Java Man saga is this: In all the years of the twentieth century, the skullcap and the femur together have been presented to the public as Java Man. Yet, the association of the skullcap with the femur has always been questioned by the most respected anatomists from the time of their discovery until today.6 [emphasis in the original]

Dubois, for reasons we can only guess (ambition, ego, prejudice), falsely reported the geologic ages of some fossils, and hid other fossils found in the same rock layer, because those other fossils would have shown that the Java Man fossils were the wrong age.

Donald Johanson (discoverer of “Lucy”) says this about his arch-rival, Louis Leakey:

The preconceptions we carry with us, no matter how scientifically objective we try to be, can strongly influence the way we conduct research. This was probably the case when Louis Leakey visited the fossil site of Laetoli, Tanzania, in 1935, in search of possible hominid ancestors. … [Leakey] found something else he was looking for--a very ancient but modern-looking hominid, Olduvai Hominid (OH) 1, in association with stone tools. … Even though it was soon discovered that the Olduvai skeleton was the burial of a modern Maasai into older geologic horizons, Leakey was not deterred.7

We don’t want to take sides. We just want to point out that either Leakey wasn’t objective about his ape-man discoveries, or Johanson isn’t objective about Leakey’s ape-man discoveries.

Ernst Haeckel

Now it is time to keep our promise to tell you more about Ernst Haeckel. Here is what modern evolutionists say about Haeckel.

He became convinced he had discovered the most basic law of evolution: “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” or the development of an embryo (ontogeny) is a speeded-up replay of the evolution of the species (phylogeny). It was an enormously influential idea, utilized by both Darwin and Huxley, who were impressed with Haeckel’s detailed illustrations comparing development in various animals and man. In their earlier stages, according to Haeckel’s drawings, pigeons, dogs and humans looked identical.

This recapitulation theory enjoyed a tremendous vogue for a few decades, but eventually proved too vague to be of much use in research. Before it was discredited, however, it shaped scientific thought of the period, including the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud.

When critics brought charges of extensive retouching and outrageous “fudging” in his famous embryo illustrations, Haeckel replied he was only trying to make them more accurate than the faulty specimens on which they were based.8

Michael K. Richardson (department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, St. George’s Hospital Medical School, London, United Kingdom) co-authored a paper that appeared in Research News, 5 September 1997, page 1435. That paper produced such a reaction that he wrote a letter to Science in which he (and the other five co-authors from four other countries) attempted to defend both their belief in evolution and their criticism of Haeckel. In that letter they said,

Unfortunately Haeckel was overzealous. When we compared his drawings with real embryos, we found that he showed many details incorrectly. He did not show significant differences between species, even though his theories allowed for embryonic variation. …We therefore show here a more accurate representation of vertebrate embryos at three arbitrary stages, including the approximate stage (fig. 1, column 3), which Haeckel showed to be identical. 9 [The letter showed photographs of human, bat, cat, possum, chicken, snake, hellbender, axoloti, lungfish, salmon, gar, dogfish, and lamprey embryos, all of which look remarkably different.]

That letter drew such a reaction that Richardson had to defend their letter to Science with a second letter.

Nonetheless, the core scientific issue remains unchanged: Haeckel’s drawings of 1874 are substantially fabricated. In support of this view I note that his oldest “fish” image is made up of bits and pieces from different animals--some of them mythical. It is not unreasonable to characterize this as “faking.” 10

Then there was Martin Kemp who describes Haeckel’s dishonesty as “bending the evidence” this way in a recent issue of Nature.

Haeckel's Hierarchies

The now-familiar concept of drawing lines of descent as trees seems harmless enough. But it led Ernst Haeckel (who bent the evidence to prove his Darwinian theories) into believing in the evolution of a Germanic super-race. [bold in the original]

The leading designer of evolutionary trees was the fervent German Darwinian, Ernst Haeckel. Famed for his beautifully illustrated publications of the Radiolaria--those geometrical masterpieces of micro-engineering--and as an anti-Catholic polemicist, Haeckel sought to so extend and consolidate Darwin's theory that it would brook no contradiction. He insisted that "ontogeny is a short and rapid recapitulation of phylogeny"--to the extent of bending his visual evidence to demonstrate identical stages in the embryological development of different species.11

Despite the fact that this fraud has been well-known for many years, it is repeated in the biology text book used at Cerro Coso Community College.12

Horse Tales

Of course we can’t talk about dishonest evolutionists without mentioning the mythical story of horse evolution.

[Yale paleontologist Othniel C.] Marsh’s classic (straight-line) development of the horse became enshrined in every biology textbook and in a famous exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. It showed a sequence of mounted skeletons, each one larger and with a more well-developed hoof than the last. (The exhibit is now hidden from public view as an outdated embarrassment.)

Almost a century later, paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson reexamined horse evolution and concluded that generations of students had been misled. In his book Horses (1951), he showed that there was no simple, gradual unilineal development at all.

… Marsh arranged his fossils to “lead up” to the one surviving species, blithely ignoring many inconsistencies and any contradictory evidence.13

If you want to see Marsh’s straight-line development of the horse, just look at page 312 of the biology textbook used at Cerro Coso Community College.

Scientists are Human

Scientists make mistakes. Scientists have conscious or subconscious motives that influence them. It is up to YOU to hold them to a high standard of honesty.

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1 Tattersall, The Fossil Trail (1995), page 35 (Ev)
2 Lubenow, Bones of Contention (1992), page 88 (Cr)
3 ibid. page 101
4 ibid. page 102
5 ibid. page 103
6 ibid. page 98
7 Johanson, From Lucy to Language, 1996, page 13 (Ev)
8 Milner, Encyclopedia of Evolution, (1990) pages 205 - 206 (Ev+)
9 Richardson, et al., Science, Vol. 280, 15 May 1998, “Haeckel, Embryos, and Evolution” page 983, https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.280.5366.983c (Ev)
10 Richardson, Science, Vol. 281, 28 August 1998, “Haeckel’s Embryos Continued”, page 1289, https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.281.5381.1285j (Ev)
11 Kemp, Nature 395, (1998), page 447 “Haeckel's Hierarchies” https://www.nature.com/articles/26642 (Ev)
12 Audesirk, Biology 4th edition (1996), page 314 (Ev)
13 Milner Encyclopedia of Evolution, (1990), page 222 (Ev+)