A couple articles on human evolution caught my attention over at PhysOrg. Human history is constantly being revised, and here’s a prime example. It was once believed that humans crossed what’s called the Bering Land Bridge from Asia about 12,000 years ago and entered North America through Alaska during the ice age. Other estimates place this migration around 15,000 or 20,000 years ago.
I’ll recap some of the important points and focus on 1: the politics of science, 2: the uncertainty of dating methods, 3: censorship and discrimination in science, and 4: the significance of rewriting human history.
It was a mastodon skeleton discovered in California that ignited the controversy back in 1992. Alongside the bones were stone tools, including one that was rounded on one side and sharpened on the other. The tools were clearly not natural, but were shaped by humans and deposited in sediment believed to be 120,000 years old. In addition, the bones were arranged in an orderly fashion and were next to a large boulder believed to be an anvil.
It was obvious to the paleontologists making the discovery that humans had been at work on the mastodon before leaving the remains behind. But there was a huge problem… it was already established fact that the earliest humans arrived in North America 12,000 years ago. Therefore, it was impossible- lunacy- to suggest that people were living in California 120,000 years ago, and anyone who denied this was going to be attacked by the scientific community.
But why would such a discovery be so controversial? I think the answer is politics. When going up against a scientific consensus, those who consider themselves part of the establishment won’t allow their work or reputation to be damaged. Challenging the scientific research these people had worked on so hard for all their lives wouldn’t be accepted without a fierce fight. As the article points out, personal rivalry is a real culprit that has plagued science for decades: “Entrenched views are hard to shift for researchers who have built a reputation on them,” one professor said.
Paleontologist Richard Cerutti recognized the censorship and discrimination he was about to encounter. “If you claim something is that old, you get blasted,” he said, “which is why some archaeologists stopped working on sites like this. They don’t want to get blasted.” Anthropologist Robson Bonnichsen said, “From my own bitter experience, I know that research that contributes to First American Studies is a game of hardball.” And still another associate told them, “Keep it under wraps. No one will believe you.”
Censorship is a prime criticism I have regarding the historical sciences- or what is referred to as forensic science. There were no anthropologists following those who originally migrated to America, so any conclusion is mere speculation, not fact. Yet there are those who act as if science can’t be questioned.
Thus, the scientists who made the discovery were forced to alter their conclusions. One scientist ended up referring to it as an ‘anomaly’ because the scientific consensus demanded it be a natural phenomenon, even though the evidence suggested otherwise.
Notice how the article admits that the correct conclusion had “less to do with science than blood sport.” Exactly! Scientific conclusions are not always determined by evidence alone. We’re often taught that science is about evidence, but time and time again we see examples like this where the evidence is ignored in favor of established scientific theory and personal politics.
Another important point to make is regarding dating techniques. I’ve always maintained that dating techniques are unreliable, and I think this article provides evidence. Firstly, the scientists couldn’t date the bones via carbon 14 because there wasn’t enough organic carbon in the samples. Second, when the samples were sent for radiometric dating, the results produced an age of 191,000 years, which was considerably older than the 120,000 years they expected; it was therefore discarded. If dating techniques are accurate and reliable, however, then there wouldn’t be any conflict or uncertainty.
It’s also interesting that other scientists were invited to examine the specimens for themselves, but most were uninterested, and eventually Cerutti was forced to give up his research. But in 2008, retired curator Steve Holen decided to look into the claims, and he immediately saw the signature signs of human activity. “I couldn’t get my head around this,” he said. “It goes against everything I was taught and all that I knew.”
After that there was a renewed effort to publish their work, and they sent the samples for another round of radiometric dating; the result of 130,700 years was obtained, and was in line with their expectations.
Still fearful of rejection, the group submitted their research to a publication in London, hoping for an unbiased review. And it was accepted and published in April, 2017, nearly 25 years after the discovery.
Notice the responses from their critics. Comments ranged from, “I was astonished, not because it was so good but because it was so bad,” to “Humans in California 130,000 years ago? Get the facts.” Others said, “I’m not buying what’s being sold,” and “that just isn’t simply true,” while another added insult, claiming that the “archaeologists have clearly not been trained.” Even the journal was criticized, being called “an editorial lapse in judgment.” It seems the scientific consensus is unable to accept the facts, despite the evidence. If censorship doesn’t work, then try ridicule.
Again, the researchers invited their peers to examine the evidence for themselves, but none accepted.
Another take-away is the uncertain nature of deciphering history. Nobody really knows with any kind of certainty who those migrants were, where they came from, or when the events occurred. Nonetheless, some people place science on a pedestal and try to convince themselves and others that science is all about evidence and hard facts. But I’d suggest such claims are short-sighted because it neglects factors like human error, personal politics, and how our conclusions are shaped by our worldview. I know evolutionists who’d like to deny that, but this article provides powerful evidence otherwise.
I’d also suggest that the entirety of human evolutionary history is much the same. There are countless examples of how scientific conclusions are shaped by our beliefs. I think the reason why so many scientists were shocked by the conclusions in this article is because they were indoctrinated to believe ideas that weren’t true, and that remains the case with evolution. Human history would never need to be rewritten if the conclusions made by scientists were always true.