Scientists Take Public for a Ride
By Awake! correspondent in Spain
TOMÁS SERRANO, an elderly, weather-beaten Spanish farmer, had believed for many years that his Andalusian smallholding concealed something unique. His plow often unearthed exotic bones and teeth that certainly did not belong to any local cattle. But when he spoke of his finds in the village, nobody took much notice—at least not until 1980.
In that year a team of paleontologists arrived to investigate the region. Before long they uncovered a veritable treasure trove of fossils: bones of bears, elephants, hippopotamuses, and other animals—all deposited in a small area that was apparently a dried-up swamp. It was in 1983, however, when the prolific site jumped into the international headlines.
A small yet singular fragment of skull had recently been discovered. It was heralded as “the oldest human remains discovered in Europe and Asia.” Calculating it to be between 900,000 and 1,600,000 years old, some scientists expected it to usher in “a revolution in the study of the human species.”
The fossil that generated all this enthusiasm was christened the “Man of Orce”—after the village in the province of Granada, Spain, where it was discovered.
The “Man of Orce” Meets the Press
June 11, 1983, saw the fossil’s public presentation in Spain. Prominent Spanish, French, and British scientists had already vouched for its authenticity, and political support was quickly forthcoming. A Spanish monthly enthused: “Spain, and especially Granada, is now at the forefront of [human] antiquity in the macrocontinent of Eurasia.”
What was the “Man of Orce” really like? Scientists described him as a recent emigrant from Africa. This particular fossil, it was said, belonged to a young man who was about 17 years old and five feet [1.5 m] tall. Probably he was a hunter and collector who may not have yet learned to use fire. Likely he had already developed a rudimentary language and religion. He ate fruit, cereals, berries, and insects, along with the occasional remains of animals that hyenas had killed.
Misgivings About the Identification
On May 12, 1984, only two weeks before an international scientific seminar on the subject, serious doubts arose as to the fragment’s origin. After the meticulous removal of calcareous deposits from the interior part of the skull, the paleontologists found a disconcerting “crest.” Human skulls do not have such a crest. The seminar was postponed.
The Madrid daily El País carried the headline, “Serious Indications That the Cranium of the ‘Man of Orce’ Belongs to an Ass.” Finally, in 1987, a scientific paper written by Jordi Agustí and Salvador Moyà, two of the paleontologists involved in the original discovery, declared that X-ray analysis had indeed confirmed that the fossil belonged to a kind of horse.
Why Taken for a Ride?
This debacle arose for several reasons, none of which have much to do with the scientific method. The dramatic discovery of human ancestors rarely remains for long in the exclusive domain of the scientists. Politicians were quick to jump on the bandwagon, and scientific rigor was eclipsed by nationalistic fervor.
A regional minister of culture declared that it was a proud moment for Andalusia “to be the setting of such a great discovery.” When doubts about the find were expressed in some circles, the regional government of Andalusia stoutly maintained that “the remains were authentic.”
Such an insignificant fossil (about 3 inches [8 cm] in diameter) acquires enormous importance in part because of the lack of evidence to support the supposed evolution of man. Despite the fossil’s meager proportions, the “Man of Orce” was hailed as “the greatest paleontological find of recent years, as well as the missing link between the typical African man (Homo habilis) and the oldest man of the Eurasian continent (Homo erectus).” Fertile imagination and not-so-scientific guesswork sufficed to fill in the details about the appearance and way of life of the “Man of Orce.”
A year or so before the discovery of the “Man of Orce,” the leader of the scientific team, Dr. Josep Gibert, had speculated about the surprises that the area undoubtedly held in store. “It is one of the most important concentrations of the inferior Quaternary in Europe,” he asserted. And even after the true identity of the fossil was revealed, Dr. Gibert insisted: “The international scientific community firmly believes that in the Guadix-Baza area [where the fragment was found], sooner or later, a human fossil more than a million years old will be found, and that will certainly be a great discovery.” Indeed, wishful thinking!
“Science Is Concerned With Discovering the Truth”
A codiscoverer of the “Man of Orce,” Dr. Salvador Moyà, honestly admitted to Awake!: “Dr. Jordi Agustí and I found it very difficult to accept that the fossil was not humanoid. However, science is concerned with discovering the truth, even though it may not be to our liking.”
The controversy that has surrounded the “Man of Orce” illustrates how vexing a task it is for paleontology to unearth the truth concerning the so-called evolution of man. Despite decades of digging, genuine remains of man’s supposed simian ancestors have not come to light. Although it may not be to the liking of some scientists, could it be that the dearth of solid evidence points to the fact that man is not a product of evolution after all?
An impartial observer might well ask himself if other renowned “ape-men” are any more substantial than the “Man of Orce” has proved to be.* As history has amply demonstrated, science can lead men to the truth, but scientists are by no means immune to error. This is especially so when political, philosophical, and personal bias clouds the issue—and when so little is used to try to explain so much.
For a detailed analysis of other so-called ape-men, see chapter 7 of the book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Pictures on page 24, 25]
Above: A replica of the three-inch diameter [7.5 cm] fragment of the supposed “Man of Orce”
Right: A painting of hypothetical “primitive man” as imagined by evolutionists