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Book Review - God- or Gorilla?, Introduction & Chapter 1

This entry is part of a series. For a bit of an introduction and an index of all entries in the series, go here.

God or Gorilla PicI said that I'd do a post a week in this series, but I don't think that introduction counts as much of a post. So today, I'm also going to post the first real review entry, which will cover the introduction and Chapter 1 - Making the Piltdown Man.


Right off in the introduction, McCann gives us a taste of the longest running falsehood in creationism, implying that evolution had already peaked and was on its way out of the scientific establishment.

Reaching its climax in 1921, the ape-man hoax took the form of a seemingly spontaneous movement to reestablish the theory of man's monkey-origin. (McCann, vii)

It's been nearly 9 decades since McCann penned this book, and I think we can see how well the various theories of evolution are doing.

We also get an admission right up front that he was going to quote mine (though I don't think it was known by that term back in the '20s).

Many scientific men will be angry of course, but as they, themselves ared oing [sic, jrl] the talking and as they, themselves, are quoted by chapter, verse and page, they cannot be angry, except with themselves. (McCann, ix)

Of course, anyone who's followed creationism is aware that this a common tactic of creationists today (for example, see my entry, Ray Comfort - Quote Miner Extraordinaire). This shows that it has a long history.

Chapter 1

McCann really seemed to have it in for Henry Fairfield Osborn. In the opening line of the opening chapter, "Making the Piltdown Man," McCann mentioned him by name.

In four glass cases in the Hall of the Age of Man, American Museum of Natural History, New York City, Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn exhibits "evidence" of man's ape origin.

McCann went on to criticize Osborn throughout the book. Admittedly, the Wikipedia entry for Osborn quotes The American Historical Review, describing Osborn as "a first-rate science administrator and a third-rate scientist." But McCann focused on Osborn so much that many sections of the book became more of a personal attack on Osborn rather than a criticism of evolution, in general. Anyway, I didn't want to get into too much detail on this, but the personal vendetta against Osborn was very obvious and worth mentioning.

McCann didn't seem to like conditional statements:

...(note the persistence of that if, if,if, even though no sense of shame accompanies it)... (McCann, 12)

and just a little later on the same page:

In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, they start all over again, fresh and undismayed, with a new premise of if, if, if, and immediately in the same sentence the conclusion drawn from the "if" shoots itself like a projectile from a gun, "This discovery is most valuable!!!" (McCann, 12)

What's wrong with conditional statements? That's just how deductive reasoning works. You lay out your premises, and if all those premises are true, then the conclusion follows. Maybe we're just more used to these types of statements in the age of computers, thanks to all the If Then statements we use in programming. But deductive reasoning has been around for a long time.

In this specific example, though, McCann got the gist of Osborn's argument completely wrong. McCann went on to quote Osborn in the very next paragraph:

But it appears rather that we have here two types of man which lived in Chellean times...

In other words, Osborn was saying something to the effect of, 'If Boule's interpretation were right, it would be an incredible discovery, but it appears that his interpretation is wrong.'

Stay tuned for next week's review of Chapter 2 - The Trinil Ape-man.

Proceed to Chapter 2

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