With publication of "On the Origin of Species" in 1859, the hunt was on for the "missing link." Fame and fortune awaited the scientist who found the link proving Darwin right: that man evolved from a monkey.
In 1912, success! In a gravel pit near Piltdown in East Sussex, there was found the cranium of a man with the jaw of an ape.
"Darwin Theory Proved True," ran the banner headline.
Evolution skeptics were pilloried, and three English scientists were knighted for validating Piltdown Man.
It wasn't until 1953, after generations of biology students had been taught about Piltdown Man, that closer inspection discovered that the cranium belonged to a medieval Englishman, the bones had been dyed to look older and the jaw belonged to an orangutan whose teeth had been filed down to look human.
The scientific discovery of the century became the hoax of the century. But Piltdown Man was not alone. There was Nebraska Man.
In 1922, Henry Fairfield Osborn, president of the American Museum of Natural History, identified a tooth fossil found in Nebraska to be that of an "anthropoid ape." He used his discovery to mock William Jennings Bryan, newly elected to Congress, as "the most distinguished primate which the State of Nebraska has yet produced."
Invited to testify at the Scopes trial, however, Osborn begged off. For, by 1925, Nebraska Man's tooth had been traced to a wild pig, and Creationist Duane Gish, a biochemist, had remarked of Osborn's Nebraska Man, "I believe this is a case in which a scientist made a man out of a pig, and the pig made a monkey out of the scientist."
These stories are wonderfully told in Eugene Windchy's 2009 "The End of Darwinism." But if Piltdown Man and his American cousin Nebraska Man were the hoaxes of the 20th century, global warming is the great hoax of the 21st. In a matter of months, what have we learned:
-- In its 2007 report claiming that the Himalayan glaciers are melting, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change relied on a 1999 news story in a popular science journal, based on one interview with a little-known Indian scientist who said this was pure "speculation," not supported by any research. The IPCC also misreported the supposed date of the glaciers' meltdown as 2035. The Indian had suggested 2350.
-- The IPCC report that global warming is going to kill 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest and cut African crop yields 50 percent has been found to be alarmist propaganda.
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