The pressure to hoax

From BBC News:

Face_6 One of the biggest responses to my pieces I’ve received so far came when I wrote about experimental science – about the way science tries to arrive at the best fit between a general principle and the experimental evidence. The pressure to be first to reach a particular scientific goal has always been intense. The rewards in terms of personal fame and financial profit can be considerable. Consequently, some scientists have not been above falsifying the evidence in order to claim an important scientific “breakthrough”. There are several notorious hoaxes in the history of science.

In 1912, at a meeting of the Geological Society in London, Charles Dawson and Arthur Smith Woodward produced fragments of the skull of so-called Piltdown Man, allegedly discovered by workmen in gravel pits in Sussex. They proposed that Piltdown man represented an evolutionary missing link between ape and man, and that it confirmed the current cutting-edge theory that a recognisably human brain developed early on in mankind’s evolution.

Over 40 years later, Piltdown Man was shown to be a composite forgery, put together out of a medieval human skull, the 500-year-old lower jaw of an orangutan, and chimpanzee fossil teeth.

More here.

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