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Was the Nebraska Man error used to kick Creationism out of Public Schools 


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Was the Nebraska Man error used to kick Creationism out of Public Schools ?


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One such 'evil' was when creationism was kicked out of public schools in 1925 based upon the 'evidence' of Nebraska man. The Nebraska man 'evidence' was ... the grand total sum of: a fossilized pig's tooth. So saying, did the finding of the truth of the error of Nebraska man cause the issue to be raised once again in court to determine the merit of the case? No, because people in power wanted to have an alternative to creationism.



Nebraska Man (Hesperopithecus haroldcookii) was named after a humanlike tooth was found in Nebraska in 1921 (Osborn 1922). As creationists tell it, evolutionists used one tooth to build an entire species of primitive man, complete with illustrations of him and his family, before further excavations revealed the tooth to belong to a peccary, an animal similar to (and closely related to) pigs.



Few scientists claimed Nebraska Man was a human ancestor. Some, including Osborn and his colleagues, identified it only as an advanced primate of some kind. Most others were skeptical even of that. It is not true that Nebraska Man was widely accepted as an ape-man, or even as an ape, by scientists, and its effect upon the scientific thinking of the time was negligible. For example, in his two-volume "Human Origins" (1924), George MacCurdy dismissed Nebraska Man in a single footnote:

"In 1920 [sic], Osborn described two molars from the Pliocene of Nebraska; he attributed these to an anthropoid primate to which he has given the name Hesperopithecus. The teeth are not well preserved, so that the validity of Osborn's determination has not yet been generally accepted."



Creationists often claim that Nebraska Man was used as proof of evolution during the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, but this claim is apocryphal. No scientific evidence was presented at the trial. (Some evidence was read into the trial record, but even this did not refer to Nebraska Man.)



Nebraska Man should not be considered an embarrassment to science. The scientists involved were mistaken, and somewhat incautious, but not incompetent or dishonest. The whole episode was actually an excellent example of the scientific process working at its best. Given a problematic identification, scientists investigated further, found data which falsified their earlier ideas, and promptly abandoned them (a marked contrast to the creationist approach).




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