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“While some claims from pseudoscience are generally harmless, like ideas of “infinite energy” from perpetual motion machines, others can be very dangerous. Opposition to vaccination, for example, is not only a danger to those that are not vaccinated, but can also spread diseases to those who cannot be vaccinated. Climate change denial is also fundamentally rooted in ideas of pseudoscience. Belief in pseudoarchaeology has a varying effect, from the mostly harmless (pyramids used as grain storage), to more seriously misleading scientific research (the Piltdown Man), to the outright dangerous (used to claim legitimacy for political ideologies).

The “discovery” of the Piltdown Man was used as evidence for the “brain-centered theory” of human evolution that was popular at the time. The idea was that Darwin’s theory of evolution implied a missing link in the evolution between apes and humans, and that the most likely step between would be a species with mostly ape-like features but a large brain. This has since been shown to be false, as other finds demonstrate thatbipedalism was the most important factor with larger brains coming significantly later. However, the Piltdown Man encouraged more research on the brain-centered theory, misleading scientists when other, real fossils that showed the opposite were found.

I believe that both the Cardiff Giant and Piltdown Man hoaxes illustrate that even scientists and researchers who are trying to be completely objective can not necessarily be always expected to be skeptical of finds when they match what they expect to and want to see. This is especially true in the case of the Piltdown Man. The artifacts conveniently supported prevailing Eurocentric views of human development, that early humans first emerged in Europe, and also provided backing for British nationalism in particular during a time of large nationalistic rivalries. This is not to say that I think that archaeologists are not to be trusted; I think contemporary scientific processes do quite a bit to prevent this from happening again. When far more scientists can look at the data now, hoaxes are harder to pass off as real; this wasn’t the case when it was harder to get access to artifacts or the data of other researchers.”

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