Creationist Arguments: The Monkey Quote

Between 1929 and 1936, 5 skulls of Peking Man were discovered at Zhoukoudian near Peking in China. Originally called Sinanthropus pekinensis, they are now allocated to Homo erectus. The French anthropologist Marcellin Boule wrote about the Peking Man fossils before his death in 1942, and one quote from his work in particular has been often used, and misused, by creationists. Here, finally, is the definitive history of the long chain of claims and counter-claims about the 'Monkey Quote'.

The chronology:

Boule's Original Quote

Here is exactly what French anthropologist Marcellin Boule originally wrote in 1937, in French. After mentioning Weidenreich's hypothesis that the Peking Man skulls had been hunted by others of his own species, Boule continued:

A cette hypothèse, aussi fantaisiste qu'ingénieuse, je me permets de préférer celle-ci, qui me parait aussi saisfaisante tout en étant plus simple et plus conforme à l'ensemble de nos connaissances: le chasseur était un Homme véritable, dont on a retrouvé l'industrie lithique (1) et qui faisait sa victime du Sinanthrope! (Boule 1937, p.20)

A literal translation of this is:

"To this hypothesis, as fantastic as it is ingenious, I permit myself to prefer this one, which seems to me as satisfying while being simpler and more in conformity with the totality of our knowledge: the hunter was a true Man, of whom we have found the stone industry and who made Sinanthropus his victim." (Boule 1937, p.20, my translation)

In other words, Boule thought that true humans had coexisted with Peking Man, and had hunted and killed the Peking Man individuals whose fossils had been found. At the time, it was thought that the Peking Man skulls showed signs of having been hunted. Even assuming this to be true (modern scientists have rejected the idea), there seems no reason not to assume Peking Man himself was the hunter, since, as Teilhard de Chardin (1937) pointed out, the brain size of the largest of the Peking Man skulls was well within the range of modern humans. Peking Man would therefore plausibly have been capable of hunting, making stone tools, and using fire. Why Boule rejected this reasoning as "fantaisiste", and thought that proposing undiscovered humans was a simpler hypothesis, is somewhat of a mystery.

The 1957 version of Boule's quote

After Boule's death in 1942, his colleague Henri Vallois published further editions of Boule's textbook Les Hommes Fossiles (Fossil Men, originally published 1921,1923), in 1946 and 1952, with himself as a coauthor. The 1952 edition came out in an English translation in 1957, and contained the following quote:

"To this hypothesis, other writers preferred the following, which seemed to them more in conformity with our whole body of knowledge: the hunter was a true Man, whose stone industry has been found and who preyed upon Sinanthropus." (Boule and Vallois, 1957)

This is similar to the older version, although the use of the phrase "other writers" does not make it clear that it was Boule himself who was the major proponent of this view.

O'Connell's version of Boule

In a 1969 book, the creationist Catholic priest Patrick O'Connell, who had lived in China during the excavation of the Peking Man skulls, gave his own version of the quote. (His quote is, obviously, a translation of Boule rather than Boule's exact words, though O'Connell does not explicitly mention this.) O'Connell says:

[Boule] published his verdict on the fossil remains of the Peking Man in l'Anthropologie (1937, p. 21) [sic; should be p. 20].

In l'Anthropologie he writes: "To this fantastic hypothesis (of Abbé Breuil and Fr. Teilhard de Chardin), that the owners of the monkey-like skulls were the authors of the large-scale industry, I take the liberty of preferring an opinion more in conformity with the conclusions from my studies, which is that the hunter (who battered the skulls) was a real man and that the cut stones, etc., were his handiwork." (O'Connell 1969) pp 119-120

Note that O'Connell has added the phrase "monkey-like skulls", which appears nowhere in the original. Nor does the phrase "large-scale industry" appear in Boule. (A footnote in Boule says that the stone industry is not primitive, but makes no mention of its scale.)

Not only was the quote highly inaccurate, O'Connell also misrepresented the opinion of Boule by claiming that Boule's verdict was that the skulls were "monkey-like". This misrepresentation can only be considered deliberate, because on the very next page following the "monkey quote", and in a number of other places, Boule made it abundantly clear that he was not dismissing Peking Man as a monkey, or even as an ape:

Marcellin Boule's 1937 verdict on Peking Man

"Morphologiquement, il n'y a pas le moindre doute. Sinanthrope confirm et complète la démonstration qu'il s'agit de créatures intermédiares entre le groupe des Singes anthropomorphes et le groupe des Hominiens." (Boule 1937, p. 18)

"Il n'en est pas moins évident que, tant par le volume de leur cerveaux que par ce que nous savons de la structure anatomique de leur tête osseuse, le Sinanthrope et son frère le Pithécanthrope s'intercalent, dans la série de Primates supérieurs, entre les grands Singes anthropomorphes et les Hominiens." (Boule 1937, p. 21)

"A cet égard, le nouveau petit groupe que nous étudions est exactement intermédiaire, puisque son volume cérébral moyen est de 1.000 centimètres cubes, supérieur de 400 centimètres cubes au volume maximum des Anthropoides actuel, qui est de 600 centimètres cubes, inférieur de la même quantité à la moyen humaine actuelle que est de 1.400 centimètres cubes." (Boule 1937, p. 21)

"Morphologically, there is not the slightest doubt. Sinanthropus confirms and completes the demonstration that there are creatures intermediate between the groups of anthropoid Apes and the group of humans." (Boule 1937, my translation)

"It is nonetheless evident that, by the volume of their brain as by what we know of the anatomical structure of their skull, Sinanthropus and his brother Pithecanthropus are interposed, in the series of superior primates, between the great apes and the Hominiens". (Boule 1937, my translation)

"In this regard [the development of the brain], the small new group that we are studying [Peking Man and Java Man] is exactly intermediate, since its average cerebral volume is 1000 cc, superior by 400 cc to the maximum volume of the living apes, which is 600 cc, and inferior by the same quantity to the current human average which is 1400 cc." (Boule 1937, my translation)

A part, but only a small part, of O'Connell's misrepresentation of Boule can be attributed to a trap in translating the French word 'singe'. It is usually translated as 'monkey', as O'Connell did, but it can mean either 'ape' or 'monkey' or both depending on the context (French has no single word for 'ape'). In the context of Boule's paper 'ape' is the obvious meaning, since there is never any context indicating that Boule was talking about monkeys, while there are many phrases which show that he was comparing Peking Man to apes, particularly the chimpanzee: ("grands Singes", "chimpanzoïde", "des Singes les plus élevés", "Singes anthropomorphes", "grands Primates").

O'Connell's mistreatment of this particular quote is, unfortunately, not an aberration. O'Connell's chapter on Peking Man is riddled with extravagant unsupported claims, scientific blunders, logical howlers, mistranslations, conspiracy theories, and a barrage of libel directed at virtually everyone who ever worked on the Peking Man site and fossils.

See also Colin Groves' review of O'Connell's book (the two word summary: "poisonous garbage").

Gish's version of Boule

Creationist Duane Gish's version of the monkey quote is as follows:

In an article published in 1937 in L'Anthropologie (p. 21), Boule wrote:

"To this fantastic hypothesis [of Abbe Breuil and Fr. Teilhard de Chardin], that the owners of the monkey-like skulls were the authors of the large-scale industry, I take the liberty of preferring an opinion more in conformity with the conclusions from my studies, which is that the hunter (who battered the skulls) was a real man and that the cut stones, etc., were his handiwork ...".

(Gish 1979, pp.139-140)

Since this quote does not appear in Boule, but is a verbatim copy of O'Connell down to the incorrect page number, it is obvious that Gish must have copied it from O'Connell. Gish's reliance on this quote was not limited to this one instance; there are three other references to it in the same chapter:

In a 1937 publication, Boule referred to the Sinanthropus skulls as "monkey-like". (Gish 1979, p.134)

We have already cited Boule's article in L'Anthropologie in which he refers to the skulls of Sinanthropus as "monkey-like". (p.144)

Whether the creatures whose skulls were discovered there were macaques or baboons, they were monkey-like according to Boule. (p.145) [referenced to: M. Boule, L'Anthropologie, 1937, p.21.]

Gish has committed a number of errors here. First was the decision to use O'Connell as a reference source at all. It speaks very poorly for Gish's judgement that he could not recognize how hopelessly incompetent O'Connell was. Second is Gish's failure to reference the quote as coming from O'Connell's book. This should always be done to give the original author credit (or, in O'Connell's case, blame) for their work. This is standard scientific practice, as Gish, who has a scientific Ph.D., should have known. Third was Gish's decision to rely on a secondary source, instead of searching out the original literature for himself. It is true that Gish does not read French, but it should not have been too hard to find someone who could translate the relevant passages.

These mistakes would not have mattered if O'Connell's translation had been accurate and had not misrepresented Boule's views. Because that was not the case, all these circumstances worked together to make it look as though the quote was a fabrication by Gish.

Both Gish and the CSF have later claimed that the O'Connell/Gish version does not change the meaning of the quote. This is manifestly untrue, since Gish's quote has Boule calling the skulls "monkey-like", while Boule's does not. Note that on no fewer than four occasions, Gish (1979) made reference to Boule having stated that the skulls were "monkey-like", and it is precisely that word which was was inserted by O'Connell. Clearly, that word played a crucial role in Gish's claims that a) the Peking Man skulls belonged to monkeys or apes, and b) that Marcellin Boule also believed they were monkey-like. Gish can hardly place such reliance on a single word, which totally misrepresents Boule's opinions, and then claim that the addition of the word "does not change the meaning of the quote".

Zindler: "Maculate Deception"

In reviewing a number of arguments from Gish's book Evolution: the fossils say no!, Zindler (1985) pointed out that the Boule quote given by Gish had been fabricated, as it did not appear in Boule's work, and that it misrepresented Boule's opinion. Because Gish had failed to reference the quote, Zindler not unnaturally attributed the deception to Gish.

Price: "The Creation Science Controversy"

In his book The Creation Science Controversy (1990), Barry Price, relying upon Zindler's article, again accused Gish of fabricating the quote, pointing out that Gish's version of Boule did not match what Boule had said. Price's treatment was accurate in the essentials, but made a number of minor errors. Two transcription errors in Zindler's quote of Gish were reproduced by Price; an incorrect publication date (1986) was given for Gish's book Evolution: the fossils say no! and the punctuation in that title was incorrect; and Price gave an incorrect reference for Zindler's article, saying it had appeared in May instead of March. And, because Zindler had not stated that L'Anthropologie was a journal, Price seems to have assumed it was a book and referred to it as such.

CSF response to Price

In response to Price's book the Creation Science Foundation, an Australian creationist organization (later Answers in Genesis, now Creation Ministries International), published the booklet A Response to Deception (1990). The CSF came out strongly in Gish's defence, claiming that Gish's quote was accurate.

a) Because Price claimed to be quoting from "Boule's book" (which he did not name), and the Boule 1937 article is actually from a journal, CSF assumed that there were two different Boule sources, and that the discrepancy was only what would be expected when the same author wrote for two different publications.

b) CSF lists the errors of Price's which were noted above. Most of these were trivial, but Price's incorrect reference to Zindler meant that the CSF was unable to obtain Zindler's article, as a result of which they branded Price's claim a fabrication.

c) Finally, CSF referred the reader to O'Connell's book (O'Connell being, according to the CSF, an "impeccable independent authority"), citing it as evidence of the accuracy of Gish's quote:

Verification of Gish's Boule quote
Below is a copy of the relevant section from pages 199-120 of Science of Today and the Problems of Genesis: (Book 1) The Six Days of Creation, second edition, 1969, Christian Book Club of America, Hawthorne, Calif., by Patrick O'Connell, which contains the Boule quote from L'Anthropologie, 1937, p.21. It is a word-for-word match of Gish's quote of Boule in his Evolution: The Fossils Say No! (CSF 1990)

The CSF obviously took the similarity between Gish and O'Connell as proof that both of them had accurately and independently quoted Boule. They seem to have overlooked the possibility that Gish might have copied from O'Connell, and so concluded that

Price's allegations about Gish's 'distortions' are therefore despicable, disingenuous, and totally false. (CSF 1990)

Having decided that Gish's quote must be accurate, the CSF drew the conclusion that the claims of Price and Zindler could not be (aided by the fact that they could not find Zindler's article), and went on the attack against them:

Now that Gish's integrity has been totally vindicated against Price's allegations and the veracity of the Boule quote has been established beyond the shadow of a doubt by an impeccable independent authority, the astute reader might reasonably wonder how it could be that 'Zindler ... knew Boule had never said anything like this?' (CSF 1990)

The reason is simple: Zindler, an ex-biology professor, knows enough science (unlike Gish) to know that no competent scientist could possibly claim that the Peking Man skulls belonged to monkeys. As Zindler says elsewhere:

Gish seems not to realize how incompetent such a claim is. Even a high school biology student can readily distinguish between a baboon skull and the skulls shown in photographs of the Peking remains or the accurate casts (Gish misleadingly refers to the casts as "models") which were made of the remains and sent to various museums around the world. (Zindler 1990)

CSF then accused Price of fabricating his accusation:

In other words, this whole unsavoury episode appears to be a complete fabrication on Price's part. (CSF 1990)

and referred to Price's:

"defamatory nonsense", "pygmy scholarship, contrived allegations, and sordid distortion of facts" (CSF 1990)

On the contents page of their booklet, the CSF mentions Price's treatment of the monkey quote as one of three of "the more flagrant examples of Price's grievous carelessness with the truth".

Strong words!

Ritchie's response to the CSF

Alex Ritchie (1991) responded to the CSF article. Like Zindler, he referred directly to Boule 1937, showing that, CSF assertions to the contrary, it did not match the quotes from Gish and O'Connell. For the first time, Ritchie got to the heart of the matter by showing that Gish had copied the quote from O'Connell, without attribution. He also explained that the error may have been partly due to confusion over the translation of the French word "singe".

Ritchie concluded by saying that the CSF should withdraw A Response to Deception, and issue a retraction and an apology to Price for their defamatory comments about him.

CSF's revised A Response to Deception

After having defended Gish and denounced Price so enthusiastically, it must have come as quite a shock to the CSF to discover that Price's claims were essentially correct. Gish had informed the CSF that he had used a secondary quote without attribution, and the CSF obtained a copy of Boule 1937 and verified that the Gish/O'Connell quote did not match what Boule said, while Price's quote did. The embarrassment was such that the CSF withdrew A Response to Deception, as Ritchie had demanded. A free copy of a revised edition was sent to everyone who had received the earlier version, along with a request to destroy the old version and replace it with the new one.

CSF explained the discrepancy between the Gish/O'Connell quote and Boule 1937 as follows:

Readers who speak French will see that Price/Zindler's translation is quite literal, while Gish/O'Connell's is rather more free, but in the spirit of the rest of Boule's article. (CSF 1991)

Gish's Boule quote has Boule stating, as Boule's own opinion, that the Peking Man skulls were "monkey-like". As shown above, Boule's 1937 article clearly states that the Peking Man skulls were not of monkeys, or of apes, but were intermediate between apes and humans. Gish's quote is, therefore, not a "free" translation "in the spirit of" Boule's article, but a severe misrepresentation of it.

What CSF should have written, had they had the integrity to admit it, was that "Price/Zindler's translation is accurate, while Gish/O'Connell's is not".

In their chronology of the quote's history up to that date, they list Zindler's version of Gish's quote, which contained two trivial errors (two transposed letters, and the addition of one word: "my studies" in Gish had become "my own studies" in Zindler). Price's version of Gish's quote is then shown to contain the same changes, and the CSF concludes:

It will be readily seen that Price has used Zindler as a secondary source in quoting Gish, as evidenced by his inclusion of the words 'own' and the spelling mistake 'perferring', both of which occur only in Zindler. The net result is that Price has also misquoted Gish. (CSF 1991)
The CSF seems delighted to have caught Price making the same mistake of which Gish was accused. The differences are important, however. Price's 'errors' (typographical errors, in fact) really were insignificant (unlike Gish's) and did not change the meaning in any way, which demonstrates that Zindler is a reliable source (unlike O'Connell), and that Price is better than Gish at choosing a reliable source. Finally, although CSF makes it sound as though their detective work had discovered that Price had quoted Zindler, Price had actually made no secret of this: his book clearly shows that he was taking his material from Zindler, so that Price (again, unlike Gish) at least gave attribution for his secondary quotes.

CSF says:

Price states (p.43): 'At no place in Boule's book is there any suggestion that Peking man was monkey-like. Quite to the contrary, there is no mention of monkeys in the whole book.' THIS IS QUITE MISLEADING. The French word 'singe' refers to either monkey OR ape. ... This word (ape or monkey) appears around A DOZEN TIMES in Boule's original article. For example, ... (CSF 1991)
It is the CSF which is being misleading here. Although 'singe' can mean 'monkey', there is no evidence to indicate that it was meant to in Boule 1937, and much to indicate that it was not. Whenever Boule qualifies 'singe', it is always in a way that refers to apes ("Singes anthropomorphes", "grands Singes", etc). Price's statement therefore accurately represents Boule's article.

Secondly, CSF is concealing the fact that Boule also refers to human or intermediate characteristics of Peking Man in a number of places. There are also a few occasions (shown in the table above) in which Boule made it abundantly clear that overall he considered Peking Man anatomically intermediate between apes and humans. The CSF concealed this information from their readers.

CSF goes on to explain why they issued a revised edition of A Response to Deception:

Why revise? In the interests of accuracy and integrity. The section dealing with page 43 of CSC [Price's book] explains the matter of Price's allegations of Gish's 'fraudulently misquoting' a French researcher, Marcellin Boule. We have seen that this is utterly unfair and that many aspects of Price's comments are misleading. (CSF 1991)
Quite the contrary. Although they went on to try to excuse Gish and O'Connell, CSF in fact gives no evidence of anything incorrect in Price's account, which is essentially accurate. The impression CSF gives here is that they are only clearing up some minor inaccuracies in their previous edition. There is no admission of the fact that the earlier edition was actually massively in error and that the claims of Price, who had been savagely criticized, had been shown to be valid.

CSF then made the following points:

1. Gish cannot be accused of fraud because (being unable to speak French) he faithfully reproduced the only English translation available to him (though it would have been wiser for him to have referenced the secondary source). (CSF 1991)
I accept this argument, and agree that there is no evidence to show that Gish knew the quote was inaccurate when he published it (though he should have known, had he either exercised proper scholarship or had even minimal knowledge about the fossils in question). In the absence of evidence to the contrary, Gish's misquoting should be assumed to be inadvertent.
2. Was Patrick O'Connell fraudulently misquoting? Hardly, since the thrust of Boule's conclusion is not changed at all. Boule's article made it clear that he believed that man was the hunter, and Sinanthropus (Peking Man) the prey. For example, on page 21 of the same article in L'Anthropologie 1937, Boule writes: ... (CSF 1991)
As shown above, the claim that "Boule's conclusion is not changed" is incorrect. O'Connell misrepresented Boule because he said that Boule called the skulls "monkey-like" when he did not. The CSF probably thinks that Boule's statement is tantamount to dismissing Peking Man as an ape because of the common creationist misconception that an ancestor species and its descendant species cannot overlap in time. The CSF later makes this assumption more explicit:
In fact, since Boule makes it clear that he believed that Sinanthropus was the victim of a hunter (i.e. man -- see the extended quote from O'Connell in Appendix III for documentation of this), it is virtually axiomatic that he regarded this creature as simian. (CSF 1991)
It may be "axiomatic" for the CSF, but it is wrong for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the conclusion does not follow from the premise because nothing in evolutionary theory prevents ancestor and descendant species coexisting. Secondly, the conclusion is demonstrably incorrect. Boule, not the CSF, is the ultimate authority on what Boule thought, and Boule (1937) stated in no uncertain terms that he considered Peking Man intermediate between apes and humans, and not a monkey or an ape.

The CSF continued:

3. Gish and CSF at first assumed that the reason for the apparent misquote by O'Connell was that there were two different publications -- a book (mentioned by Price) and a journal (mentioned by Gish) called L'Anthropologie. Hence,

1. Our previous statements concerning two publications are likely to be wrong, and we are apologize for this inaccuracy and all comments directly associated with it. 2. Price also appears to be wrong in talking about 'Boule's book'.

Price did indeed make the error of referring to Boule 1937, which was a journal article, as 'Boule's book'.
... We also hasten to point out that Price's sloppy scholarship brought some of these comments [the various insults that CSF had made about Price] on his own head -- for instance, his incorrect reference to the Zindler work, thus reinforcing the impression that the entire matter 'appears to be a complete fabrication'. (CSF 1991)

CSF appears to have a double standard here. CSF has not shown any non-trivial errors in Price. Gish's errors are far more severe than any by Price, but Price is accused of "sloppy scholarship" and misquoting Gish (on the basis of two typographical errors), while Gish is gently chided only for having failed to reference a secondary source. And although they 'blame the victim' by saying their accusation of fabrication by Price is partly his own fault (for misreferencing Zindler), there is no recognition that Price's allegation of fabrication by Gish was equally justified by Gish's total lack of a reference to O'Connell.

Although Price had been vindicated, CSF clearly was refusing to give him the public apology asked for by Ritchie for their many abusive statements. Referring to their accusations of "contrived allegations" and "sordid distortion of facts", they say that these

... came after we had written nearly 10 pages exposing matters truly deserving such a description, and do not refer simply to the Boule matter. (CSF 1991)
This argument cannot be taken seriously. A Response to Deception consists of many small sections, ordered by page number and referring to specific claims from Price's book. The abuse heaped on Price all comes from the section about the Boule quote and appears to be referring solely to it. There is absolutely nothing in the context which would indicate that these insults are referring to other earlier claims by Price. Although they disputed Price's conclusions, the fact of the matter, though CSF carefully refrains from saying so, is that Price was factually accurate, and the CSF (1990) was not. That they could not bring themselves to admit that, or even apologize for their vitriolic abuse of Price shows considerable mean-spiritedness and a lack of integrity on the part of the CSF.

Plimer: "Telling Lies for God"

Australian geologist Ian Plimer attacked the CSF's response in his book Telling Lies for God (1994). According to Plimer, Zindler and Price had only accused Gish of fabrication, but the CSF (1990) provided clues which showed that Gish had actually committed scientific fraud, and that Gish was caught lying about his earlier lies.

This latter lie is considered, by Plimer, to be Gish's statement that Gish had used the O'Connell quote because it was the only English version of Boule that Gish had available. Plimer says this is a "clearly a lie" because Gish did have the 1957 English translation available.

This is true, but Plimer is incorrect because O'Connell's version was the only English version of the quote from Boule 1937, the paper in question. Boule and Vallois (1957) is a translation of a different document (the 1952 edition of Les Hommes Fossiles). As it so happens, and contrary to Gish's claims, the two versions are virtually identical in their contents. However, they did not necessarily have to be so similar. Gish did note the difference between O'Connell (1969) and Boule and Vallois (1957), and attributed it to later modifications (of Boule 1937) by Vallois, instead of considering the possibility that O'Connell might have been in error. Without minimizing Gish's extremely poor scholarship, it is nonetheless true that O'Connell was the only source in English for the quote from Boule 1937.

Plimer makes the puzzling remark that:

In the new revised Response to Deception, the Creation Science Foundation publish that it is O'Connell who is guilty of fabrication and guru Gish only guilty of not consulting the primary source. This was not true and O'Connell is not around to defend himself. (Plimer 1994)
The implication appears to be that Gish is more at fault than O'Connell. This is not so, and it is hard to see any way in which O'Connell could be defended, since his misrepresentation of Boule is so blatant and, unlike Gish, he does not have the excuse of having copied from someone else.

Plimer expends a considerable amount of abuse telling us how dishonest both the CSF and Gish are before he even gets around to documenting his claims. That the claim itself is then so weak, when he finally gets around to documenting it, creates an exceedingly poor impression. Plimer's account of this affair also contains some other relatively minor but careless and confusing inaccuracies (e.g. he says that Boule "established that Peking Man was a true man"). I must concur with Jeff Shallit's review of Plimer's book, which concludes that Telling Lies for God cannot be recommended (Shallit 1995).

AIG's response to Plimer

Answers in Genesis (formerly the CSF, or Creation Science Foundation) published an online response to Plimer's book. In it, they once again offer the inadequate defence that O'Connell's quote was a "free translation" that did not change the meaning of the original, and that Gish's only fault was to quote a secondary source without referencing it. These arguments have been already addressed above.

AIG points out, correctly, that O'Connell was indeed the only version of the Boule 1937 quote available to Gish, and that an earlier statement of Gish's which was attacked by Plimer was not a lie.

AIG then starts to throw a few red herrings around. They point out that the disputed quote changed slightly between Boule 1937 and Boule and Vallois 1957:

The discerning reader may wish to ponder the fact that changing a quote is what Gish has been erroneously (and mischievously) accused of, but in this matter it is the evolutionist Vallois who has done the quote-changing. Will Plimer now accuse Vallois of lying, deceit, etc? (AIG 1997)

This is a ridiculous argument. Vallois was not quoting Boule, but modifying the quote which was his right and duty as Boule's posthumous co-author. The original quote, in which Boule referred to himself as "I", would have been out of place in a co-authored book. As Gish himself says,

I, in fact, attributed the change to Vallois, not Boule, and I never questioned the right of Vallois to do so. (Gish 1997)

Another statement of Plimer's which AIG disagrees with is:

On p. 68 of Telling Lies for God, Plimer alleges that: 'In the new revised Response to Deception, the Creation Science Foundation publish that it is O'Connell who is guilty of fabrication . . .

This is NOT true! (AIG 1997)

Plimer may have assumed, since the misrepresentation is so evident, that any denial of Gish's guilt automatically implied that O'Connell was guilty. Nevertheless AIG is correct here, in that they did not accuse O'Connell of fabrication. This is hardly to their credit, however, since O'Connell clearly was guilty (and, unlike Gish, can't use the excuse of having copied the quote from someone else).
Furthermore Plimer's accusation (p. 66) that Gish used 'an amended quote from O'Connell which Gish attributed to Boule' is absolutely misleading. Gish attributed it to Boule because O'Connell attributed it to Boule. (AIG 1997)

It is correct that Gish attributed it to Boule because O'Connell attributed it to Boule. It is hard to see, however, how Plimer's statement can be misleading since it is 100% correct: the quote was amended (by O'Connell, not Gish), it was from O'Connell, and Gish did attribute it to Boule.

Gish's Response to Arthur

Gish's most recent discussion of this issue has been his reply to Joyce Arthur (1996), in which he says:

"The quotation I used did not misrepresent the meaning and intention of Boule's text. ... My only mistake, and I certainly regret it, was to reference the quote to Boule's original article rather than to the secondary source, O'Connell's book. ... O'Connell's translation was what is called a free translation and did in no way change the meaning and intention of Boule's text." (Gish 1997)

Gish says he removed the quote because it was from a secondary source, and not because it was inaccurate. I suspect even Gish must realize how feeble this argument is. If the quote was accurate and the only problem with it was the lack of attribution to O'Connell, then there was no need to remove the quote from his book: adding an attribution to O'Connell would have fixed the problem. Gish goes on by arguing that O'Connell's version correctly represents Boule's views about Peking Man being a victim of human hunters. This, however, has never been in dispute. The real problem is the addition of the word "monkey-like" by O'Connell. Gish made repeated direct use of this word to support his contention that the Peking Man skulls belonged to apes or monkeys. Since Boule did not believe the skulls belonged to monkeys, or even apes, this single word obviously did change the meaning and intention of Boule's text. Judging by the fact that Gish removed all four uses of the word from his 1985 book, it would seem he realizes this too, despite his refusal to admit it.

Note also that Gish's reliance upon O'Connell's quote also appears to be the source of his frequent claim that the descriptions of Peking Man in Boule (1937) and Boule and Vallois (1957) are different and inconsistent. Gish, who had read Boule and Vallois 1957, clearly saw that it did not attribute the Peking Man skulls to monkeys, and assumed that the description there must have been changed from Boule's 1937 description, which he erroneously thought claimed Peking Man was "monkey-like".

Although he has abandoned the monkey quote, he still clings to this contention:

Gish claims [in his books] that there was a significant difference between Boule's earlier and later descriptions of the remains. However, [paleoanthropologist C. Loring] Brace noted that the later account was simply a reprint of the first one, with only minor typographical changes. (Arthur 1996)

Gish replied:

This is simply not true. In fact, my comments concerned a section entitled "A New Discussion of the Facts" in a book co-authored by Boule and H.M. Vallois and published subsequent to Boule's death [in 1942]. (Gish 1997)

It takes spectacular foolhardiness to accuse a prominent scientist such as Brace, arguing in his field of expertise, of making incorrect statements about articles which with he was personally familiar, especially in light of the fact that Gish has still, apparently, never read Boule 1937 or an accurate translation of it.

Brace is correct, and Gish is wrong. Boule 1937 is indeed virtually identical to Boule and Vallois 1957. The "New Discussion of the Facts" section, which Gish seems to think was appended by Vallois, was present in Boule 1937 under the title "Nouvelle Discussion des Faits". Paragraph for paragraph, the two sections are identical except for trivial differences, the removal of two irrelevant paragraphs from the end of Boule 1937 by Vallois, and the addition of occasional references to Weidenreich's 1943 work on Peking Man.

None of this, incidentally, should come as any surprise to Gish. He was informed of it by Brace in a debate in 1982, then in a later article (Brace 1986). After comparing Boule's 1937 conclusion on Peking Man with a virtually identical translated version in Boule and Vallois (1957), Brace adds:

This is not my own translation but is taken directly from that "extensive section" on Sinanthropus in the English edition of Fossil Men, which Gish suggests was written by Vallois after the death of Boule. It is faithful to the letter to Boule's rendition of twenty years earlier. In fact, if one goes through Boule's 1937 paper, section by section, paragraph by paragraph, and line by line, and compares it with the relevant segment in Fossil Men, it is evident that Vallois made only very minor editorial changes for the final version.

The supposed differences in the earlier and later accounts of the nature of the material discovered at Choukoutien are simply a fabrication by Gish designed to cast doubt on the work of some of the most respected students of the human fossil record. (Brace 1986)

From these statements, it is clear that Brace was claiming to have read both articles, compared them closely, and found them extremely similar. The only way Brace's statement could be "simply not true", as Gish says, would be if Brace had deliberately lied, either about reading both articles, or about their contents. Gish's statement amounts, therefore, to claiming that Brace lied about the articles.

I have read both Boule (1937) and the Peking Man chapter of Boule and Vallois (1957) and can confirm that they are, as Brace says, extremely similar. If anyone is lying, it is certainly not Brace.

In 1998 I wrote to Gish asking why he claimed that these two accounts of Peking Man differed. Gish did not answer my questions about whether he had read or was otherwise familiar with Boule 1937. His response did not refer to Boule 1937 in any way, and said:
The main point of your letter seems to be questioning my statement that the account by Boule and Vallois differed so decidedly from earlier descriptions of Sinanthropus published elsewhere by Boule that it was probable that that section was written by Vallois after the death of Boule. I would offer the support for this statement the fact that this section displays and refers to a model of a skill of Sinanthropus by Weidenreich. But Weidenreich did not publish this description of the skull of Sinanthropus until 1943, which is the year following Boule's death. (Gish, personal communication, 1998)
This, of course, only shows that Vallois had done some editing of Boule's 1937 article to refer to later work. It does not demonstrate any substantive difference between the two Boule accounts. A second letter to Gish pointing this out went unanswered.

After finally obtaining Boule 1937, I wrote to Gish in 1999 to let him know that it was virtually identical to the Peking Man chapter in Boule and Vallois 1957, and to ask him if he still believed there was a difference, and why. Gish once again refused to respond to any questions, and appeared to be totally uninterested in either justifying or retracting his past claims. The relevant part of his reply was:

In reply to your inquiry, I am enclosing a photocopy of the portion of my book Evolution: the Fossils STILL Say No! that discusses Homo Erectus. As far as Boule and Vallois is concerned this is all I have to say on that subject. (Gish, personal communication, 2000)
Readers can decide for themselves what this reply says about Gish's integrity. His reply does seem to match closely the prediction of a friend of mine, who said: "I'd be interested to hear what Gish has to say about it, or if he will finally concede the case in his own personal way (by never mentioning it again!)"

Answers in Genesis, in an email from their CEO, Carl Wieland, has similarly expressed no interest in responding to the information in this page.

My Conclusions

I agree with Gish and the CSF/AIG that Gish did not deliberately misrepresent Marcellin Boule in his book Evolution: the fossils say no!.

Gish did inadvertantly misrepresent Boule, something he and the AIG have not yet admitted.

Both Gish and the AIG continue to misrepresent Boule 1937 by claiming that Boule's conclusion was that Peking Man was an apelike creature, and that the O'Connell/Gish misquote fairly represents Boule's thinking.

Gish continues to falsely claim, without any evidence and apparently without ever having read Boule 1937, that the Boule 1937 and Boule & Vallois 1957 descriptions of Peking Man differ significantly. This is in spite of the fact that he has been corrected on at least two occasions.

In short, I think it is fair to say that the writings of O'Connell, Gish, and the CSF/AIG on this subject have all been incompetent and dishonest to a remarkable degree.

All bolding in quoted material is in the original source, not added by me. Thanks to Alex Ritchie, Jim Lippard and Colin Groves for supplying references, and to Kevin O'Brien, Michael Foley and Don Frack for reviewing this page. Comments and feedback are welcomed.


AIG (1997): AiG's point-by-point rebuttal of Plimer's Book (see the section for pp.64-68)

Arthur J. (1996): Creationism: bad science or immoral pseudoscience? Skeptic, 4.4:88-93.

Boule M. (1937): Le Sinanthrope. L'Anthropologie, 47:1-22.

Boule M. and Vallois H. (1957): Fossil Men. Ed. 4. New York: Dryden Press.

Brace C.L. (1986): Creationists and the pithecanthropines. Creation/Evolution, Issue 19:16-23.

CSF (1990): A response to deception. Creation Science Foundation.

CSF (1991): A response to deception: revised edition. Creation Science Foundation.

Gish D.T. (1979): Evolution: the fossils say no! Ed. 3. San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers.

Gish D.T. (1985): Evolution: the challenge of the fossil record. El Cajon, CA: Creation-Life Publishers.

Gish D.T. (1997): Gish responds to critique. Skeptic, 5.2:37-41. (a response to Arthur 1996)

O'Connell P. (1969): Science of today and the problems of Genesis. Ed. 2. Hawthorne,CA: Christian Book Club of America.

Plimer I. (1994): Telling lies for God. Australia: Random House.

Price B. (1990): The creation science controversy. Sydney: Millennium Books.

Ritchie A. (1991): The creation science controversy - a response to deception. Australian Biologist, 4(1):16-21.

Shallit J.O. (1995): Book review of Ian Plimer: Telling Lies for God. OASIS, 8.7, 40-42.

Teilhard de Chardin P. (1937): The discovery of Sinanthropus. Etudes, (July 5) (later republished in The Appearance of Man)

Zindler F. (1985): Maculate deception: the 'science' of creationism. American Atheist, (March)23-6.

Zindler/Gish (1990): Is creationism science? A debate between Duane Gish and Frank Zindler.

How Not to Respond to Criticism, by Jim Lippard (1993-1997) (I have always found Lippard to be a careful and scrupulously fair-minded critic. Although often critical of Price and his book, Lippard agrees that on the issue of the monkey quote, Price was correct)

Relevant portions of the 1990 debate between Frank Zindler and Duane Gish

The Monkey Quote in New Scientist

Creationist arguments about Peking Man

A Mistranslated Quote

Compare Peking Man with a monkey

This page is part of the Fossil Hominids FAQ at the Archive.

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