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Science of Today and the Problems of Genesis

A Study of the "Six Days" of Creation, The Origin of Man and the Deluge and Antiquity of Man Based on Science and Sacred Scripture; A Vindication of the Papal Encyclicals and
Rulings of the Church on These Questions.

Nihil Obstat: James McCormack, Censor Deputatus, April 14, 1959
Imprimatur: Joannes Kyne, Episcopus Midensis,
April 16, 1959
New Edition

By Fr. Patrick O’Connell, B.D. (Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., P.O.Box 424, Rockford, Illinois 61105, 386 pages, 1993. ISBN: 0-89555-438-0. $18.50 (from Amazon.com))

Reviewed by Dr Colin Groves

If there is any book that was really pivotal in laying "creation science" before the public, it is surely Duane Gish's Evolution: the Fossils Say No!, first published in 1972. Among other tidbits in this book, there is a a 13-page exposé in which Gish purports to demolish the claims for the very existence of "Peking Man", as based on not merely bad science, but fraud. "Bad science" he justifies by famously misquoting the early 20th-century palaeoanthropologist Marcellin Boule (see Ritchie, 1991); for his claims of fraud he relies, in the last four and a half pages of the section, on a 1969 book by Father Patrick O'Connell.

Fr. O'Connell's book has been a bit hard to come by up to now; most of us have just had to take Gish’s word for it. But now here it is, reprinted and slightly updated as of 1993, available from Amazon.Com.   Now we can check: did Gish misrepresent him, or did a priest, a man devoted to the truth, really say all that?

He really did, I’m afraid; and more. Gish mentions him only in those last few pages, but actually relies heavily on him for the whole of the "Peking Man" segment, and for his "Java Man" section too. Every last libel on anyone involved with Homo erectus, every shabby slur placed on the reputation of these honourable men, is lifted entire, attributed or unattributed, from O’Connell.

Actually, there are four parts to O'Connell's book. In Part I, "The Six Days of Creation", he quotes extensively from Vatican documents, including the Decree of the Second Vatican Council, on what may and may not be believed by a Catholic; and he recounts the history of creation as he sees it, and squares it with the Genesis account (he is a day/age man). Part II, "The Origin of Man", is the meat of the book, and I will return to it. Part III deals with the Deluge which, we learn, intervened between the end of the Mousterian and the beginning of the Aurignacian, and did not cover the entire earth but only those parts of it then inhabited by people; he cites lots of archaeological evidences for "it" (well, for floods, anyway) from the Middle East and elsewhere. Part IV, "The Antiquity of Man", runs quickly through ways of calculating dates, including radiocarbon but mentioning no other radiometric method, and concludes that the human species is about 20,000 years old. There are chapters which are supposed to bring Parts I, III and IV up to date since the first edition – but no such updating on Part II.

And so to "The Origin of Man" part – the bit that has created all the waves. Fr. O'Connell bemoans the way Catholics, both ordained and lay, have not only accepted the evolutionary account but even, like the Abbé Breuil and Fr. Boné, contributed to it; but his chief wrath is directed towards Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the eminent palaeontologist who was also a Jesuit, and was forbidden by his superiors to publish during his lifetime his views reconciling evolution with palaeontology. Wrath? O'Connell detests Teilhard with a vehemence, and his assessment of his brother priest, on pp.149-154, is filled with such venom as I would have hoped never to see on the printed page, let alone from a man charged with spreading the religion of brotherly love.

We get minor matters out of the way in a few pages. O'Connell informs us that "Neanderthal Man" was, of course, fully human but not like modern humans being pre-Deluge, and the human fossils which O'Connell regards as genuine either combine Neanderthal and modern traits (Ehringsdorf, Saccopastore, Steinheim), or are fully modern (Swanscombe and Fontéchevade). The obligatory chapter on Piltdown is mercifully brief. The Australopithecines were, he says, "shown to be just great apes", and kicks off a great and inglorious tradition by citing none other than Sir Solly.Zuckerman as proof. That takes care of them, then. Then we turn to Peking Man.

What actually happened at the "Peking Man" discovery site, Choukoutien (now Zhoukoudian), and the nature of the fossils themselves, has been told many times. Jia and Huang (1990) give the full history, in great detail. Shapiro (1974) writes about their disappearance during World War II, and the subsequent search for them. Van Oosterzee (1999) places the story against the background of China under the warlords and the Japanese invasion. But Fr. O’Connell thinks this well documented history is all moonshine, and is anxious to take the lid off what really happened.

While "Peking Man" – "Sinanthropus" - may or may not be actually ancestral to Homo sapiens (and I myself think not), there is absolutely no doubt that it is in every meaningful sense "intermediate" between ape and human. It was vital for Fr. O'Connell to discredit the fossils because they are "the only ones that have the support of great names. Hence they are used by advocates of the theory of evolution to support their contention". And he certainly does his level best to discredit them, in the process accusing all four main protagonists of fraud: Teilhard de Chardin (of course); Davidson Black, who was in charge of the excavations at Zhoukoudian until his death in 1934; Franz Weidenreich, who took his place; and Pei Wen-chung (now spelt Wenzhong), the leading Chinese member of the team. His qualifications for his claims? Only that he was in China, reading the Chinese newspapers, during the 1930s; he never, at any time, visited the discovery site, nor, as will become clear, does he have the slightest expertise in anatomy, geology, or even etymology. Gish repeated a few of O'Connell's claims of fraudulence, but even he does not stoop quite to the same depths; O'Connell's only rival in libel is another Catholic creationist, who repeats the claims in only slightly abbreviated form, and even adds his own commentary about Pei's diabolical cleverness (Johnson, 1982).

I will list O'Connell's main slanders, more or less in order, and follow each one with my own comments, in italics.

All the human fossils have disappeared (but none of the animal fossils); all we have are "casts or models" (p.126).

Yes the fossils have, tragically, disappeared; what we have are casts, NOT models.

The skulls did not disappear while being evacuated to America after the Japanese invasion, as the story usually goes; the Japanese did not interfere with the excavations, and in 1943 Weidenreich even wrote an article on the skulls, "and it was published in Palaeontologia Sinica, which means that the article passed through the hands of Japanese…" No, the skulls were destroyed by Dr Pei "in order to remove the evidence of fraud on a large scale" (p.127).

In his 1943 monograph, Weidenreich thanks some American associates "who consented to have this paper printed and edited in the United States as a monograph of the PALAEONTOLOGIA SINICA where my main reports on the Sinanthropus material have previously appeared". In dedicating it to his Chinese colleagues and to Teilhard, he made it very clear that Japanese had indeed made the work completely impossible and that this is why he published his monograph in the USA but in a Chinese series. As for Pei destroying the fossils…!

After the war, Dr Pei resumed excavation at Zhoukoudian and found animal fossils, but "no more tell-tale skulls of Sinanthropus" (p.128).

Nonsense. The Zhoukoudian Lower Cave at Locality 1 had been almost emptied by the 1930s excavations, but another mandible was nonetheless discovered in 1959, and two cranial fragments in 1966. These latter, incidentally, completed one of the crania found in the 1930s, and they fit the surviving cast exactly – a tribute to the high quality of the original casts.

Earlier limestone quarrying and burning at Zhoukoudian had undermined the hill, causing a landslide, burying everything "under thousands of tons of stone". The so-called fossil deposits result from this burial. The stone tools were actually the remains of quartz stones used to construct the lime kilns. The so-called hearths were from the lime kilns. The modern human skulls were some of the miners. The so-called Sinanthropus skulls were those of local baboons and macaques (pp.128-9).

The hill was a lime quarry, but there is no evidence for kilns, or a landslide. The cave fill was consolidated. Black et al. (1933:6) write, "… the deposit of Locality 1 had been partially exposed at the head of an abandoned quarry…"

The discovery of modern humans, as well as Sinanthropus, had been concealed by Weidenreich and Pei for five years; there is no justification for representing them as being later in time, "for both were found buried under the same landslide" (pp.130, 143-4).

Nonsense; papers were published on the near-(modern human remains by Black in 1933 and by Pei in 1934 (see Weidenreich, 1939:205, fn.2). They came from the Upper Cave, higher up the same hill as the Lower Cave (Locality 1).

A skullcap found in 1928 or 1929 was described by Black in 1931 as being "more like man than ape, with a brain capacity more than twice that of a monkey" (p.133), but Teilhard in 1930 described it as a skull, not a skullcap, with a "probably small" cranial capacity, and with close similarities to the great apes in length of face, brow ridges, postorbital constriction, receding forehead, triangular (not oval) skull shape seen from behind, and form of the tympanic bone (p.135). O’Connell concludes from this that "it was the skull of a baboon or monkey, for no fossils of apes have been found in China" (p.136).

Of course Black emphasised the human features, of course Teilhardwas bound to describe its "ape-like" features. More important, O'Connell obviously does not know that anatomists use "skull-cap" for anything from the upper vault (calotte) to the major part of it (calvaria), so there is no contradiction at all between the way Black and Teilhard characterised it.

Boule published a paper in 1937 in which he described the skulls as "monkey-like" (p.137).

Boule did not describe them as "monkey-like" – see Ritchie (1991).

Boule also revealed that in all of them "there was a hole in the top of the skull at the occiput, supposed to have been made for the purpose of extracting the brain" (p.137), but there was no such hole in the photos published by Black in 1931, which was therefore not the actual skull at all but "an artificial model of the mythical Sinanthropus" (p.138).

So, O'Connell does not know where the occipital bone is! (I thought Catholic priests, before Vatican II, were supposed to know Latin?). Boule wrote (1937:8), "La partie centrale, c'est-à-dire le poutour du trou occipital, a été détruite" (the central part, that is to say the surrounds of the occipital "hole", has been destroyed); the occipital bone is at the back of the skull and extends onto the base, and the "trou occipital" is the foramen magnum, on the underside of the braincase.

Black made the brain capacity 960 cc, later corrected by Weidenreich to 915 cc, but Teilhard had described the skull as small and resembled that of an ape – more evidence that the model was not even a cast but "a creature of the imagination" (p.139).

I would have thought that "small" is a relative term – in this case, small relative to modern humans.

Weidenreich alleged that three more Sinanthropus skulls had been discovered in 1936, but no photographs of them have ever been published, only of three incomplete skulls (i.e. of the artificial models) in a brief article in 1937.

Nonsense. Photographs and X-Rays of all of them (Skulls X, XI and XII are the ones in question) were published in Weidenreich’s 1943 monograph, which O'Connell mentions but does not appear even to have glanced at.

Teilhard stated, in a 1937 article, that the fossils were found in cave, but "the existence of any natural cave at either the lower or the upper level is denied categorically by Weidenreich" (p.151).

Nonsense. Weidenreich many times (1939, 1943, and elsewhere) mentioned both Lower Cave, where "Peking Man" was discovered, and the Upper Cave, at the top of the hill, where the near-modern specimens were found.

After this simply frightening mélange, anything else must surely be an anticlimax. Yet O'Connell has a few more wilful distortions up his sleeve in the following chapter. "Java Man", he reports, was discovered at Trinil in the 1890s by Dr Dubois:

"He brought home a great quantity of bones of various animals, two simian teeth, the thigh bone of a man, and the cap of a skull which some say is that of a man, others, that of an ape, and others still, that of a 'missing link'. As the brain case is missing, it is not possible to decide to which category it belongs.

"He brought home at the same time two human skulls, known as the Wadjak skulls, of large brain capacity… Dr Dubois concealed these on his return… He produced them, however, in 1925, 30 years later…" (p.159).

Von Koenigswald, he reports, made a final attempt to find more specimens of Java Man in the 1930s, but all he produced was

"parts of four skulls so broken that the brain capacity could not be determined. Romer, in Man and the Vertebrates, describes these as 'three more skullcaps, a lower jaw and an upper jaw'… As there were only skullcaps, it is impossible to tell what was the brain capacity, but Romer, Vallois and other propagandists from the man-from-ape theory, give the capacity as much the same as that given by Dr Dubois' first specimen – between 800 and 900 cc." (p.161).

Ha! "Skullcaps" again. Had O'Connell ever seen any of them, even photos? All four – Dubois' from Trinil, and Von Koenigswald's from Sangiran – are substantial specimens, from which it is easy to obtain cranial capacities. As it is from at least three of the many, many specimens which have been discovered since then, mainly by Indonesian scholars. As for the Wadjak (now Wajak) skulls, they were not "concealed", but described by Dubois in three separate papers in the 1890s (Brace, 1987).

What do we make of O'Connell? His motives are evident: an old-fashioned Catholic, desperately struggling against the modernisers whose efforts to bring the church, kicking and screaming, into the Enlightenment – no, into the Renaissance - finally began to bear fruit in Vatican II. Like some other traditionalists, and even some not-so-traditionalists (see Scharle, 1999), he harbours a deep well of hatred against his opponents - witness his unedifying attacks on the reputation of Teilhard de Chardin. As he has right on his side, he can destroy the reputations of those who incur his detestation without a second thought: fortunate for him, perhaps, that by the time of his first edition all his hate-figures were either dead or, in the case of Pei, alive but isolated from outside contact, in Mao's China. He is aided in his crusade by his astonishing invention of whole new scenarios, his wilful disdain for actually reading the books and papers that he disparages, his triumphant ignorance of anatomy - he doesn't even know what the words mean, and quite obviously doesn't want to know.

It says a lot about Gish that he takes this poisonous garbage as his primary, no, his only source on "Peking Man" and "Java Man" – that, non- or even perhaps anti-Catholic though he presumably is, he is willing to lower himself to the level of this unspeakable nastiness. And let us, perhaps, raise at least one, whispered cheer for Marvin Lubenow who has managed to avoid it - though he must surely know about it, he takes no part in it. But he and others of his ilk might merit some respect from us their critics if they joined forthrightly in its condemnation.


Black, D., P.Teilhard de Chardin, C.C.Young & W.C.Pei. 1933. Fossil Man in China. Geological Memoirs, Geological Survey of China, Series A, no.11, 166pp.

Boule, M. 1937. Le Sinanthrope. L’Anthropologie, 47:1-22.

Brace, C.L. 1987. Creationists and the Pithecanthropines. Creation/Evolution, 19:16-23.

Jia Lanpo & Huang Weiwen. 1990. The Story of Peking Man. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 270pp.

Johnson, J.W.G. 1982. The Crumbling Theory of Evolution. Brisbane: Queensland Binding Service. Nihil obstat: J.A.Clarke, D.D., D.C.L., Censor Deputatus; Imprimatur: Francis Rush, Archbishop of Brisbane.

Oosterzee, Penny van. 1999. Dragon Bones: the Story of Peking Man. St.Leonards, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin, 198pp.

Ritchie, Alex. 1991. The creation science controversy – a response to deception. Australian Biologist, 4(1):116-21.

Scharle, Tom. 1999. Book review: Did Darwin Get it Right? Catholics and the Theory of Evolution. NCSE Reports, Nov/Dec 1999:42-43.

Shapiro, Harry L. 1974. Peking Man. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Weidenreich, F. 1939. On the earliest representatives of modern mankind recovered on the soil of East Asia. Peking Natural History Bulletin, 13:161-174.

Weidenreich, F. 1943. The skull of Sinanthropus pekinensis. Palaeontologia Sinica, new series D, no. 10, xxi + 298pp., 93 plates.

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