Review: Ape-Men: Fact or Fallacy?

Ape-Men: Fact or Fallacy? by Malcolm Bowden, Sovereign Publications, Bromley, Kent (2nd edition, 1981)

Reviewed by Professor John Sheets

This review was originally published in the book Reviews of Creationist Books, edited by Liz Rank Hughes (2nd edition, 1992), published by the National Center for Science Education.

It is republished here by permission of the National Center for Science Education.

Ape-Men: Fact or Fallacy

Ape-Men: Fact or Fallacy? is written to cast doubt on the evolutionary interpretation of the human fossil record. The author, M. Bowden, uses two approaches: 1) questioning the fossil evidence, and 2) questioning the honesty of human paleontologists.

Questions of Evidence

Bowden barely describes or illustrates the fossils for the reader. He does not give an adequate reference, such as Oakley (6), where the reader might obtain further information. These unfortunate omissions greatly reduce the value of the book. Nevertheless, Bowden claims that "the layman's judgment can be as valid as that of the expert in this "representation of all the relevant evidence" (p. 1) - comparable to believing that any car owner can explain the internal combustion engine.

Bowden states that "Neanderthal man was a degenerate form of existing Homo sapiens, suffering from malnutrition and rickets, possibly living promiscuously" (p. 173). This unwarranted assertion ignores the standard paper about Neanderthal by C.L. Brace (1), and remains dismissive in view of the renewed Neanderthal debate (8).

Bowden claims that Australopithecus "did not walk upright" (p. 176). He disputes D.C. Johanson and M. Taieb's (4) description of the fossil knee joint discovered in the Hadar region of Ethiopia. Bowden insists, "I could find no evidence in print which proves that his knee joint exhibited bipedalism" (p. 220). Yet the paper by Johanson and Taieb lists well-known biomechanical research showing that the fossil knee matches a modern knee (3,5). The author's error of fact illustrates his tendency to ignore or distort any evidence that doesn't support his viewpoint.

Questions of Honesty

Bowden believes that human paleontologists conspire to conceal the "truth of Creationisrn." He shows no comprehension of the self-correcting nature of scientific work, which regularly causes scientists to expose the errors of other scientists. An outstanding example of this procedure is the famous Piltdown hoax. Bowden cites the affair to draw suspicion towards human paleontologists. He might as well claim that modern medicine is suspect because physicians once prescribed 'bleeding by leeches" to cure illness. In fact, the Piltdown hoax was exposed by paleontologists, showing that conspiracy and error in science cannot be concealed forever.

Bowden makes other false charges. On page 244 he accuses scientists of plotting with journalists for harsh treatment of dissidents; on the next page he accuses paleontologists of using "evidence which has been wilfully misconstrued." He accuses Eugene Dubois of withholding information on the "Java man" skulls (pp. 141-2), and charges Marcellin Boule with being "unconvinced that Sinanthropus was other than a monkey" (p. 105).

However, a scholarly review (2) of the work of these authors demonstrates the falsity of the charges. Bowden's persistent attack upon Fr. Pierre Tielhard de Chardin constitutes almost 40% of the book (pp. 3-55,90-137)! Personal attacks and vendettas are not the material of scientific discussion. This book is typical of the creationist brand of science. It offers no new facts, only disputes the work of others, attacks scientists personally, and supports the irrational view that conspiracies are everywhere in science. The book concludes with familiar apologetics and the contrived dualism (7) of modern creationism. Unlike scientists, the creationists not only answer all present-day questions, but they already know the answers to all future questions.

In grossly misrepresenting the nature of scientific discussion, Bowden's book does a disservice to good science education. It does not deserve a place in any modern science classroom, where coming to understand the nature of the scientific enterprise is far more important than absorbing any particular subject content.


1. Brace, C. L. 1964. "The fate of the 'Classic' Neanderthals: a consideration of hominid catastrophism!' Current Anthropology 5:343.

2. --- 1982. Text of the Debate: "Creation vs. Evolution." Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. March 17,1982.

3. Heiple, K.G., and C. O. Lovejoy 1971. "The distal femoral anatomy of Australopithecus." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 35:75-84.

4. Johanson, D. C., and M. Taieb 1976. "Plio-pleistocene hominid discoveries in Hadar, Ethiopia." Nature 260:293-297.

5. Kern, H.M., and W.L Straus 1949. "The femur of Plesianthropus transvaalensis." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 7:53-77.

6. Oakley, K. P., B. G. Campbell, and T. I. Molleson, eds. 1977. Catalogue of Fossil Hominids, 2nd ed., 3 volumes. Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), London.

7. Overton, W. R. 1982. "Creationism in schools: the decision in McLean versus the Arkansas Board of Education." Science 215:934-943.

8. Stringer, C. B. and P. Andrews 1988. "Genetic and fossil evidence for the origin of modern humans." Science 239:1263-1268.

John W. Sheets
Professor of Anthropology and Museum Director
Central Missouri State University
Warrensburg, MO 64093

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