Java Man, First Human Missing Link Fossil?

Java Man is the common name the first human-like fossils discovered by Eugene Dubois in 1891 following the publication of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin in 1859 on the banks of the Solo River located on Java island, an island in Indonesia.

Dubois claimed, based the size and shape of a tooth, the fraction of a skull, and a femur, found a year later located roughly forty feet from the tooth and skull, to have discovered the first elusive human missing link. Dubois named the fragments Pithecanthropus erectuserect ape-man. Two views of these are pictured.

The Java Man, one of the most famous fossils in the history of evolution, was used by Dubois as evidence to promote the theory that humans evolved from an age-like ancestor. Dubois had studied comparative anatomy under professor Ernst Haeckel at the University of Jena. During his lifetime, Haeckel, as an outspoken evolution activist, earned the nickname “Darwin’s Bulldog on the Continent”.

Haeckel postulated that evidence for human evolution would be found in Indonesia and charged his students to go find it. Dubois accepted the charge.

Even though the human-like Neanderthal fossils were discovered in 1856, three years before the publication of The Origin of Species, and sixteen years before the 6th and final edition in 1872, Darwin was never convinced that the Neanderthals were a link to humans due to the larger size of the Neanderthal skull.

While never mentioned in The Origin of Species, Darwin refers to the Neanderthals only once in The Descent of Man. The Java Man quickly emerged as the next serious human missing link contender.

Dubois returned to Europe in 1895 for a lecture circuit to display his Java Man fossils to the International Congress of Zoology in the Netherlands. The initial reception, however, drew a mixed reception. Even Ernst Haeckel’s former professor, Rudolph Virchow, known as the father of modern pathology, argued against the human missing link status of the fossils.

In my opinion this creature was an animal, a giant gibbon, in fact. The thigh bone has not the slightest connection with the skull.

Such criticism caused him to become secretive, and paranoid, refusing to let anyone else examine the bones. After 1900, Dubois withdrew completely from public debate for the next twenty years, and refused access to the specimens. A definitive paper on his fossil findings was not published until 1924, twenty-three years after its discovery.

In 1907, a team of German scientists traveled to Java to investigate the strata where Java Man had been discovered. Dubois, however, would not cooperate with the expedition, even refusing the team to examine his bones.

The seventy-five manned team, after unearthing 10,000 cubic meters of material, and sending forty-three crates of fossil material back to Germany, concluded that the femur was from a modern human-not a missing link.

In 1936, another German team led by paleontologist GHR von Koenigswald eventually found a skull fragment similar size to that found by Dubois. Koenigswald, classified the fossils as a Homo erectus species, giving the skull the name Pithecanthropus erectus. Although Dubois strongly objected to the classification and name, Koenigswald did not change the classification. Dubois’ Pithecanthropus erectus finally lost the elusive and coveted human missing link status.

This was no problem for evolution, however, since from earlier in the century the human missing link status was replaced by the by the Piltdown Man. Following the “discovery” in 1911, the Piltdown Man was placed on exhibit at the British Museum of Natural History. Amazingly, the “discovery” was on display for over 40 years until the exhibit was discovered to be an elaborate hoax in 1953.

How, then could Dubois have been so wrong? The answer lies in the method of investigation. Dubois was simply looking to find something that could be called a human missing link.

Dubois used Darwin’s “scientific point of view” approach rather than the well-established Scientific Method. Darwin had abandoned the Scientific Method. For Darwin, observation should be seen only in the context of a preconceived theory. Darwin explained: “How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observations must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!”

In looking for evidence for human evolution, Dubois, not unsurprisingly then, interpreted the results as evidence for human evolution−if it is a fossil that looks similar to a human, it must be a human missing link.

Darwin’s “scientific point of view” approach continues to be a persistent lingering problem practiced ubiquitous throughout the evolution industry. Today, any fossil record evidence found today is quickly labeled as “evidence for evolution”.

Looking for a human missing link continues to be elusive. Paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History noted that “one could confidently expect that as more hominid fossils were found, the story of human evolution would become clearer. Whereas if anything, the opposite has occurred”.

In the words of Geoffrey Clark, “scientists have been trying to arrive at a consensus about modern human origins for more than a century. Why haven’t they been successful?

The Java Man was not a human missing link. However, as a glaring a problem the Java Man was, the evolution industry is in even worse condition today, because no single human missing link candidate is currently under investigation.

Evolution was once a theory in crisis, now, in the absence of scientific evidence, evolution is in crisis without a theory.

Suzan Mazur, Australian journalist, was on track in stating –

Evolutionary science is as much about the posturing, salesmanship, stonewalling and bullying that goes on as it is about actual scientific theory.


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Darwin, Then and Now is a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science - the history of evolution. The book encapsulates who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.

With over 1,000 references, Darwin Then and Now is a historical chronicle of the rise and fall of the once popular theory of biological evolution.