Darwin on Offense I: Museums
What’s the solution to decreasing belief in evolution? More evolution. That’s the message of an article by Lisa Anderson from the Chicago Tribune published online by Yahoo News, “Museums take up evolution challenge.”
Natural history museums around the country are mounting new exhibits they hope will succeed where high school biology classes have faltered: convincing Americans that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is a rigorously tested cornerstone of modern science. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Museum curators have not been incognizant of public opinion polls that, for two decades, have shown that high percentages of the public that do not buy Darwin’s theory of human descent from ape-like ancestors. New exhibits, like “Explore Evolution” and “Darwin” are no longer pussyfooting around the E word, calling it “change through time” or other euphemisms, but putting it out there in bold print and making it “exciting.”
The article portrays science as necessarily secular, and the opposition as inherently religious:
The majority of scientists deny there is any credible challenge to evolution. They emphasize that scientific theory is not a wild guess, but a hypothesis subjected to careful testing and observation over time. They point to a thoroughly documented geological and radiometric dating of the Earth’s age and to almost daily developments in genetics and molecular and cell biology that affirm aspects of Darwin’s 1859 “The Origin of Species.”
But the strength of long-standing religious belief about the divine origins of man, in a country where more than a quarter of the citizens self-identify as evangelical Christians, is considerable.
“One of the big misunderstandings, I think, is that a lot of people have stopped realizing that science is a secular activity,” said Lance Grande, vice president and head of collections and research at the Field Museum. Field’s $17 million, 20,000-square foot, “Evolving Planet” exhibit is slated to open on March 10, 2006.1
The article links antievolutionism to the loss of interest in science among students, and the decline of American scientific leadership, and indirectly uses the word “magic” to describe religious faith or doubts about Darwinism.
“Evolving Planet” will use the popular dinosaur exhibits as a draw, but intends to give viewers the whole spiel from chemical evolution to man. John McCarter, Field Museum CEO and president, said that this time “we’re using the dinosaurs as kind of the marquee to draw them in and saying, this is a very complicated story, which you’ve got to dig into over a long period of time.” (See also the 09/22/2005 entry about other museum strategies to combat antievolutionism.)
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1By contrast, the entire budget of the new Creation Museum being built by Answers in Genesis (scheduled to open in 2007), with all its exhibits, buildings, life-size dinosaur models, offices, stores, parking lot, hiking trails and property, is $25 million, and is taking five years to complete.
When riding a dead horse, the Sioux strategy is to dismount. The Darwinists have tried this strategy – continuing to ride the hobby horse of one-sided propaganda – for over a century. They have tried Disney movies. They have tried PBS documentaries. They have flooded the media with specials from National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, and the Science Channel. They have published children’s books, cartoon books, textbooks, magazines, pamphlets and newspapers. They have dominated the national parks and museums with their material. They have taken over the public schools and controlled the science curriculum. Why hasn’t it worked? Why do so many Americans still fail to “get it”? Here’s the problem: people sense they are being propagandized. Every one of these attempts to teach evolution is one-sided. Each portrayal assumes evolution is a fact, and uses evidence merely as a prop for a play whose script is already written in stone. Worse, many of them ridicule anyone who disagrees, and fail to give any criticism an honest portrayal.
If the Darwinists really believe their story is well supported and deserves dominance, they need to get it out into the open marketplace of ideas and defend it against the best counter arguments. They need to stop shouting “evolution is a fact” and “evolution is science, and anything else is religion” and talk about real evidence for the common ancestry of all things. People know evolution is a controversial subject. They are not convinced by the extrapolation of finch beak variations into the idea humans have bacteria ancestors. No amount of media pizzazz can compensate for what many perceive is a weak case.
To most people throughout history, even as far back as the Greeks and Romans, the evidence for intelligent design has been not only intuitive, but self-evident. Darwinian materialism is really the new kid on the block. In a real sense, the burden of proof is on the Darwinists, not the creationists and believers in intelligent design. Darwin, Huxley, and the subsequent bulldogs (see 09/02/2004) never really made a convincing case; they won over the intellectuals more with chutzpah and intimidation than by rigorous proof. Even today’s most ardent Darwinists, like Richard Dawkins, admit that life looks designed. Now, Darwinism is under increasing strain from the findings of molecular biology and the discovery of elaborate molecular machines and networks at the most fundamental levels of life.
Spending millions on exhibits is not the answer. Engaging the public with honest consideration of the objections to evolution could be a good start, but unless it is sensed as a sincere and humble search for the truth, it will continue to be dismissed by large numbers of people from all walks of life. The Darwinist spokesperson needs to get off his elitist pedestal and remove the chip on his shoulder. All of them need to be willing to admit their theory could be wrong, and that scientific naturalism might really be inadequate. They need to stop defining their critics out of scientific debate by definition. Science is supposed to be a search for the truth, not a declaration of victory. As in any dispute, the honest engagement of ideas in the open square, with humility and mutual respect, can bring light. More one-sided propaganda will only turn up the heat.
It was depressing to see some creationists react to the evolution displays with hate speech. These incidents may have been exaggerated or misreported, but if someone indeed wrote to the Field Museum, “you will burn in hell,” nothing could be uglier or more harmful. Such an epithet conveys pride, hate, ignorance and unreason – characteristics the Darwinists are sure to hold up as examples of religious intolerance, as they did here. Worse, it is the opposite of the countenance that Christians should present to non-Christians (see Ephesians 4). If you know a person prone to this kind of outburst, stop him. Nothing is more sure to entrench unbelievers in their dislike of creationism or intelligent design. Get REAL: Reason, Evidence, Attractiveness, Logic. Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness, said the wisest man in history (Solomon). See also the 09/22/2005 commentary.
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