Wednesday, May 13, 2009
New York: American Museum of Natural History
Guess who I saw in the American Museum of Natural History in New York?
No, I'm not thinking of a family of stuffed elephants or a giant blue whale. I'm not even thinking of the butterflies in the butterfly conservatory. The people who I'm thinking about are much more exciting.
My friend and I visited the evolution display. It was really excellent. The dioramas and descriptions described a no-holds-barred version of evolution complete with supporting evidence from fossils, DNA sequences, and biogeography. The statements were factual (mostly) and scientific. No dumbing down and no pulling punches.
I remarked to my friend that this was unusual and I would be surprised if there weren't some "disclaimers" at the end of the display.
Sure enough, just before reaching the end we saw some familiar faces. There were Ken Miller, Francis Collins, and Genie Scott in full length videos explaining why evolution and religion are compatible. I waited to see if PZ Myers or Richard Dawkins would put in an appearance—no such luck.
We didn't even see Neil deGrasee Tyson in the video in spite of the fact he's the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the museum. Niles Eldredge famous evolutionary biologist and curator of paleontology at the museum wasn't there either. I wonder why?
Add the American Museum of Natural History to the list of accommodationists. There was no compelling reason to interrupt an otherwise excellent scientific display with a sop to religion.