Tuesday, September 15, 2009


A Journey Only Begins With One Step

In response to yesterday's post about the debut of the propaganda film by Intelligent Design creationists, Darwin's Dilemma, at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, a comment was left by Linda Coldwell, of the SNOMNH:

You are correct that the Sam Noble Museum is not endorsing this film or this school of thought. As an equal opportunity institution, and part of the University of Oklahoma, the museum rents its facilities out to any organization able and willing to pay for the space.

A tour of our terrific Paleozoic exhibits will provide lots of fascinating, factual information on the current scientific understanding and interpretation of the Cambrian Explosion.

I did not doubt that a natural history museum which is part of a major university was unlikely to be in cahoots with the Discovery Institute's PR campaign but, if any reassurance on that front was needed, John Lynch, a real historian and philosopher of science (unlike Stephen Meyer), confirms that he has seen the exhibits referenced by Ms. Coldwell and there is no doubt that the museum does not support ID.

Still, I think more needs to be done. As an attorney, I understand full well the difficulty the museum faces once it starts renting its facilities to outside groups. However, that does not mean that the museum does not also have a responsibility both to the public and to the science it represents to make sure that its reputation is not hijacked by pseudoscience. At the very least the museum should issue a statement in the strongest terms that the use by ID advocates of its facilities is not in any way an endorsement of ID or of claims that there is any scientific controversy about the general correctness of evolutionary theory or about the scientific fact of common descent.

It would be an appropriate discharge of the museum's duty to the public to organize and present post haste some program countering the propaganda use that its facility will be put to, which should not be all that difficult as it has the resources of the university's science and philosophy departments at hand. The exhibits are, no doubt, fine expositions of our current scientific understanding but, as is the case with all such exhibits, they will have the most impact and influence on those who already have an appreciation for science over pseudoscience. I suggest that, as an abettor, however unwillingly, of pseudoscience, it is the museum's duty to go outside the four corners of the exhibition walls and make an effort to reach out to those who may be mislead by this event.

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