Museum row evolves
Secularists in the UK aren’t exactly chuffed with an English museum at the moment, after, it’s claimed, it censored a Darwin exhibition. Indeed, the National Secular Society (NSS) has written to the leader of the local council about it.
But the local council says those with a special interest are making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe you can decide.
The full story is given in Northampton’s Chronicle & Echo, which says:
A protest, supporting rational thinking against attacks by religious fundamentalists, will take place outside a Northampton museum. The protest is in response to part of a display on evolution being censored following a complaint to Abington Park Museum.
A passage in a display on Charles Darwin at the Northampton Borough Council-run museum was covered up after a complaint from a Christian. The move has now sparked the Northampton Socialist Forum to decide to hold the protest tomorrow.
As reported in the Chronicle & Echo on Thursday, four lines of text were obscured.
We’re not told the exact wording. However, the information in the display explained how Charles Darwin used fossils to formulate his theory of evolution, which the forum said was “established scientific fact”.
Patrick Markey, of the forum, tells the paper, “People are entitled to have all sorts of ideas, but no right to impose them on others. This is a public museum and should respect rational scientific thought, not the ideas of some religious fundamentalists.”
But the paper cites Lewis Houston, who raised the issue some years ago with the museum, and he says that the issue of creationism versus evolution was not the basis of his query. Rather, he said, it was the accuracy of the text.
The National Secular Society has written to the borough council nonetheless. Its president, Terry Sanderson, tells the paper, “There is a global push by the so-called ‘creationist movement’ to undermine the theory of evolution. It is incumbent on all educators to resist this attempt to deny evidence and, in the process, retard science and progress.
“Visitors to the museum are entitled to a better explanation of Darwin’s world-shaping idea than the bowdlerised version you have on display at present.”
But Councillor Brendan Glynane, the cabinet member for museums says, “There was absolutely no attempt at censorship. The text contains a factual error which could cause confusion. It is disappointing to see that some groups have tried to use this error to further their own agenda and make proverbial mountains out of molehills.
“We have now uncovered the display board and are in the process of getting a new board produced.”
The text has been uncovered and a new board is being made.
The council says the revised wording will read:
He used the same layers of fossils to show the slow changes that are taking place over the millennia of earth history, each small change enabling a species to adapt to the rigours of its environment – the struggle for survival, through the natural selection, leading to the survival of the fittest.
So that settles that, then. But there’s no harm in complaining. And would this have been rectified if some secularists hadn’t made a fuss? Perhaps we’ll never know.