Northampton museum redux
There have been some interesting comments on the Northampton museum Darwin exhibition story, and it has been suggested that the post be updated to reflect them.
The facts of the case have not changed, but the positions of the two sides have been somewhat clarified.
Lewis Houston made the original complaint to the museum about a biblical reference in the Darwin exhibit. He did not think the reference was accurate, and asked for it to be changed. This resulted in the museum implementing the “temporary measure” of covering up the reference to “the Biblical view of evolution” with tape. The tape remained for around three years.
Last week Andy Chapman, who queried the black tape with museum staff and had his suspicions confirmed when they informed him that a “religious fundamentalist” had objected to censored words, raised the issue in the local newspaper.
The fact is, Lewis Houston is indeed a creationist. He helped found the Northants Creation Group, which has connections with the egregious, ignorance-promoting Creation Science Movement. However, it cannot be said that he was trying to get evolution thrown out of the museum, as happened in Kenya in 2006. He just thought the biblical view was being misrepresented, and asked for it to be corrected.
In his own words:
It seems that people are determined to read into the original matter I raised about the museum display. I only wandered around the museum in the first place as I had gone along to the outdoor paintings exhibition and had time to spare. At that time I had helped set up the Northants Creation Group and for the past two years now, another team of people have been taking NCG forward.
What did I see, an evolutionary based display in one of the exhibits. I see and read them all the time, they are commonplace and I don’t for one minute think that my personal opinions about them are likely to influence the like of the local museum displaying them. It would take a significant change in the educational/scientific world for that to be even likely.
What did I see after they blocked out the few sentences around the phrases I queried? An evolutionary based display!
I was initally told that the displays were due to be replaced and the text would be rectified then. Knowing NBC budgets I said that I was all for saving tax payers money but perhaps something temporary could be done. I thought their suggestion to cover over the part they did was reasonable. I haven’t seen it since so as to why it remained for so long in this temporary state – ask NBC.
I stand by my view that the text was inaccurate and it doesn’t matter if you label me a creationist, a Christian, a Cobblers supporter or whatever – the comment still stands. I didn’t challenge the Chapman’s motives in raising the issue because he could be an evolutionist, a member of the secular society or his surname begins with ‘c’ – either he has a point of he doesn’t. I think he had as I was surprised to hear the display was still in that state after all this time.
As a citizen I have every right to point out what I perceive to be an error in a public display, especially when I help to fund it.
Now, anyone with any experience of debating with creationists will know that honesty is not one of their most obvious virtues. The degree of self-deception necessary to maintain such a ridiculous world-view in the face of overwhelming evidence is so great that the deceit frequently spills out into their public discourse, often giving the impression that they are simply telling lies. However, there is no reason to believe that Houston is not being perfectly straight with us here.
The dramatic sight of black tape on printed matter inevitably smacks of censorship. The Abingdon Park Museum were clumsy in implementing their fact correction, and very lax in arranging a proper replacement text. Chapman’s recent raising of the issue has helped improve matters, so that is a positive result.
But this is not a case of a creationist trying to suppress science. If it was, he clearly failed, because the exhibition has been going on teaching evolution for the past three years – even with the masking tape obscuring a few lines.
There is a creationist movement in this country. They are pernicious, deceitful, and profoundly stupid – and they must be opposed. Here at MWW we do our bit, along with the far better organised and focused British Centre for Science Education, whose spokesperson has also posted here. But we must pick our battles carefully.
This battle was not carefully picked.