Everyone is welcome at the Smithsonian Institution, though we locals may grumble when our museums start to fill up with tourists in the spring. But I’m not sure which of these I would find more annoying on a trip through the National Museum of Natural History: 40 hyperactive first graders or the Advanced Creation Studies class from Liberty University, which the Washington Post wrote about in yesterday’s paper.
I know that there are a lot of creationists in this country. But creationism is religion, and the museums are about science. Many creationists seem a bit surprised when the Smithsonian Institution (and this magazine—you should see the letters we get!) does not treat “creation science” (or its brother, intelligent design) in the same way as it does evolution. Smithsonian Institution spokesman Randall Kremer:
"Evolution is the unifying principle for all the biology, past and present, in our halls," Kremer said. "That is the foundation of the research we conduct at the museum."
The Liberty University professor mentioned in the Post article brings his creation studies students to the museum each year to expose them to the other side (i.e., evolution) and to strengthen their belief in creationism. But the students still seemed somewhat surprised that religion played no part in the museum’s displays of how animals came to be:
In the hall of mammals, which reopened in 2003 after a $23 million renovation, evolution assumes center stage, and the Liberty students grew a bit more subdued. They openly admired the well-lighted, meticulously designed dioramas. But they lamented that the texts and videos give no credit at all to a higher power for the wondrous animal variety on display.
The visit didn’t change any minds, according to the article, which I find a bit sad. Evolution is an incredibly fascinating area of science, and it opens the door to all of biology.
The article reminded me of another visit to the “other side,” when a secular group from Indiana University visited the Creation Museum. But do they seem to be having more fun than the students in the Post story?