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Saturday, July 05, 2008

History moment: Quick, relabel that exhibit!

My co-blogger at Access Research Network, Robert Deyes, offers a tiptoe into recent history, when a controversy over human evolution was smothered in its cradle:
Those who visit the Natural History Museum in London today will not find any remnants of the controversy that centered around the Charles Darwin exhibition in the early 1980s. Nor will they see any mention of the conflicts in data that were so evident a decade ago. Yet controversy there was and a perusal through the letters to Nature during that time period reveals just how heated opinions and views became. The 'Museum of Errors', as the late neo-Darwinist Beverly Halstead called the Natural History Museum, led him to "raise the alarm" as he sought to "ensure the survival of the museum's reputation for scholarship in its public galleries" (Ref 3). What really seemed to anger Halstead was the museum's assumption that, as far as human evolution was concerned, no species in the fossil record could be considered to be in any way ancestral to any other. As he saw it, this particular aspect of the exhibition directly contravened the mounting fossil evidence. After all Homo erectus appeared to be the clear ancestral predecessor of Homo Sapiens (Ref 3).

And a stop was soon put to any public display of the discord.

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