Darwin Day

I just returned from the University of Pennsylvania Museum. There were some games, free cake, skulls, and even a couple of live specimen to gawk at but the largest draw was the teach-in, where a number of scientists talked about Darwin’s life, geological time, dinosaurs (rawr!), etc.

But what struck me the most was the human evolution exhibit that was not specific to the event, but I had not previously seen. What stood out for me was the direct approach that it took. As you walk in, there is a panel on the wall that has some description of apes, and then it simply said “you are an ape” (or something very similar). This was interesting to me because knowing that there is a significant percentage of the US population that would be completely insulted at this proposition, yet it is overwhelmingly supported by the facts. It is nice to see it spelled out so unambiguously.

I found myself trying to imagine myself in the mind of a creationist walking through this museum (let’s assume they were kidnapped, tied up, placed in a bag, thrown in a white van then driven there and forced to walk through it to escape) and seeing the words and cast bones and skulls on the wall. I simply cannot figure out what is going on in the minds of people who deny that evolution is a fact when the theory of evolution is supported as well as any other theory–say gravity.

I think what it comes down to, for most people, is mere ignorance of the nature of the theory as well as the evidence that supports it. The fact that so many charlatans exist to keep “goddidit” alive doesn’t help this either. Fear is a contributing factor, I would guess, but nobody should be surprised to find ignorance and fear in the same explanation.

But it was good to see that so many people attended. It was good to see children interested in the exhibits and being genuinely excited to be there, and not merely dragged by parents who are at least trying. At least there is that.

Happy (belated) 200th birthday Charlie Darwin!