Does Darwin Exhibit Disappoint?

Canadian journalist and art critic Robert Fulford has reviewedDarwin: The Evolution Revolution,” an exhibit that originated at the American Museum of Natural History and opened over the weekend at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Primarily, Fulford takes issue with the overly long wall text, specifically a sentence that calls Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection a “single, simple scientific explanation for the diversity of life on earth.”
“Simple? Did they say simple?” he writes in the National Post. “It’s possible that you can make it sound simple by glib summary. But its implications are the reverse of simple. They demand a leap of the imagination most of the world has always found extremely difficult. … In the 1860s, when the world was first compelled to deal with him, his theory was terrifying, world-shaking, religion-threatening. It still raises furious controversy.”
While he’s somewhat taken with the life-size reproduction of the deck of Darwin’s boat, the HMS Beagle, he’s dismayed by an exhibit he feels “limps through its subject, barely hinting at the great audacity of Darwin’s thinking. The exhibition provides great piles of data about Darwin and Darwinism but at no point demands thought or response from those who view it.” Overall, he concludes, “the curators appear to believe that in 2008 evolution and everything connected with it have congealed into received wisdom, needing only to be articulated once more, in the style that museums have been using for at least half a century. Perhaps out of a belief that we couldn’t deal with anything stronger, the exhibition gives us a cozy and harmless version of a painful, challenging idea that transformed science and the world.”
Heather Wax


Some "Bodies" Upset

Scientists, theologians, and ethicists met last night to discuss the controversy surrounding the use of human cadavers in “Bodies: The Exhibition,” currently at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center. The debate focused on whether the exhibit’s use of unidentified bodies from China was a dishonor to the dead or a useful educational tool. The 90-minute discussion was aired live on Pittsburgh’s WQED TV station and can now be viewed online. —Dan Messier


"Bodies" Raise Ethical Concerns

Schools affiliated with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati have canceled their plans to offer field trips to “Bodies . . . The Exhibition” after the archbishop raised concerns about the exhibit in a memo to school administrators. In the memo, Archbishop of Cincinnati Daniel Pilarczyk wrote, “It seems to me that the use of human bodies in this way fails to respect the persons involved. Therefore, I do not believe that this exhibit is an appropriate destination for field trips by our Catholic schools.” The exhibition uses the preserved remains of once-living people to offer visitors a realistic view of how the human body works. Protesters, however, continue to express concern over the manner in which the bodies were obtained. —Dan Messier


New Exhibit

Several letters, as well as part of the fossil collection, of James Woodrow (President Woodrow Wilson’s uncle) are now on display as part of the “Natural Curiosity” exhibit at the McKissick Museum in South Carolina. Woodrow, a scientist and theologian, was dismissed from the faculty of the Columbia Theological Seminary in 1884 because of his support and teaching of evolution, and his efforts to make peace between religion and science. —Heather Wax

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