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Monday, December 04, 2006

Evolution Shmevolution

Studio 61 had a great skit in one of its early shows called "Evolution Shmevolution," about a (fake) game show in which representatives of every crazy right-wing religious group got to sound off on evolution. Quite funny.

Not so funny is reality. Going beyond the wildest dreams of crazy school boards all over the US, the Pentecostal churches of Kenya are demanding huge changes to the National Museum of Kenya.

Kenya - where the Leaky family has worked for several generations - has the finest collection of early hominid fossils in the world.
The museum's collections include the most complete skeleton yet found of Homo erectus, the 1.7-million-year-old Turkana Boy unearthed by Leakey's team in 1984 near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.
Turkana boy

The museum also holds bones from several specimens of Australopithecus anamensis, believed to be the first hominid to walk upright, four million years ago. Together the artifacts amount to the clearest record yet discovered of the origins of Homo sapiens.

They are the pride of the national museum. So what do the pentecostals want?
Leaders of Kenya's Pentecostal congregation, with six million adherents, want the human fossils de-emphasized.

"The Christian community here is very uncomfortable that Leakey and his group want their theories presented as fact," said Bishop Bonifes Adoyo, head of the largest Pentecostal church in Kenya, the Christ is the Answer Ministries.

"Our doctrine is not that we evolved from apes, and we have grave concerns that the museum wants to enhance the prominence of something presented as fact which is just one theory," the bishop said.

Adam with a dinosaur

Bishop Adoyo said all the country's churches would unite to force the museum to change its focus when it reopens after eighteen months of renovations in June 2007. "We will write to them, we will call them, we will make sure our people know about this, and we will see what we can do to make our voice known," he said.

Luckily, Richard Leaky is fighting them. Leakey termed these comments outrageous.

Calling members of the Pentecostal church fundamentalists, Leakey added: "Their theories are far, far from the mainstream on this. They cannot be allowed to meddle with what is the world's leading collection of these types of fossils."
The Museum is trying to placate both sides:
For its part, the museum sounded like it was trying to walk a tightrope. It said it was in a "tricky situation" in trying to redesign its exhibition space for all kinds of visitors. "We have a responsibility to present all our artifacts in the best way that we can so that everyone who sees them can gain a full understanding of their significance," said Ali Chege, public relations manager for the National Museums of Kenya. "But things can get tricky when you have religious beliefs on one side, and intellectuals, scientists, or researchers on the other, saying the opposite."
Scientists do not meddle with religion, telling religionists what to think or how to worship. Why can't they return the favor?


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