Smithsonian's New Human Origins Exhibit Targets Students Who Doubt Darwinism - Evolution News & Views

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Smithsonian's New Human Origins Exhibit Targets Students Who Doubt Darwinism

The Smithsonian has a new human origins exhibit, "What does it mean to be human?" specially targeted at swaying student visitors who might doubt Darwinian evolution.

The most amusing part of the exhibit proudly explains that evolution predicted we'd lack evidence for evolution; that's how we know it's true!

That's right, this is how the nation's most prestigious natural history museum presents evolution: evolution predicts that evolution is supported both when we do and when we don't find confirming fossil evidence. Consider the following from the educator's guide:

Misconception: Gaps in the fossil record disprove evolution.

Response: Science actually predicts gaps in the fossil record. Many species leave no fossils at all, and the environmental conditions for forming good fossils are not common. The chance of any individual organism becoming fossilized is incredibly small. Nevertheless, new fossils are constantly being discovered. These include many transitional fossils--e.g., intermediary fossils between birds and dinosaurs, and between humans and our primate ancestors. Our lack of knowledge about certain parts of the fossil record does not disprove evolution.

Did you get that? Ignoring the fact that transitional fossils are often missing even among taxa whose records are very complete, now Darwin's defenders argue that their theory "predicts gaps in the fossil record." How convenient!

(Now I fully understand the evolutionary explanation as to why transitional fossils are purportedly missing, and I've written on it extensively in the past, so if you want a critique, go there.)

What's ironic, however, is that if you ask the question How Do We Know Humans Evolved? the answer you're given is, "Fossils like the ones shown in our Human Fossils Gallery provide evidence that modern humans evolved from earlier humans." So whether you find fossils or you don't, that's evidence for evolution.

And some of the "transitional" fossils listed in the gallery are quite dubious.

Ardipithecus ramidus is offered as an alleged "a human-African ape common ancestor," yet the exhibit doesn't disclose that when "Ardi" was first discovered it was reportedly "crushed to smithereens" such that it resembled "Irish stew."

The exhibit also touts Sahelanthropus tchadensis as the "oldest fossil human," even though this species is known from only one skull and a few jaw fragments, which some paleoanthropologists have suggested might have belonged to a female gorilla.

But the exhibit gives no evidence of dissent from the official party line, such as an admission from Ernst Mayr in 2004 that "[t]he earliest fossils of Homo, Homo rudolfensis and Homo erectus, are separated from Australopithecus by a large, unbridged gap," and therefore we're in a position of "[n]ot having any fossils that can serve as missing links."

I guess according to the Smithsonian's exhibit, this large, unbridged gap is just more evidence for evolution.