Harvard Museum Exhibit Puts Evolution at Visitors' Fingertips -- But at What Cost to Understanding?
Museums need to be viewed, in part, as recruitment centers for Darwinism. The fossils, artifacts and dioramas are typically arranged to suggest a smooth, straightforward, inevitable progression from simple to complex. If any doubt remains, the captions give the official interpretation.
Showing real fossils and reconstructed real animals is valuable. Seeing is believing. To museum exhibit creators, however, believing is often seeing -- seeing the artifacts through a lens of interpretation. Sometimes, no artifacts or fossils are even necessary. Exhibits can cut to the chase, impressing the unwary with virtual worlds where Darwin reigns supreme, unencumbered by skeptics.
A case in point is a new exhibit by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard. Called Life on Earth, the entire exhibit is virtual, consisting of "Tree of Life" software running on a touch-screen display. Notice the complete lack of tangible, empirical data leading to a visitor's epiphany:
With a quick swipe of the finger, the Tree of Life became a blur of branches flying past, zooming away from the root through deep history until finally, at the end of a twig, the human species Homo sapiens appeared. Engaging with an exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences last fall, a young visitor could hardly contain his awe at how far he had traveled: "Whoa, 3.5 billion years ago -- that's a long time." The boy's mother then pointed to a pair of connecting lines and told him gleefully, "You're related to a banana!"Granted, the banana story has its charms. Yet all of the moral, evidential and philosophical problems have been swept away in a visual experience aimed at promoting awe and glee, not knowledge. Darwin's conceptual "Tree of Life" comes pre-programmed the way Darwinians want visitors to see it.
Its multitouch surface and programming allow museum visitors to zoom and scroll through the Tree of Life, the immense tree diagram biologists use to represent the evolutionary history of millions of related species.It's what visitors won't see that is far more important. They won't, for example, be encouraged to see and wrestle with the implications of the Cambrian Explosion, as Stephen Meyer lays them bare in his upcoming Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. They won't see discontinuous bursts of creativity, as the fossil record in fact represents. They won't see "living fossils" that appear abruptly and never change. They won't see intelligent design in the finely tuned wings of birds and butterflies, our senses of sight and hearing, and millions of other biological wonders from the whole animal to the molecular machines in the cell. Instead of focusing on the design of life on earth, the programmers train visitors' minds to see these marvels as emerging without controversy from strictly material processes of blind, unguided churning.
Harvard's engineers are proud of their software. And good for them. They applied a lot of their own intelligent design to the construction of Life on Earth, apparently oblivious to the philosophical problem of developing rationality from a banana.
"The Tree of Life is the central organizing principle for biology, but it is not easy for the general public to understand," Pickering said. "This exhibit gives users the opportunity to interact playfully with new technology first hand to explore the Tree of Life and to visualize instantly how all life on Earth is related."Darwinists are, if nothing else, skilled in the arts of propaganda. Displays like Harvard's Life on Earth (now installed at four major U.S. museums) play games with visitors' minds and emotions, shielding them from the right questions.
Photo credit: Michael S. Horn, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.