Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Smithsonian Human Origins Exhibit

The Smithsonian Institution has unveiled their new human origins exhibit and if ever there was a reason for a trip to D.C., this is it. Dan Vergano of USA Today has the story:
Fantastic it is. A glittering time tunnel greets entrants with its portraits of early human species from the last 6 million years. Throngs of visitors take turns pawing the real-scale model skulls of humanity's ancestors, set on swivels at the entrances.The exhibit is the Smithsonian's effort to tell the story of human evolution, from the ape-like Sahelanthropus tchadensis to Homo sapiens.

Light and airy, with the wired-in feel of an Apple store (terminals and gadgets abound) instead of a stuffy cabinet of wonders, the exhibit features original artifacts such as the first Cro-Magnon man skull discovered, cast skeletons including Homo floresiensis (a.k.a. "hobbits") and Homo erectus, interactive theaters and even a vividly-recreated "cave art" wall. "They are using everything," said curator and paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, buffeted by visitors on the exhibit's second day.
The article is descriptive but lacking in images so one is invited to imagine what the exhibits look like. As if to provoke a response where none was needed, USA Today asked Ken Ham what he thought:

As for creationists' take on the exhibit? "I haven't really paid too much attention to it," says Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, which runs the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. Famed for its juxtaposition of people and dinosaurs, the museum promotes a literal reading of the Old Testament in its view of human and the Earth's origins. "I'm amused how much the (Smithsonian) exhibit cost. We built a whole museum for that much," Ham says.

For anyone keeping score, the Smithsonian's Hall of Human Origins measures 15,000 square feet and the Creation Museum encompasses 70,000 square feet of exhibits.

Warming to his topic, Ham called it "child abuse" for the Smithsonian to "promote the secularist view that people are just animals. So, if you are an animal, you might as well do anything you want."

Aside from the fact that his response is simplistic in the extreme, it just wasn't necessary to include this bit of controversy in the story. Yes, controvery exists in this kind of exhibit but at least it seems that Rick Potts, the curator, is letting the exhibit speak for itself. A small video for class would be nice.

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