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The Natural History Museum
The museum is housed in this beautiful German Romanesque building designed by Alfred Waterhouse in the late 1800’s and is now referred to as the Waterhouse Building. The museum guide refers to it as a ‘cathedral to nature’ which is one of the more revealing statements about Darwin’s impact on British culture (along with the mammoth religious cathedrals in Scotland and Ireland that have been converted into shopping malls, which I will discuss further in part 2).
The Dinosaur Exhibit
I started with a tour of the Dinosaur Exhibit on the ground floor. No doubt they have a fine and varied exhibit of dinosaur fossils and a few animated dinos to amaze the kids. They also did a great job of explaining the various theories for the mysterious disappearance of these magnificent beasts. But, I did not leave the exhibit overwhelmed with evidence of our Darwinian heritage. In fact the amazing diversity of dinosaur creatures had the opposite effect on me. The creative power of random mutations and natural selection seemed even more suspect when you have spent an hour staring at all the fossils in one room. The Darwinian story made a lot more sense to me when my wife, Priscilla and I toured the Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta a few days earlier and were able to study the evolution of the Coke bottle over the past 100 years (Priscilla is shown below next to a modern version of the Coca-Cola bottle outside the Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, Georgia where we stopped for a few hours on our way to London).
We all know that the Coke bottle is the product of intelligent design—even though there are wide variations of shapes dating back to the late 1800’s. I understand minor variations and adaptations to the environment in biological systems (such as Darwin’s finch beaks). But Darwin’s theory remains a mystery when it comes to explaining the wide morphological differences I observed in the dinosaur exhibit that day (no mater how many millions of years you allow). For a reality check I highly recommend the video interview with mathematician David Berlinski where he discusses the 50,000+ independent morphological changes required to evolve a cow into a whale. When you move from diagrams connected with hypothetical dotted lines to doing the math required to change major body plans, the explanatory power of random mutations and natural selection becomes suspect. Perhaps I’d find more convincing evidence of Darwin’s amoeba-to-man theory in the Darwin Centre.
The Museum opened the Darwin Centre in 2002, which houses 22 million biological specimens stored in jars, including creatures collected by Charles Darwin on his HMS Beagle expedition. It also provides state-of-the-art laboratory facilities for nearly 100 Museum zoologists. But my hopes were dashed when I found out the Darwin Centre was accessible by tour only and all tours had been filled for the day. Perhaps one of our UK friends can arrange a tour of the Darwin Centre and send us a first-hand report. Video lectures and other information are available online, but like the dinosaur exhibit, it probably is more impressive to walk through the collections yourself.
Next I jumped upstairs to stroll through the “From the Beginning” exhibit which is a monument to Darwin’s modern-day creation story. The exhibit draws a comparison between the life of the universe and a 12-hour clock. Using the idea that it is now midnight, the exhibit communicates that multi-cellular organisms emerged after 10 p.m, and human beings evolved just 20 seconds ago. The whole Darwinian story of life’s development is laid out along a timeline in the long hall. I found it interesting that the whole exhibit is based on the simple statement at the entrance “we don’t know exactly when or how life first started…” I found it very refreshing that such an honest statement was made at the beginning of the exhibit, but also very frustrating that the average museum visitor probably missed the significance of the assumption for the rest of the exhibit.
This month ARN is releasing two new products that explore the origin of life problem in great detail. The first is a book by Stuart Pullen titled: Intelligent Design or Evolution: Why the Origin of Life and the Evolution of Molecular Knowledge Imply Design. Pullen does a fantastic job summarizing the results of origin of life research to date, and explaining why the research results, along with our modern understanding of molecular information and knowledge, eliminates all naturalistic explanations for the origin of life.
The second product is a DVD lecture by researcher Edward Peltzer titled Abiogenesis: The Faith and the Facts. As a graduate student in the 1970s, Peltzer developed ground-breaking chemical techniques for analyzing hydroxycarboxylic acids in the Murchison Meteorite, which yielded important information in origin of life research. In this lecture held at the University of California Santa Barbara, Peltzer explains that we have four options to consider and test for the origin of life:
I would love to see the National History Museum in London, or any museum for that matter, build a true “From the Beginning” hall based on the information contained in Pullman’s book and Peltzer’s lecture. Such an exhibit would make it clear that after 50 years of intensive scientific research we have no natural explanation for the origin of life, and in fact the evidence clearly indicates that naturalistic processes alone prohibit the origin of life.
After leaving the timeline, I wandered over to the “Our Place in Evolution” exhibit above the main entrance hall where you are afforded the opportunity to compare modern human skulls with those of living and fossils “relatives”. Before visiting this exhibit, I would recommend a thorough review of chapter 10 of Vij Sodera’s excellent book One Small Speck to Man: the Evolution Myth. In this chapter, which contains some of the best photos of fossil evidence I’ve seen, Sodera examines chimpanzee, ape, australopithecines, Homo habilis, archaic Homo sapiens and modern man evidence and concludes there is no evidence for australopithecines having evolved from a common ancestor of chimpanzees, or for modern humans having evolved from australopithecines. So the human-like fossil evidence actually paints a completely different picture from that which is commonly portrayed in museums like this. Instead of man evolving from apes via crude-looking ancestors, the evidence points to populations of ancient human beings having passed through some morphological changes (whether from inbreeding and/or disease) before these groups gained the modern human form.
To put it another way, the fossil evidence contains only human and non-human bones, with no convincing evidence for any intermediaries. Apes have always been apes and Man has always been Man. Ah, but what about the similarities in DNA between humans and apes that can also be found in the museum? For that I would refer you to chapter 12 of Sodera’s book where he examines the chromosome and DNA evidence in detail and here is his conclusion:
“In summary, there is no demonstrable trend in chromosome number, size and shape from simple to complex animals; and rearrangements in chromosomes are not responsible for the observable differences either between different animals or between apes and human beings. Furthermore, the evolution of ape ancestors into humans requires there to have been a large number of lineages of isolated inbreeding populations, resulting in a number of distinct genetic intermediaries between humans, living apes, Homo habilis and australopithecines. There is no evidence to support such a notion. Finally, the evidence of mitochondrial DNA is ambiguous and unreliable, and lends no support to the notion that apes evolved into humans.”
Since Vij Sodera is a British surgeon residing in West Sussex, author of three acclaimed surgical textbooks, and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh I would like to nominate him to the Board of Directors for the Natural History Museum in London to see if he can guide them from the land of Darwinian Fairytales back to genuine Museum of Natural History.
A day at the Natural History Museum in London is a wonderful experience. The building is magnificent. The collection of fossils is brilliant (sorry, a little British-speak rubbed off on me). But, as you walk through, see if you can sharpen your critical thinking skills by separating out the data from the theories. Before you go, read Darwinian Fairytales by Austrialian philosopher David Stove (or if you don’t have time at least read Denyse O’Leary’s excellent summary notes of Stove’s book). Spend a couple weeks digesting the data presented in Vij Sodera magnificent book One Small Speck to Man. Now with your baloney detector fully operational, tour the museum and decide if Darwin’s theory of evolution which claims all of life can be explained by processes of random mutations and natural selection is a scientific fact--or a cultural fairytale of the western world. The fossils in the museum are real, and very interesting to look at, but the dotted lines in Darwin’s tree of life that try to connect the fossils all together in a seemless naturalistic story are still dotted, and that is what makes Darwin’s theory the Modern Day Creation Story and not a fact of science.
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