This story has been simmering for a while: Kenyan fundamentalists are trying to suppress the fossil evidence, so well represented in their country, of human evolution. On one side, we have Richard Leakey:
He told The Daily Telegraph (London): “The National Museums of Kenya should be extremely strong in presenting a very forceful case for the evolutionary theory of the origins of mankind. The collection it holds is one of Kenya’s very few global claims to fame and it must be forthright in defending its right to be at the forefront of this branch of science.”
On another side, we have fundagelical goobers:
“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.
But you know what? There’s also a third side.
“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.”
We’ve recently had a bit of a shouting match about “appeasement”, and this is exactly what we’ve been complaining about. This is not a tricky situation at all. There is no rational reason we should respect “religious beliefs” as equals to the evidence and ideas of “intellectuals, scientists, or researchers”. This false equivalence, supported by the people who claim to be defending science, lies precisely at the root of the problem. Museums should never have to defer to myths and superstition—so why is this even a controversy?
Larry Moran wonders why people accommodate religious foolishness, whether because of a sincere belief in religion, a more cynical belief that it is a useful palliative, or out of fear of antagonizing dangerous mad people. I wonder what Chege’s answer would be?