A good first step

The director of the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History (the one hosting a Discovery Institute event) has posted an open letter about the program. I presume there will be more coming, because while it’s a beginning, I’m not too impressed yet.

Although the museum does not support unscientific views masquerading as science, such as those espoused by the Discovery Institute, the museum does respect the religious beliefs of all people. Moreover, the museum is obligated to rent its public space to any organization that is engaged in lawful activities, free speech and open discourse. The museum does not discriminate against recognized campus organizations based on their religious beliefs, political philosophy, scientific literacy, or any other factors.

It’s nice that they clearly dismiss the DI as unscientific, but they would have been better off leaving out the nonsense about respecting the religious beliefs of all people. They don’t have to come out and say they disrespect some religious beliefs, as I would, but they shouldn’t have pretended otherwise. No one should offer blanket respect to all religious foolishness — the kind offered by the DI, or any creationist group, is antithetical to the mission of a science museum. Do not offer them false comfort!

Their plan to address the bogosity that will be presented in their halls is currently a bit vague.

We invite everyone interested in an accurate description of how life developed over the last four billion years to visit our galleries. The well-organized and scientifically accurate exhibits illustrate – through real specimens and scientific methods – the fact of evolution by natural selection as first described by Charles Darwin and continually supported by all branches of science ever since that time. The museum also recommends that people interested in evolutionary science review the more than 1,000 publications by our curators and professional staff that are based in evolutionary biology.

The museum’s many galleries will be open for free before and after the showing of the Discovery Institute’s film “Darwin’s Dilemma” on Sept. 29 so the public can see that there is no scientific controversy in evolutionary science’s explanation of the development and history of Earth’s biodiversity.

“Read our publications” and “free admission before and after the presentation” will not do the job. I hope that more will be added later — but they really need to directly address the lies that the creationists will be peddling. With this minimal plan, I know exactly what will happen: most of the creationists will arrive just for the DI’s movie, and leave afterwards. They will tell their friends that they saw a movie about science in a science museum that proves that a god created all life on earth. Some might stay a little later and browse, but the DI will have their people there to provide a creationist spin to all the exhibits.

They need to address the dishonesty directly: stir up controversy of their own to get people to want to hear the rebuttals. Don’t claim to respect every religious belief out there; point out that this religious belief is incredibly bad science and rotten theology, and have people lined up to criticize it without the lame excuses. They don’t need to bring in a bunch of atheist hired guns to do that, either: they almost certainly have biologists on campus with religious views of all kinds who will happily agree that intelligent design creationism is garbage.