How Science Museums Are Promoting Civil Religion-Science Dialogue

Check out this article in the Huffinton Post by one of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Nifty Fifty speakers Alan I. Leshner.

One of the most impressive aspects of the human origins exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History -- along with the only Neanderthal skeleton in the United States and realistic reconstructions of our ancestors -- is the completely interactive character of the hall. Visitors are encouraged to engage with trained volunteers, create self-portraits of themselves as early hominids, and, most importantly, to question what it means to be human.

The exhibit -- including a wealth of physical evidence, from fossilized skulls to stone tools -- reveals without ambiguity how hominids have gradually evolved over millions of years. Of course, this evidence stands in sharp contrast with the creationist view that God created the Earth and all its inhabitants, virtually simultaneously, between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. i-64708b42fd375ade8328a1217fc0c4fe-SCIENCE-CENTERS.jpg

Yet curator Richard Potts reports, anecdotally, that visitors representing diverse worldviews generally seem to enjoy the exhibit without incident. Docents routinely have mutually respectful conversations with visitors from conservative Christian schools where human evolution is not being taught. Potts points out that many such visitors "can be excited about the discoveries of science." Enthusiasm for science then sets the stage for increasing visitors' level of comfort with science and the nature of scientific evidence.

The Smithsonian exhibit offers important lessons on promoting civil dialogue about scientific issues that impinge on worldviews. The Washington, D.C.-based institution is of course not alone in its quest to reach out to the public in meaningful ways. In New York City, for example, the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History supports an extensive array of public programs.

But as the Association of Science-Technology Centers gears up for its annual conference in Hawaii next week, October 2-5, it seems a fitting time to review one successful exhibit's strategies for engaging the public with science, particularly related to human origins.

Read the rest of the article here.

More like this

The Smithsonian recently revamped its exhibit on human evolution, and the brand new Hall of Human Origins is definitely worth seeing. Unlike exhibits from the Small era, there is no equivocation here: humans evolved over millions of years from primates. Period. There's no ambiguity, no attempt…
I'm afraid I don't have access to this specialty journal, Curator: The Museum Journal, so it's a good thing the author sent me a copy of his article on the modern treatment of human origins in museums. It's amusing, since part of it is a substantial comparison of the exhibits at the American Museum…
Let's suppose you're the proprietor of a European tourist attraction. We're not talking about a Louvre or Uffizi here, or even a Leaning Tower of Pisa. No, you're in charge of a hidden gem: the scenic Church of the Saint No One Has Ever Heard Of, or the lovely little Museum of the Famous Artist…
Could 2007 see some new hobbits? I certainly hope so. In October 2004, a team of scientists announced they had found bones of a hominid from the Indonesian island of Flores. They came to the astonishing conclusion that the bones belonged to a new species, which they called Homo floresiensis, which…

Thanks for the constructive feedback :) regarding the Overworld limitations and linearity, I only felt it limited in the sense that you aren't truely able to 'explore' fully in the way that could in other Zelda games - remember the underground caverns you could once find? - and quite frankly I miss that and it is basically linear in the sense that your destination is already chosen, yes you are still exploring and in a wonderful new way but this Overworld 'Transport' also highlights the limitations of what Nintendo can do with a 3D Zelda game on the DS but what they 'have' achieved is still impressive and I do acknowledge that fully.
healt