[asa] Critique of the American Museum of Natural History Darwin Bicentennial Exhibit

From: Jack Haas <haas.john@comcast.net>
Date: Tue Oct 21 2008 - 07:24:02 EDT

A very readable article to prepare one for the flood of things Darwin in
Jack Haas

Getting Our History Right: Six Errors about Darwin and His Influence
/Evolutionary Psychology/
www.epjournal.net – 2007. 5(1): 52-69
Hiram Caton, Griffith University, Nathan 4111, Australia, Email:

*Abstract: *The Darwin Exhibition created by the American Museum of
Natural History is
the centerpiece of the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth. It opened in
November 2005 and will
circulate to a number of museums before terminating at the London
Natural History
Museum in February 2009. The Exhibition is also a major contributor to
online instruction
about evolution for schools. The quality of the Exhibition’s narrative
is accordingly of
some significance. This paper argues that the narrative is the legendary
history that
dominates public opinion. The legend has been thoroughly disassembled by
research over recent decades. My criticism is organized as six theses.
(1) Publication of the
/Origin/ was not a sudden (“revolutionary”) interruption of Victorian
society’s confident
belief in the traditional theological world-view. (2)/ The Origin/ did
not “revolutionize” the
biological sciences by removing the creationist premise or introducing
new principles. (3)
/The Origin/ did not revolutionize Victorian public opinion. The public
considered Darwin
and Spencer to be teaching the same lesson, known today as “Social
Darwinism”, which,
though fashionable, never achieved dominance. (4) Many biologists
expressed significant
disagreements with Darwin’s principles. (5) Darwin made little or no
contribution to the
renovation of theology. His public statements on Providence were
inconsistent and the
liberal reform of theology was well advanced by 1850. (6) The so-called
revolution” was, at the public opinion level, the fashion of
laissez-faire economic beliefs
backed by Darwin and Spencer’s inclusion of the living world in the
economic paradigm.

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Received on Tue Oct 21 07:24:25 2008

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