26 May 2010

Creationism in the Ulster Museum?

I just listened to an interview on Radio Ulster with Nelson McCausland, the minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL). The minister has written to the trustees of National Museums Northern Ireland saying he believed they and his department both "share a common desire to ensure that museums are reflective of the views, beliefs and cultural traditions that make up society in Northern Ireland." On today's radio interview he spoke with Richard Dawkins who phoned up to predictably assert that creationism is bunkum and doesn't belong in the museum, and while I agree with his first point I'm not so sure about his second.

The Ulster Museum is a great place to visit and there's loads to see and learn from, especially their exhibits on natural history, art and local history. I think a temporary exhibit on the ideas held by the people of this region would be an interesting addition provided all the main displays continue to reflect the facts of evolution and what we have been able to discover about how the earth and universe were formed via the scientific method.

A display on the mythology of the people might be fun, if not absolutely hilarious. It could reflect research on just what beliefs on our origins are actually held here, where they have come from, how many people hold them, how these ideas have themselves evolved and why. Then have the notions of creationism/intelligent design clearly laid out for all to see. Since the minister is keen to uphold the human rights of the people he represents by having their beliefs and opinions displayed, then go ahead. Alongside the views of the "Cdesign Proponentsists" the human rights of the 70% or so of people here who do not believe in this theory must also be protected, so have a display on all the proofs for evolution and refuting all the claims of creationism/intelligent design.

"The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counter intuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true." Carl Sagan.