Friday, September 23, 2005

Challenged by Creationists, Museums Answer Back - New York Times

Challenged by Creationists, Museums Answer Back - New York Times: "Dr. Allmon, who directs the Paleontological Research Institution, an affiliate of Cornell University, began the training session here in September with statistics from Gallup Polls: 54 percent of Americans do not believe that human beings evolved from earlier species, and although almost half believe that Darwin has been proved right, slightly more disagree.

'Just telling them they are wrong is not going to be effective,' he said.

Instead, he told the volunteers that when they encounter religious fundamentalists they should emphasize that science museums live by the rules of science. They seek answers in nature to questions about nature, they look for explanations that can be tested by experiment and observation in the material world, and they understand that all scientific knowledge is provisional - capable of being overturned when better answers are discovered.

'Is it against all religion?' he asked. 'No. But it is against some religions.'

There is more than one type of creationist, he said: 'thinking creationists who want to know answers, and they are willing to listen, even if they go away unconvinced' and 'people who for whatever reason are here to bother you, to trap you, to bludgeon you.'

Those were the type of people who confronted Dr. Durkee, a former biology professor at Grinnell College in Iowa. The encounter left her discouraged.

'It is no wonder that many biologists will simply refuse to debate creationists or I.D.ers,' she said, using the abbreviation for intelligent design, a cousin of creationism. 'It is as if they aren't listening.'"

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