Do Museums Portray Truth?


As often I am able, I like to visit museums. In the larger ones, there is always something to learn, while often in smaller museums unique exhibits are found, displaying some fascinating local artifact or fossil. A Christian should never be afraid of facts, nor should he be afraid to modify previously held positions if the facts warrant.

The key to enjoying and benefiting from museums is being able to distinguish facts from interpretations of the facts, or inferences drawn from the facts. This is particularly true when dealing with the question of origins, or of unobserved history. For instance, dinosaur bones are facts. The idea that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago is not a fact, but is an interpretation of the facts—a reconstruction of unobserved history. Obviously, there are many possible reconstructions of the past, some of which disagree with the scriptural record of the past, and some of which do agree.

Parents and teachers will do their children and students a disservice if they do not teach them this distinction. If a young person understands how to discern fact from interpretation and how to think properly about the past, museums can be a place of great enjoyment, and evolution will not stand a chance. However, unprepared, a youthful mind falls easy prey to ideas masquerading as science. All too often, museums become a tool for "brainwashing" visitors to the "politically correct" view.

Just recently, I visited the Museum of Natural History in Beijing, China. One room of the Museum displayed rocks and minerals (facts) and remarkably few interpretations of the past. As a geologist, I especially enjoyed this room.

However, the mood changed dramatically in the other major room. An imposing sculpture of explicitly naked man/brutes greeted the visitor at the door, complete with clubs, hairy backs, and scowling, ape-like faces. Certainly, no such type of life and culture as portrayed here has ever been discovered. This immediately should be recognized as an idea about the past and not as a fact, This sculpture is simply a political and philosophical statement of human evolution and man's animal ancestry.

The first three exhibit panels declared that (1) Man is an animal; (2) Man is also an ape; (3) What kind of ape is man? These three set the tone for the rest, and the rest contained almost every claim ever heard for human evolution. Most of the panels contained precious little evidence, but consisted of beautiful artwork of all the various imagined transitional stages from ape to man. Present were "Lucy," Peking Man, the Laotili footprints, and others, each with interpretive drawings. Present also was a full display of "embryonic recapitulations," the discredited idea that the human fetus undergoes changes in the mother's womb which recall its supposed evolutionary ancestry. This argument, well known by knowledgeable scientists to be false, still occurs also in some American biology textbooks as evidence for evolution. Most significantly, it shows up in abortion clinics, and is used to convince pregnant women that the fetus in their womb is in its "fish stage, complete with gill slits."

The final panel gave acknowledgments, in Chinese and English, to those who had helped plan or fund the exhibit. Listed were many well-known names and organizations from the west, culminating with this statement, quoted from the panel:

In particular, our deepest appreciation goes to the National Planned Parenthood Commission for its sponsorship.

Thus, in blatant disregard for the truth, museums frequently portray a philosophical world-view, which suits those in positions of authority. In this case, the worst that the West has to offer has infected the East.

*Dr. John Morris is the President of ICR.

Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 1994. Do Museums Portray Truth?. Acts & Facts. 23 (2).