Evolution at the Smithsonian

"Evolutionary Faith" might well be the title of the elaborate exhibitions in the nation's famed Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. In many beautiful displays, the evolution of the earth and its inhabitants is treated as axiomatic with its histories laid out in impressive diorama and narrative accounts. Yet in all these exhibits, it is impossible to find one single evidence of real evolution! Evolution is apparently a non-theistic religious faith, which a gullible citizenry is expected to believe simply because the "scientists" say so.

The federal government is, both constitutionally and legally, supposed to be neutral in its attitude toward various religions. Yet in its prestigious national museums, especially its Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, it openly seeks to indoctrinate its swarms of visitors (estimated at 17 million annually) in the religion of evolutionary humanism, naturalism, and materialism.

The displays in the Museum of Natural History, under the directorship of Dr. Porter M. Kier, invertebrate paleontologist, depict evolution not only as the preferred philosophy of natural history," but as the only one! No mention at all is made of the Biblical record of origins and earth history, which it flagrantly contradicts, nor even of scientific creationism, which is accepted by thousands of scientists and multitudes of others today. Dr. Kier and his associates, of course, do represent the modern scientific and educational establishments, which apparently are devotedly dedicated to converting everyone to their own materialistic faith, through the nation's schools, museums and other tax-supported educational institutions.

Yet, with all this propaganda, it is remarkable that the host of Smithsonian-related scientists who designed the exhibits were apparently unable to come up with any real evidence of evolution. The recently opened hall entitled "The Dynamics of Evolution" has received considerable publicity and is supposed to tell people exactly how evolution works, but it consists entirely of speculative pretense, as far as vertical evolution is concerned (evolution from one "kind" of organism to a higher, more complex kind). There are numerous excellent exhibits depicting horizontal variation within the kind, but these have nothing to do with real evolution.


Evolution defined.
The Placard states: Around you are examples of the great diversity of like on this planet. The study of the origin and development of this diversity is called evolutionary biology. This exhibit explains how most scientists think the evolutionary process works.
Evolution is the concept that species change through time. Over millions of years small changes accumulate to be come large differences, new species arise, others die out. Rates of change vary greatly, and directions of change are unpredictable.

Furthermore, the so-called mechanism of evolution as presented in this new hall of evolution, is strictly the old-style "neo-Darwinism," featuring a supposed slow-and-gradual evolution empowered by random genetic mutations, recombinations, population drift and natural selection. Nothing at all is said about such newer concepts as stochastic evolution, sociobiology, mutator versus structural genes, neutral mutations, and especially punctuated equilibrium. One would have thought that in an ostensibly up-to-date officially-endorsed display called "The Dynamics of Evolution," a dogmatic espousal of a now-largely-outmoded neo-Darwinism would have been modified by at least an acknowledgment of current concepts of the dynamics of evolution! Perhaps these current concepts might sound too much like creationism to the museum's undiscerning visitors, so officials decided to stick to the same old concepts that had already indoctrinated two generations of young people into an evolutionary faith.

In general, however, the claims displayed in the "Dynamics of Evolution" Hall were careful and modest, featuring horizontal shifts of gene frequencies within populations, responding to changing environments (e.g., the peppered moth, Darwin's finches, the proliferation of the dog family, distinctive characteristics of different human "races," etc.). Such changes were clearly energized, according to the official inscriptions, by natural selection acting on recombinations of genetic factors already present, thus having no bearing on real progressive evolution.

An exhibit describing the mechanism of reproduction, featuring the marvelous information transmission system encoded in the DNA-RNA complex, also stressed variational recombinations, but did mention the possibility of the introduction of "new" information by mutations. Notably lacking, however, was any acknowledgment of the fact that mutations are mistakes, and thus are practically always harmful to the population harboring them. The famous "sickle-cell" mutation was offered as a possible example of a temporarily beneficial mutation but the discussion also frankly recognized its overall harmful effect in the population.

The nearest approach to any real evidence for evolution in this new hall was a display featuring the evolution of the horse. This exhibit featured the standard century-old horse family "tree" (Eohippus-Merychippus-Equus, etc.), but it did acknowledge that the situation was no longer as straightforward and simple as once believed. Particularly as the tree approached the Equus stage, it became more like a bush, with little agreement as to actual ancestral relationships. At the very most, of course, all that horse "evolution" could represent is (like that in the dog family) environmental adjustment within the horse family. Similarly, the polar bear and brown bear were shown to be closely related, still capable of producing fertile hybrids.

In examining the relatively innocuous exhibits called "The Dynamics of Evolution" by the Museum, one wonders whether its very modest claims (where facts were concerned, rather than philosophy) may have resulted in part from the strong creationist movement of recent years and, in particular, the highly publicized objections by many Christian people to the doctrinaire evolutionism promoted by the Museum. It is obvious that reliance is being placed on the overall impression of evolution generated by its univocal emphasis, rather than inferences from any specific facts, to win converts to evolutionism.

Alleged evolution of horses display.

Another important evolutionary scenario is developed in the hall entitled "Ice Age Mammals and the Emergence of Man." This hall has obviously been updated in recent years, making no mention of such now-discredited specimens as Piltdown Man and Java Man. Furthermore, a diorama of a supposed Neanderthal funeral service points out that Neanderthal Man was truly human, with an artistic and religious nature, and with a cranial capacity higher even than that of modern man.

However, it is still assumed that man is a product of evolution from some form of animal ancestry, though the exhibits admit that the lineage is unknown. It is frankly acknowledged that modern man did not evolve from the Australopithecines, since Homo (possibly Homo habilis, more probably Homo erectus) is said to have existed contemporaneously with Australopithecus.

It is suggested in one diorama that Louis Leakey's famous Zinjanthropus might be an ancestor of man, the same as Homo habilis. A rather detailed discussion of how the artist reconstructed the facial appearance of Zinjanthropus, making him appear as definitely an ape-human intermediate, neglects to mention that other reconstructions from the fragmentary fossils, made by equally competent artists, gave him many different faces, all the way from truly ape to truly human. "Put not your faith in reconstructions" was the admonition of a prominent evolutionary anthropologist of fifty years ago, and it is just as appropriate today.

The La Brea fossils are given the traditional "one-by-one tar pit capture" interpretation, with no reference to the more modern opinion of La Brea paleontologists that these fossils represent a flood deposit. The Cumberland Bone Cave fossils, however, equally prolific and variegated, are frankly acknowledged as a water-laid deposit. Mention is made of the tremendous numbers of mammoth bones found in the permafrost soils of the Arctic, but with no reference to the overwhelming evidences of the rapid changes in climate and catastrophic burials involved.

Associated with this hall is an older exhibit entitled "Fossil Mammals," and another on "Fossil Fishes and Amphibians," which give the traditional evolutionary interpretations of these classes of animals. A panel discussing the processes of fossilization does state frankly that the production of fossils requires rapid burial of the organisms.

It is also significant that no attempt is made to depict "inferred intermediates" in the fossils, and it is clearly obvious from the exhibits that transitional forms have never been found. If any had been found, it is certain they would have been emphasized in the Smithsonian's transparent attempt at evolutionary propaganda. The amphibian Seymouria is portrayed, for example, as having reptilian characteristics, but without actually claiming it as the amphibian-reptilian link (no mention was made of the fact, of course, that true reptiles pre-date Seymouria). Similarly the question of a transition between fishes and amphibians was left hanging. The "lungfishes" (which still survive, of course) were said to be an evolutionary dead end, though possibly some such fish may once have flipped itself up on land to become the first amphibian. The coelacanth fish, once thought to have been ancestral to the amphibians, is not mentioned in such a connection, apparently since it is now known to be still living in the Indian Ocean.

In the Hall of "Fossil Plants and Invertebrates," now largely closed off for updating, is exhibited what is claimed to be the "oldest known fossil," in a slab from the Fig Tree Chert of South Africa, dated 3.1 billion years old. One would certainly have to be an expert to detect any real "protozoa" in this rock. In any case, there is certainly no exhibit displaying the evolutionary transition from these protozoa to the great variety of complex many-celled invertebrates of the Cambrian rocks. Nor is there any exhibit showing the marvelous evolutionary intermediates that must once have existed when invertebrates were being transmuted into vertebrates.

The Museum's Hall of Dinosaurs is now closed, while it is being converted into a completely new display which will depict "The Fossil History of Life." This will not be opened until the summer of 1980. According to the attendant at the Museum's Information Center, this will be the first time in 27 years this exhibit has been updated!

These are not the only exhibits in the Museum which promote evolution—only the most obvious. The various halls of ethnology depict cultural evolution, the dioramas of existing animals place them all in the context of their assumed evolutionary backgrounds, and the halls dealing with physical systems and processes feature the evolution of the earth and solar system.

Nor is this all. The other Smithsonian museums frequently also display an evolutionistic, anti-Biblical bias. For example, the beautiful new National Air and Space Museum repeatedly alludes to the evolution of the moon and planets, the probability of life on other worlds (though, of course, giving no evidence for this) and the great age of the universe. The long-legged, dish-footed lunar lander is exhibited, but with no mention of the fact that the anticipated thick dust layers were not encountered (the reason being, of course, that the expected dust and the costly plans developed on that assumption had been based on the supposed five-billion-year age of the moon).

In a brief visit recently to the Smithsonian museums, it was interesting to overhear the unsolicited comments of other visitors. A number of them expressed disbelief and even exasperation at the obvious non-factual evolutionary bias of certain exhibits, despite the humanistic evolutionary programming of the minds of young people that has been going on now for at least two generations.

It does seem a shame that the great Smithsonian Institution, supported by the taxes of all Americans and enjoyed by multitudes of visitors from all over the world, should be used to undermine the very principles of Biblical creationism and divine purpose on which the nation was established. In view of the fact that a significant minority (probably a majority) of the nation's citizens still believe in scientific Biblical creationism even after generations of humanistic persuasion in the schools and that a large majority at least favors the objective teaching of both models of origins in public institutions, supported by the further fact that there are now thousands of qualified scientists who have become convinced that creation is a better scientific model, it does seem high time for Smithsonian officials (as well as school officials and the legislative bodies who provide generous appropriations for all of them from our taxes) to restructure their programs to provide a fair and objective exposure of all comers to both creationism and evolutionism. Systematic forced indoctrination in the one universal religious philosophy of evolutionary humanism is contrary to all principles of freedom and justice.

The Smithsonian Museum's Hall of Dinosaurs is being converted into a new display which will depict "The Fossil History of Life."

* Dr. Henry M. Morris is the Founder and President Emeritus of the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. 1979. Evolution at the Smithsonian. Acts & Facts. 8 (12).