The Health Museum in Houston, Texas, currently features an exhibit called “Surviving: The Body of Evidence” as part of a year-long celebration of Darwinian evolution. “You are a survivor―a survivor of the process of evolution,” the exhibit informs visitors, suggesting they will have an opportunity to view solid scientific evidence supporting evolutionary theory.1 But the misleading, outdated, or contrived information on display leaves much to be desired.
The exhibit was developed by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and funded largely by the National Science Foundation.2 ICR News had predicted that this exhibit would offer unsubstantiated assertions in the place of evidence,3 and it appears that assessment was accurate. Scientific observations call into question or even falsify much of the exhibit’s content.
For example, one section features the thoroughly refuted “horse evolution” story. It shows a tidy evolutionary progression of horse and horse-like legs. One heading adjacent to the display invites visitors to “Examine the clues.”4 Ironically, those familiar with the relevant fossil evidence have known for decades that “the family tree of the horse is beautiful and continuous only in the textbooks.”5 In reality, fossils of horse varieties―whether three-toed, two-toed, or single-toed―are mixed in various rock layers, showing no objective evolutionary pattern.6
Another display shows a series of fossils that supposedly depict whale evolution. But what is not revealed is that Ambulocetus, illustrated as a possible transitional “link” to the modern whale, is missing its key body part, “since the pelvic girdle is not preserved.”7 Nor did the display accurately show that another link in the sequence, Basilosaurus, was ten times larger than Ambulocetus, or that many evolutionists believe Basilosaurus does not even belong in modern whale evolutionary ancestry. Remarkably, Pakicetus was also on display. Although it was depicted as a distant whale ancestor when only skull fragments of it were known,8 more recent data shows it had four legs that were fully fitted for land-life!9
One part of the exhibit compared the human body to Australopithecines like “Lucy,” which supposedly “had a pelvis very similar to ours today, showing that she walked upright.”4 But Australopithecines Lucy have been dated as younger than known human remains, nullifying their candidacy as evolutionary ancestors.10 Also, the shoulder girdle, arm length, foot, and hand structure of Australopiths were all well specified for tree-dwelling.11
A separate section titled “An Evolutionary Issue” cited a recent change in the ages of the onset of human menstruation and changes in the patterns of tooth eruption, both presented as evidence of big-picture evolution. “We can observe changes in maturation occurring right now but we do not know the consequences of the changes in this pattern,” according to the display. But what qualifies these minor changes as “evolutionary issues” at all? Further, the question of if and when menstruation or wisdom tooth eruption happens has little bearing on determining how the myriad specifications required for human reproduction or tooth production could have come about in the first place through random natural processes.12
Rather than support big-picture evolution, this exhibit leaves more questions than answers. This array of arguments for evolution constitutes a weak and contrived case that relies more on assumptive assertions than it does on science or sound reasoning. Viewer, beware.
- Surviving: The Body of Evidence. Video. Penn Museum YouTube channel. Posted on youtube.com, December 22, 2008, accessed December 21, 2009.
- Hansen-Flaschen, L. “Surviving: The Body of Evidence” Opened at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. National Science Foundation press release, July 10, 2008.
- Thomas, B. Surviving Exhibit: Science or Indoctrination? ICR News. Posted on icr.org September 4, 2008, accessed December 21, 2009.
- Per author’s personal correspondence with Frank Mayo, President of the Greater Houston Creation Association, December 17, 2009.
- Heribert-Nilsson, N. 1954. Synthetische Artbildung. Lund, Sweden: CWK Gleerup, cited in Sunderland, L. 1988. Darwin’s Enigma: Fossils and Other Problems, 4th Ed. Santee, CA: Master Books, 81.
- Morris, J. 2008. The Mythical Horse Series. Acts & Facts. 37 (9): 13.
- Thewissen, J. G. M., S. T. Hussain and M. Arif. 1994. Fossil Evidence for the Origin of Aquatic Locomotion in Archeocete Whales. Science. 263 (5144):210-212.
- Gingerich, P. D. et al. 1983. Origin of Whales in Epicontinental Remnant Seas: New Evidence from the Early Eocene of Pakistan. Science. 220 (4595):403-406.
- Thewissen, J. G. M. et al. 2001. Skeletons of terrestrial cetaceans and the relationship of whales to artiodactyls. Nature. 413 (6853): 277-281.
- Walker, J., R. A. Cliff and A. G. Latham. 2006. U-Pb Isotopic Age of the StW 573 Hominid from Sterkfontein, South Africa. Science. 314 (5805): 1592.
- Wong, K. Footprints to Fill: Flat feet and doubts about makers of the Laetoli tracks. Scientific American, August 1, 2005, 18-19.
- For example, see Guliuzza, R. Made in His Image: Human Reproduction. Acts & Facts. 38 (1): 14.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on January 11, 2010.