12 February 2011

In which I celebrate Darwin Day with a local storm in a teacup over evolution

Our local newspaper, The Monitor reports that a potential science exhibit got people riled up. The reason? It features evolution.

“We’re very offended by it because it’s a theory that’s being presented as fact,” said Ruth Ann Jones, president of the Westway Avenue Neighborhood Association.

Together, the panels would explain the scientific history of the universe, starting with the big bang and ending with the evolution of man.


Aside to the reporter: people evolved, not just men.

Public displays and statues and exhibits are always a source of controversy in communities. I bet that you can go to any moderately sized town, and you’ll find some statue that someone will point to and gripe, “Can you believe our town paid thousands of dollars for that ugly thing?”

I have not seen this particular exhibit. I might agree that it is an eyesore. I might agree that it should not be put up in that location. I might agree that the city shouldn’t have bought it.

A collaboration between McAllen and the International Museum of Art and Science, the exhibit cost about $100,000, said Sally Gavlik, McAllen’s director of parks and recreation. Her department has been tasked with finding a home for the exhibit, which McAllen acquired several years ago.

That is quite a bit of cash.

While most people who spoke registered their opposition to any city-endorsed exhibit explaining evolution, they also criticized the project’s aesthetic appeal and said the money could be better used improving lighting on the trail and planting vegetation.

Since the exhibit was bought years ago, saying that the money could be used for something else is almost moot point.

The price you pay for living in a tolerant, pluralistic society is that you will be presented with ideas you don’t agree with. One local politician appears to understand this:

“The city has events like La Posada and the mayor’s prayer luncheon. We start our city commission meetings with a prayer. I think to go down this path, it’s dangerous — because it’s a slippery slope,” Ingram said. “If these individuals oppose these sorts of exhibits, they’re opening the door for others to oppose La Posada, starting our meetings with a prayer and the mayor's prayer luncheon. I think that’s unfortunate because that would hurt our sense of community.”

Happy Darwin Day, everyone.

Statue photo by bastiman on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

No comments: