22 February 2011

Local storm in a teacup over evolution, continued

Previously, around Darwin Day, I learned about a local exhibition that attracted controversy in part because it featured evolution. Now, the local paper, The Monitor, is reporting more details about the exhibit.

It turns out that one local orthodontist was very much in the lead of buying this display. And it’s a nice little example of how civic projects can unfold (slightly condensed).

“I was the impetus for this thing. I pulled the levers to make it happen,” said John Gerling, a McAllen orthodontist and member of the museum’s board. For the last decade, Gerling said he’s worked with the museum to bring science exhibits to McAllen.Gerling said he stumbled across “A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us,” the now-controversial outdoor science exhibit tentatively planned for display along the hike-and-bike trail.

Gerling said he pitched the project to city leaders, including Mayor Richard Cortez.

The city commission approved the exhibit, and gave money to the museum, which purchased the exhibit, Gerling said, adding it was his project, and that he didn’t consult the museum’s board.

Funding came from the federal stimulus package, formally called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Gerling said.

Gerling said he only intended to improve local science education, and didn’t want to cause problems or irritate people with strong religious beliefs. After hearing the complaints, Gerling said he was considering how to “retask” the exhibit.

“If there’s one person who’s been educated by this exhibit, it’s me,” Gerling said.

There’s even an online version of the exhibit. It is, in my estimation, surprisingly sophisticated in the information in presents.

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