Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The superstitious and their discomfort with science

This just plain shouldn't be happening.

Famed paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey is giving no quarter to powerful evangelical church leaders who are pressing Kenya's national museum to relegate to a back room its world-famous collection of hominid fossils showing the evolution of humans' early ancestors.

Leakey called the churches' plans "the most outrageous comments I have ever heard."

He told The Daily Telegraph (London): "The National Museums of Kenya should be extremely strong in presenting a very forceful case for the evolutionary theory of the origins of mankind. The collection it holds is one of Kenya's very few global claims to fame and it must be forthright in defending its right to be at the forefront of this branch of science." Leakey was for years director of the museum and of Kenya's entire museum system.

The museum's collections include the most complete skeleton yet found of Homo erectus, the 1.7-million-year-old Turkana Boy unearthed by Leakey's team in 1984 near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.

The museum also holds bones from several specimens of Australopithecus anamensis, believed to be the first hominid to walk upright, four million years ago. Together the artifacts amount to the clearest record yet discovered of the origins of Homo sapiens.
What do the bible-thumpin' fundies want?

Leaders of Kenya's Pentecostal congregation, with six million adherents, want the human fossils de-emphasized.

"The Christian community here is very uncomfortable that Leakey and his group want their theories presented as fact," said Bishop Bonifes Adoyo, head of the largest Pentecostal church in Kenya, the Christ is the Answer Ministries.

"Our doctrine is not that we evolved from apes, and we have grave concerns that the museum wants to enhance the prominence of something presented as fact which is just one theory," the bishop said.
And then, how the Kenyan museums view the situation...

"We have a responsibility to present all our artifacts in the best way that we can so that everyone who sees them can gain a full understanding of their significance," said Ali Chege, public relations manager for the National Museums of Kenya. "But things can get tricky when you have religious beliefs on one side, and intellectuals, scientists, or researchers on the other, saying the opposite."
Tricky situation?! No, it isn't. PZ Myers puts it quite succinctly. (emphasis mine)

This is not a tricky situation at all. There is no rational reason we should respect "religious beliefs" as equals to the evidence and ideas of "intellectuals, scientists, or researchers". This false equivalence, supported by the people who claim to be defending science, lies precisely at the root of the problem. Museums should never have to defer to myths and superstition—so why is this even a controversy?
Let me add to that...

Make no mistake about it, the Christ is the Answer Ministries, despite indiginous preachers, is the result of exported religion from North America and, in this case, specifically Canada. The CITAM was formerly known as the Nairobi Pentacostal Church and came into existence as a result of missionary proselytizing by the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.

The only thing tricky here is some group of brainwashed fundamentalist freaks trying to impose their superstitious beliefs in a place where it doesn't belong. Possessing a complete lack of evidence to support their own position, they want evidence which challenges their christian fable-based faith hidden away.

The mere suggestion that superstitious belief should be given some sort of equal platform in a place of science and research is offensive, not just because it has no basis in anything close to fact, but because it's all a one way street with these clowns.

Tell you what, all you religious freaks. I'll make a deal with you.

You can stick your bogus, superstitious crap in a museum when you do the following:

1. Give up your tax-free status and start charging admission for your services.

2. Allow me into your churches and present your congregations with a picture of a dark-skinned, wirey-haired, hooked nose individual who, to almost everybody, would look very Arabic. And, you have to let me tell everyone present that that is probably a closer representation of the true appearance of Jesus of Nazareth. He was a middle-eastern, native-born Jew - not a long-haired middle-ages European.

3. After I've done the picture, I'm allowed to read this to your congregation.

4. I am allowed to ask every member and all the faith professing leaders of your church where they find in the Roman record, any source which provides information suggesting that Jesus of Nazareth, a rebel, was crucified by the Romans. They recorded all the others!

5. While we're on the subject of crucifiction, I am allowed to point out that the popular christianized version of a Roman cross is a complete falsehood. Roman crucifiction involved a stake with a point at the top. The cross-bar had a bored gudgeon centered along its length which rested on the top of the pole and was then lashed in place. It didn't look like a cross; it looked like a capital T.

6. While we're on the subject of "crosses", I'm allowed to tell your congregation how many times I've been offered a piece of the "true cross" from Ankara to Bethlehem. By rough reckoning the pieces of "true cross" available in the world constitutes enough petrified wood to build a small cruise ship.

7. I can also point out to your congregation that it was a practice under Jewish law to hang offenders, who had been stoned to death, from a pole. Yet, we have information in your own bible (Acts 10:39) in which Peter describes the execution of Jesus as having taken place on the ground and then being hung from a tree.

No, you don't get to mess with science until you sort out the mess from which you extract your religion.

You want to practice your superstition - fine. I couldn't care less. Play with poison snakes if you like.

You don't like what's in a museum - don't pay admission and don't look at the artifacts.

Kindly keep your religions where they belong - to yourselves.

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