The Natural History Museum (London) — a Temple to Darwinism, Part 2

This article is part of a series which will argue that this institution, which was once a science Museum, has been turned into a quasi-religious institution, promoting the faith of Darwinism. If you haven’t already read part 1, please do so before continuing.

1981 was a significant year in my story for two reasons. Firstly, this was the centenary of the Museum, which celebrated by opening an exhibition on Darwinism. Upon entering the hall, the first thing the visitor saw was a notice:

“Have you ever wondered why there are so many different kinds of living things? One idea is that all the living things we see today have EVOLVED from a distant ancestor by a process of gradual change. How could evolution have occurred? How could one species change into another? The exhibition in this hall looks at one possible explanation — the explanation first thought of by Charles Darwin”.

Later in the exhibition a poster said: “Another view is that God created all living things perfect and unchanging”. (all italics mine)

It would seem, therefore, that the exhibition was an example of what all science should be, open-minded and objective, on this occasion possibly beyond the call of duty. Was this a hint that it was articulating the split between the co-founders of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Darwin and Alfred Wallace, the latter going on to believe in God and Intelligent Design (although he did also believe in evolution)?¹

Colin Patterson

1981 was also important because it was the year when Colin Patterson, a senior paleontologist at the Museum, caused something of a stir when he read a paper at the American Museum of Natural History, New York². Here are some significant quotes:

  • “Last year I had a sudden realization. For over twenty years I had thought that I was working on evolution in some way. One morning I woke up, and something had happened in the night, and it struck me that I had been working on this stuff for twenty years, and there was not one thing I knew about it. That was quite a shock, to learn that one can be so misled for so long”.
  • “I woke up and I realized that all my life I had been duped into taking evolutionism as revealed truth in some way”.
  • Following this revelation, for several weeks he “tried putting a simple question to various people and groups of people. The question is this: Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing, any one thing that you think is true?” “I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History, and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time”. “The absence of an answer seems to suggest that it is true, evolution does not convey any knowledge, or if so, I haven’t yet heard it.”
  • “Now I think many people in this room would acknowledge that during the last few years, if you had thought about it at all, you’ve experienced a shift from evolution as knowledge to evolution as faith. I know that’s true of me, and I think it’s true of a good many of you in here.”

I’m not aware to what extent, if any, Patterson was involved in the preparations for the 1981 exhibition. As he did not retire until 1993, it is reasonable to assume that he made a contribution.

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I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics, and astrology. All these articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here).

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Footnotes:

1. For details, please see:

2. There is some controversy about the talk. Apparently a Creationist recorded it, then transcribed it, making some errors. I believe, however, that the following quotes accurately represent Patterson’s thinking.

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Graham Pemberton

Graham Pemberton

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I am a singer/songwriter interested in spirituality, politics, psychology, science, and their interrelationships. grahampemberton.com spiritualityinpolitics.com