Adelaide Atheists Succeed in Bringing Museum’s Evolution Exhibit Back

In the 19th century, Adelaide was nicknamed “the City of Churches,” not so much for its many houses of worship, but for its variety of beliefs and denominations. Adelaide was established by Protestants who wanted to be free from the clutches of the Church of England, and they understood that others might like the same freedom of conscience.

It’s fertile ground for atheists, who find both a climate of relative tolerance and a population still largely in the throes of superstition.

Enter Atheists SA (South Australia), an organization of rationalists founded by Brian Morris. He’s already made enough waves that Britain’s the Guardian newspaper gave the group some lovin’ a couple of weeks ago.

This week, Morris and his godless compadres are back in the news with a small victory: they’ve been pressuring the South Australian Museum to bring back a display on evolution that quietly disappeared five years ago — and after three years of talking to foot-dragging museum officials, they’ve finally prevailed.

“The display was dismantled in 2008 and never put back,” says Morris. “[Adelaide's] is the only state capital museum in Australia not to have a display on evolution.”

Or rather, was, he told me in an e-mail:

After five years they conceded it’s not a bad idea, so [over the weekend] they installed a small display, just one meter by three meters. … Better than nothing.”

More good news may come down the pike:

“We’ve been told this interim museum display is a precursor to a more substantial exhibition on human evolution. Let’s hope it’s not another three years before the South Australian Museum comes into line with other Australian museums on this important subject.”

According to a national study, almost 1 in 4 Australians (23 percent) reject Darwinian science and the human fossil record.

A museum exhibit probably won’t change that, but neither will it let Creationism go unchallenged.

(cartoon by Jos Valdman)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • corps_suk

    What a wierd thing to not have in a science museum?
    Imagine a planetarium without gravity?
    Or a geology exhibit without plates?
    Or a medical exhibit without germs?

    Sort of makes one sad that in the 21st century these are the battles we are fighting. Instead of fighting for new knowledge and new advancements we have to spend time fighting for people to accept 19th century concepts that have been proven beyond doubt to the science community.

  • Atheist for human rights

    The Egyptian Revolution disproves every ignorant trope this blog and the bigoted New Atheist movement in general has pushed about Muslims. You have millions of Muslims rejecting extremism.

    Egypt is one of the most educated countries in the Arab world so a theocracy would have never lasted long. And that is precisely why certain peoples are more religious than others: education. Not the religion they subscribe to. There are just as many ignorant hateful things in the Torah as in the Koran, if not more. But you don’t hear Islamaphobic New Atheists saying Judaism is inherently evil like Islam. The difference is entirely a result of socio economic status and education.

    As Muslim countries become more developed and more educated you will see more of Egypt and less of Saudia Arabia.

    • PaulKLittlefield

      What a random comment to add to a story about a museum in Australia.

      • Atheist for human rights

        Random in a vacuum. In context of the blog it was posted on, no it wasn’t. This is one of the leading blogs involved in minimizing/denying islamaphobia in the New Atheist movement.

        • WillBell

          If by that you mean that this is one of the leading blogs promoting tolerance towards all people by/including atheists I agree with you wholeheartedly. However it is fairly obvious that is not what you’re saying.

          Its not like ‘New Atheists’ have some sort of propaganda wing.

        • PaulKLittlefield

          Then why not reply to a blog post that is minimizing or denying islamophobia? Wouldn’t that make more sense? Point out the problem you see where you see it, and raise the level of discussion. Let’s address the issue where it arises, and work to improve things.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          citation other than your ass please

    • C Peterson

      Last time I checked, the vast majority of anti-Muslim rhetoric is coming from Christians. It isn’t atheists who are pushing anti-Muslim laws into place around the U.S.

      Anti-religion atheists (a subset) feel all religion is harmful, and speak freely about the specific problems unique to different religions.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      I will come out and say that, yes, Judaism is as much inherently evil as Islam.

      • Atheist for human rights

        Notice how no one on this blog upvoted you

        • Quintin van Zuijlen

          Notice how I don’t care.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Notice how that whiner is too stupid to realize that a post made on the Fourth of July doesn’t get read by many people…

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              I just fucking wish the ones who say “You’d never criticize Islam like you do Christianity because you’re scared” would get in a room with the ones who say “You minimize/deny Islamaphobia”

              After they figure it out they can get back to the rest of us with whether we hate/fear Muslims enough.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                Then they could go compare notes with the ones who think we have too much/not enough sex, whichever is convenient.

              • Quintin van Zuijlen

                He’s complained about islamophobia on the new atheist thread by now. It seems he just doesn’t care. We’re somehow simultaneously

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  I skipped that one. I figured “What could be new?”

  • michael both

    As an Adelaide lad – now living temporarily overseas – this is bloody good news!

  • advancedatheist

    According to a national study, almost 1 in 4 Australians (23 percent) reject Darwinian science and the human fossil record.

    Eh, I don’t know why some atheists want everyone to believe in evolution. Does it make any practical difference what a supermarket clerk believes about human origins?

    • Jansen Waddell

      Those supermarket clerks teach their children to distrust science. No good can come of that, can it?

    • Makoto

      For me it’s about school in a roundabout way. What people believe determines who they vote for, which in turn shows up in school boards. It’s very important that the kids are taught science correctly, since they are our future.

    • Terry Firma

      Does it matter if we let ignorance engulf us?

      Yes. Yes it does.

      • Guest

        Yeah, it does. For the same reason we don’t want people believing the Earth is flat or that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

        • randomfactor

          Or that “global warming” is a hoax.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Yeah, it does. For the same reason we don’t want people believing the Earth is flat or that the Sun revolves around the Earth. .

    • ZeldasCrown

      The problem is that many of the people who don’t “believe” (I put that in quotations because I don’t think evolution is something you believe in, more that you agree that it is correct) in evolution are in positions of power-I’ve read articles about member of the Senate or House science committee don’t believe in evolution. This is very bad, as they are in a position to cripple scientific research and they clearly don’t understand a thing about how science works.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      The world is becoming more dependent every day on a steady flow of solid, reliable science. We don’t need more supermarket clerks. We need more scientists, and more people who appreciate the importance of science, and who are well informed about how it works.

      There’s nothing wrong with being a supermarket clerk IF that’s your full potential. Live your life, enjoy your friends, and take care of your family as best you can. BUT if you have the intelligence to be a mathematician, physicist, engineer, medical researcher, biologist, sociologist, or anything that can help society progress and improve, then remaining a supermarket clerk is not a good thing.

      Clinging to ancient myths to explain the world around us creates an attitude of rejecting scientific explanations in particular, and rational thinking in general. For the last several decades, the U.S. has steadily fallen behind many other countries in student performance in math, science, and technology in great part because of the anti-intellectual, anti-educational, and anti-science attitudes of a huge portion of the public. Much of that is fostered by a single superstition, Creationism.

      Many religious parents don’t prioritize or encourage higher education for their children in part because they saw that their neighbors’ kids came back from college rejecting Creationism and accepting the theory of evolution. Those parents would rather their kid grow up to be a pious supermarket clerk than a godless scientist. “Here, Johnny, if you forget about that egghead stuff and get a job at the supermarket, we’ll help you buy a car!” So the tradition of ignorance-equals-goodness is passed on generation to generation.

      • Crazy Russian

        And some people become supermarket clerks simply because there aren’t any positions available for scientists. Government elected by ignorant people slashing scientific budget left and right certainly doesn’t help.

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          That’s a good point. We are sometimes hindered by outside obstacles rather than only by our personal handicaps. The difference for supermarket clerks who have receptive attitudes toward education in general and science in particular is that they will keep trying to advance themselves and their children when and if opportunities arise. They will also be the voters who oppose those ignorant political candidates. Ignorance encourages more ignorance, and knowledge encourages more knowledge.

      • http://thebigreason.com/ Mark Eagleton

        If there were no supermarket clerks, wouldn’t we all starve? Disclaimer: I work for a small grocery chain. The benefits are decent and the food is local, organic and fresh.

        • WoodyTanaka

          “If there were no supermarket clerks, wouldn’t we all starve?”

          No. There are self-check out kiosks.

    • Michael W Busch

      You don’t “believe in evolution”. You “understand certain facts about reality”.

      But in answer to your question: Yes, for many reasons. The most basic is that it is essential for everyone to have as accurate a picture of reality as possible. People believing wrong things artificially limits what they can do.

      But here’s one other reason others haven’t mentioned: if that clerk doesn’t understand that pathogens are constantly evolving, and crop strains need to be switched out or replaced to keep yields up, it will be impossible to correctly answer many complaints from the customers.

      For example, in North America and Europe, why the prices on many fresh fruits have gone up and supplies have gone down (colony collapse disorder killing off the bees). Or, in some other places right now. why the price of wheat flour has gone way up (Ug99 wheat rust has evolved around the resistance mechanisms in the main current commercial wheat strains, and new immune strains haven’t been widely deployed yet).

  • http://thebigreason.com/ Mark Eagleton

    I once had dinner with a man from Adelaide. He was very proud of the fact that they were one of the few cities in the world with mariijuana laws as liberal as those in Amsterdam. I wonder if that is still the case.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    According to a national study, almost 1 in 4 Australians (23 percent) reject Darwinian science and the human fossil record.

    Wow! I wish America’s numbers were that low. What’s your secret, Australia?

    • Robster

      Near total national disinterest in anthing religious.

    • TCC

      That was precisely my thought. I bet the fine folks at the NCSE would kill for that kind of acceptance.

  • Robdotcom71

    Ahhhhhhh excellent news… have not been to the museum for years. Will go and check it out while I am there…
    It’s shit like this that makes me proud to live in Radelaide… :)


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