Friday, August 29, 2008

Censoring Darwin

"The team agreed the wording was poorly worded and could cause offence. We took the decision to obscure part of it rather than spend tax payers' money on a replacement."
Those are the words of a spokesman for Northampton Borough Council, explaining why a sign next to a display in Abington Park Museum was censored. The display related to Charles Darwin and fossil collecting. The third paragraph below was blacked out with tape:
In early Victorian times, most geologists still accepted the biblical view of evolution. They saw the different layers of fossil-rich rocks as telling the story of successive waves of creation, each one being obliterated by a deluge.

The young scientist Charles Darwin (right) was already beginning to question this view, but it was another 30 years before he had painstakingly put together the vast assemblage of facts and observations that enabled him to write On the Origin of Species.

He used the same layers of fossils that had supported the Genesis view of evolution to show the slow changes that are taking place over the millennia of earth history, each small change enabling a species to the rigours of it's (sic) environment – the struggle for survival through natural selection leading to the survival of the fittest.
It seems a single religious extremist complained, and the Council ordered the censoring. The censored paragraph is of course entirely true. But the feelings - the susceptibility to offence - of a religious maniac, a creationist, trumped truth.

Thanks to JuliaM in the comments of an earlier post.

UPDATE: As Julia points out in a comment, the credit should go to Unenlightened Commentary. Remiss of me.

UPDATE 2: Incidentally, anyone capable of writing "the wording was poorly worded" deserves to be dragged outside and beaten about the head with a copy of Fowler's (the original edition, to be fogeyish for a moment).


JuliaM said...

You're welcome, but thanks should really go to Ross, who blogged it first. :)

dearieme said...

I was talking to an old girl at lunch time who had taught science in a Roman Catholic school in London in the middle fifties. They rigorously censored any reference to evolution, and espoused Lamarckism. She doesn't know when doctrine, or practice, chaged.

Ross said...

Thanks to both Peter & Julia for the link.