The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County removed a quote that references “God’s creatures” from one of its exhibits following negative attention from a prominent evolutionary biologist and atheist.
The quote, which was placed in the museum’s Nature Lab exhibit in early December, read, “The Nature Lab is a gift to Los Angeles to celebrate all of God’s creatures and enable NHM to broaden our understanding of the natural world through the process of scientific discovery.” It was attributed to an anonymous donor, KPCC radio reported.
The museum’s removal apparently followed a blog post by Dr. Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, in which the academic lambasted the quote’s presence inside the Natural History Museum, a public institution.
“Given the quotation marks, I bet the donor insisted on the wording,” Coyne wrote. “It would be much truer, and not a possible violation of the First Amendment, to say ‘to celebrate all of evolution’s creatures.’”
He added, “First of all, it misleads the public in two ways: by giving a scientific imprimatur to the idea that animals are “God’s creatures,” and second, by not really making it plain that the quote was insisted on by the anonymous donor — if that’s the case.”
The professor emailed museum staff to voice his concerns. As it turns out, Kristin Friedrich, director of communication for the the institution, subsequently said that there were others on staff who shared concerns, KPCC reported.
“Upon further reflection and after discussion with our staff, and in conversation with the donor, the Museum has determined that acknowledging donors by including personal statements in such a manner has the potential to cause confusion,” read a statement from The Natural History Museum.
In a follow-up blog post, Coyne called the removal of the quote “a victory for secularism.”
“I don’t know what happened, but I think those of us who objected played some role in this, as I know some readers wrote to Museum officials,” he wrote. “I also suspect that some of the curators objected, and I’m pretty sure that the inquiring KPCC reporter is the same guy who was going to interview me, and his inquiries were the final blow.”
There’s no word on whether the donor who likely requested that the quote be placed in the exhibit in the first place will ask for his or her money back, though KPCC noted that the museum is communicating with the individual.
(H/T: Christian Post)
Featured image via Jerry Coyne/Why Evolution Is True Blog