11.16.2005

Darwin Works



NY Museum Says Darwin's Theory Never More Relevant

from Reuters

NEW YORK - Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is nearly 150 years old and under fresh attack, but thanks to him scientists today understand the danger bird flu poses to humans, curators of a new Darwin exhibit say.

"Without his insights, we would fail to appreciate the dangerous potentials of rapid evolution in the avian flu virus," Michael Novacek, curator of paleontology at the museum, told a news conference on Tuesday.

The show chronicling the life of Darwin and his work opens on November 19 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York with original manuscripts, live Galapagos tortoises, orchids, personal effects, and fossil specimens Darwin collected during his five-year voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.

The deadly H5N1 avian influenza first infected birds, has mutated, and is known to have killed 64 people in Asia. Health experts say it is crucial to control the virus' spread in birds to prevent more people from becoming infected.

Darwin's theory, published in The Origin of the Species in 1859, says that all life evolves according to natural selection and is constantly changing.

"As we seek new cures for disease and means to avert bioterrorism, Darwin's work remains vitally important," said Ellen Futter, the museum's president.

Intelligent design has been proposed as an alternative to evolution. The theory holds that some aspects of nature are so complex they must be the work of an unnamed creator. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania voters
ousted a local school board that required a statement on intelligent design to be read in biology classes prior to the teaching of evolution. A new slate promising to remove the concept from science classes was elected.

The Darwin exhibit, which runs through May 29, 2006, was planned more than three years ago, before the national debate over intelligent design and evolution heated up.

In a nod to the debate, sections of the exhibit address the controversy Darwin's book stirred when it was published and a timeline detailing protests through 2005.

The exhibit will travel to museums in Toronto, Chicago, London and Boston.

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