We spent today visiting Mexico City's Museo Nacional de Antropologia, one of the world's great museums. Most of its vast space is devoted to displays of the artifacts of the ancient peoples and civilizations that occupied the territory of modern Mexico before the European conquest. The collection is astonishing, educational, and wondrous. See it if you can.
But what I enjoyed most was the no-bullshit presentation of human evolution. Mexican anthropologists don't seem to have to bother with fighting off creationists -- and they aren't about to let their young people get any less than scientific ideas about humans. From the text setting the scene in the introductory gallery:
The museum makes no bones about showing hominids of the era of "Lucy" -- the ancient skeleton found at Olduvai Gorge in the Rift Valley in Tanzania -- living alongside, and looking much like, great apes.
And the museum does not limit its portrayal of evolution to physical features. Evolution has created new relationships, a new shape to the world ecosystem.
This lovely figure is supposed to represent another of those early hominids.
I can't imagine that a U.S. museum would so matter-of-factly include a human birth among its vignettes of our ancestors.
The room devoted to setting the evolutionary context of human pre-history concludes with a wonderful electronic display in which a whole wall is covered with pictures of skulls that morph into human faces of both sexes and every racial group. The visitor is pointed on toward the artifact displays with these words:
I wish very much that more people in the U.S. could be exposed to such an uncompromising understanding that, whatever we humans may be and aspire to be spiritually, our species is the marvelous product of the interactions of our material, social and physical history and circumstances. We are not diminished by seeing the truth of our evolutionary history.