For a long time the cultural war over evolution was relegated to courtrooms and classrooms. But increasingly the battle is being waged on an unexpected front — the natural history museum. Traditional museums continue with their business of explaining evolution, but have become a bit more explicit in their support of the theory than in the past. After putting its Darwin exhibit on the road to Boston, New York’s American Museum of Natural History opened a new Hall of Human Origins in April. The Texas Memorial Museum will soon be the latest home of the traveling “Explore Evolution” exhibit. And in Chicago, the Field Museum’s “Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries” runs through September, “Darwin” until January. Meanwhile, this year also saw the opening of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Among other claims, the museum proffers that the Earth is just 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs walked with humans.

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It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many. Jim said the moon could ‘a’ laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn’t say nothing against it, because I’ve seen a frog lay most as many, so of course it could be done.

—Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Were we made, or did we just happen? Huckleberry Finn and his traveling companion Jim drew upon the evidence they saw in the sky above them, and the world around them, arriving at a mutual conclusion on the nature of the universe…. More…