November 21, 2005

Another great moment in corporate courage.

This past weekend in New York, a major exhibit about the life and work of Charles Darwin opened its doors for the first time at the American Museum of Natural History. Darwin exhibition entranceMounted in cooperation with four other science museums in the US, Canada, and UK, the exhibit is one of the most comprehensive presentations of the development of Darwin's theory of evolution and how that theory continues to affect the way that scientific research is done. Given the current possibility of an avian flu pandemic — and how evolutionary theory both explains how the flu virus mutates and guides the research into making a vaccine — the Darwin exhibit could hardly come at a better time.

Unfortunately, potential US corporate sponsors haven't been enthusiastic about the exhibit at all. Unlike most museum offerings of its size and scope, the Darwin exhibit doesn't have a single corporate sponsor. Instead, the US$ $3 million cost of the exhibit is coming out of the pockets of individuals and foundations.

Why have there been so many cases of corporate cold feet? Because US corporations are afraid of retaliation from religious fundamentalists if their corporate name is associated with Darwin and evolution.

The AMNH is coy about its failure to find corporate money to mount the exhibition, which will tour the US before moving to London's Natural History Museum in 2009 to mark the bicentenary of Darwin's birth.

Asked which companies had refused to give money, Gary Zarr, the museum's marketing director, said he would have to ask those concerned before he could identify them.

Steve Reichl, a press officer for the AMNH, said a list of forthcoming exhibitions was sent to potential sponsors and none wanted to back the Darwin exhibition. He declined to reveal which companies, or how many, had been approached.

The Bank of America previously sponsored a similar exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci and the financial services provider TIAA-CREF funded an Albert Einstein show.

A prominent Metropolitan Museum donor said: "You can understand why the Museum of Natural History might not want to admit such a thing.

"They are concerned about finding corporate funding for exhibitions in the future."

That's right: Not only are corporations afraid to sponsor an exhibit about Darwin out of fear for their bottom lines, but they're getting away with their cowardice because museum officials are afraid of risking future funding. It's nice to know that intellectual freedom is on such solid footing in the US, isn't it?

The AMNH has put up a great website to go with the Darwin exhibition. You'll find it here. We especially recommend the short film [RealVideo] about the importance of evolutionary theory to modern science.

Via UK Sunday Telegraph.

Posted by Magpie at November 21, 2005 12:53 AM | Science | Technorati links |

This is really a bad sign for our culture. The bullies have intimidated corporates that might back a show like this. And everytime they win a "victory" like this, they get more blatant in their intimidation. Jeez, you'd think the corporations would be smarter.

Of course, it does show that we on the progressive side should also be able to make the corporates follow a more ethical line: providing good health insurance for their people or helping get national health insurance passed, provide good retirement benefits for their employees or helping make the government better at providing adequate retirement benefits -- you see where this could go....

Posted by: Mary at November 21, 2005 10:17 PM