Fossils with a hidden message

We thought it'd be a nice visit to a fossil exhibit... but ended up in a creationist paradise!

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I wanted to share with you a (non) scientific experience I had recently, you'll have to forgive that it is not directly related to microbiology, even if we all know that is how life started... or do we?

I recently returned to the UK with my better half and our two youngest boys from a marvelous holiday in the northern part of my beloved home country. We had a very nice ferry voyage, although left sunny Spain to be greeted by cold and wet Portsmouth -sadly, no surprise there :) ! In addition to a very recommendable visit to the National Museum of the Royal Navy, in which we saw the HMS Victory, best known for being Nelson's flagship in the battle of Trafalgar, as well as admiring a modern aircraft carrier docked nearby, we ventured into a fossil shop that proudly advertised a free exhibition. To my dismay, we soon realised we had entered a true house of horror, as the exhibit was nothing other than a creationist museum. In hindsight, the name of the place "Genesis expo" should have been a warning sign. If I wasn't so offended by what I read and saw, I would have even thought it was funny. Quite some thought must have gone into the displays, as you can see from the photos.

A Nature Genetics paper was cited to argue that we all descend from one woman! I was initially glad that my young ones are not very good readers yet, only to find that each display had an explanatory audio in at least six different languages!

I guess I should be glad that all that one of my boy's cared about was whether there truly was a dead person inside the tomb :).

It was an eye-opening experience, as I must admit that I normally stay inside my bubble and do not venture to expose myself to the "arguments" of the evolution deniers. I found it hard to believe that I had not travelled back in time!

I can only end echoing the words of Theodosius Dobzhansky, which I already quoted in my PhD Thesis on RNA virus evolution, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution". Perhaps we should make (even) more of an effort to get the message accross?

Nonia Pariente

Chief Editor, Nature Microbiology

I come from a mid-sized city on the northwestern coast of Spain. My interest in science initially took me to Madrid, where I finished university and received a PhD in molecular biology. In Madrid, I studied RNA virus evolution and new antiviral strategies with Esteban Domingo. I then moved to UCLA, where I focused on developing lentiviral vectors for gene therapy in Irvin Chen’s laboratory. In 2007, I made the plunge from bench to desk and joined the EMBO Reports editorial team as Reviews Editor, becoming Scientific Editor two years later and Senior Editor in 2012. At EMBO Reports, I was responsible for microbiology and immunology, among other areas, and spent many years expanding my understanding and love for all things microbial. In the summer of 2015, I joined the Nature Microbiology editorial launch team, handling all things related to virology and mycology (and for a brief while parasitology) and -after a couple of stints covering microbiology at Nature- I became the Chief Editor of Nature Microbiology in 2019. I look forward to interacting with the community and providing a venue to publish the most important advances in the field.


Go to the profile of Ben Johnson
over 4 years ago

Scary stuff! I can remember being "taught" about creationism in my religious education class at school. They started with a video of The Flintstones with humans and dinosaurs living together... which wasn't very convincing even to my 11 year old self. 

Our science class stuck to the evidence, but some children were allowed to skip this lesson as their parents didn't want them to hear about evolution. I hope things have improved since then, but perhaps they have not!