Challenged by Creationists, Museums Answer Back
ITHACA, N.Y. - Lenore Durkee, a retired biology professor, was volunteering as a docent at the Museum of the Earth here when she was confronted by a group of seven or eight people, creationists eager to challenge the museum exhibitions on evolution.
They peppered Dr. Durkee with questions about everything from techniques for dating fossils to the second law of thermodynamics, their queries coming so thick and fast that she found it hard to reply.
After about 45 minutes, "I told them I needed to take a break," she recalled. "My mouth was dry."
That encounter and others like it provided the impetus for a training session here in August. Dr. Durkee and scores of other volunteers and staff members from the museum and elsewhere crowded into a meeting room to hear advice from the museum director, Warren D. Allmon, on ways to deal with visitors who reject settled precepts of science on religious grounds.
Similar efforts are under way or planned around the country as science museums and other institutions struggle to contend with challenges to the theory of evolution that they say are growing common and sometimes aggressive.