Regarding “Lucy” going on tour, PZ writes the following;
Just a thought, but the creationists have got it all wrong. They think we worship Charles Darwin, but actually, if there are any objects of reverence among evolutionary biologists, it would be the evidence — the bones of Lucy, of Archaeopteryx, of Tiktaalik, the little trilobite in shale that I keep by my hand at my office desk.
Some days I swear that if I hear the word “Darwinism” or “Darwinist” one more time I’m going to scream; Charles Darwin was an exceptionally smart and unusual man, but I do not keep a little shrine next to my bed with a copy of On the Origin of Species that I read passages from every night before going to bed or anything of that sort. If there is anything that I truly have come to love and cherish in terms of evolution, it has been seeing the various forms of life that attest to it. The Berlin Archaeopteryx specimen is finer than any work of art, an Amur tiger roaring on a cold February morning more impressive than any poem… there is simply no way for me to look at the various life on earth, past and present, and think that they are not united by ancient ancestry and divided by processes that continually provide new reasons for excitement.
Even if certain fossils or organisms lose their privileged status as ancestors to other forms (and especially to us), they are no less amazing or beautiful. They are all complete in their own time, never quite finished in geologic time, “endless forms most beautiful” without question. I hate to make the religious analogy, but if I had my own place of worship it would be the fourth floor of the American Museum of Natural History. While many of the original fossils have been replaced with sturdy fiberglass replicas, a number of the real skeletons are still on display, the bones of creatures long-gone towering over the heads of all. Walking amongst the monstrous and terrible forms, I can’t help but sport a smile; I am among giants otherwise separated from me by a gulf of over 65 million years. Their bones correspond to my bones; we may have missed each other by a long shot, but we share a relative that provided us both with a wonderful body plan that has been carried through the rise and fall of many an evolutionary dynasty.
While it was remodeled in the mid-1990’s and will likely undergo future changes and renovations, I will never forget my first visit to the great Dinosaur Halls, awkwardly craning my head back to get a full view of animals that my imagination could not have conceived on its own. Without this love, this amazement when confronted so forcefully with what evolution has produced, I would make a rather poor scientist indeed. Writing papers in the passive voice, making tentative qualifications about hypotheses, and spending hours pouring through technical articles may be important to the academic advancement and standardization of science, but without the inner desire to discover more about nature, what good is all that? Without at least some amount of childlike enthusiasm, how can we ever hope to continue our enterprise or even interest others in it? While paleontology is the most famous discipline in which adults are supposedly paid to act like children, I think the sometimes near-inexhaustible inquisitiveness is an important part of what makes any good scientists; without it, it’s all just another job.