Science Museum boards up display on early human migration because it is ‘non-inclusive’


It is understood the display contained a hula girl figurine – an object that has recently been criticised for presenting a stereotypical view of Polynesian people – and genetic studies relating to the San people in South Africa, who in 2017 devised a code of ethics for scientists studying them.

A spokesman for the museum said: “The How did I get here? display in the Who Am I? gallery is currently covered while curators review content that is more than a decade old relating to migration, race and genetics which no longer reflects current scientific thinking.

“We are planning to update the Who Am I? gallery on a rolling basis, where resource allows, to reflect areas where there has been fresh research or a shift in scientific understanding.”

The changes follow the earmarking of the Who Am I? gallery for updates, with The Telegraph previously revealing that a cabinet on gender differences titled “Boy Or Girl?” was also up for review following “complaints about a lack of mention of transgender”.

The proposals were criticised by Maya Forstater, executive director of campaign group Sex Matters and winner of a prominent employment tribunal relating to her “gender-critical” views, who said: “It is concerning that a place dedicated to science is being swayed by cultural trends in this way.”

Science ‘shaped by the zeitgeist’

Sir Gregory Winter, the Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist, said that influence from cultural trends was in some ways inevitable for scientific organisations

He told The Telegraph: “Science is driven mainly by scientists seeking an understanding of ourselves, our world, and our past, our present and our future. It is also driven by scientists seeking to use this information for practical and – often commercial – purposes.

“Inevitably scientists have had to engage with the public and with the zeitgeist.

“For example, science has been shaped by the zeitgeist, as in the regulations relating to embryo research and the genetic engineering of organisms. Scientists have also shaped the zeitgeist – spectacularly with climate change.

“As for museum curators, they also have to engage with the public and the zeitgeist. It is entirely possible to explain the same science in different ways to the public, and it is not unreasonable for curators to review their efforts in the light of new research or other considerations.

“As far as I am concerned, the key test for a museum exhibit is whether it represents the underlying scientific consensus in a clear and engaging manner to a wide constituency.

“I would have liked to use the word ‘truth’ rather than ‘consensus’ – but sometimes, as in evolutionary studies with sparse data, it may be impossible to establish a ‘truth’.

“Of course, organisations should not ‘pander too much’, but they should engage.”


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