Monday, June 01, 2009

Travel Log-on-a-Blog: National Museum of Natural History

Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:2

The National Museum of Natural History is one of the most popular destinations of the Smithsonian institution. A visit there will doubtless be near the top of your "must see" list if you are visiting Washington D.C. with your children. The dinosaur bones, the ocean creatures, insect zoo, and cultural artifacts have the potential to amaze and delight for hours. The museum is IMMENSE, the size of 18 football fields and to explore it thoroughly would entail a couple of days.

The crowds matched the popularity of the museum, which detracted from our enjoyment of the visit because we felt rushed and jostled. It was difficult to stand and read the information because we were always aware of others impatiently waiting their turn to get up close.

The Discovery Room was a hit with Artiste, my 10 year old daughter. In this place the children find welcome relief from the "don't touch" rules. They are invited to touch and feel everything from alligator scales to shark teeth while parents can (thankfully!) rest their feet for a few minutes.

As a Christian, I view the natural world as the handiwork of a Divine Artist. I don't expect my creationist views to be affirmed when I go into a place like this. Neither do I shield my children from the strong Darwinian thrust, because I know they are fully capable of grasping truth and sifting out falsehoods.

Fully realizing my perceptions are colored by my faith, I still offer this respectful observation. The study of the natural world in this place seemed utilitarian and without the dimension of awe-inspiring delight. Darwinian theory seemed to be emphasized at EVERY possible juncture. Case in point: we were standing beneath a large whale skeleton and looking at it from every angle. A docent zeroed in on us and in a friendly, well-meaning gesture began to tell us about whale DNA. Then he told us about hippo DNA. He ended up telling us that it appears that whales evolved from hippos.


Tell me about this skeleton. How was it engineered to maneuver the depths of the sea? Wow me with its weight and its intricacies. Delight me with facts about its owner and his habits. But p-l-e-a-s-e don't force upon me the speculations of its ancestry.

There you have it-- a very opinionated evaluation of this place! It's a true national treasure and I don't negate its value, but like the poet William Wordsworth notes so worthily in his poem, let my heart leap with wonder,
"So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!"

1 comment:

Joyful Days said...

This sounds like a great visit, even with the crowds and "opinions." We do, indeed, have a mighty creative creator.