We’re only human

By on August 5, 2015

After months of anticipation, the Smithsonian-curated exhibit on the question of human origins opened on Saturday at the Ephrata Public Library.

The exhibit, “What does it mean to be human?”  uses a series of panels, monitors, films, and other visuals to offer a timeline from Neanderthal to  modern man.

Joy Ashley, Ephrata Public Library director of development, said the exhibit, which runs from July 30 to Aug.25, kicked off July 29 with a private tour for local clergy, who don’t necessarily agree with the science presented.

Steve Landis of Lititz speaks at a panel discussion on the Smithsonian-curated exhibit on the question of human origins Saturday at the Ephrata Public Library.

Steve Landis of Lititz speaks at a panel discussion on the Smithsonian-curated exhibit on the question of human origins Saturday at the Ephrata Public Library.

“What it did was start a conversation,” Ashley said. “And that is exactly what we wanted because, of course, the whole theme of the exhibit is the question of what does it mean to be human.”

Mankind is broken down in the exhibit with a photo of skulls from different time periods that show how we evolved. The study of human genetics shows how closely related humans are to other primates.

There was a 10 a.m. meeting Saturday which was expected to evoke strong feelings and opinions. Much of the previous public comments on social media were positive, but some had been laden with debate and concern, so much so that the library felt it must address the concerns and dispel some misperceptions and answer the most frequently asked questions.

The Saturday morning event, which drew about 50 people, was led by  Drs. Connie Bertka and  Jim Miller, co-chairs of the Smithsonian Institution’s Broader Social Impacts Committee.

The discussion is a “community conversation and all viewpoints welcome,” said Penny Talbert, library director.

Lititz resident Benjamin Francis noted the separation between religion and science on the question of human origin: “You can’t say these ideas can be meshed together, because they really can’t be.”

Steve Landis, also from Lititz said, “I don’t think religion and science should ever be separated.”

“I think God made everything,” he added. “It’s our job to be the little kid who takes it all apart and tries to figure out how it works. That’s what science is supposed to be,” he said.

The discussion on religious and scientific views of the creation or evolution of our species lasted about 90 minutes.

But, for the most part, visitors to the library, such as Dave Gallagher, appeared to be open-minded about the exhibit.

“Accepting evolution does not require abandoning one’s faith,” Gallagher wrote on The Ephrata Review’s Facebook Page.

Tina Thompson said the Smithsonian exhibit is what she expected to see “as a scientific exhibit.”

“It is well displayed. Although, this does not go along with what I believe,” Thompson said. “I believe we can all ask ourselves the question ‘What does it mean to be human?’ It means many different things to many different people.”

Thompson said you should not expect one’s answer to always be “the same as someone else’s.”

“I would not expect to see this exhibit in a place of worship, that is where I would then have an issue,” she said. “However, at a public library which also house’s books of many different belief’s, I think it is appropriate.

Linda Suarez Baer, who describes her family as “Christian believers,” attended the Thursday evening session.

“Nothing that was presented made us doubt our faith,” she said. “The exhibit and the presenters were very respectful and did not try to evangelize their beliefs.”

Patrick Burns is a staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455

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