ABOUT seven years ago a mighty row a broke out when a number of powerful evangelical churches demanded that Kenya’s national museum should hide its world-famous collection of hominid bones pointing to man’s evolution from ape to human.
Bishop Bonifes Adoyo, the head of Christ is the Answer Ministries, the largest Pentecostal church in Kenya, was a key player in the effort to have Dr Richard Leakey’s ground-breaking finds relegated to a back room instead of being given their usual prime billing.
The collection includes the most complete skeleton yet found of Homo erectus, the 1.7 million-year-old Turkana Boy unearthed by Dr Leakey’s team in 1984 at Nariokotome, near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.
Adoyo was quoted at the time as saying:
The Christian community here is very uncomfortable that Leakey and his group want their theories presented as fact. Our doctrine is not that we evolved from apes, and we have grave concerns that the museum wants to enhance the prominence of something presented as fact which is just one theory.
Adoyo said all the country’s churches would unite to force the museum to change its focus when it reopened after 18 months of renovations.
We will write to them, we will call them, we will make sure our people know about this and we will see what we can do to make our voice known.
Adoyo was criticised in 2007 for stating that whilst on his death bed, Charles Darwin “expressed surprise that people believed his theory”. This claim, first made up by Elizabeth Hope, is regarded as false by Darwin’s family and modern historians, as well as the creationist group Answers in Genesis.
Leakey responded by saying that the churches’ plans were:
The most outrageous comments I have ever heard. The National Museums of Kenya should be extremely strong in presenting a very forceful case for the evolutionary theory of the origins of mankind. The collection it holds is one of Kenya’s very few global claims to fame and it must be forthright in defending its right to be at the forefront of this branch of science.
Calling the Pentecostal church “fundamentalists”, Dr Leakey added:
Their theories are far, far from the mainstream on this. They cannot be allowed to meddle with what is the world’s leading collection of these types of fossils.
The museum’s public relations manager Ali Chege, said it was in:
A tricky situation. We have a responsibility to present all our artefacts in the best way that we can so that everyone who sees them can gain a full understanding of their significance. But things can get tricky when you have religious beliefs on one side, and intellectuals, scientists or researchers on the other, saying the opposite.
Well, it now seems that the evangelicals have lost the battle. According to this report more and more Kenyan youngsters are being taught about evolution. But Fredrick Kyalo Manthi, head of the paleontology section at National Museums of Kenya, indicated that religion still poses a problem:
There have been challenges in teaching evolution, largely because of the religious teachings on creation, which are deeply entrenched.
Tend to disregard the scientific explanation that all biological species, including humans, have generally evolved from simple forms to complex forms.
Primary school teacher Manasseh Maina agreed:
It’s a challenge. When you start explaining evolution to children, if you don’t have concrete things it can seem very unreal But it also contradicts what the Bible says on how God created the world.