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Smithsonian Museum's Hall of Human Origins

Page history last edited by pinkhamc@... 9 years ago

Who is this handsome man? Why, it’s Professor Emeritus Carlos Pinkham as he would have looked as a Neanderthal (what he won’t do to get head hair). With the emailed picture, he also received this message, “As a Homo neanderthalensis, you live between 200,000 and 28,000 years ago in what is now Europe and Asia. You have a very big nose, which helps you survive in cold climates by warming and humidifying cold, dry air. You bury your dead, use simple symbols, and may even speak a language.”


This email comes from one of the many fascinating interactive exhibits at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s newly-opened, David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins. Carl was privileged to be part of a small group of members of the American Scientific Affiliation who were given a private tour of the Hall by its Director, Dr. Richard Potts, on the evening of Thursday, July 29th. Dr. Potts made a special trip from his research site in Kenya to attend the annual meeting of the ASA. He took the time out of his busy research schedule partly because the ASA president, Dr. Randy Isaac, is a member of the Human Origins Initiative, Broader Social Impacts Committee, established by Dr. Potts to seriously investigate the roles of science and faith in answering the deep question, “What does it mean to be human?” Not only did Dr. Potts give a private tour, but he also spoke on the topic, “Challenges to Understanding Human Evolution in a Religious Context” in one of the plenary sessions. Another keynote speaker was Dr. Francis Collins (who, among many other accomplishments, is the current Director of the National Institutes of Health). Dr. Collins’ presentation, “Experiences of a Scientist-Christian in the Washington Fishbowl,” not only provided his insights into the topic, but also revealed the latest information on what the NIH is up to. As part of his presentation, Dr. Collins showed a hilarious video of an interview with Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report” and entertained us with a delightful song written, played, and sung by this multigifted, multimedia human. A third keynote speaker worth mentioning was Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, Chief of NASA’s Exoplanet and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory and the recently-appointed Director of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion. Jennifer spoke on “Seeking Other Earths, Exoplanets and the Significance of Life.” Jennifer is also the current President of the ASA Council.


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