Many scientists unhappy about Lucy tour

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24 Responses to “Many scientists unhappy about Lucy tour”

  1. Dirk says:

    “Love the quote: “She deserves to be on the world stage for all to see…”

    She is already on display on the world stage – in Ethopia – which, surprisingly, is part of the world.”

    While Ethiopia is indeed part of the world, visitors to the National Museum in Addis Ababa will see a replica on display. The real Lucy has been on display twice since she was discovered. Otherwise, she remains accessible only to scientists, not to the general public.

    The decision to allow Lucy to travel was made by the Ethiopian government. This decision mirrors those made by other governments in Africa and Europe to allow the public display of original hominid fossils.

    One final thought: were the same concerns expressed in 2003 when Spain sent original fossils to the US?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps the scientists are afraid that Lucy will fall prey to the insidious and growing trend of illicit paleontological pornography:

    http:electricstorytime.blogspot.com/2007/02/dirty-bones.html

  3. Jacquilynne says:

    It seems slightly bizarre to me that something that’s managed to survive without our loving care for some 3 million years now needs to be kept in an air conditioned room where no one without a PhD can see it.

  4. oscarstrok says:

    Having the spark of archeology ignited for me in the early 80′s via “LUCY: The Beginnings of Humankind” (and to a lesser degree Indiana Jones, yes, lesser) I couldn’t be happier Lucy is traveling for folks like me, who have been transfixed on those old bones for decades, to see. We all understand there are politics involved, but Lucy transcends politics and to a certain degree science and should be viewed as a work of Art. Art travels for all to see, or so it should imho. Is there a danger? Certainly. Art as this should be seen by all those willing, regardless of the politics.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why didn’t they just steal it and bring it here when they first discovered it?

  6. Flying Squid says:

    Since her uncovered skeleton is actually a former skeleton which has been replaced by the stuff that fossilized it, isn’t the Smithsonian cast just as ‘real’ as the one that was dug up?

    (Note: I’m not a scientician)

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think anything the Houston museum does should be viewed as suspect. The lobby boasts a large placard of donors who are nearly all oil companies. Their “energy” section preaches the gospel of oil. I’m not saying Lucy has anything to do with oil, just that the Houston museum often has their priorities screwed up.

  8. SarahInBrooklyn says:

    FYI, it’s Donald Johanson, not Johansen, who co-wrote “Lucy: the Beginnings of Humankind”. The other co-author was Maitland Edey.

  9. kittywumpuss says:

    As an anthropologist, I was both delighted to hear that Lucy would be touring the US as well as sceptical. I had suspicion that a cast would be touring and the original bones would remain safely in their vault. Knowing that the Smithsonian has refused the exhibit suggests that these are the real bones.

    Those who claim political reasons for protesting are missing the point. The bones are an irreplaceable part of the fossil record. The museums are rejecting the exhibit to protect this piece of history. Other Australopithecus bones have been found, more complete skeletons have been found since lucy. she is simply the first most complete. It is her fame that is drawing so many people. The fact that other Australopithecus fossils have been found does not mean that lucy is less irreplaceable, we have so few fossils of the human record that each is irreplaceable.

    It is most likely that she is being brought to the US for political reasons, including to provide proof of evolution. However, the rejection of the exhibit is to protect the scientific record.

  10. David Pescovitz says:

    Fixed. Thanks, Sarah!

  11. Anonymous says:

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  12. Kaz says:

    I remember hearing about this on NPR. Imagine my surprise when I got home, opened up this month’s Smithsonian Magazine, and saw a full-page ad for the tour.

    Apparently, they are against the tour, but not against taking the tour’s money…

  13. DaveX says:

    I was half-expecting the furor to be over displaying Lucy without all her clothes on– it IS the South, you know…

  14. Heteromeles says:

    Personally, I wish the scientists would be allowed to lock up the bones and send casts on display.

    Now, I was lucky enough to have Dr. Tim White (one of Lucy’s co-discoverers) as an anthropology prof, and we got to look at a really, really good copy of Lucy in lab. In fact, it was so good that I thought I was looking at the original (silly me). It was also under glass, much as shown above.

    The point is, unless you can handle the bones, it’s really difficult to tell a good copy from the original, especially if said fossil is under glass and you’re standing several feet away. In fact, if Ethiopia has any brains, they’ve sent out a copy, and the original fossil is still quietly locked up.

    So far as the public is concerned, it’s very difficult to determine the authenticity of a fossil display, unless you get to touch the bones. The only reason to send an original out is the cachet of originality, which is primarily intended to drive up ticket sales. Given the fragility of many fossils and their continued use to science, I’d be happier if they displayed copies, and kept the originals safe.

  15. vonpokemon says:

    I agree that a copy is all that is necessary for this tour. We all grew up admiring the copies of dinosaur fossils, so I don’t understand why the originality of the fossil is such a big marketing gimmick. Personally, I think there should be multiple copies made. Then anyone in any city could learn from Lucy and others like her. As it is, I now have to check the tour schedule to see if it’s coming to Phoenix. What is this? A Van Halen reunion tour? Geez.

  16. I Am Dali says:

    The most telling part of the story is:

    “She will serve as a unique goodwill ambassador for her country and bring greater [bla bla]”

    Yes a great and unique goodwill ambassador, millions of years dead, unspeaking and unseeing.

    I believe The West has reached a new level of sincerity concerning African diplomacy.

  17. 54N71460 says:

    what you got against the girl with kaleidoscope eyes?

  18. Anonymous says:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/15185282@N00/1288382692/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/15185282@N00/1288378266

    I went and talked to the protesters briefly on the first day of the exhibit. They were most emphatic about the cost paid by the Houston Museum of Nat. Science to get Lucy out of Ethiopia and that it went to the “corrupt rulers” of the country (my paraphrasing).

    “So, it’s like ‘Conflict Diamonds’, going to see the exhibit?”

    And the one guy I was talked to agreed emphatically.

    So, part of this is political.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Why are these fossils going to a part of the world where so many people believe human kind is less than 20,000 years old? Perhaps Lucy’s 3 million year legacy will be help parts of the US South to evolve.

  20. stephendv says:

    Love the quote: “She deserves to be on the world stage for all to see…”

    She is already on display on the world stage – in Ethopia – which, surprisingly, is part of the world.

  21. 54N71460 says:

    and the diamonds? who stole the diamonds?

  22. Halloween Jack says:

    It seems slightly bizarre to me that something that’s managed to survive without our loving care for some 3 million years now needs to be kept in an air conditioned room where no one without a PhD can see it.

    As a matter of fact, only 40% of Lucy’s skeleton managed to survive, even when it was buried and protected from exposure to the elements, and the fact that a fossil that’s less than half complete is such a rare and precious specimen should give you an idea of how fragile these things are.

  23. 54N71460 says:

    (from the sky)

  24. Antinous says:

    The Best Little PaleoWhorehouse in Texas.

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