Changing Life: Species change through time and give rise to new species. As the earth changes, so must the organisms that live on it. The plants and animals that adapt to their changing environments pass along these successful traits to their descendants over millions of years. This is the theory of evolution.
Sounds reasonable. Except, unfortunately, it is not the “theory of evolution” that is typically inflicted on the public.
The Darwin lobby doesn’t like this sort of definition because it leaves mechanism (especially their favourite God-like mechanism, natural selection acting on random mutation as the cause of almost all development in life forms) out of the picture.
The museum is wise to avoid prostrating itself before the Darwin lobby. We really have no idea how much evolution has occurred by horizontal gene transfer, epigenetic change, chromosome doubling, convergence on a common target, genetic drift within a boundary fixed by external circumstances, etc. We just do not know at this point.
The only danger in even drawing attention to the Tyrrell’s explanation of evolution is that a horde of Darwin’s faithful will write to demand that the wording be amended to reflect their belief system. Let’s hope the lobby is too busy hounding some neurosurgeon or or other to go after the museum.
Someone reminded me recently of ID godfather Phillip Johnson’s approach:
If somebody asks, “Do you believe in evolution?” the right reply is not “Yes” or “No.” It is: “Precisely what do you mean by evolution?” My experience has been that the first definition I get will be so broad as to be indisputable—like “There has been change in the course of life’s history.” Later on a much more precise and controversial definition will be substituted without notice. That one word evolution can mean something so tiny it hardly matters, or so big it explains the whole history of the universe. Keep your baloney detector trained on that word. If it moves, zap it! (Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, 1997)
Before it zaps you.