The Edge of Humanity

Lucy went on display today at the [Houston Museum of Natural Science](, and there was no way I could resist paying her a visit. I went in to the exhibit with very mixed feelings about it. A lot of people, including quite a few scientists I respect, have been extremely vocal in their opposition to the exhibit. Richard Leakey [called the trip]( "a form of prostitution" and "a gross exploitation of the ancestors of humanity." Several museums have [refused]( to display the fossil, and the Ethiopian community [is calling]( for a boycott of the exhibit.

Their concerns are hardly unreasonable. Lucy's bones are very, very old and very, very fragile. Displaying her does involve some risk, particularly in a traveling exhibition that requires packing and unpacking the bones several times. There is no other Lucy. She's unique. She's a valuable - priceless - scientific specimen. The opponents of the exhibit think that the risk to the remains is simply too great to justify the exhibit.

For all I know, they might be right. I can tell you this, though. When I walked over next to the display case and looked down at Lucy, all of those concerns evaporated from my mind, replaced by a sense of pure awe.

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