Ulster Museum declines to respond to FOI request for empirical evidence

Ulster Museum
Headline and frontispiece of article in the Belfast Telegraph.

An alert reader (who must subscribe to every newspaper on the planet) alerted us to this article, Ulster Museum could end up in court over stance on evolution, by Ciaran O’Neill in the Belfast (Northern Ireland) Telegraph. It is not clear that the Ulster Museum will end up in court, but the fact is that an unnamed citizen submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for “‘empirical evidence and hard science’ used to support the museum’s ‘endorsement of the origins of the human species,’” according to the Telegraph article. Instead of, as a colleague put it, giving the person a link to the Smithsonian, the Museum evidently elected to ignore the request.

The UK, it turns out, has an Information Commissioner, and the citizen complained to the Commission. Without going into detail, the commission gave the museum 20 days, then, after a hearing, an additional 35 days to respond to the FOI request. So far, the museum has been silent. They could be held in contempt of court.

It is clear that the request is overbroad, asking for “e-mails, letters, notes and references, … in paper format,” and I do not understand why the museum has not responded. By making an issue of this frankly nonsensical request, they may encourage other creationists to harass other museums. Let us hope that those museums find a way to simply brush them off.