Escalating vandalism at Florida Museum of Natural History

There’s something unsavory, and I dare say cowardly going on behind the Florida Museum of Natural History. The facility located at the University of Florida, Gainesville is a gorgeous one with an entrancing butterfly rainforest exhibit and a Hall of Florida Fossils that a person can easily spend an entire day in alone. I visited the museum with my wife and kids a while ago and we all felt that it was worth the day trip drive. But we didn’t know that a unique predator of sorts had been prowling nearby.

The researchers who work at the museum and the adjoining Bartram-Carr Hall are proud of their work and aren’t shy about letting the world know what they do. They display Darwin Fish emblems on their cars and some even have bumper stickers along the lines of “Smile, you are an ape!” and “Evolution is a fact.” But it’s obvious that someone isn’t amused. Vandals have struck.

It started small. Darwin Fish emblems would be ripped off cars a few times a year. Undeterred, the victims would simply replace them. Then bumper stickers were scraped off. Then notes containing prayers were left on cars. And now the vandal has apparently taken the next step: driving nails into tires. One researcher said she discovered a long nail had been deliberately forced into the side rim of her new tire, destroying it. Another researcher had both front tires ruined by long nails. These incidents all happened in a parking lot behind Bartram-Carr Hall.

[edited to add: There is erroneous information going around that the victims had never reported these incidents to the university police department. In fact, there were multiple reports filed. The latest incident was filed with the police on June 23, 2011. Case report number was 11-1178. ]

So far, there appear to be no leads on who the vandal is, or even how many vandals there may be. Please spread the word about this and if you happen to be in the area be vigilant. Ripping an emblem off a car and leaving notes full of prayers is annoying and wrong, but destroying tires is on another level. And who knows if the vandalism will escalate even further?

[Two photos below the fold.]

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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32 Responses to Escalating vandalism at Florida Museum of Natural History

  1. Peggy Clancy says:

    While waiting for the police to respond appropriately, why not place a portable video camera or two yourselves to catch the vandals red-handed? Be creative. There are a few ways to non-violently catch these not-too-bright delinquents.

  2. JimmyBoy says:

    Why not raise the game and ask the local churches to point out to their congregations that this wrong?

    If they refuse…what are they saying? And there can be little doubt that the perpetrator(s) attend somewhere locally on a Sunday morning.

  3. davej says:

    Add cameras.

  4. Leo says:

    I’m devious enough that I’d “booby-trap” the fish and bumper stickers with poison-ivy oil. I’m not allergic. I wonder if their God will protect them from histamine reactions.

  5. Monado, FCD says:

    Make insurance claims! Report every instance to the police. Have the insurance company call the police asking for the police report. Why isn’t the Museum hiring a security cmpany to oput up some surveillance equipment.

    In the meantime, ask everyone who has a window facing the parking lot to put up a web camera. There must be a few motion-sensitive wildlife cameras around.

    And find a hungry reporter who’s willing to do some digging. The police won’t be interested until there’s a body to stumble over.

  6. Donald Eric Kesler says:

    I’m going to play Devil’s advocate. The image is blurry; however, the nail in the photo appears worn, as if it was picked up on the road. Admittedly, it seems unlikely that multiple automobiles would get nails in their tires unless all of the cars were driven over the same nail littered spot of road. Is there a section of road, perhaps near a construction site, upon which the tire damaged cars traverse daily?

    I don’t agree with everyone who is advocating for the purchase of video cameras. I personally think that there are too many of those Orwellian observer-bots.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says:

    Has anyone checked to see where Terry Jones was when each of these incidents occurred?

  8. RickRay says:

    There is a war going on between the supernatural and reality on the internet. Now, you not only have different religions fighting and killing each other over whose “god” is the right one, but science and reality has become a victim.

  9. Ty says:

    Thou shalt not steal…

  10. Ryan says:

    Typical christian passive aggressive cowardice. I dont subscribe to the teachings of jesus so if I catch you vandalizing my car you will pay with tooth enamel on concrete. See if your prayers will convince the imaginary man in the sky to grow your teeth back fundie scum.

  11. YosserHughes says:

    Not many things more scary than an offended xtian; I’m sure there are many that yearn for the days when they could set these car owners on fire just for disagreeing with their superstitions, watching the flames with a superior smirk on their faces knowing they’re doing the lords work.

  12. reverendmoss says:

    Driving long nails into the body of an offensive speaker to violently make one’s point?
    Oh, the bittersweet irony.

  13. Diego says:

    I can well believe it. When I lived near FSU campus I had my Darwin Fish stolen twice, and the second time they smashed both my tailights too. Ah, such lovely behavior. . .

  14. Timberwoof says:

    Security cameras cost money which the museum probably does not have, but the idea of a camera in every parking-lot-facing-window is a good one. Look on eBay for Ethernet Camera for cheap ones. A clever sysadmin with a spare computer coud set up a system on a shoestring budget.

    Donald Eric Kesler, I get what you’re saying about centralized police-run observation. However, citizen-owned and responsibly managed surveillance is hard to argue with. Only when an event occurs, you check the surveillance records and then release only the segments that show the perpetrators. Otherwise, after a week or two, destroy the recordings.

  15. Jesus H. Christ says:

    @Donald Eric Kesler The tire appears next to a dirty (oily) rag. That leads me to believe that the picture was taken at a garage and after the car had already been driven for a while.

  16. Scott says:

    One the people said she had a nail in the “side rim” of her tire. I assume she means the sidewall, which is very difficult to get a nail into from the road.

    If it was me, I’d take a day off and stake out the parking lot. B&H Photo has loads of security cameras and accessories, and Harbor Freight Tools sells camera systems really cheap.

  17. Travis says:


  18. bassdog says:

    Good Christian folks, yessiree…

  19. richard says:

    Shocking…no. Typical…yes. Religionists have absolutely nothing concrete to stand on. All they can do is spout scrip, stomp feet, threaten, passively/aggresively act out. Each stolen sticker and thrust nail is a victory for sense and a nail in religions own coffin.

  20. Clare says:

    One or more people leave a religious tract and all of a sudden all Christians are evil and insane. Justice is a two way street. Let’s stop the wrong doing not just add some wrong doing of our own.

  21. Janine Sikes says:

    Fact is no one has ever filed a police report regarding any of the incidents cited above, according to the University of Florida Police Department.

    If this is indeed an issue, it should be reported.

  22. I’m curious why these incidents have never been reported to the police. I understand the bumper stickers not being reported but the recent escalation shows a pattern.

  23. Jill says:

    While I will never condone vandalism, I agree with Clare: Not all Christians are evil, insane or intolerant. In fact, my estimation is that very few of them are.

    My experience has shown me many Christians who are like me: they have a belief in God AND evolution. I agree with Freeman Dyson, who wrote:

    “Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand why we are here. … Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. … And both are worthy of respect. … The media rarely mention the fact that the great majority of religious people belong to moderate denominations that treat science with respect, or the fact that the great majority of scientists treat religion with respect … .”

  24. oldnassau'67 says:

    I have yet to hear of a militant* Darwinist trashing cars anointed with Christian symbols.
    *Most Darwinists, and scientists, are constantly challenging various theories
    (i.e., relativity, evolution, electromagnetic), conditionally accepting only those which cannot be disproved. On the other hand, religion accepts theories (afterlife, a triune divinity, resurrection, miracles) that cannot be challenged.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Latest incident was filed with Police on June 23, 2011.

    Case report number was 11-1178

  26. HK says:

    Much more efficient to use the Roman solution when dealing with these sub-human holy-rollers.

  27. zxzxzxzx says:

    I have heard this happening to other people with similar stickers on their car, and I live up in the midwest. I personally would never even put one on my car for fear of vandalism (even here). I guess it’s just proof that the religious are frustrated that losing their grip on humanity. In 20-50 years, this debate will hopefully be a funny memory.

  28. Fred savage says:

    They are afraid because they are loosing support, and are self destructing. shame they do not even know what Christ’s message was/is.

  29. jona spock says:

    I crack some skulls. Of course I’m also a convicted felon. lol

  30. John says:

    Holy shnikes batman, I’m a Gainesville native…. and I haven’t heard anything about this. Ugh to think that some people stoop so low… time to slap on that atheist bumper sticker.

  31. Time for somebody to put video cams on cars and catch these cowardly, vandalistic little shits in the act. Then the video should be posted all over the internet to shame them.

  32. John 'Imagicka' Blackthorne says:

    Certainly not all Christians are ‘evil, insane or intolerant’. But I don’t see any Christians who are sane and rational and tolerant standing up and saying “You are doing evil in the name of Christ!” Where are those Christians who are willing to debate the C-Fundies, instead of letting Atheists be the lone voice of reason?

    If there are is a minority of Christians out there that are causing these problems, why do the other Christians stand back and let them be their public voice for all Christian religions?

    To say that science is one-sided is ignorant to the process of science. It might be one-sided, if you consider objective truth to be one-sided.

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