As a follow up to the earlier posts regarding the proposed creationism at the Tulsa OK Zoo, their website now has the following open letter to its members and friends. It appears reason has prevailed, at least for the moment. After reading the message below, I sent Kathleen a message of congratulations and thanks for her efforts to maintain the scientific integrity of the zoo's exhibits:
Dear Tulsa Zoo Friends Members
The Tulsa Zoo Friends Board of Directors applauds the decision of the Tulsa Park Board to rescind the motion and subsequent amendment regarding signage on the origins of the world in a religious context. It was the opinion of the Tulsa Zoo Friends Board that this decision was imprudent considering the mission of the Tulsa Zoo is “To provide a visitor experience both enjoyable and meaningful, that promotes conservation through an understanding of the role of wildlife in the world.“
Our mission is accomplished by combining the exhibits and programs of zoos, aquariums, museums and botanical gardens. The cultural displays on site are examples of the interrelationship and connection of man and nature; nature and man as inherent in our being a living museum as well as a zoo. Each cultural display is placed within the geographic region of its origin.
The Tulsa Zoo Friends Board of Directors had asked the Tulsa Park Board to rescind the decision to put a theological display of the creation of the earth on exhibit at the Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum in a letter dated June 30, 2005. We believe the action today allows us to resume our mission of education, recreation, conservation and research. We appreciate your support of our Zoo and want you to know how much we value your interest in building a better Zoo!
Carl Vincent, Board President
On behalf of the Tulsa Zoo Friends Board of Directors
Science under fire in Tulsa! I thought we figured this all out during the Scopes trial in 1925, but I guess the recent trend toward conservatism threatens to reverse all that. I'm including my first letter to Ms. Buck regarding the proposed creationism exhibit at the Tulsa Zoo, dated 06-14-05:
Dear Kathleen Buck (Curator of Exhibits)
I just read the CNN article about the Tulsa Park and Recreation Board's decision to support an exhibit on Creationism at your zoo. What a sad day for you and your staff... I'm quite certain the entire scientific community feels for you as your facility endures this blow to science and the study of nature. Frankly I cringe when I hear the term "creationism" or more recently "intelligent design" because they represent the least informed and narrow-minded thinking I can imagine. As I am sure you are aware, teachers and scientists have an uphill battle these days and must fight for the right to talk about whatshould be considered a given, that evolution is a fact.
The six day creation story (and one day of rest) is just that, a story. Many consider the account allegorical if not purely poetic. The biblical account should not be taken literally because it was written long before the scientific method was refined enough to tackle such complicated issues as the relationships that exist in animal communities or genetic research. Besides that, elephants are not mentioned in the bible so you could argue that the Hindu statue has more right to be in your exhibit because it is relevant to the species in your collection. Also, Hinduism and Native American cultures are fundamentally based on the spirt OF nature and its forces (water, air, fire, animals, seasons, birds) where as Christianity implies on spirit OVER nature.
Regardless of your personal beliefs concerning religion, I appreciate you and your staff's efforts to bypass this religious exhibit. Even if you do not share my frustration wit the recent trend toward conservatism, I'm sure you can see that Christian fundamentalism has no place in an institution dedicated to the pursuit of natural science. The two concepts are unrelated and should remain separate.
I look forward to visiting your facility at some point and meeting you.
Thank-you for your support. I completely agree. I' m going to forward your e-mail to our PR dept. where they will forward it to the Park Board who decided this. We've received a huge supportive response. I'd love to shake your hand when you come out this way!
Thanks again, Kathleen
The letter I sent this morning was met with the same support I received from Ms. Buck the first time we spoke. She seems to be of the same mind. She relates however, that the zoo staff and those who share their views are likely to be outvoted by the conservative majority. God save us all...
I hope you are well. I don't know if you remember me, but I contacted you a while back regarding the recent CNN story. I heard another short report today on NPR regarding the upcoming vote on the proposed creationism exhibit. Dan Hicks sounds like a difficult personality to contend with and I am sorry you must endure this ordeal at his hand. He sounds determined to see Christian literalism included in your fine zoo. I wish you luck in defeating his proposed exhibit.
The report mentioned Tulsa's concerns that it had become the laughing stock of the nation, I assure you that this is NOT a laughing matter. The freedom to present sound scientific evidence in support of evolution without the burden of religious fundamentalism is quite serious. To dignify the nonsense of creationism with a city-sanctioned exhibit is a setback for the entire community of educators, and a your zoo is indeed a house of learning. If Mr. Hicks would like a religious monument, let him install it in a church where it belongs. It has no place in an institution dedicated to the scientific understanding of nature.
Again, I look forward to visiting your facility and meeting you and the rest of your staff at some point. I grow increasingly impressed with all those who would see the public informed of our complex natural world and the science behind it. Please continue with your efforts to educate the community, especially children, through the your science-grounded exhibits and fight those who would perpetuate the shallowness of religious fundamentalism.
Thank-you Matthew for your support! Tomorrow's meeting should be another interesting moment in our history! ABC contacted me this morning and is planning on sending a crew. I've heard that no one will be able to speak at the meeting and there will be huge numbers on both sides that want to! Many of our museum/cultural exhibits could be on the chopping block if we don't put up the exhibit. I'm afraid that no one will be happy no matter what the outcome. The petition that is being circulated is athttp://www.PetitionOnline.com/FORSZoo/petition.html if you are interested. Thanks again and I hope you'll come visit us soon (in spite of this!).
Dear George Bush,
The world is warming and we as a nation are the greatest polluters in the world. There is no argument about this fact. The scientific community is in total agreement on the issue.
To resist signing the Kyoto Treaty and join other nations to lower green house gasses is an insult to the environment and to all those who wish to breath freely. The United States should be leading the world in good environmental policies, not working against it. Your recent statements about reducing our nation's "green house gas intensity" is a thinly veiled attempt to avoid environmental responsibility. Your statement linking the cleanliness of our air with some kind of "per unity of economy" is embarrassing. Clean air is not an economic question and your true loyalties are quite obviously industrial. Shame on you Mr. Bush!
Following up on earlier reports of Least Terns near the mouth of Stevens Creek, my wife Cricket and I visited the area today at around 10 am. We parked in the kite flying area lot accessed through the main kisosk and walked east across the huge gravel parking area toward Crittenden Marsh. We passed over two small bridges, the first going over the reed-choked marsh and the second directly over the creek. From there we walked north a few hundred yards along the east bank of the creek. For those unfamiliar with the area, a large gate and some arcane pumping machinery mark the spot from which to watch the second pond. As others have observed, glare and shimmer are an issue here.
The sun was already high enough to cause significant shimmer over the water and observation without a scope would have been difficult. However, we were able to pick out more than 20 (but less than 30) Least Terns, which were easily told because of their more rapid, fluttery wing beats and noticeably smaller size. Numerous Forster's Terns were also present. Fortunately, one Least Tern foraged close to the levy trail and we were able to get wonderful looks at it. A few more minutes of watching and another Least Tern flew directly overhead from the west, A2W pond. We then saw an adult Peregrine Falcon coming to land on a power tower behind us and close to 50 Forster's Terns took flight after seeing the Falcon. We noticed two larger birds, Black Skimmers among them. After some time, all birds came to rest again while the Falcon watched overhead. Sizable groups of Least Sandpipers were present also in areas where mud was exposed, but we did not get a count.
I found the following article on BBC regarding a disastrous year for UK seabirds as a result of collapsing fisheries.
We have experienced similar situation in the north Pacific. Marine biologists, especially those not associated with the EPA, maintain that increasing water temperatures are a major factor in the collapse of fish populations (and consequently birds). Overfishing is of course also responsible as the above article states.