Tulsa Zoo and Creationism

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As reported by Red State Rabble, the Tulsa Zoo has approved a new exhibit. This exhibit will chronicle the biblical account of creation.

The new exhibit was promoted by architect Dan Hicks, who some may recall was involved in the Tulsa Zoo “removing” evolution displays in the late nineties. (He also doesn’t like gays at the zoo.)

According to the Tulsa Beacon, Dan Hicks has pushed for a display on biblical creation because other idols, like Ganesha, are displayed at the zoo.

Hicks said his display, a series of photographs by Oregon photographer Rick Ergenbright from his book, The Art of God, should be presented because of the numerous displays of pagan religions throughout the zoo. Either put them all up or take them all down, Hicks said.

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Red State Rabble reports: Following a vote by the Tulsa, Okla. Parks Board yesterday, the Tulsa Zoo will install an exhibit chronicling the biblical account of creation. Red State Rabble is trying to get additional information on this story—it m... Read More

The Tulsa Park and Recreation Board decision to place a display that tells a story of creation based on Biblical accounts raises a host of issues. Among the most interesting is the extent to which concern for compliance with the... Read More

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Well at least numerous creation myths will be presented alongside. Hopefully this will actually encourage people to think about the nature of evidence, and how scientists do their jobs.

Naah. :)

“It teaches evolution as fact,” Hicks said. “That is one view. Why is my view excluded?”

Simply, because your view is wrong.

“Ganesha is the son of Shiva,” Hicks said. “He is the first god a Hindu chants to. This violates the first and second commandments (of the 10 Commandments) and it is very offensive.”

Mr. Hicks, I find it offensive that your book containing the Commandments claims humans (life) were created by God.

Out of curiosity, why is Ganesha there? Is it to preach about the origins of life according to Hindu beliefs, or is it because it looks like a multi armed elephant?

Having not been to the zoo I’m not totally sure. I did see a reference that there is a statue of Ganesha by the elephant exhibit with a sign describing how important elephants are to Indian culture.

I don’t see any problem with this. Quite the opposite. Zoos serve more than just a scientific function - indeed, in terms of their relationship with the public the scientific aspect is pretty minimal. So tell people how animals and biodiversity in general are addressed in different cultures. You’re not going to learn much useful about the evolution of a crocodile from a zoo exhibit, so you might as well find out how it is central to the Mayan creation myth, and learn a bit about the Mayan culture instead.

Having lived near Tulsa and been to the zoo many times, the statue of Ganesha is a big attraction for kids (and adults!) and it’s been there for about a decade. I have pictures of my kids lined up, arms outstretched mimicking Ganesha’s pose. The carving of Ganesha is very lighthearted, fun and well done. It’s a tribute to the elephants.

I don’t recall seeing parents shielding the eyes of their kids. It was more like “Hey, Bubba, hold yer arms out like this ‘n’ I’ll git a picher.”

And, finally, from a Hindu web site about Ganesha: He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth.

Oh, the irony.

Ginger Yellow Wrote:

I don’t see any problem with this. Quite the opposite. Zoos serve more than just a scientific function - indeed, in terms of their relationship with the public the scientific aspect is pretty minimal. So tell people how animals and biodiversity in general are addressed in different cultures. You’re not going to learn much useful about the evolution of a crocodile from a zoo exhibit, so you might as well find out how it is central to the Mayan creation myth, and learn a bit about the Mayan culture instead.

It sounds like the Ganesha thing ties a cultural aspect of Hinduism in with the elephant display, which I agree shouldn’t be a problem. How do you justify posting the Ten Commandments,though, when their posting is a misbegotten, childish equal-time issue?

This following is the text of a letter I sent to the Tulsa World this morning–thought I’d share it with PT…

Although I am skeptical that any valid, legal issues exist, let’s assume that the statue of Ganesha and the “marble globe” at the Tulsa Zoo have an overt religious intent—i.e., the Tulsa Zoo is attempting to exert influence in matters of faith. Under this questionable assumption, it follows that publicly-funded entities should not be promoting religion. The correct response would be to either remove the offending items or, perhaps, add some sort of disclaimer (the Tulsa Zoo could become the disclaimer capital of the zoo world!*). But no, the response is to jump into faith issues with both feet by authorizing various displays on creation. Fairness is cited in support of this creationism ploy, but if one follows the logic of the “legal” argument one finds that it distills to “two wrongs make a right.” It’s also curious that the so-called fairness remedy is to be a display describing (among others) one Christian perspective on creation—apparently the version in Genesis 1, but not the one in Genesis 2. Why a creation display? Wouldn’t it be more consistent with the context to propose displaying some sort of Christian icon—perhaps a cross or some reference to our biblical charge to be stewards of the earth? It would seem that some folks are trying to exploit a dubious First Amendment issue, in an attempt to push an anti-evolution agenda that has been repudiated by the courts (e.g., Aguillard vs. Edwards [1987]).

*Note to PT readers: Apparently, Dan Hicks has already forced the Tulsa Zoo to put disclaimers on signage that discuss evolution.

It’s not the ten commandments, though, is it? Just the creation story. I’d agree the ten commandments has no place there, or inded anywhere else owned or funded by the state. I’d be even more happy with it if right next to the creation story(ies) they had a big panel explaining the scientific evidence against it.

The question is whether or not Ganesha was placed there for the purpose of advancing religion, or manages to have that effect. The affimative would be a pretty hard argument to make. It’s unlikely that the people who put it there were Hindu, and even less likely that anyone feels pressured to become a Hindu because of its presence.

What this Hicks character is pulling, by contrast, appears to be intended to advance his religion.

Reed A. Cartwright Wrote:

Having not been to the zoo I’m not totally sure. I did see a reference that there is a statue of Ganesha by the elephant exhibit with a sign describing how important elephants are to Indian culture.

If the new displays treat Christian culture in the same manner it would be fine. If they present Genesis as a legitimate scientific alternative, then it’s not fine.

A little off topic, but when I gave the pro-science followup to ID creationist Phil Johnson’s Feb. 19, 2001 talk at UNM, I invoked Ganesha as an example of the kind of creatures we might see if, indeed, some powerful “designer” was banging out new life forms in some sort of supernatural SkunkWorks. Ganesha’s mixture of human and elephant features would be a big problem for evolution – it could falsify evolution – but it would be no problem at all for a Designer who can create things like flagella and clotting cascades from scratch.

An article on my talk is here, and the image of ganesha I used is here.

Dave Thomas

“Ganesha is the son of Shiva,” Hicks said. “He is the first god a Hindu chants to. This violates the first and second commandments (of the 10 Commandments) and it is very offensive.”

‘Very offensive’. Give me a damn break. I hate to imagine what’d happen to this silly ass thin-skinned clown if he ever actually visited India.

Man, and I thought zookeepers were cool. What a joyless, dour worldview. I bet he’s the kind of guy who won’t let his kids dress up for Halloween, being as it’s “pagan” and “very offensive.”

I should point out that according to the Tulsa Beacon link, the zoo board has said that Hicks’s display would require a message identifying it as literature. I don’t know what the final ruling was.

Anyone have email addies we can flood? Zoo officials, newspapers?

The Associated Press has a brief news item about it here:

TULSA, Okla. (AP) – The Tulsa Zoo will add a display featuring the biblical account of creation following complaints to a city board about other displays with religious significance, including a Hindu elephant statue.

The Tulsa Park and Recreation Board voted 3-1 on Tuesday in favor of a display depicting God’s creation of the world in six days and his rest on the seventh, as told in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

“depicting God’s…rest on the seventh [day]…” Man, that’s hilarious. I wonder if God has a little mat for naptime, like you used in kindergarten?

I wonder if God has a little mat for naptime, like you used in kindergarten?

I am wondering why an omnioptent being would need to, uh, rest. How exactly does an omnipotent being get, uh, tired.

I have always thought that the “seventh” day was a latter addition to the myth that occured when the Hebrews adapted a story from a base-6 society like Babylon. I have no idea if reputable biblical scholars think the same thing.

I do think that an appropriate response to Hicks’ display would be one pointing out the two or three other, different, creation stories in the Bible, including Genesis 1. That would be of great benefit to the education of the people of Tulsa.

As some others have pointed out, I actually have no problem with a display on the various myths of creation. I’m fascinated with the subject myself, and I think such myths show how various cultures interpreted nature. But the intent of this display is obvious – and on taxpayer money too. I can’t see this standing up in court.

Hicks’ intent is obvious. So far it is unclear what the intent of the Zoo Board is. I believe they may be looking to make it an actual “literature” display with actual biblical scholarship, instead of an evangelism display with aplogetics.

This makes no sense! I could understand a display in the reptile house discussing the snake in the Garden of Eden (images of & attitudes towards animals), or something about Adam as the first taxonomist - but the whole seven-day shebang? That’s …

Oh. Wait. I was thinking about this as a zoo professional (or indeed, any rational and reasonable person) might, not some $%^&* babbling about Ganesha. He’s just jealous because his God doesn’t have a cool elephant head.

I’ll bet you real money he thinks Harry Potter books are eeeeeevil!

It is interesting, though, as a case of projection. For some folks, everything *has* to be about religion, it seems, because that’s how they would arrange things if they could. Science is religion. Cultural tie-ins in zoos are (wrong) religion. Harry Potter is (anti/Satanic) religion.

Hey… My local planetarium has exhibits about the planets that are obviously named after Roman Gods. I think an equal time exhibit for the christian god is warranted. Perhaps a Zooastrian display. Shinto?

I think it is funny that the responsible party’s name is Dan Hicks. Have a listen to late comedian Bill Hicks’ rant on creationists called “Dinosaurs and the Bible.”

Don’t worship in my Zoo and I won’t think in your church.

Ken Ham has an article on this at AiG. It has pictures of Ganesha, etc. Clearly these are not making factual claims so the entire rational for including the YEC exhibit is false.

– Anti-spam: Replace “user” with “harlequin2”

As some others have pointed out, I actually have no problem with a display on the various myths of creation. I’m fascinated with the subject myself, and I think such myths show how various cultures interpreted nature. But the intent of this display is obvious — and on taxpayer money too. I can’t see this standing up in court.

Actually, that shouldn’t be a problem. If it is put up as one of many cultural views of origins, then there is no problem with it standing up in court. Consider it like the friezes in the Supreme Court building. There you have Moses shown with other figures from other cultures but the interpretation is not there to get people to convert to Christianity. Instead, Moses is shown as one (of several) great lawgivers and the frieze also contains figures like the Hammurabi and Confuscious. Moses is given no special prominence.

If they do a display like that, along with displays from other cultures (giving no special prominence to Christianity) and how they relate to nature, there should be no problem (either legally or morally). In fact, I’d highly approve of such a presentation (as I’m sure many here would).

Context would indeed be important, though. I suspect that the Zoo Board would take that into consideration.

The Hindu view of the deity is very different from a Judeo/Christian?Islamic one. The story of how Ganesha got an elephant’s head is a long one that has been analysed both by classical Hindu scholars as well as modern scholars (the latter having used a Freudian perspective for what it is worth). Ganesha is extremely popular in Southern India and Western India and is everywhere the first deity to be propitiated before any good thing is done. Ganesha is supposed to be easy to please and is offered the least ornate flowers and fruits. Ganesha is not the lord of animals, his father is - Shiva - one of whose names is Pasupathi or beastmaster! Religious beliefs vary widely among Hindus. There may be a few who believe all the various Hindu myths literally, others believe it to be an allgory, and yet others are Hindu with almost no belief at all in any deity with form. In fact it is among the latter that Ganesha as a cultural icon may find acceptance while the literally minded Hindus may feel uncomfortable at an idol inside the zoo! Ganesha is much beloved - probably even more than Krishna - in Southern India and this misunderstanding will likely be disturbing to many of his devotees. Ganesha in Indonesia is a cultural icon http://www.itb.ac.id and is used like a seal/crest by the Institute of Technology, Bandung. Here is a case of culture and religion being seen as separate ideas.

Disclosure: I am Hindu and have an interest in this issue being settled with no one feeling offended. While I can see some valid cultural purpose in placing the Ganesha statue near the elephant pen at the zoo; I would rather have it taken away if its placement is seen as to provide a forum at public expense to spread the tenets of a certain faith. In fact Tulsa itself has a large Hindu Temple where the ‘chief’ deity is Ganesha. http://www.tulsatemple.org.

This story just made the front page of the Yahoo portal.

I wonder: at what point will this demand for “equal time” start to backfire? If the Judeo-Christian creation story is put on a display along with other creation stories, won’t that make it just one of many, rather than The One?

If the display is to pass the establishment smell test, I would think that it would have to present the JC story as “one of many” or emphasize the literary aspects of it (i.e., it’s just a story) and thus weaken claims that the Bible is literally true. Perhaps kids will start to interpret the JC story as just another myth, as those of other cultures are usually described.

Ultimately, maybe Hicks will get more than he bargained for.

Yep, equality in planetary names should be in the offing. And then, well, tomorrow IS Thor’s day!

Because consciousness was in previous posts equalized with mechanical processes of the brain or bodily functions here I am sending an interesting essay about consciousness that considers it to be something completely different from matter (as it always was and will be).

It is taken from

http://www.google.com/search?q=cach[…]&start=1

and if you like more details go ahead, read it.

5. Life and Consciousness

We can all agree that consciousness is one of the most important characteristics of life.Nobody can deny its existence. It is the birthplace of noble human qualities such as forgiveness, humility, love, etc., and it is also the birthplace of sacrifice, tolerance and truthfulness. In fact, it is the birthplace of even the creative scientific theories being guided by the Supreme Spirit, God. According to Vedanta, consciousness is a fundamental quality of the ‘spiriton’. Thus it is purely spiritual and transcendental to matter. As explained earlier, matter is the inferior energy of the Supreme Lord. It is inferior because matter, however complex it may be, will never have conscious symptoms. On the other hand, the living entities are the superior energy of the Supreme Being. They are superior because they have consciousness. The renowned physicist, Eugene Wigner also expressed, “There are two kinds of reality or existence; the existence of my consciousness and the

Page 11 reality or existence of everything else.”25 All living beings, microorganisms, birds, animals, etc., possess different degrees of consciousness. In other words, all these living beings are covered by different degrees of the three modes of material nature (see section 8). Microorganisms exhibit very little symptom of consciousness because of the very thick layers of covering of the material modes. However, they possess consciousness. The well-known biologist, George Wald and others such as, Lynn Marguilis indicated that Protozoa, single-celled animals and bacteria also possess consciousness. Since the last few decades there is a growing interest to investigate consciousness among quantum physicists, neuro-physiologists, cognitive philosophers and spiritualists. William James, von Neumann, Eugene Wigner, Erwin SchrÎdinger, and David Bohm are some of the pioneers in the study of consciousness. One common feature among the leading quantumphysicists is that they all try to explain the collapse of the wave function through some interaction of the mind or consciousness. However, there is very little evidence that such acollapse of the wave function really occurs. In the author’s opinion, quantum mechanics, with its limitations in mathematical language, can, at best, indicate the presence of consciousness but can neither prove it nor describe it. Max Planck remarked, “It is a fact that there is a point, one single point in the immeasurable expanse of mind and matter, where science and therefore every causal method of research is inapplicable, not only on practical grounds, but also on logical grounds, and will always remain inapplicable. This is the point of [our] individual awareness.” There are many different views among scholars regarding consciousness and a deeper study is necessary. According to Vedanta, consciousness is not a function of the brain. As said earlier, the brain in developed living beings is an important organ of the body machinery in which the symptom of consciousness is transmitted. The conscious energy is transmitted from the spiritual soul, ‘spiriton’. Thus consciousness is purely spiritual. It is the living energy and the fundamental quality of life particle, ‘spiriton’. Just like a computer, however sophisticated it may be, will never be conscious. The program has to be supplied by an intelligent programmer. The computer is simply relaying the circumstantial choice fed into the program by the programmer, the human soul. It will be a good research field to study how the conscious energy is transmitted from the spiritual soul, ‘spiriton’ to the brain. Niels Bohr, who made profound contributions to our understanding of atomic structure and quantum mechanics expressed, “We can admittedly find nothing in physics or chemistry that has even a remote bearing on consciousness. Yet all of us know that there is such a thing as consciousness, simply because we have it ourselves. Hence consciousness must be part of nature, or more generally, of reality, which means that, quite apart from the laws of physics and chemistry, as 25Eugene P. Wigner, “Two Kinds of Reality,”The Monist, Vol. 48, 1964, p.250. 8 T. D. Singh – Life and Spiritual Evolution laid down in quantum theory, we must also consider laws of quite a different nature.”26 Furthermore, Vedanta describes matter as the field of activity and by its nature, matter is inert and has no consciousness. But there is interaction between the individual particle of consciousness and matter through universal consciousness. Moreover, the natural events that are taking place in the material world are maps of the events occurring in the spiritual plane (consciousness). About four centuries ago, the famous French philosopher Rene Descartes concluded that he knew one thing for certain: “I think, therefore I am.”27From the Vedantic point of view, the expression, ‘I am’ is the conscious experience and inherent transcendental property of the self. Thousands of years before Descartes, the sages of the Vedic tradition realized the principle even a step further, aham brahmäsmi, meaning, I am Brahman, I am spirit, conscious self. This is consciousness for which the Sanskrit word is cetanä. The act of thinking by a human being is the symptom of consciousness and it belongs to life. False consciousness is exhibited under the impression that ‘I am a product of material nature’. Thus modern biologists and biochemists should include the study of consciousness in their research works. The field should not be left mainly to the neuroscientists, quantum physicists, psychologists and philosophers only.

Air Bear Wrote:

It woudd be a hoot, though probably unethical, to introduce a FICTITIOUS new phenomenon to a group of Christian believers, and see how they reconcile it with the Bible.

You don’t have to lower your own ethical standards to create a fictitious phenomenon. There are already plenty of them out there. Mostly though they don’t impact enough on biblical literalism to acquire their own set of apologetics.

A couple of examples are: homeopathy and “canals” on Mars. The former is still ongoing but doesn’t seem to require weasel interpretations from anyone other than its proponents - and those aren’t biblical wriggles (but perhaps do show some similarity). The latter is now historical so you’d have to research what, if anything, prominent Christians said at the time rather than being able to ask modern ones (as you could over the Mars erosion issue).

… and Nitai has just reminded me of another nutty wriggle - that of trying to pretend quantum phenomena explain consciousness as a separate entity. There’s also the whole range of fictitious psychic phenomena from telepathy to dowsing. There isn’t a shortage of those but a difficulty in finding people who’ve felt the need to scour and reinterpret the bible (or Koran, because this mentality is not localised to a specific set of cults) for each of them.

The exhibit is proposed to be in a section of the Zoo called the Time Gallery. There are no living animals in the exhibit. The Gallery composes these current exhibits: –The Cosmic Calender, based on Carl Sagen’s analogy of the the universe scrunched into one year (The Big Bang began on Jan 1, etc…); –a crosscut section of the earth showing crust, mantle, and core; –a push-button visual to show the effects of erosion and crust movement; –A dislay of various crystals and a brief description of how they are formed; –an exhibit explaining plate tectonics; –the earthquake machine, with a hydrolic floor that simulates a mid-strength eartquake; –a display on vertebrate fossils and another of invertebrate fossils; –a life-sized fiberglass dinosaur, –fossilized dinosaur eggs; –a machine that replicates life forming from primordal soup; –the evolution of a sample species, a horse; –an exhibit showing how humans affect evolution, with the example of spotted English moths and the onset of the English Industrial Revolution; –a map of the Bering Land Bridge from the last Ice Age, –primitive arrow and spear tips along the bones of an extinct animal, and –the Trash Man, covered with the history of garbage from primitive pottery shards to disposable razors. The Time Gallery’s purpose is to show how nature has affected humans and how humans affected nature, perhaps to suggest what human’s role in the natural world is. In this context, descriptions of cultural beliefs of origins would be appropriate. However, Mr. Hicks’ proposal merely has quotes from Genesis without any context or explanation. It would be similar to mounting an actual Bible to the wall and dressing it with some pretty pictures.

The exhibit is proposed to be in a section of the Zoo called the Time Gallery. There are no living animals in the exhibit. The Gallery composes these current exhibits: –The Cosmic Calender, based on Carl Sagen’s analogy of the the universe scrunched into one year (The Big Bang began on Jan 1, etc…); –a crosscut section of the earth showing crust, mantle, and core; –a push-button visual to show the effects of erosion and crust movement; –A dislay of various crystals and a brief description of how they are formed; –an exhibit explaining plate tectonics; –the earthquake machine, with a hydrolic floor that simulates a mid-strength eartquake; –a display on vertebrate fossils and another of invertebrate fossils; –a life-sized fiberglass dinosaur, –fossilized dinosaur eggs; –a machine that replicates life forming from primordal soup; –the evolution of a sample species, a horse; –an exhibit showing how humans affect evolution, with the example of spotted English moths and the onset of the English Industrial Revolution; –a map of the Bering Land Bridge from the last Ice Age, –primitive arrow and spear tips along the bones of an extinct animal, and –the Trash Man, covered with the history of garbage from primitive pottery shards to disposable razors. The Time Gallery’s purpose is to show how nature has affected humans and how humans affected nature, perhaps to suggest what human’s role in the natural world is. In this context, descriptions of cultural beliefs of origins would be appropriate. However, Mr. Hicks’ proposal merely has quotes from Genesis without any context or explanation. It would be similar to mounting an actual Bible to the wall and dressing it with some pretty pictures.

Oops I posted it twice. sory.

pegorsus Wrote:

It would be similar to mounting an actual Bible to the wall and dressing it with some pretty pictures.

In other words, a fairly typical church (except there the book might be placed on or chained to a lectern).

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on June 8, 2005 11:14 AM.

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