Thursday, December 04, 2008

What a Zoo

Ken Ham's (silly) creation museum and the Cincinnati Zoo had a joint Christmas promotion—buy a ticket to one, see both. Now that is an odd, strange-bedfellows sort of pairing—but so what? People who wanted to visit both attractions could save a little money, and both places get a piece of the pie, including potential visits to their respective gift shop and restaurant cash cows. A win-win.

But not when everything must be perceived as a life and death line in the sand. This harmless arrangement bothered (to put it mildly) some in the politics and science intersection. In fact, you'd have thunk the fate of science itself was at stake! Quickly organized: an email campaign of outrage, the likes of which have not been seen since WGN planned to air an interview with someone who dared to suggest it is a little premature to declare Obama the greatest president, ever! (Thank goodness the folks at WGN came to their senses.)

Some chucklehead by the name of Dr. James Leach was so outraged that his panties were bunched around his eyeballs. He declared in an email to the zoo “They seem like diametrically opposed institutions.” And “The Cincinnati Zoo is one of this city’s treasures. The Creation Museum is an international laughingstock.”

To these claims I’d say: No, I sure hope not, and that depends (they get an enormous number of visitors—I’m guessing that the community that houses the creation museum is indeed laughing—all the way to the bank.)

As to Leach’s first point: They are not “diametrically opposed institutions.” (Next, maybe the easily flustered and put-upon Dr. Leach, so emblematic of the modern sissy American who takes offense at everything, will take hyperbole for $2000, Alex.) They are both tourist attractions. They are actually, at some level, in the same business. (Yes I know zoos house scientific research programs—but does anyone really believe that the zoo’s research would be affected by the fact that little Billy, over at a display, laughing at a monkey doing to its butt what monkeys do their butts, had seen, earlier in the day, a diorama suggesting that dinos and men lived together? Get real, folks.) There was no joint mission statement. There was no mutual endorsement. It was marketing—that’s all it was.

The Cincinnati Zoo, showing they are made of the same stuff as, well, the Cincinnati Bengals, caved. Their word meant less to them than a loss of love from the likes of Dr. Leach, so they canceled the agreement, leaving folks like me in the unenviable position of saying that this time, perhaps this one time, Ken Ham was wronged. It's not Christian Persecution--he was merely the victim of an organization without a spine and a lot of self-important cowards like Dr. Leach.

The AIG response is here. The weak-kneed Cincinnati Zoo and the pusillanimous e-mailers managed to make them look like a class act.

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