Zoos, Science, and Evolution

Zoos, Science, and Evolution

February 17, 2010

Making the Chapter:

In a country where people had little exposure to the outside world and virtually no access to travel, a zoo guidebook served as a travel guide for a journey to distant lands. For children a zoo was a magic carpet to imaginary places. And odd though it might seem few stories capture the sense of hope that lived in people’s hearts during the dark days of World War II as the story of how Ukrainians cared for their zoo animals. In Zoos, Science, and Evolution I take a guided tour of Kharkiv zoo, review the writing of the bad-boy of modern Ukrainian literature, and investigate the bad-boy of modern science who oversaw the destruction of classical genetics and created what some call the biggest scandal of twentieth century science.

Excerpt:

We agreed on a route around the zoo and Sergei continued to offer his ideas. “Odd though it may seem, the zoo is one of the few cultural establishments that survived the Soviet period relatively unchanged. There were some extreme cases in which individual animals were regards as “bourgeois” and so were not allowed, but generally the authorities encouraged zoos.”

I toyed with the idea for a few moments, wondering if perhaps the penguin, with its dinner jacket-like attire, was considered “bourgeois.”

“Theatres were forced to change their repertoires, circus clowns were forced to change their acts, and galleries and museums were forced to change their exhibits, but zoos exist today in very much the same way they did a hundred years ago.”

“But is the zoo concept still relevant today, particularly when the conditions for the animals are so poor?” I pressed.

He was a quiet-spoken man, but now he spoke with an authoritative voice. “You can’t expect to understand our culture without having endured our history.” He chose carefully a verb that suggested prolonged pain and hardship. 

We agreed on a route around the zoo and Sergei continued to offer his ideas. “Odd though it may seem, the zoo is one of the few cultural establishments that survived the Soviet period relatively unchanged. There were some extreme cases in which individual animals were regards as “bourgeois” and so were not allowed, but generally the authorities encouraged zoos.”

I toyed with the idea for a few moments, wondering if perhaps the penguin, with its dinner jacket-like attire, was considered “bourgeois.”

“Theatres were forced to change their repertoires, circus clowns were forced to change their acts, and galleries and museums were forced to change their exhibits, but zoos exist today in very much the same way they did a hundred years ago.”

“But is the zoo concept still relevant today, particularly when the conditions for the animals are so poor?” I pressed.

He was a quiet-spoken man, but now he spoke with an authoritative voice. “You can’t expect to understand our culture without having endured our history.” He chose carefully a verb that suggested prolonged pain and hardship.


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