Creationism At The Zoo Criticized By Foundation, National Science Groups And Leaders (September 1994)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is protesting a display at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin, which claims that in 15,000 B.C. there were only two humans on the planet and their names were Adam and Eve.

The Foundation received two (unrelated) complaints in less than a week by residents about the unscientific population display at the zoo, one from a subscriber to Freethought Today and the other from a mother who was shocked and embarrassed to expose her two children to this claim at a county zoo exhibit.

The Foundation asked Dr. David Hall, director of the Henry Vilas Park Zoo, to correct the poster on human population growth at the Discovery Center. The Foundation noted that Homo sapiens have been around for at least 100,000 years, and our hominid ancestors far longer.

The Foundation also received complaints about a Noah’s Ark motif in the Discovery Center. A large poster makes reference to Noah’s Ark by comparing the Zoo’s preservationist goals to the fable, and a large mural includes a depiction of the story.

The Foundation wrote Hall that “it was sorry to see the prominence given a mural featuring Noah’s Ark,” but did not ask to remove the Noah’s Ark references, since they could be seen as artistic or metaphorical, although “these subtleties would be lost to children.” Coupled with the uncorrected Adam and Eve claims, “it looks like an endorsement of the bible by our county zoo.

“We might add–we are pleased the zoo wants to educate about overpopulation; we just want the information to be accurate and without a religious slant,” wrote Foundation spokesperson Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The county’s only response was to refer the matter to “legal counsel.” The zoo director told local TV that this “was a matter of opinion.” After the Foundation’s initial discreet complaint did not result in prompt action, it alerted some prominent evolutionists about the bizarre controversy.

Joining the Foundation in condemning the creationist misinformation at an educational exhibit for children at the zoo are the National Center for Science Education in Berkeley, California, prominent Humanist Paul Kurtz, and Auburn Educational Research Organization in Alabama, chaired by Prof. Delos Mckown, author of a book combating creationism.

“A scientific exhibit that factually presents Adam and Eve does violence to the facts and theories of science as well as the epistomology of science. It is simply not true that Homo sapiens ‘begins’ with one couple, and it is factually in error to say that this species originated 15,000 years ago,” wrote Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science education. She offered the zoo the resources of her group, whose letterhead boasts Carl Sagan and many other academics.

Paul Kurtz, editor of Free Inquiry and chair of the Center for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, wrote Dane County Executive Richard Phelps:

“We were appalled to learn that the County Zoo in Madison has an exhibit in the ‘Discovery Center’ which maintains that the population of the world in 15,000 BC was two!

“This is contradicted by all the evidence of the sciences . . . The great city of Madison and Dane county, hosting one of the finest universities in the world, surely have a responsibility to provide young children with evidence for human evolution, with an accurate scientific account of human origins.”

Prof. McKown of Auburn University wrote Phelps: “such misinformation posted anywhere around an institution that has an educational mission is an outrage.”

“Surely this is Dane County, 1994, not Dayton, Tennessee, 1925!” commented Gaylor.

To Be Continued . . .

Freedom From Religion Foundation