The Dead Giraffe Paradox
I've been purposely skirting the Copenhagen Zoo's recent decision to euthanize their young, inbred, giraffe named Marius. As an "animal lover" and trained biologist (in molecular genetics, phylogenetics, and taxonomy) my newsfeed on Facebook blew up. The posts were mainly opposing views on the euthanasia event and when I tried to speak for the dead, it wasn't pretty. I skirted the issue, and Facebook, for a week.
After thinking about it, I am upset. I'm upset by the American public's outcry.
Well, actually, I'm not sure what I think about the American outcry against the euthanization of another country's giraffe. America, as a country based on freedom where no one can tell us what we can and cannot do as long as we abide by our democratically erected laws, we sure do like to tell others what they can do.
Unfortunately, America now expects and bases opinions on 160 characters worth of information. Sure the zoo made a strange decision but how many people dug a little deeper to see why? If they did dig deeper and still resulted in the same opinion, is there something universally missing from the American pubic's biological education? Or is the euthanization event something only biologists will understand?
I don't know if more information would even help in this case. I've pondered the problem and have concluded there is a paradox...
a Dead Giraffe Paradox.
A paradox occurs when a situation/statement is made of two opposite things that may be true. For example: We need to conserve species and their genetic diversity but we also need to limit their captive populations to those individuals who are most "important".
How can we conserve species by killing individuals?
Furthermore, how can this paradox be explained in a way that keeps the respect for life intact even though the act that does so does not in of itself respect life?
A Dead Giraffe Paradox is an opportunity to talk about conservation issues, the economics of maintaining captive populations, and as always... science education in the United States.