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2.43: Zoology

  • Page ID
    • Susan Rahman, Prateek Sunder, and Dahmitra Jackson
    • CC ECHO

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    Zoology is the scientific study of the behavior, structure, physiology, classification, and distribution of animals. It further divides into various branches including Mammalogy,Herpetology and Ornithology. Classification as a form of understanding is part and parcel to the scientific process; however, moving from the non-human world to the species of humans is where historically and presently classification has led to some policies, ideas, and consequences of difference that are deeply rooted in structural racism.

    In his 2020 book, How Zoologists Organize Things: the Art of Classification, author David Bainbridge describes how“an inherent human obsession with biological classification has left a pervasive, ugly legacy: many people still believe some “races” to be more primitive than, or inferior to, others” (Bainbridge, 2020). He describes this as a result of a hierarchical classification in the natural world that dates back to the 14th century. Philosopher Ramom Llulllikens this hierarchy to a staircase from lowest to highest life forms ordained by god.The way in which animal life was classified in ancient times included humans, which led Aristotle to reference Ramon Llull’s hierarchy of animals to include humans.Sadly, this organization was also attributed to homo sapiens as a species, which while in scientific terms is unsound, was a basis for understanding human difference, even until the present day in some scientific circles.Bainbridge notes that, the science of Zoology was inaccurately cataloged by a “human urge to organize animals most outstripped our actual understanding of those animals” (Bainbridge,2020).

    Perhaps one of the most well-known Zoologists is Ornithologist, Naturalist, and Painter, John James Audubon (April 26, 1785–January 27, 1851). He is the namesake of the Audubon Society, founded in 1905. The society has worked for over 100 years in the effort of Conservation of birds, other wildlife and healthy ecosystems.His rise to prominence came with his groundbreaking effort to document all types of American birds which included detailed illustrations that depicted birds in their natural habitats in his book, The Birds of America (1827-1839). The classic book is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed(Audubon, 1827). As great as his work was to craft a scientific marvel still in use today, he left additional legacies as a part of who he was. His belief in the merits of slavery and his outspoken anti-abolitionist views cloud the very society that is his namesake.

    In the wake of demands to acknowledge previously unacknowledged effects structural racism has had on various aspects of social life as well as a push to rename organizations clouded by troubled pasts, the Audubon Society is being asked to rebrand itself. An acknowledgment that he was a slaveholder and staunch opponent of abolition also comes with the revelation that he may not be the best namesake for an organization dedicated to conservation of the planet. Whether that rebranding involves an organizational name change,more aggressive efforts to serve underserved communities through conservation efforts, or to diversify leadership to be more representative, is still being worked through (Marcelo, 2021).Ultimately, racial justice must be a charge that goes hand in hand with conservation efforts of a healthy ecosystem if the organization is to fulfill its stated mission.

    This page titled 2.43: Zoology is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Susan Rahman, Prateek Sunder, and Dahmitra Jackson (CC ECHO) .

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