Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Quibbling about quaggas

From an otherwise interesting Slate slideshow on attempts to breed back zebras to reproduce the extinct quagga, a near-non sequitur that's almost offensively stupid:
There is another objection to reviving the quagga. A popular 19th-century theory held that men and animals inherit traits not just from their parents but also from their mother's first partner. This supposed phenomenon was called "the taint of the quagga" because it was said to have been discovered in the animal. The taint was alluded to by journalists of the era and in the writings of Goethe, Strindberg, Ibsen, and Zola. It reinforced the taboo of miscegenation and encouraged men to keep their women under lock and key. Perhaps, then, as a symbol of racist and sexist fear-mongering, the quagga is best forgotten.
Because of course a now-obscure and patently false biological theory with a mistaken connection to the animal is evidence in favor of allowing it to die forever. I'm sure the author had found this juicy historical tidbit and couldn't think of any other way to work it into his narrative about the quagga's rebirth, but that doesn't excuse the paralyzing idiocy of the proferred argument. Are any feminists or anti-racists actually protesting Reinhold Rau's breeding program? Poppycock.
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