Today we at "The Gods Are Bored" are pleased to welcome the ancient prophet Zoroaster to our studio. Unlike most of the bored gods and goddesses we interview, Zoroaster still has a praise and worship team. He comes to us deeply troubled today. Please give a great big "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Zoroaster, sacred prophet of the Parsi peoples!
Anne: Zoroaster, you've been rather vilified by the philosopher Nietzsche, who more or less put the words "God Is Dead" in your mouth.
Zoroaster: I was the victim of a misquote. In fact I know God. All of us deities more or less know each other, though we're careful never to talk about religion when we get together at barbecues. God's not dead. He's multi-tasking out the wazoo, that's all. But the shareholders are happy with his performance, so there's no possibility of a hostile takeover or anything like that.
Anne: Zoroaster, in your opinion as an ancient prophet, what creature represents the pinnacle of evolution?
Zoroaster: The vulture. Top of the food chain. Nature's purifier. My praise and worship team comes to me by allowing their decomposing flesh to be consumed by vultures.
Anne: Which puts you pretty high in my estimation, Z, let me tell you. Now, honored prophet, please tell the "Gods Are Bored" audience what has happened in India and Pakistan in the last 10 years.
Zoroaster: Ninety percent of the vulture population has died in a massive extinction event. Some estimates are as high as 30 million birds. Scientists have found the culprit that killed the vultures: a steroid-like veterinary medication called diclofenac.
Anne: Yes. I've just been reading about this in the February, 2007 issue of Smithsonian Magazine. Apparently, even though only about 10 percent of the animals that have died in India and Pakistan had diclofenac in their systems, that was enough to stop 30 million healthy vultures in their tracks.
Zoroaster: The people of India and Pakistan might not agree about much else, but they never would have used this anti-inflammatory in their livestock if they'd known it would kill all the vultures.
Anne: Because ...
Zoroaster: Because in the vultures' place, wild dogs have been bingeing on carcasses, breeding, spreading rabies. Anthrax is spreading, because vultures don't get sick if they eat Anthrax-killed animals, but they're not there to clean up. And my praise and worship team members ...
Anne: Lie rotting on top of your temples, unvisited by vultures. Z, I understand that India and Pakistan have banned the use of diclofenac, but it might be too late for the larger Gyp genera of Old World vultures.
Zoroaster: Some people might say, "Who cares about vultures, anyway?" Well, people who are stricken with rabies might be just a little bit miffed to know they could have been saved by a buzzard.
Anne: Especially since rabies is 100 percent fatal if not caught in time, and a nasty death to boot. But really, Z. People dying of rabies in the 21st century?
Zoroaster: Your magazine says there were 30,000 human cases in India in one year.
Anne: Nature abhors rot. All that noxious bacteria, all that contamination. Vultures clean up the rotten world. Without them...
Zoroaster: Without them, you'll see just how important Homo sapiens is in the great, grand scheme of things.
Anne: Don't get me started. Well, Zoroaster, now I'm as blue as you are. No one loves buzzards more than I do. A documented report of a cataclysmic buzzard kill-off can turn a bright May day into an abyss of gloom.
Zoroaster: Now, Annie, don't fall into the trap of your fellow Homo sapiens, thinking that all evolution has ground to a halt with your species at the pinnacle. There will always be a place in the evolutionary process for scavenging birds. They are remarkably intelligent and resourceful.
Anne: You know what I saw just now, Z? Over by the strip shopping center, across the street from Staples, there's a nest of turkey vultures on top of the Subaru corporate center!
Zoroaster: Do you think they'd allow Parsi funerals on the roof of the Subaru corporate center?
Anne: I doubt it. But let's walk over and visit with the vultures. I'm serious. We can walk there from here. Might lift my spirits a little.
Zoroaster: That sounds like fun. But aren't you the person I've been hearing about who has 1,283 snapshots of the La Brea Tar Pit fossil vultures? I can't tell you how much I'd like to see those.
Anne: You're the first one who's ever asked -- human or otherwise. Here they are, right at my fingertips!
Excuse me, audience, but how often do you find anyone who wants to look at your vacation photos?
The moral of this dialogue: Vultures are superior to humans. Awk Awk.