Alternatively, when do we finally get to the end of the Darwin stupid?
Humans are supposed to have an “evolutionary” fear of snakes.
In large numbers, snakes can seem disgusting. But snakes are rarely present in large numbers. See the vid below for an explanation of a very rare exception to this rule* in Canada.
So I’d never heard that humans were “naturally” afraid of snakes until I encountered the writings of tenured evolutionary psychologists proclaiming their apes’r’us truth to the masses.
In real off-campus life, where News grew up, we were always far more worried about rabid mammals.
(Look, if you simply can’t stand the snake vid below, can you sit through the death of Old Yeller?
Whatever, don’t be the people in the film. Get your dog or cat vaccinated!)
All that said, News grew up in regions where snakes were an interesting oddity, unlike groundhogs and raccoons. Few or none were venomous (and those few were not seriously so). The only one in the local region is currently under protection as an endangered species.
I asked Rob Sheldon about this, and he kindly wrote to say,
If fear of snakes is not genetic, but epigenetic, then of course there isn’t a snakefright gene. But there is a snakefright epigene. Or perhaps a _____fright epigene, where lots of things can trigger an inherited memory. And if the epigene is a layer on top of the genes, then there should be a epigene gene, a memory module that can be used to store important hereditary information.
Researchable? Some suggestions for research into an “evolution” explanation:
A fear inherited through natural selection shouldn’t “make sense.”
That is, a fear evident to natural reason or instilled by teaching (correct or otherwise) cannot qualify.
Nor can a fear based on plausibly accepted experience. For example, I am afraid of falling, but I probably learned that the hard way as a toddler, learning by faltering steps to be bipedal. Unless someone can show that a learning-independent brain mechanism would kick in even if I were quadriplegic, I must pass on believing that it is an evolutionary heritage.
So all humans who learned to walk as toddlers could have developed that fear the same way I did.
For research purposes, we need to study a current fear that is based in past human experience and does not result from commonsense or culturally transmitted awareness of danger. Thoughts?
* Okay, so maybe you don’t like the following Fri Nite Frite (and you don’t NEED to watch it): A mass of Canadian snakes—but they are NOT venomous, just stupid and desperate (when News was a kid, we considered them toys). That is what it takes to survive as a snake in Canada:
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