Thursday, October 21, 2010


In the last few weeks there have been two serious animal attacks on the Olympic Peninsula near Seattle. A bear mauled a man outside his cabin; he lost an eye. Then a few days ago a mountain goat charged and killed a man in Olympic Park. It's not mating season, and the bear had no cubs with her.

I mostly like to look at nature, not interact with it, but these are disquieting. In both cases, rangers speculate that people may have been feeding the wild animals, which makes them less fearful of people, which makes them more likely to attack. Moral: Fear has its uses.

This is not a moral that resonates very well with humanist writers. But even a cursory look at human history shows the truth of it. Which leads to a question: Is it possible to raise a child with insufficient fear?

I feel a story coming on...


Sean Craven said...

In this context, I find it interesting that many cultures that practice extreme degrees of child freedom, where children are not punished, frequently are more accepting of risk-taking behavior. "Well, if he doesn't stick his hand in the fire, how will he know?"

TheOFloinn said...

There is a Tamil proverb:

"It is the young who catch the gliding snake."

+ + +

Here, we teach fear of everything, provided there is one chance in a million of harm. Just yesterday, Margie and I were recollecting our storied youth and realized that in 2010 most of what we did routinely would be viewed with gasping horror. Not only did we ride bikes without helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, etc., but we rode them down to the railroad tracks, in my case by the switchyards.

If you feel a story coming on, by all means go with your feelings. We will all benefit if you do.

jsmusgrave said...

I think that in most cases like these it comes to a lack of respect instead of a lack of fear. When I last visited Yellowstone I saw a number of folks take their children very close to very large wildlife. T-shirt clad moms and dads walking their children within ten feet of an elk or a buffalo. To me this shows a lack of respect of a powerful force of nature. You don't need to be afraid of Buffalo, but you need to respect their nature enough to keep yourself safe. These people saw objects of entertainment to be consumed with pictures instead of beasts. They saw entertainment units. It's unfortunate some folks lack of respect ends up costing others.

Tim Ford said...

Check out Williams Syndrome for one example of how this would play out in the real world.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Hmmm...interesting conjecture, Nancy.

But aren't all babies born with two instinctive fears?--

The fear of falling, and the fear of sudden loud noises?

Another hmmm...

A group of humans, born in zero-g, who have lost the fear of falling? (Don't ask me how many generations that would take!)

Sudden loud noises, I don't see how you could get around, if the babies can hear.