Draft 1-- Hey , Bugs and Eels Aren't Cool

This Research topic submitted by Brandon Edwards & Kris Hanks on 2/26/98.

Kris Hanks
Brandon Edwards
Chris Meyers
Natural Systems II
February 5, 1998

Every few days, I go to the recreation center to swim a few laps for exercise. When I jump into the pool I get a refreshing sensation not only because of the cool water, but because I am spending time with myself to better my health. As I do the laps, I try not to concentrate on the increasing energy I exert after each lap that passes. Instead, I try to think of frustrations in my life and other problems I need to solve. These frustrations and problems range from emotional personal problems to academic related problems. Once in while, however, I think of things that I could only describe as plain weird. Since I have been swimming at the recreation center, I have noticed one consistent weird thing I have thought of almost every week. It is so weird, I almost hesitate to tell anyone, but since it relates to the subject of my paper I am not going to hold back. When I am doing laps, sometimes I fear that there is an electric eel hiding in the foot ledge of the pool wall. Although this fear makes me swim faster, which is good for my physical health, thinking that there is an electric eel in the wall makes me wonder about my mental health. I realize that fearing an electric eel is a completely irrational thought, especially in a chlorinated pool that is inside a recreation center in the middle of Ohio, but the fear does not seem to disappear.
With respects to the subject of this paper (and to my sanity), there could be many possible explanations of why I have this fear. Over the course of our Research, Kris and I will be trying to figure out what the root of my fear, and other fears of nature and living organisms, and attempt to explain what seems to be a universal fear of the natural world.
Before beginning our Research, we have many questions about the fear of nature. One might be asking right now, why wouldn’t someone be afraid of nature? Good question. Although nature can be something to be admired, everyone knows that it can be dangerous to the point of deadly. For instance, rattle snakes, wolves, spiders, and insects can all be very detrimental to human survival, but our question is why do people still fear these animals even in societies that are far removed from natural habitats. It seems that people who live in cities, for example, would not fear snakes and other such animals because they generally do not come in contact with them. Instead, it seems like a more rational fear of city dwellers would of more contemporary threats to their existence. Why do people fear snakes not guns? Why are people aracknaphobic not car- phobic? Why am I afraid of an electric eel in the Rec center pool and not of the fact that I live in an extremely flammable building with horse hair installation. These are all of the question we would like to answer. Kris and I hypothesize that there is a genetic explanation to these irrational fears which can be backed up by natural selection, but we also are going to explore the discipline of psychology to see if there are any alternative solutions. For our Research we have selected several books which we think will contribute immensely to our studies. To support the psychological perspective concerning the fear of nature, we have chosen Arne Ohman’s Fear the Beast and Face the Fear and James Hillman’s Going Bugs. To support the biological perspective we have chosen Roger Ulrich’s Biophilia, Biophobia, and Natural Landscapes and Murray and Foote’s Origin of the Fear of Snakes.


Since we have been focusing on a biological reason for the “fear of nature” , it seems appropriate and crucial to do a focused field Study. After reading an article discussing the fear of snakes in Rhesus monkey’s , we thought it would be interesting to look at how certain animals (humans included) , react adversely to specific aspects of nature. For instance , cross-culturally there appears a fear of certain animal species’. The shark , bear , spider and snake are just a few animals that seem to inspire not only fear , but also a type of awe -- why is this ? By interviewing a selected group of people , perhaps we can gain some insight into what aspects of nature people are afraid of and why. Many individuals have said they are terrified of spiders , yet is there a specific reason for this fear or , is a person simply terrified of arachnids for reasons they can’t explain ?
The idea of “facing the beast and fearing the face” is very fascinating. A trip to the Cincinnati Zoo may uncover some interesting questions for our Study. When watching Lowland Gorillas , one is often able to observe a fear of small crawling bugs as well as snakes. If we are unable to witness this type of behavior firsthand , we intend to ask zoo keepers about these types of encounters. A huge gorilla afraid of a spider ? Human beings deathly frightened of sharks ? These questions seem to hold quite a bit of paradox : “Well of course people are scared of sharks and alligators -- they kill people!” . Most would agree with this statement , yet the probability of even coming into contact with some of these “predators” is very rare. However , we still remain afraid. Even huge gorilla’s have been shown becoming agitated and scared over a spider that they could easily squash , this idea may help to support the idea of a biological reason for this type of behavior.
These fears of nature are not new , they have existed across many cultures for millions of years. Spanish philosopher , Jose Ortega Gassett , believed : “man was once a beast” and that our fear of nature exists because we are biologically linked to the animals we are afraid of. Throughout history , man has been portrayed “ conquering the wilderness” or going out to “slay the Grizzly” . This depiction shows man attempting to assert some type of power over a natural world that he may otherwise be unable to control. In addition , this scene also portrays a competitiveness man has with nature.
By interviewing as well as delving into specific philosophy and literature , we will be able to explore the belief that “fear of nature” is , in fact , biological. As we continue to do more Research , more specific testing Weather Modelss can be developed. In terms of doing interviewing , we will be able to develop specific lines of questioning as we Progress in our Study. Most of the time people don’t address their fears of nature , and perhaps challenging them to do this will lend support to our argument. Quite a few people have argued that we have been socially conditioned to fear nature , yet some biologists have stated that : “The true meaning of evolution stems from an aggressive ‘will to power’” . This “will to power” can be applied to how we view our natural surroundings : what we can’t control (or what we see as having the power to control or hurt us) is something we must dominate. This domination stems from a fear that is inherent. It is a viable point to argue that we slaughter mountain lions because we’re afraid they will somehow cause us harm. By reading and interviewing , we hope to generate conversation , thereby forcing people to deconstruct their nature fears. Conducting this type of Research should support some of the biological arguments stated above.
Looking at the other side of the spectrum , one could say that we have been taught to fear bears and snakes , yet by looking back at ancient civilizations , it becomes apparent that the same ideas existed. Our argument has many interesting supports within not only scientific circles , but philosophy and literature as well. By drawing from all of these disciplines we will be able to narrow down our field Study. As we are still gathering preliminary information , it is difficult to specify tailored interview questions -- we will be developing these aspects of our Study as we continue Researching.
Since we have been focusing on a biological reason for the “fear of nature” , it seems appropriate and crucial to do a focused field Study. After reading an article discussing the fear of snakes in Rhesus monkey’s , we thought it would be interesting to look at how certain animals (humans included) , react adversely to specific aspects of nature. For instance , cross-culturally there appears a fear of certain animal species’. The shark , bear , spider and snake are just a few animals that seem to inspire not only fear , but also a type of awe -- why is this ? By interviewing a selected group of people , perhaps we can gain some insight into what aspects of nature people are afraid of and why. Many individuals have said they are terrified of spiders , yet is there a specific reason for this fear or , is a person simply terrified of arachnids for reasons they can’t explain ?
The idea of “facing the beast and fearing the face” is very fascinating. A trip to the Cincinnati Zoo may uncover some interesting questions for our Study. When watching Lowland Gorillas , one is often able to observe a fear of small crawling bugs as well as snakes. If we are unable to witness this type of behavior firsthand , we intend to ask zoo keepers about these types of encounters. A huge gorilla afraid of a spider ? Human beings deathly frightened of sharks ? These questions seem to hold quite a bit of paradox : “Well of course people are scared of sharks and alligators -- they kill people!” . Most would agree with this statement , yet the probability of even coming into contact with some of these “predators” is very rare. However , we still remain afraid. Even huge gorilla’s have been shown becoming agitated and scared over a spider that they could easily squash , this idea may help to support the idea of a biological reason for this type of behavior.
These fears of nature are not new , they have existed across many cultures for millions of years. Spanish philosopher , Jose Ortega Gassett , believed : “man was once a beast” and that our fear of nature exists because we are biologically linked to the animals we are afraid of. Throughout history , man has been portrayed “ conquering the wilderness” or going out to “slay the Grizzly” . This depiction shows man attempting to assert some type of power over a natural world that he may otherwise be unable to control. In addition , this scene also portrays a competitiveness man has with nature.
By interviewing as well as delving into specific philosophy and literature , we will be able to explore the belief that “fear of nature” is , in fact , biological. As we continue to do more Research , more specific testing Weather Modelss can be developed. In terms of doing interviewing , we will be able to develop specific lines of questioning as we Progress in our Study. Most of the time people don’t address their fears of nature , and perhaps challenging them to do this will lend support to our argument. Quite a few people have argued that we have been socially conditioned to fear nature , yet some biologists have stated that : “The true meaning of evolution stems from an aggressive ‘will to power’” . This “will to power” can be applied to how we view our natural surroundings : what we can’t control (or what we see as having the power to control or hurt us) is something we must dominate. This domination stems from a fear that is inherent. It is a viable point to argue that we slaughter mountain lions because we’re afraid they will somehow cause us harm. By reading and interviewing , we hope to generate conversation , thereby forcing people to deconstruct their nature fears. Conducting this type of Research should support some of the biological arguments stated above.
Looking at the other side of the spectrum , one could say that we have been taught to fear bears and snakes , yet by looking back at ancient civilizations , it becomes apparent that the same ideas existed. Our argument has many interesting supports within not only scientific circles , but philosophy and literature as well. By drawing from all of these disciplines we will be able to narrow down our field Study. As we are still gathering preliminary information , it is difficult to specify tailored interview questions -- we will be developing these aspects of our Study as we continue Researching.

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