SciSun: Our Bark is Worse than Their Bite   Leave a comment

Years ago, when frequent carnivals and circuses roamed the earth (something like dinosaurs, but not quite as reptilian), there was a man that stood in front of the tent and shouted out all the wonders that could be experienced for only the price of a ticket. This man was called the ‘Barker’, and his job was selling things so fantastic and incredible, people could hardly believe it – nor did they know how much they suddenly wanted to see it – unless the message was being continually screamed into their ears.

Through decades of education, psychological research, and sophisticated measurements, the Barker of the past has matured into the advertising and marketing professional of today. Similarly, their job has changed from standing in front of a traveling circus tent, enticing the crowd with fantasies of unbelievable wonders; to occupying our living rooms and offices through the latest media and technology, enticing us with special-effects fantasies and unnecessary-necessities.

That causes us to consider the current trend that attempts to merge legitimate information with mindless entertainment by presenting factual wild species of plants and animals as terrible monsters that must be destroyed, or at least contained and controlled, in order for humanity to survive; and by viewing species in this manner, leads to further separation between our built, ‘civilized’ world and the ‘wild’ world of natural spaces and a balanced environment. Through fantastic stories which physically and figuratively remove individual animals and plants from their natural ecology and present them as ‘killers’ or ‘horrors’ or ‘mutants’ or ‘monsters’, the result is a diminishing of these species until they are villainized to the point of harassment, persecution, and often hunted almost to extinction.

The supposed ‘Monster fish’ lurking in rivers and lakes; or the “man-hunting’ pack of rogue wolves roaming northern forests; or storms somehow able to deposit sharks onto neighborhoods and city streets not only misrepresents the facts about wildlife and their purpose in the world, but moves beyond even the most extreme sci-fi in a way that not only diminishes the animal, but creates excuses for us to have less interest and care toward the non-human population and generates an ‘us verses them’ attitude that the the wolf and the snake and the shark and all other creatures we really don’t understand must be contained or destroyed, before they destroy us.

'Huh?  I'm just a Racc...Uh, I'm the Monster from the Trash Barrel!  You will give me all your food scraps! Don't be confused by my fuzziness!”

‘Huh? I’m just a Racc…Uh, I’m the Monster from the Trash Barrel! You will give me all your food scraps! Don’t be confused by my fuzziness!”


Yes, it is true that wild animals are dangerous and sometimes attack or kill humans. (The ‘wild’ part should be a clue). But in research by the US Center for Disease Control, which tracks causes of death, attacks on humans by wild animals equal less than one percent of all deaths; and of those, the majority are due to anaphylaxis reaction from wasp, hornet and bee stings. It’s also easy to realize the stories of radioactive creatures that arrive from deepest space; or an atomically-fueled lizard emerging from beneath the sea; or the oil-spill-fueled mass of single-celled animals that take over a city are so absurd and beyond the most extreme probabilities that they have no basis in fact and generally are, by definition, only for our entertainment and amusement. While we don’t need to fear ‘The Algae that Ate Alameda!’, similarly there is little horror from a wild animal in a balanced environment, as long as we leave the animal to itself and not intrude upon its life.

So while ‘Monster Bait’ and ‘Searching for the Terror of the Forest’ and ‘Man-eating Gator’ (which is really probably a cooking show) might be great for marketing, what we gain in entertainment we may loose in understanding. While the bite of a wild animal might be harsh, maybe it’s the call of the Barker which ultimately causes the most lasting damage.


Michonne Says: If you see something dangerous just stay away. One time I wasn’t being very careful and almost walked in front of a huge wolf with long shaggy fur and drooling tongue, so I started to run. But then I saw it was just a wolf-dog with some people and they had it caught in a long wire. So it couldn’t hurt anything. But it was still scary.

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