Science and the "Thrill of the Kill"

I will admit, I have become a bit set in my ways at fifty. I don't feel fifty, but then neither did I feel forty when I turned that milestone. I have come to understand (through hindsight) that it is human nature to understand and appreciate things *through* hindsight. From time to time, one should turn around and look in the direction of their hind end. That is the beginning of wisdom, as long as the one looking in the direction of their hind end doesn't start talking out of it. Then it becomes something else.

So, we're talking science and nature now. Good. We need to do that from time to time. But let's not get tunnel vision, here. I've read the phrase "thrill of the kill" quite a bit lately. What exactly is the "thrill of the kill?" Since science is really the art of observation, we should probably treat it as such.

I think that if science and nature had it's way, and man was the civilized being he thinks he is (the most crucial part of this scenario), we probably would not have pets. There would be no need to contain an animal to enjoy it's presence. Without the learned behavior of fearing man, animals would be around us all the time, coming and going freely of their own design. Man, who arrogantly deems himself the highest animal (were he only to live up to it), would interact with the rest of nature in relative harmony. That is my own personal fantasy, of course. Maybe your's, too. But it is not how things are. It is not science; it is just how I wished it would be. This I admit freely. I am "hoomin."

"Hoomins" tend to anthropomorphize nature. We are not omniscient, but while that fact is painfully obvious, it is also conveniently ignored. We can only see things with a human bias, and we anthropomorphize other beings when the reality of how they are does not fit in with our comfort level, or how we would like them to be. We are faineant beings when it comes to true knowledge. It is much easier to be the "kings" of the planet and simplistically pretend that what we wish to be true is true. We are all guilty of this to some end.

Here on this list we love our ferrets. My wife and I treat our ferrets as if they were our children, as do many of you. Thrust into an environment designed for "hoomins," we see in ferrets some of the same characteristics that we see in our own "hoomin" offspring, such as helplessness and innocence. It is hard-wired in our human psyche to find it abhorrent to let helpless and innocent beings suffer. It is the reason we feel uncomfortable listening to an infant cry without doing something about it. Maybe it is instinct, or maybe it's compassion on our parts (implying a choice), but the fact is that we tend to react to all beings who are helpless and innocent in the same way, offspring or not.

It is no wonder we are conflicted. We would not intentionally let a three-year-old child purposely kill another living being. It is abhorrent to us, and we teach them the morality of the act - that it is wrong to kill. But when we observe this same behavior in our ferrets, it troubles us because we cannot teach these "children" the same morality. To resolve it in our minds, we have to let go of our anthropomorphism for a moment and accept that our ferrets, who are driven by nature, cannot be taught morality. But back to "thrill of the kill..."

I understand the "kill" part. I have watched one of my ferrets kill a bug and eat it, but I never saw the "thrill" part of it. It all happened matter-of-factly. My ferret ate the bug like I would eat a potato chip out of a bag, but even that statement is filled with my own personal bias - and that is my point. I could discern no "thrill of the kill" on my ferret's part. It is instinctive for a carnivore to be aggressive and efficient when killing prey, but to anthropomorphize the act as "thrilling" to the carnivore is about as unscientific as it gets.

When my ferret ate the bug, I could not ask him if he enjoyed killing it. We did not telepathically communicate, nor was were there any observance that could be scientifically defined as the human interpretation of "thrilled." There is no way anyone could know what my ferret was actually thinking, or if killing the bug was "thrilling" to him. I do not know if ferrets are capable of such abstract thought. I do not know that they are *not*. I am not a ferret, and what I *don't* know about abstract thought and ferrets could fill a few libraries - and that is my point.

It is all anthropomorphism. Whether we are dressing our ferrets up in human-like clothes, or thinking that they are "cold-blooded" killers, we are using human bias to project onto animals what it is that *we* think and feel. It is understandable, but it is not science.

I can go to Carl's Jr. and wolf down one of their Six-Dollar burgers in no time, but if I had to stun and slaughter the cow myself... well, it would be veggie burgers from now on. I have learned to live with the hypocrisy of being "hoomin," but I do so with one eye open. I need science. It's what keeps my bike running and my fuzzies healthy. But along with science, I also need to be able to be "hoomin," with all the thought and compassion that being "hoomin" involves. Here on the FML, it is that fusion of science and compassion that keeps the world spinning for both fuzzies and "hoomins" (and even some mad scientists) alike. And I wouldn't have it any other way.