Human nature is bad essay

December I grew up believing that taste is just a matter of personal preference. Each person has things they like, but no one's preferences are any better than anyone else's. There is no such thing as good taste. Like a lot of things I grew up believing, this turns out to be false, and I'm going to try to explain why.

Human nature is bad essay

In it he discussed the most pressing problem of natural theology: Buckland considered the depredation of "carnivorous races" as the primary challenge to an idealized world where the lion might dwell with the lamb.

He resolved the issue to his satisfaction by arguing that carnivores actually increase "the aggregate of animal enjoyment" and "diminish that of pain. God knew what he was doing when he made lions. Buckland concluded in hardly concealed rapture: The appointment of death by the agency of carnivora as the ordinary termination of animal existence, appears therefore in its main results to be a dispensation of benevolence; it deducts much from the aggregate amount of the pain of universal death; it abridges, and almost annihilates, throughout the brute creation, the misery of disease, and accidental injuries, and lingering decay; and impose such salutary restraint upon excessive increase of Human nature is bad essay, that the supply of food maintains perpetually a due ratio to the demand.

Human nature is bad essay

The result is, that the surface of the land and depths of the waters are ever crowded with myriads of animated beings, the pleasures of whose life are coextensive with its duration; and which throughout the little day of existence that is allotted to them, fulfill with joy the functions for which they were created.

Yet this argument could not abolish the problem of evil entirely, for nature includes many phenomena far more horrible in our eyes than simple predation.

In no other way can I explain why Alien, an uninspired, grade-C, formula horror film, should have won such a following. That single scene of Mr. Alien popping forth as a baby parasite from the body of a human host, was both sickening and stunning. Our nineteenth-century forebears maintained similar feelings.

The classic case, Human nature is bad essay at length by all great naturalists, invoked the so-called ichneumon fly. Buckland had sidestepped the major issue. The "ichneumon fly," which provoked such concern among natural theologians, was actually a composite creature representing the habits of an enormous tribe.

In addition, many non-ichneumonoid wasps of similar habits were often cited for the same grisly details. The ichneumon, like most wasps, generally live freely as adults but pass their larva life as parasites feeding on the bodies of other animals, almost invariably members of their own phylum, the Arthropoda.

The most common victims are caterpillars butterfly and moth larvaebut some ichneumons prefer aphids and other attack spiders. Most host are parasitized as larvae, but some adults are attacked, and many tiny ichneumons inject their brood directly into the eggs of their host.

The free-flying females locate an appropriate host and then convert it into a food factory for their own young. Parasitologists speak of ectoparasitism when the uninvited guest lives on the surface of its host, and endoparasitism when the parasite dwells within.

Among endoparasitic ichneumons, adult females pierce the host with their ovipositor and deposit eggs within. The ovipositor, a thin tube extending backward from the wasp's rear end, may be many times as long as the body itself.

Usually, the host is not otherwise inconvenienced for the moment, at least until the eggs hatch and the ichneumon larvae begin their grim work of interior excavation.

Among ectoparasites, however, many females lay their eggs directly upon the host's body. Since an active host would easily dislodge the egg, the ichneumon mother often simultaneously injects a toxin that paralyzes the caterpillar or other victim. The paralyzes may be permanent, and the caterpillar lies, alive but immobile, with the agent of its future destruction secure on its belly.

The egg hatches, the helpless caterpillar twitches, the wasp larvae pierces and begins its grisly feast. As the king's executioner drew out and burned his client's entrails, so does the ichneumon larvae eat fat bodies and digestive organs first, keeping the caterpillar alive by preserving intact the essential heart and central nervous system.

Finally, the larvae completes its work and kills its victim, leaving behind the caterpillar's empty shell. Is it any wonder that ichneumons, not snakes or lions, stood as the paramount challenge to God's benevolence during the heyday of natural theology?

As I read through the nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature on ichneumons, nothing amused me more than the tension between an intellectual knowledge that wasps should not be described in human terms and a literary or emotional inability to avoid the familiar categories of epic and narrative, pain and destruction, victim and vanquisher.

We seem to be caught in the mythic structures of our own cultural sagas, quite unable, even in our basic descriptions, to use any other language than the metaphors of battle and conquest. We cannot render this corner of natural history as anything but story, combining the themes of grim horror and fascination and usually ending not so much with pity for the caterpillar as with admiration for the efficiency of the ichneumon.

I detect two basic themes in most epic descriptions: Although we acknowledge that we may be witnessing little more than automatic instinct or physiological reaction, still we describe the defenses of hosts as though they represented conscious struggles. Thus, aphids kick and caterpillars may wriggle violently as wasps attempt to insert their ovipositors.

The pupa of the tortoiseshell butterfly usually considered an inert creature silently awaiting its conversion from duckling to swan may contort its abdominal region so sharply that attacking wasps are thrown into the air.

The caterpillars of Hapalia, when attacked by the wasp Apanteles machaeralis, drop suddenly from their leaves and suspend themselves in air by a silken thread.

But the wasp may run down the thread and insert its eggs nonetheless. Some hosts can encapsulate the injected egg with blood cells that aggregate and harden, thus suffocating the parasite. Fabre, the great nineteenth-century French entomologist, who remains to this day the preeminently literate natural historian of insects, made a special study of parasitic wasps and wrote with an unabashed anthropocentrism about the struggles of paralyzed victims see his books Insect Life and The Wonders of Instinct.

He describes some imperfectly paralyzed caterpillars that struggle so violently every time a parasite approaches that the wasp larvae must feed with unusual caution.

They attach themselves to a silken strand from the roof of their burrow and descend upon a safe and exposed part of the caterpillar: The grub is at dinner:Try Our Friends At: The Essay Store.

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