Snakes and bugs define the Human Phenotype

Is it human nature to be compassionate or to kill a snake or bug

Is it in our makeup to be compassionate or to kill stuff willy-nilly

I was reflecting this morning that among humans, there seem to be three kinds, three categories.  Not defined by what is in our veins, but by what is going on in a 2-4 mm-thick layer in our brains and how we use that layer.  But I like this veinal picture, so I’m using it.

At the root of almost every other trait, whether you are compassionate, quick-tempered, arrogant, slutty or bigoted, I think I may have boiled it down to three basic characteristics.

So, to help you find yourself in the breakdown, I’ll ask a question with a three-alternative multiple-choice answer. 

Question:  If you are driving in your car on a roadway, and you see a live snake crossing the road, what do you do?

1.  Navigate the car so as to avoid the snake
2.  Navigate the car so as to hit the snake
3.  Continue on your path without further thought for the snake at all

Now, there are those who, for safety reasons, will not change direction of the car (look out folks, I’m not one of these), and for those, it’s more a question about what thought comes to mind.  So for the careful driver, I’ll revise the answers to be:

1.  I’d like to navigate the car so as to avoid that snake, but safety directs otherwise
2.  I’d like to navigate the car so as to hit that snake, but safety directs otherwise
3.  I think I’m about to get snake goo on my tires

Most people are either 1s or 3s.  I had the experience of being shown property by a young man who was a 2.   One might have thought that 2s were only so in private, but not so.  Decidedly not so.  This young man was somewhere around 30 years of age, and had apparently inherited the realty business from his father, but hopefully (for the father) not his psyche.  I don’t think he much cared for showing property.  Snake-killing with a vehicle on the road appeared to be his forte.  And perhaps only skill.  That was the last time I saw him.

I think people are more subtle than these three categories or the young realtor, so I’ve come up with another question that will add some details around the edges of the first.

A really cool website with printable pages of free pics for kids to color

Click to go to a really cool website with printable pages of free pics for kids to color

Question:  When you find a bug in your house, what do you do?

A:  Kill it reluctantly
B:  Kill it without thinking
C:  Kill it gleefully
D:  Pick it up and move it elsewhere
E:  Say hello

Let’s look at those refinement categories, A through E.  If you are a 2, it is unlikely that you will be anything other than a B or a C.  Any reluctance in the road killer to kill a roach is probably more related to him or herself (“What shall I do with the carcass?” might be a consideration that would make him or her less likely to kill) than to do with anything on the outside of his person.

But just to keep this little exercise objective and so I won’t add my snipey little assessments, let’s break it down objectively and descriptively, without judgment:

Phenotype 1 – The Snake Avoiders

1A:  Kills a bug in the house reluctantly AND navigates (or wants to navigate) the car to avoid the snake
1B:  Kills a bug in the house without thinking AND navigates (or wants to navigate) the car to avoid the snake
1C:  Kills a bug in the house gleefully AND navigates (or wants to navigate) the car to avoid the snake
1D:  Will pick up a bug in the house and move it elsewhere AND navigates (or wants to navigate) the car to avoid the snake
1E:  Says hello to the bug in the house AND navigates (or wants to navigate) the car to avoid the snake

In sum, The Snake Avoiders are, I think, a pretty common lot.  Most of us are there.  And I do believe that, while we will generally avoid killing a snake on the road, there are reasons why we would, nonetheless, kill a bug in our house.  I don’t think that there is a moral or ethical dilemma posed by being anywhere in the 1 Phenotype, except maybe Subtype C.  But again, the glee may be related to creating an environment for a toddler that is, perhaps, just a bit over-protective.  Or perhaps he isn’t tending to his diet appropriately, and hence, has lots of allergies, including a bug one, and so kills bugs with a self-preservative glee.  My next book will be, Change Your Diet, Change Your Glee.  Not really.

Phenotype 2 – The Snake Killers

Was Jeffery Dahmer a snake killer

I'm thinking he might have been a Phenotype 2C

2A:  Kills a bug in the house reluctantly AND navigates (or wants to navigate) the car to kill the snake
2B:  Kills a bug in the house without thinking AND navigates (or wants to navigate) the car to kill the snake
2C:  Kills a bug in the house gleefully AND navigates (or wants to navigate) the car to kill the snake
2D:  Will pick up a bug in the house and move it elsewhere AND navigates (or wants to navigate) the car to kill the snake
2E:  Says hello to the bug in the house AND navigates (or wants to navigate) the car to kill the snake

If you are a 2, I don’t give a crap whether you deliver home meals to the bedridden.  I would say that you’re scum, except that scum is useful in this world.  You?  You’re a weight on the entire system and hurling us toward planetary destruction.  Oh, wait, dangit.  I wasn’t going to inject my views.  Yeah, right.

I know that this is becoming at least slightly annoying.  I know this because this is a pain in the ass to write.  But it seems to me, on this fine Spring morning, that self-examination is often wanting in the arena of our relationship to the rest of the animal kingdom, the non-humanoid part, that huge part that makes up over 99 percent of it.

So on to the last phenotype, the threes, where it gets more like many of us, and is the last bunch.  Hold the applause (for this being nearly over).

Phenotype 3 – The Goo Seers

3A:  Kills a bug in the house reluctantly AND doesn’t really recognize the snake on the road as life
3B:  Kills a bug in the house without thinking AND doesn’t really recognize the snake on the road as life
3C:  Kills a bug in the house gleefully AND doesn’t really recognize the snake on the road as life
3D:  Will pick up a bug in the house and move it elsewhere AND doesn’t really recognize the snake on the road as life
3E:  Says hello to the bug in the house AND doesn’t really recognize the snake on the road as life

I really think that it is a sad state of affairs that humans really do see the rest of the animal kingdom as so much goo.

Good goo.  Bad goo.  Goo to eat.  Goo to control.  Goo to amuse me.  Goo to love.  Goo to study.  Goo to give a bath to every day and carry with me  wearing its special bow that matches mine to the grocery.

At the risk of a blog riot, it really all boils down to one question:  when will we respect life enough to recognize that it all has a place, it all has dignity, that none of it was put here for us, and that humans are not at the top of some made-up pyramid?

I’m a 1D, working toward 1E.  Who are you?

Namaste.

 

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