01 September 2010

I Wanted to Kill It

but I didn't. The silverfish was crawling around the edge of the bathtub as I was shaving. Out of the corner of my eye I watched it; they move quickly you know and it could start crawling up my leg in no time.

Yuck yuck yuck.

Crawly things creep me out. Not all bugs, but those with rippling legs like silverfish and centipedes.

Yuck yuck yuck.

I wanted to kill it, but stopped this time. My gut was disgusted, but my brain said, "Hold on Fred, is your disgust reason to kill?"

Disgust apparently is, according to research into 'disgust studies,' (I am not making this up, as Dave Barry would say) our idea of what iks disgusting may not be as natural as we think. Read this intriguing article from the Boston Globe. It's long, but very worth it.

Long ago, when my mother-in-law was alive, I saw the danger of rationalizing our disgusts. She was a child of the south, for whom so called 'race mixing' was taboo. When it turned out a couple we knew were 'mixed' she opined that the thought of it made her sick. She was disgusted.

Disgust is a human reaction apparently born long ago when we had to be able to tell the difference between healthy food and dangerous food. Things bad for us made us recoil, shiver, stick out our tongues. It was a visceral reaction that evolution found useful.

But beyond recognizing things physically bad for us there is no scientific validity to disgust. All the other things we find naturally disgusting are learned. My mother-in-law was not exaggerating or lying, her disgust was real. But it was not natural. I feel not disgust at seeing 'mixed couples,' or 'gay couples' (also frequently said to inspire disgust). Am I clueless, or is it possible it simply is not naturally disgusting.

Like silverfish!

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