Monday, December 24, 2007

Snake Skin and Snake Oil

To what extent could the use of words parallel the way animals roll in the smell of other species? I was going to say the dung,or carcasses, not smell, but the example that most recently came to my attention was squirrels which have been observed to eat shed snake skin and then lick their own fur. The zoologists surmise that this is a protective device, so I guess, that when the squirrels are asleep predators will think they are snakes and leave them alone.

Here is the Reuters article about the UC Davis research:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It's scary being a little, tasty squirrel, but some species of the rodents have come up with an intimidating camouflage -- snake smells.
California ground squirrels and rock squirrels chew up rattlesnake skin and smear it on their fur to mask their scent, a team at the University of California Davis reported.
"They're turning the tables on the snake," Donald Owings, a professor of psychology who helped lead the research, said in a statement.
Barbara Clucas, a graduate student in animal behavior, watched ground squirrels and rock squirrels chewing up pieces of skin shed by snakes and then licking their fur.
The scent probably helps to mask the squirrel's own scent, especially when the animals are asleep in their burrows, they wrote in the journal Animal Behavior.
(Reporting by Maggie Fox: Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and David Wiessler)

If so, then men using words are warding off some realms (we surmise) they are aware are dangerous but at some level are also aware they are ignorant of. Perhaps words are meant to ward off the very real hazards of ignorance. Of course words have a legitimate function--
to, in the analysis of Jan Cox, break up the external world into rearrangeable pieces (hence what is called human progress). But regarding the unseen worlds---words are simply not designed to provide information or useful analysis. And yet we have philosophy, religion, psychology, et cet era, for thousands of years and no sense that this illusion is wearing out.... How to account for the persistence of the human belief that man's mental machinery can deal with whatever is beyond the obviously physical??? Aside from some cosmic late night commercial for a dice everything machine, how account for the human susceptibility to using his mental apparatus to chop up non physical reality. So my suggestion is this: perhaps part of the reason is that words have a reflected allure, a scent from another realm, that is comforting in view of a sensed void, an intimation of a different reality. Perhaps the illusion of control and insight has a protective function for the species. Hey, it is just a thought.

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