...and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.Genesis 8:21 - 9:2 (King James)
I read this reference originally in Year of the Flood and it took me sometime to try and recall where I'd found it. The meaning is one of the easier to divine from the notoriously slippy Christian holy book: After the flood, God outlines the futility of cursing the earth when evil lives in man's heart. He moves on to relent control of the Earth and the harmony of nature to man's control. Man will be able to eat and command any animal, but in return, they will forever live in fear and dread of man.
There's something poignant in here about how man assumes command over animals. It's something that forms a major string for inquiry through my new project with Studiolab that started this week. This passage deals with issues around the naturalistic and moralistic fallacies as well as the 'appeal to nature' all of these ideas deal with rightn-ness or good-ness and it's relationship to what might be considered 'natural.'
Introducing the project, I used the example of parasitic wasps:
The example is a relatively well-known one but the part that I find interesting isn't necessarily the cruelty in nature but the power the wasp and the larvae have over the other creature. Using a virus to re-write its entire nature and enslave it.
This isn't unique to parasitic wasps either. Another example is Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, sometimes known for creating 'Zombie Ants'
Again, it's the element of mind-control - the virus hijacks the ant's brain and makes it climb to around 25cm off the ground where it settles to allow the virus to grow. Also, snail zombification is a similar process but relies on the ingestion of the parasite by a bird.
These are kind of exotic and jungle-based examples but one of the most common hijackers actually effects around 25% of all humans and is based on the cat and mouse relationship in domestic environment: Toxoplasma Gondii
This little guy convinces mice to become fearless so that they seek out open spaces and no longer fear cats. The cat then eats the mouse and the Toxoplasma grows in the cat's gut. Exposure of the mouse to cat poop then infects the mouse again leading to the cycle continuation. There's lots of stuff about it because it's believed to also infect 25-50 per cent of human and potentially be a cause of schizophrenia.