07 March 2016

"Nature is not cruel"

This is just a brief post to share with the readership a "bon mot" - an insight that I thought was particularly well expressed.

While I was driving around doing errands today, I was listening to a late-January podcast of This American Life that I had previously downloaded and copied onto a CD.  The program was #545, entitled "If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS."

The theme of the program was an exploration of the ways people's personalities/personas change when they enter cyberspace.  The first act was "Ask Not For Whom The Bell Trolls; It Trolls for Thee," with obvious subject matter.  Then one on hate e-mail directed toward the program because of narrators having "vocal fry."

Act Three was "Words of Prey" -
"Jeffrey Brodeur worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and was put in charge of an Osprey Cam — a live web feed of an osprey nest near his office. Which he thought was just charming — until the mother osprey in the nest began acting strangely."  
The mother abused and frankly attacked the chicks, and the internet "blew up" with demands from "featherheads" (bird lovers) for someone to rescue the chicks.  I won't tell the outcome here.  Rather I'll just share this comment...
"Nature is not cruel - that implies intent.  It is harsh, unforgiving, and often random."
You can hear the full story here (14 minutes).


  1. One's got to admit though that vocal fry is about the oral equivalent of forgetting the clutch while stick shifting. I once made a compilation of all the fry bits from a video by Vi Hart (whom, for all else, I like immensely).

    1. I don't admit that (unless it's exaggerated intentionally); you might want to listen to the part of the podcast re the hate (e)mail they get from listeners.

    2. It bothers me none at all. I honestly have extreme difficulty discerning it unless it is pointed out to me or exaggerated in some way.

      I dislike slow talkers and can barely discern vocal fry. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that jazz.

    3. Oh, I'm not advocating hate or anything. Just social shunning and reeducation camps ;)

  2. Reminds me of one of my favorite Dawkins quotations:

    "The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference." -- Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden


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