"The creatureliness is the terror." - Ernest Becker
The nightmares of the evolutionary past make for good horror movies of the present. The fear is to be attacked at night. The terror is to be eaten. The fear of the night when one is most vulnerable to the animals that could kill our primate ancestors and cousins. Do ghosts and demons need to kill and eat for food to keep their metabolism rate going? And yet we humans attribute the same features to these fictional beings because what terrifies us in our primitive core is what terrified us before the rise of technology and civilization. The superstition and fear of demons and ghosts is the imaginary world of our present that flows from our real evolutionary past. Present horror is steeped in the evolutionary past. Of course human beings in different situations on this rock are still getting maimed and killed by other animals just not at the same level of vulnerability as our ancestors. But at those times that a shark, big predator, or crocodile takes us down it should remind our species that we are part of nature and despite the wonders of technology or the myths of our gods we are still subject to its cycle of consumption.
Even where we have beaten back our ancestral predators, we bear their mark. Our brains are wired for fight and flight because of predators. We are anxious. We readily fear what used to threaten us, such as snakes. We are who we were, but more so than that, we are what we wanted to escape. Our first words may have been uttered to warn our family of cats, snakes or eagles. Even our screams, those wordless sounds we make when we are afraid, are an echo of the ghosts of our pasts. Whether we notice or not, our bodies remember those days in which the wolf in Grandma's bed may really have been a wolf; they remember the species we ran from, screaming as we tried to flee.
Rob Dunn is a biologist at North Carolina State University. His new book, The Wild Life of Our Bodies It tells the stories of our changing relationships with other species (be they worms, bacteria or tigers). In doing so, it considers questions such as what our appendix does, why we suffer anxiety, why human babies tend to be born at night and whether tapeworms are good for us, all from an ecological perspective.
"There was also the threat of predators in the grassy woodlands. These were the home of browsers and grazers and also the predators that eat them, like hyenas, leopards, and lions. This was a danger to the small and slow bipedal Australopithecines. They were not as talented in trees as apes or as facile on the ground as us. However, adaptation must have served them well, since the anatomical stability of the group over millions of years attests to this. The very first Australopithecine discovery of a juvenile appeared to have been a victim of a giant eagle. At another site, there was convincing evidence that hominid remains were the remnants of leopard meals. At the
site of Swartkrans, there was direct evidence that at least some of the South African early hominid fossils were victims of leopards. An immature skull was found with twin puncture marks, indicating a leopard bite mark."http://www.smithsonianmag.c...