The Dark Side of Human Nature
© Eric R. Pianka
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks
of changing himself." -- Leo Tolstoy
When the irrational side of our brain is allowed to run rampant, it makes up magical supernatural stories and a darker side of human nature emerges. This is the stuff of horror movies many people love to watch. Witches and werewolves were ancient mythical creatures. Witches were seen as diabolical sorcerers, usually women, in league with the Devil that were supposed to be able to cast evil spells on others. They could fly on broomsticks and turn food poisonous. Witchcraft could elicit abscesses, barrenness, convulsions, epileptic seizures, hernias, impotence, stomach pains, and just about anything else that was unpleasant. It's hard to believe that people once went on witch hunts and burned "witches" at the stake but they did so in the middle ages. Werewolves were supposed to be able to transform themselves from humans into wolves and were invulnerable except to silver weapons.
Building on real vampire bats that feed on blood, mythical human vampires are ancient nocturnal creatures with fangs that drank the blood of others turning them into vampires. They could only be killed by driving a wooden stake through their heart. Dracula was the stuff of this folklore.
Voodoo is an ancient African black magic religion that was brought to the New World by slaves -- it took a different form in Haiti than in New Orleans and is frequently misunderstood as malevolent. Amulets and charms were worn for personal protection as well as to bring harm to enemies. Voodoo was also used to cure anxiety, addictions, depression, loneliness, and other ailments. It seeks to help the hungry, the poor, and the sick. So called "voodoo dolls" (gris-gris) were used to bless rather than curse. Sticking pins in a doll was not to cause harm but rather to associate a particular spirit with the doll.
Occultism is an anthropocentric religious movement akin to intelligent design that seeks to "reconcile the findings of modern natural science with a religious view that could restore humans to a position of centrality and dignity in the universe" (Goodrick-Clarke 1985). It was embraced by Nazi Germany and is now being forced on our society by the Discovery Institute under the guise of "intelligent design" (actually raw creationism). Over time, our understanding of the world around us has improved steadily as human knowledge has expanded. Our quest for understanding has liberated and enlightened many. During the Middle Ages, disease and other undesirable phenomena were thought to be caused by demons, unseen creatures from Hell, that wrought havoc on the populace (Sagan 1997).
Primitive peoples such as African, Australian, and New Guinean tribesmen once attributed sickness to the influence of witches and spirits. Australian aborigines believe in a host of tiny spirits that inhabit particular places. Some are heroes, others evil -- Mimi are slim and dwell in cracks and crevices in rocks. We now know that illnesses are frequently caused by microscopic bacteria and viruses -- this gives us some level of comfort that our lives are not controlled by unknown malevolent forces wishing to do us harm. The ultimate result is that instead of continuing to burn witches at the stake, we have sought to create a medical profession.
Here's a list of some of the many products of our imaginative irrational right cerebral hemisphere: Ghosts, Goblins, Zombies, Demons, Fiends, Frankensteins, Ogres, Ghouls, Big foot, Chupacabras, Dragons, Unicorns, Monsters, Magic, Exorcism, Racism, Sexism, Genocide, Astrology, Seances, Ouija boards, Satan, Hell, Reincarnation, Angels, Paranormal and Extrasensory perception.
Last updated 12 September 2014 by Eric R. Pianka