Ira PilgrimIRA'S CORNERFilename:N-program

October 9, 2003 (Ira Pilgrim)


Stupidity, I've heard it said, is defined as continuing to do the same thing, but expecting a different result. In this, stupidity is different from simple ignorance.

Let's say, for instance, that you have no idea how it feels to bash your thumbnail with a hammer. So you do that and discover it to be a tremendously unpleasant sensation. That's an act of ignorance; you didn't have the information.

Now, let's say you bash your thumb again.

That's an act of stupidity; you had the information but were unable or unwilling to process it, follow it to its logical conclusion.

Leonard Pitts, 2002

In the June 6, 2002 issue of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat above an article by Derek J. Moore is a picture of a man holding a large rattlesnake by the tail as the two vertebrates stare at each other. The article tells us that the man in the business of rescuing snakes and turning them loose again. It also says that he has been bitten by rattlesnakes 11 times. He is with an organization called Sonoma County Reptile Rescue. I don't know how many people are in that organization, but I suspect that it might be only one. When a person is bitten by a venomous snake, we can conclude that either he didn't know that the snake was there, or that he was careless. When he is bitten twice, it might be for the same reasons. When he is bitten 11 times, the only reasonable conclusion is that he is a damn fool. Lots of damn fools get their pictures in the paper. It is called "news."

Once you have been bitten by a poisonous snake, you develop an immunity to the effect of the poison, provided that it is the same species of snake. The same thing is true for bee venom and part of the conditioning for a beekeeper is being deliberately stung a number of times over a period of time in order to develop an immunity to the bee venom. While a rattlesnake bite is not usually fatal to an adult, it can be damned uncomfortable for quite a while.

When I was in high school, I was very interested in reptiles and did science projects about them. I had pet snakes and turtles. I did not mess with poisonous snakes, although I did know how to treat snakebite according to the conventional wisdom of the time. Anyone who tromps the woods should know this.

I have been bitten by non-poisonous snakes and even by a salamander. It is a minor annoyance and isn't anywhere near as dangerous as being bitten by a human being.

When I find a snake on my property, I usually catch it to show to my wife and grandchildren. I may keep it in a cage for a while and then turn it loose. If it is a rattlesnake, I kill it. I don't want my wife, a grandchild or myself bitten. It is true, that rattlesnakes kill pesky rodents like mice, but so do gopher snakes and other snakes that are harmless to people. I like having all sorts of wildlife around my house, but I draw the line at dangerous ones. I feel the same way about people.

Next column

Return to the Science Home Page

Return to Ira's Home Page