Weird Design

Predator 2

Remember this guy? This is Predator, star of the 1987 movie named, aptly enough, Predator. It was a bit of a cult hit, and spawned two sequels, two spinoffs,  and another film currently in the works.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse “The Body” Ventura head up a team of mercenary badasses hired by the CIA to head into a steamy jungle to snuff out some bad guys. They hunt and kill the bad guys, only to find they are being hunted themselves. By this weird Predator thing that can turn itself invisible and likes to hunt and kill humans for sport.

There’s only one Predator against six heavily armed, Special Forces-trained killers. But soon the commandos are hunkered down, scared out of their wits, and getting picked off one-by-one to their gruesome, gory deaths. Finally it all comes down to Arnold and Predator, and well, you can’t have a movie franchise if you kill off the star, so Arnold finds a way to kill Predator and save himself.

Predator Commandos

One scene stuck in my head, where these trained killers, with all the confidence, training and weapons you could have, were crapping in their camo and scared sh*tless (wait, which way is it? Those metaphors are totally opposite yet they mean the exact same thing… what the…?). They’re so frightened they can’t think straight and start making desperate, rookie mistakes. Which predictably leads to them being butchered by this freaky Predator thingee.

It was the fear that got me thinking. We humans have a  design flaw. We get overwhelmed  with fear in situations where it’s intensely counter productive. Sure, fear keeps us from doing stupid things, like dancing on the edge of cliffs, driving over 100 mph, and eating gas station sushi.

But fear also keeps us from performing well in critical situations. We get nervous and choke when we’re on the big stage under the bright lights. When the risk/reward ratio is the highest, fear causes us to divert our attention away from the potential reward, and focus on quelling the physical symptoms of fear. Like keeping our knees from knocking, our hands from shaking, or our voices from cracking while we struggle to produce enough saliva to make our lips and tongue still work.

The maddening part is how our instinctive reflex to fear is often the exact opposite of the behavior we need to succeed.  If you’ve ever learned to ski you know what I mean. When you’re a beginner and afraid of the slope, your natural reaction is to shy away from gravity and sit back on your skis. But this is the worst thing you can do; it shifts your weight to an unstable plane, and next thing you know you’re on your butt in the snow. Experienced skiers lean downhill, and the better they are, the more they ski straight down the “Fall Line”, the most direct line down the hill. Yes, ironic name, as those who ski the Fall Line generally don’t fall.

Seems to me we should be designed to perform better during intense, fear inducing situations. Like when we’re asking for a date with the hot girl or explaining ourselves to a judge. But that’s the time we usually crumble, stumble and fall.  How is that not a design flaw?

So the next time you hear someone talk about Intelligent Design, please ask them why God made humans so weak with fear. If you ask me, that was very Weird Design…

2 thoughts on “Weird Design”

  1. So “fear” is useful to us as an initial alerting mechanism, but then becomes counterproductive if we focus on it or allow it to linger. For example, it’s probably a good survival mechanism to experience a “fear alert” when you see a loose pit bull running toward you, but it is counterproductive if the “alert” only leads to a “deer in the headlights” lack of reaction instead of immediate action to get indoors or jump onto the roof of a car.

  2. But we can overcome this “design flaw” by feeling the fear and choosing to engage. It is NOT hard wired in us that we are going to be frozen by the fear. I love the acronym for FEAR as False Evidence Appearing Real. It’s very human to make stuff up and be our own worst enemy.

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