Rat’s naturally fear cat urine. Makes sense, right? Except there’s a brain parasite that makes rats not only lose their fear of feline piss but seek it out. The parasite works quite precisely, eliminating and reversing only the fear of cats while leaving other innate fears intact.
And this reminds me for some reason of a guy I knew in college (Hi Scott!) who never liked the “No Fear” motto because he thought it was a cop-out. The real challenge he thought was to feel the fear all the way and to use it, to “surf” on the crest of the fear. And there seems something right about that at least as far as it goes.
Fear, I suppose, is somewhat like pain in that both pain and fear are ways our bodies tell us to be careful. Pain and fear are like that annoying warning beep that so many appliances have. We generally think that it’s OK nowadays to use anesthetics to remove pain, especially after we’ve recognized that there is an underlying condition that is causing the pain. Incidentally, this wasn’t always the case. Anesthesis used to be virtually forbidden on moral grounds. Would it be prudent, though to pop an anti-fear pill occasionally if we could synthesize such a thing? Perhaps to reduce stress, if stress is indeed an aberrant “flight or fight” residue inappropriate for the modern era. The army, police, fire departments would likely be very interested as well.
Yes, yes, synthesizing an anti-fear pill isn’t that simple. The research seems to show some nasty relationship to schizophrenia. And of course the study shows that specific fears could be pinpointed, not a broad attenuation of all fear. But aside from those quibbles, I come back to a couple key questions:
Would we want to be fearless?
And even if we wanted to have no fears, would that really be a desirable state?