09 July 2011


LIBERAL MEDIA. One often hears conservative commenters and politicians allege that most print and broadcast news media in the U.S. are of a decidedly liberal persuasion, hence unsympathetic to the views and values of the right. FALSE. If you pay any attention at all to the news topics chosen, and the manner in which those topics are presented, you'll find that if anything, most news media are emphatically conservative (even while they try mightily to portray themselves as impartial). If you doubt this, take a look at the corporations which own the major networks, then tell me that there isn't a conservative bias, not to mention a glaring conflict of interest.

The only entities which can claim some degree of impartiality are TV's Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and radio's National Public Radio (NPR). If you'd like a look at truly liberal media, the pickings are slim ~ on cable news, MSNBC, and on radio, Air America. Note that when measured in air time, conservative programming enjoys a 9 to 1 advantage over liberal programming. So much for the myth of liberal media holding sway over public opinion.

TICKLING. Any evolutionary biologist will tell you that most behaviors or physical traits confer a survival advantage, or they would not persist over generations. There are a few relict behaviors or traits which once contributed to survival value, but no longer do so. Only a few. So what possible advantage could be attached to being ticklish?

A brief BBC video provides one possible explanation. In sum, those parts of our bodies which are ticklish are also those parts which may be most vulnerable to injury if attacked by a predator (whether a saber-toothed cat or a scorpion). Those among our ancestors who happened to be endowed with extra sensory nerve endings in the vulnerable body parts, were more likely to sense and survive an attack, and pass their genes on to succeeding generations. Hence the spread of being ticklish among the human population. Like pretend fighting among young predators, adult humans tickling children in play may unconsciously be provoking an ancestral survival response. Perhaps it is no accident that the one being tickled responds with both laughter and pleas to stop. Sensory overload can be a little scary.

Not all humans are equally ticklish. Those among us who are not, or who are able to actively control their tickle response, might be at a survival disadvantage if thrust into an attack situation, or if in an environment in which mosquitos, lice, or other vermin might come visiting. Hey, it's possible.

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