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Desert Diary


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It must be built in, ingrained in our DNA. Oh, what? Why the tendency to assign purpose and intent to things that couldn't possibly have such. Why else would we believe in the active malevolence of things ranging from wildfires to microbes, from bats to scorpions, from volcanos to hurricanes?

This apparently innate tendency has been seized upon avidly by advertisers, especially those touting remedies against bacteria and viruses—the organisms least likely to harbor even a spark of consciousness or ill intent. How often do we see commercials with an evil army of bad-guy microbes attacking some innocent but vital part of the body only to be repelled by an army of—well, fill in the name of your favorite over-the-counter medication. What once may have been a life-preserving wariness of the unknown seemingly has been bent to sustaining the almighty dollar. Yet, perversely, people seem to ignore what could be real dangers. After all, how many people get that warm, cosy feeling at the words, "I'm from the government. I'm here to help you".
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.