Search for the Loch Ness Monster Begs the Question: What Is a Monster?
Proving there’s still room for the classics, a group of scientists in Scotland are using DNA testing to try to determine once and for all if the Loch Ness monster is real. The philosophical question this research raises is perhaps just as fascinating as the search for Nessie.
What makes the Loch Ness monster a monster instead of, say, a new species? In another world, this 90-year-old urban legend might be a viewed as a potential ground-breaking scientific discovery.
This Latin origin suggests monsters serve a metaphorical purpose in our society by embodying unpleasant characteristics we find difficult to accept.
In a research paper out of the University of Cambridge, Natalie Lawrence, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, explores the parameters of how humans identify monsters, and the classification isn’t just based on repulsion and fear.
Lawrence notes that while “monsters” have been depicted in cultural works dating back to ancient times, the term we use today to describe these creatures has Latin roots — namely, a combination of the words monstrare, meaning “to demonstrate,” and monere, or “to warn.”
In other words, monsters aren’t just meant to be scary. They also reveal something important about nature and humanity. Frankenstein teaches us the dangers of playing God, Godzilla shows us the repercussions of nuclear radiation, and even the Incredible Hulk is a metaphor for grappling with alcoholism.
So while it’s most likely the researchers won’t actually find any mythical creatures, perhaps they’ll learn something about themselves in the process.
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