My Sophisticated Tiger-ology


I received a comment on a post yesterday that I felt a strong need to respond to, and I thought the rest of you should see it. I had posted a link to a piece from my archives, Why “I Feel It In My Heart” Is a Terrible Argument for God, in which I said the following:

The human mind did not evolve to perceive and process information 100% accurately. The human mind evolved to find food and escape from predators. Many of our cognitive errors are important and useful in helping us function (or they were 100,000 years ago on the African savannah when we were hunting gazelles and escaping from tigers)… but they make our minds not entirely trustworthy as sources of information.

To which Anon Naturalist replied:

Ahem: there are no tigers in Africa, only in Asia.

I considered carefully, and after much searching of my non-existent soul, I wrote this in reply.

Anon Naturalist @ #4: Your epistemology is so crude. It may not be literally true that there are tigers in Africa… but it’s psychologically true. It’s the narrative of tigers in Africa that resonates on a deep, meaningful level with the human soul. And it should be clear that “tigers in Africa” is meant to be taken metaphorically. Nobody really believes in the literal tigers in Africa: the belief in tigers in Africa is part of a modern, sophisticated tiger-ology that’s much more advanced than you’re giving credit to. But many people are comforted by their belief in tigers in Africa, and it’s very cruel of you to try to take the comfort away.

Or, to put it another way: Oops.

Thoughts? Was I too harsh?

Comments

  1. Nerwal says

    These strident “New Atigerists” don’t take the time to understand current sophistimacated beliefs about tigers in Africa. Obviously you were not talking about escaping from real tigers but the truth of escaping from metaphorical tigers.

  2. says

    Thoughts? Was I too harsh?

    Not to harsh, but it might have been worth linking to Andrew Sullivan just in case anyone didn’t get the joke.

  3. penn says

    Exactly. Just because tigers in Africa weren’t “real”, doesn’t mean their isn’t “truth” in the statement that there were tigers in Africa. This is what both fundamentalists tigerists and many new atigerists fail to realize, and why we are superior to both groups.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    There are large, striped quadrupeds in Africa. I’ve seen them.
    There are large cats in Africa. I’ve seen them.
    Africa exists, of course.
    All the elements of “Tigers in Africa” exist separately; how dare anyone suggest that this evidence should be ignored?

  5. MathMike says

    It’s not about labels (tigerist, fundamentaltigerism, atigerist) it’s about having a personal relationship with the African tiger that is most important.

  6. Ally says

    I fully agree. Just because you can’t detect these tigers with your fancy scientific process doesn’t mean they don’t exist! By definition, the tigers exist on a spiritual plane outside of natural laws. It is profoundly arrogant of anyone to expect that just because we can’t see tigers in Africa, it means they don’t exist. And I should know because I truly believe that the tigers are there and they have a special place in my heart.

  7. Hein says

    I grew up in (South) Africa and my grandparents (who lived on a farm) would often warn me and my sisters to be careful of tigers when we went walking around in the bush. My grandmother also used to brag about how she once shot a tiger.

    I remember being confused by their stories of tigers, because there are no tigers in Africa, until I learned that “tiger” was being used as a generic term for medium sized to large cats, particularly Caracals, Servals, Cheetahs and Leopards. The word is still used in this way, especially in rural areas and amongst less educated people.

    So, actually, there are “tigers” in Africa.

  8. says

    Hey, tigers in Africa, jaguars in Asia, hyenas in America, who keeps track of where anybody lives these days?

    The World-wide Communist Conspiracy, that’s who!

  9. Retired Prodigy Bill says

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Obviously Tigerology (and remember to capitalize it, people!) and whatever silly science has, like biology or whatnot, are non-overlapping magisteria. Like Herman Cain says, “I don’t have the facts to back this up,” but, as Jon Kyl says, this “was not meant to be a factual statement.”

  10. Ramel says

    Of course there are tigers in Africa, and it’s all the fault those damn liberals refusing to put proper immigration controls in place!

  11. says

    Africa had dinofelis (extinct around 1.2 million years ago), homotherium (1.5 mya in Africa) and megantereon (about 3 mya in Africa). Hominids are evidenced at around 2.4 mya in Africa so it seems that our ancestors could well have the cousins of tiger ancestors if not the tiger ancestors themselves. Tigers evolved from saber-toothed cats that lived in China.

    Anyway it seem that you are wrong. You made an error, a boo boo, a slip. You cocked up. No big deal. We all make mistakes from time to time. What’s important is that we learn from them, admit them and try not to repeat them.

    You know, rather than make up some daft “just so” story that may involve an unkillable, magic, talking tiger messiah from India travelling across the Arabian Sea in a yacht so as to impart her knowledge of how to best hunt and eat humans to the indigenous lion population. A lion population who later threw the holy tiger into a volcano as a sacrifice to appease the holy tiger himself. Or something.

  12. Chrisj says

    All you Atigerists are just angry with the Tigers of Africa because you’re jealous of their beautiful stripey fur; you know they really exist. But when the jungle-time comes, you’ll pay for your denial when the tigers cast you down to Texas and the true Tigerists get sent to Europe.

  13. John U says

    You can sort of retract your apology. On your side, a close relative of saber-toothed tigers did exist in Africa, see below. But they are not properly tigers, so the best you can say is that colloquial tigers co-existed with humans in Africa, and that they were at least as frightening as your metaphorical tiger.

    From: http://dinosaurs.about.com/od/otherprehistoriclife/a/prehistoriccats.htm

    Now we need to dispense with a couple of other misconceptions. First, the most famous prehistoric cat, Smilodon, is often referred to as a “saber-toothed tiger,” but the word “tiger” actually refers to a specific, modern genus of big cat. More properly, Smilodon should be called a saber-toothed cat, just like its large-fanged contemporaries of the Tertiary and Quaternary periods.

    The Kings of the Saber-Toothed Cats – Smilodon and Homotherium

    Smilodon (and no, its Greek name has nothing to do with the word “smile”) is the creature that people have in mind when they say “saber-toothed tiger.” This long-fanged carnivore was shorter, stockier and heavier than a typical modern-day lion, and it owes its fame to the fact that thousands of Smilodon skeletons have been fished out of the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles (it’s no wonder that Hollywood has immortalized “saber-toothed tigers” in countless caveman flicks). Although Smilodon probably snacked on the occasional hominid, the bulk of its diet consisted of the large, slow herbivores crowding the plains of North and South America.

    Smilodon enjoyed a long time in the prehistoric sun, persisting from the Pliocene epoch to about 10,000 B.C., when early humans hunted the dwindling population to extinction (or, possibly, rendered Smilodon extinct by hunting its prey to extinction!). The only other prehistoric cat to match Smilodon’s success was Homotherium, which spread across wider swathes of territory (Eurasia and Africa, as well as North and South America) and was perhaps even more dangerous. Homotherium’s canines were sleeker and sharper than those of Smilodon (which is why paleontologists call it a “scimitar-toothed” cat), and it had a hunched, hyena-like posture. (Homotherium may have resembled hyenas in another respect: there’s evidence that it hunted in packs, a good strategy for bringing down multi-ton Woolly Mammoths.)

  14. Anon Naturalist says

    Ahhahahahaha! Just saw this – I’ve created a monster! A striped monster!

    Thanks, you rock!

  15. Loqi says

    After reading the whole “crude epistemology” article, I’ve come to the conclusion that when theists talk about “sophisticated theology,” they don’t mean “sophisticated” as we understand it. According to my English-to-Goddledygook dictionary, “sophisticated” actually translates to “bullshit” in English. The whole misunderstanding was just a translation error the whole time.

    Sadly, it doesn’t have entries for the words “crude” or “epistemology,” so I don’t know what they’re trying to say there. Feel free to speculate.

  16. philiboid stuge says

    Yes, you are being too harsh. You were wrong. Admit it and move on. Don’t try to justify your mistake with a bunch of mental wrangling. For someone that think they are so smart, you are being stupid.

  17. DLC says

    Clearly your tiger-ology is too crude for such people.
    You need to broaden your horizons of Bafflegab by studying from the masters, such as Sullivan or Chopra.

  18. fastlane says

    I can’t believe there hasn’t been a single link to Calvin and Hobbes yet! You Tigerologists are slacking.

  19. Jonathan says

    At the time of the last Ice Age, there were tigers in Africa. There were hyenas and lions in both Europe and Asia. There still are lions in Asia (though they’re almost extinct). Tigers aren’t just found in India. They’re range currently extends from Northwest Russia to Southern India. It used to extend all the way West to Northwest Africa and Arabia as well. They the populations were marginal and died off as part of the die-back of large land animals that always coincides with the advance of human habitation during the Great Migration out of Africa.

  20. Greta Christina says

    …it’s not impossible that there were once Tigers in parts of Africa.

    Ajita @ #31: And because it’s not impossible, it is therefore totally reasonable to assume that it’s true, and to base our lives on that assumption. :-)

  21. mandrellian says

    Holy crap, Greta, I think you just chanelled Andy Sullivan.

    And because you reminded me of Monty Python’s “Tiger Brand Coffee” bit, you win the internet this morning :D

  22. Stacy Kennedy says

    You can’t prove there are no tigers in Africa. Until you can, all your fancy atigerism is just as faith-based as tigerism.

  23. penn says

    And because it’s not impossible, it is therefore totally reasonable to assume that it’s true, and to base our lives on that assumption.

    What’s more, since it’s not impossible it obviously takes just as much faith (if not more!) to think tigers didn’t live Africa.

  24. Philip Legge says

    philiboid stuge:

    Yes, you are being too harsh. You were wrong. Admit it and move on. Don’t try to justify your mistake with a bunch of mental wrangling. For someone that think they are so smart, you are being stupid.

    It’s very wrong of you to criticise our gracious blog host: she’s a tiger when she’s roused.

    *rimshot*

  25. Mr Fnortner says

    Why are you so angry with the African tiger? What has the African tiger ever done to you? You should just open your heart and accept the African tiger. Besides, people need hope and the African tiger gives them that.

  26. Ian says

    Hilariously, I just watched Monty Python and the Meaning of Life for the first time today.

    Could it–*gasp*–be a sign of a higher power?

    This settles it. God is a giant foot.

  27. TheVirginian says

    Let’s get some history straight here.
    That famous, sophisticated, tiger-ologeian Edgar Rice Burroughs, in his best tiger-ology explication, “Tarzan of the Apes,” (generally considered to be much superior to the derivative works of tiger-ologeian Thomas Aquinas) gave a higher tiger-ology view of the tigers of Africa.
    Sadly, New Atigerists dominated the publishing industry and they forced him to gut his finest book by removing all tiger references. Anyone who wants to read one of the best-quality tiger-ology explanations must find a first-edition of “Tarzan.”
    BTW, I heard that Terry Eagleton is doing an annotated version of the first edition of “TOTA” that will both restore the original tiger references but will explain them in a way that New Atigerists like Richard Dawkins will be unable to refute.

  28. Ramesh Thotta says

    Much Roar (ado) about nothing ? Tiger may be a slip while meant a predator by the author. Nobody likes being pointed out for their errors, forgetting human are fallible ! Relax; let not our humour ditch us any moment !

  29. Jon Jermey says

    It really doesn’t matter whether there are tigers in Africa: the important thing is to avoid offending people who think there are. Greta should volunteer her services as an atigerist delegate to the African Tigerist Council in order to facilitate a mutually respectful dialogue between all the concerned parties.

  30. Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM says

    Hey, I don’t believe there are tigers in Africa either, but you all really need to stop being so offensive. What if people who believed in tigers in Africa came into this thread? Everyone would just be alienated and have their minds closed by all this strident African-tiger-bashing, and then we would never make any progress! You ought to work on your framing. Otherwise it’s really obvious that you’re not out to change any minds, just to preach to the choir.

    I once went to a conservation event where a bunch of fans of the New Atigerists made a point of shouting forced laughter at a bunch of moderate tigerists. Guys, you’re not helping!

  31. Sheesh says

    I’d never considered Tigerism before now. I’ve been swayed by the polite arguments and sophisticated Tigerology. Tigerism: It’s Grrrrrrreat!

    Greta,
    Great post, and sure to be meme or in-joke around here.

    CC,
    Good one! Pitch perfect response!

  32. had3 says

    I’m not as sure as Sheesh. Afterall, it is Calvin who believes in the Tiger as anything but imaginary.

  33. eNeMeE says

    No, Calvin is the child of Tigerism, while Hobbes’ belief in himself is clearly the Holy Spirit… Ah, crap, now I’m thinking Susie is clearly Satan (or would that be the monsters under the bed?), and fitting everything into a correspondence with christianity.

    Off to become a prophet of Calvinity, or something.

  34. LadyBlack says

    Since the original commentor cannot DEFINITELY prove that Tigers don’t exist in Asia, we all have to admit that not believing in them in Asia is a conscious choice, so we are all be Atigerist Agnostics.

  35. says

    Hey, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, terrific blog!

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