ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

just curious to know more about....

Updated on October 29, 2008

Curiosity and the Cat: The Real Story

This hub begins as a response to an incomplete question; "Just curious to know more about..." ...About what? Now I'm curious. As a teacher, curiosity is an important issue--a problem, even. Why do students often lose their curiosity about life as they pass through Public School, and then regain it as they enter adulthood?

The word "curious" instantly brings to mind the phrase "Curiosity killed the cat." What an absurd thought! In nature, virtually every trait that a species posesses is important to its survival. Cats have tails for balance when climbing, claws for hunting and defense, and curious natures for ...? If an animal has a trait that is bad for it, it will be more likely to die before it can breed and pass on that trait. If "curiosity" really killed cats, after only a few generations, most cats wouldn't be curious anymore. (I can't personally imagine an incurious cat, although I did once own a Siamese whose response to a mouse was to gaze at me with an expression that said, "Hey, would you catch that for me, please?")

Jared DIamond, writer of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" observed that the friends he made among the primitive villages of Papua New Guinea were the most curious people he had ever met, and some of the most intelligent. He speculated that, for people living in a primitive environment, curiosity was a stronger survival trait than any other. What is the difference between this mushroom, which is edible, and that, which is poisonous? How many things can I do with this 2-liter plastic bottle that washed up on the beach? What's that sparkly thing on your wrist for? He went so far as to wonder if those tribal people weren't in fact much smarter on average than Europeans, whose main survival trait through the Dark Ages was the ability to survive the ravages of various plagues. In other words, we Westerners have more need for a good immune system than for a sharp mind. (This explains the behavior of the attendant at the local gas station perfectly.)

Humans and cats are very curious creatures for the same reason: noticing any change in the environment is the best way to avoid danger, or to take advantage of a new resource. " Did you see the way that log is moving against the current? That's odd ... ah! It's not a log after all, it's a crocodile." Curiosity satisfied, and one more danger avoided. In days past, a sudden silencing of a bird's song would have caused you or I to stop and look very carefully around us, in search of whatever it was that disturbed the bird--perhaps a large predator, or another human. In today's world, no one in a busy city pays attention to the sounds of birds, but screeching tires turn everyones' heads! We notice what is important for survival, and we're curious about the things that are most likely to keep us safe or bring us greater resources.

The first luckless cat observed by a human being to be killed by its own nature was an exception to the general rule--perhaps it was caught in a bit of un-natural farm machinery, something its evolutionary history did not prepare it for. Humans aren't immune to the dangers of curiosity, either. Babies get burned reaching for the pretty blue fire of the gas stove-top, and of course we're all familiar with the typical scene early on in a horror movie where the bit-character says, "What's that noise?" and goes off to investigate, never to return (or perhaps to return in disassembled pieces).

While I've been writing this article, my cat has been watching with great diligence the antics of my pet snake as it tries to find a way out of its cage. It makes sense; if the snake can find a way out, then my cat will have a tasty treat--or at the least, she'll know how to get in. Also while I've been writing, the person who posted the vague "question" that I'm "answering" has likely moved on to other hubs, other Internet sites, or perhaps has gone off to another activity entirely. I don't know what motivated her to post that incomplete question, but I do know what makes me want to write an answer: I'm curious to know if anyone will bother to read this.

It also comes back to that basic question for me of why people tend to lose their curiosity during their Public School years and then regain it as they become adults. Now we have an answer that's a perfect fit; very little in the public schools has a visible connection to survival, or rather, to the "REAL world." The snake is food for my cat, if she can just get past that damned mesh; a rubber snake in that same cage would stir no interest at all. Students in public schools are essentially forced to look at "rubber snakes" in cages for 6 hours a day. "Here is history, stripped of all meaning; now memorize it, but I'll not tell you why. Go do your Algebra homework, then go home and do not one single thing that appears to involve "x" or "y" in any way.

A certain amount of disconnection is inevitable--it takes experience in the adult world before one can begin to actually use Algebra, and some people never use it once out of High School. History? Everyone following the Stock Market of 2008-2009 is wondering if we're going to see a repeat of the Great Depression, and the fact is that 13 year-olds just don't own stocks. However, the Internet is swiftly changing the way we learn, as we have instant access to information for virtually every point of curiosity--one day soon I hope to see this become a tool to help change the loss of curiosity in our youth, repatterning their brains to make them more open to information than ever before.

As one final thought, I find myself wondering ... why on earth do people use this phrase, "Curiosity killed the cat"? Generally it's used to shut someone up; we're essentially saying that they should watch out, don't be too curious. Is that really a good idea, when it's curiosity that's kept us alive through the millennia? Perhaps, perhaps not, but ....

...Hey, did you hear that? What was that noise? And has anyone seen the woman who asked the "curiosity" question? I think she took off to the kitchen for a snack, but that's been almost an hour ago. She should be back by now. I'd better go check it out ... wait, I think there's something strange in there ....


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 

      10 years ago from Portugal

      Great reading! I loved the way you got around that incomplete question.

      BTW, welcome to hubpages ;)

      ps: I´m so curious to "see" your next hubs :D


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)