Newsday's Ellis Henican writes "This was an idea so patently gruesome and spectacularly stupid, when I first heard it I thought it had to be a hoax." I felt the same way when I heard there were newspaper columnists who heard new ideas and were incapable of forming any impression of them beyond their instinctual reaction. Hey, if I want to see a dumb animal recoil from a stimulus, I won't buy a newspaper--I'll throw firecrackers at my cat!I concur in being unimpressed by peoples initial gut reactions, although it has become a philosophy unto itself in the hands of Leon Kass as "the Wisdom of Repugnance" and also to Friends of the Earth: I think people have an inherent gut level response to wanting to protect the natural environment, and I think that people have an inherent gut level reaction against genetic modification of people, plants and animals (Larry Bohlen, quoted by Mark Mooney).
Counting on one's reflexive reaction can be just plain wrong. Hmmm, here's a link to something that's been bothering me all week: my interactions with the black male population in Vienna. Travelling around Vienna alone for a week, obviously a tourist, I had several interactions with black male Austrians. It started with the guy on a bench in the park calling out to me about how I was, then what I might be interested in doing. It culminated with the one who stood too close to me on the escalator and noticed I was reading in English, then proceeded to ask many questions about where I was staying in Vienna and wouldn't I be interested in staying with or near him. While I didn't feel endangered and have no difficulty saying "I'm not going to answer that question" and "No, thank-you, good-bye now" I did start to feel my overall politeness wearing thin as I had to turn impolite in order to get rid of each of these importuners. My gut reaction on catching the eye of the black guy at the airport hotel would therefore have been to prepare myself to ignore him, not to hear him, or to move away so he didn't have a chance to say anything. However I'm glad I didn't trust my gut reaction, I forced myself to remain open minded. He politely asked which way the elevator was and politely told me how nice my skirt was, and then politely allowed the converation to end rather than attempt to force it to continue. How nice he was, and how wrong my gut reaction would have been.