January 2, 2006

Pandas: The Science [And The Religion] Of Cuteness

The NYT has a looong article on the science of cuteness, from Hello Kitty to pandas to babies to baby penguins to...baby pandas. Turns out cuteness is used by human babies to stay alive; by those at the top of rigidly hierarchical Japanese society to make power differences more palatable; and by marketers and propagators of ideas to make them more appealing and persuasive.

As an example of the latter, the article cites teen anti-smoking campaigns which achieved marked improvements when their messages were presented "by cute cartoon characters like a penguin in a red jacket or a smirking polar bear." But an even more interesting example goes unremarked, even though the animals themselves are the stars of the article.

Pandas have been given a central role as the cute public face of the Intelligent Design movement. The 1993 book Of Pandas and People is considered the bible [sic] of ID proponents, and it is regularly put forward as an alternative textbook to the "neo-Darwinist orthodoxy" that is contained in most science textbooks. Pandas, as it's known [how cute] was pivotal in the recent ID vs. Evolution trial in Dover, PA, too; students were directed to check it out as an alternative to the "controversial" theories they were about to hear. [Of course, it came out during the trial that Pandas began as a religious text, an apologia for "creationist science"; and when that was ruled unconstitutional, the editors did a quick find-and-replace with "ID."]

Anyway, huge tangent, but it occurred to me the other day when I noticed some pandas in a Noah's Ark set [$99 at gummylump.com, all wood from Voila Toy], and I wondered if there was such thing as an ID-compatible, doctrinally correct Noah's Ark toy set, and if there were, wouldn't it most definitely include pandas?

[Now that I mention it, the other religious battle being pitched these days, the one over gay marriage, has a baby penguin as its mascot, too; And Tango Makes Three is the On Pandas and People of its cause. Never mind that the gay penguin couple actually preceded the book; or that, on the other hand, one of Tango's dads now has a girlfriend. Polemical religio-politics has never been so cute.]

The Cute Factor [nyt]
Previously: Cute Overload

Leave a comment


Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Google DT


Contact DT

Daddy Types is published by Greg Allen with the help of readers like you.
Got tips, advice, questions, and suggestions? Send them to:
greg [at] daddytypes [dot] com

Join the [eventual] Daddy Types mailing list!


Archives

copyright

c2004-11 daddy types, llc.
no unauthorized commercial reuse.
privacy and terms of use
published using movable type

advertisements