Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Shooting of Matilda Grabtree

It was a tragedy of errors. Fourteen year old Matilda Grabtree was just tying to play a prank on her parents. When her mom and dad returned home around the wee hours in the morning, she jumped out of her hiding in the closest in her bedroom, 'Boo!'

When they reached home, Bobby Grabtree and his wife assumed that Matilda was staying with her friends. Hearing a faint noise inside the house, Bobby drew his .357 calibre pistol and went to investigate Matilda's bedroom. When the playful kid jumped from the closet 'Boo!', he took her for the imaginary intruder and shot her in the neck. He was so quick to react that he couldn't register what was happening or recognize his daughter's voice. Twelve hours later, Matilda Grabtree died in the hospital.

How did such a tragedy occur? What drove Bobby Grabtree was fear, one emotional legacy of evolution. He wanted to protect his family from danger. In itself, fear isn't necessarily an unhealthy emotion. In fact, it has protected us over the long course of evolution and ensured our survival. Automatic reactions like this, evolutionary biologists assume, have become engraved in our nervous system because for a long and crucial period in human prehistory they made the difference between life and death. Even more important, observes Daniel Goleman in 'Emotional Intelligence', they were critical to the main task of evolution: being able to bear progeny who would carry on these very genetic predispositions. What a tragic irony given what happened at Grabtree's!

Read the full story of the Grabtree Tragedy at

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