Scorpions and frogs

frog by noodlemaps

I discuss Paul Krugman’s column on the
cynical ploys of so many Representatives in Congress at Path to Sustainable. In this case, their denialist views on climate change.

As I said, it reminds me of the fable about the scorpion and the frog. This led me to a very interesting page about the ethics of the situation. In particular, it discusses the scorpion’s response or defection, in the context of a real game, one with a definite end..

As the scorpion thinks, ‘If the game comes to an end, then I need to get mine before that happens. I need to grab for as much of what is available NOW before the frog gets theirs.’

If there is no future, no shadow on the scorpion, then it might as well do what it wants and follow its nature. No future means it is free to defect from the beginning and never have to cooperate.

Since the scorpion will cynically defect and sting at the first opportunity (why wait until the end anyway?), the decision of the frog now becomes paramount. What should the frog do?

Perhaps a quote from Snopes about the story of the scorpion will help:

The story uses animals to impart a caution about human behavior: Some folks are wholly irredeemable, says the legend, and woe betide those who forget that some cannot be dissuaded from their evilness, no matter who undertakes the rehabilitative efforts or how they are carried out. Ultimately, blame is laid at the victim’s feet for not accepting what he recognized and understood to be true but chose not to believe: “You knew what I was when you found me.” The victim’s arrogance in thinking he will be the one exception proves fatal, and his folly serves as a warning to others not to make the same mistake.

The decision of the frog to listen to the scorpion, to carry the scorpion on its back, was the one that doomed them both. If the frog really understood the scorpion’s nature, if it recognized that the scorpion would defect no matter what, then the frog should have simply ignored the scorpion and swam across the river by itself.

It did not need the scorpion. And trying to be thoughtful of the scorpion’s needs simply resulted in both of them dying. Better to ignore the scorpion and do what needs to be done.

Including changing the end of the game.

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