Monday, April 27, 2009


From time to time, my ten year-old poses interesting hypothetical questions to me. She poses hypothetical questions to me all the time, but only from time to time are they interesting. Today, she asked: If you had to live without one of your senses, which would you choose?

It was kind of a toss up between taste and smell, but in the end, I went with taste.

I’m quite sure that taste has been essential for our survival as a species – I’d guess that a majority of poisonous substances have no smell before they’re mixed with saliva – but now, it that sense really necessary? Taste can be trained to help us evaluate and consequently elevate the enjoyment of the food we eat. I know that we can use our other senses purely for enjoyment as well, but they all seem to be vitally necessary. Only taste seems to be optional for our enjoyment.

Being reminded of the inspirational success of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan, no doubt, prompted her question.

I remember playing this game with a childhood friend only the question was, which would you rather be, blind or deaf? She is a singer, can play any song she’s ever heard on the piano by ear, and does voice-overs, including impersonations for a living. Guess which sense she chose to keep?

While I use my slightly compromised unaided vision to my advantage when cleaning, my sight is by far my most relied upon sense.

And while we’re on the topic, did you know that the five senses have been downgraded to traditional status? At least according to Wikipedia:

The traditional five senses are sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste: a classification attributed to Aristotle.[2] Humans also have at least six additional senses (a total of eleven including interoceptive senses) that include: nociception (pain), equilibrioception (balance), proprioception & kinesthesia (joint motion and acceleration), sense of time, thermoception (temperature differences), and in some a weak magnetoception (direction)[3].

Okay, so I’m going to change my answer: Magnetoception. I have a portable GPS for that.

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