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Nathan Weaver, a student at Clemson University, was trying to figure out how to make it safer for turtles to cross highways. What he ended up finding was that turtles will never be safe because the human heart is dark, and there will always be drivers who intentionally run over or try and aim their vehicles at the defenseless reptiles. Wait, what? No. That can't be? People are good and only have road rage toward other drivers. Right? Nope. The AP reports:

Weaver put realistic-looking rubber turtles, no bigger than a saucer, in the middle of a lane on a busy road near campus. Then he got out of the way and watched as over the next hour, seven drivers intentionally ran over the turtle, and several more appeared to try to hit the defenseless animal, but missed.

Oh, what's that sound? Faith being lost in humanity? Sounds about right. Weaver, as the AP reports, recorded one in 50 drivers actually ran over the dummy turtles. That ratio isn't exactly alarming, but consider how long it take a turtle to cross the road and it becomes plain to see that road-crossing for turtles on any semi-busy road means guaranteed death. That doesn't even take into account people trying to hit the turtle and missing. So this is just an anomaly, right? Maybe people in South Carolina really don't like turtles for whatever reason?  

But to seasoned researchers, the targeting of turtles and other reptiles isn't surprising. ...

And even in today's more enlightened, modern world, sometimes humans feel a need to prove they are the dominant species on this planet by taking a two-ton metal vehicle and squishing a defenseless animal under the tires, said Hal Herzog, a Western Carolina University psychology professor.

"They aren't thinking, really. It is not something people think about. It just seems fun at the time," Herzog said. "It is the dark side of human nature."

Yeah, but maybe it's a generational thing, you know? Maybe millennials are way more huggy and more environmentally conscious?  

To illustrate his point, Herzog asked a class of about 110 students getting ready to take a final whether they had intentionally run over a turtle, or been in a car with someone who did. Thirty-four students raised their hands, about two-thirds of them male, said Herzog ... 

Have none of you played Frogger — fine, we give up.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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