A recent string of posts initiated by Kayla Spaan focus on mythical hares, the most famous of which being the Jackalope.
While reading about these creatures I found a common thread, one that extends beyond these monster hares.
The desire to explain what was once seen as magic through science and medicine.
The best example being the Jackalope itself. No longer an elusive hybrid between a hare and antelope, but the sad result of an often fatal disease. The Shope papilloma virus is a type I virus possessing a nonsegmented dsDNA genome. It infects rabbits and hares, causing keratinous carcinomas, typically on or near the animal’s head. These tumors can become large enough that they interfere with the host’s ability to eat, eventually causing starvation.
This desire to demystify does not limit itself to fairy tales and folklore. Scientists have explanations for religious miracles as well,including the stigmata of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The following was taken from Wikipedia's entry on Stigmata:
From the records of St. Francis’ physical ailments and symptoms modern doctors believe they know what health problems plagued the holy man. Doctors believe that he had an eye ailment known as trachoma, but also had quartan malaria. Quartan malaria causes the liver, spleen, and stomach to be infected causing the victim intense pain. One complication of quartan malaria occasionally seen around Francis’ time period is known as purpura. Purpura is a purple hemorrhage of blood into the skin. Purpuras usually occur symmetrically, which means each hand and foot would have been affected equally. If this were the case of St. Francis he would have been afflicted by ecchymoses, an exceedingly large purpura. The purple spots of blood may have been punctured while in the wilderness and therefore appear as an open wound like that of Christ’s. This is not historically supported, only a speculation by some present day physicians.