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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

ColSem 2002 Papers Forum

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

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Name: asdf
Date: 2002-10-10 15:02:34
Link to this Comment: 3250


seeing yourself in the universe
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-10-17 11:20:55
Link to this Comment: 3277

Paint a picture of yourself sitting in the universe. What would it look like? This is mine: A swirling mesh of colors and darkness covers a canvass the size of an entire wall in Thomas Great Hall. Colors leap across the canvass and roll around swallowing everything within. The observer is sucked into the painting and tumbled through it and is spat out again on the other side of the great hall. Maybe it's a Jackson Pollack, just darker. Approach the painting. Look closely at the colors and the paint, brush strokes, light source. Now, look at the bottom corner. You don't see me, yet, you will- if you have good eye sight. Look closer, bend down low, squint your eyes, and get on your knees. Do you see that small white splotch? That's me. That's me in the universe. And even that is an exaggeration.
The image of myself in the universe is impossible to comprehend. If I understood how small I was in relation to the rest of the universe I would cease to exist. I don't think anyone can live knowing how small she is in the universe. An overwhelming sense of worthlessness would take over. People would begin to ask, "What is the point of living if I have no consequence in the world?" I don't think anyone can continue living, continue going through the toils of life believing that she is worthless.
How can humanity deal with the aching pain of being inconsequential? God. God is the organizer of the universe. The first two verses of Genesis read as follows: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was chaotic and darkness covered the face of the abyss and the spirit of the Lord fluttered over the face of the waters." We are set in the ultimate chaos. We are in the painting, swirling and spinning and choking and gasping in a world that has no conscience, a world that does not understand that: I AM SPECIAL! But there is a governing force that flutters over this void, that sees me, outside of the millions, the billions, the uncountable.
Why do people keep telling and re-telling the story of creation, the story of God? Because without a God, without this story, we are dead, drowned. For some science is enough. For evolutionists, and other scientists, the order that science gives is enough. The swirls are put into frames and the light cages the darkness. And the boarders of human anatomy protect the cowering figure is a neat corner. Scientists are able to accept that there is no conscious being. There is an order to the random happenings in nature, that order is scientific fact.
For others there needs to be a conscious being. "Creationism is the theory that man, the earth, and the rest of the universe were originally created rather than randomly exploding from nothingness into chance existence" []. For some it is too painful to think that humans are here by chance. Humans need to be special. We NEED the bible to tell us that we are special because we were created special, intended to be special.
We tell stories to address deep seeded fears. To soothe ever-present nightmares. For some saying that science is God, that science is the organizer of the universe, is enough. Individuals do not need to be special because there is a reason for everything. There is a pattern in the universe that humans can decode and therefore have control over the universe. For these scientists there is no thought behind existence. For the creationists individuality is important- they cannot believe that the beauty of humanity and this world is random, there needs to be thought behind beauty.

evolution vs. creationism
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-10-19 11:57:03
Link to this Comment: 3278

The battle for the truth has been raging for centuries. This battle is not just for any truth but for the truth of our very existence on Earth. On one side stand the creationists who believe that "our universe and the natural things in it were created by God." (1) Their main weapon is the Bible and they are quick to find the flaws in the intermittent armor of their opponents. They defend themselves with their great faith that often stems from religious beliefs. Charging against the creationists are the evolutionists. Evolution can be described as "change over time." (2) Evolutionists are backed by an army of scientists who use experiments and evidence to gain scientific proof. This proof is their greatest weapon.

For quite some time the creationists seemed to have the battle won. Since people had no real way of explaining the world around them, they put great faith in their religion. The theories expounded in the Bible were equivalent to scientific fact. People who might have thought otherwise were considered heretics and severely punished unless they renounced their different views. This is seen in the play "Galileo" by Bertolt Brecht. In this play, Galileo comes up with scientific evidence to suggest that the Earth revolves around the sun. His ideas are seen as preposterous because they went against the word of the Bible. For fear of his own persecution, Galileo publicly renounces his ideas and lives the rest of his life in shame. (3)

Evolutionists began to gain the upper hand when science took charge over religion. A major proponent of the theory of evolution was Charles Darwin. Darwin had a theory about descent with modification. Determined scientists fervently strove to prove this theory. Proof came about in the form of fossils, common structures, developmental similarities, and molecular biology. It is said that "Science [is] used to explain new phenomena (new truths)." (2) This new truth in the form of the theory of evolution was accepted by many because it appealed to the senses as opposed to the creationist's theory which depended on blind faith.

It might appear that the evolutionists have a near victory today. Due to various court cases, creationism is no longer taught in schools. Without children learning this theory at this impressionable age, they are very unlikely to accept it later in life. Evolution, on the other hand, is now an accepted scientific theory that is part of every public school biology curriculum. Creationism is also associated with certain religions. Religion is not the center of peoples' lives as it once was. More and more people are putting their faith in science as opposed to religion.

Still, there are many gaps in the evolution theory. There are things that are just too complex to be explained by science. The creationists seize these evident gaps to demonstrate how their beliefs make more sense. They concentrate on the Bible story of the great flood. They use this story to explain what science can't. This massive flood could account for the layers of coal and oil found deep within the Earth. It could also explain sedimentary deposits that don't fit into the mold of the evolution theory.

Since these theories have coexisted for many years, they have begun to assimilate. There are many degrees of belief in both theories. There are still strict evolutionists who believe God plays no role in the development of the Earth and strict creationists who believe everything we have today was created by God. Most people, however, seem to agree with a combination of the two theories. "Opinion polls show that many people believe that divine intervention actively guided the evolution of human beings (2)." Many take the theory of evolution and fill in the gaps with the creation theory. Religion has been used since the beginning of time to give meaning to what cannot be explained. It seems as if this purpose still remains.

One example of the mergence of these opposing theories is the Intelligent Design Theory. This theory accepts ideas of evolution such as the old age of the Earth. This theory also supports the idea that behind the concepts of evolution and the complexities of life is some master designer. Some claim this superior artist to be God, but this theory is not viewed as synonymous with religious beliefs. This theory is accepted by scientists as well as the devout. There has most recently been a push supported by President Bush to have this theory or some other combination of evolution and creationism taught in the public schools (4).

Although it may appear as if the battlefield is being cleared, by no means is everyone willing to call a truce. Conviction of some people in their beliefs is so strong that they are not willing to compromise. Many evolutionists believe the Intelligent Design Theory is just a more sophisticated spin on the Creation Theory (5). They believe that the creationists are just trying to get their ideas taught in public schools. Strict creationists also refute this new theory because it accepts some ideas of evolution. So the battle continues between these two conflicting theories.

What methods and motives have caused people to hol
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-10-19 23:10:09
Link to this Comment: 3279

Playwright Marc Connelly said that he felt the luxury of intellect was that it freed you to hold opinions rather than convictions. Opinions you are free to change; convictions you're stuck with.

Darwin's Story

The ORIGIN OF SPECIES concludes with these words: "Thus, from the war of nature, from the famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animal, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one, and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."1

All but the first edition end with the version of this passage that contains the words 'by the Creator'. Perhaps, Darwin was being pragmatic, placating his public in order to gain broader acceptance or opportunistically manipulating readers' impressions. Perhaps he was reminding us that he was a believer in the Christian god of his critics. For forty years, he was an avid supporter of his village church, active as its parson and so well respected that many members of parliament pressed for him to be buried in Westminster Abby. His contemporaries accepted him as a man of God. Why then, do we rage in controversy on this topic?

Part of the answer may lie in understanding the chicken-and-egg effects of scientific research on culture and culture's effects on its scientists. Darwin and his work appear to be the ultimate example of this imperfect symbiosis. In ORIGIN OF SPECIES, Darwin relied heavily on the use of metaphor in order to give familiar form to radically new ideas. Knowing that his target audience was familiar with breeding dogs and pigeons, he drew upon analogies between these activities (artificial selection) and processes of natural selection. He also used contemporary activities and vocabulary from economics and capitalism in order to bridge the gab between concrete and abstract.

At some point along the path, the tail began to wag the dog. Darwin was led to the idea of natural selection by AN ESSAY ON THE PRINCIPAL OF POPULATION,2 written by political economist, Thomas Malthus. He extrapolated his theory of natural selection from Malthus' notion that population, and ultimately its drain on natural resources, is managed through war, famine, disease, etc. In fact, the phrase "survival of the fittest3" came from sociologist Herbert Spencer, but gained a sort of scientific credibility as Darwin used it.

It seems inevitable that a scientist-member of a culture would inevitably apply the values and frameworks of that culture to help explain what is not yet understood. It seems equally inevitable that that culture would be affected by which questions are asked and which are not in pursuit and articulation of new knowledge. Darwin lived in a competitive time of imperialistic ideas and actions, which could explain why his books –his story– do not include the notion of cooperation or co-opetition in nature. The prevailing social vocabulary and mores may have led to an interpretation of natural processes that is distorted and incomplete, leaving the door open for attack. Equally interesting, having described new scientific theories in social terms, the door was opened for that new knowledge to be used by others for social change. So, we have the implicit threat to society's value system posed by the 'science' of evolution as couched imperfectly in the politically laden vocabulary and metaphors of our daily lives. The stage was well set. How did it unfold as sides formed?

The Evolutionists and Their Stories

There are two main camps of evolutionists with varying stories in sub-groups of each: those who are disaffected by the concept of God when considering the efficacy of evolution, and those who think that we can believe in God and evolution. Theistic evolutionists believe that the universe is over 10 billion years old, and earth's crust developed about four or five billion years ago. God used evolution as a tool to guide the development of each new species, culminating in homo sapiens. Several mainstream and progressive Christian religions espouse theistic evolution. Naturalistic evolutionists hold these same beliefs except that God is assumed to have played no part in a process driven exclusively by natural forces.

The Roman Catholic church embraces theistic evolution. However, they believe that God initially created the universe and has been responsible for the creation of each human soul. Evolution has been taught by the church's schools throughout North America for decades. The Union Tribune (October 25, 1996) said, "In his most comprehensive statement yet on evolution, Pope John Paul II insisted that faith and science can co-exist. Charles Darwin's theories are sound as long as they take into account that creation was the work of God." Is the issue, then, how science and faith are defined, or is it whether the evidence supports evolution or not, irrespective of God lending credibility? If the theories are not sound, God doesn't appear to remedy the situation; if they are sound, God is, likely, superfluous. What was His Eminence's motive for crafting this particular two-sentence story?

Are the evolutionists' self-serving stories serving society well by keeping all options in play, even those that are not yet proven or do they pose a risk to rigorous science process, to religion, and to the underpinning values of our society? Perhaps, they are fighting personal battles that have more to do with strongly held beliefs, rights, risks, and values.

The Creationists and their Stories

Old earth creationists combine belief in God with an interpretation of Genesis as metaphor. God took 7 billion years to create the universe; the notion of a day as a billion years works just fine, if not literally. However, they reject biological evolution.

New earth creationists believe God created the universe during 6 consecutive 24 hour days less than 10,000 years ago, precisely as a literal interpretation of the Biblical book of Genesis would indicate. All of the various species of animals that have ever existed on earth are descendants of the animals that God created during the single week of creation.

New earth creationists notwithstanding, just as Darwin used metaphor to think about and communicate his origin theories, so have theologians used metaphor to think about and explain the concepts surrounding their god. If we cannot directly sense (taste, smell, feel, hear, see) a god, then it is not possible to create literal descriptions of its actions. Likewise, I'm going to make a leap of faith and assume that a god would use metaphor to communicate with humans. For example, the 'Lamb of God' is not a four-legged wooly animal, divine and earthly days are not necessarily the same length, Adam was made full grown, newly formed trees had fruit, light from stars could be seen the moment it was created, etc. one set of metaphors is dueling with another, and there are several fronts on which creationists wage war against the theory of evolution. Their stories range from interpretations of history to scientific propositions.

One such article, published by the Creation-Science Research Center, titled "Charles Darwin's Hidden Agenda for Science,"4 illustrates re-telling of the story casting Darwin in very different light from that of the evolutionists. The author describes Darwin's time "in a university community which was in a continual ferment of radicalism of all sorts advanced by dissenters of the Anglican church, freethinkers, anti-Christians and atheists, materialists and evolutionists. Evolution was in the air." From them, Darwin got a degree in theology to "purchase a living in an Anglican country church." The author claims that Darwin was duplicitous and opportunistic, maintaining a façade as biblical literalist in order to please the "opinionated, conservative Anglican" captain of the Beagle, Robert FitzRoy. The article states that "he waited for decades for the right intellectual and religious atmosphere and political climate to develop which would assure his victory when his infamous book, THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, was published." It peaks with a description of the illnesses that plagued Darwin at that time, speculating, "Could it be that God was trying to tell Darwin something? He would not listen. A lost soul ruled by satanic power."

Other stories offer a sort of scientific deduction to refute Darwin's theories, such as this stream of logic: For evolution to be a fact, you must have life coming from non-life (abiogenesis) and a change in that life from simple to complex forms over time. How did life come from non-life? There are competing models, there are possibilities, but no one knows how it happened, or even how it could have happened in enough detail to be compelling. If you don't know how it happened by naturalistic, evolutionary processes, how do you know that it happened by those processes? Evolution is claimed to be fact, but you can't have the fact of evolution unless you have the fact of abiogenesis.

The stakes appear to be an ironic pseudo-integrity, people with convictions trying to stay true to themselves as the sands shift and the risks mount. They have all used the same chink in the armor for their creationist arguments: they want a level playing field, and evolution has not passed the rigorous tests and proofs necessary to claim that it is a science. Therefore, it does not deserve to be taught as a science, unless, of course, creationism is included in the curricula as such. Through their self-serving stories, are they obfuscating and suppressing knowledge about scientific findings or doing us a service by demanding due process before we hinge all manner of change to a new order of things? Perhaps, they, too, are fighting personal battles that have more to do with strongly held beliefs, rights, risks, and values.


The theory of evolution may be more philosophy than science. That said, it still enjoys firm footing within our social structure and value system. It seems ironic that the social metaphors Darwin used to explain his scientific theories also shaped them and then invited the risk that liberals would use them to affect social change. It also seems ironic that Christian theology, with its persistent premise that people are ends and not means, makes liberal values possible.
It seems most ironic that evolutionists and creationists appear to both use the same circular reasoning embedded in adroit storytelling to support their respective, opposing points of view: Because we're here. It must have happened (with or without God, depending upon which side you're on).

Decisions about public education are political. We often make political decisions based upon popular opinion, and that can be manipulated. In this sense, we believe that whoever controls the language will win the brass ring –the influence of one ideology over the other. That is why the spinning of stories is so fierce. It may also be why attention to the seemingly obvious is not interesting: Teach evolution, but not yet as a science; teach creationism within religious education.

On the one hand, if language about God is necessarily metaphorical and language that created evolution is also metaphorical, then maybe we do have to draw stories at twenty paces and see who's left standing. On the other hand, science just might eventually press past metaphor and come to the rescue.

1 "Origin of Species,"Charles Darwin (1859)
2 "An Essay on the Principal of Population," (1798), Thomas Malthus
3 Herbert Spencer, British philosopher and sociologist, wrote "A System of Synthetic Philosophy"(1862), from which the phrase "survival of the fittest" came
4 "Charles Darwin's Hidden Agenda for Science," Creation-Science Research Center (1996), The Parent Company
5 "Darwin's Theory of Evolution -- A Notion Rooted Deep in Racism, but not in Science," Good Schools, Darwin and Evolution, (1997)

Name: Kristina C
Date: 2002-10-20 10:30:38
Link to this Comment: 3280

Re-telling a story is an act that most often does not come easily. Many times, the person re-telling the story must be both audacious and completely confident that the new and different version of the story will be accepted. As history has demonstrated, society is often reluctant to embrace new ideas and therefore those with such revolutionary thoughts are left vulnerable- they will either become brilliant enlighteners or isolated lunatics. Thus, we are encouraged to question what makes us re-tell stories originally if such an act has significant consequences, what are the costs associated with presenting new stories to society, and what does one hope to accomplish by questioning what society already knows.
Charles Darwin, and many scientists before him, chose to re-tell a fundamental story- the story of creation. Darwin proposed the idea of survival of the fittest and natural selection that shocked the social order and directly questioned the basis of society's faith. He debated the creation story told in Genesis. By asserting his theory of evolution he counteracted the story that society already knew, " In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1, The Old Testament). However, Darwin faced many obstacles in his attempt to educate humanity, as people did not immediately embrace his theory. He, as most enlighteners do, experienced isolation and seclusion. Upon sharing his belief chaos erupted and he, along with his revolutionary idea, was rejected by society. The public was not willing to embrace any alteration to the story that they had become comfortable with. Thus it is clear that one would be reluctant to re-tell stories because of a fear of isolation as well as apprehension that his or her idea would be mocked rather than accepted. Moreover, by disrupting the beliefs of many others, Darwin changed society for generations to come. Due to his re-telling of a story, he opened up a new realm that was not available before. His choice to introduce evolution impacted science education and religion centuries later.
Today, the debate about evolutionism and creationism has caused strife among communities and has caused people to question the coexistence of science and religion. While evolutionists contend that there is scientific evidence for the theory, creationists argue, " becomes evident that not only does the exclusive teaching of evolution encourage our children's rejection of Judeo-Christian morality, but it also prepares young minds for the reception of religious views which [are] unacceptable" ( htm). Many feel it necessary to see God in creation as it gives them hope and a larger sense of understanding. They believe that without God in the creation story life is void of meaning. Moreover, many creationists think that, "evolutionary training leads to an atheistic way of thinking" ( While evolutionists present their theory as to origin of man, religion and comfort prevents society from accepting such an idea without reservations. As the contemporary debate over science education continues, one is forced to see that the consequences of one's choice to alter the original story can have long-term effects. However, obviously people are compelled to risk such costs and re-tell their stories anyway. Today, evolution is taught in many schools and various people find validity in Darwin's teachings. Still, we are unsure as to who is completely accurate- whether the true origin of life lies in the ideas of evolutionists or creationists. Nevertheless society is able to explore both beliefs.
Upon examining the case of Darwin, his theory, and the complications that arose after his re-telling of a story one would wonder why anyone would be motivated to do so. Why risk isolation and deprivation of societal connections? Why risk having an idea you believe to be revolutionary dismissed as the ramblings of a lunatic? Clearly, something compelled Darwin (and still compels others) to share ideas with the public, even though the costs were great. One of the most convincing arguments for re-telling a story is simple- if Darwin had knowledge that would change humankind, change the history of the world, and would alter the beliefs of future generations sharing it with others would be the most logical step. Why keep such profound information to himself to let it die when he died, to let it go unheard to civilization? Thus, he re-told the story of creation, acknowledging that he would face substantial consequences. Moreover, though Darwin most likely realized the weight of his findings, he hoped to find at least one person who would share in his belief .He wanted to witness others question what society deemed as the truth; he needed to see that he was not alone in his desire to break with conformity and instill innovation and inventiveness into the normalcy of mankind.
Along with the consequences that accompany the re-telling of a story, there are benefits. In the case of Darwin's re-telling, society was enlightened. Though originally many rejected his hypothesis, a select few found truth in the evolutionary theory. Soon, more people subscribed to the tenet and eventually it became almost as accepted as the theory that God created the universe. Also, by presenting his new theory in a time period when questioning religion was extremely unpopular, Darwin has become a symbol for breaking with conformity and testing the invisible boundaries that prevent society from accepting new ideas.
Throughout history, people have risked isolation and public defamation in order to alter an original story. Their motivation to retell a story is based on a desire to present a fundamental theory to society with the hope of either enlightening the public or connecting with at least one person who shares the belief. While the contemporary debate regarding science education continues, we are reminded what it cost Darwin to challenge the creationists theory of the origin of life. He risked his place in society to educate humanity and the effects of such an act are still felt today. Clearly, the benefits of retelling a story outweigh the consequences, as people continue to question the fundamentals that placate society. Without such retellings, civilization would never evolve and humankind would never know what other possibilities exist.

Should evolution Be Taught In Schools?
Name: Alexandria
Date: 2002-10-20 13:51:10
Link to this Comment: 3282

Alexandria Frizell
College Seminar
Professor Grobstein
October 22, 2002

Should Evolution be Taught in Schools?

Evolution and creationism have been much disputed since Darwin created his theory of evolution. The creationists think that evolution should not be taught in schools, and the evolutionists do. Many very religious people also think that evolution should not be taught in schools. This ties in with the discussions on telling and retelling stories. To tell and revise stories is of great importance, as we learned through reading Galileo and Flatland. Both evolution and creationism should be taught in schools today.
Creationism is the theory that God created the earth and everything on it as it is. Many religious persons believe that this is the truth and this is what should be taught in schools. To teach evolution would be sac religious to many people.
Evolutionism is the theory that animals evolved over time from another form. For example, humans evolved from primates. Some evolutionists believe that God created the earth, but that everything else evolved from forms that God created. Others have different theories about Earth's creation.
Evolution should be taught in schools because it is a scientific theory that has much evidence in its favor. There is more evidence that humans evolved from primates then there is that God created the Earth. Evolution is a popular theory that children should be educated about.
On the other hand, creationism should also be taught in schools. Creationism is another popular theory. There is a possibility that the creationists are right. There is also a possibility that both the creationists and the evolutionists are right.
Both creationism and evolutionism should be taught in schools, because they are two very popular theories. The child should be able to be taught both theories and then decide in which he or she believes. Perhaps the child will create a theory of their own combining the two. However, as both theories are common, they should both be taught.
If only one of the theories is taught in schools, it is probable that that is the theory in which the child will believe. Since the child had no other training, no other option, why wouldn't he or she believe what he or she is taught? When the other theory is presented to the child, the child may instantly reject it, only believing what they were taught in the first place. It is necessary to keep an open mind with scientific theories, as they are constantly gaining new evidence and constantly changing.
Telling and retelling stories is extremely important. As we learned with the square in Flatland, only having one side of the story and having a closed mind can be dangerous. The square couldn't believe that there was a third dimension when it was first presented to him by the sphere (Abbott 56). He also had much trouble trying to convince the line that there is a second dimension. The King of Lineland would not listen (Abbott 49). When the square saw the third dimension for himself, he believed in it. However, he could not convince anyone else that there was a third dimension, and therefore was thrown in jail for treason (Abbott 81). Yet, there really was a third dimension. The circles in flatland were closed minded. The story of their world and universe needed to be revised. As it wasn't revised, the people of Flatland suffered in ignorance. There were whole other worlds outside of their own that they could explore and learn from, yet they did not. They stayed in their own world, completely ignorant of anyone else in the universe besides their own people.
Other proof that the revision of stories is a necessity is demonstrated in Galileo. Galileo is placed under house arrest because he disputed a theory that was written in the Bible (Brecht 107). Galileo said that the earth revolved around the sun, and that the universe was heliocentric (Brecht 49). The earth was therefore not the center of the universe. Galileo and his supporters knew that this was true, but the Pope and the religious community did not want to believe it. They only believed what the Bible said, and that was that the sun revolved around the earth (Brecht 108). They showed Galileo the "instruments" to get him to recant (Brecht 110). If Galileo hadn't recanted, he would have been put to death. However, he did recant (Brecht 114). He therefore had the opportunity to finish his discoursi at night and hide it in his globe while he was under house arrest (Brecht 120). When Andrea came to see him, he carried the discoursi over the border so it could be read and accepted (Brecht 128). If Galileo hadn't written his discoursi, it would have been many more years before his theory would have been discovered by someone else. Perhaps schools today would even be teaching that the sun revolved around the earth. Theories and stories need to be revised because often they are not true. Revision can better the story.
In conclusion, evolution and creationism should be taught in schools. They are two theories that have been revised and retold over time. They are both popular theories, and therefore children have a right to learn both of them. Either theory or even both theories could be true. Science is always being revised, and revision is necessary to gain a better truth.

Works Cited
Abbott, Edwin A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. New York: Dover Publications Inc, 1992.
Brecht, Bertolt. Galileo. New York: Grover Press, 1966.

Works Consulted
"Defending the Teaching of Evolution in Public Schools." National Center for Science Education. 11 Oct. 2002. 20 Oct. 2002. .
"The Origin of the Universe, Earth, and Life." Science and Creationism: A View from the Academy of Natural Sciences. The Academy of Natural Sciences, 1999. 20 Oct. 2002. .

Flatland, Galileo, evolution
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-10-20 18:03:11
Link to this Comment: 3283

Rachel Steinberg
Questions, Intuitions, and Revisions

A story has validity when proof is provided to support it. Frequently, a story without proof, mostly those that are factual, is scorned in the eyes of the majority. There are many examples of this situation. In Flatland, the square is labeled as a criminal for telling what he knows is the truth, but cannot prove to others. Galileo had the same problem when he tried to convince the world without technology that the Earth circles the sun. More recently, the teaching of evolution is having similar issues. The concept is new, and the proof is questionable. The people are fixated on one idea, and need convincing before they can be taught and then retell a new one. There is so much doubt in the world, and if only people had faith in the validity of a story would these problems go away.
Flatland by Bertolt Brecht is the recounting of a square who knows too much. The square is perfectly happy with his life in Flatland. He is satisfied that there is nothing more he must know, especially about further dimensions. Yet one day, he has an odd dream that there is a land made up only of lines. He thinks nothing of it until he is accosted by a sphere from Spaceland. He is doubtful of the sphere, and in fact thinks it is not real. He has seen no other world, and is therefore dubious that any other would exist. In fact, the square is so enraged at these supposed lies that he resorts to violence and harsh words: "'Monster,' I shrieked, 'be thou juggler, enchanter, dream, or devil, no more will I endure thy mockeries. Either thou or I must perish.' And saying these words I precipitated myself upon him." (page 62) However, when the sphere pulls the square into his land, he has proof. He has seen another land with his own eyes.
This proof is all that the square needed to find validity in the story. But how was he to convince others? Interestingly, the square knew that he at one point did not believe what the sphere was saying, yet he wanted to spread this story anyway. The square knew that he was not a believer until he saw that another land existed for his own eyes, so it is odd that he would try the tactic of simply retelling the story when he knew it would not work. Wouldn't the square learn from what had happened to him? He placed false hope in the fact that since he saw it, it must be true and valid to everyone else. This kind of storytelling does not work. Why else are there illustrations in fictional books and why do people always need to go to the source of the story when they hear something that is supposedly true? Humans work on having proof and sight of that in question.
Galileo learned this lesson of human nature. A revolutionary scientist leads a difficult life. Galileo was a well known scientist in Italy, and very popular for his astronomical ideas and calculations. However, his popularity changed instantly when he began to use a telescope, one that he claimed he had created. He looked into space and observed what went on, that which was visible to him. He proposed a theory that was unheard of at the time. Galileo dared to suggest that the Earth circled the sun, as did the other planets, rather than vice-versa. In a time when the Church ruled Europe, Galileo dared to voice his opinion. It was hard for him to find support, even among his friends and family. Yet despite the proof and calculations he offered, no one wanted to believe him, or even listen. Although the people of Italy knew Galileo and trusted his expertise, they were opposed to listening to new ideas, particularly due to t he influence of the church.
Galileo did not want to give up. He did not want to show weakness. However, the Church had it in for him. They did not want to be disproved as badly as Galileo wanted to show his proof. If only people could have seen what he saw then. They would have known that there were other possibilities in space. Yet Galileo allowed himself to be intimidated. He was threatened with torture, and he caved. He was forced to recant his statements about the movement of planets, much to the disappointment of his friends and colleagues.
In Galileo's time, even with proof he probably would have been ignored. The Church refused to allow such an embarrassment to happen. As Galileo's friend Sagredo said in Galileo,
"Galileo, you are traveling the road to disaster. You are suspicious and skeptical in science, but in politics you are as naive as your daughter! How can people in power leave a man at large who tells the truth, even if it be the truth about distant stars? Can you see the Pope scribbling a note in his diary: 'Tenth of January, 1610, Heaven abolished'? A moment ago, when you were at the telescope, I saw you tied to the stake, and when you said you believed in proof, I smelt burning flesh!"
Galileo's case was different from the square in Flatland. Galileo had proof that he tried to show, but no one wanted to see it, nor were they allowed. The square could not provide proof. The citizens of Flatland would have had to go by his word. In either case, a new story frightened people, whether or not they wanted to see proof of its truth. Despite the promise of proof in Galileo's instance, the people refused to give in to learning. New stories that would change the world are highly feared.
This example can be seen in the idea of evolution. Since the mid 1900s, there has been a struggle to teach the theory of evolution in school biology. A new idea was pursued by scientists, and there was finally evidence to back up their theories. It became known and accepted in the science world that evolution was a possibility for the development of man. Yet the world was working on the creation theory. There were teachers who wanted to teach evolution, yet there were students and parents who had not yet accepted that evolution was a valid possibility.
In the case of the teaching of evolution, there was proof, as with Galileo's situation, yet no one was willing to drastically change their views yet. People were afraid of the newness. The theory of evolution would alter the world. The idea of creation was the popular theory, that a higher being had created the world and man. This idea was widely known even among the secular population. However, the evidence for evolution was shoved in people's faces again and again until they came around to accepting it, if not believing it. Unpopular yet correct ideas need to be forced over and over despite the reaction. Even if it is hard to find a believer at first, people will get used to having the idea around.
Now, in most schools evolution is taught. The idea has been spinning in people's heads for years now, so it is not unfamiliar and new anymore. Also, the Scopes trial brought the concept of evolution into perspective for a large part of the population. Evolution is accepted. Not only have people gotten used to the idea, but people are willing to investigate the proof that has been provided to support the theory.
In Flatland, a world of multiple dimensions was implausible to most people except for those who had been in more than one dimension. In Galileo's time, only those willing to look into a telescope up at heaven found proof that the Earth and the other planets circled the sun. Currently, evolution is still slowly finding its way into the curriculum of biology after much force. It is not easy to sell a new story, especially to the world. Therefore, it is not surprising that the square and Galileo ultimately suffered for their suggestions, and that the Scopes trial arose in relation to evolution. However, eventually all new ideas won out. It was a long, eventual process. In the end, the ideas that made sense were pursued. The interesting stories, those that sparked interest and controversy, thrived.

Why We Cannot Help Telling Two Sides of the Same S
Date: 2002-10-20 19:29:58
Link to this Comment: 3284

Elena Weygandt
Paper #2
Professor Hayley Thomas
October 21, 2002

Why We Cannot Help Telling Two Sides of the Same Story:
The Contemporary Debate about Evolution and Creationism

I see dinosaur traits in my chickens. Clyde, the black and white speckled rooster, flys with the help of his powerful wings and runs with the support of his incredibly strong three-digit feet just as the pterodactyls did billions of years ago. This story of evolution derives from scientists' observation of chickens like Clyde, from tangible evidence of dinosaur bones and from deductive theory. Unlike evolutionists, however, creationists draw upon the Bible as the source for the story that God created each life form separately from others. (Hence only God knows which came first, the chicken or the egg, because he chose one.) Creationism cannot be justified by scientific method because its validity lies in the imagination and hearts of its believers. Therefore many insist that this notion belongs properly in a religious context, separate from the school of evolution. Yet a debate over these two realms exits because adherents of each story denounce the other in their attempt to further their own cause. Neither theory provides complete explanation for the earth's present appearance, though. What they do contribute, rather, are two sides to the same story which are equally important to the purpose of human life on this planet.
As a society, humans carry over the accomplishments of science two succeeding generations. Over a span of thousands of years, human science has moved from stone tools to computers. It is our ability to draw from the examples of those who have come before us which contributes to the mental differences between modern man and our ancestors who millions of years back, swung from tree to tree in the canopies of Africa. When we use logic to deduce the theory that we evolved from apes, we utilize the reasoning part of our brains. According to scientific theory the evolution of humans occurs towards the end of the line of events culminating in the present-day composition of the universe. One thing that is certain is that the formulation of this chronology has been made possible by the use of human logic and proven by science. It states that billions of years ago a small piece of space heated to the point that it exploded and caused a "big bang," out of which dust collided to form galaxies, and in which solar systems and stars were born. In one particular solar system a huge chunk of debris formed which we call Earth, and which was just the right distance from its sun to provide water and warmth for life. The use of telescopes and aerospace equipment provides evidence to support this theory. Fossils and bones prove that a few billion years back, but after plant life had already been thriving, dinosaurs roamed the land. Rock sediments have lead scientists to understand that an ice age devastated the earth and probably wiped out the dinosaurs. Most recently, scientists have used the study of DNA to discover that we evolved from animals that preceded the ice age. Though this story is complex, it is ordered in a way that makes people believe it. It provides an explanation for our existence, and a map with a trail from where we came, and more importantly, points to areas where we can explore further.
Not only logic, however, but also imagination separates us from other animals. Creativity has given the motivation for some to explore the puzzle of our evolution without the use of science. These people do not call the place of humans in a long list of events evolutionism, but instead creationism. Rather than use fossils or telescopes, they refer to the Bible, which states that God created first the heaven and earth, then light, then water and plants, then animals, and finally man. To many, this moving excerpt from Genesis describing these miracles is more meaningful than any newly discovered Australopithecus skeleton. This faith in an outside force, God, exists because human beings believe in it, just as humans believe in the science they have invented. Since many who choose to believe in creationism do not also believe in evolutionism, the theories have grown away from each other and do not contain elements of the other.
Yet, recently, some schools have made an effort to teach creationism in science class. Arguably, this notion is wrong because science and religion are two different beliefs that must not be confused with one another. In the big picture, though, this feud over the story of our introduction to the earth exists because the motivation to further the cause of each theory persists. One can only conclude that this stand-off is relentless because one theory cannot outweigh the other as long as they both remain pertinent to people's explanation of the beginnings of mankind.
Therefore, this story of our place in the universe, like many tales, has two sides. Science alone does not fully account for our evolution-- there are discrepancies in Darwin's theory and to this day no one can fully prove the origins of the Big Bang. At the same time, fossils reveal that dinosaur bones resemble skeletons of birds (especially chickens) so that the theory of evolution can not be ignored. It is disconcerting then, that human resources, such as science, logic, imagination and faith work to form two different answers to the same question, when instead can also work in harmony to form one answer. It is absurd and unsatisfying to many, however, to mix science and religion by suggesting, for instance, that God snapped his fingers and created the Big Bang. Ultimately, though, humans will continue to want a world where science can have permission (unlike in the days of Galileo when the Church stunted scientific exploration) and progress and, at the same time, where faith can provoke us to believe in the unexplainable. Therefore it is logical to accept that in this world, there is room for both creationism and evolutionism, and that the loss of one side of the story makes this planet a smaller place to us.

Name: Abigail Br
Date: 2002-10-20 21:05:28
Link to this Comment: 3285

"My Truth is better than Your Truth"

Perhaps the main conflict of the debate between creationism and evolution is what the "truth" is. Each side of this argument defines "truth" differently. Scientists who advocate evolution rely on scientific evidence and tests to formulate their theories that inch them closer to the truth, while creationists, whose truths come from God, know that creationism is unequivocally the only explanation of the natural world. These opposing views mix about as well as oil and water, so this debate isn't going to come to a close anytime soon. In the scientific community, faith and belief in God and the Bible isn't accepted as proof to a theory, just as scientific evidence isn't enough to shake a creationist's beliefs. As neither side of the argument can ever furnish enough "proof" to convince themselves and their opposition of their view of the natural world, it is unlikely that the debate over creationism and evolution will ever be resolved.

The theory of evolution, which is based on scientific principles, does not have all of the answers regarding evolution and hasn't yet been fully proven. For these reasons, evolution remains a theory, which by definition is, "a well substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." ( The mere fact that there are unexplained portions in the theory of evolution is proof to a creationist that evolutionary theory can't possibly be true. As long as there are questions that can't yet be answered, a creationist will argue against the validity of evolution. Creationism is rooted in religion, so faith in God and the Bible are the proofs that support this viewpoint. Comparing a scientific explanation to a religious explanation of the set up of the natural world will not lead to a productive argument because such different methods are used to furnish proof. An anthropologist could endlessly talk about the merits of evolution, only to be interrupted by a creationist who will demand that the holes of evolutionary theory be explained. A creationist would also argue, "Can we equate 'what is true' only with 'what can be seen and measured'? Is the physical dimension 'all there is'?" ( Since anthropologists don't deal with metaphysical matters, any explanation that they can provide using only scientific tests won't be accepted by creationists who have faith in things that can't be measured. A creationist could try to convince an anthropologist that creationism is responsible for the natural world as we know it, but the anthropologist, who relies on scientific evidence alone, would never be satisfied with belief in God's word as proof of a creationist view of the world.

If evolutionists don't believe what creationists know to be true and creationists don't accept the theory of evolution as true, what should we teach our children in school? As "'Truth is the daughter of Time, not Authority,'" (Brecht 68) only time will tell whether the evolutionists or the creationists are correct as no one has the capacity at the present to convince those holding opposing viewpoints of their version of the truth. For now, we should remember that creationism is a religious belief. In the United States, there is separation of church and state, so religious principles don't belong in a science class of a school. Though evolutionary theory may not be complete, it is a scientific theory about human origins, and therefore has a place in science classrooms. Evolution is still called a theory and isn't presented as a "proven fact" ( as some creationists claim. Imagine how tiresome it would be to start every sentence with, "If the theory of evolution is indeed true, then..." when talking about topics related to evolution. New discoveries are made all the time in the field of Anthropology, and revisions are made to evolutionary theory as scientists get an increasingly clearer view of the natural world with every new piece of evidence. As the details of evolution have to be shifted every time a new discovery is made, the story of evolution is being retold a little differently with each telling, while the creationism story always remains the same.

Why do proponents of evolution want so badly to convince creationists that they are right, and why do creationists feel the need to challenge the scientific evidence that evolutionists present? Can't each side be content that they know the truth and be smug that the other continues to believe a foolish idea? Galileo knew that the earth revolves around the sun. He didn't keep this idea to himself because it is frustrating to know that you are right when everyone around you believes something different. Perhaps he wanted to challenge society not to take for granted what they have been told. Creationists provide a similar argument against the evolution, "since scientists know that other scientists believe in evolution, they believe it also, even though they may not know much about the details themselves." ( Scientists, meanwhile, know that their scientific evidence proves evolution and want creationists to accept this type of evidence as truth. Since both sides are convinced they are right and want to prove this to their opponents, the stories of evolution and creationism will be told and retold forever.
Contending scientific theories with religious beliefs and debunking religious beliefs with scientific theories clearly doesn't work because one will only accept evidence that is similar to ones beliefs. If people are only willing to accept ideas that mirror their own, the spread of new and radically different ideas becomes quite difficult. Since what one side of the argument calls indisputable evidence is deemed superfluous by the other, the truth that one side holds dear will never be accepted by the other. As this is the case, perhaps evolutionists and creationists should suppress their human urge to prove the other side wrong, and agree to disagree for a change.

Works Cited:

Brecht, Bertolt. "Galileo". Grove Press, New York. 1966. pg 68

"How Can All Those Scientists Be Wrong?"

"Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science". The National Academy of Sciences. Washington, DC.: National Academy Press, 1998.

how do we know what is right?
Name: Whitney Ri
Date: 2002-10-20 22:30:22
Link to this Comment: 3286

The first website, "Science and Creationism", states: "how then can two views be so different?" In referring to "the system of science", science is presented as an order, a means of viewing the world. We often confuse quantitative with correct, assuming that if we conjure up enough evidence we might as well be able to prove something. The major quandary, in examining our own history, lies in how we tell it- how our evolution is presented to us, and how we interpret that presentation.
The theory of evolution exemplifies not only our reliance on science for "truth", but it also shows the dichotomy of the debate itself. On one hand, we have religion, on the mystical side of fact, and then there's the biological theory of evolution. In dividing into two camps, the issue itself is ignored, and this debate turns from a discussion of history into one of "values", "life perspectives", "morals". Both science and religion are stories, comprised of events that culminate and lead the believer to draw conclusions. Why is it then that we believe science to be "less wrong"? There are holes in each story, pieces missing. Yet we call one true, and the other- legend.
In the first website, it is stated: "science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience. Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each." The operative word in that statement is "glory"- is that truly the objective? When telling stories, what are we attempting to do? We live in a world we do not fully understand, and thus we attempt to explain what we cannot prove. Creationism and evolution supply two means to that end, but they do so in different ways. Is it glorification of history? Of myth? Why do we compare religion and science if they occupy two different arenas of thinking? These two stories are considered to be interchangeable yet they are not mutually exclusive. We are forced to decide between the two stories, to create a "right" and a "wrong" before the stories themselves are proven.
The creationism website proclaims: "evolution stands against scientific principles", adding that it is "mathematically impossible". We're talking about religion versus science here- is this truly a battle we intend to see won? The debate of evolution, of which argument is the most true, leads us to our next question: how do we know what true is? How can we ever prove that anything is fact? Our concepts evolve with our technology, and thus we learn new things about the world and ourselves with every day. How can we be forced to ordain truth when we do not have the tools to make that decision?
The Scientific Creationism website asks a pertinent question about evolution: "is it really proven beyond reasonable doubt?" Can anything really be proven beyond reasonable doubt? If our tools to prove change with the second, how can we fully prove anything? Is it our job to prove at all? What purpose do we serve in telling the story? Are we merely the vehicle, or translator, or both?
The debate of our origin and its interpretation rests on the shoulders of each generation. We are faced with the dilemma of what we should teach our children. The story is recycled again, and converted to textbooks or other forms of curricula, so that it can be reinterpreted by another army of minds. Who has the authority on truth? Are facts the only way to prove that something is credible? Why do we feel the need to "prove" everything, to justify our beliefs to others?

"Who Made You?"
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-10-20 23:28:30
Link to this Comment: 3289

Who Made You
"Who made you? God made me. Who is God? God is the Supreme Being who created all things." 1950s Baltimore Catechism
There is a lot at stake in regard to our creation stories. "In the beginning God created the World," The word create is actually "bara" in Hebrew and always has God as it's subject. In the revised Catholic Catechism, a model is given of the world "in a state of journeying". The statement is made "The revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of God with His people. Creation is the first step towards covenant."
Whether the perception is that "everything is God" (Pantheism) or "the physical world is evil" (Gnosticism) or "The world is merely an interplay of matter that always existed"
(Materialism)... the question of where we come from has a lot to do with who we think we are.
Not exclusive to religion, Science also has it's hands on the question and handles it in it's own way. Evolutionists argue that a biological evolution occurred through natural variations and natural selection. Genetic mutations arose by chance and if the mutation was good and helpful, it was passed onto the next surviving fitter generation. Geography caused species to split. The fossil record shows that an order of increasingly more complex life forms seems to have appeared. Similarities in comparative anatomy, common ancestry, embryology, and even molecular biology provide evidence of similarities and consistencies in species and their development. Bacteria resistant antibiotics are evolving in our own time and before our own eyes.
This evidence of Darwin's theory of evolution has found strong backing in the scientific community and it is taught in school science classes as well as forming a basis for other disciplines like anthropology, psychology. These evolutionist educators argue that the religious story, the creation story, has no place in the secular classroom because it has no basis in science.
A Jesuit paleontologist and mystic Teilhard de Chardin sought to combine the sacred and science in his philosophy. He was one of the Jesuits who worked at unearthing Peking Man. Teilhard equated evolution with a "rise of consciousness". He saw this rise of consciousness as a state of journeying toward union with God. He saw matter as holy and infused with divine presence. For this reason he was often accused of Pantheism. But the point he attempted to make is missed, that an encounter with matter as beings in the physical realm can reveal the spiritual realm to us.
Teilhard saw a world increasing in complexity and progressing toward unity. He imagined a "stage of evolution characterized by a complex membrane of information enveloping the globe and fueled by human consciousness". Some claim that he foresaw the Internet. Teilhard has not been given much credence by either the church or science.
He is only mentioned here because he attempted to use science and spirituality together to tell the story. Certainly a different kind of evolution is taking place which although not biological or anatomical in nature, is instead informational and also world altering.

Stephen Jay Gould, in an interview with Anne Devlin online, completely refutes the idea of evolution as progress. In his argument he names two aspects of a great scientific revelation:
1. physical reconstruction of the universe
2. getting humans to accept it. Dethroning human arrogance.
He cites Galileo and Copernicus as having accomplished both. He states however, that Darwin has only accomplished the first. To Gould, Darwin's natural selection is about adaptation to environment and has nothing whatever to say about progress. He states,
"We only spin-doctor it to say we are making progress." One example Gould gives is that we are always talking about horses as a triumphant successful species because they have survived for so long. But, in fact, they are extremely unsuccessful. Out of 30 separate genres of horse, only one remains. Gould states that it is the "Age of Bacteria".
And that it "has always been the Age of Bacteria". Bacteria are most successful, there has been a constancy of bacterial domination and they exist in broader environments and if there is bacteria found on Mars, interplanetary environments as well. The interviewer repeatedly tried to push Gould into answering questions about the meaning of life. His response was that Nature has no point. He claims that "Variation is Nature's only irreducible essence." Religion, the study of ethics and values is necessary for attempting to find meaning, but not illuminated by the factual state of nature. Science should stay out of morals and meaning and religion should stay out of science.
Behe wrote a book entitled "Darwin's Black Box". This book proposes that Darwin's theory is "impotent in accounting for the molecular basis of life" Behe cites examples of cilium, vision and blood clotting, which are not explained as yet by evolutionists. Evolutionists do not address the complexity of molecular biological systems, which modern scientists have observed and do not answer the questions as to how they have evolved. Behe proposes another model of "intelligent design" stating that the observable organization of the systems themselves speak to a designer. "The function of a system is determined from the systems of internal logic." His argument doesn't require a candidate for the designer. The fact that we are nearing a time when we ourselves can actually design complex biochemical systems also speaks to an intelligent designer of pre-existing systems. Behe argues that just because a theory or model may have similarities or re-enforce a religious belief does not alone discount it's validity. The "Big Bang" seemed to re-enforce Judeo-Christian stories about the creation of the universe and so, many scientists were prejudiced against it.
Richard Dickerson, a prominent biochemist, proposed a rule "Let us see how far and to what extent we can explain the behavior of the physical and material universe in terms of purely physical and material causes without invoking the supernatural." Behe argues that given the nature of the search for an explanation of our origins cannot involve testing or experimentation or concrete proof, it is theoretical in nature. If it leads to a possibility of an intelligent designer, this possibility should not be discounted merely because it may have some supernatural undercurrents. He gives an example of the Big Bang theory and that it seemed to back up Judeo Christian belief systems.
Evolutionists argue that the religious spin on creation has no place in the classroom. Certainly, if science insisted on being taught in a class on religion there would be cries of outrage. What if the question were posed, "Who made you?" and answered "God made me... or maybe not."
The argument is for the argument. Considering our origins, our heritage of belief systems, the evidence for evolution, the opposing argument of intelligent design and other arguments, it would appear that so far no one has the last word. A "forum" for presenting and discussing all theories, historical and presently held, would seem to be the best venue for studying the question of origins in the classroom. In this "forum" no theory would be presented as "absolute truth" but certainly all the evidence for evolution would be presented. Even Behe recognizes the value of evolutionary theory and makes no attempt to say that evolution has not occurred. But all of the questions have, of course, not been answered and so the story must continue to be told and retold.

The Baltimore Catechism, 1955
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Librere Editrice Vaticana 1994
Behe, Michael, Darwin's Black Box 1996 Touchstone Books
Interview with Steven Jay Gould,
Chardin, P. Tielhard de, The Phenomenon of Man, 1955
Evidence supporting Biological Evolution,

Gender Binaries Suck
Name: Risa
Date: 2002-10-20 23:34:30
Link to this Comment: 3290

If I think about the one public story I would think it would be important to tell it would be that your biology does not dictate your gender. This idea that there are two distinct genders instead of one continuous one with enormous or subtle nuances of variation is the only thing I can think of that would be worth wanting my kids to believe.

I think of all of the gods that were represented as possessing both genders and Tiresias who could swap genders, and I just think how much easier it made things to see it as a fluid continuum. This is not my original thought, so I take no credit for this, but I do feel it can be a liberatory kind of thing if you can imagine that what you considered to be WOMAN could be whatever you thought it was, and not what was prescribed by any biology or character traits that often end up becoming personality cliches.

Like what about the word masculinity? Think of all that conjures up. Now what if all of those things that masculinity conjured up are traits that also belonged to women? I can't think of ONE masculine trait that women do not also possess. Oh, wait, there is that ONE trait. Biological difference. But how is that if one removes biology as a factor there isn't any difference, just variations of the same theme? Without biology clearly delineating where woman ends and man begins, there is no way to tell men and women apart. We would share some qualities and some women would have more or less of, and vice versa. It would simply be that all of these qualities existed in difference measure in different people.

Like I said there are dual-gendered and single gendered (on a vast, vast continuum)representations of gods, goddesses, humans, and animals in almost every myth cycle & religious text I have ever read. Joseph Campbell spoke about how many gods started out this way then something woul happen which divided the god into this gender binary. Brahma in many texts is dual-gendered and everything in between. Neolithic cultures had many sexually ambiguous figural representations. And i say, hey, if it has been mentioned this much, this many times, then ok, it's something to consider. But then biology and language sort of reign supreme and and i think these diminish and suppress this idea.

Not to mention that biology has its own variations which can produce a human that has a reproductive system or a chromosome difference that does not match what is considered a "standard" female or male. I think in this way biology has restricted itself and because of this idea of what is "standard" this has been handed out to people as though it were a two item menu from which you had to order your whole life.

This is a rather difficult subject that took me a long time to grasp so I am trying to make this as simple as possible. So I think that I just want my kids to know that gender is this huge spectrum and they can sit on that spectrum and hold different positions on that vast continuum without feeling obligated to totally have to claim any one of the two available options --and feel like that can change and adapt to what they feel like they are as they change and adapt. (and if they ask me gender based questions before they go to use a public restroom i can tell them what i do about the dilemas of gender and toilets- i am whichever gender has the cleaner or available restroom. Ha!)

My fascination with this story is that the language is still rooted in a binary-- I believe we have only have two genders because we cultivated only two words; & that had language allowed more to arise- we would have more genders to describe all of the in-between states of being both biologically variegated and characteristically variegated as well. But then this leaves gender and goes into language and who owns language. And there i show true Alpha form so we won't go there.

So what can you be when you are not all a "standard" woman? Or a highly feminized man? And you aren't a biological variant? And does anyone fall neatly into one gender? And if so, how would you know what you THINK your gender is, really is if nothing could say for certain what that would mean outside of the binary?

Anne also said that we were supposed to say why we think this. I am going to have to say that because the same biology that has shown there are only two genders is the same biology that has also shown there are clearly not. There was a binary classification that variations were held up to, thus making them the outliers, when it might just be that the outliers are the thing itself. And Foucault would probably tear those classifications to sh** if i could only understand him enough to know.

I don't know- it's just a lot of idea that I am trying to get my head around and I don't know where I am going with it. I do know it has been a little liberating for my sister to hear from me that being a woman is anything one can want it to be, even if that means being a man in the many forms that it is possible to be a man in.

Evolution v. Creationism
Name: samea
Date: 2002-10-21 00:06:55
Link to this Comment: 3291

By telling, or re-telling a story, every individual risks the chance of rejection by the audience. Nevertheless, if one chooses to believe in an idea strongly enough, the idea of potential failure is not enough to keep them from sharing their story. Hopefully, however, one will not go proclaiming their ideas without some sort of support or substantial amount of proof.
For scientists who follow the idea, "'evolution' usually refers to the biological evolution of living things." ( Moreover, their substantial proof is found in the remains of history. What had started as a small idea of an individual by the name of Charles Darwin, evolution continues to expand and develop beyond a simple monkey to man idea.
Scientists also have gained an understanding of the processes by which new species originate. A new species is one in which the individuals cannot mate and produce viable descendants with individuals of a preexisting species. The split of one species into two often starts because a group of individuals becomes geographically separated from the rest. (

Therefore, before scientists choose to expose their theories as well as themselves to the world, they are sure to look beyond their gut instinct and dig deep for the support they will need in order to make their ideas seem possible.
Very little people in the world will take risks and jump into an idea without looking into it first. In a world where very little is definite and almost everything is controversial, individuals can rely only on their intuition and heart to guide them through. Oftentimes, however, in order for the heart to be recognized, the mind must first take charge. Therefore, followers of the idea of evolution demand evidence before they take the plunge into any new revolution found within this field of science. Nevertheless, there are those select few who are willing to blindly follow wherever their heart may lead. "If you look with the eye of faith you see God in nature, both in creation and in preservation. But if you look only with the eye of reason and of cause and effect you may not see Him." (
The idea of creationism is basically that "The magnificence of our world shows to all that there must be a creator" ( In a world of such beauty and splendor, people do not want to believe, and cannot bring themselves to believe that all of this was created by chance when worlds collided. They believe in a greater power, a Creator who took the time, six days to be exact, to create every, single, minor detail of this earth.
So the skeptics have to ask, where is the proof? Why would anyone choose to follow this belief, when it is only that, just a belief? Whether falling under the title of "romantics" or simply just those who choose to live by "faith," followers of Creationism don't need the standard set laws in which to believe. The historical evidence of the Bible, and the details found within that word is enough for supporters to devote their lives to this theory and commit themselves to it. However, for many, it is still hazy where they stand because, and understandably so, how can people commit themselves in their entirety to an idea based solely on a simple "gut instinct," or merely on just faith?
Nowadays, scientists are finding themselves straddling the fence between Creationism and Evolution. There is still an idea that intertwines the two creating Creationist Scientists. Basically, they "...believe that the Bible and true science are in full harmony with each other - there is no need to 'check your brain at the door' when entering a church." ( Creationist Science can be considered, an idea where Christians would not have to necessarily feel as though they are compromising their faith, because their faith still stands, to some extent. However, the boundary is also drawn, although not necessarily very clearly, as to where Creationism and Science are set apart.
Personally, in all honesty, Evolution doesn't appeal to me. Not only because I've been raised in a household where strong faith was emphasized, but also because it just seems difficult for me to grasp. I have no problem following my gut instinct, and a lot of times, I don't need the proof in order to believe in something. Furthermore, Creationist Science is rather challenging for me to accept as well. I think for me, it's either one or the other, trying to combine two completely opposing ideas seems almost impossible for me. Nevertheless, perhaps it is all this compromise and controversy that keeps ideas alive and circulating even today.

Paper #2
Name: Jessie Pos
Date: 2002-10-21 08:18:28
Link to this Comment: 3292

Jessie Posilkin
QIR-Dean Haley Thomas

Paper #2-Using the websites about creationism and evolution, answer last weeks question about our motivations for telling stories.

We all tell personal stories to explain our life and our emotions to one another, in the hopes that we can connect and find a common bond. The telling of a universal story, a story that connects not just one person to another but all organisms to each other, is told to "reflect the efforts of humans to understand the natural world." Creationists and Evolutionists both struggle to understand the world. Creationists feel a need to tell their story because it gives their religion, and therefore their framework for understanding the world, justification. Evolutionists tell their story to separate the world of religion and science, a distinction which gives their science a truth. Neither seems able to believe that they can both exist in the same world, leading me to believe that humans need to believe in a supreme truth to feel their world and life has a point.
Both the creationists and the evolutionists see the other view as unfounded. A man who calls himself "Dr. Dino," and is a member of the Christian right, argues that "real evolution, teaches that dogs share a common ancestor with pine trees! intelligent person can say evolution is real science, because evolution is not observable, testable or demonstrable." Unfortunately, "Dr. Dino" never confronts the evidence that others use to connect pine trees to dogs. Dr. Dino also avoids the fact that his own religion is neither observable, testable or demonstrable to others who don't believe. T appears that if one does not believe in Jesus, then believing in creation is unnecessary. However, Dr. Dino thinks that everyone should believe in Jesus, because "At stake is the credibility of Jesus." Using strong rhetoric, Dr. Dino connects the theory of evolution with the dictatorships of Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and the birth control advocate Margaret Sanger. However, he neglects to connect religion as a cause for catastrophe with the Holocaust, the Crusades, and the current conflicts in India, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
The writings on Evolution were written in a very different style, and appeals to the senses of reason over emotion. However, the evolutionists still believe in the strong division between religion and science. Perhaps it is the only thing the two parties can agree on. According to Bruce Alberts, the president of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, "Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature. Indeed, many scientists are deeply religious. But science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience. Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each." Again, this school of thought wishes to deny the existence of the other. President Alberts is unclear as to why exactly combining them "detracts from the glory of each." The supremacy of science is necessary for the NAS if they want to believe in the importance and validity of their livelihood. Because a scientific base was not found in "creation science," the combining of science and religion would detract from religion and from science, because it would undermine the validity of both. This science of evolution challenges the very root of religion. The NAS describes evolution not only as a biological process but also as an astronomical process. Making it an astronomical process means that the planets are in a continual state of change. If the planets are always changing, it is possible for new worlds to be created, or old worlds to evaporate and cease to exist. This detracts from the wonder of the creation story. The land and the water, the night and the day, was not separated by G-d, but rather by the forces of gravity. Gravity is not a wondrous force to scientists, but something quite precise- 9.8 meters per second squared. Although there is no guarantee that science is correct-and often, it has been proven wrong- science still believes that it is precise and valid.

The inability of the evolutionists and the creationists to believe in the existence and importance of both religion and science is preventing children from learning about the two very different theories, or even creating theories for themselves. In addition, the creation of a new theory, Intelligent Design, will only complicate matters further. These schools of thought will continue to tell their stories in the hope that they can create an understandable framework for the world and therefore, for themselves.

The Struggle Behind the Conception of a New Story
Name: Nadia Chri
Date: 2002-10-21 09:29:53
Link to this Comment: 3294

Similar to the writings of Abbot in his novel Flatland and Foucault in "The Order of Things", that of Bertolt Brecht in his play Galileo Galilee and the writing surrounding the two major theories dealing with the creation/evolution of the earth lead the reader to understand what motivates humans to retell existing stories, in these cases ideas, in their own way and what at the same time makes them reluctant to. They allows us to understand what consequences can be faced if one's motivation is greater than his/her reluctance and yet at the same time, what the profits are. They give the reader the opportunity to understand the conflict that occurs within the story-teller when he/she is considering telling a conventional story in his/her own way.

In Galileo Galilee, these ideas are portrayed through the desires, hesitations, actions, and plight of the well known Italian astronomer. In the beginning, he is ecstatic with his new discovery; he discovers that the solar system is geo-centric rather than helio-centric, a discovery which changes the way he views the world so drastically that he can never revert to seeing it in the accepted way. This discovery, which has changed him, will he feels change the world and the way humans view the world. He can not understand or relate to those who believe in other models and he therefore hopes to teach his, enlightening his new pupils and changing their visions of the world into one that he can relate to; he is changing the way others view the world in order to enable others to understand him. He feels a need to share this knowledge because if he does not, he fears he will be alienated by it. Gelileo des, in the beginning, express some worry about the consequences of his retelling the story of the shape of the solar system. He fears he will be mocked, possibly even punished, yet his motivation, to have others understand him and the real shape the solar-system is in, is greater. He believes that it is a perfectly reasonable idea which is based on meta-physical evidence; this leads him to believe that those who believed in the more socially-accepted version of the shape of the solar system will see the reason in his ideas, in his proof, and will eventually adopt his ideas. However, Galileo, I believe is surprised by how negative the reaction to his new version is. He struggles in the beginning, hoping that this resistance is temporary and that higher-ranking officials will see the sense in his studies as they travel around the palaces and churches of Italy. Yet the punishment he must bear for attempting to falsify the accepted story and validate his won, in other words for disrupting order, is too great, excommunication from the church and house imprisonment for years makes him feel unbearably alienated. His motives now seem small in proportion to his reluctance to the idea that his version of the story will change the way others view the world. Galileo begins to realize that what the Little Monk tells him in Scene 7 is true, that this idea is so revolutionary, so detached from everything common people "know", that it will not for a long time be accepted. Its acceptance would mean the destruction of order and rule of anarchy and chaos. He therefore repents and revokes what he has so boldly declared; he retracts what he has said in order for him and his daughter to become once again a part of society. Yet he continues to conduct experiments and observations in secret, clearly evidence of the fact that has not abandoned the idea but only abandoned the cause. This also made clear when he decides to republish his work after he hears the news of a new pope taking control in Rome. He gains the courage once again to retell the story in his own way. Though his motivation dwindles and his reluctance grows, a change in circumstance leads to a change in his stand once again. This seems to signify that his desire to share this knowledge and be understood is once again triumphant over his fears of isolation, even after having experienced many years of it. This play, in the end, leaves the reader with a sense of how great the human desire to be understood is. The modern reader can not fully comprehend the gravity of Galileo's actions and how radical his ideas were for the time, making it hard for the reader to understand why Galileo struggles so much internally, why it is so hard for him to decide whether or not to tell, and he is punished for having new ideas, ideas that are to the modern reader, extremely reasonable.

In Galileo Galilee, it is quite clear which one of the two ideas/theories about the structure of the solar system, is the original story and which is the new and retold version.
As for the different currently existing web sources of information that deal with the issue of evolution and creationism, I think it is, today, difficult for one to truly say that one is the accepted version of the story and that the other is a retold and more controversial version. This may make the concepts portrayed in the play Galileo Galilee easier to relate to. The reader of these sources, like most people, believes in creationism or the theory of evolution. Therefore, the reader would find the version that he/she does not believe in, the "other version" absurd. Yet at the same time, it makes the ideas that are so clearly portrayed in Galileo's struggle to defy the accepted version and retell the story of the solar system in his own way, more hidden. While it is true, that creationism was the accepted version of the story of how the universe came to be and how humans came to be, the theory of evolution has recently gained much popularity and support. This support seems significantly close to the support that is currently given by the opponents of this theory to "creation science". Therefore, the "real" or "true" version of the story is relative, depending on which side one belongs to. Those that believe, for numerous reasons including the existence of fossils that date back to 4 billion years, in the theory of evolution believe that it is the truth and that "creation science" is simply another retold version of the story, a version which seems to them absurd and unfounded on any strong evidence; one of their arguments supporting this claim is that creationists believe that the solar system was created in merely thousands of years.# Yet the same accusation has been made by believers in creation science towards believers in the theory of evolution. Those that believe in creation science, believe strongly that the theory of evolution is void and meaningless. In response to the specific accusation mentioned above, creationists have responded by claiming that finely granulated sedimentary layer takes place rapidly and there the current method of dating fossils called radiometric dating is flawed.# Believers in the different sides tell their version of the story to those that believe in the other side/version in hopes of converting them. Their motives are similar to those of Galileo Galilee. They tell their story in hopes of having others understand their vision of the world, in this specific case, how it was formed and by who, and in hopes of being able to relate to others. Those on the other side however, if they continue to ignore the efforts being made and to label it as "implausible" and "unbelievable", ostracize the tellers, in ways which even include direct punishment for having different ideas. When this occurs, as has occurred in the debate about the how the universe began, a large gap forms in the understanding of the two sides of each other. Furthermore, divisions between different schools of though in each of the sides lead to different versions within one side, possibly not that different but still different, leading to gaps between the different believers of the same main idea, creationism or evolution. Members of both sides are therefore provoked to tell their thoughts/own version; they want others to see the world in the same way they see it; they want to feel understood and they want to find others who they can relate to. Yet they are reluctant because of the possible alienation their different version of the story may lead them to.

Both these written works allow their reader to understand the struggle that the story teller undergoes when he/she is telling a different story.

Creationism vs. Evolutionism
Name: Beth Ann L
Date: 2002-10-21 14:17:12
Link to this Comment: 3298

Why are we both motivated and reluctant to retell stories? What provokes us to this activity? What prevents us from engaging in it? How does it profit us and what are its costs?
"We must distinguish between what we believe to be true, and what we know to be true...Willingness in the first place is an important factor" (
Creationism: "theory of the origin of life in accordance with the Bible" (The Oxford).
Evolutionism: "development of species from earlier forms, as an explanation of origins" (The Oxford).
In the fierce debate between creationism and evolutionism there is one constant on both sides, and that is a desire to have their voice heard. Every author seeks to reach out to others and hopefully garner support for his cause. This debate in particular sparked an overwhelming response in its participants simply because it entails subjects that are close to the hearts of those involved. In this instance both religion and the education of our youth is in question. Many are looking for something to "provide the spiritual consolation most people are after" ( and "evolutionary beliefs cannot account for the spiritual realm" ( Few topics can touch a person as these do. "The battle for the future is taking place in our distant past. At stake are the very underpinnings of civilization itself" ( It is when you find a topic in which one believes is an integral part of themselves that people are reluctantly pulled into the turmoil. This debate actually has become a perfect example of why many people are afraid to voice their opinions when the subject is vital to them; it has become a battle field. One's opinion, and thus oneself, is under attack.
This war is fought between the side "defend(ing) the teaching of evolution in the science classroom against sectarian attack" ( and those who believe that "creationism is not 'against' modern science" ( Most people are either trying to "reconcile science and religion" ( or simply keep them separate at all costs. The issue is lost, however, in the midst of battle in almost every paper I read the words that continued to appear and stand out were those such as "defend," "interrogate," "fail," "attack," "fierce row," and so on. All of these words have negative connotations leading to the feeling of war rather than debate. "I do not know if Creation & the Flood as recorded in the bible are true. But I do know that there is some very good evidence to support this scientific theory. Look at the evidence for yourself" ( This idea that all the evidence should be examined is often lost on both sides as they feel attacked and go on the defensive.
There is also the great and ever present fear of misinterpretation. What you say is not what is always heard. "More than 40 years ago, the film 'Inherit the Wind' presented the controversy over the teaching of evolution as a battle between stick-figure fundamentalists who defend a literal reading of Genesis and saintly scientists who simply want to teach the facts of biology. Ever since, journalists have tended to depict almost any battle over evolution in the schools as if it were a replay of 'Inherit the Wind'—even if it's not" ( Matters such as this make the topic of evolution a tricky one to debate intellectually and honestly. There is a stereotype which has been placed upon this issue which is almost impossible to shake. It must be noted, however, that as the debate evolves with time so do the stereotypes. With the introduction of "intelligent design theory" those working for creationism in schools began to take on a new image. "Instead of being a bunch of yahoos, they are a bunch of 'academic intellectuals' with new, 'more sophisticated' ideas" (
Also, when one retells a story in a situation such as this there is quite often a tendency to perhaps close themselves off to the other side of the argument, which makes it impossible to take their information at face value. For example, one source says that "scientists no longer question whether descent with modification occurred because the evidence supporting the idea is so strong" ( If this were true there would be no debate in the first place. This same source says that "'creation science" is a religious view" while a previous source claimed it to be a "scientific theory" ( This inconsistency in the presentation of data is found in almost every account. It is human nature. One wants to be right and to prove that they are right. Therefore, to them, sometimes there is no other answer.
Why does the debate over creationism and evolutionism continue? Because there is always someone on both sides who finds it necessary, despite all the inherent risks, to speak. These people recognize these risks but find them out weighed by the risks found in not telling their story.
The Oxford: American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus. Second edition. Berkley Books, New York. 2001.

Should Creationism be Taught in Schools?
Name: Adina
Date: 2002-10-21 15:24:01
Link to this Comment: 3299

The ongoing debate over whether or not creationism should be part of the curriculum in schools all over America has sparked fury on both sides. This is largely because the evolutionists' story has changed whilst the creationists' story has remained the same for thousands of years. Change is a natural part of human progression, so one might wonder why it is that such primitive ideas could be taught to children. The answer is largely political. Even with the 1950s' American separation of Church and State, the fact remains that many Americans are still very religious. Politicians must gain the support of these people. There is also the matter of civil rights. Progress can only occur when ideas are challenged; if we did not challenge our ideas, we would be no different to the State in Abbott's Flatland or the Pope in Brecht's Galileo. Although I personally believe that evolution has been scientifically proven beyond doubt, there is still, hypothetically, the possibility that the creationists are right. However, if this is the case, there is also the possibility of any of thousands of religious beliefs being correct. If creationism is taught is schools, so must be other theories of origin.
During and before the Renaissance, Christians, who were the bulk of European society, saw their world in relation to an all-powerful God and read the Bible literally. This was how they made sense of their world which was at the time extremely complex and confusing. They needed an explanation of why things were the way they were. With the Enlightenment came great changes. What is often known as the Age of Reason brought to light many new ideas and then-radical ways of thinking. The collective European and Western story was beginning to change with advances in science. These advances were made possible because of people who refused to believe in these conformist then-current beliefs – people who risked everything in order that their stories would be told. A notable example of these such people was Galileo Galilei, whose theory that the earth moved around the sun (as opposed to the sun moving around the earth) totally revolutionized science and caused people to alter their views of God and of science. Another was Charles Darwin, who proposed the ideas of natural selection and evolution. The story of the world was now seen in relation to science and reason, although God still played a major role in it.
Today, it is often argued that science has virtually replaced religion. The collective Western story is seen in relation to science and to humanity. With little religious interference, science and technology are progressing extremely rapidly – the story is changing by the minute. The theory of evolution has been accepted by many, not as a religion, but as a scientific truth. However, many people still firmly believe in creationism and vehemently deny the theory of evolution. Even with the separation of Church and State some forty-odd years ago, today, as during the time of Galileo, politicians play on people's religious beliefs to convince them of different political ideas. American politicians often refer to God during addresses, such as President Bush's formal address immediately after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Creationists would be very happy knowing that their children are being taught creationism in American public schools and might therefore vote for a government policy which would implement policies such as the revised "Theories of Origin" Policy in Cobb County School District, Georgia and "Intelligent Design" in Ohio. A nationwide poll of 1,202 American adults conducted in August, 2001 suggests that 71% of Americans believe in the theory of evolution but believe that some evidence against the theory should be taught in schools. The same survey shows that 78% of Americans believe that scientific evidence that points to a scientific life design (for example, creationism) should be taught in schools and that 69% believe that God or another intelligent design has or has had some influence in the world. These people are the American voting pool, and it would be quite a political advantage to please them.
Also political, though not entirely so, are basic issues of human rights. As creationists will eagerly point out, evolution is still technically a theory. As is the case with creationism, evolution can probably never be scientifically proven because we cannot witness and have not witnessed it with out own eyes. Even the evolution which we have witnessed, such as the "peppered moth" example, cannot definitely explain the world in terms of evolution. As Jason D. Browning, an ardent believer in creationism, has argued, this is an example of natural selection, but not of evolution, because no new traits have been acquired. We also need to consider freedom of speech. Creationists have just as much right to be heard as evolutionists. Silencing them can be seen as a violation of their Constitutional rights, and there would be calls of discrimination.
As an eighteen-year-old college freshman, I do not in the least claim to be an expert in either creationism or evolution. Scientists of both persuasions have been researching and studying the evidence for and against both sides for years, and I do not at all claim to possess their expertise. However, looking at the evidence that I can understand, the theory of evolution seems a much more feasible one. There is also an enormous difference between the number of scientists who believe in evolution and scientists who believe in creationism. Because so many more believe in evolution and because creationism can be so easily refuted, creationism seems to be less scientific and more religious, theological, and theoretical. Creationists such as Browning refute evolution and offer creationism as an alternative, saying, "There is no reason not to believe that God created our universe, earth, plants, animals, and people just as described in the book of Genesis." This argument can be refuted with all of the evidence in favor of evolution and with the fact that there is no reason to believe that God created all of those things. Browning has also argued that evolution could not have taken place because the fossil record is incomplete. He explains that evolution were true, we would have many fossilized forms that we do not have. This argument can be easily refuted by the fact that in order for organisms to fossilize, there must be a number of coincidental circumstances immediately following their deaths. For example, there must be a quick burial with sediments, a process that usually occurs near water, and the fossil must remain undisturbed by scavengers. Many extinct species did not live near water, so their bodies were never fossilized; this does not mean that they simply never existed. Many of Browning's other arguments are along the lines of "because it says so in the bible". Seeing as this is a scientific debate, this line of argument is extremely unfeasible and out of place because there is no evidence to back up the origins of the bible.
However, as we learned from Galileo and from Flatland, the most common opinion is not always the absolute truth. Galileo Galilei was forced to publicly withdraw his ideas and say that they were all completely false; and the Square in Flatland was imprisoned because he continued to tell his story. Nevertheless, these two brave people (one brave person and one brave geometrical shape) were completely correct. Even Charles Darwin was once ridiculed for his beliefs, and his ideas are now accepted by the majority of scientists across the globe. But suppose Darwin was wrong. Our story is constantly changing, and although I personally believe that it is highly unlikely that it could change back to the way it was before Darwin, this is still a possibility. It may seem impossible to me right now, but was also once unconceivable that the earth moved around the sun.
This ideology leads to more complications. Theories of origin which rely completely on faith are not limited to Christian and Jewish creationism. There are many other religions and cultures in the world, and many of the have their own theories of origin. For example, traditional Australian Aborigines believe that the world was created by a Rainbow Serpent who swished its tail over the earth and thus created all that exists here today. The Pueblo Indians believe that Tséitsínako, Thought Woman, created the world by thinking of her sisters and that together, she and her sisters created everything that is today on earth. If creationism is taught in schools, other theories such as these must be given equal weight. Because none of them are scientific, they should not be given as much weight as evolution.
Creationism is not a scientific theory and evolution is more a controversial fact than a theory. However, there is still a minute possibility that the creationists could in fact have been correct all along and that the collective European and Western story will progress back to the way it was hundreds and thousands of year ago. Therefore, schoolchildren should be aware of this theology, but only if they are aware of other, less culturally dominant theories.

Works Sited:
Abbott, Edwin A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. New York: Dover Publications Inc, 1992.
Brecht, Bertolt. Galileo. New York: Grover Press, 1966.
Browning, Jason D: "Basics of Creation Versus Evolution", National Academy of Sciences, 1997.
Santorum, Sen. Rick: "Illiberal Education in Ohio Schools", Washington Times, March 14, 2002.
Wittman, Rebecca: "Zogby America Report", Zogby International, September 21, 2001.
Wright, Right: "The 'New' Creatioism", Slate, April 16, 2001.
"School Board to Revise Policy on 'Theories of Origin', National Center for Science Education, August 24, 2001.

Religion vs. Evolution: It's Not so Simple
Name: Kate Shine
Date: 2002-10-21 16:20:59
Link to this Comment: 3300

The difficulties and merits of the process of revision of collective stories are debated continuously within and across the scientific and public communities. Oftentimes, religion, which is traditionally accustomed to accepting only one unalterable story of the world and its components, comes into conflict with new scientific theories. The controversy over evolution is almost always shown by academia and the media in the light of being a battle between religion and science, one in which conservative religion stands on the side of an antiquated, fallacious creationist view, and science supports evolution in the name of solid factual inquiry and constant revision. However, it is my opinion that this common view of the issue as one between two absolutes is damaging to the pursuit of true science, because it assumes that evolution is the only plausible scientific revision of the story of the origin of life, and that no scientific inquiry will ever produce a result on the side of creationism.
Religion is unique as compared to science in that it does not customarily accept revisions, and that it relies on blind faith rather than documentable personal observation. To change the fundamental views of a particular religious sect it is often so difficult that dissenters must break away to create a whole new form of the religion. However, just because religion does not accept revisions does not necessarily mean that its version of the story of life is wrong. Is it not possible that science will ultimately come to the same conclusion that the faithful had believed in all along? It is important however, that religious teachings are recognized for what they are, and are not taught under the guise of science in public schools. Children in democratic societies should not be indoctrinated with religion; it is not an objective academic pursuit like science.
However, it is the argument of many evolutionists that creationism or any other theories alternative to evolution should not be taught in school because they are religion in that they assume certain things about the origin of life and at any cost seek to prove these assumptions, while science, which they consider synonymous with evolution on this issue, approaches the matter without any assumptions. However, any human seeking to explain the origin of life cannot help but to incorporate an element of story-telling, and evolutionary scientists approach their work seeking to prove their own assumptions as well, even if unintentionally.
There are many documented examples to illustrate this phenomenon, a number of which are included in Roger Lewin's book, Bones of Contention. Lewin describes in detail the forgery of an orangutan jaw in Piltdown, England, which for over four decades was considered the crucial evidence in naming the "Piltdown Man" as the missing link between apes and humans. Although the forgery should have been obvious to any of the experts who studied the jaw, their desire to fill in the gaps in their own theory overcame their common sense.
Lewin also describes how in the past paleoanthropologists' writings were overcome with racist assumptions and even through the past few decades the view of ancient man changed from violent to more peaceful as the climate of popular opinion shifted. (44) In his book Lewin quotes David Pilbeam, a famous anthropologist who has realized and attempted to revise his own flaws in thinking about evidence. He says of himself and his fellow scientists, 'virtually all our theories about human origins were relatively unconstrained by fossil data...our theories have often said far more about the theorists than they have about what actually happened." (43) This is a recurrent theme in any type of storytelling, and proves that science, while striving for objectivity, cannot ever completely overcome the subjective views of its scientists.
Since bias and assumption are an unavoidable part of human nature, it should not be considered contrary to the pursuit of science if individuals, religious or not, want to try to find scientific evidence supporting their own ideas about the creation of earth and life. It cannot be harmful as long as they approach their research in a scientific way that can be logically criticized by other scientists, and not in the form of propaganda. Religion in no way should be taught in school, but alternative theories which use authentic scientific methods should not be ruled out simply because of the ideas or beliefs of their proponents.
Scientific creationism and intelligent design are two examples of attempts to create alternative scientific theories to evolution. So far, however, these theories have not been taken seriously by many mainstream scientists, not only because they are usually supported by religious people but for a number of reasons including flaws in procedure and delivery. Often the materials of the supporters of these theories are a mix of religious dogma and science, and although some of their points may be accurate and justified, other points which are misinformed and not well thought out give evolutionists a reason to scoff and disregard the entire piece. Almost all of the material presented in support of the evolutionary theory at the Scopes monkey trial is now considered false, and undoubtedly there is still a good deal of information supported by evolutionists that is not accurate. But the difference is in that evolutionists almost always try to give evidence in a logical and scientific format, without relying on the bible to justify their points.
Intelligent design attempts more than other creationist theories in the past to take a scientific approach. But as Robert Wright explains in his article, "The 'New' Creationism," two of the "intellectual fathers" of intelligent design, Johnston and Behe, suffer from some misunderstanding of the actual theory of evolution, and the third, Dembski, appears to have created a mathematical test to disprove evolution that actually assumes as one of its inputs that evolution is impossible. Intelligent design is a noble attempt, but still suffers from too many flaws to be a truly organized front against evolution, at least in the eyes of the evolutionists.
If there is barely any true evidence against evolution, and most of the supporters of different theories do not approach the matter scientifically, it does not seem so wrong that only evolution should be taught in schools. I am not convinced however, that there are not a number of holes in the theory of evolution. And as a result of the fact that the issue of the origin and development of life is seen in the realm of science as a battle against religious creationists, mainstream scientists feel pressured to publicly support vocal crackpot scientists simply because they are on the "same side" in the battle. Both of these issues prove that a one-sided evolutionary style of interpretation in schools and elsewhere is damaging to the pursuit of science.
For example, it seems that scientists have historically attempted to gloss over holes in the fossil record to bolster their theory against the creationists. The detailed sketches everyone is so familiar with of Neanderthals with characteristic hunched posture and protruding brow were in fact little more than imagination on the part of Marcellin Boule. (Lewin, 65-69) Especially in the area of human evolution from apes, there is still a good deal of uncertainty and constant reorganizing of the branches of the ancestral tree. Creationists argue that brain size, which is often regarded as an accurate test of whether a fossil is ape or hominid, actually varies almost as much in modern humans as in some fossils considered to be prehuman. Another possible explanation for the appearance of differences in prehuman fossils are diseases such as rickets in prehistoric communities which could have deformed the bodies of the fossils.
There also seems to be a large lack of transitional forms in all species, for instance fish with half feet or giraffes with short necks. If the changes were the result of tiny DNA mutations, where are the gradually changing fossils? And although evolutionists claim that evolution can be observed in bacteria and salmon populations, are there any true examples of speciation, where the "new species" involved actually changed so much that they were no longer able to reproduce with one another? Can life evolve from one genus to another? Although these doubts may not be enough to do great damage to the theory of evolution, they should be investigated freely by any and all scientists, and not covered up with artists' renderings of the way evolutionists wished things had worked simply to make their theory seem more cohesive.
Robert Wright expounds in another article on the same website that as a result of the fight between radical evolutionists and creationists in every area of society, especially after the Kansas school board decision to remove macro-evolution from standardized tests and other flare ups of the issue in the country, bio-evolutionists are publicly supporting the Stephen Jay Gould, a scientist who is often considered in private scientific circles to have many misinformed ideas and a very atheistic, anti-religious slant to his writings.
Whether this is true or not, I have myself observed that supporters of evolution often see their theory as a direct alternative to religion, as in the fish with feet that many evolutionists put on their cars and windows. This seems to me an unwarranted attack on religion, since the fish that Christians display were originally simple symbols of their faith, and have nothing to do with science or evolution. I also experienced the great tension in my state between creationists and evolutionists and the ridicule of Kansas by the entire world when the school board attempted to take a stance that was more open-minded. World over it was said that our state was banning evolution, which was not the case at all. At the time I felt anger and embarrassment at what I considered the radically conservative school board members, but now I feel that there may in fact be justifiable revisions to the story of evolution, and that although it should be taught so should its possible flaws. This story was misrepresented the media because of the perceived religious takeover of schools.
Religion and science should not be placed side by side as foes. Science by definition accepts revision while religion usually does not. Evolution is only one theory and is not in itself science, but a story which attempts to use scientific methods to prove its points. It is necessary for the benefit and the integrity of the pursuit of science that revisions to the theory of evolution are pursued, in any form that is scientific, including any type of rewrite whether or not it supports the views of the religious creationists. In this way all of the flaws and holes in the theory can be exposed and not hidden to support a cause. Maybe someday the truth will be found, and perhaps it already has.

Evolution: A Search for Truth
Name: Gwenyth Ca
Date: 2002-10-21 20:23:45
Link to this Comment: 3301

During the course of history there have been many instances when scientific discovery has disrupted the norms of religion and culture. Society is sometimes so dependent on what it believes to be the norm that such changes have met violent resistance. It seems there are those who continually seek the truth and in turn, disturb the statis quo and those who cling to time-honored tradition. The development of the theory of evolution has been a search for truth. How did we get here? Evolution has offered the world some possible answers to this ancient question, which has so far gone scientifically unanswered. Enough facts, data, and discoveries have been made in order to validate this theory as reasonable and likely. Subsequently, in the spirit of truth and discovery, who would be apposed to the theory being taught in schools? Only those who are fearful enough to reject ideas which counter their own notions of the truth. Stories must and always will change. Resistance to a changing story is as foolish as it is futile.
Bertolt Brecht's Galileo is a perfect example of a society trying to resist a change which contradicts faith-based assumptions about the universe and our role in it. Of course, those changes have, in time, become common knowledge for every person in the world. In Galileo's age, people knew the Earth was the center of the universe and they knew humans themselves were the center of God's attention. Galileo's attempt to change this story, even with physical evidence, was thwarted by the highest officials. They robbed him of his freedom and livelihood and would have taken his life as well in order to guard their sense of security on this Earth. He lived in an age where this was commonplace. Facts, data, evidence, even the truth was subjective to the opinions and beliefs of the time. As long as humans needed to believe they were the center of all existence, the truth would be ignored.
The theory of evolution also challenges a more modern religious sense of security, the idea that man was created in God's image, which is clearly stated in the Bible. This directly contradicts the notion that humans today are the result of millions of years of adaptation and significant physical change. Should this theory ever be completely validated and deemed true, it would imply a great number of religious inaccuracies. The Bible itself could no longer be considered a source for religious truths. Vast numbers of clergymen and women would be compelled to change the religious history they have been preaching. Even ordinary people would have to deal with an entirely new understanding of themselves as a race and our role in the universe.
It is clear now why some would ignore the facts in order to preserve their version of the truth. The idea of creationism is indeed a fairly magical tale of how humans came to be. An all-loving entity created a beautiful planet for us to live on. It created humans (just as they are today) to live happily on this planet built just for them. What a nice idea to believe in. It is so much easier to accept the idea that humans were created on purpose, than evolved from primates that evolved from microorganisms that were on this planet which itself was created by a chance combination of matter. The latter is a much more isolated and less grandiose suggestion. It is certainly much more difficult to accept than it's comforting alternative.
If evolution were to be taught in schools, there is no doubt the theory would become more widely accepted. Pupils across America would be presented with fossils, data, hard evidence and perhaps only listen to the idea of creationism in passing once a week at their religious services. The spread of such an idea is scary to some. Stopping the teaching of evolution in schools would slow the spread of this idea, and delay the realization of a new truth.
Evolution is merely an example of a search for understanding. For many, creationism just does not cut it as a valid explanation for our existence. The fact remains that there is no sure scientific account of how the universe and all things in it came to be. There should be nothing wrong with simply exploring other possibilities and searching for truth. Evolution has done just that and is one of the leading theories dealing with "how it all began." As such, it should be taught in schools along with any other theory that has been based on evidence and data.
One attends school to gain a basic understanding of the world and become a better thinker in general. How is one to accomplish this if one is denied information simply because with it comes certain social implications? There is no room for religion or politics in school. It is unfair to shield what is or may be the truth from anyone because others may not ideologically agree with it.
The theory of evolution is based on a foundation of physical evidence such as fossils and bones which have been collected and analyzed and reanalyzed by scientists for many years. These are facts! There is no denying that a fossil or a bone exists and carries with it, significant scientific suggestions. Based on this alone, it is only natural that these things be studied in schools everywhere. Educational value is to be had in such exploration, which makes even a theory worth studying.
In Flatland, the Square was imprisoned essentially for trying to spread a truth which would greatly alter the normal way of life in Flatland. Everyone was content in their ignorance there, as some people may be here on Earth. As a result of the Scopes "Monkey Trial," the State of Tennessee made it illegal for the theory of evolution (or anything else which denied or did not uphold creationism) to be taught in "all the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of Tennessee" which were supported in part or whole by State funds in 1925. The punishment for an offence is as follows: "That any teacher found guilty of the violation of this Act, Shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction, shall be fined not less than One Hundred $ (100.00) Dollars nor more than Five Hundred ($ 500.00) Dollars for each offense." This example of anti-evolution legislation continues today in dozens of states along with the teaching of a more "watered down" version of evolution.
There are many similarities between the society of Flatland and our own. We are both two cultures faced with a changing story. It is a change that would have major impacts on social, educational, political and religious spheres. We both react by resisting this possible change by denying facts, denying the truth. Any violators of the regulations put in place to stop the truth from coming are dealt with swiftly and severely. When looking at these circumstances, all that is seen are scared, cowardly societies trying desperately to stop the inevitable. One day, Flatlanders will realize a third dimension and one day our society will definitely discover the scientific explanation for our origins, be it evolution or not. It is the truth and it will be uncovered eventually.
I believe that living in a state of ignorance is possibly one of the worst circumstances to live in. The truth always has a way of coming to light, no matter how many people are unwilling to accept or even acknowledge it. Also, there is the fact that stories can not stay the same forever. All stories change which is a good thing. A changing story means exploration, rejuvenation, and innovation. The theory of evolution illustrates all of these things. One day a fact-based theory explaining the origins of the universe (perhaps evolution or perhaps not) will be discovered and some day, widely accepted. It must because it is a changing story. In the meantime, there is no benefit in delaying the discovery of a truth.

p.s. okay what is with not being able to indent on the postings? I find that really annoying.

Name: Bridget Do
Date: 2002-10-21 22:56:59
Link to this Comment: 3302

Since 1925 there has been an on-going debate about the curriculum in public schools and whether it should include the theory of evolutionism. The federal government has left it up to the states to decide if they wish to ignore Darwin's theory or teach it.
This debate branches off another debate as old as the U.S. Constitution, which separates the church from the state (and the state-funded learning institutions): how can you teach something historic or philosophic that might involve religion without going against the Constitution? The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. While there are many fossils and remains of primates to support Darwin's idea, there are many questions left unanswered; it is yet unproven and will probably never be proved. The other possible explanation of human existence is the theory of creationism, or the idea that a creator formed humans and placed them on the earth. Most Americans would refer to this "creator" as God, thus breeching the gap between church and state, and making the theory of creationism inappropriate for presentation in public schools. Neither theory is 100% accurate, yet only the theory that does not involve God is allowed to be taught under the Constitution.
On the other hand, the Christian majority in the United States has protested loudly against Darwin's suggestion that humans evolved from primates. Many parents do not want their children hearing that the story from the Bible of God creating the universe and the human race could perhaps be a myth. They do not want evolution taught in their children's classrooms at all; teachers should teach creation or they should avoid the topic of how humans came into existence all together.
For the past 75 years the battle has been raging between the scientific and the religious. Nearly all of those arguing against teaching evolutionism are followers of revealed religion. They belong to an organized place of worship or hold the same beliefs as people who do belong. The majority of these people are Christians who believe God created the universe and everything on it individually, humans being his favorite and most intricate creation. It's a theory, just like Darwin's, though it requires less physical evidence and more faith to believe.
The opposite of revealed religion is atheism; the disbelief that God exists or the unambiguously held belief that God does not exist. Both types of atheists are likely to support the theory of evolution, along with the Big Bang theory and the idea that all life developed from the one-celled organisms that evolved on the earth trillions of years ago.
Although finding a person who has never encountered religion is extremely unlikely, such a person would probably hold nearly the same ideas as an atheist, without having the specific belief that God does not exist. Whether this person is actually an atheist is under debate, but since discovering someone who has never encountered the idea of God is rather unlikely, it is not a very significant debate. Finding an example in real life could be very difficult, so it is necessary to resort to fictional literature.
The triangle in Edwin Abbott's Flatland is one of the only individuals, real or fictional, that has not been exposed to any form of God. He's not human, but his mind works the same way as a humans and that's more important than physical appearance when it comes to ideas such as evolution. He is exceptionally eager to learn after he discovers the third dimension, and if he were exposed to Darwin's theory he would probably be intrigued. The physical evidence uncovered by archeologists would most likely be enough to convince him of Darwin's genius and correctness.
Between revealed religion and atheism is Deism, a religion generally associated with Americans and less popular now than in the 18th century. Several of the Founding Fathers such as Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were Deists. They believe there is a God that creates a man, gives him a mind, then places him on the earth and leaves him to use it. Deists today could easily support or oppose evolutionism, but they are more likely to support it. Reason and nature are the basis of their beliefs, so there could easily be enough evidence discovered for them to believe Darwin's theory. They differ from atheists because they use their reasoning to determine that even if people did evolve from primates, somewhere in history whatever developed into those primates had to be created. Everything that exists today had to be created, and God is the explanation for human creation; whether he began with simpler creatures and gradually improved his design or made humans from scratch.
Compared to other religions, deism is relatively new. Had men like Columbus and Galileo been alive several centuries, they would likely have been Deists. In Bertolt Brecht's play Galileo, Galileo makes a statement about God giving men brains to think with. He chooses not to follow the Catholic teachings blindly as is the law, but to use his brain to discover the most truthful facts that his observations would render him to believe.
There are gray areas between revealed religion, atheism, and Deism. Numerous Americans hold beliefs that are combinations of the three, and may be either for or against children learning about evolution. At present, students in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are at least introduced to the idea, which suggests a greater part of the American population is in favor of evolution being explained in classrooms. Some of these people may believe in evolution, others may want their children to be exposed to various ideas to think about for themselves and decide which seems the most likely. Both theories may go eternally unproven, but it will be interesting to see how they both progress in the future.

Evolution does not equal change
Name: Kim Cadena
Date: 2002-10-21 23:09:49
Link to this Comment: 3304

In the debate over evolution, there are three different stories that are being told. One is the constantly changing scientific one, always adapting to fit in new information brought in by the curiosity of researchers. Another is the story of ‘guided design,’ which incorporates bits of science with the story that the creationists want to tell themselves. The proponents of guided design were curious enough to glance at other theories and think about them in relation to their own story, merging other stories with their own. The final story is straight creationism, where the Biblical story of creation is told without reference to any facts besides the ones twisted to fit their story. Each group tells and changes (or does not change) its story in a certain way based on what the group thinks the best story is.

The scientists admit to not being right. It’s built right into the scientific method not to claim that one is right until it has been proven six ways from Sunday (and still, there is doubt). They change the story of evolution daily to fit the new facts that are brought in. The very evolution of the current story of evolution is full of people changing or adding to their stories of evolution new information from other people’s stories of evolution. Darwin took the story that Lydell was telling (the theory of gradual geological change) and adapted to what he saw in the Galapagos Islands. This did not give him a complete theory, however, so he had to adapt his story further when he learned of Malthus’s ideas on why populations did not grow geometrically (natural selection was thought by Malthus to be a minor force). By combining the stories told by Lydell and Malthus with the knowledge he gained in the Galapagos, Darwin retold the story of the world.

The story is still being retold. ‘Social Darwinism,’ based on Darwin’s theories, has been proven incorrect, establishing that one story cannot be applied to every case. The idea of evolution does work well when applied to other scientific stories, though. The evolution of the Universe is a theory that would not have been thought of if it had not been for how well the theory of evolution worked for biology. Heavy elements forming out of lighter ones within supernovae is not very different than dark moths evolving out of lighter ones in a forest where the trees are now covered in coal ash. Darwin’s idea of change undergoes change with every new discovery, but the basic premise will go unchallenged until a better one is established.

The believers in guided design do not challenge Darwin’s premise; they ignore him. Accepting all know scientific fact, the intelligent designers present their own theory that fits the facts while supporting their story. Taking advantage of the gaps in current scientific knowledge, they posit that the great leaps that are found in the fossil record and the jump from inanimate matter to living tissue were caused by intervention by a higher power. They do not doubt the current age of the Universe like the pure creationists, nor do they think that there is no such thing as evolution. They merely believe that some things cannot be explained by traditional evolutionary theory and therefore are works of God. Their views also change with current scientific fact; changing their story is not a problem for them because as much as they believe in the rightness of their idea, they also recognize they do not know the whole truth.

Belief in the absolute and unchanging truth and correctness of their ideas belongs to the creationists. They expend great amounts of time and energy changing the facts (or other people’s stories) to fit their story. It’s an ironic reversal in the scientific method, actually. Scientists evolve theory to fit fact, while creation theorists take fact and mold it to fit their story. The use of the second law of thermodynamics is a perfect example of this by the creationists. Because the total entropy of a system is always increasing, they say, it is impossible to get a more complex system to form out of a less complex one. The already cited example of the heavy elements forming in the belly of the supernovae refutes this. The total entropy of the supernova may increase, but the entropy of the individual atoms within the supernova does not necessarily increase. Without the supernova’s total entropy increasing, in fact, heavy elements could not form because there would not be enough kinetic energy to cause light elements to combine.

When not retelling other’s stories to fit their own, creation theorists are also casting doubt on other theories. There is an argument that is made that radioactive dating is inaccurate because the initial conditions (such as a total purity of sample) required for an accurate date are impossible to achieve or confirm. While it is probable that ideal initial conditions never existed, this does not mean that all dates obtained through radioactive decay are inaccurate to such a great degree as to be worthless. Science admits that possible dates vary by as much as a thousand years on some samples, but a thousand years over a span of a hundred thousand is not bad. And it is certainly not so wrong as to justify the thought that the Earth is ten thousand years old.

The scientists retell their stories everyday, responding to the changing times. The guided designers reshape and add to their story, but the plot remains the same as the details change. The creationists do not change their story, but the stories of others. The reasons for these behaviors are, respectively, training to change stories, a willingness to change details, and an absolute stubborn belief. The best story to a scientist is the one that is most consistent with the real world, while the best story to a creationist is the one they believe wholeheartedly. The best story, according to the guided design folk, is one that both explains the real world yet still requires belief. Of course, in the end, the best story is the story one chooses to accept.


Name: claire mah
Date: 2002-10-22 00:57:06
Link to this Comment: 3306

Evolution? Creation? What's the Big Diff?
Why Not Crealution or Evolation?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, I, for one, can answer that question easily: the egg. Dinosaurs laid eggs long before chickens even existed. I realized this fact on my own as a young child and yet millions of people still seem to struggle with the idea. Does that help in the debate of evolution versus creationism in any way? I'm sure it could somehow, but that's another essay entirely.

For hundreds of years the ideals of creationism have been closely followed, believed in, respected. The firm tenets of this faith--that a god (in Europe and the United States, generally the Christian God) created the earth alone in the span of six days, the remaining seventh day as God's day of rest--did not allow for any deviation in opinion, lest one acquire the title of a heretic. In recounting to a colleague God's place relative to new, scientific theories, in the face of the Bible and the teachings of organized religion no less, Brecht writes of Galileo, "Sagredo: Where is God in your system of the universe? Galileo: Within ourselves. Or--nowhere. Sagredo: Ten years ago a man was burned at the stake for saying that" (Galileo, 63). This extreme example illuminates the force with which the citizens believed in the teachings and with which they were ready to act against anyone who blasphemed their God. In Darwin's and in Galileo's times, the general populous remained quite skeptical of any change in their belief system and often of science in general as well. Not until relatively recently have people's attitudes towards evolutionary theory and the support thereof become strong. At the present, many have become convinced that therein lies the truth concerning the formation and existence of the earth and of all forms of life.

One group believes in sudden appearance of the earth and of life on earth at the hand of God, the other, gradual metamorphosis of life forms over time. Despite these slight differences of opinion, why can the two philosophies not mix? What rationally dictates that these thoughts cannot coincide and meld into one? As none of us actually existed at the beginning of the earth (no, not even the clergy), who may verify that the earth was indeed created in six days? This traditional belief, passed on from generation to generation surely does not posses exact data, but rather a metaphorical frame with which people can better understand their surroundings. In Genesis 1:4-5 the Bible states, "And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning the first day." No real sense of time is noted (aside from the vague "days"), therefore perhaps millions of years make up one of these biblical days. This potentially being the case, both the evolutionary and creationist ideals could be true at the same time.

Yet strangely enough, despite head-butting over the creationism versus evolution disagreement, one rarely hears an argument for the "middle ground." Why is that? Do the opposing sides feel that unless they stand completely firm and unwavering in their position that they are weak, that they have given in to the wrong side, or that they held an invalid opinion. Humans despise the feeling of being wrong or being told what the "proper" answer or belief may be and any infringement on of their values and understanding is disconcerting and most upsetting. This fear of error and distrust pushes people to resist change from their roots, from what they have been taught to understand and believe.

Due to both positions' stubborn views, there seems to exist no simple and immediate reconciliation of differences between evolutionary and creationist thought. Perhaps if increasingly more people would present their outlooks and simply listen to each other, gradual change might take place. Till then, we'll all ponder what sound is made b one hand clapping.

To Make a Long Story Short: Scriptures, Sciences a
Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-10-22 01:32:08
Link to this Comment: 3307

People have been telling stories for as long as there have been stories to tell about; it's a natural human function. Stories entertain and educate, they make the world a little more enjoyable and a little easier to understand. They serve as a therapy, allowing the teller and the listener to relate, to form a necessary human bond. Stories let us learn more about ourselves, more about our fellow humans, more about our world.

In Edward Abbot's Flatland, the main purpose of the Square's storytelling is to share with others his miraculous new discovery. He wants to teach others what he has learned, he wants to teach others about the existence of a third dimension. After his return from the third dimension, he "awoke rejoicing, and began to reflect on the glorious career before me. I would go forth, methought, at once, and evangelize the whole of Flatland."

The Square is so determined to disseminate his knowledge, to tell his story, that he is willing to put himself into danger to do so. He risks the Resolution of the Council which bans "any perversion of the minds of the people by delusions, and professing to have received revelations from another World." The Square, steadfast in his desire to disclose his story, "exhorted all hearers to divest themselves of prejudice and to become believers in the Third Dimension."

In Bertolt Brecht's play, Galileo, the title character does something similar: he tries to convince others of his heliocentric theory, his story about how the universe works. Galileo firmly believed what was then considered heresy; namely, that the "earth rolls round the sun." Against the wishes of authority and against popular thought, Galileo persisted in trying to tell his story of how 'floating bodies' worked; his story was based on scientific proof, not on religious notions.

And like the Square in Flatland, Galileo in the play was ostracized for telling a story that no one wanted to hear. The Church could not handle having the precious Holy Scriptures (seemingly) defiled; as the Infuriated Monk said, mocking Galileo, "does the Bible lie?" And nor could the middle classes (who Galileo targeted, writing his works in Italian, not Latin) stomach having the geocentric theory, which they had swallowed as pure truth for millennia, be shown as a fallacy. As the Mathematician said, "if I understand Mr. Galileo correctly, he is asking us to discard the teachings of two thousand years."

However, while the Square goes to jail in to defend his story, his ideas, Galileo eventually cracks, and renounces everything he and his supporters had worked towards. Though he is considered saved, he is still a prisoner of the Inquisition and must live out the rest of his days recanting all that he had researched. While claiming to have seen the light, the light of the sun moving around the earth, he does finish his "Discorsi," but it is not enough. His story has been shattered. As he himself says, "as a scientist, I had an almost unique opportunity...I have betrayed my profession."

While I do agree that Galileo, in a sense, betrayed his profession, I don't feel that his opportunity was quite as unique as he thought it was. The divergence between religion and science dates from before Galileo, and if the present is any indication, is liable to continue well into the future. For example, today, there is such a conflict between creation and evolution theorists.

For eons, humans have believed in the (comforting) thought that the world was created by a divine power. The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Celts all had a supernatural explanation for their own existence. Modern religions do the same; they provide creation explanations, creations stories, to illustrate the beginning of man.

Centuries after the Scientific Revolution, many still side with religion. 45% of all Americans today believe in creationalism (Glanz). The stories found in the Bible still ring true to them, despite what contradictions modern society might present. Just like those in Galileo's day, many find solace and truth within the Holy Scriptures.

However, that is not to say that science does not require a faith of its own. "Science is a particular way of knowing about the world...progress in science consists of the development of the better explanations for the causes of natural phenomenon" (Introduction: Science and Creationism). Science, as well, is a collection of stories, but instead of being supported by the human faith in the divine, it is supported by human achievements.

So, educators today are presented with a problem: which story to teach in our schools? Ever since the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, there has been widespread debate about how to present science to students...through a religious or a clinical bias? Which story is more correct?

For the past few decades, the general consensus was overwhelmingly in favor of the scientific slate, the theory (story) of evolution. But recently, a newer brand of creationalism has cropped up, a re-telling of an old story, if you will. 'Intelligent design,' a modified version of creationalism, is "just a fresh label, a marketing device" (Wright).

This theory of intelligent design" is more forgiving that the strict Biblical interpretation. It allows for the earth to be billions of years old, instead of just a few thousand. However, it does not support the Darwinian idea of natural selection. Instead, followers believe that the formation of earth and the humans that inhabit it was engineered by an 'intelligent designer,' a divine power.

This story is becoming quite popular, especially considering that rough drafts of it only began to appear a decade or so ago. Kansas, Michigan and Pennsylvania, among other states, may eventually teach divine power as equal to the standard theory of evolution. The two stories, in a sense, will be competing with each other. Students will have the opportunity to choose which story they want to take home and put up on their shelf.

However evolved we may become (and however we became evolved), humans still possess the intrinsic attachment to stories. We may label them theories, treatises or philosophies, but we still find comfort in explain how things came to be. The tale of human beginnings, whether it is summed up in Genesis or in On the Origin of the Species, will forever be of interest to us. From Dr. Seuss to scriptures, stories are a necessary part of explaining who we were and who we have become.

Re-telling Our History: The Debate Between Dive Cr
Name: Joy Woffin
Date: 2002-10-22 01:51:45
Link to this Comment: 3308

Joy Woffindin
CSem – Grobstein

Retelling our History:
The Debate Between Divine Creation & Darwinian Evolution Rages on

In examining the debate between the validity of creationism and evolution, a wholly different type of story from those we have studied thus far comes to our attention. The story of the origins of humankind and the world is not simply another diversionary tale, but is classified by our society as history. One of the reasons the origins of mankind is so hotly debated is that in our modern society, history must be factual. Our seemingly unquenchable thirst for uncovering the mysteries of the past permeates our lives and our educational system as we continually search for more details and the most true and correct information about the story of how we arrived at where we our today; our history.

The undeniable importance of history to us seems innate, but it is important to realize that our view of what defines history and separates it from mere stories is not necessarily a universal one. Our word history comes from the ancient Greek "historia", which, though used in much the same way as our "history", literally translates to "inquiry". The Greeks thought of history as an inquiry into the past, a questioning of past events that was open to many interpretations and reinterpretations (also, unlike us, they also thought of looking forward to the past and looking back to the future, because the past was visible since it had already happened but the future was behind you since one cannot see it). The Greeks did not always draw such a sharp line between "reality" and "imagination", as we do today, for so much was unknown about the world that seemingly fantastical accounts were considered possibly truthful.

On the contrary, our society today accepts only one version of the past as being correct, and is reluctant to question the accepted version of history once it has been well justified. We have seen with Galileo, and later with Darwinism, that society's reluctance to accept (and in some cases utter denial of) new theories can be intense and sometimes lead to grave consequences.

What struck me as the most interesting about the sites which were refuting Darwinian theory in favor of Biblical creationism was that, though Christians are expected to believe in the Bible's teachings through faith and without proof, the authors of these sites attempted (in some cases rather feebly) to use scientific proof to validate their points.

Certainly each side in such a debate feels a combination of both reluctance and motivation in putting forth and arguing their viewpoint. The reluctance is a result of the fear of rejection because of their beliefs – or in earlier times, even fear for one's own life (as evidenced by the turmoil caused by the theories of Galileo and other "heretics"). I do not mean to imply that it is only those who bring forth new beliefs who are reluctant to express them, for those who stand by the older beliefs also feel reservation because they fear being labeled as backwards, old-fashioned, or ignorant. On the other hand we are also motivated to put forth our beliefs for a variety of reasons: to continue the search for the truth and what is "correct", to sway others to our point of view, justify our beliefs, explain ourselves to others through our beliefs.

Though the intellectual debate about our history often fuels new discoveries and helps us to (as the description for this course puts it) get things "less wrong", both sides play a dangerous game which can result in far-reaching repercussions throughout society. In Brecht's "Galileo", Galileo posited that his ideas would help society to become more progressive, but the Little Monk expressed concern that people, especially the lower classes, would languish in despair about their meaningless lives if their faith in the Creator was shaken. Likewise, sensitive Evolutionists must be aware of students different and often very strongly held religious beliefs, and be careful not to offend anyone, and sensible Christian fundamentalists must caution themselves from stifling the expression and teaching of ideas that differ from their own.

To think that the two sides of the argument over our origins have not yet been synthesized into a peaceful and healthy coexistence yet, at this point in time, in a society we consider so advanced, is both frustrating, and somewhat embarrassing. Both Evolutionists and Creationists need to absorb parts of each others ideas in order to help the ongoing debate reach a point where it is comprehensive and useful. As many of the Creationist sites point out, scientists have not yet come up with an explanation for the original existence and creation of matter in the first place, and it certainly makes sense that a "Creator" of some sorts, beyond our explanation, could account for this. But statements such as "Nothing in archaeology or science has ever contradicted anything in the Bible" put forth by the author of are simply untrue. As a student of archaeology I can immediately think of many examples to refute this overly general and (in my opinion) closed-minded statement. Just one example would be: what about the fact that the Bible says that the earth is thousands of years old when geologic science has confirmed that it is millions of years old? As evidenced by the fact the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church is listed on the National Center for Science Education's website ( as supportive of teaching of evolution in schools, different ideas can be successfully integrated, and one does not have to "choose religion over science" for one can be religious and agree with scientific explanations at the same time.

The Bible is one of our greatest and most important sources of history, and is an invaluable resource to historians and archaeologists, as well as people seeking a guideline for living a moral life, but at this point in time it is almost impossible to maintain the argument that everything in the Bible is meant to be taken literally. By the same token, Darwinians need to remember that their theory is just that, a theory, and could be proven incorrect, or at least revised, by later generations.

An important part of retelling the story of our history should be to take into account many different ideas, for simply arguing without attempting to understand the other point of view is futile. The most useful way to retell such stories is to not limit the teaching of new ideas, but at the same time not simply cast aside the old as totally invalid.

Works Cited:
Brecht, Bertold: Galileo

Works Consulted:
Romm, James S.: The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought
Lawrence, Jerome and Lee, Robert: Inherit the Wind

Creationism and Theistic Evolution: Understanding
Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-10-22 02:16:13
Link to this Comment: 3309

The current debate about whether to teach creationism or evolution – or some combination of both—in public schools today is an interesting one, but not because of the science involved.

I would identify myself as a "theistic evolutionist": that is, I believe God created the Universe and all the ways in which it works, including evolution. While it is interesting (though sometimes dry) to read all the different theories and hypotheses about the origin and development of our world and all that lives in it, it really has no bearing on the existence of God.

I found following the scientific arguments on the various websites somewhat difficult. There appeared to be two different debates going on: origin of the universe and origin of species. Each side seemed able to produce what appeared to be valid reasons why their interpretation is the correct one and their opponents' view is flawed. It seems you must trust one interpretation or the other (or one of many!) or do some research yourself. I admit to not having much more than an eighth grade science education—and that education is more than twenty years old—definitely a hindrance to being able to judge the merits of each argument. That will have to be beyond the scope of this assignment—I couldn't make up for such a knowledge deficit in a few weeks, or even a few months. I should confess that I discounted the Biblical literalists from the get-go: I believe the creation story is a metaphor, even if other parts of the book of Genesis are factual. At any rate, I am not going to comment on which scientific explanations are correct; I haven't done enough research.

It is the interpretation of information that interests me, whether the content is from the Bible or a scientific study. When we take in information, ruminate on it and finally come to a certain conclusion, we have retold the "story" in a way that makes sense to us. It is fascinating to consider what motivates people to interpret-- re-tell-- the same information in such radically different ways.

In "Galileo," the Church's reaction to Galileo's discoveries says more about man's hubris in believing he is the center of God's universe than about the nature or existence of God. One of the risks of accepting Galileo's theories was having to possibly give up the idea that God considers man his ultimate achievement. To allow Galileo's re-telling to stand could be seen as a blow to human importance. For some the current debate about what to teach in our schools has less to do with scientific truths than it does with certain groups' concerns about our place in the universe and what they see as their responsibility to their God. They see the ToE as a challenge to the sovereignty of God. On the website "" the author has this to say about the theory of evolution: "These beliefs mislead modern peoples (when not outright murdering them) and at the least make it harder for them to view the Gospel as a logical alternative." The "Here's the Good News" page of the "Answers in Genesis" website attempts to link a literal interpretation of the Bible, which obviously contradicts the ToE, with salvation.

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus gives "The Great Commission" (I am going to paraphrase): "Go and make disciples of all nations. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. Surely I am with you to the very end of the age." I believe this statement is what drives the biblical literalists. They believe they are helping to fulfill Jesus' Great Commission by trying to debunk what they see as anathema, and putting what they see as God's true word in its place. They are re-telling both the creation story and the theory of evolution in a way that suits their world view. I admire the strength of their convictions but I think their theology is wrong.

There are many deeply religious Christians who believe in evolution and disagree with the literalist re-telling of the creation story. How is it that these various groups, who read the same religious texts, come up with such opposing views? I believe it has something to do with the way different people understand the nature of God. After reading the various creationist websites, I came away with the impression that they see God as being very wrathful; ready to condemn anyone who makes an error in understanding Him. The pressure to conform to what is already in place is tremendous. Re-interpret or just mis-interpret God's desires for humanity and you are faced with eternal damnation.

I did not find many theistic evolution websites that weren't set up by creationists to warn of the dangers of what they see as a blasphemous belief. On the few sites that I did find there was an absence of warnings about sin, damnation and evil. Just as on the creationist websites, God is held up as the Creator of the world and he is believed to still be at work here. It is the method of creation that is different. However, the nature of God is presented as being more mysterious and beyond our limited understanding. There is room for interpretation of Genesis because God does not require a literal understanding of the Bible in order to love humanity.

As I stated earlier, I don't feel qualified to judge the scientific validity of evolution or the more scientific branches of creationism: young earth creationism and old earth creationism. I do feel strongly, however, that creationism should not be taught in public schools because it is theologically based. I do not want the government instructing my child in religious matters! Add to the mix that I do not agree with the creationists' theology and they do not agree with mine, multiply by the number of different interpretations of various creation stories—including numerous "secular" views on evolution-- and you have a recipe for disaster. Theological instruction should be given by families and religious groups, not government employees. Imagine the re-tellings that could come from that scenario—New Math, anyone?

Question Evolution
Name: Natalie
Date: 2002-10-22 09:54:57
Link to this Comment: 3310

Our culture does not question evolution; Darwin's theory of evolution is more often than not accepted as truth. There is value in looking at different perspectives on the origin of man. Of course students should also be exposed to different perspectives. These theories range from Darwinism, creationism, to Intelligent Design Theory. It is with these differences our world thrives. It is thus a challenge to understand, question and explore the truth we have uncovered and have yet to discover on our journey ahead.
First it is necessary to distinguish between microevolution and macroevolution. Microevolution is proven and supported by indisputable evidence. Schools have no problem teaching change over time, it's a fact of life. The question lies beyond the "survival of the fittest", where "the "irreducibly complex" world of biochemistry, the digital code inherent in the organic genome, and the fossil record itself have knocked Darwin's basic theory on its heels." The fossil record shows an explosion of highly complex life forms without any evidence of a transitional, evolutionary process required for Darwin's theory. The fossils archived to this day only date back so far. It still remains that no common ancestor has been found. The question faced is God versus Nature. Is the human species designed or is it by pure accident we are living on this earth? This controversy questions two extremes: the examinable, penetrable nature of this world; and the intangible, unseen God not of this world. Why must it be that Evolution blasts the existence of God? How can it surely do so when the theory is not proven?
In comparison, the creation story found the Genesis chapter of the Bible evidence of God. The bible is not scientific; however, it is a historical record. It is not logical, mathematical equations, calculations, and observations. Moreover, it is accounts, accounts of peoples, places, and happenings. Scientists were not the leaders of that time. It was the church, which ruled the land, not only spiritually, but governed all its affairs. The time in which the Bible was written certainly took a toll on what was recorded or discovered. To compare, Galileo will be sure to remind that his inventions were born in a time where the field of astronomy was needed for trade. His business of science benefited from people, as people benefited from science. Also the language places a huge role upon what is recorded or discovered. Galileo rather than invent and present his ideas in Latin, the language of the elites, he chose to use everyday jargon, so as to open the world of science all people. And yet it isn't until centuries later that the Bible could be read by all peoples, only clergymen or laymen could understand the 'language of God'. This is not to say old scriptures do not hold truth. It uncovers a culture, a society, a people, and a time. The Bible describes a beginning, yet to the logical, gradual changes that took place over time in accordance with how we originated, it is not so specific. This does not invalidate the Bible, yet in modern world, we demand more detailed processes as to what caused our evolution.
Darwin's theory of evolution should be taught in schools. Darwin's theory deserves fair representation and so should other theories concerning this matter. In the Supreme Court case Edwards vs. Aguillard, the court finds that the Louisiana Creationism Act; in stating that it would be necessary along side the teaching of evolution for creation science also to be taught invalid. Because the Creationism Act's purpose was to merely discredit evolution. Instead the Court decided that in hopes of educating students in the most authentic manner, the instruction of all scientific theories about human origins would be most appropriate.
Other theories include the Intelligent Design Theory or the Big Bang Theory. In comparison, Darwin's shocking ideas were not that humans ascended from a common ancestor, but other theories present a guiding intelligence, whereas Darwin proposed humans developed by chance. The reason behind the Intelligent Design theory is not to tear down the tenets of Darwinism, but rather "Intelligent design was devised by molecular biologists and other scientists who could not explain complex biological systems as the product of random selection...The more deeply these scientists looked, the more they saw evidence that biological systems were designed." From this perspective how could it be possible we evolved from inanimate matter?
Furthermore, one way of thinking whether it be Darwinian thought or another theory, it always runs into inconsistencies. In a statement made to the press by John Thomas Scopes at the Scopes Trial in 1925, "Education, you know means broadening, advancing; and, if you limit size to only one side of anything, the whole country will eventually have only one thought, be one individual. I believe in teaching every aspect of every problem or theory." Education deserves no less that this. It's knowledge should be given to the youth of our nation. As the future leaders of this nation and the world, it is indispensable that students explore truth, reason, doubt and theory in order to face the real world. They have a right to decide on their own what they believe about the evolution of man. It is not the job of education to indoctrinate them, but rather facilitate a higher understanding of themselves and the world and all things beyond. Flatland's narrator demonstrates that after his eyes are widened to Spaceland, he has a vast hunger for, "... some higher, purer region whither thou dost surely purpose to lead me... some yet more spacious Space, some more dimensionable Dimensionality..." This search for things unseen and unproven should not go unexplored, the journey is endless, so the journey for knowledge shall continue onward and upward.
The origin of life has baffled the human mind since the dawn of time. Many purposed theories of human origin have still not been proven. And for this reason the search shall continue. For it was Galileo who claimed the earth revolves around the sun and he only had a few supporters in his day. He was forced to recant his discoveries to save his life. And yet he continued vigorously to challenge the world secretly. As for the narrator in Flatland, once brought to greater levels of understanding, he too set out to share the wealth of knowledge bestowed upon him. To no avail, he also was imprisoned as a heretic and lunatic. It is not without hardship that one may venture to challenge the old with new thought.
Evolution is not set in stone. The teaching and exploring of the nature of Evolution will allow for young minds to continually apply their unsullied intelligence contributing to a better understanding of it. The purpose of this issue is not to drive one another into the ground; this conflict is very much alive. On this earth, we are living an extreme: divergent cultures, societies, beliefs, climates, and governments. The order maintained out of the chaotic natural world we live in is not a generic code, rather as one travels the globe the definitions of order even change. This is the beauty of our world. If there was no change, if people lived stagnant lives, where everyone believed the same thing, and there was nothing of which to argue about, why! Life wouldn't be worth living! It is the controversies pulling at our hearts, which make us thirst for more, that make us want to share what we know with others.

Stories and the Origins of Life
Name: Bonnie Bal
Date: 2002-10-22 10:20:04
Link to this Comment: 3311

The reasons we are motivated to re-tell stories are as varied and complex as the people who tell them. For me, some of the reasons I re-tell stories are to help people, to soothe, to commiserate, to inspire, to motivate, to validate, to learn, to impress, to strengthen, to prepare, to organize, to lighten, and to share human experience. Stories create culture. They lead us to community and to fellowship with one another. We seek a shared reality. We may seek out others based on their motivations for re-telling stories...identifying with people by the stories they tell.
We are sometimes hesitant to re-tell a story because we sense the importance of this activity to relationship with others. We sense the responsibility of choosing the appropriate words. I am reluctant to re-tell a story when I fear being misinterpreted or misunderstood. Could it be possible that no two people "hear" the same story in exactly the same way? Is every story interpreted individually? If so, it is almost certain that if you re-tell a story to enough people, it will be misinterpreted at some point by some of them. In this way the storyteller takes a risk, but in my opinion, if you tell an important story to a hundred people and one of them "gets it," then that is enough to have made it all worth it. It takes courage to tell stories.
In regard to science education in schools, why must biology class attempt to explain the origins of the universe and human life? Isn't that presumptuous?...overly ambitious? This is the subject material of religion. Is it possible to teach biology without dwelling on a beginning?
I respect that a body of research exists by scientists who have attempted to prove the origins of the universe and human life. I even believe that it is important to attempt such research with the idea of laying the ground work for future discoveries. But science teachers must be sensitive to the different religious beliefs of their students in the classroom. They should not present evolution as "the way" but as scientific theory, subject to the possibility of rejection or modification in the light of new knowledge; in addition, if possible, they should present evolution in a way that does not compete with the spiritual and religious beliefs taught in the homes of their students.

Are we coming closer to the truth?
Name: Lim Xuan-S
Date: 2002-10-22 14:18:08
Link to this Comment: 3314

Are We Coming Closer to Truth?

Both creationism and evolutionism seek to find answers to the origins of human life, but the debate about science education shows a strong inclination towards evolutionism. It appears as if attempts to establish a victor between the two would force us to confront the issue of spiritual faith: Does God exists? If we believe in the existence of God, do we have to believe that man was created by God? The arguments made by creationists are motivated by their faith in Christianity. Much of their evidence is taken from the Bible, and they tried to give their claims a universal appeal. As a non-Christian, I feel that they are propagating that Christianity is the origin of all religions. To be unbiased, should the sciences have an unrivalled authority on the issue of evolution? Which proposed ideology is closer to the truth?

Pro-creationists have made claims that certain characters in the Chinese language support the creation account stated in the Bible1. For example, some scholars interpret the Chinese word for God, which translates into "Shang Ti", to imply that the ancient Chinese worshipped only one God, a "single heavenly emperor"2. Coincidentally, the word "Shang Ti" is the term used by the Chinese today to refer to the Christian God, while they refer to their God as "Yu Huang Da Di", who is thought to be the ruler over many other smaller deities. Is this sufficient evidence to proof that the ancient Chinese did worship only one God, and it was the same God mentioned in the Bible? I doubt so. Can we not argue too that the 'Christian God' actually originated from beliefs of the Chinese and was misinterpreted to mean a single God, when the Chinese was worshipping the God of all Gods? Is there not an implication then that Christianity is superior to other religions, because our early forebears recognize the presence of the God whose work of creation is recorded in the Bible? Also, Chinese do not believe that it was not a sexless God that created man from "the dust of the ground" as mentioned in the Bible. In Chinese myths, it was a woman figure named Nuwa who first tried to mold man from clay, but finding it too time-consuming, she dipped a rope in mud and sling it hard. Drops of mud flew from the rope, and the drops became men and women as they hit the ground. Therefore, the pro-creationist's suggestion that the individual components which formed the Chinese character "create" actually supports the creation account is unconvincing as well.

If we examine the modern religions of the world, we would find that some have similar creation myths. Both Islam and Christianity, for example, believed that a single god formed and governed the universe. In fact, the similarity is much more apparent between these two religions than the rest. Both endorsed the idea that after God created the universe, he started to create man. The followers of Hinduism supported the idea that there is one supreme God that governs many other smaller gods, which is also the belief of many Chinese today. Why then did the pro-creationists not include evidence from the Koran to support the validity of their creation account? If they thought that the Koran were an unreliable source, is the Bible any more credible than the Koran? Clearly, creationism is selective of the evidence it uses to supports its claims, in as much that it should avoid dealing with sensitive religious issues. How is this possible if their most convincing arguments are supported by Biblical text, while their weaker arguments made about the age of the universe and the man's evolution3 are refuted by modern scientific findings? It is also interesting to note that although some cults of major religions do reject the scientific evidence on man's origins, the Christian voice is the loudest in the movement of protest.

Although the claims made by the pro-creationists are weak in many areas, we cannot discount creationism from the debate on man's origins. The significance of its emergence is greater than its contributions to the discoveries on human ancestry. Creationism has failed to present a unified front; supporters have been making different claims that sometimes lack logical sense in view of scientific discoveries. What creationism attempts to do is to keep the beautiful and magical myth of creation alive. They do not wish for the role of the divine to be negated in the work of creation, for it is in the divine (one God, or many smaller gods) that man look to find his meaning and purpose in life. Even if someone has a strong faith in science and express skepticism in all things religious and philosophical, it would not be wrong to suggest that they worship the God of Science. The force that drives a person's faith and give them a sense of duty or the motivation to carry on with life could be taken to be their religion. To silence the voice of creationism on man's evolution would be as unnatural act, for it is defending the
larger idea of faith essential to human life.

To be fair, let us question whether the sciences should be accepted as the authority on the subject of the origin of life. I feel that scientific discovery is an important source of information and reference on any subject, but it should not be accepted as the ultimate Truth. Statistics and theories add credibility to any argument because they serve as evidence. However, we should keep in mind that one characteristic of science is its ever-mutating nature. Scientific findings have been known to be erratic sometimes, with its share of fanatical scientists trying desperately to make breakthroughs in the field. It has not been unusual for earlier findings to be disproved by current research, and no where is this more apparent than in the field of health.

Science education, which is concerned about presenting the objective truths, is also limiting the imagination of children. By establishing the scientific theories as facts, children are guided to build up a structure of the world as constructed by science. As adults, they would resist new ideas that challenged their reality and world order, as illustrated in the play Galileo by Bertolt Brecht. Galileo proposes that the earth revolves around the sun, which contradicts the common belief that appears to be established for as long as life existed, that the sun goes around the earth4. He was forced to recant and eventually imprisoned for his theory. 'Spiritual faith' and 'science' do not always oppose one another. If Galileo did not have faith in himself and in Science, he would not have completed his controversial book despite his failing eyesight. Clearly, having faith motivates a person to be dedicated to his beliefs, and in this case, drove Galileo to introduce a new scientific idea to the hostile public.

Are we coming closer to the truth owing to the progress of science? No one knows for certain what the Truth is, and only speculations can be made. If God did create man, he also gave him the free will to act as he wish. Perhaps it was not meant for man to know the entire truth about the universe, for what good would the truth do for him except to satisfy his curiosity? What if knowing the truth only brings about disillusionment? If so, it is enough that man have faith in himself and the workings of the universe.

1-2 CSE Ministry. Article from Bruce Malone's book Search for the Truth, "Chinese Language Supports Creation Account"
19 Oct 2002

3 The National Academy of Science. Science and Creationism, 2nd Ed. "The Origin of the Universe, Earth and Life" 1999.
19 Oct 2002

4 Brecht, Bertolt. Galileo New York: Grove Press, 1966

This week's draft
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-10-24 15:54:37
Link to this Comment: 3338

Hello, Questioners.

Your writing assignment this week is to tell the story of some aspect of a culture with which you are familiar. Step back from it, "make it strange" and then tell the story--whatever it might look like. Make it about 3-4pp. long.

Looking forward to hearing your tales--
Anne (for myself, Haley and Paul)

Name: Elena Weyg
Date: 2002-10-27 11:27:59
Link to this Comment: 3365

Elena Weygandt
CSEM Culture Paper
October 28th, 2002
Professor Thomas


Pinochle has been played by Weygandts ever since the first Weygandt emigrated to America, and settled in Illinois. Indeed it is a popular game in the Mid West. Yet it is unique to my immediate family because we speak only "Weygandt" when we play it. Those who are not familiar with this language would describe it as the tongue of the "stream of unconsciousness." The game withdraws us from reality so that we are no longer concerned with making sense. The words we utter, though, fit perfectly into our world of interpretation and impression. This world is exclusive to us and is the only world in which I choose to play pinochle.
In a game where table-talk is prohibited, the thrill and pleasure stems, ironically, from the bantering. After the cards are delt, trump announced and meld tallied, for instance, we can count on mom saying, "Ok, now what's trump again?" Following suit, my brother, Arkell, and sister, Ida, will rock back in their chairs, laughing at my mom's absent-mindedness. My dad, on the other hand, will reach for his forehead, sighing, and then exclaim, "Oh Maria! For Pete's Sake!" Then, everyone will reply in unison, "Clubs!"
"Oh, ok!" and she will put down an ace of clubs, since, of course, she made trump. Though while we play, we pay close attention to the game and count trump, save trump, count tricks, follow suit and trump, we do not play to win. We play to let off steam. After dinner, when we have finished discussing and trying to make sense of the day, we clear the table and forget about our worries. We dwell on the cards in our hands and not on our emotions and we act and speak without second thought, that is, we speak in Weygandt. It is safe to be whimsical here because in our world of card-playing, there are no consequences. If we sat in silence and played seriously, the game would take control of our emotions confronting us with feelings we want to avoid at the end of the day, such as competition, greed, loss and triumph. Instead, we play the game as if conducting a crazy and funny pageant, celebrating the personalities of my family.
Pinochle brings out the authenticity in us and makes me realize why my favorite people in the world is my family. How we make pinochle a ritual illustrates that my family values immaterial pleasures. Rather than taking pride in selecting a preferred deck of cards, we make sure that everyone agrees on the music played. There are, though, like the decks of cards, only two choices. Either blues from the kitchen radio or German singing and harpsichord, which in Weygandt, the latter is translated as "Doodle-ja music." Included also in the pinochle atmosphere is the simmering of the tea kettle. My family acknowledges the importance of nostalgia for holiday traditions and salutation to French and German culture. This unique atmosphere in our home, most prevalent during pinochle, makes us comfortable to switch from English to Weygandt.
Every time we play pinochle, we laugh. Sometimes, we yell and maybe someone will storm off and cry. It is not the game that triggers these emotions in us, but how we interpret the Weygandt that is spoken. Thus, during this card game we reflect, unconsciously, on the story of my family. Arkell, the youngest of us four children, but well into his teens, insists only on speaking Weygandt, demonstrating that he is truly comfortable here and not ashamed of his strange family that is deeply fanatic about a particular card game. At most other times of the day, he is reserved to few words. At he pinochle table, however, he is a stand-up comedian. One moment he is Sean Connery on "Celebrity Jeopardy," and will slam down a card, exclaiming in a heavy Scottish accent, "Trump this, Trebeck!" The next minute, when Ida does indeed trump his lead, he will tell her to go back to Russia, even though she has never been there. If, by chance, Ida adds a counter to his trick, he will announce his satisfaction by pronouncing the last name of her boyfriend with a trill of the tongue, "Mike F-f-la-la-la-la-la Fletcher!"
Arkell's utterances are not seeds of schizophrenia, they are just his version of Weygandt. My dad's use of Weygandt rest in his facial expressions and puns about our neighbors. If he has a difficult decision about which card to lead, he will tuck in his chin, suck on his lower lip, flare his nostrils, squeeze his eyes shut and concentrate on reproducing the winkles on his forehead. After discarding with a sigh as if a plane were landing, he watches the cards that drop onto his and takes the trick. He will begin to talk about the neighbors, and we know he is fully satisfied with himself: "So I passed Bob on the road today, driving his new black Kompressor. I told him Mike Rodko had the same one in yellow, and maybe they could get together, you know, and make a sort of bubble-bee, you know? Well, Bob took one look at me, said 'No, Peter' and drove off." We all collapsed our cards in our hands and laughed. The rivalry between our rich neighbors is hysterical to us. Though we have no resentment towards our neighbors, we love to joke about other families and imitate them and by doing so, they play a more significant role in lives because we have talked about them in our distinctive Weygandt-tongue and have accepted them into our exclusive world.
A game of pinochle is the only guarantee that this world, or country where Weygandt is spoken, will supercede reality. At most other times in my house, we are too concerned with our commitments and agenda for the Weygandt to come out. But when one of us calls up the banister, "Who wants to play some pinochle?" we put down our books, turn off the computer or TV, hang up the phone, turn away from the mirror, turn away from internalizing, from predicting, from planning, and thump down the stairs as if pounding out a thought every step. Therefore the pinochle table is the only place where I am exposed to people without pretenses. It is so rare and unique, that other people outside my family would never understand it. I wonder if other families have their own language, and if so, what accepted medium they embark across to step from reality to a world where consequence is erased. And for those families who do not cross any such threshold when playing pinochle, I can only ponder that unfortunately, they must have learned to play it a different way.

Csem & Culture Paper
Name: Kristina C
Date: 2002-10-27 12:45:36
Link to this Comment: 3370

My family has never been rich in culture, especially around the holidays. Thus, last December, my neighbor from Holland introduced us to her idea of Christmas in order to enrich our understanding of tradition and culture. In the Dutch tradition, Sinter Klass(our St. Nicholas) appears to the children in early December . He travels to the country by boat with his assistant, Black Peter (Piet). Once the boat is docked, Sinter Klass and his helper greet the children who have gathered at the landing. He then mounts a white horse and leads a procession throughout the town wearing fine, expensive robes. Tradition says that both Sinter Klass and Piet have spent the last year in Spain evaluating the behavior of the children. While Sinter Klass records his findings in his red book, Black Peter goes off in search of presents for the children. Parents often use this belief as a form of discipline- the children are told that if Sinter Klass finds that they have misbehaved, Black Peter will either chase them with a stick or will stuff them into his burlap bag and sell them into slavery.

After Sinter Klass has arrived in Holland, the children prepare themselves for his arrival to each of their homes. During the day they bake "letter blankets" which are biscuits that are shaped into letters, marzipan pastries and "peper noot"- biscuits made with cinnamon and spices . Children also participate in "Secret Sinter Klass", in which they pull names out of a hat and are responsible for finding a gift for that person. As the day proceeds, the children grow more excited as they anticipate the arrival of Sinter Klass. On the Eve of St. Nicholas' Day many families have parties at which they enjoy in the traditional baked goods and exchange the "Secret Sinter Klass" gifts. That night, the children place wooden shoes near the fireplace in hopes that by morning, the shoes will be filled with candy. Often, the children will place hay and carrots inside the wooden shoes for Klass' horse; they believe this will earn them even more candy from Sinter Klass. After this has been done, the family settles down for the evening, prepares the children for bed and often the Christmas story is told.

On the morning of St. Nicholas Day, December 6th, the children wake up to find both their wooden shoes filled with sweets and large presents that have been brought by Sinter Klass and Black Peter. After the presents have been opened, the rest of the day is spent relaxing and generally there is a small family meal at night. Additionally, church bells are rung to announce the arrival of Sinter Klass while farmers blow horns to emphasize the Christmas Period. Once the day is over, the children look forward to the coming of the next St. Nicholas Day.

Clearly, the celebration of St. Nicholas Day is very rich in Dutch culture and the origins of the customs add to the ambiance of the holiday. People believe that Sinter Klass originated from the fact that a Spanish King took over the Netherlands in the mid 1400's. The Spanish sent clergymen to look after the trading, and it is believed that Sinter Klass was the bishop of Myra who was sent to do this. Thus, it is logical that he resides in Spain for most of the year with his horse and assistant, Black Peter . The origin of Black Piet is not quite as clear. Some believe he descends from an Italian chimney sweep during this time. Others maintain that Black Peter is actually the devil, and Sinter Klass enslaved him and forced him to assist him with his duties. Children believe that Klass does not want to get ash from the chimney on his ornate robes so he dropps the presents down the chimney into their shoes. The origin of filling the wooden shoes with candy is derived from the story of the poor man with three daughters. It is said that the three poor girls, whose father could not afford their dowry, hung their stockings in the fireplace to dry. St. Nicholas pitied the girls and dropped gold coins down the chimney, which landed in their stockings. It is possible that the idea of putting wooden shoes by the fireplace is reminiscent of this tale.

Clearly, the Dutch culture and its tradition play an important role in holidays, customs, and everyday life in Holland. The families in the Netherlands take active roles in the culture and foster an even richer sense of culture with the future generations.

Bunny in the Sky
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-10-27 15:17:54
Link to this Comment: 3372

When a newborn baby is brought outside for the first time, proud mothers swell with pride as the miniature hand extends from the mounds of blankets, reaching up as if identifying a familiar face in the all too strange world. What if, however, the tiny digits weren't directed towards the doting mother, but focused on something beyond. Perhaps the first thing a little infant looks at when it goes outside are the fluffy white clouds that magically seem suspended against a massive backdrop of blue. The tradition of looking at clouds starts when we are quite young and continues throughout our lives. Although the clouds always look the same, what people see in them is continuously changing along with their lives.

Young children, when released to play outside, seem to run about like wild animals. Climbing on the monkey bars or playing baseball in the park, doesn't appear to afford them much opportunity to gaze skywards. But the rapid movements of the child's body mimic the rapid movements of their mind. Both have an amazing ability to flit back and forth among various points of focus. When asking a child what they see in the clouds, they are likely to reply in a rapid yet concise fashion. "It's a bunny rabbit" or "It's an airplane" are examples of possible responses. The imagination of children can concoct some pretty fascinating images in the sky. To children, the sky is a blank canvas full of possibilities. They see castles, grandmother's face, and their favorite television or storybook character. Animals are another popular sighting. Looking at clouds with a young child can be like taking a trip to the zoo.

Once children grow out of the wild animal stage and begin to calm down many of their hobbies change. One constant is often their fascination with the clouds and all of their possibilities. On a clear day children often take a blanket to the park or backyard just to lie down and gaze up at the sky. As children grow older and begin to calm down their images seem more detailed and thought out. Instead of a bunny rabbit, there is a white rabbit, with big floppy ears and a great fluffy tail carrying a carrot between its two buck teeth. Their imagination thrusts into high gear as they put themselves in a cloud world full of all their favorite things. Kids can see in the clouds what they desire in life.

As kids go to school, they are shown the endless possibilities of the world. This infinite array of options is reflected in the endless shapes and meanings discovered in the clouds. Children begin to apply their lessons in school to the images in the sky and the clouds soon gain a whole new meaning. Clouds are no longer just shapes and images, but metaphors for life. Passing of clouds becomes the passing of time; so slow that it is hardly noticeable, yet constantly shifting. Once again, what a kid sees in a cloud can, like an inkblot, reveal their innermost wants and desires.

As the children grow into adolescents, they are burdened with more responsibilities of the world and find it harder and harder to simply stare at the sky. When time does permit a furtive gaze, the clouds seem to become less distinct. Instead of specific destinations, they just represent a broader escape; perhaps back into the time when they saw so much meaning in the cumulus formations. The childhood fantasies are slowly worn away when the harsh realities of life become more evident. Time spent looking at clouds is replaced by other more pressing concerns.

Adults rarely even have time to glance at the fluffy white masses in the sky. When they do look up, it is mainly to determine if their busy schedule will soon be interrupted by some form of precipitation or the impending darkness of night. Overwhelmed with preoccupations they often forget why they looked at the clouds in the first place. The wonder and magic they had once known seems to have been forgotten like a distant dream.

Not everyone loses sight of clouds. Many continue to see their importance and value even as they get older and begin to accept the responsibilities that come with age. For some people, imagination never dies or fades away. Clouds continue to form different shapes and meanings in their lives. These are the fortunate few who realize the importance of the imagination.

Then as people grow older, retire, and move down to Florida, they suddenly find time again to look at the clouds. Most, however, have forgotten how. They watch the little kids in the playground and wish they could only remember, but the trails of life have left them too broken and jaded. Then there are those who can still see visions in the fluffy white masses. Most of these aren't much better off. They see the world of possibilities knowing that it is no longer open for them. Unless they have lived a fulfilling life, the visions in the clouds can produce feelings of regret and loss.

The interpretation of clouds represents an important aspect of our society. Clouds could represent magic, imagination, and a world of possibilities. It is a sad truth that people tend to analyze clouds less and less as they age. The same world that once held so many options seems to have dwindled. Drowning in everyday responsibilities, there is no longer time to come up for air. Then when the time comes, clouds are forgotten. Could this all be prevented if we invested more time in creative wonderings such as those that accompany cloud gazing? I guess the moral of the story would be, never forget the promise in the sky.

Analysis of Risk and Reward in the Cat Fancy
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-10-27 15:56:34
Link to this Comment: 3373

At first, I thought I would write about high-tech corporate culture,
but then decided that the cat fancy would be far more believable...

It began innocently, with our intention to have a house cat that might deter mice, at least the smarter mice that live in Ann Arbor. As soon as the weather turned cold, we had squeaky visitors skittering up and down the warm ductwork of our heating system, and they outwitted us at every turn. There was only one solution. I chose a pedigreed cat: a silver tabby, show quality Norwegian Forest Cat kitten. He had no mouse training, but that was not a problem. By the time I had chosen a breed, found one of its rare U.S. breeders and an even rarer kitten, five months had gone by and so had the mice. In the meantime, Gabby's breeders had taken me "under wing" as the lore of the breed and the lure of the competition sucked me in. Like Alice tumbling through her looking glass, I submerged into an entire subterranean culture known as the cat fancy.

The cat fancy is comprised of tens of thousands of breeders and pet owners, worldwide. There are a dozen or so "registries"(1) or associations, each of which regulates, grants and keeps records of pedigrees. In addition, each solicits members, holds elections for regional and national offices, conducts cat shows and manages a system of titles and awards. Most of their active members are breeders of one or more of over 40 recognized breeds. The majority of them are connected via lively Internet discussion groups, association volunteer activities, and shows. It's another planet.

At first, I thought that the primary pull of people towards this planet was their love of cats and joy of raising kittens. The cats are the center of much pride-filled attention. Breeders are obsessive about grooming, nutrition, cattery housing, socializing their kittens for the show ring, etc. They engage in endless exchange of photographs chronicling the development and life of their felines. I have come to realize, though, that the cats are probably not the primary driver for their involvement. For example, breeders normally neuter and give away cats once they are no longer useful to their "breeding programs". They may have been pampered and coddled champions one year, but they're excess baggage the next. Long-term involvement in the fancy seems to be about the sport at show and status within the social structure of their association.

Breed-specific Internet discussion groups with hundreds of members are used as means to brag about show wins, show off new litters, and share complaints and advice. Hours per day are spent on these forums, while the cats languish at the sidelines. For these breeders, their cats are not surrogate children, nor are they extensions of themselves. They are engaging, animate objects that keep them company and are things that others will covet. The coveting extends to kittens or stud service from the special cat-of-the-moment. But there's always the next show, next competition, next promising kitten. Breeders are on a treadmill to keep up or slide back.

Like the "focused gathering" defined by Erving Goffman as "–a set of persons engrossed in a common flow of activity and relating to on another in terms of that flow"(2), the community of cat show people convenes at shows every weekend, somewhere, to re-enact the drama with audience participation, sub-plots and power-plays. To understand the range of inter-related dynamics at a cat show, you need to see the show in the context of its important role to the cat association, a non-profit organization with salaried, elected officials, costs for its infrastructure, and a dependence upon volunteer support from its members. There are three dominant sources of income: membership registrations, cat and litter registrations, and donations from foundations. There is competition among the registries for the finite number of worldwide potential members who can generate the bulk of possible revenue via both forms of registration.

A breeder chooses to be a member of an association and be more or less active, depending upon his/her perception of the politics and relationships that will hinder or help personal gain, and access to enough shows within driving distance. This last factor is critical in order to satisfy the progressive requirements for titles and to have a walk-by of fresh prospects to whom to sell kittens. Breeder-members of an association form local clubs that financially back and produce shows. A show can cost from $10,000 to $25,000 or more in up-front money from the (typically, 4 to 12) club members. Money is recouped from exhibitor entry fees and paying visitors. How much is determined by the club's ability to attract cat entries, advertise effectively, be blessed with good weather, etc. It's high risk with no safety net. Clubs can and do get into serious financial difficulties, indebtedness and irrecoverable losses. On the other hand, there is association praise for those who participate in the production of local shows and social stigma for those who do not.

Those who produce a show try to attract hundreds of cat entries by arranging to have 10 or 12 of the most popular judges. Judges, all of whom depend upon club invitations for their weekend "second jobs" or discretionary income, want to be invited again, so a lot is at stake when they make their selections for the show's top cats, especially since the cats of the host club members are involved. Sometimes, favoritism and politics enter the picture. Sometimes, current top-winning cats are selected simply as a safe bet. Sometimes the best cats there that day are actually selected. It's a capricious sport, and exhibitors grumble bitterly at every perceived or real injustice. But they keep coming back, just as the gamblers return to Los Vegas.

Cat show morning, a few hundred cats pull up in vans and cars, and are shuttled into the show hall by owners who are all business and adrenalin as they set up their benching cages and get situated. Small clusters form to discuss the odds and latest scuttlebutt. As judges arrive, old-time exhibitors saunter over to say hi – to be noticed –as others bury their heads in the catalog to check out the competition. Everyone is feeling a rush. When the show finally starts, cats are carried to judging rings with great pomp and purpose. All eyes are on the judge to note how the cat is handled and also to be noticed by the judge while their cat is in the ring. Judges often spend a fair bit of time and care explaining the strengths of each cat as they make their decisions to select one over the others. All parties are extremely polite amid judgments that can sometimes seem arbitrary and subjective. As the two days progress and ribbons accumulate on some cages and not others, tempers and tensions mount, but usually do not flare. In the end, the real drama unfolds in the restaurants and bars after each show day has ended. Judges and favored exhibitors swap pointed opinions and juicy rumors. By the end of the second day, the exhibitors are talking about the next month of shows and judges. Best of the Best is awarded with few on-lookers other than the recipients, and everyone rushes to pack up, drive or fly home, hang the new ribbons, count the points, get on-line and report the news.

What drives cat breeders? It can't be money. Everyone I know has run at a significant net loss, year after year. Veterinary, food and grooming costs are continuous. Stud fees are typically $500 to $1500 each, and revenue from kitten sales is often consumed by complications with kitten deliveries or illnesses. All of the costs associated with showing cats are sizable: several hundred dollars per show for entry fees, transportation, room and board, etc. Most breeders attend 1 or 2 shows within driving distance each month. Many also fly to shows with their cats on a regular basis. Those who lust after international championships fly, weekend after weekend, across North America and to Europe in order to secure a top international title among campaigning cats. For these "campaigners", it is not uncommon to spend $20,000 to $40,000 in one show season. Some have mortgaged their homes and 'maxed out' their credit cards in months of frenzied travel for the competition. In addition, it is widely known that marriages can implode and health can deteriorate in the process.

Show winners and campaigners receive no monetary rewards and no broad social status. There is, however, public triumph over enemies and fame among colleagues. There is magazine and e-zine coverage and a cascade of formal banquets at the end of the season, at which photos of winning cats are displayed on large screens overlooking a sea of chicken dinners for attendees in evening attire who have come to walk to the stage – perhaps, more than once on a given award night – to receive applause, trophies, ribbons and certificates for each of their honored cats. There are enormous bragging rights in a circle that spends a great deal of time – by phone, at shows, and in on-line discussion groups –reveling in rumors and news about each other, their cats, and the politics surrounding their breed or the association. Likewise, while judges are paid pennies per cat to judge them, they crave the audience, the power and prestige, the ability to affect the direction of a breed with approval granted or withheld in their show ring.

For campaigners, they and their cattery name can become legendary as part of the folklore kept alive within their worldwide sub-culture. Also, if a breeder wants to become one of the salaried, elected officials of the association, campaigning a cat internationally is a tacit pre-requisite, an expectation that is validated by the power cliques that have formed and the politics that have played out repeatedly. The top positions are held by those who have risen through the ranks from breeder to committee member, to judge trainee, probationary then full judge, and then to elected official. Likewise, for those who want to protect or influence the standard by which their breed is judged, campaigning establishes their prowess and intensity, and can help in the election process to become a breed committee member. I have also witnessed breeders campaigning one of their cats to thwart the rise of another cat of the same breed whose "type" was different. Once a cat has achieved international status, the look that cat displays manages to impress judges for many seasons to follow.

If we look at the financial and other (marital and stress-related) risks associated with running a cattery, campaigning a cat, or producing a show –and serious breeders perform all three activities –we might think that they are engaged in a form of "deep play" as defined by Bentham in "the Theory of Legislation" and discussed in Geertz' book, "Deep Play". Bentham's definition is "play in which the stakes are so high that it is irrational for men to engage in it at all." (3) It is more than enjoying the company of like-minded individuals. It appears that social status is the primary reward. The organization acts as society and/or family for many of the fanciers, and – no matter their limitations or origins – their next cat, which will be perfect in all regards –can bring them to a position of influence and esteem. They have seen ordinary people become leaders and enduring legends on this other planet.

In this regard, this hobby may well be addictive. Some become addicted to the discussion groups, competition, campaign rigors, and feelings of inclusion. As evidence of its compelling strength, the community of active cat fanciers is virtual, not physically located in one place. It has always been global, even before the Internet, when its members flew and phoned expensively to maintain the same rituals. Those who have felt the creeping imbalance between risk and reward have exited the game, but reportedly still feel its tug.

1- The International Cat Association (USA), Cat Fanciers' Association (USA) , Federation Internationale Feline (Europe), Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (UK), American Cat Fanciers' Association (USA), Canadian Cat Association (Canada), World Cat Federation (Brazil), and several smaller associations.
2- from "Deep Play" by Clifford Geertz, citing E. Goffman, "Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction", 1961, 9-10
3- from "Deep Play" by Clifford Geertz, footnote (19), p. 217

Marching Band
Name: Alexandria
Date: 2002-10-27 16:25:18
Link to this Comment: 3374

Alexandria Frizell
College Seminar
Professor Grobstein
October 28, 2002

Marching Band
There are many groups with which I identify; however, marching band is especially prominent in my mind. Though it may seem strange, band has a very rich culture among its members. Competition is high and every small detail is important in a show. Through grueling practice, band camp, ridiculous football games and gratifying competitions, marching band has become a rich culture that I identify with.

Band members can be picked out in a crowd. They walk in time with each other. If there is any music in the background or any type of rhythm, they will walk in time to that. They have very good posture. Band members can quickly snap to attention. They have respect for other bands. They stand when someone else is performing, and they are quiet during the performance. However, they are brutal in criticism. They will pick out who didn't roll their feet high enough, whose legs weren't straight, who had a bad horn angle, and who was flat.

Band members have an extreme amount of self discipline. They readily admit errors and do pushups to make up for them. Rarely is an error repeated by the same person in the unit. They practice long and hard. They do callisthenics before practice and run during practice. They are in excellent shape. They do breathing exercises and muscle toning to ensure endurance. They must be able to play and march for a ten to twelve minute show. Band members complain about yet love band camp. The work is brutal- about ten hours of rehearsal a day. However, it is understood that the practice is necessary to win.

Many outsiders do not understand that marching band is a sport. Band members practice and train much like a sport does. They practice in the cold, the mud, the dust, and the pouring rain. They must be in good shape to perform. They compete and receive statistics much like sports teams. Band is just as intense as football, just in a different way.

Competitions are very serious events. Respect is paid between bands. It can be admitted when another band is better than one's own. That only makes the band members want to practice harder the next week. Bands stand for the host band, and are quiet and still during all performances. The section leaders from different bands also introduce themselves to each other and laugh about common experiences. They talk about their particular show and how they feel they are doing that year.

Football games are a humbling experience for a band member. Where at a competition a uniform is something to be proud of, at a football game a band uniform makes one stand out. The band plays corny songs like "The Hey Song" to get the crowd going. They also perform their competition show during halftime, when most of the football fans are at the concession stand. They are basically performing to a group that doesn't care what the band does. This makes it harder for the band, but it also helps them. It makes them perform harder and better to capture the attention of the crowd.

Marching bands also have very strong support groups. The parents volunteer a tremendous amount of time in making flags for the color guard, working the concession stand, and providing water for the players. They build sets and chaperone competitions. They provide first aid. Parents are also important in that they are a constant fan club. They provide an audience for every practice and performance. Even during the worst performance, they find something good to say about it to their children. They also give constructive criticism.

Band members share common experiences. They are musicians working toward a common goal. On first glance, they are kids in uniforms with instruments. With further study, it is found that there is a deep culture embedded within each group. They are people that share a common bond- of wanting to be the best. They will work their hardest to get there.

En Schwiizer Wienacht z'Amerika - (A Swiss Christm
Name: Abigail Br
Date: 2002-10-27 17:32:42
Link to this Comment: 3375

After years of not understanding what in the world goes on in the Bruhlmann house for Christmas, Abigail once tried to explain the concept of a Swiss Christmas to me. Here, I am trying to tell you what I have learned. I suppose the Swiss version of Christmas is ok, but I prefer the traditional American Christmas because that's what I'm used to. I can't see any other method of celebrating Christmas as more special than the way that I have grown to know and love. Interestingly enough, Abigail says the same about her Christmas tradition.

The perfect Christmas tree has strong branches with big spaces in between them, according to my friend Abigail. Normal people go for the bushy trees, but not her family. Nobody wants their "ideal" tree, so they always have the pick of the lot, if that's what you want to call it. It kind of reminds me of Charlie Brown's scraggly Christmas tree more than something you'd be proud to display in your living room. Why would they want such a weird looking tree? The Bruhlmann's hang wooden, straw, and other assorted traditional Swiss ornaments on the tree. These ornaments are delicate and have long strings, so the ornaments would get tangled in bushy and dense branches. They also put lighted candles on the tree. Open flames on a tree...does the term "forest fire" sound familiar? Smokey the Bear would SO not approve of this. What is wrong with the American standard of a tree with a theme of store bought ornaments and electric lights?

Perhaps I could get past the strange tree with the weird decorations, if it weren't for the fact that the Bruhlmann's celebrate Christmas completely wrong. Everyone knows that on Christmas Eve, Santa (or the closest approximation that varies from house to house) brings presents, and puts them under the tree for everyone to find and open Christmas morning. Well, the Bruhlmann's continue to celebrate Christmas the Swiss way, which is totally bizarre, since everyone around them celebrates Christmas American style. First of all, they start 19 days too early, on the 6th of December. This day is called, "Samichlaustag" in Switzerland, which means "Santa Claus day". On this day, Santa comes to bring treats to all of the children. Their Santa Claus doesn't even look right. Instead of a fat man wearing a red pantsuit who rides around in a flying sleigh with reindeer and has a big bag of toys, the Swiss Santa is tall and skinny, wears a red cape, carries a staff, and delivers his presents while walking on foot with a donkey that carries the bag of treats that include clementines and chocolates. That is so far fetched. There is no way one person can walk around an entire country in a day. Flying reindeer are much faster.

So, on December 24th, the "Chrischtchind" ("Christchild," an angel) flies into the house through an open window to deliver the presents. As the Chrischtchind leaves, the father rings a bell that hangs on the tree to let the family know that the Chrischtchind is gone. The family can now come into the room to open the presents. That's right: presents are opened on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. The family sits around the tree, listens to old records of traditional German Christmas songs, and opens presents quietly while watching the dancing and flickering shadows that the candles throw on the walls. The family is quiet and gazes at the tree which isn't looking nearly as Charlie Brownish as it did without the presents, the lighted candles, and the simple ornaments that now catch the soft glow of the candlelight.

After the presents are all opened, the family watches the candles burn for a while longer. (On January 6th, the candles will be lighted again and will be burned all the way down.) The family goes to bed now, and on Christmas morning, everyone sleeps in. However, Abigail does have a stocking that she opens, which is a decidedly American Christmas characteristic. Her father, getting increasingly jealous over the years that he has no stocking, used an old sweat sock as a stocking until a friend of the family sewed stockings for the whole family. The funny thing about a Swiss Christmas in America is that the two traditions are blended together and do form a functional, modified tradition.

There are some other slight variations between the Swiss and American Christmas traditions that aren't noticeable at first glance. The Bruhlmann's put an advent wreath on the dinner table every Sunday during Advent. While the American Protestant advent wreath has 5 candles (3 purple, 1 pink, and 1 white candle in the center), the Swiss Protestant advent wreath has only 4 candles, all of them red. The Christmas cookies the Bruhlmann's bake have no sprinkles, and aren't very sugary sweet. The cookies are called Mailaenderli (little Milanos). They taste of lemons and honey and are so delicious that I wish these cookies were a part of the American Christmas tradition.

I sometimes wonder why the Bruhlmann's continue to celebrate Christmas in the traditional Swiss format, even though Abigail's parents have been living in America for 30 years. However, one's traditions are so internalized that celebrating or even living differently than what one is used to is difficult and uncomfortable. I do like some aspects of a Swiss Christmas, but the American style is a part of me that can never be replaced. It is for this exact reason that the Bruhlmann's have kept their Swiss tradition alive in this country. In modern day Switzerland, not everyone puts candles on their Christmas trees anymore. In fact, one can buy pre-decorated fake trees in stores. The Bruhlmann's version of Swiss culture through the Christmas tradition is a purer form of Christmas that mirrors Swiss Christmas celebrations of the past, yet is flexible enough to include aspects of modern day American culture as well.

Just so you know...
The voice I adopted is a combination of different reactions I've heard when telling other people about my family's Swiss Christmas. They all agreed on one thing: the cookies are delicious.

Name: samea
Date: 2002-10-27 23:10:41
Link to this Comment: 3377

February 13, 1984, in Seoul, Korea my mom gave birth to me. Nevertheless, that fact no longer matters. Oftentimes, people will come up to, and with a lack of a more tactless way to phrase the question, they will ask, "What are you?" When I was younger, the answer was easy for me; naturally I would tell them I am Korean. Nevertheless, now that I am older, I find myself at a loss of words and frantically seeking an answer. Instinctively, I could tell the person that I am Korean, however, I no longer feel as though that is the case.
In my definition of a Korean, nowhere does it talk about someone who can rarely stammer out a few words of broken Korean. A Korean is not categorized as someone who can both read and understand Korean at a rate of two words per minute. A Korean does not seem like someone who has lived seventeen of her eighteen lives in America.
I spent hours thinking of a topic to write about, and I realized that culture has become so difficult for me to relate to because so much of my culture was lost in my family's immigration to America. My family, in an effort to become more comfortable here, had to abandon many of the traditional Korean ways, in order to find acceptance in a society where the unfamiliar was sometimes looked down on. Therefore, my family, and many others, have succumbed to the hyphenated title of "Korean-American."
I feel as though, for me, it would be impossible for me to pick up my life and drop it back in Korea, where it all began. Too much in my life has changed and although at times I may feel some level of prejudice, I should stay here. Despite my skin color, the shape of my eyes, or the color of my hair, I could not live my life anywhere else besides here. It is difficult, and almost sad, for me to admit it, nevertheless, it is also impossible for me to deny. Korea is none other than just another vacation spot to me. I was born there, and my history is there, but unfortunately, my life is here now and there can be no turning back for me.
Do not get me wrong, I am not denying my heritage, I am just elaborating on it. Realistically speaking, it would be impossible for me to return to that place and try to integrate. Summer of ninth grade my family went to Korea for a few weeks, and the opposition I felt there was indescribably thick. Everyone looked down on me. It was shameful to them that I had gone to a foreign country and adapted to their ways. I was rebuked for my lack of Korean, and further denounced for my fluent English. I was judged because my fashion did not match the popular style there. I was criticized because although I looked just like they did, I had very little in common with them. I was reproached for forgetting my roots.
I left Korea that summer feeling unbelievably angry. I, myself, never believed that I had abandoned my roots, and was angry at all of Korea for abandoning me. However, the more I analyzed and thought about the situation, the more I realized how little of me belonged in that country. My anger quickly transformed to remorse as I understood the severity of how my lifestyle had changed.
After thinking all this through, I still am unsure of the topic of my paper. I was told to "write about an aspect of culture with which I am familiar." As for now, I find this assignment almost impossible for me, considering I am still unfamiliar with my own culture. Moreover, I can not even seem to describe the category under which my culture falls. In reality, although I may not belong in Korea, I do not know if I could say that I belong here either. Of course I did say I cannot live anywhere else, nevertheless I still do not know if this is where I belong. It is very confusing for me, in actuality; I can no longer call Korea my home because although physically I may feel comfortable there, it quickly becomes clear that my heart could never find a home there. Nevertheless, for me to call the United States home would be a stretch for me as well. No matter how long I live here, that label of "minority" will hang over my head, leaving me still struggling to find my identity here.
The hardest idea for me to swallow is that this is probably where I will stay; furthermore, this is where my children will grow up. They will probably still have to face the racial tension and prejudice at least once in their lives, and they will wonder where they really belong. It is actually quite a predicament for me. Do I stay where I am more comfortable and be surrounded by those who are different than I? Or do I go to a place where I am rebuked by those who are just like me. The more the question rolls around in my mind, the more unanswered questions I am left with.

sheila's family
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-10-27 23:41:41
Link to this Comment: 3378

Knowing Sheila's family
Sheila walked into the room and gagged. Her nightmare was sitting on the bed. When she was young she used to have nightmares. She hadn't had one in a while, but when she walked into the room and saw one sitting on the bed she gagged. Sheila looked at it closer and realized that her sister was inside of it. Sheila couldn't see her sister because the nightmare was on her. Sheila stood there and wanted to scream. She forgot to breath. She thought all the fluids were going to pour out of my body. She looked at the nightmare and deep inside of it I saw her sister, begging me to see her. 'It's me,' her eyes pleaded. 'The nightmare hurts me so much,' said her eyes. So Sheila sat down beside this horror and touched it. She soothed the enemy, trying to touch her. She can't think about it any more.
Sheila's going to name my first child Ophelia.
Her brother just stared out the window. Seventeen years old, smokes pot, thin, tall, has a girlfriend. When he walked into the room Sheila used to smile and not be able to stop. He makes everyone laugh. Sheila is proud to be herself when she stands next to him. Once when they were in a restaurant he saw his reflection in the mirror and began to admire his 'chiseled jaw.' He's the only one who can pull that off without being called conceited. He will never laugh again. He will never speak again. He will never breath again. After he saw the nightmare in the bed. He will forever look out the window. He's blind.
Her mother's brother died in an airplane crash twenty years ago.
Sheila used to pretend that she was sad, hiding something behind her smiling face. She did it so that she could write well not knowing that when the pain was read she would not be able to write or feel. She will never again study language and shewill never again read Shakespeare and she burns Salinger. Sheila will never write again because her eyes burn with a lack of tears and she can't see so she can't write. She feels sharp stabs. Knives in her head and heart and lungs and throat. She moves her fingers along the keys and feels the teasing pound of writing in her hands and veins that shoot up her arms and run thick life into her heart, but she will never again write.
Her father has a big beard. He's had a beard since he was Sheila's brother's age. I think her brother could probably grow a beard if he wanted to, but he doesn't want to be like his father. Last summer when the air was warm her father shaved his beard. Sheila hated it. It was like he had cut off part of his face. But she didn't think that then. Yesterday her father shaved his beard again. She never wants to see him again. Ever.
Have you ever hated being in a room with people and wanted to burst into flames? She can feel the fire inside herself and she wants to open her mouth and the flames to burst out. She must keep her mouth closed, she must, or else she will consume everything living. She want to be in a desert, She want to feel the hot cancerous sun on her body, burning her red. Like the nightmare. She is the nightmare. She scares herself and screams, letting flames burn her throat and my face.
Please, sir, can I have some more?
Sometimes late I night she thinks of writing. She thinks poems in her head, but she can't get up to write them down. She memorizes her poetry at night, knowing that she won't remember it in the morning. She is too weak to get up to write. She wants to write, but her body is limp and She lets pain eat her instead of draining it from her veins. Her hands shake and the red polish on her nails makes her see blood rushing out of her fingers onto the keys and then onto paper and under your eyes. This is her family. They used to love each other. Everything is in these sharp images. I know these images. I breathe these images. Smell vomit. Have nightmares. Drink water. Don't write. Don't edit. Don't think. Feel numb. Static burns my ears.
When Sheila grows up she wants to be in love. She misses touch. She doesn't feel anymore. But when she grows up she will remember how to feel. She will remember how to cry. She will paint her nails purple. She will have a job and a big dog. She will have children without cancer. Children who don't scream, children without nightmares. Her oldest daughter will have brown hair that falls half way down her back. Blue eyes. She will not write. He name will be Ophelia.

Voices in a Chinese Family
Name: Lim, Xuan-
Date: 2002-10-28 07:27:29
Link to this Comment: 3382

Voices in a Chinese Family

September, 2002.

They are pushing my head into water. And today, I dreamt of God. People usually dream of God when death is near, I am afraid. If only I knew. God didn't tell me what to do. She let me decide.

October 2, 2002

The unspoken rule in the household: "Thou shalt not wash your dirty laundry in public." Family honor should never be threatened. The ultimate punishment for straying away or turning my back on my family is to be disowned.

Dad threatened to kick me out of the house today. Maybe they see themselves in me, the part they of themselves that they hated and despised. Or perhaps, I am supposed to be a mirror of their lives. The message got lost somewhere, but it was communicated. All along, I was fighting a battle to be myself. And sometimes, I hurt myself more than I hurt them. Only they didn't think so.

October 7, 2002.

My parents always thought I am anything but Chinese. Why am I always so disobedient? Why don't I ever listen to them? Why do I need a therapist when I have a family? The string of never-ending whys.

My mum blames herself for the way I have turned put to be. She can't understand when I tried to explain that everything that has screwed up isn't her fault. It is typical of Chinese mums, to be unable to separate themselves from their daughters. She wants the best for me, and she wants to have it done her way. Her call of duty drowns all other voices, so she only hears herself. That harsh, berating voice. I know because I hear that voice all the time inside of my head, which she believes is part crazy. She actually thought I have plotted to make her this miserable.

Last year, J was on her computer when her mum suddenly pulled off the power plug and begged J to stop torturing her. I recall she was having lesbian issues.

October 8, 2002.

Sometimes, it's hard to differentiate between what I want for myself, and what my parents want for me/themselves. Every important decision is made considering how it would reflect on the family. I guess what my parents ask of me is to put my family before myself. And to put my needs before my boyfriend's. How is this supposed to work when they haven't even taught me how to focus on my own needs? Maybe it's only the Chinese that make demands on their children to declare loyalty to the family. We have to present ourselves as a tight, collective unit to the world. We are a proud and dignified people.
I feel I am being tied to a string and allowed to wander out to the periphery of this circle. My parents are always there to pull me back not only from danger, but from disgrace.

October 10, 2002

The Chinese must have hidden plenty of skeletons in their family closets. We never talked about things that make us uncomfortable, or force us to confront ourselves. Sometimes, when we are brave enough, we mentioned it briefly as a passing remark. There are rarely open discussions that do not lead to a scenario whereby the member that threatens the security of the family is attacked and criticized. Whatever it is, they must be "shown the light".

I get the feeling now that when this storm blows away, mum and dad would pretend nothing ever did happen. Promises that have been made count for nothing, like the currency of a fallen empire. While I cling on and look at reality in its face, they want to drag me back into the alcove of warmth, safety and denial.

I am already starting to love them less. It is usually in a crisis that we see through a person, their strengths and soft spots. Maybe it's just Chinese to want to resolve a problem at hand in the most practical way, and to move on with life. For all the values I have grown to reject in the Chinese family, I have contradictory feelings about this one: inner strength.

But how can I move at all with this much emotional baggage?

October 13, 2002.

"You don't have to remember the pain, to remember the memories."
-Janet Jackson, Velvet Rope.

Our demons live inside us. No matter how far I run, they catch up in my dreams. How can one try to let go of the pain that comes with memories?

October 14, 2002.

Today, I was invited to dine with an American family. It surprises me how they start a conversation at the dinner table talking about how their day went, or how they feel in general. Much of what is said and shared is honest and revelatory, and it comes so naturally to them. We Chinese, however, concentrate on eating during our meals. We do pause occasionally for conversation, but there is rarely ongoing chatter. Usually, we eat quickly and quietly so we can take off to do other things.

I can't help feeling inadequate and intrusive. As I sat listening, my thoughts drift to my family. I could only imagine how uncomfortable everyone would be if we have to interact with one other in this "mushy" manner. It is funny how we appear to be so distanced from one another, and yet have our identities so meshed up underneath the surface.

October 15, 2002.

Sometimes when I am too scared or too hurt, I go away somewhere. I don't worry about getting back to me, because I don't feel pain when I am there.

Mum and dad decide to stop their dialing marathon for awhile. Since I have made a decision, which by no coincidence suited the way they wished for things to turn out, I have received no phone calls.

Maybe they understood my need to be alone. Maybe they were just tired and relieved. I think I am growing to hate them. But we can't hate our parents. I would probably turn out to be the kind of children they are, resentful of their parents. But I resent and hate them. They certainly did a fine job of passing down their bitterness to me.

October 17, 2002

It is fall but it feels like winter. Nothing makes sense. I have the feeling of walking on snow, looking for something I buried. Only I don't remember where it is. Only I don't remember why I did it. Only... I have gone numb in the cold. And I don't know why I am searching, when I know it is lost to me forever.

October 24, 2002.

I believe I am supposed to feel lonely now that I am away from home. Some part of me misses being at home. The food, the ironed laundry, my queen-size bed... I realized how much I missed only the material comforts of my home. It is sad to have to grapple with the truth that I have little else to look forward to.

I can't deny that I am Chinese inside out. Neither can I pretend that I am not my parent's firstborn. My calculative and manipulative nature, I have inherited from my dad. Like my stereotypical Chinese mum, I am careful with my money, prone to guilt, and critical of myself. Not a very promising picture at all.

However, unlike both of them, I have broken out of the habit of sweeping things under the carpet. I doubt if this makes me less of a Chinese, since Chinese are generally shy and reticent. It only makes me more of a human.

Name: jessie
Date: 2002-10-28 12:05:44
Link to this Comment: 3383

This isn't what i meant to come out. My judaism and my connection to my family are two separate issues...perhaps we can just look at this paper as a story of a family. Not of me. or my family.

Jessie Posilkin

Tell the Story of a Culture, looking in.

Often the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the customs we follow dictate culture. However, the importance of family and family gatherings is what dictates my family's Jewish identity. We tell time in traditional life cycle events-births and deaths, bar mitzvah's and weddings-but we remember those times by who was there, and who wasn't there.
My great-grandfather came to America from Poland all by himself. Here, he made money in order to pay for my paternal grandmother and her siblings to come to America. Never having forgotten the sacrifices her parents made, my Grandma Etta made a trip across New York City every weekend with her husband and children to see her parents. In writing, it seems like a small trip, but given the irregularities of everyday life, my grandparents were raising three boys and running a business, I can only imagine the planning it required to see two family members every week. As it happened, there was a fight amongst my grandfather and his brothers-in-law. After much ado, my Great-Grandmother Elka demanded that her children convene in her small apartment in Queens for a "pow-wow," in the words of my father. There, she forced her children to stop being children and just get along. Some families let their problems fester, other stop talking to one another. But my Great-Grandmother would have none of it! Her children were going to get along. And they have.
My family recently celebrated the Bar-Mitzvah of my youngest cousin. Taking place in Montgomery Country, Maryland, many family members were fearful of the sniper. We all had other events going on in our lives "back home." Parents weekend, football games, track meets, friends from out of town. But after all the work that had been done to keep the family together, no one would miss this occasion for the world, let along a football game, or track meet, or social obligations.
From an anthropological perspective, the event in and of itself is not the interesting part. The relationships between family members and attitudes towards these events during the course of a "Shabbat" reveal the true feelings of the family. Conflicts between the traditional values of Judaism and the new values of American Jewry are always present.
Family members are often given honors during the service. Often, they read from the Torah or the Siddur (the Jewish prayer book), or help with other parts of the service. When asked to perform these "Mitzvot," these commandments, the answer is supposed to be "yes," no mater what our true feelings are. When my cousin was asked to read a prayer, she said no, because she doesn't like to be in front of large crowds. When my uncle asked me to read a prayer, of course I said yes-my parents wouldn't allow me to say no. While my family was offended that we were asked second, we also were brought up not to share these feelings. Letting the anger fester, however, just brought more tension to the weekend. Needless to say, my father didn't relax for two days around his family.
Unfortunately, the Old World values of my family, which came from a true love and connection to one another, have now been transformed into resentment. "Why are we here?" I have asked before. My dad's response, however, was frustrating. "Because we are supposed to be here." Not that we want to, but that we are supposed to.
Modern Jewish society will no doubt continue to decline if we all continue with the attitude "Because we are supposed to." Maintaining the connection between our family members is the first step. Once we are together, it is important that we not just sit quietly next to one another. Rather, we need to continue to tell stories and find ways to connect to make these traditions enjoyable.

Altered States in Pentecostal Prayer
Name: Diane G.
Date: 2002-10-28 13:20:17
Link to this Comment: 3384

Altered States in the Pentecostal Prayer Group

In the Pentecostal form of Christian worship, worshippers achieve a sense of community as well as "altered states" of consciousness which they interpret as being"touched by the Holy Spirit".
People enter the church and sit quietly. There is a sense of expectation. Newcomers are welcomed. Churches are constructed so that people look forward to a focal point, usually an altar containing a tabernacle in the Roman Catholic rite or a large cross. The core group enters, consisting of a group of selected members and a leader. The leader begins by taking the microphone and leading the group in prayer tongues. Also at this time a prayer for deliverance may be said. This is usually some form of exhortation to the group to declare it's allegiance and also it's rejection of "evil". I have observed a sense of relief and even bodily calm to come over participants after this exhortation. It serves to establish a "safe" place for the events which are to follow.
Prayer tongues would seem to the observer to be a form of idiolalia.
The person receiving the prayer tongues is asked to let go of his intellectual mind and to just allow his mouth and voice to make utterances like a baby. This is sometimes a difficult thing to achieve and a beginner may only hold onto one syllable or a flow of many diverse syllables will come out. Prayer tongues are seen as an important factor in the initiation into Pentecostal prayer. All newcomers are encouraged to "receive" prayer tongues at the onset of the meeting. Often while a new member is receiving the prayer tongues the rest of the congregation will utter their own "tongues". It is interesting that rather than a cacophony of noises, very often subtle harmonies and orchestrations result when the entire group prays in this manner. At times, it is quite melodic and beautiful.
Prayer tongues are repeated through out the service. There are times when participants are encouraged to receive a new or different tongue. In some congregations, different tongues are seen as having different purposes. When asked to pray for deliverance, or the defeat of evil spirits, tongues can become quite aggressive and choppy. There are also tongues for healing. Richard Rohr states that "everyone knows prayer tongues are just a shortcut into the right brain".
A number of songs are sung. The songs are often repetitive and may be filled with images of a loving God according to Christian dogma. These may include Biblical references to the Good Shepherd, King or suffering servant. There are often lyrics about heaven and intimate songs about forgiveness and healing. The songs are easy to learn and after one or two stanzas, a participant can conceivably master them. Sometimes hand gestures accompany the songs. Most people will gesture without embarrassment although some can be observed looking around or smiling. Often one person's inhibition can appear to free up the rest of the group. Another common gesture is the raising of one or both hands or the closing of eyes. This indicates reverence and awe, a sort of physically reaching up for the divine.
At times during the singing or during the prayer tongues, individuals may begin to cry. Some may cry softly and others may sob dramatically. This is known to Pentecostals as the "gift of tears". It is understood to be a cleansing gift, a time in which one is filled with remorse or relief from pent up worries and or conflicts. No one comforts the person in tears. It is seen as a personal time of encounter with God and not to be interrupted. So that a person can be sobbing in a bench filled with worshipers and his/her activity will be accepted. In fact, sometimes a person who witnesses another person with the "gift of tears" may exclaim "Praise God" or "Thank You, Jesus". Usually, after an extended period of "tears" a worshipper will then exhibit a demeanor of deep peace and rest.
The meeting usually contains a scriptural reading and teaching given by the leader. The leader is either a priest or minister, a person who has received some form of education and training in religious doctrine and practice. During the teaching, Pentecostals listen intently and may at times speak out in affirmation, or as a group, break into applause and praise. The teaching may list various religious experiences of other Pentecostals, or saints or leaders and/or it may discuss the "times we are living in" as being dark and ominous and in need of the particular divine help and truth that the congregation is seeking. Most of the time it is based on the scriptural story which is shared from the Bible.
This may be followed by prayer tongues and another gift called "prophecy". Prophecy is an unusual phenomenon in which individuals, usually in the core group at a large meeting, will be prompted to speak words, or share visions that have come to them from the Spirit in prayer. These words and pictures often organize themselves along the lines of an unforeseen theme. It would appear to be a shared experience of the collective unconscious. People are often extremely impressed by the prophecy gift and amazed that a connection has been made to their own experience or their own thoughts which the sayer could never have consciously known about. The nature of the visions are not actual hallucinations but mind pictures or thoughts in words which the prophesier does not
"think up" but only "hears" in their own mind. Most of the time, these words or pictures are consoling and encouraging and serve to further unite the group. In "Neurology of Religious Terrorism" Todd Murphy makes the comment that "connotations of words are processed through their meanings and in the context in which we hear them. If a thought feels meaningful, then it will try to find a context for itself." He attributes this to the limbic system which plays a "crucial role in the production of thought and emotion".
At some point in the meeting, there will be an invitation for worshippers to receive the "laying on of hands". This is prayer, sometimes in prayer tongues, accompanied by an actual touching ministry. People are touched on the tops of their heads or their shoulders. A group of people can gather around one person and all lay hands on them, or an individual may receive an individual "touch" from one of the members of the ministry team. When hands are laid on someone, there is usually a "catcher" placed behind them to catch them when they fall to the ground. Once again, it is not a sudden spontaneous faint, but a "letting go" of their own will and submitting to and being overcome by the situation. The "ability" to fall down is often in ratio to the amount of time the participant has spent with the group. Newcomers do not always go down easily. This is interpreted as things that have to be worked out for that person spiritually in order to help them to "surrender". After falling down, a demeanor of stillness and serenity is maintained. Nothing would appear to disturb the fallen as they lay on the cold marble floor. They appear to be in an altered state of peace and tranquility. Some will weep or laugh softly at this time.
At other points in the meeting, healings may be acknowledged by leaders of the group. Words may be said like, "There is a healing of feet tonight". "Someone claim a healing of feet".. and at this suggestion, someone in the crowd might raise their hands, or shout "Thank you, Jesus" or "Alleluia.". Reports of actual healings may be confirmed by participants and attributed to prayer.
Money is collected at some point during the meeting as well. It is seen as a Christian's duty to contribute to the ministry and expenses of the church. The minister may report on the good works that are being accomplished by the gifts presented that night. Exhortations to give generously often precede the dishes or baskets that are passed by members of the congregation up and down the rows of the church. This part of the ceremony does not appear to be given a lot of attention. People seem to part with their money as an aside.
At the conclusion, another song or two will be sung which serves to unite the group and encourage them to go out and act on their beliefs in their life.
The transition from "altered state" or deep prayer to getting up and going about one's business is pretty quick. Participants can be seen reaching for keys, talking animatedly among themselves, getting into their cars and heading home. Whatever occurred often re-enforces the persons willingness and preparedness to re-experience the phenomena shared Experiences are shared and the next meeting is looked forward to with excitement and anticipation. The effect of these meetings is often release of pent up emotions, assurance that a direction in life is a good one, affirmation of a person as being valuable and having a meaningful life and building allegiance and loyalty to the group and it's agenda.
Richard Rohr

The Culture of Crows Nest Markets
Name: Adina
Date: 2002-10-28 15:00:14
Link to this Comment: 3386

Throughout Sydney, Australia are outdoor markets which sell merchandise ranging from plants to secondhand books to handmade crafts such as jewelry, woodwork, and clothing. One such group of markets, comparatively small and with relatively few customers, is Crows Nest Markets. These markets at first appear to be quite hostile and competitive, but as the day goes on and people begin to relax, they become more open and the atmosphere becomes pleasantly friendly. Between bouts of sporadic sales, sellers begin to talk to and relate to one another. This surprisingly warm atmosphere is the key to why the sellers continue to struggle the way they do in an economically unstable profession. The kindness that they bring to one another is something so cherished that it is worth risking the security of a continuous flow of money that comes with "regular" employment.

At 8:00 a.m. the small open field of grass between Crows Nest Shops and Crows Nest Community Centre is completely deserted. By 8:15, a few eager sellers are beginning to haul in tables and by 8:45, fifty-odd tables are being stacked with all kinds of merchandise. At 9 a.m., just when the finishing touches of presentation are being made, a few elderly early-birds stroll through the markets. Perhaps they buy some plants; usually they do not buy anything.

During these first few hours, there is almost a hostile atmosphere amongst the sellers. They keep to themselves, focused on beating last week's profits. They scope out competitors who are selling similar products to their own and they try to manipulate the system of assigned table spots so that they are able to be as close to the shops or street-front as possible. They look at other sellers for ideas, and they look away when they realize that they have been seen.

As the day goes on, sales are made and sellers temporarily forget about their financial insecurities. It is often interesting for them to meet people who buy their products, because often, they have similar interests. Still, there are relatively long periods of time when no sales are made and no customers need to be tended to. As is traditional with Australian culture, some sellers pass this time with Victorian Bitter, a native Australian beer. Others read, and some just sit and wait.

By the last few hours of the day, the sellers have gained more confidence. For some, it is from the alcohol. For others, it is the fact that they have been working there for so many hours and they now feel part of their surroundings. Slowly, they begin to talk to each other. They exchange stories and helpful hints.

The artist selling wooden carvings, boxes, and mirrors is now invigorated from his VB and begins to find out more about the sixteen-year-old girl who is selling handmade beaded jewelry. He learns that she has designed her merchandise herself and that this is her first experience as a seller at markets. She learns that he once sold screen prints but turned to woodwork when screen prints went out of style and money began to run low. The woodcarver tells her that January is the slowest season of the year because it is right after Christmas, and that sales will improve as the year progresses.

The lady selling the hats wanders over to the girl and tells her that her sales might be improved if she changes her presentation. Perhaps the cloth over the table should be a different color, and maybe she should try layering her merchandise to make her table appear less busy and more interesting. The girl is encouraged by the woman selling candles, jam, and various other goods at the stall next to hers. She tells the girl about other markets that she should try, and she muses over the fact that she is only sixteen. At the end of the day, the woman gives the girl a lavender-scented candle and tells her that it will give her confidence whenever she lights it.

One wonders why it is that these sellers, month after month, continue to live a life which is so economically risky and unstable. It is often thought that the "artist" variety of these sellers is out to be discovered. This is sometimes the case; however, it is much more common at busier, more commercial markets such as Paddington Markets and Fox Markets. What drives these people is precisely this life. It is the people that the sellers meet – the other sellers, the so-called competition – that keep them going. It is meeting new people and re-meeting people with whom they have sold before. It is the exchange of stories and the similarities between the stories of completely different people with all different interests.

The selling environment at Crows Nest Markets appears very hostile. However, upon closer observation, and as a day at the markets progresses, one is able to recognize that these sellers are not so competitive as much as they thrive on each other's encouragement and each other's stories. Their friendliness is what keeps them in business.

Radnor Hall: Why We Do the Things We Do
Name: Gwenyth Ca
Date: 2002-10-28 18:49:34
Link to this Comment: 3389

"You live in Radnor? Wow. I'm sorry to hear that." Like most of my fellow freshmen Radnor dorm-mates, I was puzzled by this initial reaction from other students. It took a few days and plenty of these disapproving responses for me to realize the stigma attached to Radnor Hall. Some people think that we residents of Radnor play loud music all day and ignore our studies in order to smoke (both cigarettes and other substances) and drink all day long. We are notoriously laid-back, some may even say careless. While some of this may be true, Radnor does represent a grouping of similar-minded women who, together, create this atmosphere where it is the norm to be laid-back and have fun.

Radnor's third and fourth floors, along with the main lounge are the only official indoor smoking areas at Bryn Mawr College. It is common at our dorm meeting to pass around a gigantic ashtray with a cloud of smoke from 40 cigarettes hanging overhead. By grouping all the smokers in one dorm, the College has created a very distinct ambiance which is quite different from the rest of the non-smoking halls. Generally, some things may be deduced about smokers than is generally not true for non-smokers. Perhaps smokers are more careless. They know they are habitually acting in ways which are undeniably unhealthy. They may not be concerned about what others may think of this, and other things for that matter. Choosing an increasingly unpopular position, especially here at Bryn Mawr, suggests that Radnor residents are strong-minded and maybe even a little stubborn. They do things because they want to, not because they are good for you, or because they make sense. This idea is at the foundation of why we act the way we do.

As for the rest of us, myself included, who do not smoke, how do we fit into the Radnor model? The rest of us do not mind living with smokers, sometimes even in the same rooms. Much can also be inferred with this fact. We are women who are typically flexible, laid-back and not easily bothered by others smoking as well as most things in general. On our room-request forms we chuckled at questions about sleeping with the windows open or closed and what music could be played, how loud and at what hours. We don't care!

The women in Radnor help to shape the general behavior of each other as well. When we freshmen realized most women here stay up late, play loud music, and indulge in perhaps deviant ways to have fun, we too (already being generally the same way) took up many of these practices. Perhaps the same is true for every dorm. A studious, quiet dorm would probably prompt its residents to be the same way. The unique atmosphere at Radnor allows its residents to feel free to do almost whatever they want without fear of complaint from fellow hall or dorm mates.

It seems as if Bryn Mawr College is not particularly proud of Radnor Hall. Prospective students are not shown Radnor and never stay here overnight. In a few days, children will trick-or-treat at all of Bryn Mawr's dorms for Halloween, except Radnor. Geographically, Radnor is banished to the edges of the campus, far from the center of main activity. We at Radnor are well aware that we are outcasts in a way. It is possible that we take a certain pride in our status. If we have the stigma, we may as well live up to it by throwing the wildest parties and generally disrupting the norms of Bryn Mawr life.

We at Radnor behave significantly unlike most other students at the College for a variety of reasons. We are all typically laid-back and outgoing. We play loud music, avoid studying, use various legal/illegal substances to alter our moods, and throw parties (which even those who turn their noses up at us regularly can be seen enjoying our music and alcohol). Radnor is a group very deliberately put together of like-minded individuals which is specific and unique compared to other halls. We engage in behavior which suits us individually and as a whole quite nicely, although it may be seen as outlandish by others. We are proud of our place on campus, and usually agree with and follow our reputation. We do the things we do because it is expected, it is okay to do them here, and because Radnor girls just want to have fun.

Name: Bridget Do
Date: 2002-10-28 19:16:21
Link to this Comment: 3391

To play soccer for Bryn Mawr College, it is necessary for a woman to love the game of soccer. Students don't come to Bryn Mawr for its athletic program. There are no athletic scholarships given, and one or two out of several sports can claim a winning record in the history of their existence at Bryn Mawr. Soccer is no exception. The team hasn't won a conference game in at least five years and the majority of its games by three goals or more.

So what is it that makes women want to play? After close observation, I have arrived at a clear but somewhat difficult to explain solution: Freshman girls come to Bryn Mawr after playing soccer for four enjoyable years in high school (most with winning seasons, ironically) and fall in love with the aspect of such a team, every single one of the other players, and the fact that one can indeed learn to appreciate soccer without needing to win often (or ever, in extreme cases).

Though my experience is somewhat minimal, never have I seen such closeness in a team. There's a minute amount of unspoken rivalry, and harsh words exchanged in the heat of the match, but the bottom line is each of these women would do absolutely anything if one of her teammates desired it to be done.

There are of course certain people who get along exceptionally well and spend more time with each other than others on the team, but the closeness of all members is evident. Never will a soccer player notice another soccer player on campus without acknowledging her, despite the distance or the disturbance it might cause. There are a wide variety of outside interests, so a woman can always find someone with whom to attend all sorts of social, religious, and artistic functions. Also, especially at social functions, a soccer player is bound to see a few teammates to make her feel more comfortable and welcome. She can even meet more people when a teammate introduces people she's with and visa-versa.

One of the good things about soccer is that all different types of people play, so when a woman is on a team she can meet people she wouldn't have met under normal circumstances. Because it's necessary for everyone on a team to accept everyone else, sometimes women learn to accept a whole new kind of people. Friendships form between English majors and math majors who have no classes together and share dissimilar political views; who wouldn't ever have had the opportunity to meet and discover their mutual love for trashy soap operas and the Minnesota Twins if they weren't forced to live closely for a week during preseason and ride together for two hours in a van to and from an away game.

When a freshman learns to appreciate these things, winning becomes less important. She realizes that the most important thing is to get to know her teammates and work hard not to let them down in the game, but that when the team is close, whether they win or lose, it can be done together and with pride. Furthermore, winning becomes very much sweeter when it is not as expected and there is less pressure to do it.

The experience of playing soccer is so advantageous to freshmen that hardly any fail to return their sophomore year. In addition to the 20 classmate friends each player gains, she also gains a friend and mentor in her coach, which can be very important for a young woman independent from her parents for the first time.

i realized today after class that i did not do the
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-10-28 19:37:37
Link to this Comment: 3392

Sometimes I go to Harvard Square at nighttime when the air is warm. I sit on one of the pillars on the edge of the pit. I feel out of place and alone but I can't seem to be able to pull myself away from the little conversations. When I can no longer take the discomfort I stand and quickly walk, eyes downcast, to the subway where I catch my train home. I got home tonight and the smells of the pit cling to my clothes and my hair, they contrast the smells of my starched suburban home. I walked up the carpeted stairs and sat at the computer. I inhale deeply the contrast of my home and the pit and as the smells enter my body and my mind. I write...
"A foot long green Mohawk reaches for the sky as two young lovers sprawl themselves on the steps of the pit. Two starving image poets scrawl in notebooks and compare surrealist art while sharing a joint on the descending stairs. A pierced girl yells at a tattooed teen, "You don't believe in God but you believe in green aliens?" A protest against the local bagel store has filled the pit with ripped and shredded bagels. There's a store next door called 'The Freak Generation.' I wonder, how will we be remembered? as a guy in a wife beater tank top retches into the trashcan next to me. "This won't be pretty," he heaves. Homeless teens sleep in hundred dollar sleeping bags that they stole from their parents before they ran away to the pit. I'm running from the ease my parents have given me. I could float through life and yet I am rejecting the positive qualities that I see in my parents and myself. I want to be an individual, not merely a mixed reflection of my parents in one person. I see myself as sensitive and I know it is the sensitive from my mother and so I try to write in dry heaves of anger. I hate beer and know my father doesn't drink so I drink and hate it but love the burn as I retch in the trashcan. Parents that hate each other can scar their children so I love and entangle myself in his arms and sprawl myself on the steps in an attempt to love. I need to rebel and protest and be remembered and make a difference so I raid the local bagel store. I used to think that if I grew up to do something I was passionate about and I didn't make a lot of money that would be okay. The starving poet image is romantic, but the feeling I get while sitting on these steps is not romantic and the grip that I had on his hand has weakened because I have no strength. I'm thinking of calling my parents and asking them for money. Maybe I should go back to school and become a banker or a lawyer or a doctor and forget the writing and the passion and the love; maybe I should leave them sprawled on the steps or retched in the trashcan. And as I look at the reaching green Mohawk I wonder if it is really reaching or are my eyes playing tricks on me. Is that his real hair? I wonder. How does he get it to stand so straight? Spray paint? And are the starving poets really starving or are they merely smoking cigarettes? Are the homeless lovers really platonic suburban siblings pretending to be sexual? Were they feeding the birds with bagels? The man retching in the trashcan ate too much for dinner and the pit is rising and the Mohawk is a wig and the 'freak generation' is now the suburban generation and I think I will go to college and become a lawyer and make a lot of money just like my parents and be forgotten as the retching lover in the pit. Yes, I believe in God and maybe aliens, but I don't think they are green."

a picture of a culture
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-10-28 19:42:12
Link to this Comment: 3393

i did not do the right assignment previously. so this is my paper on culture- please ignore the last one. this paper is about a culture that i know because i have created it in my head. i have watched the culture at the pit in harvard square but it is not internal therefor i do not know that culture. here, i have internalized this culture and made assuptions about it that exist in my head. this is how i view the culture of the pit at harvard square.

Sometimes I go to Harvard Square at nighttime when the air is warm. I sit on one of the pillars on the edge of the pit. I feel out of place and alone but I can't seem to be able to pull myself away from the little conversations. When I can no longer take the discomfort I stand and quickly walk, eyes downcast, to the subway where I catch my train home. I got home tonight and the smells of the pit cling to my clothes and my hair, they contrast the smells of my starched suburban home. I walked up the carpeted stairs and sat at the computer. I inhale deeply the contrast of my home and the pit and as the smells enter my body and my mind. I write...
"A foot long green Mohawk reaches for the sky as two young lovers sprawl themselves on the steps of the pit. Two starving image poets scrawl in notebooks and compare surrealist art while sharing a joint on the descending stairs. A pierced girl yells at a tattooed teen, "You don't believe in God but you believe in green aliens?" A protest against the local bagel store has filled the pit with ripped and shredded bagels. There's a store next door called 'The Freak Generation.' I wonder, how will we be remembered? as a guy in a wife beater tank top retches into the trashcan next to me. "This won't be pretty," he heaves. Homeless teens sleep in hundred dollar sleeping bags that they stole from their parents before they ran away to the pit. I'm running from the ease my parents have given me. I could float through life and yet I am rejecting the positive qualities that I see in my parents and myself. I want to be an individual, not merely a mixed reflection of my parents in one person. I see myself as sensitive and I know it is the sensitive from my mother and so I try to write in dry heaves of anger. I hate beer and know my father doesn't drink so I drink and hate it but love the burn as I retch in the trashcan. Parents that hate each other can scar their children so I love and entangle myself in his arms and sprawl myself on the steps in an attempt to love. I need to rebel and protest and be remembered and make a difference so I raid the local bagel store. I used to think that if I grew up to do something I was passionate about and I didn't make a lot of money that would be okay. The starving poet image is romantic, but the feeling I get while sitting on these steps is not romantic and the grip that I had on his hand has weakened because I have no strength. I'm thinking of calling my parents and asking them for money. Maybe I should go back to school and become a banker or a lawyer or a doctor and forget the writing and the passion and the love; maybe I should leave them sprawled on the steps or retched in the trashcan. And as I look at the reaching green Mohawk I wonder if it is really reaching or are my eyes playing tricks on me. Is that his real hair? I wonder. How does he get it to stand so straight? Spray paint? And are the starving poets really starving or are they merely smoking cigarettes? Are the homeless lovers really platonic suburban siblings pretending to be sexual? Were they feeding the birds with bagels? The man retching in the trashcan ate too much for dinner and the pit is rising and the Mohawk is a wig and the 'freak generation' is now the suburban generation and I think I will go to college and become a lawyer and make a lot of money just like my parents and be forgotten as the retching lover in the pit. Yes, I believe in God and maybe aliens, but I don't think they are green."

The Joy of Fencers
Name: Kim Cadena
Date: 2002-10-28 20:42:59
Link to this Comment: 3395

When you enter the Candlewood Fencing Center, the first thing you notice is the smell. It's reminiscent of a locker-room, all sweat and adrenaline, except a locker-room doesn't have the faint odor of gasoline that wafts up to the CFC from the auto repair shop below it. Almost concurrently with the notice of the smell is the realization of how noisy it is. At any given time, the place is filled with loud beeping, the clang of metal on metal, the pounding of feet on metal and wood, and the shouting of friends, instructors, and students. It's a madhouse to the untrained eye, full of people in various types of strange clothing, who speak rapidly in long strings of slang, fencing terms, and Teenager and dodge between bouts, classes, and lessons with apparent ease.

The crowd varies from night to night, as the lesson schedules and footwork classes change, but typically the room is mostly teenagers, ranging from middle-school kids to college age. The rest is a motley crew of instructors, parents, middle-aged fencers, and the occasional very old or very young fencer. They sort by experience, not by age, resulting in mixed groups that embrace almost the full age spectrum. Sex is not an issue, either, because the informal bouting is not conducted tournament-style, where the sexes would be segregated. The social order is a basic free-for-all, with a feeling of group kinship generated by the shared interest that is being engaged in.

The two main social foci of the room are the 'couch' and the back corner of the room near the exercise equipment. The 'couch' is actually a large, bleacher like piece of furniture that is used as a place to sit, a depository for fencing bags and equipment, and a social center. Fencers use it socially, but it's predominately parent-oriented because the rest of the room is less parent-friendly and serves as a safe space for fencers to indulge in things that would normally be frowned upon. The back corner is the nexus of this safe space, it being an area for getting dressed and stretching. The corner is dominated by the members of the Fairfield high school fencing team because it is where they leave most of their equipment, but sooner or later, every fencer in the room has to walk by for some reason or other and chat.

The actual fencing that goes on most night is a highly informal affair, with most bouts being organized with nothing more than a "Hey, do you want to fence?" The limited number of strips force some order onto the chaos, leading to a system of rotating between directing, fencing, and resting. Directing, for those not familiar with the term, is the fencing form of refereeing: watching the fencers in right of way weapons to determine who got the touch, using the lights on the machine as an aid, calling halts when touches are made, and starting everything off by yelling "Ready, fence!" in between touches. Normally, the rotating system calls for one person to take a turn directing one bout, then fencing two bouts before sitting down again, but it certain cases 'king' is played, with one person remaining on strip until they are beaten either by someone better or less exhausted. While the bouts are going on, it's not uncommon for the spectators to discuss the action amongst themselves or to shout out comments to the fencers. In between touches, whole conversations are carried out between the directors, the fencers, and the spectators, most of which have nothing to do with fencing. The shared intimacy of the fencing club results in the fencers knowing many personal details about each other, which are typically discussed on strip or while stretching or even during footwork classes.

Said classes are slightly more structured than the bouting is, but not by much. They begin when the instructor for the night yells to everyone in the room that class is starting in five minutes, giving people enough time to strip for class. (Note: 'getting dressed' and 'stripping' are very different concepts to fencers. One involves layering all the protective equipment over a base layer of clothes, and the other involves removing everything but the base layer.) All those who are participating form two or three lines facing the instructor in area cleared of benches and other obstacles. Most classes consist of 'keeping distance' with the instructor, or, in other words, responding to what the instructor does while keeping proper fencing form. Other activities can be tacked on as the instructor wishes, but keeping distance is the bulk of most fencing. Even while doing this, the fencers engage in friendly banter with each other and the instructor. Falls are greeted with applause and insults are traded freely. Leaving the line to get a drink or take a rest is considered perfectly normal and encouraged to prevent injury and dehydration. Fencing is taken perfectly seriously here, but so is taking care of the body that does the fencing.

For all the seriousness that goes into the actual fencing at Candlewood Fencing Center, an equal amount of casualness in put into the relationships there. The shared goal, the feeling of safety generated by being with people who are in friendly competition with each other, the intimacy caused by seeing people utterly exhausted and wearing the same strange gear, and the utter ridiculousness of some of the thing fencers have to do creates an atmosphere perfectly conducive to this casualness. An outsider would not feel it, but those who fence do and love it.

On Being a Mets Fan
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-10-28 22:39:57
Link to this Comment: 3398

The ball hits the bat and there is a large crack as the ball soars over the fence. Home run! The red light-up apple bobs up and down, and the already standing crowd erupts into cheers. The emotion is at a high as strangers slap fives with each other. All the people in the stadium feel bonded to one another. The Mets have gotten a hit.

It is hard to be a Mets fan in a Yankees world. When asked what your favorite baseball team is, you are shunned and ridiculed. "Mets?" they ask, with a shocked look on your face? "Why? They're terrible!" It is hard to respond to such comments. You do not want to let these comments slide, you want to stick up for your favorite sports team, but at the same time it is hard. Most Mets fans have come to the realization that this past season, the Mets really were horrible. However, that does not mean that we stop supporting the Mets- we are fans for life.

Going to a Mets game is an exhilarating experience. I have even converted Yankees fans in this manner. Beginning on the drive there, traffic can be a fun encounter. Mets fans are over enthusiastic about their team, and tend to scream to supporting fans as they drive by. It is obvious who a Mets fan is because they all have bumper stickers.

When you arrive in the parking lot, barbecues can be seen everywhere. Tailgating is popular prior to the game. It gives Mets fans a chance to hype themselves up for the game, and of course eat, a favorite past time. Loud men with strong Queens accents can be heard throughout the walk to the stadium. The original Mets fans were from Queens, but they now branch out to neighboring boroughs and states, such as New Jersey and Connecticut.

When the tailgating is done it is time to head into Shea Stadium. After your ticket is ripped, you head up one or several tall escalators depending on your section. My family heads up to the Field level section. We are season ticket holders with three of my father's friends. By the time we get to our orange seats above the Mets dugout, the game has usually already started. Most players get cheers as they head up to bat, but there is an occasional boo for someone who is doing particularly poorly that week.

I think it is safe to say that my father and brother are obsessed with the Mets. My dad has been a fan since he was sixteen and worked in Shea Stadium as a vendor. Naturally, my brother caught on at an early age, thus conversations invariably turn to the subject of the Mets at all times. We discuss everything about the Mets, from who is being traded to how players are doing to Bobby Valentine, the manager (generally we talk about his mistakes). From listening to these conversations, I would say that I have picked up moderate knowledge about the Mets, and definitely enough to know who to cheer for at the games.

The loudest cheer always goes to Mike Piazza, the catcher. He is the star of the Mets, and my mom and I have a preference for him. Mo Vaughn tends to get loud cheers, and the rest of the players get their cheers based on how they have been doing in that game or season. There is never any dissent among the fans as to what player deserves what type of cheer.

I take pride in the fact that Mets fans seem to be like one giant family. Together, we rejoice in the team's accomplishments and feel let down when they lose. We follow them religiously despite their success, and why we do is unexplainable. No one but a Mets fan understands why we would follow a losing team, but there is a closeness among fans that creates an atmosphere where we want to watch baseball and just enjoy the fun of the sport. The excitement of games brings everyone together, and there is always that hope that no matter what, your favorite player will go to the All-star Game or the Mets will finally return to the World Series where they belong.

My Family is Drag
Name: risa
Date: 2002-10-28 23:01:19
Link to this Comment: 3399

She was polished carbon black and wore hoop earrings as big as saucers. She had two front teeth capped in silver, spoke with a slight lisp that sounded textured by cigarettes and yet still innocent. She had slim hips, thin arms, and short hair, which circled her head in a symmetrical, black, felt crown. Sleek as a cat, she moved with the confidence of a woman who was being watched from every direction and thiught it only right that this should be so. She chain smoked cigarettes and said to call her "Dove" through a puff of white, hot smoke. When she spoke to me it was with a mixture of intimate feminine disclosure and motherly concern. She shook her head from side to side when she laughed, and the giant gold hoops would tink-tink-tink against her necklaces. Her eye shadow sparkled multiple shades of glittery peaches and salmons, a million dollar sunset over the cheap hotel of her clothing. She called me "Honey." I hadn't been called "Honey" even by anyone in my own family. I loved the way she said her name, with the full measure of her mouth opening to introduce the sound to the air. "Call me Dove."

My brother would draw on his cigarette then simultaneously speak, exhale, and act exasperated all at once: "Oh Bobby," he would murmur and roll his eyes away. Bobby was Dove. Bobby is Dove. Bobby is Bobby and Dove is she is he is they are that which together make up one of the first drag queens of my teenage life that would raise me after my mother died. This was before I knew Torch Song Trilogy and Hedwig, and right before AIDS took the stage and capitulated everyone into the dark theater of witness.
But back to drag. First comes the passable traits that are important to alter, conceal, or exaggerate. One might be able to out-makeover Max Factor but nothing is going to kill the act like a wall to wall shag rug of chest hair. It appears that men who take up this kind of gender performance already exhibit some "natural advantages" at first glance, such as less body hair, a less pronounced Adam's apple, smaller hands and feet. They appear to have thoroughbred female legs and almost all of them reported a preternatural ability to launch themselves upright into spike heels at a tender age. This last part I made up because I so want to believe it.

If I simply look at a drag queen on stage what I would see is a highly finished product or in some cases- a catastrophically under styled version of some kind of thing we think we know as female. I would not-- at first glance-- be able to tell which attributes where applied in a dressing room, and which the queen already possessed herself, i.e., a great cut of fabric that would flatter the legs as opposed to actually having a gorgeous set of legs. I might not know what is "natural" as in belonging to the pre-made up state, and what is a product of that miraculous vision that comes with the suspension of our belief once the sequins start to sparkle under the lights. How then, to read, and understand this performance as appropriating the feminine? How then to center any drag-anthropography* based on what cannot be known about their bodies?
Once, while watching Audrey Heartburn balance an enormous, absurdly scaled martini glass in one hand while wielding a burning cigarette in an 18 inch ivory and black bakelite holder and a microphone in the other hand I understood that while it might be ungainly to balance flammable liquids, electricity, and fire all at once, it would be far more devastating to not pull off a truly convincing display of femininity.

If I look at what was "feminine" about Audrey Heartburn I would find that she did master all of the prerequisites and standard signals that would let everyone know there is a female running about. Even if she did look like a drunken Jackie Onassis gone bad and had none of the demure coquettishness that Audrey Hepburn embodied: she had on a dress, she had perky breasts, she had on hose and heels. She also had a voice that would tweeter and totter in a register that I would not be able to reach and excellent manners. I wanted to marry her. But that's not the point. The point is that it was those things that were not expressly feminine that helped her pull off the inversion. The invoking of the martini goddess, the cigarette holder also fancied by dandies and fashion conscious opium addicts, and the hair flip that, at some point prior to Jackie, belonged first to Gene Wilder. So how did I become convinced she was she when the convincing clues were not the feminine?

The other side of that point is that one cannot "know" by what means this performance becomes feminine. One cannot know if it is the voice that carries verisimilitude, the walk, the high, perky breasts-- I mean; which one of these are the ones that will make it "real?" Which one indicates authenticity? If dress indicates authenticity then let's take any ten random men and put them in dresses. My father, for one, thought if he could just get something custom from the House of Chanel, the illusion would come off. But oh, such hubris!

I thought I too had known what indicated authenticity; which was --that which the performer appropriates in order to perform-- but now I think I am barely half right. One cannot actually tell what elements of a drag performance make it not only believable but uber-real. One cannot say for certain, it is indeed the dress and not the legs. One cannot say for certain that it is the long, tapered fingers, and not the French manicure. I have come through this lens to find that one can appropriate every aspect of the feminine, but it will still not deliver. What does the drag queen employ in order to go from being a man in a dress to being a splendid, glamorous woman?

A brief analysis of dress, character, physical attributes and performance dynamics all together make this reality up. None of these attributes can be removed or the illusion is shattered. It is therefore, not just the skill of the man himself at applying the effects of the illusion, nor his body, nor our ideas about what constitutes the feminine nor our suspension of belief. After backing up from this I find that skill, talent, and alcohol is only a part of the grand illusion.

The things that signal or are signs of the feminine aren't always feminine. Take for example, my brother, who I think once dressed up as a frumpy Country and Western has-been singer named, "Virginia Ham." He is of medium height, with a pudgy build, and when he gets sun, he turns the color of lunch meat, so at least he is aptly named. He has no glamour, no verve. He possesses none of the grand illusion of high drag. Yet, without so much as one indicator of femininity he was surprisingly real. It makes one wonder how we can gain clues to assess what is "real" when the clues are not even "real"?
Such unreality therefore leads me back to examining drag again. I find that my markers of what is supposedly feminine I can not root in the performer's skill nor in their body. This un-rooting means that I go back into the mystery of it- before I thought I knew what made it an illusion and could de-code those elements and find the "real" behind it. In really looking, and trying to really KNOW I have found that a deeper examination restores the mystery. The attraction to drag was the real becoming the unreal. Through this recent looking I have found that drag is now the unreal becoming another unreality and how that works, I cannot explain.

* "A description of all the parts of the human body" from the OED, typically used in sociological discussions which I have hyphenateded to change the meaning to describing the "drag body" and the "body of drag" as a whole idea and a whole persona/person and not necessarily that which relies on literal proof of difference via race or other physical attributes typically associated with this word, but an entirely subjective use as befits any discussion of gender. Cha-ching.

P.S. might i also add that samea's & Xuan-Shi's papers rocked my world!

Name: claire mah
Date: 2002-10-29 00:01:23
Link to this Comment: 3400

Komm Mit Nach Waldsee...

"You go to a German camp? What kind of stuff do you do there?" In general, when other people learn of the history of my past five summers, one of two emotions cross their faces: disdain or confusion. On special occasions, I may even receive both at once. Yes, the rumors do, indeed, hold truth. Claire Mahler has often attended a German camp. At a quick glance, the setting looks like any other summer camp set in the woods, but underneath the seemingly "normal" façade abides a culture entirely different from any other that I have ever encountered.

Each year, my mother would drive me up to the Twin Cities in our silver station wagon, my yellow duffel bag and backpack--chock-full of t-shirts and shorts, of sunscreen and mosquito repellent--waiting in the trunk as expectant traveling companions. After four hours in the car, my luggage and I, subsequently transferred to a coach bus, traveled the remaining five hours to the bustling metropolis of Bemidji, MN. Once there, all campers must pass through "customs," a gathering of counselors all speaking german who help with orientation and confiscation of any Schmuggelware (contraband)--basically any non-german food, music, books etc. The camp takes its mission as an immersion environment seriously, even to the extent that all counselors speak German, all recipes used for our meals is of Germanic origin. Although this seems like a hardship to many, it in fact promotes quite an enjoyable environment.

Not only does Waldsee (the name of the camp, which means "lake of the woods") physically remove one from almost all civilization, a whole new culture comes to life each summer. Everyone there has a positive outlook on life. All there to learn and to have fun, rarely do campers complain about activities, from swimming in Turtle River Lake to baking, from playing sand volleyball to throwing pots. The entire concept of "coolness" among youth flips completely around; the more begeistert, the better (the closest translation I can think of for that one is a genuine and uninhibited excitement). Everyone feels comfortable with their identity at Waldsee, and everyone encourages each other to, thereby fostering a comfortable and playful atmosphere.

Music also plays a large role in the camp (an added bonus for those of us who love music!). Singing for all meals is a must, literally. Campers cannot enter the dining area without first reciting a few old standards. In fact, singing for almost any activity is a must. Receiving mail, language learning groups: somewhere amidst the plethora of miscellaneous German songs pounded lovingly into each camper's memory, at least one tune applies to nearly every situation. And if one doesn't, one sings nonetheless.

This camp has played a major role in my life, fostering friendships, love of the German language, and an enjoyable environment in which to have some good clean fun. For me, time spent at Waldsee definitely places in my mind amidst some of the most fond memories I have of summer and of my life in general.

It's A Jungle Out There
Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-10-29 00:44:20
Link to this Comment: 3402

I spent four years there, weaving my way through the jungle, a jungle of human behavior. Every day, I felt as though I were embarking on a new adventure: the danger, the intrigue, the suspense that accompanied my every move.

The natives, suspicious of anything different, were hostile when one first met them, but became friendlier as time went on. Strangers were not admitted to the tribe at once; they first had to prove their worth. It was not uncommon to see newcomers lunching alone; it was the mark of an accepted member to eat your meal in the presence of others. Once admitted into a section of the tribe, one was allowed to partake in group activities; eating together, talking together, socializing together and gossiping (together) about the other groups.

It was advised that one should assimilate as quickly as possible, by adopting indigenous mannerisms. The easiest way to adapt was to clothe oneself in similar garments to theirs. Males and females wore very different attire; to dress in the fashion of the opposite gender was taboo. For trousers, denim was the usual fabric for all, but the tailoring between male and female pairs was quite distinct. Shirts were typically of a cotton blend, again, with very different cuts. But for both sexes, the standard practice was that somewhere on the clothing article, one flaunted the name of the manufacturer, preferably in large white block letters. One of the most common phrases emblazoned across clothing was "Abercrombie and Fitch," or simply "AF." However, there certainly was no dearth of other brands, such as "American Eagle" or "Aeropostale."

While not mandatory, ornamental facial paint for females was encouraged. At the site that I studied, the females preferred to coat their eyelids with a semi-opaque color, most often white, and lined the rims of their eyelids with a thick black line. The eyelashes were also encrusted in a black paint, and the lips were smeared with a glossy petroleum-based substance, usually tinted a pinkish or reddish hue. To ensure that their faces were kept in line with social expectations, many females redid the application every hour or so in the lavatory.

Hair coloring was also a favored way of beautifying of the body; many females sported lighter, bleached strips in their manes, affectionately referred to as "highlights" or "streaks." Hair coloring among men was extremely rare, and when done, it was usually a vivid color done as initiation into an athletic team. A few daring souls, usually female, dyed their tresses garish colors (such as hot pink) of their own accord; to make a statement, be different, or simply because they liked the shade. While such deviations were not encouraged, they were tolerated by the vast majority of the tribe.

Decorative earlobe jewelry was also common among females. Rare was the female who did not have pierced ears. There were members of both sexes who had alternative facial piercings, such as in the nose or on the lip, but such ornamentation was found unappealing by the vast majority of the tribe.

Males, as a whole, were not quite so constricted in regulating their appearance, but there were social expectations nonetheless. The variations between male hairstyles were very slight, and longer hair was considered too feminine for most. Many employed the use of gelatinous substances to shape their (short) coiffure into a desired shape. The natural merging of both eyebrows, called the "unibrow," was strictly forbidden, and greatly ridiculed across the tribe.

For those who wanted to integrate themselves, it was best to follow at least some of these socially prescribed behaviors. Other practices were also helpful in blending in, such as attending frequent social gatherings. Usually, there was some sort of fermented beverage available, and those present were usually expected to imbibe, sometimes to the point of inebriation. Dancing, on occasion, was available, as was beer pong.

Organized athletics also played a part in this little society. The sports teams fostered another set of small groups within the tribe, sometimes opposing ones. The soccer teams and the field hockey team were often quite chummy, but rare was the occasion when one would see a wrestler and a cheerleader together.

While there were definite outsiders, relations among insider groups were not always harmonious There were small border disputes within the tribe, group against group. But unity could always be found through football games, dances and a universal hatred of math homework.

It was an interesting four years, I must say. I called it a fascinating anthropological study of human behavior. I called it hell. I called it high school.

What is Winterguard?
Name: Kate Shine
Date: 2002-10-29 00:57:16
Link to this Comment: 3403

Winterguard is a distinctive culture that has developed into a global competitive event and now contains shared aspects of the cultures of countries all over the world. This performance art is a blend of art and sport, combining aspects of dance, science, and mathematics; and in its greatest moments it can even be a form of social and political commentary. The collective story that the guard members tell through their physical interpretation of a selection of music lasts only a few minutes, but is the result of months of endless practices and personal challenges.

The routines that spectators view at exhibition or competition are collective stories in the truest sense of the word. Although they are initially the creation of one or more concept designers and choreographers, the story is in a constant state of revision from practice to practice and even show to show as instructors are forced integrate what works better in the moment and as guard members offer their own suggestions and interpretations. However, most of the long hours of practice are spent in creating and implementing a precise standard of exact angles and forms of movement for every moment of the show.

And although the impact of the piece is so dependent on the exact synchronization of each member with the whole, the show cannot survive without personal interpretation by each of its members as well as the audience. Solos throughout the show, at times partially improvised, are the exception to strict standards of routine and add an element of creative freedom. In fact the essential dynamic that separates the award-winning and really enjoyable guards from the more mundane is the individual emotion that each member brings to the show. The collective display of individual emotion in an extremely ordered group setting is very powerful to an audience.

Although winterguard allows for so much creative visual expression, it is done in the context of a standard culture with its own boundaries and vocabulary. WGI, or Winter Guard International, is one of the largest organizations which hosts winterguard competitions and sets international rules and standards to assure that each performance is able to be judged in the same way. Although the competition element is often not nearly as important to members as what they gain from the experience of winterguard, it enables the activity to continue as a comprehensible and unified form of expression. For example, if one group were to perform a twenty-minute show and another were to abandon flag completely, the shows would still be art but the idea of winterguard as a community would start to dissolve. It is almost like a science in that it requires that precise methods be used to come to a viable and presentable conclusion.

Winterguard is also a culture in that its members often identify strongly with each other as opposed to other groups they might encounter or belong to. They develop special vocabularies of guard terms and references, with different dialects from group to group and region to region. During the large amount of time they devote towards reaching a communal goal they gain approval and a sense of self-worthiness. They also often feel that others outside the group will never be able to even begin to understand winterguard and in particular their specific guard, not only because its members are an extreme minority to the general population, but because of their shared experience of living day-to-day only with each other.

I see winterguard as a beautiful combination of different modes of expression and even as a type of research into the human experience. Although it may not hold the weight of an area of inquiry such as physics or science, to its individual members the winterguard form of telling a story is as much a purpose worth dedicating one's life to as discovering the scientific origin of the universe.

Alcoholics Anonymous
Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-10-29 01:28:21
Link to this Comment: 3404

"Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety."(1)

This statement is read at the beginning of AA meetings all over the world, and it sums up the mission of Alcoholics Anonymous very succinctly. AA is the original "12 step" program, giving 12 suggestions, or "steps," to help people overcome alcoholism. There are also 12 "traditions", or group principles, that help keep AA the informal fellowship that it is. It is estimated that there are about 2 million members worldwide, although there is no way to have a truly accurate count since membership is anonymous. (2)

AA is made up of small groups that form a loose, collective whole. Each group is fully autonomous and there are no membership lists or tallies taken. The group can take its name from the town in which its meetings are held: i.e. "Rockaway Valley Group of Alcoholics Anonymous" or sometimes from its philosophy: "One Day at a Time Group of AA." Each group holds any number of meetings each week; as many as they can support and sometimes more than one a day. AA members can attend any meeting, anywhere they'd like, but they are encouraged to choose a "home group" where they can start to make closer connections with other alcoholics.

There are a number of different types of AA meetings: Speaker meetings, in which there are one or two members from a neighboring group who stand up and tell the stories of their alcoholism and recovery, sometimes with a question and answer period afterwards; discussion groups, where anything related to alcoholism and recovery are discussed; Big Book meetings, where chapters from the book Alcoholics Anonymous (affectionately known as the Big Book) are read and discussed; and step meetings, where each week one of the twelve steps or twelve traditions are read and discussed. These meetings come in two categories: open and closed. An open meeting is for everyone, alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike. Closed meetings are for alcoholics only. Members of other groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, are welcome as long as they identify themselves as alcoholics as well as addicts.

When a person first begins to attend AA meetings they are given the label "newcomer." A newcomer is usually given a copy of the Big Book and told to take it home, read it and come back with any questions. They are also told to hook up with a sponsor. The sponsor is very helpful to the newcomer, helping her learn the steps, get to meetings and just plain understand what's going on. The advice is often given to find a sponsor who's been sober at least two years, and if at all possible try to connect with an old timer (people with 20 years or more sober are generally considered old timers). These length of sobriety suggestions help ensure that the sponsor has some experience in living without alcohol.

There are many pat phrases used in AA to describe certain ideas or to give advice. "One day at a time" is probably familiar to most people, in or out of 12 step meetings. One phrase a newcomer hears repeatedly is "90 meetings in 90 days." Other members often suggest that attending 90 meetings in 90 days will help the newcomer stay sober for those three months. Newcomers are often given the "coffee commitment:" they are put in charge of making the coffee and setting out the cookies before a meeting. The idea behind this is that it gives them a sense of belonging and responsibility, as well as self-worth. Other suggestions are to avoid new romantic relationships until one year of sobriety has been achieved and to connect with people who "work the program." People who "work the program" are those who have come far in their sobriety and are diligent in "working"—following—the steps. The interesting thing about most of these little bits of advice is that they do not come directly from the Big Book or the Step book, the guides to the AA program. They are based on ideas or phrases from those two books but have morphed into something quite different from what the founders intended.

AA literature reminds alcoholics that they are sober "one day at a time" and that there is no cure for alcoholism. At each meeting an alcoholic introduces herself like this: "My name is Margaret and I'm an alcoholic." Despite this focus on staying sober for just this one day, there are celebrations of sobriety milestones. Once a month, a speaker meeting will become a celebration meeting and there will be cake and sometimes balloons. Family and friends are invited to attend. Celebrants may receive cards and/or gifts from other members. The first milestone celebrated is 90 days, then one year, then each consecutive year. The person with the least amount of time sober chooses the speaker for that evening. Before the speaker each celebrant is called to the podium to be recognized for their achievement and to say a few words about how their lives have changed since coming to AA.

AA calls itself a "spiritual" program, one that does not require members to rely on a particular "god," just a "higher power." However, it has a decidedly Judeo-Christian emphasis. Although Jesus is never mentioned, God often is, and meetings are closed with all members standing, holding hands and reciting the Lord's Prayer. It is an essential tenet of the program that the alcoholic come to grips with the fact that there is a power greater than herself. Step Two: "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." After Step Two the higher power is named only as God. The Step book suggests that newcomers use the group or even a doorknob as their higher power but fully expects them to accept God later on. The Big Book has a chapter entitled "We Agnostics" that tells the story of early members' journeys from agnostic to believer. The Steps do leave a small amount of wiggle room, though, when they use the qualifying phrase "as we understood Him," to describe God. Step Three: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him." Like the advice cited in an earlier paragraph, this idea of a "Higher Power" can be misunderstood and misused. Although the Step book itself says a newcomer could use just about anything as a higher power as long as they are willing to admit their powerlessness over alcohol, some people will suggest acceptance of anything other than God as a higher power will lead to a relapse.

Because sobriety can be so difficult for alcoholics to maintain there can be a lot of fear at AA meetings. Certain behaviors are deemed dangerous and anyone who engages in them is seen as being "on their way out," or ready to drink again. These behaviors might include not going to meetings every day, associating with people who drink (not necessarily abuse) alcohol or not doing what your sponsor tells you to do. Offenders are confronted by other group members to try and help them "get with the program." Newcomers are often told to stay away from such people because they are a threat to a newcomer's fragile sobriety. Again, this is a twisting of the advice given in the Big Book and Step book and is far from what the founders had intended.

I have only written about tiny pieces of the AA culture in the broadest possible terms. Each meeting within a group has its own dynamic. Some are closer to the spirit of AA's founders than others, but even those who have strayed from the original focus have something to offer a suffering alcoholic.

1. AA Preamble copyright © by the AA Grapevine 1950
2. "A.A. Fact File"

Children and Television Violence
Name: Bonnie Bal
Date: 2002-10-29 06:44:43
Link to this Comment: 3405

Children and Television Violence

There has been over forty years of research on the influence of television violence on children. The research clearly indicates an association between heavy viewing of violence and agressive behavior. Yet despite this research, regulatory policy has failed to decrease violence on children's television. In fact, it has increased.

Young children watch approximately 4 hours of television every day, 28 hours a week and, sometimes, 10 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Before their 18th birthday, children may view 25,000 hours of television. Most of the programs are violent and contain many killings. According to an American Psychological Association Task Force on Television and American Society, by their graduation from elementary schools, children will have seen 8,000 killings and more than 10,000 other acts of violence (Chang,2000). Many children grow up in "constant television households" where the television, continually on, provides an ever-present background to family life. Some research has shown that television rivals parental and school influences in importance to children. In absolute amount of time, television viewing surpasses that spent with parents or teachers (Lazar, 1994).

Television related themes are in our children's language every day. They enjoy talking about their favorite television shows and acting out their favorite scenes. It is evident in their play, in their drawings, and in the stories they tell. Television plays a cental role in the lives of our children. It is what they think about and what they talk about.

From the beginning televison was "sold" to the American public. Network television in its promotion period, 1949-1952, offered diverse programming to children. High quality children's programming was the incentive to buy a television for some familites. Consequently, in the eary 1950's families with young children were the biggest purchasers of the new "educational" medium (Lazar, 1994).

As television gained a secure position in American culture, diverse, high quality programming for children disappeared. Children's quality programming, expensive to produce, was no longer needed to attract customers. Once television was firmly established in American daily life, broadcasters were able to sell children's viewing time to advertisers in exchange for programming of lesser value. Broadcasters learned that children are "quickly captivated" by television. (Lazar, 1994). The more violent and action-packed shows keep children "glued" to the screen, even during commercials.

Television violence encourages agressive behavior in two ways: children imitate what they see, and they absorb the message that aggression is appropriate behavior. The process of imitation is emphasized by social learning theory, a well-established approach in social psychology. Initially, social learning theory attributed children's imitation of televised aggression to modeling and conditioning. Over time social learning theory, later called social cognitive theory, expanded to incorporate a more active version of the child. Research by Berkowitz in 1984, for example, states that memories, including television images, are stored in networks and pathways that can be primed by associated thoughts. Violence on television can activate aggressive thoughts and feelings leading to aggressive actions (Lazar, 1994).

Research by Huesmann in 1982 makes a similar argument. He suggests that children learn problem-solving scripts in part from their observations of others' behavior. Frequent exposure to scenes of violence may lead children to store scripts for aggressive behavior in their memories, and these may be recalled in a later situation if any aspect of the original situation is present (Felson, 1996).

Children who see both heroes and villains on television accomplishing their goals through violence and lawbreaking are more willing to break rules themselves. They may become less sensitive to real-life aggression; for example, they may fail to protect a victimized child from a playground bully. And they may be less likely to think of cooperating to resolve differences.

There are many other forms of anti-social behavior related to television violence. Research has found that frequent viewing of violence creates for the viewer a "sense of danger and risk in a mean and selfish world." Frequent viewers report "a sense of relative insecurity, vulnerability, and mistrust" as well as feelings of "alienation and gloom." Children show signs of decreased cooperation and sharing, less frustration tolerance, restlessness, and less self-control (Lazar, 1994; Felson, 1996; Hough & Erwin, 1997).

Furthermore, aggression and anti-social behaviors can persist overtime and may lead to peer rejection. Peer rejection increases the likelihood of deviant peer group affiliation and academic failure, which are both risk factors for criminal behavior (Hughes & Hasbrouck, 1996).

Finally, viewing violence on television can have a desensitizing effect. Repeated exposure to television violence can cause gradual desensitization of children to violent scenes. It has been argued that this desensitization, in turn, may weaken some viewers restraints on violent behavior, such as guilt and fear of retaliation and fear of social disapproval (Hough & Erwin, 1997).

Society is not "violent-germ free" (Chang, 2000). We live in a toxic cultural environment. Broadcasters like to tell parents that they can always turn off the television to protect their children from the negative impact of violence on television. This is like telling parents that they can protect their children from air pollution and food pesticides by making sure they never breathe or eat. Violence is in our environment. We swim in it as fish swim in water. We cannot escape it. Unless, of course, we keep our children home from school and never let them play with other children. Even then, television's violent messages are in our intimate relationships, our homes, our hearts, and our heads.

What accounts for this steady flow of violence into our homes through the television set? Many blame the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). While broadcasters have fought every effort to regulate commercial airwaves, the Federal Communications Commission, that government agency that protects the public interest, has been ineffective. The FCC's approach to regulation has been passive and reluctant (Lazar, 1994). What many Americans do not know is that we, American citizens, are the rightful owners of the airways and that the FCC has the authority to require broadcasters, as a condition of their license renewal, to demonstrate their efforts to better serve the educational and health needs of children and society (Hughes & Hasbrouck, 1996). Still the broadcast industry has demanded proof of harm. It has argued that television's influence on children is minimal, while at the same time spending billions of dollars to influence them (Lazar, 1998).

Bonnie A. Lazar (1994) sums up this dilemma in her research: "The television industry, a corporate commercial system organized around maximation of profit, has consistently benefited from the FCC's reluctance to regulate. The resulting lack of coherent public policy is further complicated by the historical development of television as a private enterprise rather than a public service in the United States. The combination of commercial control and lack of coherent public policy has created freedom for corporations at children's expense. Business interests cannot be entrusted with children's welfare. While many believe that networks sell programs to the audience, in actuality broadcasters sell the audience to advertisers. Children are the product! Selling children's time to the toy and food industries is big business."

If "children are the product", how can we protect them? Parent involvement is very important in mediating the influence of television violence. Measures such as co-viewing (parents and children watching together), program selection, establishing rules, and encouraging alternative recreational pursuits; such as reading, sports, drama, volunteerism, and others are suggested. Family cohesion and shared recreational time serve as protective factors in children's lives. Discussions with children to help them recognize that violence on TV is different from violence in real life, that violence produces long-term negative consequences for the perpetrator, that victims of violence suffer, and that effective alternative solutions to problems exist is very important.

When school-based interventions are included alongside parent involvement, the chances for a positive impact on children's attitudes and behaviors are enhanced. Teachers and parents can take advantage of media literacy courses to help children develop consumer-awareness and critical viewing skills. These include teaching children to discriminate commercials from programs to understand the persuasive nature and intent of commercial television. Instructional programs have been used as early as preschool to assist with the development of positive cognitive and decision-making processes, based upon the belief that students with this training will use means other than violence for problem-solving (Hughes & Hasbrouck, 1996).

We can reduce the effects of our toxic culture on our children. But the first step, as always, is to break through the denial. Social advocacy intervention must concentrate on cultural elements such as advertisers expoiting children to sell products and services, and the predominance of violence in television, movies, and magazines. Everyone is responsible for his or her part in protecting children.


Chang, N. (2000). Early Childhood Education Journal, 28, 85-89.
Felson, R.B. (1996). Annual Review of Sociology, 22, 103-128.
Hough, K.J. & Erwin, P.G. (1997) Journal of Psychology, 131, 411-415.
Hughes, J.N. & Hasbrouck, J.E. (1996) School Psychology Review, 25,134-51.
Lazar, B.A. (1994) Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 11, 3-19.
Lazar, B.A. (1998) Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 15, 117-131.

Not revealing much about the Movie Going Ritual
Name: Molly Cook
Date: 2002-10-29 11:29:56
Link to this Comment: 3410

Is the seemingly benign activity of going to the movies leading to apathy of the masses? Is it replacing religion? Does it allow us to leave behind our problems and difficulties too easily? What does it say about the minds that are addicted to them? These are the questions that should be applied to any need for escapism. What in this world is so difficult that we turn so easily to movies: depression, dissatisfaction, inability to cope. Is movie going a good thing? In moderation is the perennial answer to such broad open questions. Is movie going an engaged activity, or passive? In order to shed some light on these questions, it is valuable to observe individuals¡¯ movie-going habits and draw either conclusions or more questions from that study.

In this study there are two subjects, a couple from central New Jersey of average description in all ways: size, shape, age, intellect and character. Subject A is 38 and Subject B 28. Subject A prefers action, adventure, horror and suspense thrillers. Subject B prefers comedies, foreign and independent films, mysteries and classic novels. Following is a description of their movie-going ritual which will, hopefully, lead us to better understand the purpose it plays in their very average, hum-drum lives.

Let¡¯s first examine the circumstances that motivate them to go to the movies as there are a few variables. The first and most common reason is that Friday night has again rolled around and the two are very tired from a week of unsatisfying corporate-lackying. They are not interested in conversation and they wish to relax. Not having developed skills to do this, they have learned that going to the movies is an effective replacement. Another circumstance which motivates them to go to the movies is when they come to the same realization, but earlier in the week and decide they must make the excursion on either a Thursday, or occasionally even a Monday. In some cases a movie comes to the theaters that actually stimulates enough interest to warrant a special trip to the theater, rather than the mere need for Friday night release. The last reason, which only occasionally happens, is that the couple goes to the movies when they are in good spirits. Under these circumstances, we have concluded that there is a celebratory connection made when purchasing popcorn and soda at a %2000 mark up.

Once the decision to go to a movie is made, the couple decides which movie to go to. This is done through a brief negotiation which usually results in the person with the least apathy that day making the decision. From examining dozens of this couple¡¯s movie excursions, we realized that there is a pattern of alternate decision making which favors Subject B 2 to 1. From this we conclude that Subject A is probably more apathetic than Subject B. Subject A has seen many more movies than Subject B.

The couple then proceeds to decide which theater and which time slot to go to their chosen movie. Part of this necessary negotiation also includes the beginning of a conversation regarding how much time they have to get to the theater, and whether it is enough. Subject A prefers to arrive at the theater at least 15 minutes to half an hour early in order to ensure good seats and hot popcorn. Subject B prefers to arrive at the theater at the exact time the movie is supposed to begin in order to avoid watching the previews and wasting time in line for popcorn which nevertheless is always appreciated. Based on this analysis, it appears that Subject A is actually less apathetic in this matter than in the matter of which movie is sought.

The conversation about what time they will arrive continues throughout the car ride to the theater and occasionally through both the ticket line and the popcorn line. In order to end the conversation, Subject B occasionally stands in the popcorn line so that Subject A can run and get good seats and not miss the previews. If Subject A does miss the previews, it is likely the conversation will be continued after the movie and into the next day.

Once the tickets are purchased the couple processes to the ticket-taker guy. He is familiar with them since they are there nearly two times a week and he greets Subject B unfailingly. Subject A complains that the ticket taker guy only greets Subject B. They process further to the concession stand where they stay in line behind one other individual who is ordering popcorn for a fleet of school children from a counter person who took too many qualudes before their shift. The previews are about to begin and Subject A is getting anxious. Subject B suggests that they split up and that Subject A may go get seats. Subject A enthusiastically walks, sometimes even runs, with feverish anticipation in the direction of the theater while Subject B observes 12 boxes of children¡¯s size popcorn which were precariously balanced on arms and shoulders, topple to the floor, requiring the qualuded youngster behind the counter to have to come out and clean up. Next register, please. Eventually Subject B is able to order the goods, but at this point has forgotten which size of popcorn Subject A had requested. Subject B gets the wrong size. Subject B also orders Cherry Coke. It¡¯s lower in caffeine than regular Coke and it tastes better.

Subject B proceeds to the theater and fumbles around in the dark to find Subject A. The previews have begun, most of which they have both seen three times before. Once they have seen a preview for a movie more than three times, they feel there is no need to actually go see the movie. They watch the movie. Both are completely swept away until one of the audience whoops too loudly.

Once the movie is over, the two, as if in a trance, get up and join the growing parade to the restroom. The bright lights of the real world hurt their eyes, and the chilling disappointment of messy cineplex bathrooms gently urges them out of their stupor. Once hands are washed and shaken off (no paper towels), their eyes meet in the mirror. They ask each other, as if there are a possible variety of answers, ¡°Ready to go?¡±

They brace themselves for the outdoor whether, whatever it may be, and trudge to the car. Depending how miserable it is outside, it could be anywhere between a solid minute and 5 before Subject B makes a comment about the movie. Subject B believes this comment is provocative and warrants an equally provocative response, but does not get one. Subject B concludes that Subject A did not feel the same way about the movie and attempts to reframe the comment, asking what Subject A thought. Subject A responds with a simple three word sentence, usually, ¡°I liked it¡±, sometimes ¡°I Loved it¡± and occasionally, on the more exciting occasions, ¡°Ugh¡±

On the typical occasions when the couple does not agree, after Subject B has fully reviewed the film, there is prolonged silence in the car on the way home. Tension is usually broken when one comments on the annoying audience member who whooped too loudly. They both agree that the whooper should have been promptly and mercilessly removed from the theater and when they arrive home, 2-3 otherwise unbearable hours have been painlessly consumed. Tomorrow is another day, which will be basically the same as the one before, or the week before and in approximately 7 days, sometimes more, sometimes less, the two will opt to go out again to the movies.

In conclusion, the ritual of movie going for this average couple is clearly ingrained and important in their way of coping with the every-day disappointments of life and eachother. In some way communing in a dark room with a large, random assortment of strangers provides a sense of connection to the world around them not unlike church-going, but less demanding. It is not known how long the couple can survive with the virtual satisfaction this ritual supplies, but will the real world still be their when they are ready to come out?

A world within a world
Name: Beth Ann L
Date: 2002-10-29 13:22:47
Link to this Comment: 3413

They're tall and skinny, mainly because they don't eat. They're obsessed with fashion and makeup and the way they look in general. The average IQ is ten. Yep, you guessed it, we're talking models. With all these perks to go with the job, it's no wonder that every girl dreams of becoming one. Who wouldn't want to be see as a vain, bitchy snob who everyone thinks believes herself perfect and thus are all on a perpetual quest to find flaws in? Dream material.
It's the glamour. It works as camouflage, hiding all that negative stuff. Who cares if your constantly dieting if, as an end result, other women everywhere will look at pictures of you with envy in their eyes? Free clothes, makeovers, lots of money, national, possibly international, recognition: this has to be one of the most glamorous jobs in the world. Can you imagine opening up a magazine and seeing a picture of yourself on the inside? All of your friend would be jealous. You might even become famous, a supermodel.
What does it matter if you loose everyone's respect and become an object? You're their friend "The Model." No longer are you a teammate, class mate, or room mate. You travel to exotic places and meet interesting people. All this for the simple asking price of your identity. They must know you, after all, they saw a picture of you once.
In a culture where beauty is valued above all else it is hard to criticize the idealistic views of modeling fostered by most women within it. They, however, do not see the true world of modeling. In that world there are stupid people and there are smart people. There are those who are obsessed with fashion and those who could not dress themselves in the morning without some help. It is a world like all others; mixed. There are those self centered egotistical women who cannot look beyond their own surface and thus will never last, even in the modeling industry. There are those who's beauty comes from within and their personality is what makes them great at what they do.
The idea of things such as free clothes and continuous makeovers definitely originated outside of the modeling world. Most of the clothes that are modeled are not those that anyone would want to wear outside of a photo shoot. They are seldom given to the model anyways. Makeovers mean standing there while someone pokes you in the eye and burns you with a curling iron; fun. Sometimes you have to stand in below freezing weather in just a bikini for ten to twelve hours. Or wear two sweatshirts and fleece pants in one hundred degree weather. This is the reality of a photo shoot. And if you complain, chances are they won't hire you again and you ALWAYS want to be hired again.
Strip away the glamour and what do you have? Another job, a career, an industry. Professional women going about their business. There are thousands upon thousands of models out there, all competing for the hundreds of jobs available. It's sort of like a failing economy; too many people and too little work. For every yes you hear you hear at least a dozen no's. Most of your time modeling is spend going on castings and meeting clients, for which you are not paid. Also, when you do get work it is usually so random that all of the money goes right back into the work. You have travel expenses, pictures, composite cards, and any other miscellaneous expenses that come along. Sure you get paid hundreds or thousands of dollars but these things cost money, like in every business. When you model you are self-employed. That means it is your job to find clients. If you are luck you have a good agency who works for you to help in that process, for a fee of course.
Like every other culture, it has its underbelly. There are agencies out there that take unsuspecting girl's money and do nothing in return. Those girls, however, probably didn't do their homework, finding out about what they were attempting to do. They will probably never make it to the legitimate modeling world. The promiscuous sex, rampant drug use, and other such things that you hear about on E! TV are there but definitely avoidable. Don't go around having sex with everyone, you can get work without doing that. Do drugs if you want but that means that your modeling career will probably last one fourth as long as those who don't. These are the things that people with a brain avoid, thus eliminating them as an issue. True, it seems that ninety nine percent of models smoke. That does not mean that every model must smoke in order to be considered a true model.
Ahh, the mystical supermodel. That state which many attempt and few achieve. Just because you model does not mean that you are a supermodel, far from it. Most people don't know who you are and never will. You could be sitting next to a model on the train and never know it. They are people, just like you and me. More than that, they are complete people. They play sports, go to school, have friends, and enemies. You could know a model and never even know it. Why is that? Simply because anyone can model. Sure there are rules in that society saying you must be thus tall and look like this or that but these are rules to be broken. Next time you are bored you might consider breaking into the world of modeling and see what you learn. Open up one more culture for you to explore.

No Longer a Stranger
Name: Joy Woffin
Date: 2002-11-01 15:33:44
Link to this Comment: 3467

Each summer for the past three years I have spent several weeks studying Italian in a "total immersion" language school in a tiny town in Tuscany called Poppi. Poppi, which is about a 20 minute drive outside of Arezzo (where the movie "Life is Beautiful" was filmed), is a beautiful Medieval-era town, complete with a grand hilltop castello (castle). The people I have met at the "Scuola d'Italiano per Stranieri" (Italian School for Foreigners) in Poppi have generously let me in to their lives and shown me a side of Italian culture that regular tourists never get to experience. Though I am not ethnically Italian, I feel truly at home walking the streets of Poppi, as the place is no longer strange to me. I, like the native "Poppesi", can spot the American tourists (though there are relatively few, since Poppi is one of the last gems undiscovered by American travel agencies), and cannot help but think of them as outsiders.

The school itself is situated in a building which, like virtually all the other buildings in the town, dates back at least to the Renassaince. Not that you would know however; it certainly isn't grand or even interesting, but is strangely endearing. We always keep the windows open during class – this town scoffs at air conditioning – and as my teacher speaks, the beautiful Italian words rolling musically off her tongue, I sometimes become hypnotized by the whirring sound of the street cleaner truck that rolls by each morning. It makes me smile, because I know the narrow, cobblestone streets of Poppi would be spotless without the cleaning truck's daily rounds.

Each morning we have an hour and a half grammar lesson, followed by an hour and a half conversation class (with a half hour cappuccino break in between, during which we go to one of the three bars that are no less than two minutes walking distance from the school). It still strikes me as funny that in a town with no supermarket, no department store, and very few clothing or appliance shops there is a bar or café about every 20 feet – though I shouldn't be surprised, for I know this is quintessentially Italian.

One can see as the people of Poppi go about their business – the old women sweeping their tiny doorsteps or hanging up their freshly hand-washed aprons to dry, the fruttivendolo unpacking crates of fresh cherries and putting them in green wicker baskets, our friend Clet, the young artist, working in his studio which doubles as a gallery – that they are proud of their town, and especially proud of the fact that for the most part, they have stuck to the traditional Tuscan way of life.

Most afternoons and some weekends we go on excursions and outings with our teachers and the other students from the school. It is not unusual for us to be the only Americans attending and because of this we get to hear our fair share of German, Portuguese and other languages spoken in addition to Italian. There are usually no more than a dozen people attending the school at any given time – most of them over 50 and almost all over 30. My boyfriend Michael and I are always the youngest people there when we go, and when we first came to Poppi three years ago we were the youngest people ever to have attended the school.

One night each year we are all invited to dinner at the house of Signora Grazia, one of the town's many classic Italian matrons. She and her husband are large, jolly, casual, generous people, as well as great cooks. All the students and teachers arrive at Grazia's house in the early evening to help prepare the food. We are instructed by Grazia in exuberant Italian (much faster than our teachers'), as the smell of fresh garlic, peppers and tomatoes sizzling in a saucepan fills the cozy kitchen. We eventually all sit down in Grazia's living room for what seems like a 20 course meal. Italians take their dinners as slowly as possible, and it is not uncommon for these festivities to last until midnight, the evening permeated by impromptu singalongs.

On the last night of class we all gather for a final dinner and then convene at the outdoor café where we exchange stories over cappuccino. It is always poignant, as I play foosball with the 9 year old son of the school's secretary, exchange emails with the other students, and smell the blossoms of the flowering trees that overhang our table for the last time. Of course I could spend hours writing about the many amazing people I have encountered in Poppi, as well as all the art, history and culture I have absorbed from the town and its surrounding region. But I'd rather not get nostalgic yet, for I hope to visit Poppi for many years to come.

Initial reactions to Butler's novel
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-11-02 17:00:53
Link to this Comment: 3484

Butler's Lauren Olamina is a preacher's daughter stretched to her emotional limits by the collapse of society and her empathetic powers to feel the pain around her. To reconstruct some reason and structure worth having, she invents Earthseed. Once real within her, Earthseed itself takes root and takes over. It drives her through the rest of the plot --from preparation for the massacre of her community, through the hellish, dogged crusade north. She and her Earthseed evolve opportunistically to condone the ways of life on the "outside" in order to create fertile soil for resurrection of a viable society down the road.

The only way I can make sense of Olamina (temporarily?) abandoning her father's morals and values, is to see Earthseed as the basis for a new value system – one she enacts. "God is Change" becomes "Change Is", and God is left suspended during the transioning intermission between society's past and the need to find some framework for society's future.

Do I think her version of chaos and anarchy is possible? Of course. It is a materialistic society trapped by the effects of its own excesses -- from global warming to greedy politicians. It's not hard to imagine our baroque systems of artificial checks and balances imploding under the weight of out-of-balance natural systems, sent spiraling downward by an accumulation of myopic materialism. It's easy. In fact, in this regard, I think her descriptions and situations are tame.

The whole business of hyperempathy syndrome gives Olamina a moral high ground for her necessary acts of violence. If she kills, she does so with the knowledge that it's going to hurt both parties. She is physically experiencing her perception of what's happening to others. The perception can materialize only from knowledge and beliefs already within her. She does not feel that which she has not learned to imagine.

Bottom line for me is that Butler's characters are telling us that hope is more critical to survival as "people" than any other commodity or state. If we cannot, really cannot hope, we will not survive. In that "deep play", the ends are justifying the means and what seems absurd is starkly sane in the moment.

In the context of this class, I find it most interesting that I haphazardly managed to link her story to Bentham's notion of deep play – without too much of a stretch. I'll be pushing on this rope for the next assignment (Paper #3). I find Butler's novel isolating – what's going on in the rest of the world as this unfolds!? Not knowing, not addressing that seems artificial and derailed me more than once during the reading.

Octavia Butler's Vision
Name: Elena Weyg
Date: 2002-11-02 22:44:43
Link to this Comment: 3485

Elena Weygandt
Draft A: Parable of the Sower
Professor Hayley Thomas
November 4th, 2002

Octavia Butler's Vision

In Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler brings the fires of hell to earth in questioning the extent to which faith can endure in the souls of humans. Laura, the protagonist who grows up in a neighborhood which resembles one of the such circles of hell, takes it upon herself to explore the urgency of her will's demand to make sense out of the continual devastation that plagues the world. She believes that religion can guide her to a state of internal peace, but struggles to discover in which doctrine that faith rests. In the gruesome squalor of her surroundings she asserts that God is embedded in change, and from this foundation, she embarks on an expedition to discover the source of this divine form of transcendence.
This prevalent theme of dramatic changing is reflected in the structure of the novel by the contrasting stories that Butler tells of Laura in the beginning as compared to what is assumed of Laura's final resolution. The underlying distinction between Laura's two strategies in figuring out how to find hope in this horrifying world lies in the role of responsibility. In the beginning of the novel, Laura insists that she must be the one to carry this heavy burden of leadership and guidance upon her shoulders, as illustrated by her desperate grabbing for possible solutions to her predicament. Throughout the novel, however, it becomes overwhelming apparent that she is fighting in an undeclared war for not salvation or independence, as many refugees, but for merely existing. She cannot fight alone, also, and gathers an alliance along her path, and thus her dependence upon others to further her cause actually becomes her agenda. She changes from an abandoned girl with an emergency pack and notebook on her thoughts about religion, to a founder of a community that represents Earthseed, Laura's idea of the change in which God can be found.
In the beginning of the novel, Laura cannot be blamed for not wanting to look for any source of faith in her hideous exterior surroundings. Her own father is a Baptist minister who preaches "Thou shalt not kill" while vowing to never leave the home without a loaded gun. What makes her further hesitant to commit her soul to one established belief is the unjustifiable destiny of a female astronaut, Laura's hero, who dies on Mars but, against her wishes, was not buried on the planet in which she invested her faith. In response, Laura observes her father and role model, these tragic and heroic figures, to be "victims of God" (27), and from their examples, she declares herself to be a "shaper of God" (27), and thus take the full responsibility for her destiny.
As the novel progresses, and Laura leaves her home which has been demolished by the rampant gangs of pyromaniacs, and travels northward to find a place where she can survive, she finds people to trust amongst the terrifying chaos. The importance in this eventual discovery points out the fault that lies her insistence upon self-preservation and thus changes Laura's manifestation. Rather than shape the image of God for her own desire, she contrives a set of beliefs that can also render order and hope to those who offer open hearts. Thus, her role as the shaper expands into that of a prophet, and she scribbles the passages of her newfound religion into the holy book of her Earthseed journal. She no longer begs the world to provide her guidance; the world, rather, needs someone with the integrity of Laura to light a way. Laura recognizes the poisoned state of the earth, cast on haunting spells of slavery, racism, plague and pillage. She also realizes that she will run forever in terror in search of a haven. The only way for her to ever reach safe ground, is to make a refuge. The establishment of such a place cannot be done on her own but rather by risking her preservation and in so doing, seek trust in others. Indeed, she is the only character in the book who forms relationships in hopes of helping others, rather than in strictly satisfying selfish needs of lust, money, protection and nourishment. In so doing, she reintroduces the Golden Rule to a world that for some time has rejected it and provides hope for a peaceful form of unity.
Thus, Laura's agency, or self-motivation, has transformed from the desire to preserve her life and find a personal God, to providing others with a belief around which to unite. Comparing two of Laura's self-righteous statements from the beginning and end of the novel illustrates the extent of Laura's personal growth concerning divine guidance. Back in her neighborhood, she despondently announces how she is tired of allowing religion to control her motivation: "At least three years ago, my father's God stopped being my God. My God has another name." She calls Him change, but never describes the story of this change. Rather, by the end of the novel, it is discovered that her expedition to seek "the truth," that this act, actually embodies this divine version of Change. On page 270, after being separated from Bankole, a man whom she has risked loving and trusting, she vehemently says to him, "Where were you, man and fellow sharer, while your woman and your group were in danger." This statement illustrates her urgency in the commitment to one another. Her transformed manifestation distinguishes a god that exists in herself, and which can grow and become divine to others when she reaches out to put faith in others. She and Bankole, thus, amongst the symbolic sturdy and everlasting Red Wood trees, settle, not a church, but a community. All the members risk their lives in this settlement, but in doing so, they prove their desire to unify for an unselfish common good where despite the apocalyptic circumstances, people can live in harmony.

2nd batch of initial thoughts about Butler's novel
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-11-03 07:47:23
Link to this Comment: 3487

My apologies for thinking in fragments this weekend:-) I came away from posting yesterday feeling that there were still more question marks caught in the creases of my brain. Some of them rattled loose overnight and are ready to follow the first batch.

I've been thinking about the old (Bible, Mark 4:3-41) parable of the sower and how it relates to what we've been doing in our CSEM cluster: "Hearken, Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

The first part of the parable (above), tells the story as we are asked to believe that the Son of God told it.

"And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? And how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word."

The next part (above) is a story about the story. In effect, he is telling his audience why and how to use storytelling to communicate, to connect. He has begun with literal and figurative mother of all parables to teach an important lesson within a lesson. This passage carries great weight; "Unto you is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God;" ... you who have received the light and are now responsible to share it with others.

"And these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: Afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred."

Why do we need stories? Why can't we just as effectively explain stuff? Because the point of communicating –music, writing, performance, painting– is to deliver messages to an audience in ways through which they are willing to receive them. If I ever become a good writer, it will be entirely because you are a good reader in my presence. The Lord has identified some serious risks and impacts if he fails to influence his audience, so he is teaching a communications method: the importance of storytelling.

I could not get past Butler's choice for the title of the book. Why not call it "Earthseed"? I don't have an acceptable answer yet. I am also revisiting old, constrained notions about the role of science fiction, in particular, as means for storytelling in familiar social contexts, as commentary.

Parable of the Sower response
Name: Abigail Br
Date: 2002-11-03 13:26:15
Link to this Comment: 3495

Lauren Olamina's desolate world that is full of misery and devoid of hope is terrifying. When reading Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower, I couldn't imagine that a world similar to the one she describes could actually exist. Unfortunately, Lauren's America, which is only twenty years in the future, resembles our present world more than I cared to admit while reading her story.

Perhaps I was shocked while reading because I come from a small town with one of the lowest crime rates in the state. I have two parents who love me and I have never been personally affected by any sort of major tragedy. My parents look out for my every need and my childhood was happy and relatively stress free, minus the occasional standardized test or college application, as I eased into adulthood. Lauren and I couldn't be more different if we were making a conscious effort. Her life is full of turmoil, she never knows from one moment to the next if her house will be ransacked, and she has a survival pack ready in case she needs to run at a moment's notice. As a result, Lauren acts and thinks years older than her teenage self. Though her maturity is certainly useful for handling emergencies, it is a shame that she had to lose here innocence at such a young age due to the unsafe environment in which she lives.

When reading The Parable of the Sower, I didn't realize just how closely the world described mirrors our own because my world looks nothing remotely similar. However, when it was mentioned in class that this world of the future draws many parallels to our own, I started to think of the poor communities in this country and of other countries that are torn apart by war. Only then did I realize that the fear of leaving one's house, the constant threat of rape and murder, and the scarcity of water, food, and jobs is a reality for a sizable portion of people on Earth every day. This realization and the fact that I hadn't noticed it sooner scared me. I couldn't believe that I was so naïve that I hadn't realized the severity of current world conditions. It's not that I thought that all was well with the world and didn't realize that many people have lives full of misery, but I never took the time to seriously consider just what life would be like in such an environment. Ms. Butler's description of this futuristic world was so vivid that this world of the future started to come alive. I'm not sure that I would have been strong enough to survive in this world that Lauren was forced to call home.

Lauren, on the other hand, does manage to survive. She has her Earthseed beliefs, which certainly are a central theme of her life. It makes sense that she created this system of thought that isn't quite grounded in her surrounding world, since her world is a living hell. This belief that there is something more than misery and that "God is Change" helped Lauren survive, gave her the strength to do so, and justified her actions as the struggled to survive. I am not spiritual in any sense of the word, and I wonder if Lauren could have managed to survive had it not been for Earthseed. It's interesting that Ms. Butler chose a spiritual theme as Lauren's guide for survival. Perhaps she was commenting that the majority of society doesn't believe in anything more than that which they can see. Maybe her message is that the answer to a better society lies in the belief of something beyond material human creations. I am curious as to Ms. Butler's precise motives behind choosing the Earthseed belief system as the one thing that helped Lauren to survive. Is she suggesting that people who don't believe in something more than the surrounding world can't survive catastrophes or too callous to care about their fellow man?

It was mentioned in class that this story is of a similar format to the Anne Sexton fairy tales we read, as the heroine is young, has an evil stepmother, and has the power to save herself from a dire situation rather than waiting for her prince to drag her away from the muck. I didn't think of this connection when I was reading the story either, probably because if it is indeed a fairy tale, it is cleverly disguised in a modern day setting. I'm not sure if I agree with this point of view. This story does share some common elements with fairy tales, but whether this makes it a fairy tale in its own right is debatable. Lauren was the main character of the novel, but I think the main theme was more about Earthseed rather than Lauren as a heroine. After all, she wanted to create an Earthseed community to spread the Earthseed beliefs. She never advocated that believers in Earthseed should refer back to her as if she were a heroine. On the other hand, in true heroine form, she might simply be humble, but I'll have to do some thinking before I accept the fairy tale connection to this story.

Parable of the Sower was an upsetting, yet eye opening story. The stories that have the most important messages are the ones that can't be sugar-coated, no matter how painful it is to read them. I wonder how we can prevent Lauren's world from becoming a reality in the places where living in hell is an abstract concept. Perhaps more important is to rescue the places where hell on earth is the status quo.

Thoughts on Parable of the Sower
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-11-03 15:20:56
Link to this Comment: 3498

Octavia Butler's novel, Parable of the Sower, is a tale of a young girl, Lauren, living in a world barely recognizable from our own due to the extreme poverty and great disorder. When I first read this novel, I was intrigued by the way the author described this new world. It seemed so realistic and possible. I enjoy science fiction and really latched on to Lauren's empathy. I thought that was a very interesting spin. I liked how it was presented throughout the novel. Reading this book was a very similar experience to most of the novels I read. I liked immersing myself into Lauren's life. Seeing how difficult her life and world are made me feel better about my own situation. The hopelessness of her situation made mine seem more approachable.
The most interesting part of this novel, to me, was how Lauren's world seemed so believable. It's hard to imagine the world we now live in becoming that world, but this book really made it quite clear. It seemed like the United States had almost reverted into a primitive society where communities had to work together to survive and stragglers were often picked off because of the kill or be killed attitude. The only difference in this society was that it had guns and drugs which made the fighting more deadly and chaotic. The only problem was that the book fails to adequately explain how the world became what it was. That gap in logic made Lauren's world, at times, seem a bit unrealistic.
This story reminded me of our discussions on truths and how one gets from one truth to another. In this book, there has been an obvious shift from the world we know today to a more destitute and hopeless version. Lauren comes up with an entirely new religion, Earthseed, in order to help explain the change. The main principle of her faith is that God is change. Reading this book, I find myself asking similar questions that we were discussing around Flatland and Foucault. How did this change occur? Could it be changed again? Earthseed itself is a new idea that Lauren is attempting to institute into society. It's interesting to see who was accepting of her idea and who rejected it. Joanne, for example, was not able to accept any of Lauren's ideas. She was trying to convince herself of the comfort and security of their neighborhood and didn't want to even think about the possibilities of it being gone. Those who were more accepting of Lauren's thoughts were those who had nothing to lose. The people she met on the road found comfort in Earthseed because they had nothing else. This would suggest that those in desperate situations are more prone to accept new truths.
One of Lauren's main focuses throughout the book is on survival. She is constantly asking herself is she can survive in this savage world. She wants to know if it is possible to live in the world she finds herself in. She wants to know if she can change her situation to make this survival more likely. In the end, Lauren is able to adjust to her surroundings and take control of them rather then letting them control her. She works with what is given to her, at times going with the flow and sometimes going against the norm. For example, she goes against the law of the wild that seems to have taken over the world, by helping others when they are down instead of pushing them over and taking their belongings. In doing this, she gains a small following. By the end they have formed a community. This seems to be the start to overcoming the adversities in the world. This book is begging a sequel to determine whether or not Lauren is really able to change the story.

Parable of the Sower
Name: Alex Frize
Date: 2002-11-03 15:25:30
Link to this Comment: 3499

Alexandria Frizell
College Seminar
Professor Grobstein
November 4, 2002

Octavia Butler The Parable of the Sower

On first glimpse of Octavia Butler's novel Parable of the Sower, I did not think I would enjoy the book. The cover and the summary on the back of the book sounded boring and strange. It simply wasn't my cup of tea. Once I began to read, however, the book drew me in. I could not put it down. There were many issues raised, including that of the Earthseed religion that greatly interested me and caused me to love the novel.

I am usually not a fan of science fiction literature. I watch my fair share of Star Trek, but reading science fiction never really appealed to me. Parable of the Sower looked at first to be a science fiction novel that would not interest me. The summary on the back did not attract me. However, I tried to keep and open mind when I opened the book. To my surprise, I loved it from the very beginning. It was very well written. The topic of the future, which interests me a great deal, was very well represented, unlike the description had seemed to me at first glance. Laura was a believable narrator whom I could trust. Butler's writing really made me want to know what happened next.

Earthseed is a very interesting issue presented in Parable of the Sower. Earthseed is a religion that the narrator, Laura Olamina, created. The basis of the religion is God is change. It is very interesting to me that Laura had the necessity to create this religion. Her father was a preacher, and Laura herself even preached in his place a few times. However, she did not feel fulfilled by her father's religion. Laura felt that the world that she lived in needed a new kind of God. "God would have to be a power that could not be defiled by anyone or anything." (195). Laura also believed that God was not a supernatural being, but an ongoing action. She also believed that God could be shaped (197).

Earthseed raises many questions. Could such a God really exist? It is very difficult to view a God not as a supernatural being but more of an idea. That in itself is a conflict- could not a supernatural being be considered an idea? We cannot see God, only the effects of God (depending on one's beliefs). We cannot see an idea, only the effects of an idea. In Earthseed, God is not the all-knowing deity that watches over us but yet the change that affects us. One can shape God to one's own needs.

Earthseed is very different from other religions in that it is not a written story. Christianity has the Bible, Islam the Koran, and Judaism the Torah. Followers of these religions read from these works and base their lives and worship from the stories and lessons presented within them. Earthseed is more of an ongoing story. Laura has many times revised her "Earthseed: The Books of the Living". When new lessons are learned, they are added to the story. When old ideas seem to be irrelevant, they are modified. One can shape what their God means to them and what lessons they take or add to the story. The story of Earthseed is change, much like the story of our lives is change.

Earthseed is also explanatory. Laura's world is horrible. She loses everything that is dear to her, and she lives in constant pain. She must venture out on her own, committing crimes in self defense to survive and deciding who she can and cannot trust. Earthseed gives Laura an explanation as to why this could have happened to her and what she can do for the future. It gives her many options. God is change, and change is necessary. Laura must start over. She must create a new and better world for herself through an Earthseed community.

In conclusion, Earthseed is a religion created by Laura Olamina in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. It is a different religion based on ideas rather than supernatural beings. It is a collection of ever-changing stories, as opposed to stories that are set in stone like other religions. God is Change.

Works Cited
Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Sower. New York: Warner Books Inc, 1993.

first reactions butler's parable of the sower
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-11-03 18:30:19
Link to this Comment: 3503

"God is change." I think a lot about God. My father always taught me that God was this benevolent, loving being up in heaven. Whenever I questioned this he would give me that smile that said: one day when you are older you will understand, as if he were enlightened and KNEW. The fundamentalist ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel have a view of what God is, and I bet that if you questioned that view they would give you the same smile that my father gives me. The only thing that I KNOW about God is that I know nothing about who or what God is. To make concrete statements about God there must be a common definition that we can all work from. But the fact that I know nothing about God makes it impossible to make a definition. I think that most people have some sort of definition of God in their heads. For some this definition changes and for others it is stagnant.
There are so many people who profess to KNOW God. I think this is because most people are scared when they think about how big the universe is. If they are not sure of what they think of God then the universe's organization totters. People like to believe that if they do good deeds they will be rewarded, without this reward why do good? People must have incentive to do good deeds. God organizes this chaos.
Before one begins a conversation about God we must discuss our definitions, whether solid of fluid, of God. Lauren, from Octavia Butler's novel Parables of the Sower, defines God as change. The only constant in her world is change; the only thing she can be sure of is change. The God in Lauren's world is something that orders the universe. Lauren's God is not a being with feelings. Change is perfect objectivity. Because Lauren knows that things will happen randomly, that change does not pick and choose whom to effect, she can rely on randomness knowing that she cannot affect it. She can live her life without regret. This overpowering force of God, almighty change, comforts her.
I think it is so interesting that throughout history people have chosen to believe that there is some overpowering force out in space called God. For Lauren this ruling power that fills space is change. For some this power is everywhere, as it is for Lauren; change is something that is here on earth with us, in every step we take, every breath. For others this power is outside of us and the world, in a place that is beyond. Maybe this common trend throughout history is due to the ever-prevalent sentiment that we are all lost in this vast, cruel, impersonal world. My father's theory of God speaks to this kind of world. People create a personal God because they feel that nature is too objective. Lauren, in The Parable of the Sower, does just the opposite by creating a random God but does it for the same reason. To Lauren the world is cruel but she comforts herself by creating a God who is responsible for the cruelty.

About Butler's Literary style. You ask: what was the experience of reading the novel been like for you? Truly? It made me want to vomit. I have a very imagistic mind. I like being read to and seeing the images that I hear. I love watching stories told in films. So, when I hear lines like, "a big black and white dog came wandering down toward our camp with the fresh-looking, bloody hand and forearm of a child in it's mouth" (p.243), my initial reaction is to want to vomit because I can see it. the dog is approaching me in my head, he saunters, the blood stains his white fur, a trickle of drool mixes with the blood that drips from his mouth. Who can see that and doesn't get sick? That is my initial reaction. Her writing is so vivid, colorful, real; it makes her story believable. Her story is so pessimistic and because it is so realistic it scares me: maybe this is our future. I ache to think that this is our future. I want to burn this book, but at the same time I want everyone to read it and know that we all must ache for each other, like Lauren, unless this desolation will wash over and create a desert of humankind.

First Impression of Parable of the Sower
Name: rachel ste
Date: 2002-11-03 21:01:10
Link to this Comment: 3504

Rachel Steinberg
Questions, Intuitions, and Revisions
November 4, 2002

Parable Of The Sower

When I first picked up Parable Of The Sower, I did not even know what the words in the title meant (except "of" and "the"). I have now learned that a parable is a simple story illustrating a moral truth and that a sower is someone who scatters something abroad. Thus, it is clear that my interest was not sparked immediately when I saw it. I was also turned off by the fact that on the spine of the book it said "science fiction". Science fiction is my least favorite genre. I have never found it interesting; in fact I always thought it was too technical and boring. However, reading Octavia Butler has changed my impression of what science fiction is, and I actually loved Parable of the Sower.

Science fiction is, according to, a literary or cinematic genre in which fantasy, typically based on speculative scientific discoveries or developments, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets, forms part of the plot or background. I would say that Butler's novel definitely falls under this description. The United States in the future goes through severe environmental changes due to extreme poverty and violence. This makes up the background context for the novel. However, the sense that I get from reading Parable is not one of scientific development, or in the case of Butler's work, lack thereof.

The novel focuses on Lauren Olamina, a teenager struggling to survive in a dangerous poverty stricken country. She has developed a religion to comfort her and her followers, Earthseed. One does not generally assume that religion and science go hand in hand. In fact, there is generally much argument between religious figures and scientists. It is surprising that a science fiction novel would center around a religion, and a made-up one at that. When I saw the spine I was disappointed, and then when I saw the back cover and noticed that it said in huge bold letters "God Is Change", I was very confused. I cannot draw the connection between science and religion, and I would in fact consider them opposites. Science uses evidence and tests to support its theories and is always changing, while religion follows what may have happened in the past and generally stays the same. Reading so much about religion, I was not given the impression that this was a science fiction novel.

I was also surprised at the amount of character development. The reason why I have not liked science fiction in the past is due to to the lack of personality in it. However, in Parable of the Sower, Lauren and her entire neighborhood are the basis for the novel. It is not so much the science but the people that Butler focuses on, and this was something I had never experienced when reading a science fiction book. All that I have read have tended to focus on the technical details rather than personal relationships, and I found these more interesting when reading a novel for pleasure.

Octavia Butler's type of science fiction made me happy. I was expecting a long, boring read, but I was pleased with her style of writing. Although there are some characteristics of science fiction writing, there are also items in the novel that I find interesting. I like how the personal lives of the families are intricately involved in the plot, and I also like the juxtaposition of science and religion. Butler did a great job of convincing me that science fiction can be appealing, even to those who are not necessarily science fanatics. My first impression of the novel has been a positive one, and this has astonished me.

Reading of Butler's novel- Draft B
Name: Lim Xuan-S
Date: 2002-11-03 21:40:34
Link to this Comment: 3505

Section under Dean Thomas... Draft B: On 'Parable of the Sower'

Butler's novel is another version of 'that story' Anne Sexton refers to in her poem1. The story of escape from misery and chaos, the story of hope and deliverance, the story of freedom and happiness, 'that story'. The haunting familiar story I have told myself when I knew what unhappiness meant, when I was struggling to establish a sense of identity, when I was searching for God. Butler's story is a new train running on old tracks. Her perspective is not unique, but I guess this is not where she is headed for. Instead, Butler is revisiting old grounds, and the passing scenery she paints is a reminder of the part of journey we have left behind us.

Like Olamina, we all lived in our own walls of fear. It is the fear of the unknown, of being alone against the world. Olamina's experience reminds me of my growing up story, when I was torn between the desire to seek out connections with the dangerous world and the fear of breaking out of my security zone. That familiar feeling of oppression within the family, counterbalanced by the need for safety and shelter that comes with staying together in a community. Only not all of us are as fortunate as Olamina to be pushed out into the world, to be blessed with the strength and courage that is demanded of us to thrive in similar circumstances.

I read in Butler's novel a story of hope, midst all the apparent despair. I like Olamina. Her hyper-empathy 'illness' should not be mistaken to be hypocrisy. I think Butler has skillfully woven this in, ironically, to make Olamina a fuller and more realistic character. I doubt she was trying to make Olamina an angel who yields a scythe but rather, as an individual struggling to deal with her own issues of insecurity. The story shows Olamina coming to terms with her weakness and insecurity. Many of us are guilty of thinking one thing, while doing other. This self-awareness that Olamina possesses is commendable. Why are we critical of Olamina and her motives when we are generous with the judgments we made about ourselves?

Opening the book, I found myself being drawn in by Butler's style of writing. Her choice to speak through journal entries reaches out to the voyeur in me. I expect the material to be personal and reflective. This relates to the insider/outsider concept we have been talking about in the anthropological writings. Butler is Silko, Geertz, and Janet all meshed into one. To be able to achieve objectivity, we have to stepped in and be involved, and then retreat to a distance that allows us to take in the entire picture. The transparency of Olamina's thoughts, together with her self-awareness, aid the reader in this process. It is not a new story that Butler wants to tell, but many old stories. Through Olamina's journey to spread Earthseed and create a new community, Butler craftily draws together a network of other stories: the story of pain and loss, of trust and loyalty, of belief and reality, to list a few.

Susan Griffin wrote, "How to tell a story without fashioning it along the prefabricated lines?....we are immersed in an old story and cannot see what is happening."2 Maybe we are unable to extricate ourselves from this old story, the dreary story of life. We can see what is happening only through the stories of other people, and the stories we tell ourselves upon hindsight. When we try to tell our story as we experience it concurrently, we are often blinded. I read in Olamina's adventure semblances of my own stories. I see overlapping areas between Olamina's past and mine. I share a dream similar to Olamina's. Was I unconsciously seeking to connect with the character or is there no way we could fashion a story 'along the prefabricated lines'?

After reading Butler's novel, I felt I have known Olamina. I was sitting on the train next to her, both of us oblivious to each other's presence. We were, however, looking out of the same window. In a sense, we are searching for similar things along the way: love, freedom, and a sense of belonging. But because this is Olamina's ride and not mine, I am able to make judgments about her, what she did right or wrong. I am the insider who understands where she is coming from, but I am also the outsider whom she would have to try to convince about her idea of Earthseed.

1 Sexton, Anne. Transformations.
2 Griffin, Susan. A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War. New York: Anchor, 1992. 284, 324. Quote from College Seminar material.

Name: samea
Date: 2002-11-03 21:40:39
Link to this Comment: 3506

If everybody had suffered from Lauren Olamina's hyperempathy, would the world be a more peaceful and safer place? I suppose it could be, but I honestly, don't think so. In the world today, everyone may not have hyperempathy; nevertheless, we still live in a world where others can experience the pain that they put people through. Many would agree – emotional pain is far greater than physical. Along the same lines, everyone can feel the emotional pain they put others through, why do they choose to do it? In my own experiences, whenever I put anyone through hurt or pain, I feel unbelievably guilt and regret for my actions, and most of the time I try my hardest not to hurt others.
That feeling stays with me. If I hurt someone, I feel as though I am experiencing their pain, as if there's no way to fix it, unless I fix my mistake. Lauren Olamina had only one way of escaping her hyperempathy pain, and that would be to shoot the person from which she was experiencing such hurt, because that would end the suffering of both her source and herself. In the same way, when I feel someone is bringing pain upon me, I would do what it takes in order to ensure the end. I would try to alleviate someone else's sorrow in any way possible, without necessarily killing the individual that is.
The saying goes, "What goes around comes around," and I definitely agree. The world is not kind, and that is because its citizens have made it that way. Everyone needs to recognize that when they hurt another, the pain will eventually find its way back to the source. Some people will choose to ignore the pain and blame others for it, nevertheless, when it comes down to it, each is the creator of his or her own pain. Everyone has hurt another and in the end, their pain just catches up with him or her. Everybody has the ability to feel the pain of another, yet they still find inflict hurt upon others. Whether everyone was inflicted with hyperempathy or not, the situation would still remain the same.

Name: samea
Date: 2002-11-03 21:41:03
Link to this Comment: 3507

My primary instinct led to me to try and relate to one of the characters in the novel. I'm not a natural leader, so Lauren was immediately out of the picture. Sadly enough, the one character that I could understand was Lauren's closest friend Joanne. I wondered; if I was in the same position as she was in, what would I have done? Lauren poured her heart and soul into what she had to say to Joanne, and told her things that would leave anyone at emotional unrest. So the question remained in my mind, how would I have reacted? Would I have also run to my parents and feared, ultimately denied, the unfamiliar? Or would I have stood by my friend and been willing to open my eyes to a future that I probably knew was inevitable. Unfortunately, the answer was clear to me.
Although I may not run to my parents, I know that it would be hard for me to accept something that I feared. No matter what, I knew that I would avoid any misfortunes by ignoring them, probably until it was too late. I realized that in The Parable of the Sower, the odds of me being a survivor were slim to none. I would have never bothered to prepare myself for such a fate. Fear would drive me from thinking about anything that caused discomfort, no matter how realistic it may have been.
If there was one lesson I could learn from this novel, it is that a life lived in fear is basically a life lived towards death. I would have miserably fallen to my death along with the rest of the town because fear would have kept me from living a prepared lifestyle. Octavia Butler drove home a point, for me, that a life of fear is hardly a life at all, and my fear will ultimately become my downfall until I push myself beyond it.

Parable of the Sower
Name: Bridget Do
Date: 2002-11-04 09:09:23
Link to this Comment: 3515

In Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, the quality of life in the United States is rapidly decreasing. A young woman, Lauren Olamina, is consciously aware of the change and seems to be one of the few to realize how terrible things will probably become. She has different ideas than her family and community about things like life and religion, and her ideas cause her to create her own belief system. She calls her new faith Earthseed, and when she is forced to leave her home she uses its teachings to survive the journey with several companions and start a new colony.

It seems very logical for her to question her father's Christian faith because it is the same faith that people held as the world fell apart, making it appear useless. The God she believes in is not like the God her father believes in. She believes in a creator, and she believes that the creator leaves it up to a man to determine his own future. She believes as man shapes his life he also shapes God to best suit what he needs. The words "God is change" are those which appear most frequently when she does write Earthseed verses. This God appreciates all change a man brings for his own behalf.

The logic of the poetry she writes is intriguing. It is very simple, yet reflects a deep level of understanding oneself and the environment. I find it very creative and fascinating. I do not know how the author wished readers to react to the book of Earthseed. Perhaps she wished people to observe with interest, like I did, or perhaps she wished for people to become enlightened. The latter seems less likely because she did place the writings in a fictional novel rather than publishing them in a real book of Earthseed and starting her own religion.

I can understand how some people would feel enlightened by Earthseed. It provokes a lot of thought and might even cause a person to question the beliefs he's long held about God and life.

It didn't enlighten me. I think that several years ago it would have, when I was questioning the role of God and religion in my life. The concept of believing in a god but having complete control of and responsibility for my own life was approximately what I believed and why I would have related to Lauren Olamia very well. Now I know that although some components of Christianity might seem illogical and bizarre, the faith serves a very important purpose in my life and probably serves a similar purpose in the lives of others.

There are many changes in my life, good and bad. My faith is the one thing which does remain consistent. God is who I go to for support when I am troubled and who I thank when things go well for me. I need my faith to be solid and unwavering, unlike the majority of things in life. Believing in a god who is as unstable as I am would not be as beneficial to me as a god who knows all the answers and leads me toward them when I ask for guidance. I am not saying this is better or worse than a god who changes, it's just different. That is one of the amazing things about religion: a person can interpret it however he chooses to fill his needs.

This book is wonderful because readers can relate to it on so many different levels. A person doesn't have to hold the same beliefs as Earthseed to understand Lauren Olamina and appreciate the story. When I was younger I would have empathized with her restlessness about Christianity and need to find the answers, now I empathize with her increased security as she discovers the place for faith in her life.

Rocket Ride
Name: Kim Cadena
Date: 2002-11-04 15:41:19
Link to this Comment: 3519

Fiction is the art of making stuff up. Science fiction is the art of making stuff that happens in the future up. Hence, the large amount of science fiction that takes place in space with space ships and lasers and stuff. It all screams 'futuristic' and 'cool,' doesn't it? Or so most sci-fi writers think.

Actually, that's not accurate. Science fiction isn't always telling stories of the future. In fact, a better definition of science fiction would be a story in which there is at least major element which is radically different than what is currently found on Earth. A major element is something that affects the plot in a large way. If hover-cars are included in the story but have no effect on the day-to-day life of the major characters, then they are not a major element of the story. In Ursula LeGuin's novel The Left Hand of Darkness, space travel is mentioned in passing, but the major element of the plot is the genderless aliens who are the focus of the story. The story isn't about space travel, it's about how the lack of gender in society has changed the social organization of the aliens.

Now that science fiction has been defined, it's time to discuss whether it can be Literature. This means Literature must be defined. Most people would define Literature the way Mark Twain defined a classic: something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read. This definition doesn't take in account that Literature needs to be read to stay alive. The definition proposed here is a book that is more than the sum of its parts. That is to say, a book that transcends its plot, its characters, its setting, its theme, and its prose to present to the reader something that can be learned from every time it is read. With a definition like that, science fiction can easily be considered literature because there are many science fiction novels that do transcend all of those things.

A quick side note should be mentioned at this point: namely, that the science fiction novels that fit most easily into the definition of Literature presented here are usually the ones with the fewest major elements. The only difference between modern society and that of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is the continued fertility of modern women. The rest of the society that Atwood creates scans perfectly, with each change in society logically proceeding from her major element. By introducing one or two changes into a society, yet making those changes resonate through out the society and affect every aspect of life, the author can create something radically different yet understandable to the reader. Great science fiction authors work with many elements easily to create Literature, but novels jammed with rocket ships and lasers and beautiful aliens normally don't have such believable social structures, because the author was distracted by the fun he was having playing with his toys.

Given the definitions of science fiction and Literature that have been laid down thus far, the focus of this essay can now be turned on The Parable of The Sower. The question of whether or not it could be considered science fiction is problematic because while it does contain elements that are not currently found on Earth, these elements are not necessarily major parts of the plot. Lauren's hyper-empathy, for instance, is part of the story but not something that shapes the plot. The drug pyro could be considered a major element, but the presence of its users and their role in the story smacks of deus ex machina. The users are not characters in any sense; they simply exist to advance the plot and narrow down the choices of the characters. The anarchy that is the future America could arguably considered a major element, depending on whether or not one thinks that the decaying infrastructure that Butler describes is sufficiently different from life as it is currently known. Parable contains many things that almost make it science fiction, but don't quite cross the line. For the purposes of this essay however, it will be considered sci-fi, the total sum of its near misses being great enough to put it into science fiction territory.

So it is science fiction. Is it Literature? Using the definition of Literature, it doesn't seem that way. There is no transcendence of its parts to become something more, just a story with a plot and characters and a theme of accepting and dealing with change. There are no great truths about humanity revealed through the interactions of the characters and their environment. There is no catharsis and there isn't really even a climax. Something new might be gleaned from with multiple readings, but those would probably be plot details, not hidden insights. A valiant attempt, but not Literature.

The question now is, what is The Parable of the Sower if it is not Literature and barely qualifies as science fiction? Dystopian future fiction seems to cover it, encompassing the pessimistic future portrayed. The case could also be made that it is adventure fiction, a romance, and religious literature because it is each of those things at times. The most precise definition would be a romantic adventure in the dystopian future with religious overtones. This is still not exact, but it covers the most bases. The Parable has now been precisely defined. Neither science fiction nor Literature, it was probably pleasing to most members of the class because it was not exactly one thing. The combination of known elements with more exotic ones (the sci-fi type bits) made it appealing. It would have been better had it been Literature as it was defined here, but it was palatable without being so.

Earthseed in Parable of the Sower
Name: Gwenyth Ca
Date: 2002-11-04 17:24:39
Link to this Comment: 3522

All my life I have never known a relationship with God, if there is a God. I do not attend religious services. I do not have faith or worship God. I do not believe I was created by God. I do not expect that God is watching over me. However, I do not feel as if something is missing from my life. The reason for all of this has been the choice of my parents to avoid organized religion. Their sentiments have been passed to me and I am left in a slightly uncomfortable position. Do I really feel at-ease with this element missing from my life? Or do I just think I am because I do not know any better or have not been taught to include it? This is an interesting concept and certainly one I have thought about.

Despite the lack of religion in my life, I can identify with the concepts put forth of "Earthseed" in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. Earthseed is not exactly an "organized religion," but more of a loose gathering of very general ideas about God. God is simply a force that is shaped and changed by every individual. God does not look after us, God did not necessarily create us, and we do not worship God. Clearly, the similarities in this collection of beliefs and my own are quite striking. Earthseed presents me with an opportunity to explore and guide my beliefs without robbing me of the chance to deviate from a detailed doctrine.

I have never liked most religions because I refuse to comply with a specific set of beliefs which contain views that I, myself, do not agree with. Seeing as most religions are composed of such a detailed list of principles, it is difficult for me to accept any specific religion. Many people today are willing to pick and choose among the many ideas that different religions hold and simply choose the religion with which they "most agree." Earthseed is a religion (if it can even be labeled as such) that leaves so much room for interpretation, that I would feel completely comfortable in following. I would be allowed to have my own perceptions of God, the universe, and my place in it.

Another aspect of Earthseed which was so attractive to me was the significant role of change. I believe that change is healthy, necessary, and inevitable. I expect and welcome change. With every new experience, my views and attitudes change. Therefore, it only seems natural to me that God should change as well. This is the most basic and central idea of Earthseed and it is the very first idea stated in the book.

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

Is Change.


Being a person who embraces change, Earthseed is an ideal way to be spiritual without labeling or making permanent my ever-changing thoughts.

Initially, Earthseed seemed ambiguous, impermanent, and meaningless in the literal sense that it lacked definite "meaning." I then began to realize that my own thoughts of God were the same way. Throughout the novel, it is continually being shaped and built upon. At the end, we are not sure that Lauren is finished constructing the religion itself. Earthseed is essentially a way to explain that it is perfectly acceptable to not know all the answers, to change the answers you think you know, and continually search for new ones. And that is just what I needed to hear.

Hope for the Future in Parable of the Sower
Name: Adina
Date: 2002-11-04 17:35:42
Link to this Comment: 3523

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler is a novel that describes a degenerating future of despair. When reading it, I often felt as if the future, as Butler told it, was depressing, pointless, and without hope. However, as the story progressed and I got used to reading about things that in my sheltered life seemed horrible and disgusting, I was able to gain some hope from the novel. Lauren Olamina, the protagonist, is a hyperempathist and is forced to feel the pain and pleasure of others. Perhaps it is this pain and empathy that causes her to help others. The group in which she travels, by helping others, grows in numbers and these sheer numbers and caring for one another is what causes it to grow strong and ultimately to survive. The novel's ending, though uncertain, is also filled with hope.

Lauren suffers from a condition known as hyperempathy or "sharing". She feels the physical pain and pleasure of other people as though these feelings were her own. Because pain is a reality of the world in which she lives and pleasure is almost non-existent, Lauren's world is a world of pain. One might think of Lauren's disease as a curse. However, as Lauren realizes, if everyone else had hyperempathy there would be so much less devastation in the world because they would only hurt others if it was absolutely necessary. Lauren, Emery, Tori, Grayson, and Doe, the "sharers" or "feelers" (as Grayson calls them) of the novel, represent human kindness and caring for one another. They magnify human empathy and remind us that it is a characteristic that will, hopefully, be in our lives no matter what happens.

In Parable of the Sower, those who help each other are most likely to survive. Out of Lauren's traveling group of ten adults and four children, only one adult (and no child) does not survive. The death of Jill is tragic and would be even more so in the modern world; however, in a time of such death, destruction, and despair, those figures are remarkably fortunate. The reason for this is the fact that all group members work together. They keep watch over the camp at night and donate money, time, and effort, to those in need, many of whom are not yet members of the group. For example, they risk their lives saving Jill and Allie from a collapsed house. Every group member has someone to watch his or her back at all times, and therefore has more hope for survival. Because of these sheer numbers, acquired mostly during courageous acts of selflessness, the group is also able to scare off many people who might otherwise attack it.

After two months of their dangerous, exhausting journey, Lauren and her group (now known as "Earthseed" after Lauren's newly founded religion) finally reach their destination, Bankole's land. It is devastating that Bankole's sister and her family have all been killed in a house-fire of unknown causes, but Bankole and the rest of Earthseed are able to bury her and symbolically bury the rest of their dead. Their terrible past is finally being recognized, but that is just what it is – the past. They are still uncertain as to whether or not they will survive the next years, months, weeks, or even days. However, there is an element of hope lingering at the end of the novel that makes me unable to wait to read the sequel. Amongst all of the death and devastation, there is still hope for humanity. We might still survive.

If Lauren's world is as bad as the world can possibly get, there might still be hope for humanity. Empathy and looking out for others is an instinct possessed by some people that might be able to save the world. Although Parable of the Sower gives a pessimistic view of the future, it is ultimately a novel of survival.

the persistence of hope
Name: Whitney
Date: 2002-11-04 23:16:41
Link to this Comment: 3525

In Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, the reader is presented with the idea of innocence versus perception, reality versus hope. This is in essence the central dilemma of our existence- do we truly realize what we see? Perception is a tricky thing, and Butler's book messed with mine... I found myself wondering if reality is ever truly realized. Perhaps "the future" is actually our way of distancing our fears from what we know to be true, our own way of creating nightmares from our demons- creating stories to isolate the idea.

Laura's heart grasps religion with a stronghold only an eighteen year old can muster. In her bleak world, she must search for something to calm her fears, and religion becomes the vehicle for this. This discussion of religion, of Earthseed, made me think about the battle between religion and truth, (oh here we go again ) and the idea of religion in terms of right and wrong. Laura's religion helps her to better navigate her world; it is her tool for survival in a place lacking comfort. Do we need comfort in order to survive? Butler presents us with a character that in fact depends upon consolation as one of her main modes of survival... she creates meaning in the desolate world she knows, in order to better thrive and understand.

I was at first disconcerted by Butler's imposition of religion, but then came to realize that Laura did not rely solely on religion for survival; Earthseed helped to unify and thus create a community within which the citizens could survive together. The unifying aspect of Laura's God was what redeemed the idea to me; her religion was dependent upon the people for interpretation and success. God is in essence progress, change, revolution- a presence not outside the people, but in them. This compelled me to think about my own views about religion, about the institution of tradition and our society's cling to regimen, organization, "truth". Laura's Earthseed is based on the idea of hope, in the good of humanity and not merely "sin".

We've dissected, examined, basically bludgeoned the idea of a "story" to death, for good reason. Parable of the Sower embodies the qualities of some of the "best" (=most compelling, revolutionary, accessible) fairy tales: honor, truth, strength, morality. I hesitate to parallel Butler's novel to the poems of Anne Sexton, but the two share the same undermining idea: innocence is often corrupted, and at what cost? Laura uses religion as a vehicle for her hope, reflecting upon the world what she believes inside, affecting change through internal perseverance. Sexton's poetry also addresses this theme: of innocence lost, and the great divide between reality and virtue.

As we move further into the future, a word which now carries so many negative connotations, the passage of time is portrayed as bleak; our continual existence almost a futile battle with our own power. Butler's novel is set in a desolate time, a deserted place, and yet the protagonist finds room for hope. While depressing in most aspects, the undermining tone of the novel hints at the permanence of the human spirit and its place in survival.

The Purpose of Religion in Parable of the Sower
Name: Joy Woffin
Date: 2002-11-04 23:28:54
Link to this Comment: 3526

I was very intrigued by the apparent inconsistencies between Lauren Olamina's desire to set forth a system of beliefs which makes sense to her, and her strong belief that there is no such thing as a "personal" God intervening in one's daily life. Why is it so important to her to recognize any sort of God if He is not going to answer prayers and save his followers from the desolate life they lead in 2005?

It appears that Lauren is caught between two extremes: total atheism one the one hand, and fanatical worship of a personal God (like the Baptist faith of her father) on the other. Perhaps her belief in the religion which she comes to call "Earthseed" stems from a desire to reconcile these two extremes. Lauren cannot believe in the type of religion preached by her father, most likely because all the destruction and violence she has seen around her has left her jaded and disillusioned. In particular, the death of Amy Dunn is one of the first major events that leads Lauren to believe that there is no particular sense or order to the world. After this traumatic event it seems that Lauren abandons any faith she may have had left in a just and fair God.

However, the question remains: if Lauren does not believe in a God that rewards good and punishes evil, then why does she believe in a God at all? It seems that like almost all of us, even those who were not raised with a belief in any particular religion, or with an absence of belief in God, it is incredibly hard to accept that "this is it". Although some will deny it, I think we all have the strong and instinctive desire to believe in something beyond our physical and earthly existence. People find it too hard to think of life as devoid of any sort of spiritual nature, and most people, even non-religious, believe in some sort of cosmic order, something beyond us, or life-after-death.

I believe that though Lauren thinks she is abandoning the traditional concept of God, she still cannot let go of the belief in something greater than ourselves, especially in the face of such desolate circumstances (nor am I advocating that she should).

What then is the significance of her belief that change is the most important and enduring aspect of our spiritual and physical lives? It is a way to make sense of both apparent inevitability of the negative events that occur around her, as well as (more importantly) a basis for her belief that we can shape our destinies for the better if we try hard enough to "manipulate God". This enables her to have hope for the future and comfort herself in knowing (or at least believing) that no matter how bad things get, happiness may be attainable if one strives relentlessly for change.

Octavia Butler expressed in her lecture that she believed Earthseed could not survive as a real religion because it does not have enough of a comfort factor, and that the purpose of almost all religions is to comfort its followers. However, I believe that though Lauren Olamina may not have thought of Earthseed as comforting because of its lack of a personal God, its purpose was still to comfort, at least in the sense that it filled a spiritual void for her and its other followers.

Parable Response
Name: risa
Date: 2002-11-05 00:20:53
Link to this Comment: 3528

Parable of the Sower

My initial reactions to Butler's novel were geographic. In a sense that geography indicates a particular culture realtive to that area. Because I know the area that the first part of this novel takes place in, I felt a certain sense that it indeed, was already happening, had happened so many times that this was another re-telling of what could not stop happening. This re-telling though, was trying to move somewhere I felt, even when I resisted how good and easy it seemed to me to be so positive like Lauren I somehow wanted that, I wanted someone to be that, even I myself, could not believe it was possible for a person to be good, but could believe the idea that a world could go so horribly astray.

So I felt my way through this geographically since i was familiar with the culture relative to this geography. (Like Anne Frank, how the geography and what that dictated was in essence, its own narrative.) In the context of this class what I found most problematic was the lack of Lauren having the possibility of a darker side, or having dark and light sides of herself in order that the being she did end up choosing to become wasn't something she was by default, but by wrestling with the possibility of NOT being so idealistic. In this way I felt Lauren was a little one sided, and thus a little unbelievable.

What I find most interesting is...ugh...the geography. I knew the place, I know this place, I have seen it on fire from wildfires, swallowing and choking the highway all of the way down onto the beach- the fire blackening out the reflections from the water so that even the water looked like a sea of smoke. Because of this reality, it was not a far leap to the narrative. Because it was not a far leap to the narrative, I felt like it was pretty much current.

I am not sure what to address about how she tells the story. I have just started to read many authors that deal with the apocalyptic and yet, couched in the genre of Sci-Fi I feel it inoculates it a bit, takes it from terrible certainty to a cautionary fancying. Like what if this was delivered like "War of the World" where one did not know it was a performance? I would certainly believe it.

So, if in the context of this class, this is a parable being retold then I have to ask myself why retell it "after the end" has already begun? Why retell it from AFTER a social apocalypse and not before and what does doing it from the POV of "after" achieve? I am going to have to say -- and I know I say this for everything-- that hope isn't even possible until it seems impossible. Up until then it is luxury. So it seems to me that the reason for telling this story is yes, cautionary, like Butler said, but stories told after the Catastrophe hold both the Catastrophe and the world before up to mirror each other in the narrative. The World After holds the results of the "what if" equation- & the living and the dead become the sum of that In the biblical parable of the sower- which is this story as well I look at they way that story is told and notice how Butler seemed to be documenting the process by which that one seed could actually bloom. I don't know. I change what I think about it daily.

Is a Religion Based on Change Such a Novel Idea?
Name: Kate Shine
Date: 2002-11-05 00:55:52
Link to this Comment: 3529

Rates of change, systems of change, and methods of change are studied in multiple ways by every area of inquiry, from Calculus and Chemistry to History and Anthropology. The way things change, and more importantly, the constants that direct these changes are well documented. In Octavia Butler's novel Parable of the Sower, the idea that drastic change is inevitable and that all humans can do is deal as best they can with the resources they are given in order to resist chaos becomes the foundation of a religion for the main character, Lauren Olamina. But the idea of accepting change and shaping it, when closely observed, is not in itself a novel or complete enough idea to ever create or even offer a realistic hope for the kind of utopian, other-planetary world of Lauren's dreams.

Butler's, and consequently, Lauren's, premise seems to be that absolutely nothing in the world is resistant to the winds of change. This is shown in excerpts from the book of Earthseed, such as, "The only lasting truth/Is Change." (70), and "God is change./God prevails." (202) The way that Lauren prescribes dealing with this change is constant adaptation and use of intelligent planning.

But if the only "lasting" truth is change, what use will all of the intelligent planning and adaptation be in the end? There is definitely no guarantee that this indifferent "God" of change won't wipe out the whole earth and all of human life. This "religion" does not seem at all hopeful or comforting enough to support the desperate people it aims to. I think the fact that it supports Lauren through all of her tragedies without bitterness is unrealistic.

In addition, the only methods Lauren prescribes to "shape" change involve being aware of either various constants of human nature, such as "All stuggles/Are essentially/power struggles."(83) or facts about survival that have managed to last through many years, such as the trick of filtering water through sand. When Lauren meets Bankole, in order to impress him and show off her educated background, she says, "From what I've read....the world goes crazy every three or four decades." (206) Here she is alluding to the predictable cycle of events, and does not seem to support at all the idea that the only lasting truth is change. Things change, but certain things always stay the same. Even Lauren admits, "I don't claim that everything changes in every way..." (195) So where is the power behind this theory, this religion?

According to the observations of human nature that Lauren incorporates into Earthseed, how would a "heaven" or utopia on another planet ever be possible? Even if it became possible to populate another planet, the same principles of life would apply to the new world. Would change suddenly stop, everyone suddenly become content to stay unified under this one strictly logical religion? According to the principles of Earthseed, inevitably dissent would occur and what would keep chaos from gaining power again? Butler's idea of a new utopia is no different than any other unrealistic utopian fantasy that has ever been created.

My idea of any religion has always included the element of faith, not only in one's own power, but in something much larger. The idea of a caring God in a world where horrible tragedies are allowed to occur every day may seem illogical. But humans have a desire and even a true need to believe in this kind of God, it is ingrained in them. It is not only comforting but also a powerful motivator to action, and often extremely constructive action. Although religion can be misused for selfish aims this is its essential appeal. It is this same appeal that Butler's character was aiming for through the creation of Earthseed, both for the benefit of herself and others. Unfortunately it is not hopeful or faithful enough to stand up to reality. Religion is not a science in that it cannot be based only on rational observation, and it cannot be turned into one.

Name: claire mah
Date: 2002-11-05 01:50:57
Link to this Comment: 3532

Mahler's Musings on Moving Monograph

Me read sci-fi? I think not. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the genre. Except for the fact that I've been unable to tolerate any sci-fi or fantasy book I've ever picked up, despite rave reviews from acquaintences. This never particularly bothered me, I simply steered clear of the type and moved on to Agatha Christe, Amy Tan and Woodie Allen, among others. Upon beginning Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, however, I was whisked away into a world of pain and ugliness which carried with it a sense of beauty and reassurance. I found that (perhaps despite the literary classification?) Parable puts forth both interesting and thought-provoking statements.

The explanation of Lauren's hyperempathy particularly impressed me. I do not quite know why; I posess no such power, nor does anyone I know. I began to contemplate the implications of hyperempathy as if the affliction affected me personally. How debilitating a disease it would be, how much I would hurt (given the state of Lauren's surroundings), how much I would have to have hidden inside. I can understand some of these feelings because of things I have encountered and dealt with in my own life, but nothing to that extent. Amazing how Butler could have come up with such an ailment in her mind and further, how she could expand such a notion to an overpoweringly influential character trait.

Butler employs an interesting literary technique in Parable. All action, opinions, description related appears through the writings of the eighteen-year-old Earthseed founder. Although the writings supposedly flow from the girl's journal, moments frequently appear when I felt as if an Omnicient Narrator of kinds shared his or her knowledge rather than diary entries. I don't particularly love that. Or mind it. In truth, I feel rather apathetic towards the situation. It is merely a point that I noticed and found slightly odd, but had no firm stand for or against.

All in all, this book, Parable of the Sower, has definately proven itself to me, not sharing in the ranks which stiffle any appreciation for science fiction or fantasy as a whole. Butler created an intreguing story, a gripping story, set close enough to present time for the reader to become ever-so-slighly put off by the idea that this may indeed prevail as our future way of life, homeless and starving droves of humans fleeing destructive druggies and power-happy leaders. Who knows? The images roll round in my mind, an uncomfortable state of existance, but one which fosters a hunger for thought and a hunger to read the sequel. Mmmm, paperbacks.

Hope for Humanity
Name: Mel Brickl
Date: 2002-11-07 08:56:25
Link to this Comment: 3582

Hope for Humanity/Draft B
Mel Brickley-Raab

My initial reactions to Butler's novel were despair, sadness, anger and guilt. A voice in my head kept screaming, "No! This can't happen on such a huge global uncontrollable level!! NO, NO, NO! I don't want to look at this!" I didn't like entertaining the idea that humanity would grovel at such a low level. That the human spirit would be propelled by greed, hate, jealously, aggression and murder. I know that the behavior described in Butler's novel is real and present in our world today but before reading her story I could keep it locked up in my mind at a manageable level. I could live comfortably in my own walled environment. Now I can't stop thinking about it. I wake up at night with a pounding heart, sweating.

Butler's novel shook me up. I now cannot live within the confines of my personal and professional walls. I feel an urgency to look with broader vision. To move from day to day, minute-by-minute living in a world reactively rather than proactively as her characters did frightens me. To have been reading the papers, listening to the news reports and dismissing the stories as too sad, bad people, far away, maybe an exaggeration makes me feel ashamed. Funny thing, once your eyes have been opened it is impossible to close them.

After listening to Octavia Butler in Thomas Great Hall Monday night I was surprised that she said she wrote the novel because she wanted to write a story of a women who was creating a new religion. Butler watches a lot of news programs and reads newspapers and magazines. Her novel was a warning of the rich/poor gap widening, illiteracy, the funding of prisons more than schools and libraries, global warming/environment and drugs.

I think the deep play for Butler is religion. She stated she believed that anyone who wanted to start a religion would have to be crazy. Look what happened to Jesus, Mohammed and their followers. Most people don't like change; don't like their belief system challenged. (also seen in Galileo) Butler deliberately left blanks in Olamina's new religion, Earthseed. I can't help from wondering why a women who writes using everything she has and who states she has no spirituality or need for religion would want to base a novel on that theme.

I find the fact that Butler seems unable to distance her personal feelings and her grandmother's devotion for religion problematic for her story. In CSEM we have been trying to do just that. Each time we rewrite a draft we learn to step back and depersonalize it a bit more. Since she modeled Olamina after her grandmother the distancing would have allowed Octavia more freedom in developing Lauren's character. I think it could have been deeper with more rebellion.

Today, I read an Op-Ed in the New York Times by Tom Friedman. He referred to Bill Clinton as "The American Idol". He goes on to state that for the world Bill Clinton is another JFK while President Bush is another Thomas Hobbes. Thomas Hobbes was a man who after experiencing Europe's religious wars became very pessimistic about human nature. He stated that one law prevailed in the world, which was Homo Homini Lupus – every man is a wolf to every other man. Clinton is viewed by the world as the "epitome of American optimism – naïve optimism maybe, but optimism". The Bush team – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice strike the worlds as "cynical pessimists who believe only in power politics". Friedman goes on to say that from traveling all over the world he has learned that people make fun of the American naïve optimism but deep down they envy it. The column goes on to say much more and is worth reading. I found it interesting because of what Friedman said and how unsettling The Parable of the Sower was for me. Perhaps Butler's cynical pessimism was coarse grain sandpaper against my naïve American optimism. Maybe that is also why the Bush Team is sooo scary for Americans.

What Is the Cost?
Name: Mel Brickl
Date: 2002-11-07 08:58:54
Link to this Comment: 3583

What is the cost? What are they so afraid of? Why would an adult allow his/her fear dilute the education and future possibilities of our school children?

I think it is a violation of a student's rights not to teach evolution in our schools. More offensive is the beurocracy surrounding the issue. Teachers who believe that evolution should be taught reserve the subject for the last few weeks of the school year in order to escape negative feedback from the parents, school boards and risk job security. How cheated a student must feel when they arrive at college and realize that their science education was censored. Did the adults have so little faith in the student's ability to reason and sort through facts?

I concur with the opinion that creationism is religious based and evolution is science based. I believe that it is the responsibility of our public schools to teach science/evolution and the responsibility of the family and "church" to teach spirituality/ religion.
It has been expressed in the numerous publications on the web that science is not anti-religion but neutral. Evolution can be taught in a way that is religiously neutral, which would allow for the student to incorporate their religious views with the scientific model. Eugenie Scott's research presents findings that not only are many college freshmen uninformed about evolution but teachers are not being prepared to teach the subject. How scary!
(The suggestion that those who believe in evolution are atheists is equally frightening.)

We are also constantly reminded that religion cannot be taught in public schools. This is untrue. The first amendment states that one cannot favor a particular religion over another while teaching but different religions can certainly be discussed.

It strikes me as strange that in the year 2002 some of us are still stuck in the same thought processes as the religious fanatics of Galileo's time. People are acting out of fear with out looking at the long-term costs to civilization. Continuing along these lines of censorship will cost us much of our understanding of genetics, botany, zoology, palentolgy, and anthropology.

In closing, I would like to include two quotes. Both are from Sean B. Carroll a molecular biologist. The first is, "Evolution is not ad hoc theorizing. The second states, "Love your religion, but don't try to wrap it up and tell me it's science. For the United States to remain a technological leader, we have to understand what science is and teach it."

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower and Me:
Date: 2002-11-07 09:51:21
Link to this Comment: 3585

In the first chapter of Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, I noticed several interesting similarities between the narrator and I. Most obviously, we have the same first name, Lauren. She is the oldest child, like me. And her birthday is a mere six days (well, and twenty-five years) after mine, and coincidentally, she shares it with her father, like I do.

But, I soon discovered, that's about where the likenesses end. I have never had to live behind a wall, literally or figuratively, because of the horrors of the outside world. I do not have hyperempathy syndrome, nor have I started my own religion. I have never lost any immediate family members, and I have never had to fight for my survival. In short, we lead very different lives.

Now, normally I have difficulties enjoying stories to which I cannot relate aspects of my own life. I enjoy reading, and one of my favorite aspects of reading is being able to take literature and find a parallel in my own life. I like to be able to find common ground, be it within the boundaries of real life or within the pages of a book. I love being able think, mid-sentence, "Hey! That's just like me!" I don't know why exactly, but finding these similarities helps me understand more about myself and more about the book.

But despite have very, very little in common with my own life, Parable of the Sower was still able to capture my attention. Octavia Butler's writing style was clear and explanatory. Things I had never experienced (or even imagined) were easy to picture in my mind. I thought Lauren Olamina's hyperempathy condition, for example, was very well developed and Butler did a good job of making me understand what it entailed. Her descriptions of 21st century California were well done and I had no problems imagining scenery to fit her words. I may not have known the territory, but I never felt lost.

I must say, I really appreciated that. Science fiction, as a genre, has always made me a little queasy. The sci-fi staples of advanced technologies and distant planets- these are things that I sometimes find hard to believe. But Butler's version was not hard to envision (in fact, sometimes, I found it a little scary how easily I could picture such a scenario taking place). There were no Martians or high-tech laser beams; the main component of the fall of society was human depravity. And, that (unfortunately) is something that I really don't need too much convincing to believe it exists.

However, even things that I had absolutely no prior conception of, such as Lauren Olamina's Earthseed religion were not too hard to understand. It seems like a very simple creed, with only the basic motto that 'God is change.' There are no proscribed morals, no required behaviors, no definitive answers.

Yet while I found Earthseed easy to envision, I found it much harder to accept. A religion without any solutions or without a greater goal hardly seems like a religion to me. I understand that Butler's main purpose in the novel was not to create a new belief system, but I don't understand why there is not more to Earthseed. While I am not what I would call religious, I've always felt that religion gives some sense of purpose to its followers. Earthseed does not do this. It merely states that God is change, and change is moldable. And to me, this is not a viable religion, and it is certainly not one that I would form "Earthseed communities" over. It just seems a bit unrealistic to me, and because I found it so, it detracted from my impression of the work as a whole. I like to be able to believe what I'm reading could happen, someday, and I just didn't feel that Earthseed had that potential.

But as a whole, I found Parable of the Sower a very enjoyable read. Octavia Butler may have written fiction, but I didn't feel it was too far off from fact. Much to my utter surprise, I actually liked science fiction. In fact, (gasp) I'm actually looking forward to reading the sequel.

Reactions to Parable of the Sower
Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-11-10 11:34:26
Link to this Comment: 3630

I disliked Parable of the Sower almost as much as I disliked our readings from Ann Sexton. I did find the book compelling enough, though, that I went on and read Parable of the Talents, and will probably read other books in the series as they are completed. It's kind of like seeing a car wreck: gruesome, but you can't look away.

There was a lot to be repulsed by in this novel: it presents an incredibly grim picture of our country in the near future. There are places like this already, of course, but I'd guess most of the students here are not familiar with living in a world like the one experienced by Lauren Olamina. I don't remember the title of the article or the name of the city, but The New York Times Magazine recently did a feature on a place in Mexico, I think it may be a company town—a US-based company-- that sounded very much like the LA described in Butler's book. Squalid conditions, people (particularly women) disappearing on their way to work, only to be found later raped and murdered. And the police don't seem to be very interested in trying to solve the murders or protect the people.

One of the aspects of the novel I found to be a bit much was that it seems every single character Butler introduces has been raped and/or beaten, enslaved, or been the perpetrator of such crimes, to the point of absurdity. Even those who have been killed aren't allowed to just die. They've been raped first, or tortured, or dismembered after death. It made the novel that much less believable. It also made me wonder how it was that Olamina's father had a job as a college professor. Who would be attending college under such conditions? I doubt the rich people would be sending their kids to school in such a place and it appeared everyone else only had enough money to meet life's basic necessities and wouldn't waste it on college, even if they could arrive there without being raped, tortured or killed.

But the novel was as thought-provoking as it was discouraging. Certain pieces of the story reflect on our country's past, with a twist. The setting of the novel made me think of the Great Depression, when so many people were without hope and could barely survive day-to-day. Of course, this inspired FDR to come up with The New Deal, Social Security, etc., in order to help save our country. California was seen as "The Garden of Eden," to borrow from Woody Guthrie, and people were being turned away at the borders by the police. In the novel, the government (in the form of police, fire departments, schools, etc.) doesn't seem to be willing to do much of anything to help its citizens. California is seen not as an earthly paradise but as hell on earth. Californians are now being turned away by border patrols in other states.

Actually, I got on the internet to make sure I had my facts straight about FDR, The New Deal and all that and I began to read brief synopses of Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." I was struck by the similarities between this classic novel and "Parable of the Sower." I have never read "The Grapes of Wrath" but I picked it up at Borders over the weekend and just started reading it this morning. It will be interesting to see if they actually are as similar as they appear to be at first glance.

Originally, when talking with Anne about looking at this novel through the lens of the AA culture, what jumped out at me was the idea of a "geographical cure." In AA language a "geographical cure" is when a person physically leaves their current, bad situation and moves somewhere else, expecting everything to be different. The problem is that if nothing is changed on the inside, it doesn't matter where you go, you will continue to have the same problems. Like the old cliché says, "Wherever you go, there you are." Olamina writes "The destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars" and her hope and expectation is that her people will form a new, peaceful society on a planet other than Earth. But can this actually be achieved with the types of change, both internal and external, that Olamina would like her followers to accept? AA culture would say, "Definitely not!"

As in a number of our previous assignments we come back to differing views of the nature of God. While Olamina and her followers see God as an inanimate chaotic force that needs to be shaped by humans in order for them to survive, AA views God as a sentient being without whose guidance life would become a turmoil of suffering and probably death. In my next paper I hope to explore these opposing views more fully in light of the "geographical cure" put forth in Parable of the Sower.

The Element of Comfort in Religion
Name: Gwenyth Ca
Date: 2002-11-11 18:48:42
Link to this Comment: 3676

I consider myself an atheist, a comfortable unbeliever. Reading Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower significantly changed my thinking about this concept and about the role of comfort in religion. I have underestimated how important it is for people today to feel looked after by a higher power. Because of the lack of this crucial element, most people (including Octavia Butler herself) would agree that Earthseed could never become an actual religion. Not only do I support the contrary but argue that numerous established religions lack this component of comfort including still practiced ones such as Zen Buddhism and Calvinism, and even the earliest of religions such as Ancient Greek and the Aztec religion. It is the explanations of humankind's role on Earth which provide comfort in religion. However, it seems unreasonable to realize or disregard any religion simply because the explanations are uncomfortable. Comfort is merely a benefit derived from being enlightened by the explanation of any religion.

Earthseed provides explanations as to the nature of a higher force and also describes how we should be behaving on Earth. This sounds reason enough to consider Earthseed a viable religion. It is a set of beliefs that answers generally the same questions as other religions. It is these answers though which are perceived as too ambiguous to provide comfort that disqualify it. It seems ridiculous and close minded to accept a religion based on such circumstances.

There are numerous religions that exist or have existed that do not provide the kind of comfort many people seem to take for granted in religions today. People have come to think that there is some kind of standard for beliefs to be a religion, one very important standard being the ability of a religion to provide comfort to its followers. There are so many religions that exist or have existed which have not had this component. In fact, some religions indoctrinated followers to feel fear instead of comfort to keep them loyal to that particular faith.

The Aztecs believed that the world was in continual cycles of being destroyed and repopulated. When the Earth is destroyed, needless to say, all of its inhabitants are killed along with it. Human sacrifices were a normal practice and were in fact, the center of most religious rites and rituals. Aztecs believed they had to repay the gods in blood and provide energy to keep the sun moving (Day). Not only did this religion fail to provide comfort, but it thrived off of the very lives of its followers. It did however have a myth of creation, like most other religions and described how humans should act during their stay on Earth.

The Ancient Greeks believed in many gods. Zeus, the ultimate ruler of the gods, did not really look after people on Earth but instead treated them as playthings. He would strike anyone with a thunderbolt if they happened to displease him. When he wanted to marry his wife Hera, Zeus raped her and she was forced to marry him out of shame. He is also famous for his many affairs, with humans and other gods (University of Arizona Library). This religion would not provide me with much comfort knowing that I could be raped or struck down by my god at any time. The idea of a god as change sounds much more comforting.

Calvinism is a fairly old religion whose main beliefs are still observed in many Protestant religions today. One of the main tenets of Calvinism is pre-destination. This is the notion that God has selected certain people for salvation and others, God has rejected to eternal damnation. It doesn't matter what one does in life, good or bad, if one is chosen then one is saved, if not then one is dammed. This is also not a comforting notion. Would not a believer go through life worrying is they are saved or not, all the while helpless to better their situation? In Earthseed, at least people are given the hope that all things are subject to change.

Zen Buddhism is becoming a more popular religion today, even trendy one might say. In Zen Buddhism there is no god, there is only Buddha Nature, which everyone possesses. There is no heaven or hell, no reward or punishment for our actions on Earth. The main principle of Zen is that "Life is Suffering." Zen places much responsibility on the individual and does not give hope or comfort in the form of a supreme ruler (Curran).

These religions do not offer comfort in the form of a caring God, yet so many people across time have followed or still follow these faiths. They are not drawn by the aspect of comfort, but receive it in the form of answers. These religions, however unsatisfying or even gruesome the answers may be, provide the reasons of why we are here, how we got here, and how we should behave. These answers are found in most religions and are similarly found in Earthseed. The only problem is that people are just not satisfied with the answers they are given, which would not make it a good religion for them, but a religion nonetheless.

As an atheist, I am constantly asked if I am comfortable thinking that no God is looking after me. After examining Earthseed in Parable of the Sower and all of these other religions, I realize that many people live or have lived under this assumption. I have realized that the important thing in any religion is the answers it provides to people's questions and doubts. Comfort is merely the benefit of knowing them. I know now how I can be comfortable without a caring God or any God at all. I rely on science and facts to tell me how I got here and I find the answers I receive most comforting.

Works Cited

"Ancient Religions: Egyptian, Greek, Roman." University of Arizona Library. 23 July 2002. 11 Nov. 2002.

"Aztec Religion" Dr. Jane S. Day. 1992. 11 Nov. 2002.

Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Sower. New York: Warner Books, 1993.

"Calvinism" Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia CD-ROM. Microsoft, 2002.

Curran, Robert. Personal Interview. 11 Nov. 2002.

Parable of My First Impression
Name: Mollyo Coo
Date: 2002-11-11 21:58:46
Link to this Comment: 3684

I spent an entire Saturday reading Parable of the Sower instead of spreading it out over a period because the content was so bitter and potent that it threatened to discolor my consciousness for however long I took. I wanted to isolate the sensation it delivered in one solid blow. So Saturday evening when I finished the book, I went for a walk around my neighborhood to re-introduce myself to the real world and hopefully exit from that of Octavia E. Butler's.

It is important to note that the neighborhood in which I took my walk, my neighborhood, is tidy and quaint, yet not particularly notable. Lawns are well kept, in general, and one sees evidence of pride and ownership as a rule. The parking lots and streets are neatly paved, the high school loiterers are basically well behaved, laws are generally observed.

But I wasn't completely immersed in reality at the start of my walk. My brain was still working out if Loren Olamina's dark world was true on any level. After only a short ways I observed, became entranced by, a broken beer bottle at the outskirt of a neatly edged lawn. I stared involuntarily at it as I walked by, almost stopping. I was truly unable to draw my eyes away. There was a sneaking feeling that I should be shocked by what was before my eyes. I began to think, with incredulity, 'Why is that bottle left right there like that? Did someone just toss it out of their car window? Did some pedestrian drinker just think to drop it from their hands? Didn't the owner of the property want to pick it up immediately? Why don't I pick it up??' But I left it there, heeding the artillary of excuses and rationales I keep with me for this sort of confrontation. I have passed by and witnessed so many broken beer bottles - and worse - every day of my adult life with these defensive weapons on hand.

How had the Parable shifted my experiece of common litter? Typically, I would not notice a single broken beer bottle. In seeing it, my mind acquainted it instantly, unconsciously, with the human road-kill in Butler's book. It was as if I walked by a solitary screaming toddler on a street corner and thought, 'My, I wish there was something I could do.' I watched myself dismiss any pang of guilt for not doing what I could have easily. I watched myself rationalize with practicality and move on.

From lessons in childhood, from watching my parents dutifully cleaning up the city street in front of our home, from summer camp forest clean up excursions, I know just how easy or hard it is to pick up a broken bear bottle and deposit it in the nearest receptical, but I don't do that. What difference does it make – something so small? Indeed. I have let myself become cynical in spite of careful training. My reasons, excuses, for not doing what is easy and right are deeply cynical, and also discouragingly logical. There is more trash than I myself can pick up. Someone will just throw another bottle in the same place tomorrow.

The next weekend I took care of a heap of refuse some one had deposited in the side yard of our apartment building. It is important to keep things neat like this. It reminds me of when I was a little girl and did actually live in a city (New Haven), my father would not leave a beer bottle on the ground in our neighborhood. I remember the sight of him always in his jacket and tie, stooping over to pick the refuse of others, without any anger or blame. It was pride and care. Of course if we expend energy on anger and blame we would rather just leave the garbage there and ignore it as much as possible. But if we associate the deserving love and pride we have in ourselves with the apparent care of our outer world, there is no hesitation in cleaning up.

Octavia: Profit or Pragmatic?
Name: Bonnie Bal
Date: 2002-11-12 05:53:26
Link to this Comment: 3692

Octavia: Profit or Pragmatic?

It was difficult for me to read Parable of the Sower. I found it disturbing, pessimistic and depressing. I felt afflicted with my own version of hyperempathy syndrome....the ability to feel the pain of characters in a novel. I bled out several times and died small deaths along the way with Mrs. Sims, Amy Dunn, Jill Gilchrist, and others. I was horrified by the image of naked young girls running in the streets with blood running down their bare thighs; naked adults walking the streets with missing body parts; unburied corpses; and, teenagers eating other humans. I was horrified most of all by the matter of fact way these stories were told by Octavia Butler, as if they were nothing unusual, as ordinary as daily journal entries. I didn't want to believe it could be possible for our society to be so lost, but I had to admit that elements of these stories sounded familiar, too familiar. I delved deeper into despair. I began packing emergency supplies of fruit and nuts in my backpack, and I began feeling anxious on the train as I faced the world "outside."

The most interesting part of this story for me was when the tone of the novel changed when Lauren found Bankole and (dare I use the word?) LOVE. Their relationship, and the relationship of Emery to her daughter, and Grayson to his daughter all showed the courage and strength that is found when we love one another.

I could not help but hear the evangelistic overtones in this novel. Quotes and references from the Bible were interwoven throughout the story. As early as page 12, references were made to the first chapter of John and the second chapter of Acts where (if you look them up), Jesus is referred to as "the light of the world." The Christian faith is based on the love of God and the love of neighbor. I clearly see how important community is to this story (and to Octavia). But she intentionally left the God of the Bible out with the introduction of Earthseed. "God is change" is unsettling. Maybe Octavia wrote these words into Earthseed to throw us off, or to cause us to reexamine our own beliefs, or to interest a New Age following, or to take God out of the picture so the responsibility would fall onto us to save ourselves...?

What was Octavia's intent? Why write such a story? What purpose would it serve? As a practical gesture, was Octavia simply writing a story to warn us that in the next twenty years we should brace ourselves for the collapse of our society? Or as a profit, was she subtly conveying a hidden message? If fear and greed lead to the collapse of our civilization, could the opposite motivations, trust (tolerance) and sharing lead to the progression of our civilization? In most of the novel, I sense in Lauren a basic desire to trust. And we all know, she is a "sharer."

Perhaps Octavia is just telling us the same old story of good versus evil but with a twist. The good and evil are within us. Human nature is both. But just as Lauren had the intelligence to plan and prepare so do we. Daily preparation must become part of our human wholeness. We have the power to choose fear and greed or trust and sharing. What will you choose? What will you teach your children? What will you contribute (or not) to the future?

It is interesting to read all of the different responses to this story. If the warnings of the Parable are the seed, and we are the ground, some of the Parable's warnings will fall to the wayside and will be walked upon and eaten by birds as if they were never read at all. Some of the Parable's warnings will fall upon rock and as soon as they are felt they will be recognized but they will soon die because the hardhearted have no water or roots. Some of the Parable's warnings will fall upon thorns, and the thorns in denial will choke the warnings because they don't want to believe them. But some of the Parable's warnings will fall upon peat moss and compost enriched fertile soil. This ground will hold the warnings in their heart and will make a difference.

Why There Will Not Be a Cult of the Kurtz Anytime
Name: Lauren Kur
Date: 2002-11-12 08:47:46
Link to this Comment: 3693

Years ago, back in middle school, I had a friend who decided to create her own religion. She decided that it would only have one tenet: believe what you want to believe, but don't force it upon anyone else. I asked her if her religion believed in God. "No," she said. "I believe in me."

I was an instant convert. I was raised in an odd blend of agnosticism and Christianity, in which the most religious thing my family did was place an angel ornament on the top of our Christmas tree. We talked about religion only slightly more often than we talked about the Boxer Rebellion. In short, I had no religion at all, and any talk of anyone trying to convert me was incredibly irking. So, my friend's 'religion' sounded very appealing.

I have to admit, though, that I never really took it especially seriously. I appreciated the ideal, but I would not call myself an avid follower. In Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, the main character, Lauren Olamina, creates/discovers her own religion and takes it very seriously. She is at odds with her father's religion, Baptism, and in the absence of a faith, Earthseed is produced.

But I never felt such a need, a need to create a religion. Over the years, I have determined some ideas which I do believe in and many more that I don't. I hardly call myself religious; all my beliefs can be summed up in the simple idea that life is too good to have just happened. I am not a strict evolutionalist, I cannot believe that our world was formed by a freak accident. I think (and on some level, I need to think) that there is some greater power, some force that is beyond human. Other than that, I really have no idea.

The comfort factor plays into almost all religions- it's a relief to be able to surrender some of your worries to God. I know a smattering about Christianity, and I have heard, many times, the phrase that "God will provide." It reassures believers that all will be well, in either this lifetime or the next. It's like being a child all over again, when any problem can be solved by those omniscient adults. God is the ultimate grown-up, He can solve anything, He can do anything.

Although my own beliefs are not as comforting as those of most mainstream religions, I still find them reassuring. My own 'religion' does not give such a promise, but I do feel better knowing that there is something greater out there. It would worry me, I think, to feel that the human race was the pinnacle of achievement and that we were the smartest, strongest and best entity in the universe.

I think that's a bit like how Lauren Olamina felt when she thought about Earthseed. She felt better once she had articulated her beliefs; it helped her deal with the world outside. To be truthful, I think that is the main reason why she created a religion and I have not felt the urge: the need to cope with the horrors outside.

Karl Marx once described religion as the "opiate of the masses." I don't quite agree, but I think he has a good point. Like illegal substances, religion can help users block out things they do not want to deal with. I have heard stories of people becoming cocaine addicts because they wanted to escape the horrors of their lives; one could very well use religion as a drug, as well. And I think, in a way, that is what Lauren Olamina is doing.

For her, Earthseed is a way to handle the atrociousness of what she sees. In her time, Los Angeles is filled with corpses and beggars, guns and drugs. Resources are scarce and arson is a constant threat. Its enough to drive anyone to create their own religion. And Lauren has it worse than others, because of her hyperempathy syndrome. She shares pain and pleasure with others, and because of her horrific surroundings, its usually pain that she shares. But Earthseed gives her an outlet; it makes her problems easier to deal with.

Now, for me, I really don't have that problem. I admit it, I lead a pretty cushy life. I can't even imagine some of the things that Lauren Olamina has had to live through. So for me, religion isn't quite as much of a necessity. I don't need a religion to deal with the awfulness, because, frankly, there's really nothing awful I've experienced. Granted, I have some small problems, and so, I have a little bit of religion to tide me through them.

I guess it's really an equation. The worse the surroundings, the more religious the inhabitants. Haven't religious services always been flooded after calamities? In Parable of the Sower, Lauren Olamina becomes more involved in Earthseed as she becomes more involved in the horrors of 21st century California. In the beginning of the book, she is protected by her family and by the wall; Earthseed is merely a few phrases in a notebook. But as the novel progresses, so does her religion. When the wall and her family begins to falter, Lauren's religion becomes stronger. And when the situation collapses and Lauren must live as a nomad, traveling north, that is when Earthseed becomes the most important; she becomes like a preacher, like her father, telling her band of followers about her religion.

Lauren's religion gives her some sort of stability. And considering her father was a Baptist preacher, a strong sense of spirituality is something she would be familiar with, maybe even feel uncomfortable without it. But as for me, not having grown up in a religious environment, and not having to fight for my own survival, creating my own religion is not on my To Do list.

However, in twenty years, I may feel a little differently. So stay tuned, because the Cult of the Kurtz may be making an appearance near you.

Octavia B.
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-11-14 21:35:42
Link to this Comment: 3740

Meeting Octavia Butler did not satisfy any of my questions. The event only created more questions. After reading her book and listening to the discussions, I expected some kind of an Oracle. It was kind of like waiting for the Oracle in the movie, the Matrix, who ended up being a nice African American woman baking cookies.
I read the book this summer before school and I remember feeling that it had something important to say. The idea that God is Change was unsettling. The world of "paints" and violence and destruction even more unsettling. It seemed that the God, the Judeo-Christian merciful God of love and understanding would not last two seconds in Lauren's world. And, I marveled that OB had set up a system in which this could happen. God would have to change. Or change would have to God... or something.
I found the scene where she visits her burned out home to be particularly powerful in that it reminded me of footage I have seen on the news lately of violence in the mid East. The girls who were raped and the "lost" people reminded me of scenes from El Salvador, and similar stories from the Mexican border. We are still comfortable in our "village" but we do not exist far from this kind of a reality.
The idea that God is Change bothered me, until someone mentioned that God is sometimes understood as a verb rather than a noun. I like this idea very much. It reminds me of a friend I know who has a portrait of Christ. It is just a fluid mark of paint (not a body or a person) ... but paint moving and changing, even dripping across the canvas. I looked for the transformative in Parable of the Sower.
I found a "seeker" on a quest. Her goal is material and her belief system is involved in responding to the present moment with a vision of a better place. But she will kill to survive and she will only reveal herself and her ideas to the people she selects.
Nevertheless, her followers seemed to find some safety in the hope that her leadership provided. A small nomadic community formed. This reminded me of the Old Testament Moses heading for the Promised Land. (Hey, Margaret another geographic cure?)
I wondered about the "paints". It is hard for me to imagine people who are not redeemable, who are without hope, who somehow have lost their humanness. This especially bothered me. I struggled to find a way for Lauren or anyone to reach into the world of the "paints", or to offer something to her destroyed world that could transform it or change it. Maybe by just NOT being annihilated, she succeeded.

entering into an unexpected story
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-12-09 00:26:32
Link to this Comment: 4011

Entering Into An Unexpected Story
When I applied to schools Bryn Mawr College was not my first choice and not the school that I intended to attend. When I realized that Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania was the place that I was going to be in the fall of 2002 I tried to make excuses about why I was going to an all women's school. 'It's an all girls school,' I would say, 'but it's very closely connected to a co-ed school.' 'It's right near Philadelphia so it's not like I'm never going to see a male again,' I would explain. I pretended that the all women's aspect of the school didn't bother me, but all the excuses I made showed that I thought the fact that Bryn Mawr College was all women was a flaw.
I have been at Bryn Mawr, now, for almost four months and the aspect of the school that I thought would be the most detrimental to my college experience has become one of the most positive features about the school. I love the fact that I am at an all women's college, in an all women's environment. Initially I thought that an all women's environment would cultivate a 'raging feminist' ideology. But Bryn Mawr seems to be first and foremost a place that is dedicated to high quality education rather than high quality education for women. In Alfred A. Knopf's essay Alma Mater he says, "Carey Thomas did not hope to re-create Smith, the equivalent of the best colleges for men. Rather she intended to offer to undergraduate women the highest standards of university training available in the United States" (p.115) Thomas was not interested in designing a new curriculum especially for women, but to offer a high-education to a more consistent pool. The fact that, "she recruited a young, largely male faculty, newly trained in German universities," (p.115) proves that she was not concerned with creating an exclusively women's community.
I have found that learning in an all women's environment has helped me to become more engaged in classroom discussions. I have found that some males have a domineering attitude in a classrooms setting. Though there are those few women who have that same presence, I find myself more intimidated by men in a classroom setting. Even beyond the classroom I suspect that living in a single sex dormitory has been more comfortable than a coed one. I think when people of opposites sex mingle people's characters and dispositions change. I think people in general are more natural when they are in a single sex environment. I don't think that the level of discomfort in a coed school is solely due to sexual tensions. Even if someone is homosexual I think that there is a certain level of comfort because of the common female experience. I think that the aspect of not knowing the other sex's experience and outlook on life is what causes some of the discomfort found in a coed environment.
Another reason why a single sex school has become a positive experience for me is because I feel that the women I am here with are in school to learn. In high school novels and the history of the civil rights movement and Turner's artwork intellectually stimulated me. I read books and cried. I fell in love with the characters. But everyone else was interested in boys and Saturday nights and not school. But, here in an all women environment my fellow classmates are here because they want to learn and want to be intellectually stimulated. We, here at Bryn Mawr want, to learn and want to see beauty and learn beauty and learn how to make this world a beautiful place. We are here at Bryn Mawr because we desire to change this world.
So, after nearly four months I have realized that though the story of my life has taken an unexpected turn I am glad for this turn of events. I know that my life will be very different form what I had expected because I have entered into the story of Bryn Mawr, but whose life turns into the story they expected?

Name: jessie
Date: 2002-12-09 00:31:34
Link to this Comment: 4012

Jessie Posilkin
December 9, 2002

From its inception to its current existence as one of the last remaining all women's colleges, Bryn Mawr's existence has been defined by gender. Its leaders, whether women or men, were all influenced by who was, or was not, present on college grounds. The inspiration for Bryn Mawr College, the physical plant, and the faculty were all influenced by the cultural attitudes surrounding gender and class.
The story of Bryn Mawr begins in the late 19th century, after the creation of elite colleges for the wealthy. The Ivy League has almost reached its bi-centennial, and the tradition of education with a religious basis had been expanded to Quaker schools such as Haverford and Swarthmore. The founding of Smith in 1875, as well as coeducational Swarthmore, had also set a standard for women of the upper crust to be educated. In order to remain faithful to their religion, Quaker women required a Quaker education. Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, in Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from their 19th century beginnings to the 1930's, explains that "In 1877...Taylor...asked himself an important question: Who educated Quaker women?...A bright daughter, such as Martha Carey Thomas, one of James Carey Thomas' many children, had to venture to Cornell, a thoroughly secular university linked to the faith only by the religion of its founder, for the higher education she wanted." This reveals a very mixed attitude towards education, as well as the conservative nature of this particular group of Quakers. While the demands of their daughters for an education were viewed as valid, the men in charge were unwilling to create a co-educational environment at Haverford. This, perhaps, can explain the later actions of M. Carey Thomas.
The physical plant at Bryn Mawr was modeled on Quaker notions of femininity. Francis King, the president of the board of trustees "expressed the trustees' wishes for college buildings, hoping to tone down any excesses:"
There is a certain style of 'Quaker lady' dress, which I often see in Phila, which tells the whole story-she has her satin bonnet-her silk dress- her kid gloves-her perfect slippers-but they made to harmonize with the expression of her face which if both intellectual and holy-so may 'Taylor College' look down from its beautiful site upon the passing world and we hear them say 'just right.' (106-107)
Based on this description, it would be easy to assume that the building would impose upon the students attending the college. The intentions would be to work and learn inside a building where the expectations were not any greater than within the greater Quaker community-one in which women act as though they are in kid gloves, unlikely or able to challenge themselves, or authority. Clearly, the intentions of this school were not as grand as it seemed at first.
Other forms of discrimination existed as well. Horowitz, in comparing Wellesley and Bryn Mawr, explains that those from Wellesley "advised Taylor against Wellesley's policy of hiring women faculty. He found it difficult to get qualified women and keep them." Herein lays the importance of education for women, and the explanation for the vicious cycle that kept women out of academia. Without women professors, women students would have no role models to see others battling the same issue they were-the pressures of a society that expected marriage, motherhood and properness of women, as well as knowledge and a proper education in order to adequately compete with men. The lack of women professors created less interest in academics, leading the women to be less qualified, meaning that fewer would be hired. The women's college would be filling a major hole society, creating smarter women who would be more adept at meeting the demands of a new, complex society.
Bryn Mawr filled an interesting role. Rather than sticking to the initial plans of Taylor, M. Carey Thomas set out to create a school where "truth had no sex, [therefore] the Bryn Mawr campus gave no clue as to the gender of its student body." Rather than attempt to fulfill Quaker societal expectations, Thomas created an atmosphere in which "students performed no domestic work during their four years, not even the making of their own beds."(119) Perhaps in an attempt to abandon the normal expectations of women, Thomas placed the focus on academics-just as it would be at Haverford or Swarthmore. The women were to be treated as men-implicitly, how all of the upper crust should be treated. Rather than defy standards, Thomas lived up the standards of men.
As time has passed on, the standards of men have disappeared. With a mixed faculty and classroom, Bryn Mawr no longer has the standards of men particularly. Even so, The Bryn Mawr administration has bent to pressure from the outside society. Its choice to begin, and consequently end the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women workers, and even now, to begin selling "free-trade" coffee in the dining halls, in its choice to sponsor programs to keep and encourage women in the sciences and mathematics, and in the administrations choice to sponsor anti-war protests and speakers, Bryn Mawr cannot escape the reality that while "truth has no sex [gender]," Bryn Mawr exists in a world often without truth, and often with gender.

My Final Paper Postign
Name: samea
Date: 2002-12-19 03:01:44
Link to this Comment: 4144

Taking My World Apart

My parents and I have lived together for eighteen years and as a result many of the beliefs that were originally theirs, now also belong to me. They have internalized in me many of the ideas and norms that constitute the person I am today. Nevertheless, our conjoined story ends there. The story of my parents' culture and my culture are no longer one in the same... were they ever?
My parents would be insulted if anyone dared to label them as "Korean-American." They would probably weep for days, even weeks, for their lost heritage and history. I on the other hand, can relate to no other label. For me, the title of "Korean-American" is the easiest to swallow. I could never feel comfortable as either "Korean" or "American," yet, the interlacing of those two titles seem most adequate.
Me labeled as strictly "Korean?" In my definition of a "Korean," nowhere does it talk about someone who can barely stammer out a few words of broken Korean. A "Korean" is not categorized as someone who can both read and understand Korean at a rate of two words per minute. A "Korean" does not seem like someone who has lived seventeen of her eighteen lives in America. Does it really even matter where I have been living all this time? Some may say it does not, or that it should not, nevertheless, in my eyes, it does. My family, in an effort to become more comfortable here, had to abandon many of the traditional Korean ways, in order to find acceptance in a society where the unfamiliar was sometimes looked down on. Therefore, my family, and many others, has succumbed to the hyphenated title of "Korean-American."
Well, what about an "American?" The answer is simple with one look at me. My skin color, the shape of my eyes, and the color of my hair – all these characteristics tell me that this I could never be considered "American." Although these may be only physical characteristics, they still matter, at least to me they do. I may speak fluent English, be completely literate in it, and have lived here almost all my life, but still, the title of "American" does not belong to me. Ironic, these same characteristics were what kept me from identifying myself as "Korean." Yet, how is it that when I can relate to this society through those same means, I cannot identify myself with it? As politically incorrect as it may seem, let's be honest. A person so clearly Asian could never have a culture that is fully American, society simply would not allow it. No matter how long I live here, that label of "minority" will hang over my head, leaving me still struggling to find my true identity here.
The obvious answer seems to be to return to Korea and continue my life there, living comfortably among the same dark-haired, light complexioned society – not really. Do not get me wrong, I am not denying my heritage, I am simply elaborating on it. Realistically speaking, it would be impossible for me to return to that place and try to integrate. In the summer of ninth grade my family went to Korea for a few weeks, and the opposition I felt there was indescribably thick. Everyone looked down on me. It was shameful to them that I had gone to a foreign country and adapted to their ways. I was rebuked for my lack of Korean, and further denounced for my fluent English. I was judged because my fashion did not match the popular style there. I was criticized because although I looked just like they did, I had very little in common with them. I was reproached for "forgetting" my roots.
I left Korea that summer feeling unbelievably angry. I, myself, never believed that I had abandoned my roots, and was angry at all of Korea for abandoning me. However, the more I analyzed and thought about the situation, the more I realized how little of me belonged in that country. My anger quickly transformed to remorse as I understood the severity of how my lifestyle had changed.
So, where do I belong? I suppose my culture is not simply one; rather it has become a cross – culture between America and Korea. Thus, I have fallen into the category of a "Korean-American." I have been rejected by both societies, yet cannot seem to let go of either. In Korea I am no longer acceptable for my adaptation to American society. In America my physical appearance will always keep me from being able to fully blend in. The hardest idea for me to swallow is that this uncertainty is where I will stay; furthermore, it is the same dilemma my children will face. They will probably still have to face the racial tension and prejudice at least once in their lives of both cultures, and they will wonder where they really belong. Belong. That word will eternally roll around in my head with no resting place. Where do I belong?

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