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Where Are We?

Towards Day 5 of Evolving Systems course

(thanks to ecollier)

I. coursekeeping
continuing to name one another
Bingqing, Tiannan, Sarah, Kirsten tomorrow morning; Betrice Thursday afternoon
Aimee and Prianna to Thurs next week (Sept. 29)?

second paper due by 6 p.m. tomorrow: a 3-pp. essay in which you reflect on and/or re-conceive your creation story in terms of the scientific stories about the origin of the universe that we read last week. The form should be both critical and creative ("a lyric essay"?) that takes into account our discussion about

  • dependence on shared observations
    (consensus construction, using sources!--
    mwechsler: scientific "stories" are more communal in their origins)
  • a hugely extended time dimension,
  • one that de-centers human experience, 
  • accentuates a sense of history, and
  • of persistent change... 

Thinking/talking some more about writing (both how to do it and what it's for)--

Sarah Ann: in my high school, a paper was considered inappropriate and irrelevant if we used "I" or "my" in any sort of writing ....What was the purpose behind that? Did high schools not want us to learn how to take responsibility for our own thoughts and words?

nina0404: I feel the same way about the writing. I feel betrayed by the high school system, disdane for the college for making me switch, and most of all confussion and stress!

paige: Stories may easily grab our hearts but essays can challenge our minds .... It is no wonder our creation stories were so human-centric .... my post is calling us out on our lack of responsible story-telling ... but its also a hopeful post because I think that we have the power to write our stories and our essays to move people.

elisagogogo: the writing strategy that was mentioned in the class is a brand-new theory for me. In the past, I was taught to write in a starchy way ...I really appreciate the idea that “writing is a useful part of thinking. It helps you to think about what you are thinking. It clarifies your thinking.” “Don’t worry about not getting everything on your paper because not everything can be put in a paper.” To do the brain drain first, come out all you have in mind. Then organize the structure of your essay and clarify the central idea. At last, make it understandable to other people.

(appropriately for the topic of this class, think about learning to write as an evolutionary process....)

On Thurs, we'll be adding a biological layer
to our mythical-cosmological-geological story: read, come prepared to discuss (you're welcome to post your thoughts before class about)

questions about any of this process??

II. turning now to your afterthoughts from last week's discussion

pragmatics: remember to log in; if you get a "validation error," exit the browser completely and start over; Firefox is most compatible; play w/ gravatars (Olivia's sunflower, FluteSound4's cat, Lemon Koala's koala, Sarah and schu's ???); Kirsten move your last post from week 2 to 3....

[two more hints about creating active links and using images to tell your stories]

to (re)set the scene, from Jordania:
The Scale of the Universe

squeezing/summarizing the content of your reactions to scientific stories of the universe, of earth, and of living organisms on it:  In what ways might these stories change the stories you tell?  the way you conceive/tell stories?

Valentina: I can appreciate fact based dialogue more so than philosophical dialogue .... However, I won’t pretend that I have any interest at all in how the universe began .... why did anyone waste their time on this? Who cares .…?.... Quite honestly, I do not agree with calling [the theories accepted by the scientific community] “scientific stories”.... Until a theory is disproved by new observations and tests, I think it deserves to be accepted as the truth.

Julie G: I kind of like being a little uncertain about these things .... I like the notion that we are comprised of our stories, because it means that we can change .... I like to think that I am "insignificant"  ...  in the grand scheme of the universe . . . it takes a little pressure off ....But does that make "all truth relative"?... So what is ... "proof" ... and how does it relate to "truth?"

FluteSound4: in all of our creation stories we put humans as the center of the story .... To think of anything more enormous ... would have been mind boggling!.... Most of our creation stories ... took some sort of fantastical route. We didn't ... back up our ideas with claims of dark matter. Most our stories were...n't mind boggling ...

Bingqing: Now the class enters my favorite ... part ... based on physical and biological theories .... the true beginning through ... scientists’ eyes and with ... logical thinking, not those unrealistic “creation stories” or myths ....  creation stories [are]... subjective and mental while [science stories] are objective and realistic ....In a extended time trace, we are so new, young and negligible compar[ed] to the infinite time of space and high possibly multiverses. Jump out of the earth and look out! Never stop the imagination about parallel universes before opening ... “Schrödinger’s box”.

2007 BMC Senior Thesis on
Creativity, Brain, Indeterminacy: the thought-experiment of Schrodinger’s cat ... ironically enough was devised by Erwin Schrodinger to demonstrate how ludicrous it would be to assume that quantum level uncertainty played out on a macro level.

For instance, the survival of the cat may be decided by the position of an electron within the box, but the position of the electron would be indeterminate until it was physically observed.  Until someone opened the box, therefore, and collapsed the probability wave encompassed by the cat and the electron, the cat would be neither alive nor dead. Schrodinger thought that this was ridiculous.  He believed this example showed how unpredictability of the quantum sort could not exist at a macro level if any of us were to function ....

however ... there is an inherent, predictable degree of unpredictability in the behavior of all animals that might arise from quantum-level uncertainty at the atomic level of the nervous system .... If we can be unpredictable, we can at the very least produce ideas original to ourselves, even if they are not original to others.  Some degree of built-in neurological randomness, therefore, may be key to our ability for creativity.

Olivia: Before, I hardly ever connected the scientific creation stories with the traditional creation stories, because scientific stories are like some theories from the Physics textbook while the creation stories are like fairy tales. However, after the class, I realized that the scientific stories and creation stories are different in outward but the same in essence. First of all, their purposes are both to explore the origin of the universe. Secondly, they are both our guesses based on how much we perceive from the world .... Our creation stories disappear if we acknowledge that Turner is right. How could that happen?.... Will we have a totally different view of world as we know more and more about the universe?

the difference between all the scientific stories and myths is that the scientific ones are "observations that need conclusions" .... scientific stories and mythical ones are just ... observations and ideas that someone had to explain the origin of the world or universe .... they started off the same way .... ours tended to be more focused on the creation of Earth and the human race ...

Serendip "visitor": It's ... pretty overwhelming and frightening to think about just how tiny we are .... Since our world is so small, our limitations are so large ... However ... it can provide ... some ... perspective ... You can think: this problem I'm dealing with now won't affect me tomorrow, next week, next week, in a decade. It's huge in my little world but tiny compared to all else. That is pretty comforting.

Aimee: To paraphrase the Bible ... God created us out of love. The laws of physics, the stars and galaxies, and every organism - from a simple bacterium to a human - were deliberately begotten by His desire to create .... as many cultures demonstrate through their creation myths, humans saw their existence as central to the universe .... but I beg to differ. On the contrary, humans are too small to matter .... our existence ... is meaningless when compared to the 13 billion year lifespan of our universe .... our role in the universe is to watch it unfold.

message in Meeting for Worship on Sunday re: Steven Hawking's new book: gravity= attraction of all the parts of the universe= love? (different language for the same force??)

MC: Attempting to realize our scale in the universe is a very strange feeling, and it's a feeling I'm used to keeping to myself, so having people discuss it was very ... unnerving .... The question I have written down from Tuesday is: Where does faith come from? .... I can think of expecting things, but ... can anyone else think of a time where they've had faith and share it (if they're willing)?

Lemon Koala: If I am asked to tell my daughter about how the world was created, I will tell a beautiful fairy tale which consists of the ideals I used to wish this world has. However, one day, just like me, my daughter will find out fairy tales are not true....

I listed a bunch of differences between science story and myth. Then I just scratched out all of them except the last one: our feelings .... I don’t know which makes me feel better, being respectful to the unknown ... or feeling little and lonely in the grand universe ....We still need myths. Myths give us power and satisfaction that we are not alone, and we have grandmas sitting there in warm homes. That’s a tradition in human’s time dimension which provides us a sense of belonging .... There is a chance that, we, the child of the universe, represent the intention that the universe wants to learn about itself.

Should we not be telling our daughters fairy tales? What sorts of stories should we tell our children, to prepare them to live in this world? What sorts of stories were you told/do you wish you had been told?

Serendip "visitor" (
Summer?): it's almost impossible to truly stand in one's shoes. Every living creature has a world of itself. We can only explore the one world in ourselves ... what kind of power ... can actually understand the world ... as it "truly" is. I feel powerless when think about this question .... Also. as human beings, we keep changing the world .... I don't know what will happen if the earth can't bear with the changes

Turners Origin of the Universe ... makes my story feel small. Not small in the way that it no longer has any real meaning, but small in scale.  My story becomes part of larger story, instead of the center of attention.

Count off by 7's, to break into groups of 2, and discuss:

1) what questions do you have now? (about your place in the universe? your role in its unfolding?)
2) how might you go about answering them (in your paper)? how to tell this story, taking account of the expanded dimensions we're now acknowledging?
3) prepare to come back and report on something your partner taught you...