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Evolving Systems Course: PGnotes11

Paul Grobstein's picture

Making sense of ourselves in an evolving universe

Paul's notes - Session 11


Course subject: evolution (physical, biological, cultural, individual)

Course method: co-evolution, co-constructive inquiry, evolving by telling/hearing each other's stories, using them to create new ones, individually and collectively = co-constructive dialogue

Last week’s discussion was amazingly interesting! Not only because the topic was vivid, but also because of the atmosphere, in which we were highly enlightened by others and our thoughts were continuously progressed. I feel that I even enjoy seeing everyone’s focused eyes ... elisagogogo

There are times when one is able to interrupt a person’s word, but there are also times when you must leave them alone to get out what they need to say. I have always had the problem of not listening to this rule because my voice and thoughts always overpowered another person. It is weird to see someone just like me speak with such conviction. It is like a mirror, but it is also really embarrassing ... CPara

Course arrangements:

  • By 6 pm Wednesday, write and email me a 3 page paper in which you explore the causes of cultural change in some particular case, perhaps the one you wrote about in your previous paper.
  • For Thursday discussion, have a look at
    • Chapters 5,6 of Prehistory: The Making of the Modern Mind by Colin Renfrew (hand out)
  • For spring break, get started reading
    • Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower
    • Apostolos Doxiadis et al, Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth
  • Individual meetings
    Thursdays Group A Group B
    9 am Elisa Genesis
    9:30   Julie
    2:30 Ilana Christine
    3:00 Angela  
    3:30 Hillary Aijingwen
    4:00 Eva Valentina
    4:30 Mattie Kayla
    5:00 Carolina Jordan


Culture as consequence of biological evolution?  Addition to biological evolution?  Differs from biological evolution in what ways?

diversityloopscales biocultdiffs evolfashion
the whole course? evolution biological and cultural: similarities and differences? fashion: a test case of cultural evolution as descent with variation and selection?


From the forum:

I’m glad to make connections between cultural evolution and biological evolution, although I’m still wondering about how closely we may equate Lamarck with cultural evolution. Are we trying to say that Lamarck was right but looked for it in biology, which is (obviously) wrong? I would prefer to just write him off as wrong ... ecollier

We valorize ... success because we all want to be the winner ... Lemon Koala (see also SoundsLikeBanana)

about the black and white moths. We figured that neither moth was superior than the other. The moths were instead better equipped/lucky to be around that particular change in the environment. I believe that it accounts for humans as well ... genesisbui

I really do not think culture can change so fast ... There are people in Mexico who still have the culture of the past ... Even though technology came in, the culture is still there alive and string ... One person cannot change the culture .... The big ideas change society and even then there are a lot of cultures that fight back ... CPara

I think that cultural evolution is similar to biological evolution. But they are not the same ... I think that women starting to take leadership positions is the most recent cultural changes experienced by us. I think that this example can well prove that cultural changes in our society are not really controlled by anyone in the top position. The change is driven by the big social environment. It is because that tertiary industries becomes more important than secondary manufacturing industries in most developed countries. Hence man's intrinsic strength is no longer important and required for service-based industries. However, women ,who are believed to have better communicative skills than men, are able to perform better than men ... LAJW

we were discussing whether or not cultural change was intentional, or conscious ... conscious actions ALWAYS result in unconscious change. That is to say, every conscious action made may effect some premeditated change, but it also necessarily creates unexpected change ... Julie G

Last Thursday’s discussion ends up with a debate of whether there are some people consciously motivating and creating a direction for culture change ... I like the idea that we are focusing on an “upside down triangle”, in which universe in at the top, culture lays below and individual is at the bottom. Everything within this triangle has interconnection. But if we agree that everything within the triangle has certain relation, why do we always focus the cause of culture change on human? From my point of view, culture change may not only directed by human, but the universe as a whole ... While I enjoyed the class very much, I experienced a sense of anxiety afterwards. If everything in the world has the regulation, if everything is controlled by the same rule and is advancing a  predetermined destination, is the world as colorful as we think? It is interesting to see the future of universe or culture change because it takes a relatively long time to happen compared with my life time. But frankly to say, I am afraid to apply the rule of universe to my own life and reluctant to see what I would become in the future ... elisagogogo

It is my opinion that it's not one person or one group of elites who pick what comes next, but it's not totally the masses either ... we build off each other to produce what comes next. It's not one or the other ... the internet adds a new dimension to pop culture and fashion and whatnot and also makes it unpredictable because the most random things go viral and nobody can guess what will come next because it hasn't been made yet ... Jordania

Cultural diversity is all built off of the environment and whatever that particular culture has influencing it. Random circumstances and situations occur that influence a culture ... I appreciate all the differences we do have.  Without them, the world would be pointless and boring ... Angela_MCA

Though we will likely never be capable of pointing to an origin for every aspect of this distinct culture, for now, we can just sit back and appreciate the madness that is “lax bros” and wait for the next trend to come along ... Valentina

I think in many cases there are random factors that lead up to great cultural change which could have evolved from what was once conscious choices, as well as other entirely random things.  Weather, other historical events, etc.  To say it was all one or all the other would be simply misleading ... Unconscious action could lead to conscious change and vice versa.  If we had no say in the matter, how would things be different?  It also just feels odd to characterize cultural change as random because it implies that we  lack choice ... I guess I feel inclined to constantly deny an argument implying that consciousness doesn't have some kind of impact ... Imittelman

Further thoughts from thinking about language, about cornets, about thought itself?

The relation between individuals and cultures

"There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.  There is another theory which states that this has already happened." ... Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (thanks to Sarah Ann)

"science itself will teach man... that he himself is something of the nature of a piano-key or the stop of an organ... so that everything he does is not done by his willing it, but is done of itself, by the laws of nature....even if this were proved to him by natural science and mathematics, even then he would not become reasonable, but would purposely do something perverse out of simple ingratitude, simply to gain his point.... the whole work of man really seems to consist in nothing but proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano-key!" .... Fyodor Dotoevsky, Notes From Underground, 1864

Continued discussion in forum

  • Paper due Wednesday 6 pm
  • Reading for Thursday to continue thinking about cultural evolution, consciousness