Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Evolving Systems Course: PGnotes15

Paul Grobstein's picture

Making sense of ourselves in an evolving universe

Paul's notes - Session 15


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

Course arrangements:

  • Paper for Wednesday: think/write about future of cultural change, is it going somewhere?  why?  what role does individual intentionality play in it?  Discuss in re specific case rather than in general
  • Finish for Thursday discussion
    • Apostolos Doxiadis et al, Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth for Thursday (two classes together)
  • Individual meetings
    Thursdays Group A Group B
    9 am Elisa Genesis
    9:30 Aijingwen Julie
    2:30 Ilana Christine
    3:00 Angela  
    3:30 Hillary  
    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?


There is nothing new under the sun ... Ecclesiastes 1:9

The only lasting truth is change ... Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

From the forum:

"Just because everything's changing doesn't mean it's never been this way before." That's from the song The Call by Regina Spektor, and it was going through my head for most of thursday's class. It's not completely applicable to the ecclesiastes quote and the earthseed quote, but it made me think of the idea that we start out with all of the same things--like there are certain amounts of each element on earth, they just change and form different compounds over time so it looks like everything is changing but really it's all made of the same stuff ... Predicting what comes next in the Parable of  the Sower story... ...but i'll estimate that the second book happens 10-15 years later, when the worst has passed and they're working on rebuilding the country. I don't think that even more chaos would fill another book while also having a plot and a theme. So basically, i feel like the Parable of the Sower is the part where it was dark before it gets lighter, and the next part of the story is the better part. "Naked I was born, and I am naked now, and I'll die naked. I haven't gained or lost a thing." -Sancho Panza, from Don Quixote ... Jordania

change is always happening, but at the same time, there is nothing new ... An exception to this might be non-material “things,” such as thought, maybe. Can thought come from nothing? But then again – can thought be truly uninfluenced by other thought? ... ecollier

Parable of the Sower haunted my dreams, and how could it not? That book was probably the most frightening book I have ever read, and not just for its gruesome detail but also for the future it presents us ... Valentina

people aren't born good or evil, they're born neutral. It is not until they are presented with options, acted upon, and interacted with do they develop a "good" or a "bad" ... "I could not steal this mans money but I need to provide for my family *steals*"  The last example is where the dilemma part comes in, and it is something we see in Parable. I think this would be an interesting thing to talk, most likely argue about, in class, because everyone has a different morals+survival+laziness line. For some people, it never changes ,and for some, it changes all the time, and that is something we see in Parable as well ... kbonds

I think there are always changes in culture over time which are caused by constant changes in both environment and individuals. Individuals play a very important role in changing culture, since ultimately culture is created by us human beings. Hence, the change in individuals will definitely cause the change in the shared conventions, ideas and concepts and, thus, the changes in culture ... LAJW

I think that one individual can have a very strong influence on a culture. A culture is a whole group of people and although every person contributes something to the group, it takes one strong leader to really influence all the people. In Parable of the Sower, Lauren's followers were all different. Each person contributed something, however, it was Lauren that guided the people and kept the community together, allowing it to evolve and become strong.They all looked to her for guidance ... Angela_MCA

I really liked the idea the class brought up of mutual change.  People change due to the environment and the environment changes due to people.  While change is powerful, it's difficult to say who controls that power.  Or if anyone does, really.  I disagreed that people have that much control over what happens.  You only have control over yourself and not even a ton of it.  Whether it's people or the culture, there's no ruling force behind change.  I feel they impact each other equally ... it was interesting how we're beginning to see a metaphor come out of the book in terms of society and how that interacts with each other.  I'm interested in exploring that a bit more.... Imittleman

Our discussion about Parable of the Sower stopped at the conflict between the father’s belief and the author’s idea. As a narrative story, the author believes that the point about the world is change instead of present ... Like a non-narrative story, her father thinks that there is nothing new under the sun ... I find both her father and hers’ ideas are reasonable. Also, if we combine those two kinds of thinking together, we might find a way of living that we are more comfortable with. To take myself as an example, leaving my home thousands miles away and come to another country, I knew that I would experience a great change. I try my best to adapt the environment actively, but I can never predict and get ready for every single change. Every time when I feel sad and disappointed, I share my new experience, my worries with my parents and friends who I have been familiar with for a long time. In most cases, they could not help me to solve the problem directly, but after pouring out my troubles, I feel relieved and full of energy to go on .... elisagogogo

as we continue forward with ours lives, and we continue to create our own cultures…in the long run we begin to see that it provokes a continuity of evolutionary change ... genesisbui

The relation between individuals and cultures


Parable of the Sower as narrative story

  • Is there change over time?  in culture?  in individuals?
  • Does the present follow from the past?  Necessarily or .... ?  Role of chance?
  • What role do individuals play in change?

Let's retell the story together, focusing on those issues ...

Can we predict the future? (Parable of the Talents)

Trends in biological change? in cultural change? in individual change?

Relations among biological, cultural, individual change?