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Evolving Systems Course: PGnotes19

Paul Grobstein's picture

Making sense of ourselves in an evolving universe

Paul's notes - Session 19


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: A paper on the life of an individual that helps to make some general points about individual evolution and/or its relation to biological/cultural evolution.
  • Look at for Thursday discussion
  • 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?


Culture and cultural change

  • What similar and different cultural practices have developed in our two esem section meetings?
  • What new cultural practices might evolve from the intersection of the two?

Moving on to individual change

  • Biological change influence cultural change and vice versa
  • So too cultural change influences biological change and vice versa?

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

Despite ongoing cultural change, ongoing individual change, there is only evolution

Individual life begins as babies, what do we start with?  before culture/individual experience?

From the forum

What I noticed on Thursday,is that none of us like change. We had the opportunity to change location, teacher, and peers but none of us want that there was a lot of resistance ... Why is that? If we want to evolve then we must experience change. Many of us, a couple of weeks ago said, that change is much more common in culture than in biological evolution. If that were true then wouldn't our culture change after our experience with a new class. I still see the same things occurring.  I am now very interested in what will happen to this culture we have created ... CParra

I've tasted a sense of subtle righteousness ...  I have to bite my tongue and remember the fiery defensiveness and swelling pride I felt as our differences were judged, and as I judged them. I am also thankful that somehow, we all seemed to realize that the sense of "betterness" was destructive, even if we all kind of felt/feel it still. I think this attempt at understanding or at least accepting the positions of others is key to solving these insane (aren't they?) debates .... Julie G

Science and logic can do wonderful things, but they also have limits. I think that nothing on earth has been proven the cause of everything ... LAJW (also ? "always know more, never know everything"

I'm very interested in this concept of knowledge as divided between expressible and inexpressible depending on the form of logic being employed. It seems to allow us to level the playing field of truths. I am scared, however, of the extent to what that can be taken. There are some things that seem to be intrinsically wrong, or right. For example, I cannot imagine a situation when rape would be okay ... Julie G

really enjoyed reading the articles on how babies think. I remember way back when I was 13 and my little brother Arren was born. My parents would always try and get him to focus on one thing for a long time, but honestly there really wasn't much for him to focus on one he figured out the object's basic function, and he would move on. I was reminded of this when I read about the babies simply becoming uninterested after learning the function of a toy .... Kayla

It is weird that under such a relaxed atmosphere, my willing to compete is more than my desire to cooperate in some extent. Why do we, or at least I, prioritize competition? .... I read the article about babies that night. It was so interesting because it relates to what I’ve learnt in psychology recently. In the class, we talked that research shows infants in every culture are able to perceive all phones when they are very little so they are equipped to learn whatever language they hear in their environment. By 12 months, when expressive language acquisition usually begins, they no longer can discriminate sounds they do not hear in languages input. So they become more efficient at processing functionally meaningful contrasts in their language and at ignoring irrelevant ones. And phonemic categories that are going to matter in their language are those they continue to discriminate. .... I’m thinking about if this psychology theory contributes to the interpretation of competition and cooperation. Say, we were born with equal tendency to compete and cooperate. While as we grow up, the stress in this competitive society forces us to compete with ourselves and to defeat others to get better ... elisagogogo

If a baby could some how grow up without any adult teaching or corrupting them, without anyone limiting or inhibiting their creative possibilities, I wonder how they would turn out. They might explore things we would never think of and reach new conclusions we could never reach. People always think that you have to grow up and have experiences shape you to learn about the world, but I think that you can learn the most from the honesty and innocence of uncorrupted children .... Angela_MCA

I’ve never before last week thought about babies being born with morals. Although the evidence in the two articles is clearly supportive of the idea, I wonder about how much these babies’ parents were able to teach them before the tests were run. How could a baby, who traditionally has no comprehension of other being’s feelings, feel sympathy to one whom wrong is done? One article did mention, however shortly, the (past?) notion of babies being unable to understand that others have feelings of their own. I’m still yet unable to accept this so easily.  But then again, I believe that there exists inherent good and bad. If babies were not born with these morals, how could they be learnt as inherent? .... ecollier

is morality not like other traits, a combination of "nature and nurture"? In order for it to be so, the "nature" aspect could not be equal in all because if it was then it could be said we are only affected by our enironment. Therefore, thus presuming there is not genetic component involved with morality, we could be living in peace and harmony if only our environments would allow for it? ... Valentina

"... children learn  about the world in much the same way that scientists do - by conducting experiments, analying statistics, and forming intuitive theories of the physical, biological, and psychological realms ... There is a trade-off between the ability to explore creatively and learn flexibly, like a child, and the ability to plan and act effectively, like an adult" ... Gopnik

"Socialization is critically important.  But this is not because babies and young children lack a sense of right and wrong; its because the sense of right and wrong that they naturally possess diverges in important ways from what we adults would want it to be ... The aspect of morality that we truly marvel at - its generality and universality - is the product of cultural development" ... Bloom

"Morality" as another aspect of evolution, biological/cultural/individual?  To be continued, after a look at the brain, starting Thursday ....