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Evolving Systems Course: PGnotes3

Paul Grobstein's picture

Making sense of ourselves in an evolving universe

Paul's notes - Session 3


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:

  • By 6 pm Wednesday, write and email me a creation story of your own

    your story of where everything comes from, how everything is related

    3 pages double-spaced 12 pt basic font Word document with title, name/date/assignment number in upper right

    emailed as attachment to by 6 pm Wednesday

  • For Thursday, have a look at


From the forum:

Studying in a seminar is a brand-new experience for me. In China, never have I ever get a chance to sit around the table with my other classmates, freely raising our own opinions and enlightened by other’s view at the same time ... elisagogogo

i love the debates we have. there is so much to learn from everyone. there are different views in everyone and sometimes i get really hyped and want to talk back to everyone but it is really rude to always talk. SO what i do is sit and play with my feet or look down or drink water in order to let others talk. Now everyone can see i like to ramble so i try in class to shut my mouth. In class i hope all we do is talk.  this might sound funny but hearing the voices and passion in the girls voice makes me happy since everytime i talk i get to excited about everything ... CParra

I thought the discussion on Thursday was really interesting, I just felt that there wasn't enough time in one class! So I'm looking forward to Tuesday to hear everyone's thoughts, in addition to sharing my own.  I think I was a little quiet, I enjoy listening a little too much ... Angela_MCA

my only discussion-based class this semester... and I have high hopes for it. I'm interested in hearing everyone's ideas, although I also think that some have too much to say and not enough time to listen. We should all work on finding balance in our class participation ... ecollier

stories can deeply affect our lives by eliciting feelings and thoughts we may not have previously had. Our lives are made up of feelings, ideas, and experiences and the need to share these experiences with others is part of being human and essential to our evolution ... Valentina

Scientists put their faith in the stories they are told by other scientists, as much as Peruvians put their faith into the stories their elders told them. Who is either party to question those "realities" when they see such proof of it every day?  And here we are in 2010, thousands of years after the Andeans, still having no idea what the "truth" really is. People will always search for the answers because there will always be questions. The author of the Truth About Stories is right. We are just made up of stories. Because when you think about it, what else do we have? ... Hilary G

I completely agree with the idea that stories are all we are, and I was very glad to read that, because I have always had the idea in my head but never heard or seen it spelled out.  My favorite part of our class discussion on Thursday was when we got to the point where everyone generally agreed that Myths were once science, and some of our science could potentially be myth in the future. In addition, someone (I forget who, and apologize) thought that there was an eventual end to the constant questions/answers/more questions game that science has been playing. These two ideas got me thinking the existential "How do we know what we know?" question, and that is a whole 'nuther can of worms I do not care to open in this forum yet ... kbonds

I think that last week’s discussion was more philosophical than factual. Hence, I am actually very confused about the discussion now. However, from my point of view, we actually talked about the degree of imagination involved in our current scientific theories ... I was not educated to have doubts in our current scientific theories, but to believe them, the discussion conducted during our lessons stunned me to a large extent ... However, I am very open to new ideas and opinions. I found the idea saying that the current scientific fact will become another myth in the next few hundred years was especially interesting. I think this idea is plausible ... LAJW

In 11th grade, I had a summer assignment to write a three page paper about truth.  My friends and I racked our brains about it!  The paper questioned and challenged everything we knew or thought we knew.  I remember coming up with a scenario: You have a shirt.  This is truth.  In years, the shirt gets faded in the wash, worn out, and turns into a rag.  This is also truth.  Is it a shirt anymore?  No.  Did I lie when I said it was a shirt?  No.  So, what happened?  The shirt changed.  Truths change, often evolving-- as can be seen in science.  (In the shirt's case, it regressed.)  ... The stories we live by are stories we live by.  If they change, we change ... christinequeho

My mom told me that humans have this integral, intuitive need to "worship" a greater being, a thought, a belief system, as a part of our survival.  That could be a deity or science or any other ruling force.  It's like we create our own hierarchy in order to be a part of something greater than ourselves ... There's a point in which I need some kind of "reality" or structure, like all humans, to grasp onto before the world seems to be made of mist with no true reality ...The stories we write reflect ourselves.  So, if our creation story encourages punishment, that begins to reflect in our society.  But, if that were true, wouldn't that also prove that we're punitive by nature and our stories are merely a reflection of THAT? ... my brain is doing somersaults ... Imittelman

And what part of "us" does it define, if stories are all we are? Our personality, our morals, thoughts, actions, creeds, our physical selves? How far does "we" extend? I'm sorry if these questions are bothersome, but I like to know exactly what I'm discussing before I discuss it ... Jordania

our use of "myths" reflected outdated stories that, as some point in the past, served to explain the universe. Can modern scientific theories be termed as "factual" whereas myths have been proven "false?" I regret using so many scare-quotes, but I find myself hesitant to use so many of these terms freely, given the nature of our discussion. If we speculate that the answer is no, and scientific facts are somehow equal to these myths, then that calls into question many of the "facts" and "laws" by which we live. In other words, do we have anything close to dependable knowledge? ... a potentially tragic narrative telling of our section's last class might look like, "There were divergences, people were talking past one another, or taking opposing stances and no resolution was made." Whereas a potentially romantic telling might be, "Widely different opinions were presented, enriching the conversation with diversity and providing fodder for thought beyond the classroom." ... Julie G. 

At the end of our last class on Thursday I found myself frustrated. I figured I would sit and let all my thoughts gather and wait, but I am still, actually I think more, frustrated. I understand that in terms of subjective experience, which is an exceptionally important thing, that stories are perhaps all we are. But I really really really believe that things have also happened, that regardless of the stories we tell (which may have an incredible impact on how everyone else and even our selves process and remember the information), some truth exists. Something happened ... mwechsler 

Something happened
  • Do we all agree on what it  was?
  • Do we need to?
  • What's the point of our class?  of science?  of story telling?  of life? 

Another story

  • class, story telling, life as process, as ongoing change, as conceiving what hasn't yet been conceived
  • "I am, and I can think, therefore I can change who I am, as well as things around me" ... Writing Descartes
  • "Don't say, in the years to come, that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story.  You've heard it now."

With lots more stories to come ...