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Evolving Systems Course: PGnotes5

Paul Grobstein's picture

Making sense of ourselves in an evolving universe

Paul's notes - Session 5


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 3 page paper in which you you reconceive or reconsider your creation story in light of our discussions this week of scientific stories of the  the evolution of the universe, the earth, and the time dimensions involved in them.
  • For Thursday discussion, have a look at
  • Individual meetings on Thursday - Group B
  • Thursdays Group A Group B
    9 am   Genesis
    9:30 Elisa Julie
    2:30 Ilana Christine
    3:00 Angela Eva
    3:30 Hillary Aijingwen
    4:00   Valentina
    4:30 Mattie Kayla
    5:00 Carolina Jordan

Writing and co-constructive inquiry:

  • How's it going this time around?
  • Dump, read to see what's on your mind, organize around that? ("the writing strategy that was mentioned in the class is a brand-new theory for me" ... elisagogogo

The universe and ... from the forum:

One of my all-time favorite t-shirt/poster/bumper sticker designs is a photograph of the milky way, with a arrow pointing into the mass. "You are here" it declares, giving the reader a real quick sense of perspective ... "Remember that you're not the center of the universe, remember that you're small," it declares.  I like that. A similar realization came over me a few years ago while upset and unhappy about the way life had treated me, and seeking refuge in the night-time stars. They gave me peace, and sanity. Enlightening ... ecollier

I know that the universe is bigger than elephantine proportions, but I haven’t actually wrapped my mind around it.  Quite frankly, I don’t want to.  I already think a little town like Bryn Mawr is big ... I like being small being.  To me, it’s familiar, safe, and comforting ... This entire idea of how large the universe is is fun to think about, but it’s not something I would care to obsess about ... christinequeho

It’s simply amazing; never would I have imagined that the image we reviewed in class was nothing more than perhaps an inch by half-inch rectangle piece of our night sky. And never did I imagined that within that small piece there would be perhaps a million galaxies, each containing a million stars of their own ... There is truly another frontier to discover. Quite frankly I believe that it’s in our nature to always continue searching for answers. I never want to feel satisfy with just learning about the limits of our world. We need to go beyond that, even if that means passing the boundaries of our very FEARS ... genesisbui

I was greatly impressed by the story about power, in which a girl told his grandfather that human being is so small compared with the world. But after discussing about the origin of universe, the theory of big bang, I came up with another idea. Is the vastness or the power itself the sign of power? Say, the universe, at very first, is a massive point without a big volume but contains incredible heat and energy. It is this potential that creates today’s universe, but not the volume of the point ... eliseagogogo

I know the universe is huge, I know people are small and insignificant, but what am I supposed to do with that information? ... This guy I sat next to on a plane one time (who i think was a bit drunk because he was spouting off parables much more quickly than a sober person would) told me "Knowledge without action is trivia." If you know something and can't do anything with it, what's the point of knowing it? ... Jordania

If the story MUST include the universe/something infinite/existentialism, then by all means, tell it, but those couple depressed people who find no meaning in life but to find immortality will blankly glare at you until they find a way to interject their thoughts about why your point is invalid. I'm just telling my experiences (oh my god another story) ... kbonds

I don't think the vastness of the universe makes us insignificant. I don't think it proves that a God exists. I think we were just a freak accident that billions of years later led to the evolution of human beings, and now we live every day in our own little worlds doing what we do. And I'm perfectly okay with that ... Hillary G

I want to address the fact that we have been referring to the theories accepted by the scientific community as “scientific stories”. Quite honestly, I do not agree with calling them that. These theories are not “just theories” and calling them “stories” reduces their value, making them seem like mere hypothesis. When, in reality, theories like “The Big Bang Theory” or Einstein’s “theory of relativity” are accepted as truth within the scientific community because they are based on observations and testable ideas. They are the result of extensive research and testing, not just the result of a few peoples’ creativities running wild on paper- leaving us with perhaps fascinating but nonetheless improbable and improvable stories. Until a theory is disproved by new observations and tests, I think it deserves to be accepted as the truth or, at the very least, the least wrong idea of our time ... Valentina

I kind of like being a little uncertain about these things. We've seen a number of creation stories thus far, and I like how they show how our ideas have, and can change. I like the notion that we are comprised of our stories, because it means that we can change .... does that make "all truth relative" .... It makes me think of yet another Brain Drain word -- "proof." What is proof? I need proof ... Proof is why I will fly in an airplane without thinking it will fall, or cook without thinking the stove will catch fire (theoretically! If I use it correctly). So what is this "proof" thing, and how does it relate to "truth?" Or faith? When something is proven, does that mean it is true, or just that we can have stronger faith in it? Is that what truth is? Is truth is just "the least wrong story" and as such, we believe it?? ... Julie G  

The creation stories in the ancient times were the guess based on what people knew at that time, which were “not true, but not made up.” The same as the scientific stories are today ... Olivia

Although I believe science to be closest to the truth, the idea of scientific theories being only stories is not something I would rule out completely.  I mean, many theories have been thrown-out or amended.  So why not the Big-Bang Theory?  It is a story used to make sense of observations that can't be fully explained.  But like many scientific improvements, I believe we are getting closer and closer to the truth ... Angela_MCA

 I liked the difference between scientific theories and religious stories that Paul asserted in class on Thursday, this idea that scientific "stories" are perhaps more communal in their origins. Ultimately I feel like whatever you choose to believe involves a leap of faith. I believe in the big bang, which offers up many questions and mysteries, but they are the questions and the mysteries that I have chosen to embrace. I have faith that they have answers, and I imagine that faith to be spiritual in nature ... mwechsler

I think that science is a modern form of religion and all of the scientific theories are supported by reasons. However, the powers of reason are limited and, hence, imagination also plays an important part in the formation of modern science theories ... LAJW

in the end every answer we get always leads to another question ... CParra

here is a saying that I like when I DO want perspective: ... Serendip visitor?

Focus largely on space, but what about time?  What's going on there?

Continued discussion in forum

  • Paper  by Wednesday 6 pm
  • Readings and individual meetings on Thursday