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Evolving Systems Course: PGnotes7

Paul Grobstein's picture

Making sense of ourselves in an evolving universe

Paul's notes - Session 7


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 thinking about creation in light of our discussions this week of scientific stories of biological evolution, and last week of the  the evolution of the universe, and the earth.  Why are things the way they are? 
  • For Thursday discussion, read "Variables":  excerpts from Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (Norton, 1997, 2005).
  • 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

Our own evolution, from the forum

Though I won't go so far as to say the non-narrative story with the "great chain of being" had any validity whatsoever in comparison to the narrative story presented by Darwin, Lyell, and Malthus- I will admit that I can appreciate the attempt to explain the unknown from a point of view that had some logic behind it ... I thought the "Great Chain of Being" idea was interesting despite its lack of time and history ... Valentina

The introduction of non-narrative stories shocked me.  I wrote in my notebook to define it as, “That’s just the way it is” (*Cue 2Pac song).  I’m still in awe.  Non-narratives are awful!  They’re ignorant.  To me, that’s like a lazy excuse not to be curious and discover.  That’s like sitting there idly, being a waste of space ... christinequeho

I just found it very interesting about the revolution in ways of thinking to change from the universal pattern to the narrative.  The universal pattern would be more optimistic because it would be stable and unshakable even by humans (ex. if global warming had occurred under this way of thinking, it would just be God's doing and not the fault of humans). The narrative takes away our ability to transfer our responsibility onto something else, saying "that's just how things are" instead of taking care of business like we should ... Jordania

I think every living organism on earth is developed from a common ancestor is a very good idea in terms of educating Human Beings not to be so arrogant ... LAJW

we can explain evolution without using the phrase natural selection, because that's only part of the story. Also most people think to believe that natural selection and sruvival of the fittest are the same thing, when in fact they are not ... SoundsLikeBanana

I have always learned about natural selection and survival of the fittest in my science classes but for some reason that is not what darwin had concluded. Why is there a hole in my knowledge? Was i not ready to learn  descent with modification until college? Students are given partial information and that sucks ... I am now confused.  Was descent with modification on Thursday just a glimpse of what this actually means?  I think that was an actual brain #%$@. ... CParra

Why, and how, do things occur without apparent motivation? I can't seem to wrap my head around it. I always want there to be a reason, and when there isn't one, I always think it's simply because we haven't discovered it yet. Am I naive? Are there things in this universe that simply happen, or exist without cause? Can I even conceive of such a notion as possible? If it is possible, how does that affect the way I make sense of things? ... Julie G

If the driving force of evolution is RANDOM genetic mutations, then there really is no explanation for anything. Where did the randomness come from?  ... Doesn't something have to start somewhere? ... In life we are taught the causes if everything, "if you do that this will happen", "that happened because of this", "avoid that or this will happen to you." ...  How am I supposed to make sense of myself and keep my feet on the ground, and live a life of reason, if there is no reason for anything? ... This all just makes me wonder even more if there ever was a beginning.  I don't think there could be a beginning if nothing was there to document it, or see it happen.  Nobody was there to be able to TELL us what happened.  If there was someone there, then where did they come from? See, no beginning.  Which makes me believe even more that maybe we really are only the stories that we have.... Angela_MCA

I'd like to think that there was a *reason* that everything happened as it did, rather than the result of randomness. We learn a lot about cause and effect in history, the why's and how's. But this seems to have an effect without a real cause we relate to ... Something happened that caused our brains to gain consciousness. And we still don't know exactly what that is. That seems like the next big question ... ???

One of the most exciting points I found in last week’s discussion was whether people want to explore in new environment or stay comfortably in familiar one ... I amazingly found that if we apply this theory to the evolving universe, it makes a lot of sense. Say, people wanted to find themselves a comfortable position in the world so that they created creative myth. But as time passed by, people born with more comprehensive observation and knowledge didn’t feel comfortable of always believing in what the older generation said, so that they worked on their own and created more stories that seemed more reasonable in their position. Gradually, what we call scientific story is formed. At the same time, in this case, we can feel free to put scientific story, which is what we believe nowadays, between the position of true and false. People will never find the “real truth” because they keep evolving and continuously seek more answers that satisfy themselves ... elisagogo

An interesting topic in our discussion included a comparison of steep and far exploration. I can define Steep [far?] Exploration as the kind of that has the explorer taking a leap onto new experiences and new understandings, quite possibly taking many risks along the way. A steep explorer tends to stay in a very collective safe area and instead acquires the kind of understanding that is based on a focused subject. I would like to consider myself a risk-taker that deeply yearns to become an explorer of the world. But along the way there are things that one needs to leave behind. I admit that the leaving my hometown has left a mark in me. I felt that I was barely beginning to edify so many projects and relationships for myself, and then I took a turn to leave all them unfinished. Perhaps for the far explorer it becomes necessary to leave unfinished businesses behind, in order to move onto a new understanding. But is that ok? ... genesisbui

What I have found interesting about this seminar so far is it's ability to connect all my classes. In history we have talked at length about how the subject is not about what happened, it is about interpreting the stories we have about what happened. My anthropology class has been talking all about biological evolution. I have never had any courses link up so perfectly before. It's a little un-nerving ... mwechsler

My bio class is talking about how evolution forms itself, in a vague round about way that is hard to explain. My anthropology class is pretty much giving me the nitty gritty historical stuff, and this class is using what we already know about biological evolution as a jumping off point for different types of evolution, and it is also using it as a story ... kbonds

I’m looking forward to the change in topic ... ecollier

Universe/earth stories (mind ...

Biology stories (more mind

A scientific story?  A good story?

  • makes sense of diversity, and lots of other things, in terms of events in past
  • a "narrative story," what is now is accounted for by what has been in past (similar to history, to psychology, to ... ?)
  • contrast to earlier (and to some degree persisting), non-narrative stories
  • predicts things will be different in the future, ongoing change
  • what doesn't it account for? 

Why does change occur over time? 

  • in biological evolution?
  • in the story of the universe?  of earth? in stories themselves (including scientific ones)?  in ... ?

"Before us there was nothing ... There was only space and time.  Space and time grew tired of being alone ... They wanted warmth and feeling.  The yearning ... created an idea.  With the presence of an idea, many things began to come about ..."

"The thing was born with an insatiable need to appreciate and care, and be appreciated and cared for ... It found the center of the fabric and started to sew, sew, sew"

"Darkness would enrage herself with evil ... the twins clashed against their angry mother ... The planets and stars began to roam all throughout the outskirts of space ..." 

"In the very beginning ... a thought was floating in the universe in the form of a sound ... Booming sound with no boundaries and no rhythm attracts the strangest of combinations ... These combinations ... have the potential to create really magical conceptions."

"It was the shape that was imperative ... Art was vying for swirls.  Religion wanted symbols, as usual; Music (who had been on Science's side with the whole number business) couldn't see why they all had to be the same, and Dance did't care what shape they were, as long as they moved.  Everyone was arguing at full volume until suddenly a firm voice broke through the din: "Spheres."  And that was that."

"From that nothingness emerged an idea - me.  I'm not sure how.  And I, I had a dream.  That dream saw things, thoughts and ideas ... Those came first ..."

From random motion to order: diffusion and some of its implications

Why do we presume there must have been an initial motivation?  A beginning?  An objective?  Time?  Could there be another kind of story? 

Continued discussion in forum

  • Paper due Wednesday 6 pm
  • Reading for Thursday to start thinking about cultural evolution