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Final Presentation

ems8140's picture

In terms of evolution and all that we have learned this year. Where would one place the following concepts within the categories of science, English, or both?

  • Narration
  • Library of Babel
  • Randomness
  • Agency
  • Sky Hook
  • Algorithm
  • Time
  • Experimentation



Science or English?





Concept Biology/Science English/ Literature
Sky Hook This concept applies here because it acts as the explanation for the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution:
evolution seems to occur in one big step or immediately, intermediate species or phases aren’t seen, only the final product is seen in nature.
In literature or film, this term may also be considered the deus ex machina. For example, in Adaptation the alligator conveniently emerges at the moment when Charlie’s death seems imminent.
Narration Narration allows anyone to create and narrate their own story, which is why we can see so many different stories of evolution, even with the idea of creationism. This idea also allows for personal interpretation of evolution, as illustrated by the different styles of Darwin and Dennett.   In Generosity, The Plague, and Adaptation, the evolution and development of the author is apparent as the story proceeds.
Generosity: Powers seemed detached at the beginning of the story, yet by the end he seems reluctant to part with them.
The Plague: Rieux had to deal with the stress-producing experience of dealing with the plague, helped him to develop as a person and learn more about himself and perseverance.
Adaptation: Charlie grew throughout the story and by the end had gained the confidence to write his screenplay.
Library of Babel Challenges the fundamental concepts of evolution because it poses the idea that everything has already been created.   All the stories have been created, therefore there are no possibilities for new stories because each one has already been written.
Generosity: Powers emphasizes this idea with his constant mentions of how “you know this story” and the limited number of plots available. Additionally, in this novel he presents the idea that there are only 24 plot lines available to writers.
Adaptation: tried to make something new, but the end of the film still involved a clichéd Hollywood ending of violence and action.
Randomness: despite the previous concept of the Library of Babel, this idea allows for the potential to create new things Acts as the process by which evolution occurs through mutation in organisms’ genes and the component of the algorithm that leads to evolution. Genes are random, through mutation and what information is passed on to the next generation. What is popular at the moment (cultural memes) may be random, and people tend to create stories or films based on what is relevant.
Memes (cultural units) are random.
Question of Agency Animals (and Humans) have agency in the ability to decide with whom to mate (sexual selection), which (often) leads to evolution of the species in a positive manner. One example of agency in biology would include the peacock.  The female chooses to mate with males that have the most colorful and bright plumage, ultimately influencing the evolution of future generations.  This is somewhat different than literature in that it doesn’t cause a change in the present. Agency in the ability to choose what to read and how that may be interpreted. As shown by class discussions of Generosity and Adaptation, people have different reactions and interpretations to these works.
Based on the concept of Library of Babel, there is also a lack of agency for writers because they are somewhat bound to the limited plot types.
Powers tries to break out of this writing style and tell the story the way he wants, yet he’s limited in his ability. Additionally, Adaptation still has a Hollywood ending, despite the attempts to be different.
Algorithm Thinking of evolution as an algorithm, with an invariant, predictable process, but not necessarily a predictable outcome. The key step here is the associated randomness. The plot of a story acts as an algorithm, and the outcome is how it is written. There is a given process to writing that includes an idea, characters, themes, plot, but the final outcome is left to the writer.  This is particularly noticeable in scientific writing, there is an abstract, background, experiment, result, and then discussion.  For both the writer and the reader this form makes writing or reading the paper more automatic (or mindless).
Time Change and evolution happens over time, unless a sky hook is involved. The role of time is less definitive, and there is a range of what time can mean to a story.
In The Plague time was objectively progressing, but subjectively the citizens were stuck in the present because there was no change or development. This role of time added to the complexity of this story.
Experimentation This concept leads to the development of new theories. Allows for the evolution of stories. Authors are able to try new things and experiment with how to use the 24 plot lines.




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