Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves in the World
A College Seminar Course at Bryn Mawr College

Forum - Thoughts on Why Stories Get Retold

Name:  Annie
Subject:  Wednesday 3 Assignment
Date:  2001-10-02 21:31:22
Message Id:  367
We live in a world of stories. All of history is, by virtue of its very name, is a story, and since we are literally creating history with every second we are on this earth, we are telling new stories. Why, then, are we reluctant to consciously admit we are doing so? Why is it different for us to say, “Oh, here is a new story” when our lives are basically that?
We are reluctant to tell new stories sometimes because of the pressures of our culture. In Abbott’s Flatland, A. Square is frightened of relating his experiences because he fears the retaliation of his society’s leaders, who are determined to keep such radical ideas out of the mainstream’s consciousness. Square tells us the story of the revolution of Color, and several others, all which have become warnings about the consequences of speaking against the determined thought process of Flatland. When Square does attempt to share his story of Spaceland, he is imprisoned. Foucault claims that any culture is preoccupied with the order it has created to make sense of its collective experiences, and that any idea or story that challenges that order is often feared for its ability to cause such uncertainty. We do not, as creatures of our society, raised on the history of our country, find it easy to break the order of our lives. Even in a free country, swimming up tide, creating new stories that either conflict or do not completely coincide with the established tales of our experiences, is a frightening prospect.
We are, on the other hand, motivated to tell new stories because of the knowledge we feel we can add. Square persisted in his attempts to speak about Flatland because of his conviction that the third dimension was a wonderful, vital thing to share with his fellow countrymen who were still limited by the acceptance of the confining two dimensions. Foucault suggests that orders are made to be redesigned, to be altered and tweaked to accommodate all new information that confronts a society. We as people have an innate desire to understand as much about the world as we can, and we see that need in other human beings. Any new story we hear, any tiny little bit of knowledge we find in a new train of thought or a new piece of evidence, anything that can help us sate our passion for comprehension is something we feel obligated to pass along. We tell new stories in the hope that they will serve the purpose of the existing ones: to help bring meaning into the often unfathomable phenomenon that is life.
Bettelheim argued that children find meaning in fairy tales. No matter how cynical or world weary we become as we age, we always retain that bit of childhood inside us that clings to the comfort a story can bring us. We tell ourselves stories of the past, and we attempt to create new stories, despite the sometimes negative consequences, to satisfy that inner child that begs for comprehension.
Name:  Stacy
Date:  2001-10-02 21:31:55
Message Id:  368
Why We Re-Tell Stories

In his Preface to The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, Michel Foucault reveals a primary concern in his investigation: "observing how a culture experiences the propinquity of things, how it establishes the tabula of their relationships and the order by which they must be considered" (xxiv). In other words, he strives to create order in a disparate universe: to characterize, to categorize, to define, to differentiate - namely, to arrive at some semi-satisfactory state of understanding that accounts for the vast inconsistencies that populate the world. Does this sound familiar? Of course: it reflects the end toward which humanity has been striving since the origin of thought. Do we not inherently realize, as Foucault puts it, that "a 'system of elements' - a definition of the segments by which the resemblance and differences can be shown, the types of variation by which those segments can be affected, and, lastly, the threshold above which there is a difference and below which there is a similitude - is indispensable for the establishment of even the simplest form of order" (xx) and consequently wish to act upon this idea? We do, a fact evident in our explanation of the biological hierarchy of life; in the construction of countries, states, towns and other non-natural borders; even in the divisions in our schools as to graduating year, academic field, extracurricular interests, and the like. But Foucault's purpose is not nearly so simple. He sees a spectrum of knowledge ranging from this "system of elements" or "fundamental codes of a culture" at one extreme to the "scientific theories or the philosophical interpretations which explain why order exists in general, what universal law it obeys, what principle can account for it, and why this particular order has been established and not some other" (xx) at the other. Between these extremes, he finds "the pure experience of order and of its modes of being" (xxi), the springboard for his ensuing "archaeology." In sum, he believes that he has found a fresh approach in humankind's epistemology and so wants to re-tell "the order of things" in relation to this new inspiration.

Is this any different from our own motivation for re-telling stories? Not really. When our experiences yield new epiphanies or when enhanced knowledge affords new perspective on our world, we feel compelled to share this learning with our compatriots in an attempt to make life's mysteries more comprehensible for ourselves and for those who share in humanity's struggle for truth - in essence, we yearn to re-tell the story in light of our personal findings. When we are captivated by a novel, a newspaper article, a bit of gossip, do we harbor it silently or do we tell a friend, a classmates, a teacher, or a family member? Most of us tend toward the latter. Why? Quite simply, the story has re-shaped our outlook. It has caused us to ponder and reevaluate our own conception of the world, and thus, in imparting it to others - in "re-telling" it - we can better understand our perception of this knowledge in addition to enriching the perception of our listener.

If humankind is so eager to relate its experiences and to analyze them and propose questions in its eternal search for greater knowledge, why, then, is storytelling such a specialized field? Should we not all be writers, poets, storytellers, pondering intellectuals? In an informal sense we are, but naturally, there must be some inhibitions preventing us all from entering this field. Some may feel they are not equal to the task, perhaps deficient in the communicative gifts of the effective storyteller; others may fear persecution or discord stemming from their unique interpretation; still others may prefer to listen, ponder, and muse rather than question, assert, and propose.

What do we hope to gain by exercising or deferring our capacity to re-tell stories? Edwin A. Abbott, like Foucault, had a story to re-tell, yet his - Flatland - takes a starkly different form. Why? More specifically, what did Abbott hope to gain in telling his story as a satire? What losses, what costs, did he wish to minimize? Taking into the consideration the social climate of the time, it is possible that a straightforward, academic piece may have invited rampant disapproval. Thus Abbott, undoubtedly feeling that his social criticism merited expression despite the possible cost in a dissatisfied audience, chose to submerge his message in the experiences of A. Square. He can still express his "hope that these memories...may find their way to the minds of humanity in Some Dimension, and may stir up a race of rebels who shall refuse to be confined to limited Dimensionality" (82) - in other words, his desire that future generations in his own world not be so insular - but without jeopardizing himself. In the same way, humanity weighs the costs and benefits of re-defining its world through stories that enlighten and attract readers without compromising their message.

Name:  Cari
Subject:  Retelling stories paper
Date:  2001-10-02 22:19:53
Message Id:  370
Humans have, for as long as they have been able to speak to each other, told stories to each other. These stories explained occurrences in nature, or taught lessons. They could be told as a caution, or as a lesson, or just for fun. The history of mankind itself is a story, and not even one that all people agree on. While some may take the creationist approach others like the evolutionary approach more. Along the same lines, cultures have different versions of history depending on how their ancestors lived in years past. This can create many interesting stories, but can also cause conflict between people who do not agree on the stories.
Stories of old were passed down first, through word of mouth, and later through writing. As these stories were passed they went through revisions, either intentionally or by simple human forgetfulness. Retelling stories is a way to teach a younger generation, but also a way for one person to share with another his knowledge or ideas. We want to retell these stories so that we can share past experiences, emotions, or knowledge with another person. This can be because we want to teach them, or that we simply want another person to know the story, to experience it and be able to tell us their reactions. By telling stories to others we let them in on events from our life. We can also try to make sense of something we have learned by explaining it to another.
In Flatland A. Square wanted to share his new perception of Flatland and tell others that there was more to their world. By keeping it to himself, he found himself forgetting the details of what had happened. As time wore on he found that the picture of the three-dimensional square, or cube, was fading in his mind, without sharing the image with others. He felt stifled and needed the ability to share his insight. Without this, he would not have a sharp memory of his experience in Spaceland.
We retell stories to help us remember what happened before, either in our lives or in the history of the human race. If these stories are not old, we lose important events that happened, and a part of ourselves, or out pasts.
Unfortunately, sometimes we feel reluctant to tell stories. Especially in this day and time, we fear offending someone or unintentionally making an error. We can also be prohibited from retelling a story, just as A. Square was. With the increasingly politically correct world we live in, especially here in America, some stories that were okay for retelling 30 years ago are no longer appropriate. A story may offend a religious group or a racial group. With our increasing consciousness of saying the wrong thing, we retell stories in a different light, or not at all. A good example of what can happen to stories that are fixed to make them politically correct is James Finn Garner’s satire, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. This book takes the idea of politically correct to an extreme, changing the faerie tale stories and the words themselves in the faerie tale to make them inoffensive to the point of being ridicules. Retelling stories can cause the story to lose its meaning through an eager attempt to offend no one.
As in A. Square’s Flatland, we may also be forbidden from telling a certain story. In some cases teachers in public schools are not allowed to teach on the subject of creationism or, conversely, evolution. In Flatland, A. Square was unable to retell the story of Spaceland due to the fears of the Circles. With this fear in mind the Circles forbid the mention of the third dimension. This law forcibly kept Square from retelling his story by threat of imprisonment. Due to laws, or rules enforced by our parent, we are reluctant to retell stories because of the consequences that are associated with them. For instance a teenager may not tell his parents about the party he went to the night before because of his parents rules on parties. Even if something important and life-changing happened. We find that the stories that define our lives must be kept from others for fear of the consequences.
There are a number of pluses and minuses for retelling stories. These retold stories can either be retold verbatim, or they can be changed to fit the new audience. The story can be an important lesson for children, or a reminder, or a way to help people understand the world around them. With the retelling of stories the next generation, or even the next group of listeners can begin to learn these same things.
Retelling stories is not always beneficial however. If a story is outdated it can be interpreted to mean something completely different, or it can have no meaning to the listener/reader. This does not mean that the original idea is lost forever. In retelling a story, the author can make changes to help his audience. Disney does this to some extent. They have made the classic faerie tales easier for children to understand and relate to in some cases. However, there are drawbacks to the changing of a story. It may lose its meaning with extensive changes. If the author is not careful, the story can cease to serve the same purpose, losing its meaning just as the author was trying to revive it.
Stories are an important part of human interaction and the way humans remember their history and their past. With the retelling of stories come consequences, both positive and negative. Sometimes the author will proceed anyway, despite any negative consequences (for example, A. Square) or they can revise the story to make it acceptable or more easily understood. With a revision, though, the author can sometimes take away important aspects of the original story. Thus retelling stories can become an art in and of itself as authors try to keep a balance between the positive and negative.
Name:  mel schottenstein
Subject:  The importance of storytelling
Date:  2001-10-02 23:35:26
Message Id:  372
Mel Schottenstein
English Seminar
Professor Nutting
October 2, 2001
The Importance of Storytelling
Storytelling is an age-old tradition that has often been used as a means of passing a history or ideas of a people from generation to generation. Some cultures, such as the Nubian People of Africa and the Iroquois People of North America, have successfully re-told stories in order to pass down guidance and traditions from their ancestors. Similarly, the Grimm brothers scribed their collection of fairy tales only after they had been re-told by German peasants for hundreds of years. The importance of storytelling is a subtheme of Abbott’s novella Flatlands and Foucault’s preface to “The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences,” and can be seen within the geometric metaphors of both.
There are multitudes of reasons for the creation of stories. Among them: to examine world issues, to make a commentary on life, and to explore a culture’s value system. In Flatlands, Abbott adds another reason to the list—to expand a culture’s knowledge and intellectual curiosity. In addition, his first-person narrative portrays women as one-dimensional (pun intended) and the society they moved in as strict and close-minded.
The main conflict of the narrative involves storytelling. Abbott’s main character, A Square, wishes to explain the “third-dimension” to all of the other geometric figures in Flatland, but he is prohibited to do so by the “circles”—parliament—who attempt to suppress the transmission of new knowledge through threat of penalty. A Square is sufficiently motivated to tell this “story” because he is the only one who possesses this information; unless he tells his story, the information will be lost for another millennium. But he also fears being punished for telling the story; hence, his reluctance to do so. Though written long before the thought-controlling fascist regimes of the twentieth century, Abbott’s narrative could easily be describing the practices of Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union; it is a clever—if transparent—satire on repressive governments. As A Square operates under such dangerous circumstances, he raises the stakes of storytelling and draws attention to the power of stories.
What does Foucault say about the importance of storytelling? Though his prose is abstruse and dense, a story-related idea emerges. By using the anecdote from a Borges passage, Foucault highlights fiction’s power to create alternative systems of thought that were previously unthinkable, or, as Foucault puts it, “the stark impossibility of thinking that” (xv). By calling his study an “archeology,” Foucault is drawing attention to the absence of a classification system that can adequately incorporate large “unusual juxtapositions” of seemingly unrelated disciplines. (Which could almost be a mission statement for a seminar like this one.) He writes that other scholars have devoted much time and energy toward explaining the “fundamental codes of a culture” (its “empirical orders”) as well as its “scientific theories … which explain why order exists in general,” yet none of these scholars has explored an “intermediary” domain which is concerned with the very existence of “order” (xx). Foucault, of course, chooses to explore this domain. Though not concerned with the profits and costs of storytelling per se, a crucial inference one can draw from his text is that all stories are masked attempts to gain a better understanding of ourselves as human beings, and, moreover, attempts to gain insights into the nature of “ordering” itself (why do, for example, stories have beginnings, middles, and ends?).
Name:  Sarah Eberhardt
Subject:  Stories
Date:  2001-10-02 23:53:05
Message Id:  373
Human beings are both driven and afraid to retell stories. Part of this drive is the need to define the world for the self, but equally compelling, in the opposite direction, is the fear of being wrong. This fear extends not only to fear of persecution by others, as exemplified by the fate of the narrator of Flatland, but also to the fear of disturbing the previously set order, as described in the Foucault selection.
Stories are told in the first place to make sense of the world, a risky venture in itself. Retelling stories implies a more personal search for truth, analyzing what others believe and choosing or discarding ideas to one’s individual liking. This allows for personal growth and the opportunity for a multitude of viewpoints to be represented in the same basic story. Teaching is also an important impetus for the reinterpretation of a story, as demonstrated by the teaching going on in Flatland, as the narrator attempted to explain two dimensions to the line in Lineland, and the Sphere attempted to demonstrate the existence of the third dimension to the narrator. Although not all of these incidents were successful, retelling of stories has the potential of creating better understanding in both teacher and student.
However, retelling stories has its risks. Foucault spoke of the order of the world, and the ways in which it could be upset by reclassification, which retelling stories essentially is. A change meant to clarify has the equal potential of confusion, and the pressure to get it right springs from both without and within. The possibility of condemnation also tends to discourage the aspiring storyteller. This condemnation can be caused not only by “getting it wrong,” but also by society’s rejection of an idea, whether through ignorance or deliberate suppression, as was the case with the Flatlanders’ determined efforts to keep secret the existence of the third dimension.
This conflict of whether or not to develop one’s own interpretation of reality, and to impart it to others, is one that is dealt with often, in various situations. The balance between the two opposing influences is one that is newly negotiated many times a day.
Name:  Annabella Rutigliano
Subject:  Re-telling Fairy Tales
Date:  2001-10-03 00:12:31
Message Id:  374
Annabella Rutigliano
Professor Nutting

Why are we motivated and reluctant to re-tell stories?
How does it profit us and what are the costs?

As humans we have been telling, and re-telling stories for ages. At first storytelling, or oral tradition was a way of keeping history and knowledge alive. At this point we were motivated to tell stories as a way of survival, as a method of immortalizing the lessons we learned during our first days of existence. Through out those seemingly innocuous stories, vital life lessons were taught. Without them would the human race have survived? Later the ancient civilizations told myths, legends, and fairy tales to explain the unexplained. Through those tales we gain our first stories, and in-turn the first marked evidence of an organized civilization. Subsequently philosophers would use stories as a tool to teach, and moralize to the masses. Even now we tell fairy tales to children in hopes to appease, and impinge upon them some sense of good and evil.
Modern day writers are motivated by opinions, newfound knowledge, and experiences to tell us stories. Today writing, an evolved form of story telling, is a tool of mass media. Authors can publicize their ideas, and theories. One of the most crucial and hazardous tools in history has been a story or opinion written in a book. Take for example the Federalist X. The American and French Revolutions would not have occurred, if its ideals had not inspired nations to revolt! History its self is the greatest re-told story of all time. History is in the hands of its authors. A perfect example is the textbooks that we use in school. For example if you compare the history books of a child in the United States to that of a German child you will get two radically different versions of the events of World War II.
This brings me to one of the flaws in telling and re-telling stories. Each time that we re-tell a story, we change a small part of it to fit our perception of how it should have been (according to us). Take for example how many different versions of Cinderella we have heard!! If that’s not enough look at everyday life occurrences. Take gossip for example. One minute you hear “someone fell down the stairs.” The next “some one was pushed down the stairs, got concussion, broke 5 ribs, and was hauled away as a bloody lump in an ambulance. Only after having been pulled back from the brink of death by EMS.” Personally this shining example of human nature would quench any burgeoning need I had to tell a story. The risk of it being maligned and perverted for the general public’s entertainment makes me cringe.
In the beginning stages of societal development the telling and re-telling of a story could have been the difference between life and death. Later on, books such as Flatland and Federalist X were used to propagate important issues such as Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, and Educational Reform. Even today’s our news papers re-tell events to the masses. In total as a society, and a race humans have profited endlessly from the telling and re-telling of stories. We have used the re-telling of stories as a survival tool, a method of education, an implement of morality, a battle cry, and more recently as a tool of mass media, and a device of advertisers. But with the good comes the bad. Each time a story is retold its original structure is subtly altered, and what is lost can never be replaced. Also with each re-telling a story will have a different meaning cast on it. What was originally a fairy- tale in the 15th century, could turn into a politically loaded metaphor of the 21st century.

In conclusion stories will always be told and re-told until the end of time. A story is the true fountain of youth. Cinderella is immortal, as is Briar Rose. Prince Charming will always be the standard that women ruthlessly hold men up to. Once in a story you will be forever young. But with endless youth comes the high price of time. A heroine and role model today, is a feminist’s arch foe tomorrow. But remember a villain is always a villain. Woe to those who go down in history as the stepmothers, and evil Queens!!

Name:  Aneta Piatek
Date:  2001-10-03 10:28:06
Message Id:  377
Story telling has been an activity that people all over the world of a variety of different cultures have been engaging in for centuries. It has actually become an important part of the culture, a form of identification. Each story is important in explaining a culture. Often, the morals and values of a particular culture are revealed through a story. A constant theme in stories of all types is the struggle between good and evil. Good and evil may have many different definitions depending upon the culture. Stories help conserve tradition and they also tell history. In Africa, a story teller is a privileged position. The person is called a griot, and their occupation is story telling. The griot has salvaged African history, for besides western interference, there was no recorded history of Western Africa. Oral tradition is a valuable means of story telling. All over the world, stories of many varieties have, are, and will be told. Most stories are told in order to explain. A very popular topic is the origin of life. Ranging from Native Americans, to Africans, to the Aboriginese, to Indians, to Arabs, and Europeans, the origin of life has been a very debated and interesting topic, and remains so to this day. Stories are re-told because they are interesting, and they provide a base for moral fiber. A story can never be told, heard, or read twice in the same exact way. Each time, there is always a new feeling, a new meaning to the story. And that make it all the more interesting. Occasionally people refrain from telling stories because they are too painful or their subject is too delicate a matter to be openly discussed. There is a fear of the opposition of society, as in Flatland, and stories are not told for fear of one's life. Stories enrich our cultures and remind us of our responsibilities. They take us back in time into the past to help us understand our cultures. Stories help us understand ourselves. They set a basis for society, as Bettelheim described with his analysis on the effect of fairy tales on children. Only a few stories, which may be misleading or falsified, are capable of hurting us. Otherwards, stories benefit the human race as a whole.
Name:  Molly
Subject:  My Response
Date:  2001-10-03 11:01:35
Message Id:  378
Everybody and everything has a story to tell. This simply is a fact of existence. What is a story? It is merely an interpretation of some reality. This redefinition is what literature is, an author’s perception of reality be it his/her own or the “reality” of some character. When we talk about ourselves, we like to think that we all co-exist amidst the same reality. But is my reality really the same as another person’s? No, the very idea that some other person occupies my unique perception is a scary thought. It is oppressive and unrealistic as well. This discontinuity between individual perceptions is what prompts us to rearrange our world in story form.
I think that both Foucault and Flatland are very telling. The way both authors chose to define a reality says a lot about the way they view the world. All of us, because of who we are as humans, are prompted to be storytellers and thus rearrangers and dissectors of the world. Because of this, we have almost an infinite number of rearranged existences. Yet, only some us are compelled to share our interpretations. Others find that merely living out a reality keeps their hands full enough. so the physical interpretations are left to another party. Since there is no one-way to view the world, however, each of us is living out only a perception of a reality and this is essentially just a story in itself.
Name:  Joanna Simonis
Date:  2001-10-03 11:34:16
Message Id:  379
People are both motivated and reluctant to re-tell stories. There is an overwhelming urge to share stories with others; to convey messages and for enlightenment. But the author is also afraid of being persecuted for his or her representations, and there is a fear that an author’s message will not be conveyed correctly-- that the intent will be misunderstood by the reader.
Flatland clearly demonstrates the motivation to re-tell a story. After the narrator returns from his visit to “Spaceland,” he is anxious to evangelize the people of Flatland and enlighten them to the truth. He wants to record his adventure or relate it to others so that the revelation will not be forgotten. He spends several months composing an exposition that will reveal to the ignorant people of his world that this new land truly does exist. He has trouble refraining from telling his story, and begs his people to go beyond what they know-- beyond their original beliefs-- and accept the idea of a new dimension.
Flatland also clearly demonstrates the reluctance to re-tell a story. The narrator realizes the danger in relating his dream-like adventure, and is discouraged to communicate his secret. He fears the consequences, which includes imprisonment, and he knows that the people of Flatland will discredit his tale. Although he realizes the officials of Flatland will attempt to keep his story a secret from their world, he continues to hope that his story will someday be revealed, and the people of this limited dimension will finally discover the truth and break away from their confinement.
Foucault attempts to prepare his readers for the rest of his book The Order of Things in his Foreword. He feels the need to define and clarify his intentions and provide an explanation for his book. He is not exactly reluctant to tell his story, but reluctant to allow his readers to reach there own explanations and interpretations based on what they read. He feels he must first warn the reader about what they are to expect and show them how to interpret his work. The Foreword hints at what the author will attempt to reveal in the rest of his book.
Both Foucault and Abbott, similarly with all authors, demonstrate a fear that readers will not approach stories with open minds. They feel provoked to divulge certain truths, but they also are prevented and reluctant to tell their stories because they feel the readers will not understand or believe the stories to be true. They fear that the original intentions in writing the tales will be lost. In spite of all this, stories are continually told everyday, through all things done or said. Authors will continue to enhance and enlighten our world through the stories they choose to reveal.
Name:  Diana
Subject:  story telling
Date:  2001-10-03 12:40:44
Message Id:  380
Diana Lowell
Professor Nutting

Why are we both motivated and reluctant to retell stories? What provokes us and what prevents us? How does it profit us and what are its costs?

At the beginning of language, humans used stories as a way to explain history. Before there was writing, there was spoken history that passed from village to village and father to son. The stories dealt with origins of the world and famous battles that took place. The motivations for these stories is quite obvious because curiosity is a big part of human nature. However, in today’s society, stories have become more complex and the telling of them has consequences with the joys.
Parents usually start reading their children familiar stories such as fairy tales that are fun to tell. There is much motivation to tell fun stories because the audience reacts positively, whether through laughter or a simple smile. However, with society changing, some parents feel reluctant to tell traditional fairy tales. As we have discussed in class, fairy tales often show women as weak characters that need princes. They also can be gruesome, which could cause nightmares. All in all, though, it is usually enjoyable to tell children’s stories.
However, there are stories that are not easy to tell. Many of these stories deal with religion in some way. In ancient society all people worshiped the same god, but as time progressed, so did beliefs. Many Jews were persecuted for telling their stories about their god. If they had not spoken their beliefs, though, their children would not have learned how to worship. Other religions faced the same problems. They had to decide between speaking their beliefs and serving their god, or keeping silent and being disobedient.
In Flatland the square must decide whether or not to speak about his mathematical discoveries. Many early scientists faced this same dilemma. Magellan said, “The church tells me that the earth is flat but I have seen the shadow on the moon and I believe in the shadow more.” Science could have advanced much faster if early discoverers were not forced to recant their beliefs. Each scientist had to decide whether to keep silent and avoid trouble or give society the chance to advance. In today’s society there is not so much persecution because of science. Even so, anyone who discovers something new must decide whether or not to put forward the theory. If it is correct, he or she will be rewarded, but if the theory is incorrect, other scientists might reject the data and the scientist along with it.
There is a benefit to telling stories because when one believes that something is true, or worth knowing (as is the case with fairy tales), then there is an inner compulsion to share that knowledge. In a perfect society, all stories would be heard without judgment of the story teller, but just like what happened in Flatland, there are sometimes repressive consequences for telling an unpopular story.

Name:  Courtney M.
Subject:  Flatland
Date:  2001-10-03 14:10:55
Message Id:  381
As an outsider of Flatland I find it particularly obscure that some shapes are assumed to be better than others based on their angles. It seems as though Abbott makes a mockery of earthly societies' class structures. What are they generally based on? An example is skin color: it is just as illogical to say that someone is fated to be unintelligent because of their skin tone as it was for smaller angles to indicate obtuse personalities (isn't it strange how the shapes with obtuse angles are "sharper" than the shapes with acute angles?). I wonder if it was sarcasm when the sphere first meets the narrator and says that three dimensions is knowledge, when our earthly 3-D society can be equally as ignorant and illogical as Flatland's.
It is interesting how Abbott walked the reader through the narrator's process of learning and coming to understand something as foreign and a third dimension. Furthermore, the narrator possess a positive human characteristic brought out after being enlightened: the desire to spread his enlightenment and help others know what he knew. The narrator knows that he would have to convert a pack shapes willing to rebel in order to deal with the obstinance that will face him as he tries to spread his new knowledge. As in earthly society, beings are reluctant to change their ways because it would take so much work and adjustment to deal with life differently. Such movements to change societies' routines are often long-term struggles because of those who don't join in just because they can't see a foreign concept working. By using the example of trying to comprehend a new dimension, Abbott illustrates how inconceivable new societal arrangements can be in the earthly world.
Name:  Andrea Betancourt
Subject:  Telling and Re-Telling of Stories
Date:  2001-10-03 14:34:50
Message Id:  382
Human beings have lived with a continuous struggle with their own
existence. The questions of “who are we” and “where do we come from” are
doubts that have existed since the origin of humanity, and therefore, they
are questions that have induced mankind to search for answers throughout
their history. The method by which man and women have answered their
questions, as to say, have gained knowledge, of existence is throughout the telling and re-telling of stories.
Language is the most important element in the activities of telling and retelling stories. Human beings are provoked to recreate reality (moral
and/or physical) in order to have a better understanding of them; of the way they live, act, and think, in a certain period of humanity’s history. The way the author expresses and organizes the plot in a story correspond to a certain “scheme of thought” proper to his surrounding reality, and caused by influences such as the “natural history”, the “laws of language”, and the “economic facts” of that certain time period. Foucault, in fact, digs under these terms in his book, The order of things, to analyze the origin of our current scientific way of thinking. These factors, which seem irrelevant and distant fields from humans “thought” -“knowledge”-, are the ones that unconsciously shape our ways of visualizing, assimilating, ordering, learning, and interpreting “scientifically”.
When reading stories of past times, not only do we encounter
different expressions and words no longer used; but also, most importantly, we encounter with the problem of interpreting language as a whole. The risk we take, and that some times keep us reluctant to continue the retelling of stories, is the unconscious, and yet, always present misinterpretation of the discourse, its meanings and values on the time it is created and given to the audience. A clear example of this problem is the retelling of the story of the Bible. Some morals and allegories used two thousand years ago are ignored nowadays, therefore the interpretation of them are not the same as they were intended when written. For example, the scene where Jesus offers his left cheek after being slapped in his right one, “teaches” us we have to “turn our other cheek’ instead of responding firmly to the aggressor. But, what we ignored is the real meaning the “turning of the other cheek” had in the ancient Jewish society. Back then it meant daring the enemy to repeat his
action. These types of misinterpretations are caused when the reader of
stories is not familiar with the culture, values, ideals and semiotics of the time when it was written.
Human beings tell stories as a way of spreading knowledge, in other words, of explanations (that attempt to be true) of our origin and function in this world. Even a scientific theory such as the Big Bang can be eventually classified as a fiction story (when the theory of inflation
reaches a broader audience) because stories reflect human’s actions and
thoughts in different ways. They are sometimes imaginative and sometimes
scientifically proved, but do not both emerge from people’s minds? Yes, both ways of explaining the world come from the same source-the mind-, and, they are both transmitted throughout a discourse that has been created in a certain time, under certain rules, beliefs, and values, in order to reach its contemporary audience. Thus, stories that are retold loose their initial meaning and explain things in different ways, that sometimesbecome incoherent when interpreted in a different context of the one it originally belonged to. Tale stories, such as Flatland, may include
interesting and innovating points of view for the writer’s contemporary
audience, but, as time passes and the issues treated gain different
perspectives, the story may become absurd or it may awaken more doubts that look for more stores. For this same token, humans cannot engage with stories. They can learn something about the past throughout them, but as they learn more, they question even more, and their thoughts are exposed to continuous changes. Thus, stories are always being produced, and people cannot re-tell stories that loose their original truth, only; but they must always be open to discover new perspectives of humans and the world. Therefore they should be willing to create stories as human minds bears the most unique transformations.
Name:  Lisa
Subject:  Why are we reluctant/motivated to tell stories?
Date:  2001-10-03 20:42:31
Message Id:  384
Draft 1

We are reluctant to tell our stories for some of the same reasons we are motivated to express them.

Our need/desire to "fit in" corresponds to both our motivation and reluctance. On the one hand, we'll tell a story to establish our sense of belonging, yet we may resist telling the same story because we worry that it will illustrate just the opposite -- that we don't "fit in."

Insecurities and/or feelings of inferiority are reasons we sometimes hold back from telling stories -- we worry what others may think of us once we reveal ourselves. We're taking a chance when we express ourselves because there is always the potential for discomfort if, for instance, the dialogue pushes us into revealing more than we had originally planned.

Sharing ideas about who we are and where we come from allows others to know something about us, and the ensuing exchange can be exciting. In social situations, we tell our stories because we hope for a reciprocal relationship/friendship. It's a wonderful human experience to connect with someone and begin a new friendship. Yet, having stated that, I'm sure most of us have experienced other facets of this situation. How often have we prematurely judged someone we've just met, based solely on a story they've shared?

If we read Flatland, and never read other works by Edwin A. Abbott, it gives us only one reference (albeit a solid one) as to who the author was, where he comes from, etc. But reading the man's biography as well as other works helps us to form a more complete picture of the author.

We use stories as a means of communicating and opening oneself up to suggestions,possibilities and others' interpretations. We use stories as a way to seek opinions and/or advice and counsel, as well as to educate -- but there are limitations. Time (or space in say, a newspaper column) often dictates or prohibits the full telling of a story. The author risks the reader forming opinions based only on what time/space have allowed her to write, and so she must be meticulous in choosing which points she wishes to exaggerate and/or leave out.

As to why we change stories, I believe we revise and rewrite our stories to make them more accessible to readers/listeners. We're always trying to better define the story, or better illustrate a point which aids us in the process of convincing the reader of our truths.

Name:  meg devereux
Date:  2001-10-03 20:52:15
Message Id:  385
· Motivations for the Stories we retell

Meg Devereux

I am having the worst time condensing what seems to me the subject of an entire semester, the content of a long magazine article, or the ongoing topic of an all night bull session. The need to change or retell the stories we tell about the nature of the world.
As a reading addict for the last forty years, I could start with the big story that begins, “ And an angel of the lord appeared to Mary…” This pretty much tops the fairy tales for me for sheer magic, beauty, plot and promise. I could stagger through hundreds of other retold tales including those of Austin, George Eliot, Forster, Woolf, Waugh, Huxley, James, Wharton, Fitzgerald, and the far less known but appealingly direct Bawden, Gilchrist, Sheilds, and a host of others who deal with the isolation of class stratification and the search for connection to self, others and the Other, their own definition of a transcendent truth. If I start with the annunciation, I would probably end the list with “…world without end. Amen”.
What then motivates the creators of these richly woven diverse strands, strands that become the whole cloth of retold stories? I believe it is the desire to give meaning to their lives and the lives of their readers in a fresh, revelatory, even jolting manner.
When Edwin Abbott wrote Flatland, I think he was combining the central story of his vocation with the spiritual and social needs of Victorian England. The story of Jesus who revolutionized the old order of law, retribution and rigid class stratification with the radical message of love, forgiveness and equality in the eyes of God was a story ripe for retelling in a manner that might alert a pious Victorian society to its own complacent acceptance of the implications of its class system. Abbott’s sometimes overly enthusiastic message only underlines his intense motivation. His mathematical gifts and abilities also might have fuelled his motivation as Victorian society’s rational approach and increasing interest in science and mechanized industry were certainly known to him. He may have seen a temptation to rationalize the needs of humanity right out of sight.
Abbott was possibly provoked into the writing of his tale by the extremes affluence of his educated peers and the poverty of England’s underclass, which supported it. Reportedly this reality was complacently accepted by nearly all the participants, at least those whose voices were most heard.
Abbot’s Flatlanders live in an atmosphere that lacks light or shadow. (1) The narrator begins by rationally explaining the class system of Flatland, (2) and goes on to detail the methods of controlling the lower classes, (3) and the suppression of women and their gifts. (4) He then takes us on a tour of the subtler distinctions among the upper classes (5) and elaborates on the “barbarism”(6) any crack in the complex system would cause. “Mercy” is demonstrated by euthanizing those whose character or shape is a threat to society’s expectations. (7) When the narrator is ultimately shown an alternative and revolutionary three-dimensional world, he is given a whole new perspective and vision of reality. He achieves knowledge of himself; others and the Other, in this case the idea of unlimited worlds. He is open to the gift but is not an active seeker in the pursuit of this new world. It is grace of a sort. Before this ultimate revelation, the narrator shares a story that foreshadowed his discovery of three dimensions. Chromatistes, an upper class mutation of the sort usually stamped out, (8) discovers colour and is made easily visible in a new and explicit way. The introduction of colour to Flatland brings liberation and the joy of creation is spread throughout the land. (9) Art in the form of colour changes the Flatlanders’ perceptions and helps them to see what was formerly invisible. Those in authority see the burgeoning art as “immoral, licentious, anarchical, unscientific…yet aesthetic…the glorious childhood of art”. This creative burst gives, “a richer larger world of thought…the finest poetry…rhythm”. (10) As the influence of art spreads through the classes it soon becomes seen as a threat to the established order of the land. Even women and priests are influenced. (11) Eventually the arts are suppressed by those whose power is threatened. The Flatlanders are returned to one dimension. All accounts of this period are effectively written out of the history of the land. In this land no stories can be told or retold. Too threatening to the stability.
We are prevented from retelling stories when we fear facing a new truth or a new bit of truth in ourselves, in our perceptions of others or in the Other, our vision of what makes the universe’s energy. When we are clinging to a perceived security it is difficult for us to change or retell a story that might push us from that precious niche.
What profits us from stories being retold is being gently lead, dragged kicking and protesting, or shot violently into new visions of our worlds. Sometimes in fairy tales or parables the vision heals. Sometimes in satire and tragedy it turns us around to face places we’d rather not go. Sometimes in poetry or mysticism it sends us into deep places of transformation and we have no choice but to become co-creators in that place of crisis and transformation. Abbott transformed the story of his beliefs into a story that retold those beliefs in a way that spoke to his need to preach change for his world a world of Victorians stranded in a class hierarchy who had become adept at rationalizing the need to support such a stable and apparently unchanging structure.
The cost of telling the changed story is one of giving up old certainties and living in the wisdom of insecurity as both the narrator and, no doubt, Abbott himself were aware.
To me the point of retelling stories is to state and learn a truth or a new truth in a way that makes it apparent, as it wasn’t before. If one other person gains understanding of even a small part of that truth then the story is worth telling, retelling, or changing.
1.Abbott, Edwin. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. 1885;rpt. New York: New American Library, 1984, p.4.

Name:  Stephanie j
Date:  2001-10-03 21:38:45
Message Id:  386
George Washington never had wooden teeth. It is true that his teeth were rotten. That is why Washington never smiled with any frequency. But it made a better story to say Washington had “wooden” teeth rather than “rotten” teeth. History is the written account of man, but accuracy depends on who is doing the writing. History books are filled with misstatements, half-truths and stories. The stories seem to gain validity with each retelling, so that after 200 years, every fourth grade student in America learns that George Washington had wooden teeth.
We retell stories to understand our world. Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. But whose version of history do we understand? There is no doubt in my mind the Holocaust was a very real event, but thousands of people think it is propaganda, a story used to gain sympathy. Will the Holocaust be repeated if we do not admit it happened? How do you tell an Auschwitz survivor that the Holocaust was a figment of someone’s imagination? The tales of both heroism and terrorism become distorted with time. The stories change.
The stories become reality. Reality has a million different truths. Former President William Jefferson Clinton once said, “I did not have sex with that woman.” Was it a story or just his version of the truth?
Name:  Robin Landry
Subject:  Portable digestibility
Date:  2001-10-03 22:33:08
Message Id:  387
When we tell stories about the nature of the world, it can seem like a little act of creation. By describing the world in a story, we reduce it to a form that is both portable and digestible. If we match key points of the story closely enough to observable reality, the story looks true. Once we get hold of a portable, digestible, true-looking story, we’ll fight literally to the death to keep it.
By “portable”, I mean that the story can be both easily remembered and easily communicated, and by “digestible”, I mean that the story can be easily processed and assimilated into everyday life. Stories of this kind are so common that they are often hard to see.
For example, in middle school biology classes, most children are taught the story of the Egg and the Sperm. For life to begin, the heroic Sperm must travel and fight its way against great odds to reach and penetrate a large and passive Egg, so to create life. This story has all the trappings of a romance novel, and probably has about as much to do with biological processes at the cellular level as a romance novel. This story conveniently fits with other stories we all know about gender roles, so it seems to fit in an almost intuitive way. It’s both portable and digestible. Yet, it was certainly not taught to me as a “story” when I first learned it; it was called “science.”
In Abbot’s Flatland, every character had a story to tell, and they all defended their various stories at all costs. The point, happy and complacent, knows that it is the entire universe. The king of Lineland knows that there is only one dimension. A new story about a second dimension is neither portable nor digestible, and so is utterly rejected. In Flatland, of course, the same process is repeated – the ruling circles of Flatland cannot accept the story of another dimension. The Square, however, has seen a new story that, through extraordinary means, has become part of his view of reality. This new story is not at all portable, though. The Square cannot replicate the extraordinary means that showed him the truth of Spaceland. There is no hope of spreading this new story.
The Square, however, refuses to go back to the old story once he has found the new one. Why does he refuse to go back to a story that served him quite well in his former life, when the new story causes him imprisonment? Why won’t the Square change his story?
The Square can’t change his story because that’s not how these kinds of stories work. The Square, in his speculation by analogy of multiple dimensions extending without end, has shown his motivation for keeping his story.
Though stories give us a way to carry and digest reality, once we have seen that there are possibilities beyond the stories we once accepted, there is no turning back. The same rules apply for acquiring new stories about the nature of the world, but once the very possibility of a new story becomes open, no story is safe, from the creation of the world to the propagation of life to the rules of right and wrong.
The Square hasn’t just seen the truth of a Third Dimension; he’s seen the truth that the stories that had seemed like good descriptions of reality are, in fact, inadequate. This is why he’s locked up. The story of a Third Dimension doesn’t just threaten the Flatlanders’ theoretical view of reality; it threatens their entire society. This is why the circles are so determined to silence the Square. This is also why the Square can’t give up or ignore his vision, inadequate as he may be to communicate it. He has seen that his entire society is built on quicksand. He can no longer believe anything he had once taken as truth. It would be impossible for him to live among his fellow polygons.
By calling a certain description of the nature of the world a “story,” it might sound trivialized. There is actually nothing trivial about storytelling, though. It is serious and dangerous business, as the Square has learned.
Name:  Mia Shea-Michiels
Subject:  Flatland
Date:  2001-10-03 22:49:57
Message Id:  388
Why the Stories Had To Be Flat
Mia Shea-Michiels
Ms. Nutting

Flatland was flat. There was no denying that. It was flat and boring. The shapes were squares, parallelograms, triangles, circles and even lines. Every shape was easily organized according to it’s sides. What if a shape was born with sides that were different from that of it’s peers? No. This would not be tolerated. The shapes moved from their homes to their jobs to their schools everyday in the same way following the same lines. They moved north and south, east and west. What if someone decided to go in a different direction? No. This would not be tolerated. The shapes intelligence and social ranking was determined by the number of sides it had. What if a shape wanted to go beyond it’s social ranking? No. This would not be tolerated. Flatland was going to be flat and boring. That was that. There was no variety in sides, no up and down and no social mobility. None of this could exist until it was heard. The story needed to be told.
Just like people, shapes can be stubborn. Everyday the shapes went through a routine. The routine made them feel stable and safe. Nothing changed so nothing could go wrong. They were prepared for everything. The square was one of the shapes to try and change this two dimensional world. He wanted everyone to hear and see the beauty that he had seen. Now that he had this knowledge, he felt compelled to share it. But there was still the fear of his peers reactions. It was as much a struggle for square to tell his story as it would be for Flatland to understand it. He were telling stories of a third dimension. Something that could not be seen by everyone but had to be believed. This would not be tolerated. The Flatland society was so frightened of thoughts that might change what had always been accepted that they decided they would get rid of these thoughts. The story teller and his story would disappear
The shapes who told of new worlds faced scorn by their peers just as people with new ideas from our three dimensional history did. These people had their own sphere that showed them something that no one else could see. They retold their story and faced the consequences for their controversial views.

Name:  louise
Subject:  Draft 1
Date:  2001-10-03 23:26:17
Message Id:  389
Draft 1
Why are we motivated and reluctant to re-tell stories?

The resistance of re-telling stories may come from the concern of it becoming a re-conception of the original. We risk losing the story’s true meaning. In our college seminar class, for instance, we were assigned to write our life of learning story. In the telling and re-telling of this story, I admit resistance in some areas. I claimed ownership of my original story and the re-telling of it, I felt, would risk it being dissected. I didn’t want it to change in my mind because it was too intricate complicated and sensitive.

What are the costs?
The costs are that the story may become corrupted in the re-telling process. Re-telling has its value, but has a price. We may never feel same way about the story. It will never be the same. We need to be ready to let go of the old story, and be open/accepting of the new one being told. The telling and re-telling made me see another view. As in Flatland I am becoming more aware of another dimension of possibilities.

Name:  Emma
Username:  etorres@brynmawr
Subject:  Telling Stories
Date:  2001-10-03 23:31:33
Message Id:  390
As individuals we are motivated to share stories that entertain, inform, instruct, influence, enlighten, and heal. However, the most important stories humans tell are those that most directly order our world and our place in it. Abbott's use of fiction to explore new dimensions of the universe, and Foucault's reference to Jorge Luis Borges' writings are indications of the unique power of stories to re-order our world.

In his preface, Foucault relates how Borges disrupts a world ordered by categories of "same and other" corresponding to the European arrangement of the natural world into the taxonomies of Linnaeus. In Borges disruption, Foucault discovers an "impossibility of thinking" (xv) relevant to his own consideration of how we come to arrange our thoughts, our knowledge, according to one particular framework. Abbott's Flatland is also of interest in this regard when related to what Foucault calls the "positive unconscious of knowledge" (xi) of a particular era. In the introduction to Flatland, Banesh Hoffmann tells us that in the days when Flatland was written, the mathematicians "were imagining spaces of any number of dimensions. The physicists too, in their theorizing, were working with hypothetical graph-spaces of arbitrary dimensionality. But these were matters of abstract theory" (iii). Abbott's book presents a view of the world according to the laws of geometry, but then challenges this with imaginings of other dimensions. In this way, Flatland makes a different view of the world available to us without any need to await scientific proofs (an advantage fictional stories have over scientific stories).

However, any re-telling and re-ordering of our world has its risks. In Flatland, Abbott addresses the danger when Square is jailed for his attempts to re-tell the story of Flatland's place in the dimensional universe. His fate, it appears, is the fate of a Galileo. But Abbott is a clergyman, and he uses some of the language of religion in describing Square's fate: "Death or imprisonment awaits the Apostle of the Gospel of Three Dimensions" (67). So, perhaps, Square's fate is that of the Apostle. What these two interpretations have in common, however, is that when a different story of our world is constructed it is heard as a threat to the established order. In our Western history, this resulted in a confrontation between the tellers of religious tales and the tellers of scientific tales. Remnants of this confrontation over the ordering of our world persist, as we shall see, in the story telling of "Creationism."

Name:  Zoe
Date:  2001-10-04 05:56:29
Message Id:  392


The Uni-tale Universe

(Draft A)

I can only tell you this once:

I am a monk living in self-imposed exile from multiple-story life. My youth was wasted on attempts to duplicate ten-thousand versions of the story of a girl. I came of age in the information age, the natural successor of the duplication age. With so much information, anyone could be anything, virtually at least. Even the poor could step inside a duplicated dream. They were everywhere, instantaneously, these physical streams of someone’s dreams, and being so ubiquitous, they were bound to collide. Collide, combine, combust, fragment, disperse; the cycle of self-propagating thought pieces was hard to reverse. Inside the space of two decades our inquisition changed from breathing in the smell of paper and ink, to attaching some electric apparatus to our brains. The storybook that once fascinated the child was replaced by a game that you could go inside.

Looking back now I wonder at how we gorged ourselves on a combination of fiction and fact until we ourselves became hybrids, part real, part imaginary, unable to tell anymore which was which. The question was asked: could a murderous act be provoked by a song, a video game, or a movie? Soon followed the question of whether or not a fictional image of a crime could indict an innocent person. We spliced reality with fantasy and vice versa until the distinction was nearly extinct. Even songs were assembled bits and pieces; the real version lost in a glass recording room window. Science and science fiction seemed inevitable collaborators in the public perception of reality. Some people wondered if perhaps even a world war could be started by the devious transmission of a false tale in which one world power is being attacked by another.

Somehow my reluctant brain adapted to the oxymoronic idea of virtual reality, and apparently so did many others. I thought maybe it would pass, but then I perceived that I was hearing increasingly strange, disturbing, and frequent stories on the radio broadcast news. I heard that 1) someone was actually going to get the legal right to display advertisements on the moon, 2) scientists had found a way to transport a photon, and 3) someone had intentionally set a person on fire. My sacred public radio news, my favorite source of stories and ideas when time for reading became a luxury, was starting to seem unreal.

I swore I would never digest the news from television, but the next set of frightening stories I remember were the ones I indeed watched when my best friend was an actress addicted to soap operas. As we chattered about, dreaming up fantasy careers for ourselves, her eyes glued to the soap, my eyes glued to her, in her elaborate make-up procedure, we were interrupted by the televised Columbine murder scene. Shocked, and horrified, I felt the televised story turn to oatmeal pouring into my eyes, into my brain. Within months--or was it weeks?–the kids killing kids in school, these murders were being replicated around the country. The reports sounded off like a deformed bullet ricocheting in a holographic chamber.

I began to feel I could not read one story at a time; I could not find my own original story. I could not find Integrity. Once I had glimpsed her in an old woman’s repose. Fifteen years later I can only see my memory of her. Three weeks ago I saw a few minutes of a scene from a horror film displayed on a news broadcast. Everyone says it was real. I heard part of the story on public radio. Everyone is telling me what happened, and they are all saying something different. Everyone is watching the story as it is re-veiled on t.v. I decided I can’t. I decided to boycott the oatmeal this time.

I guess that’s how I wound up here, in the Uni-tale Universe. Apparently, someone here wanted to experience multi-story life at the same time that I wished to experience one-story life and a trade was arranged, although I haven’t yet figured out how that happened without my conscious consent. I don’t mind anyway. I want to explore and when I am done, the story I know should only be one.

Here a story can only be told one time. This is a Natural law here, comparable to our laws of Physics, immutable, irreversible. What happens if someone tries to re-tell a story or duplicate a once-told story here? I will have to ask, but first the Uni-taleiens have asked me to embed this in my story:

Oh beautiful reader, calm, near: Hear what we write upon your heart’s ear. From the land of the Uni-tale, the land of cherished stories, whose authors we revere, perceive a new vision; feel every angle of our interior.

Here, the physical laws dictate that a story may only be told only once. Feel our despair, though we are naturally joyous, we are imprisoned by our laws of physics that limit us to telling a story only once. How we crave to hear our cherished stories cooed into our ear repetitiously, like a mantra: secure, secure, secure. How we long for the deeper bond we can share, how we long to meet a tale transformed, ourselves transformed, or find the mutually transformational relationship you enjoy with your stories. We want to eat the Group Thought Soup we’ve heard exists in your world.

If this be our first encounter with the Multi-tale Universe, as is suspected by the Memory Bankers, then this singular mail, if it reaches you your world, may cause a collision of our two universes. We don’t know what will happen then, but we are so desperate we will take the risk.

We desperately seek to learn the technology that enables you to re-tell stories. Since we cannot copy in whole, or in part any story, we may not benefit in many ways. Our scientists must rely on nature to inspire their minds, to act as the corpus-collasum, as the bridge between fact and imagination that leads to new discovery.

One of our scientists believes you have a counterpart law of physics: that energy cannot be destroyed or created, only changed. The physics here dictate that no thought can be destroyed or created, only changed. One of our Fully Bright Scholars, the first to find a way to communicate a tale to all of us at once, as if we all shared one pair of eyes, through the use of electricity and some raw materials, the Scholar created a network that could display the same story in multiple places at the same time. the Scholar believes this is a monumental breakthrough in the search for multi-story technology.

You may wonder just what the one-telling law applies to here since where you are a story can be one of many things: gossip, news, a show, history, the description of a dream...a song? What is a story, what is a tale?

A story is a radio wave solicitation from one universe in search of another, a homing device sent out from one mammal in search of others, awaiting a response, anticipating a connection, lost if returned with only echoes.

Perhaps you can benefit from our uni-tale system: memory is better, cherished stories must be remembered since even if they are written they cannot be duplicated. The person with the cherished story is wealthy indeed. Some communities have no beautiful stories, they are destitute.

(Sorry, the transmission of the end of this story was lost somewhere in between multi-story land and the uni-tale universe.)

Name:  Gail DeCoux
Date:  2001-10-04 08:39:50
Message Id:  393
As multi-layered as the stories we tell, so are the reasons for the telling multi-layered. Sometimes the motivation for story-telling is of the noblest order; at other times the reason is self-serving. Sometimes the purpose for story-telling can change dramatically. Overnight. After the horrific events that shook our nation on September 11, we saw numerous changes in the stories in the mass media and popular culture. Most, if not all, regular television programming was stopped while we watched in shock/fear/anger as the events unfolded before our eyes. At the same time these very emotions were underscoring the story that was being written as we went along, shaping and feeding it. Though the memory of that Tuesday will not soon fade, Americans take some degree of comfort and strength to go on from the sense of solidarity drawn from those stories. As of now, the strongest voices are the ones linking the American way with military might. On the other hand, now that it has been set in motion, the story has seen very little in the way of revision. Often those that attempt to alter the story are harshly criticized or silenced by not being given the opportunity for a public forum. We suffer for it in that we do not have all the information we need to make sound decisions. Our story turns out to be the truth that we want it to be. Thus, it is left to the story-tellers, the re-tellers/revisionists/ourselves to uncover the additional layers of meaning in any story.
In “Flatland”, once the square from the 2nd dimension has had a revelation, in the form of being made aware of the existence of a 3rd dimension, he can never be satisfied with being complacent again. He has a “thirst”, a “craving” to explore the dimensions beyond the 3rd that he now imagines must be out there. So to, once the human imagination has received the spark of knowledge, it feels compelled to uncover deeper and deeper layers of understanding.
The author’s description of this need in us to acquire deeper meaning is done so within the pages of a book that itself requires the same revising/re-telling in order to fully grasp his intent. For example, during our discussion of this book, several classmates expressed the opinion that “Flatland” is an attempt to prove the existence of God. I came away with a different interpretation.
On pg. 58, the sphere, (who represents a supreme being to the square), in thinking that he sees and knows all in his own dimension and those below his own, is subject to the same fallacy of thought that hinders the square. (God, by definition, would be all-knowing). This flaw is emphasized again when the sphere also discounts the existence of realms beyond his own dimension. Here, each encounter with someone from the next dimension reveals a being that is oblivious to the dimension beyond. Also, Abbott does not portray his supreme beings as having had a hand in the creation process—a major omission in an argument for the proof of the existence of god. Instead, his deities show up once every 1000 years to announce their existence, and they frequently laugh at or mock the misguided thinking/arguments of the non-believer. Is Abbott poking fun at our faith-based systems that attempt to explain difficult concepts without the use of reason? Abbott demonstrates this as the square humbles himself repeatedly, prostrates himself mentally before his Guide (p64), and demonstrates complete reverence to a being that ultimately turns out to be fallible.
I think that Abbott, a clergyman himself, would have been highly aware of these discrepancies and therefore it was his intent to present his vision of god in a highly revolutionary manner. Banesh Hoffman, in his introduction, states that “Flatland” was written pseudonymously because Abbott was afraid that it would besmirch his more formal writings. Perhaps Abbott anticipated the fallout from such a highly unconventional god view—that of pure knowledge rather than a kind/loving father figure.
Name:  Carol
Username:  cfield
Subject:  retelling stories
Date:  2001-10-04 09:33:22
Message Id:  394
I traveled yesterday and had planned to work on this draft on the train. However, after
seeing all the police dogs and security in the station, I found myself nervously eyeing the rest
of the passengers waiting on the platform. I spotted an Arabic-looking man nervously chewing
gum and shifting back and forth from one foot to the other. Shame on me! I was a racial profiler.
I tried to get a glimpse of his suitcase ID. I noticed an Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company logo and
was comforted. I still found myself consciously looking for the biggest, burliest guy I could find to sit next to,
as if my own personal bouncer could protect me from bombs and poisonous gases. I had trouble
concentrating on the train. So I'm late with this draft.

Why do we not want to revise our stories? Because we've become comfortable with the old stories.
We don't want to revise them because it will mean that we must go through a painful upheaval and
discomfort to develop a new story. We fear that the new stories won't work for us and if we've already
abandoned the old stories, we'll have nothing to fall back on.

But, if we become uncomfortable enough--as we all did on September 11, it becomes necessary to revise
our stories. With the new knowledge that terrorists can live anonymously in our midst and that they are
willing willing to turn planes, trains, and other vehicles into bombs, we must revise our stories. We'd never really
thought of that scenario before in this country.

What were comforting stories in the past--knowing that in fairy tales the bad people get punished--no
longer works as a way for us to confront our fears and to help us define good and evil.

What causes us to rewrite our stories?

We need to revise our stories to help us make order of our world. We all have a need to tell ourselves and
others when we acquire new knowledge.

Foucault uses the analogy of recognizing a face. He says that we "know more than we can tell." To recognize
a face, we could look at a picture of it. This might not work, however, when the person's actual face is
viewed because you need more knowledge of that face than can be presented in a picture. To be
able to recognize a face and better know a person, you need to be able to see that face from all angles.
You need to see the face smile, frown, show expression and emotion. Only then do you know the face well
enough to recognize it when you see it again.

The same can be said of our need to rewrite stories. We can read an old story or listen to another's story, but t
to make it work for us in the present, we need to examine it from all angles. We need to add our own
knowledge to the story. To make it work for our own needs, we need to feel the story, see its expressions, its
beauty, its warts--just like recognizing a face. Only then do we have enough knowledge to tell a new

Name:  Zoë
Subject:  Analysis for Violinno (message 324)
Date:  2001-10-07 11:27:49
Message Id:  407


The Sound of Letters

The act of reading is usually considered a mental activity. The point of reading, we are taught, is to understand what is written. Literacy, wherever it is found, begins by learning a set of symbols: letters. At first, letters seem to be the designated representatives of certain sounds, however, they don’t capture the variety, or the full range of sounds experienced in the typical fledgling human consciousness. Who decided which parts of the infant gurlging, gahyahing, and oohing, or the adult grunting, groaning and umphffing would be the chosen phonemes, the preferred units of sound, to be elevated to symbolization? Furthmore, why was sound, the human sound, elected to the impossible task of both representing itself, the symbol of itself, and ultimately, when ordered and combined according to the code of language, carrying messages, thoughts, and ideas away from one person and into another?

Perhaps the letters do not symbolize sound. Perhaps it is the other way around, and the letters existed once void of sonic conveyance. The letters, then, must have symbolized something else, certainly we agree that they must have symbolized something originally. In the museum of archaeology, looking for the answer might result in quite a surprise. The scholars have evidence collected, ancient objects found, that show that the earliest form of recorded hand-assisted thought transmission existed first as pictographs, drawings of everyday objects and scenes. The old stones show how the drawings evolved as the drawers, the artists, who were evolving too, simplified what they drew. As happens with simplification, paradoxically, the drawings became abstract; simpler, yet more complex.

Now, in reading what I wrote, I feel as helpless as a sound, ordered to represent itself, the symbol of itself, and charged with the transmission of the truth. Who invented the symbol for infinity, that twisted loop? The possibilities multiply the longer one considers the meaning of these physical marks, these groups of tiny drawings, these brain invaders; letters. Words.

What occurs to me when I investigate the markings I made when I was asked to write a fairy-tale the day before the mass murder at my country’s door to the world, New York City, a city I loved, is that I am here alive and my friend is at home with her husband staring at Saran-wrapped leftovers from Saturday’s memorial that was held for their 24 year-old son, David. His father said "So long, son," in his usual way the morning David left to meet a client for a rescheduled appointment, only three blocks away. David, of course, arrived a little early for his appointment; people who know the kind of elevator delays that can arise in navigating the way to an office 100 stories high, know to go early.

While we students that morning prepared to discuss the meaning of fairy tales, the hour approached when David’s father would see a giant airplane used as a bomb plunge into that building with its hundred stories, and in less than an hour the structure was no more; powdered cement on the ground was now the 100th floor. When the World Trade Center fell, all the office debris flew into the vicinity. All the paperwork people had said they were buried under was working its way down and around, falling much slower than the burning bodies, down to the tomb.

The World Trade Center was like the United States’ penis; New York City was like its womb. That’s the first set of words that came to my mind when I saw the attack from the seminar room. My mind perceived an abbreviated message transmission via the WTC, the very place where I had increased my vocabulary by at least a thousand acronyms. In my head, guts, and glands, I felt the message, vulgar and profane, I felt my country’s pubescent exuberance had been slain.

We didn’t get to discuss our reading from Robert Bly’s "Iron John, A Book About Men," but these words: Iron John Robert Bly Book About Men, these words will for the rest of my life carry to my inner ear the silent bomb that reduced me to fear.

David’s father received a message, too, as he cried to God to send him a sign, to tell him if he looked for his son, what would he find? Out of two buildings, so tall they were like marks drawn by a giant in the sky, a signal to traveler’s that NYC was nearby, a single piece of paper was heard colliding against the fabric of the suitcoat David’s father wore as he walked toward the death heap. The sound registered in his ear, the tiniest pressure from the edge of paper traveled through his coat to his skin, and reflexively he plucked the thin sheet off and looked at it. Within two seconds what was written got to him. His son’s full name was written near the top of the sheet because it was an invoice for services rendered by his son.

This story is more than the letters and words organized here. As representatives they can never completely report all the experiences of September 11th, 2001. Certainly no one can make marks that tell the experience of the murdered.

Our marks and scratches, our attempts to explain human —human-generated!— atrocities to ourselves and to those yet to be born, our thoughts and ideas arising from the pain, are impossible to contain in physical form. We may find the strangest messages carried into our brains on seemingly unrelated words. This is what happens when I read what I wrote to myself. I get messages that are more than the combined definitions of the words.

First, I see the image of the first paragraph as an abstract shape shaded in with marks. The shape with its sharp point aimed at the text below gives me a sense of being attacked. At the same time it looks like a dancer; I find myself in a state of emotional ambiguity because I know the shape is abstract and my mind is for some reason choosing these images. Before I begin to read I feel physically provoked because I am forced to discard my habitual way of reading: left, right, down, left, right, down. The arrangement of the words in a different way makes the words unfamiliar so that they bypass my automatic dictionary. As I navigate the text and hit space instead of the end of a sentence I feel a little abandoned, pushed into uncertainty, this changes my perception of the next group of words. Soon I feel so physically manipulated that it is as if the writing is dancing with me, but it is the leader. This physical sensation heightens my other senses; I begin to experience the words rhythmically, as well as visually and physically; the meaning of whole sets of words comes in last. Once I adapt to the disorientation, I begin to experience the space around the words as quietness that invites meditation, and a restful place for thoughts.

As I continue to investigate the marks on the page, echoes of words and echoes of meanings combine in the way that ripples combine when two pebbles are tossed close together onto a placid lake. The combination of words that echo a sense of the ancient combines with the words that echo futuristic. "Sun," "old gray rock," and "stone," for example, ring ancient while "black hole," "polymer," "ultra-violet silicone," and "lost keys" ring contemporary. The two together create a broad perspective of time.

When the words "cried," "heart," "naked," and "bruised side out," collide in my mind I sense pain, and the vulnerability of facing pain and suffering head-on. "Brother planet" carries an image of kinship and an assumption that earth is the sister planet to my imagination. The chronological aspect of the story moves forward in time, then goes a little bit back, forward in time again, a little bit back, in the way that waves do. This coincides with the emotional waves, that like nausea, washed over me repeatedly during and after the terrorist attacks, but I am uncertain as to whether this effect will be transmitted to other readers. Since I know what I felt as the images came to mind when I wrote, I find it impossible to judge whether or not they even make sense to anyone else, and I wonder if this writing has any meaning at all outside of the context of the insane message sent to our country on September 11th.

Zoë Anspacher October 6, 2001

Name:  Flori
Subject:  Retelling Stories
Date:  2001-10-08 21:33:40
Message Id:  416
In Edwin A. Abbott’s book, Flatland, the story of life’s dimensions are retold many times, and the main character, the square, develops the idea that there must be infinite dimensions. What he thought was the only true world, Flatland, became an inferior world compared to the three-dimensional Spaceland. If three dimensions exist, there must be four dimensions, and if there are four dimensions, why not five, and so on. He concluded that “to be self-contented is to be vile and ignorant, and that to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy” (Abbott 75).
The entire social system of Flatland, where the square has lived his whole life, has been based on the idea that circles are above all other beings because they are the most knowledgeable, and everyone aspires to be like the circle, the closest to perfection. Therefore, it would make sense that the square carries this same mindset when contemplating the existence of other dimensions. Being aware of other dimensional worlds makes one more knowledgeable, therefore, closer to perfection. This is why he feels the need to retell his story, “to aspire, and to teach others to aspire” towards this perfection (Abbott 77). The square thought it was so important to share this knowledge with the rest of the beings of Flatland that he was even willing to go against the law of the land and be thrown in prison.
There was a law that anyone who “[professed] to have received revelations from another World” would be imprisoned or executed (Abbott 77). The leaders of Flatland were in power because of their shapes. Their shapes, however, are only sides to the greater beings of Spaceland. They would be inferior to those in Spaceland. This was a part of Flatland’s culture and the leaders of Flatland did not want to lose this culture, especially because it would mean that they would not be the superior known beings. Therefore, they attempted to keep the knowledge and curiosity of Spaceland from spreading. This retelling and withholding of stories is based on a social system and the affects the ideas presented in the new story would have on that system. The retold story may have positive or negative effects depending on the individual’s situation, and the weight of the effects of the story may also differ.
Flatland introduces another character to whom the knowledge of other dimensional worlds is unnecessary. This character is the point from Pointland. He feels complete joy just from being. The point does not know of the possibilities of other dimensions, therefore, he is completely satisfied with the life he knows.
To answer the question of whether it is good to retell stories and search for new truths or not totally depends upon the individual. Some feel satisfied with existence while others feel that they are in the situation where they must strive for explanation and infinite knowledge. After all, the square believed so strongly in the idea of retelling the dimensions that he was willing to be imprisoned as a consequence. But where did this get him? It only made him feel burdened and haunted by the knowledge of Spaceland that he was not able to share with the rest of the world.

Works Cited
Abbott, Edwin A. Flatland. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1992.

Name:  Laura Bang!
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  The Truth & Lies of Retelling Stories
Date:  2001-10-09 21:48:51
Message Id:  429
Stories can be infinitely valuable to society. Their value depends on their change-ability. If a story can be altered to fit new perspectives and new social issues, then that story is successful. These alterations are not necessarily physical alterations (that is, alterations to characters or plot), they could just be a change in how people look at and interpret a certain story. But why are some people eager and others reluctant to retell or re-interpret stories?
In Flatland, the narrator is retelling the story of his fantastic journeys in Lineland, Spaceland, and Pointland. He has already told them once (to the people of Flatland) and they were rejected as lies, for which he was put into prison for the rest of his life. Why then, does he attempt to tell these stories again? One of the reasons is, I think, to assure himself that his experiences were real. If he writes them down, he himself will not come to believe that it was all just a dream. Over time, the memories might become hazy and dream-like, but if he writes them down while they are still fresh, they will remain real (at least to him, if to no one else in Flatland).
Another reason the square retells his story, is for future generations of Flatlanders. He hopes that one day, Flatlanders will read his story and be able to conceive of other dimensions and realize impact of these other dimensions on their own lives. Or perhaps he hopes that his retelling will reach the other dimensions beyond Flatland and that the inhabitants of these other dimensions will take it upon themselves to educate themselves and the Flatlanders about the various dimensions.
The inhabitants of Flatland, however, are reluctant to hear such a retelling of their lives. They have gone about the same lives for generations beyond memory – born one shape, each successive generation gains an extra side until they are admitted to the elite polygonal and circle societies. The idea that there may be other dimensions in which are inhabitants greater than Flatlanders, this idea is frightening. The Flatlanders, therefore, feel that the square must be condemned for spreading such “lies.”
When a retelling of a story threatens to change our existence, we are frightened, and very reluctant to hear such a story. We call such retellings lies, but what are “lies”? It was once thought a lie that the earth was round. It was once thought a lie that men could reach the stars. Some people think it a lie that men were created by gods; some people think it a lie that men are descended from gorillas. It is often hard to decide what “lies” are. After all, one person’s lie may be someone else’s truth.
Name:  Wareen
Subject:  Flatland
Date:  2001-10-09 22:26:51
Message Id:  430
Bear with me people, this is a 2 pager b/c I'm bad enough with my long winded thinking in long papers, never mind short ones. Also, I'm not sure how well the topic is addressed, but its sort of a fun paper to read and laugh at!!

The Fourth Dimension’s Version of the 3 Dimensions

I call our world Timeland, not necessarily because we call it so, but rather to make its nature clearer to you. I don’t know exactly how to describe this world, nor whether it is even worth the effort to attempt a description. I know you beings accept the three dimensions of width, height, and length, and that you interpret the world around you accordingly. Well, picture a world in which the three dimensions are length, width, and height, but these are interpreted according to the past, present, and future. Since I know how confused you must be, I will offer an example for your puny minds. When we look at the sun, we are able to see a speck of dust, a swirl of gas, a mighty sun, and a terrifying darkness. These images are not as blurred as you might imagine, but rather we understand their dimensions and position in time as clearly as you understand which lines of the cube are furthest from you and which are closest. You see, the fourth dimension is time, and our world is the essence of time. We are a world in the sense that we exist among you, as one of your unseen dimensions, as a universe known to only the deep recess of your mind. We are the ones responsible for the time aspect to your life, the baby fat and the wrinkles, the arthritis and the metabolism. We are the ones responsible for changing the story of your life. We are responsible for rotating the cube, for bringing those distant lines to the foreground of life, for merging the future and the past within the realm of our control known as the present.
Now I know what you’re thinking, and I’m telling you right now to relax. It’s not as complicated as it might seem. Time is a dimension already existing as a part of you; it is just an invisible part. You see, every decision you make in life (and everything from movement to zoned out silence is a decision) we interpret the future this decision makes, and we move the future consequences forward. Like a cube, some of the points on the line take longer to move forward than others, hence, you acquire wrinkles slowly but hair grows quickly.
This has more of a consequence than you may realize. Time controls your entire life, and we control your entire past, especially your history. Your history, you see, is not a line of facts and dates but a constantly evolving story of potential, realization, and interpretation. With time, everything changes; the cube rotates; we create a new story for the making. But this new story is not altogether new; you see the potential for a new interpretation is “already there, waiting in silence for the moment of its expression (Foucault xx.)”
However, there are impossibilities within your three dimensional world, interpretations you are not able to realize until the timing is right, until it is declared and destined that it be seen. In other words, “the unthinkable is that which one cannot conceive within the range of possible alternatives, that which perverts all answers because it defies the terms under which the questions [are] phrased (Trouillot 82.)” Allow me to demonstrate once more, for your sake. If you lived on a plain, a two-dimensional plane of existence, it would be “unthinkable” for you to see three dimensions because every question you ask is framed with an assumption of that plane. You humans think linearly, and so every assumption you have you always assume to be constant. Life will always be defined by that plane because everything is currently defined by that plane. The potential for the linearity of life to bend is a denial with you beings. No question is able to pierce that ignorance.
Why is it so impossible to pierce through that mindset? All this must be terribly confusing for you, especially since I have already mentioned that the deep recess of the brain accepts more than three, even more than four dimensions. Then why can’t you accept them? Very simple, you have been handed down the plane form of existence; you were brought up believing in the line. Children, however, are instinctively curious and able to question; they are able to picture other possibilities even if they “don’t see how (53)” this other possibility could be a part of their reality. This sort of curiosity would make a child a “fool (54)” even if the child is perfectly correct. You are taught how to see the world, and you are taught by which questions and terms you are to define it. You people have a necessity for lines, for clarity, for rules.
You see, that is where time comes in. We are an earthquake, I suppose, to the linear ground of your structured world. When the time is right, we shake the world up a bit. It is as though a great Sphere of knowledge descends every millennium to reveal another layer, another part of your world. This does not mean we reveal ourselves, nor does it mean we reveal dimensions. Rather, this means we reveal a new story, or rather we change the world by bringing out a new potential, a new side, to the same story.
If, for example, we were to take a figure from Flatland and show him your three dimensional world, he would declare “behold, a new world (64.)” For him, this would be a new story, and so he would be forced, most likely, to write some absurd book or make some bad movie rewriting the story of his plain, of his Flatland, to incorporate this “new” third dimension. As time demands, your story is changed, and so you beings, obsessed as you are with detail and linearity, must rewrite the story correctly, starting off, of course, with the world in which you previously lived. To rewrite or revise a story there must be an original, and so the original always comes first, even when rewritten, if simply to mock and satire the errors, but more commonly to make obvious the “newness’ of the world.
Perhaps the sad part is that there is no help for your perception, no help for the world. No story is ever rewritten; no world is ever “new,” only redefined. The potential exists, but the structure of life and the varying dimensions are always too strong. Only accepted ideas are transcribed into the culture, into the world. The rest remain a figment of the imagination or the reality of a mental patient.
But, since you live in the three-dimensional world, you are required to rewrite the story of life and history as the story unfolds and as time changes the definitions. Everyday a little bit unfolds, and everyday you adapt and accept the new terms. There are too many possibilities in life for you to accept them all, not if you want to maintain order and structure, not if you fear change. So the story changes rather slowly, and only in moments of complete chaos and melancholy is the story ever replaced with an entirely “new” account of the world. Whether this be a “Colour Rebellion” or the opening up of a new dimension, these changes are rarely as sudden as perceived, and they are rarely as lasting as they are promised to be. And yet, they are essential. The reinterpretation and the retelling of stories remains the only means by which time is measured, and the only ways in which the world revolves and its people progress through life. You need the ground to shake just as much as you need the structure to hold strong. This is a necessity.
The story of life is much like a fairy life; you beings you could recite the tale by heart. The story is what defines you. As you change, as time changes you and the world, aging you slowly, the world is redefined and rewritten by new terms. The story is constantly revised, constantly rewritten because you are constantly comparing the “old” with the “new.” You are always discovering and exploring, sometimes by force. The world is less stable than you claim, more complex than you see, and more ancient than you could imagine. But the frontier is always expanding, and the story is constantly changing by the dictation and command of the mighty fourth dimension. We are the ones who rewrite the story through the accumulation of change and time, through the exposed possibility of potential.

Name:  Amanda Glendinning
Subject:  Telling and Retelling Stories
Date:  2001-10-09 23:07:57
Message Id:  431
Throughout life and history, mankind has been known to tell and retell the stories of life as well as future generations. Before word was written down, the tales were told orally and memorized so as the children could learn from the past. "Beowulf", the epic tale, is a prime example of the passage of stories. The past generations retold the story. Where the telling and retelling of stories is also very apparent is the novella by Edwin A. Abbott, "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions." The square, the main character in the story, tells the story of reality in two different dimensions. This is key as the different stories show different opinions and viewpoints. This is a prime example of what occurs with the retelling and telling of stories.
History and the retelling of stories is a key part of all cultures and societies. The words passed down are normally fundamental stories of the community. Despite being key, the stories normally change over time. This is because being told by mouth, people alter the tale to aid themselves. Even the epics of cultures are changed so that the community can use it for their own good. Fundamental stories are told and have been told throughout history as examples of the rights and wrongs and as past examples.
Not only do communities change stories but so do individuals. If one version of the story does not suit the present situation, the teller may adjust it so that it will fit. Or, if the person telling the story wants to see the tale in a new light, he or she may change it. For example, in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman", Biff states to Happy, "How the hell did I ever get the idea I was a salesman there? I even believed myself that I'd been a salesman for him! And then he gave me one look and--I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been! We've been talking in a dream for fifteen years. I was a shipping clerk." (Act II) This is a common theme among people, the change of stories so that the tale will aid the teller.
Stories are told and retold throughout history, being altered while staying the same. It is interesting to read the tales of people from the past who altered the stories to benefit themselves. It is a common theme in literature and life.
Name:  Liz Clarke-Hazlett
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  The Evolution of Human Thought, or Why Christ Won't Be Back Any Time Soon
Date:  2001-10-10 00:06:45
Message Id:  432
Human society and thought are structured around ideas so fundamental to our perception of the world that no one truly realizes what they are until they have changed. As these beliefs change over time, with them change society and the human concept of the world. These ideas are so fundamental and necessary as to be like “genes;” they code for a good portion of the characteristics of human thought and society in any given period. Much like human genes, they are subject to mutation. The products of these mutations, radically new ideas or discoveries, are themselves subject to natural selection. (I acknowledge that this comparison has an obvious flaw in its broadness, for the biological evolution of a species is far more complicated than simple genetic mutations and the results of natural selection; with that knowledge, however, I feel it serves as a suitable metaphor.) These relatively infrequent processes punctuate the constantly and slowly expanding realm of human knowledge, leading to beliefs fundamental to human thought changing over time.
Change in these beliefs stems from a radical event or discovery (the “mutation”) that disturbs well-established human knowledge. For example, consider the “discovery” of evolution. Evolution was a concept that very strongly opposed society’s fundamental belief in creationism; it also emmerged relatively suddenly, as creationism had been around since biblical times. Once the revolutionary event takes place, it must be dealt with; the new thought or discovery exists, much as the genetically altered organism would still exist, and will not disappear if simply ignored. In this way, the very fact of its discovery begins the process of change. In Flatland, the “mutation” in the square’s fundamental beliefs is his journey into spaceland. At this point his perception of the world is irreversibly altered.
It is now that “natural selection” takes place. The genetically mutated organism either survives and prospers, being better adapted to its surroundings than its predecessors, or fails to survive, being worse adapted. The same is true for a discovery depending on its “surroundings,” the social atmosphere of the time. It is now widely accepted that humans evolved from hominids, and were not created and placed on earth in our present state. This revolution in our society’s belief of our origins took many years to become the prominent view; it has been the subject of many debates, such as the John Scopes trial and the recent arguments over whether evolution could be taught in Kansas schools. These debates prove its worth as a new basis for thought. Conflict proves that it is believable enough to challenge and replace old ideas. Its triumph in such situations has been because of the social climate that is willing to accept such a change. Such is not the case in Flatland, where the square finds that the social climate is turned against his discovery of other dimension. There are no arguments that accompany his claim, it is simply dismissed. A comparable modern situation is one in which a person makes the revolutionary discovery that they are Christ in the second comming. Society is not inclined at the moment to believe, or even consider, that Christ has returned to judge us. By most, the person is dismissed as crazy. The same social climate faces the square. Thus, the social atmosphere into which revolutionary discoveries or events are introduced directly affects the extent to which they change our fundamental beliefs and views of life.
Changes in fundamental human beliefs arrise from certain reality-altering events, “mutations” in the genes that code for society and human thought. These mutations are then judged by society at large, and deemed worthy of change to accomodate them or are dismissed as unconvincing and are eliminated. Through this process, fundamental human beliefs change through time.
Name:  Sarah Friedman
Subject:  why the square retells his story
Date:  2001-10-10 00:15:20
Message Id:  433
Just as humans believe that space occupies three dimensions, the three dimensions that we can commonly see, the square-shaped narrator of "Flatland" believed that space only existed in various configurations of lines forming an assortment of angles. When a solid sphere, a being completely alien to the square, descended to flatland with the intention of broadening the square's knowledge of the universe, the square has to choose to accept or refuse the belief that other dimensions exist. Surprisingly, it only takes one conversation to convince the square that his perspective of the world is limited. Why did the square so easily dispense with the version of the nature’s laws that his people so viciously held to and that had molded his own way of thinking from birth? By replacing his own life-long assumptions with another set of explanations, the square manifests his own dissatisfaction. In other words, retelling the story is a way for the square to remedy the discontent that he gains when he hears about other ways of thinking.
When the square first begins to describe his homeland, he seems embarrassed by the limitations imposed by the constraints of linedom. He explains that the geometrically shaped inhabitants can neither move up and down, nor distinguish one another by sight. It seems obvious that the square is dissatisfied with his original worldview after adopting a new one. But is the square dissatisfied with his life in flatland before the sphere makes him aware of other possibilities? A related question, does one need to know about alternative viewpoints in order to be unhappy with ones own, must also be considered. Finally, can the square be dissatisfied with the particular viewpoint commonly used in his land to understand the world and still be perfectly content with his own existence?
Before discussing the above questions, an important distinction must be drawn. The questions above separate two realms in the square’s life: the actions and feelings regarding his everyday life, as opposed to the larger, more abstract values that influence ones life constantly but at a subtler level.
The square lives in a community that values what he has accomplished in his lifetime. He does not stand at the top of the class structure, but, as a professionally educated man with a proper wife, several children, mostly sons, and a clever grandson, the square lives the "good life." There is little evidence that the square is displeased with the life that flatland provided. But this train of thought only addresses the square’s personal satisfaction on the day-to-day level.
Because the square does not desire a different lifestyle in the sense described above, the question of whether it is possible to desire a change without knowing what the change should be is inconsequential. Alternatively, when one examines the second realm of the squares life, which focuses on the societal views, the second question has more meaning. It is unlikely that, prior to meeting the sphere, the square thought much about the way in which he viewed the world. But this does not mean that he found this view completely gratifying. On some level of his conscience the laws of flatland may have left him with unanswered questions, or it may have not addressed his questions at all. The square could not dwell on the fact this fact because first, he had no alternative, and second, because was not fully aware of his dissatisfaction.
The square's willingness to change his story can be attributed to a need awakened by the sphere when he enlightens his student. Even though the square is not unhappy in his daily life, he does desire a new set of truths, and a new set of truths requires a new set of questions. The truths presented in the Flatland worldview address questions of gender, class, authority, human relations, and human worth. In the first half of the book the narrator explains how these subjects are treated in the context of a world where beings can only see each other as straight lines and were most individuals must resort to feeling each other to identify one another. Although the multi-dimensional word that the sphere introduces the square to is actually the same world viewed in a different manner, one can infer that the different vantage point, (literally,) allows the discussion of more informed questions. These new questions appeal to the square, and lead him to change his story.
Name:  emily
Subject:  Follow the Leader?
Date:  2001-10-10 00:32:13
Message Id:  434
For the most part, stories follow the societal norm of the era into which they are born. A story is acceptable in nearly every condition if it is taken within the context of its time. It is the stories that break through the values impressed upon them that truly define a time period. Fundamental stories change over time not only because they must change to comply with the expectations of a society, but also, to disagree with the expectations of a society.
In one sense, stories change over time because the values of society change, and the stories must comply. These stories, that follow the patterns of society, are more traditional, and are met without much opposition. Foucault alludes to this idea in "The Order of Things". Foucault discusses the possibility that, in any given time period, there are a prescribed set of ways that people have of making sense of the world. Furthermore, these ways are so general that people are oblivious to them until they change. Stories are expected to follow these societal patterns. Therefore, stories that do not challenge society's ideals must follow them, and these stories only change over time as society's expectations change.
In a seperate sense, it could be said that stories change over time to disagree with the expectations of society. In a general sense, stories that cause the most commotion in society are those that disturb some element of social order. In the satire Flatland, Abbott states, "...nothing that you or I can do can rescue him from his self-satisfaction." (pg 76). Here, the square is unable to convince another of the realities of other dimensions. In a general sense, people are happy within the societal norms that they have created. When a story is created to throw their beliefs off balance, they are more apt to disagree with it.
Fundamental stories change over time for two seperate and opposite reasons: in one sense, to follow the societal roles of the time period, or, in an opposite sense, to overthrow them. The first option is more prominent, as it is more easily accepted. However, to redefine the rules of a given time period through a story causes more commotion, but holds the ability to change the rules of an era.
Name:  Kathryn
Subject:  Re-telling Stories
Date:  2001-10-10 04:06:37
Message Id:  437
The world is extremely complex and confusing, yet people have a need to feel that they understand it. Stories are important in explaining how the world works. Usually there are particular stories that a person believes gives an accurate decription of the world. This becomes thier reality. When people find new stories that contadict the old ones there are two basic reactions. One is that the new story is closer to te truth and therefore it should be shared with everyone because it would make their lives better. The other is that that the new story should not be shared because it would shake people's basic foundations which would anger them and bring them pain.
People search for meaning and direction in their lives, and in order to have this they need to understand the world in some way. This is where stories come in. For many people, the Bible is the story that explains the reality of the world. It is from this reality that they can then form a purpose in their life. Foucault presents the idea that people are constantly reorganizing stories about how the world works as new information is presented to them. In today's society, science is often viewed as the stories that explain reality. Many people believe that what science uncovers is the way the world actually works. When a scientist disovers something that he thinks further explains the workings of the world, he is eager to share his knowledge with his fellow human beings because he wants them to understand what he understands since he thinks it brings them closer to reality. He thinks this will help better people's lives. A negative reason he would want to share his findings is because it gives him power, the power to change people's lives.
However there are reasons why people don't want to share new sores also. Not all people want to be introduced to new stories if it means changing their old ones. This is because it would bring uncertainty and confusion into their life. By introducing a new story to explain something that they thought they already knew, it proves their beliefs to be wrong. This is upseting because the person has based their goals and purpose in life on the previous story. It is common for people to become angry when someone tries to introduce a new story. Of course not all stories are this mind shattering, and sometimes people are open to hearing differnt stories. Usually people are open to new stories when they are confused about something, and need to form an opinion about it. In this case, stories are helpful because they offer explanations to what the person is confused about, and then the person can decide what they believe is the truth or reality. However, once this belief is formed, it is often hard to get a person to change it, especially if it is something that a majority of the people believe to be true. This is when a person can be reluctant to retell a story, when the new version would disrupt people's basic beliefs and foundations. This is evident in Flatland, when the square wants to share his discovery with the others, but is reluctant because he fears that the others will be upset and claim that his story is his fantasy, not a fact that explains reality better. His assumptions turn out to be correct after he tells his story to his fellow figures and they declare him to be insane and place him in prison.
This is a common reaction to someone who presents an idea that changes the common sense of reality. Historically, many people who have later been realized to have valid stories are considered to be insane at the time they present the ideas because people do not want their sense of reality to change. They have become comfortable and confident in their beliefs and don't want to change them. Galileo is a perfect example of someone who presented new stories with sufficent evidence to back them, yet no one wanted to see this evidence because they didn't want to have to challenge their beliefs about the church. The church explained how life worked to people and their entire society was based upon it. To challenge the church would mean challenging their society, which many people did not want to do because they were comfortable with their society, they knew their place and their purpose.
The desire to understand the world and develop a reality about it is something that all people are driven to do. Without some sort of explanation or understanding, life would not have a meaning. Some people look for a better understanding of the world than the one presented to them, others simply come across a new story. The square is an example of someone who came across a new story without really looking, and was convinced enough by to believe it to be a new piece of truth. These people are then presented with the dilemma of whether to share this new story with others. Most people would want to share this truth with others for both selfish ad unselfish reasons. However, they are often reluctant to do this out of fear of rejection or to protect people from the pain of having thier foundations knocked down.
Name:  Helena
Subject:  Thoughts on Change
Date:  2001-10-10 06:18:37
Message Id:  438
Fundamental stories.. Hmmm.. I don’t really thing that the factor behind them all change, since it had to be there over time, but the stories change mostly because of our perspectives. After all, if someone came along and saw a cube from one side, and it was all black, the person might suggest that the entire cube was black. But what if the other side was white, and someone else came along and saw /that/? Would this new person suggest that the entire cube was white? Most likely. However, they only saw a fragment of the entire picture, as did the Narrator in _Flatland_. The cube, in essence, is both black and white, because it is made up of all the different fragments that compose it.

I think it’s part of human nature to re-tell a story, only because it would allow them to set the story right or make any changes they deem necessary for the betterment of the tale. Perhaps it’s because they have learnt something new, or perhaps it’s because they simply don’t like the way it ended (think Disney and ‘The Little Mermaid’), or maybe it’s just the case of not recalling the exact facts. When stories are passed down from generation-to-generation through word of mouth, it usually loses some of the lesser details while new ones seem to spring forth. Much like a game of telephone, where you whisper a phrase that is to be passed around a group a people, the end result can sometimes not be remotely similar to the original phrase.

On the other hand, however, we are reluctant to go ahead and re-tell a story because we might change it, or taint it, or do something that’ll absolutely ruin it. It’s that hesitancy that keeps us back from changing something told, because sometimes things are best left alone. Other times, however, they just need some shaking down to get them ready.

Changes are, I believe, something that is essential. Perhaps knowledge that the stories we hear today might not be the exact ones told to family members long before they thought about writing them down is reassuring, because it shows how society has changed. Of course, we might lose the knowledge we had of what came before the change, but if the new change isn’t for the best, it can be changed once more to fit an adapting society. It also might be that we need to be proven that there isn’t just one correct form of a story: there are various views that should be analyzed and put together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Name:  Cathy Burlington
Subject:  Changes and Life
Date:  2001-10-10 08:54:45
Message Id:  439
      The play “Galileo” and the novel Flatland are brilliantly told dramas concerning the lives of men and the revisions that they must make to their assumptions about the world. In both of these books, the protagonist experiences a profound change of perspective. The struggles of Galileo and the square from Flatland spring from revelations---moments of clarity. These radical changes force both men to re-consider everything about their worlds. For the square this is a drastic change from his previously well-ordered life. For Galileo it is part of his life-long struggle in the name of science. But both cases contain an important lesson: changes of perspective are inevitable, inexorable, and will profoundly affect one‘s life.
      Every time a student learns something new, it infinitesimally changes their outlook on the world. It may give them a small insight to the way the world around them works, or force them to reconsider their assumptions. Similarly, every experience one has affects all one’s future experiences in profound, hopelessly complicated, yet infinitely subtle ways. A word that you hear used today, you may come across later in a new context, and recognize partially from the earlier experience. Then, when you see it again, your previous knowledge, at an almost unconscious level, may give you the meaning of the word. When you use the word in conversation and someone asks, “What does that mean?” You can explain the meaning, but can’t explain your knowledge of it. And that’s only the simplest example.
      “Galileo” and Flatland both dramatize important factors in the lives of their heroes that cause them to re-consider and re-tell their stories. In reality, however, these “revelations” are ubiquitous and usually subtle. The stories we tell aren’t arbitrarily re-told at certain intervals. Just as with literal storytelling and oral tradition, they are constantly changing. Everything the storyteller does, observes, or experiences affects the story. It moves through infinite disparate gradations, and is never finished.
Name:  mel schottenstein
Subject:  creation and evolution stories
Date:  2001-10-10 10:25:49
Message Id:  441
Mel Schottenstein
English Seminar
Professor Nutting
October 9, 2001
Stories Used to Explain Our Origin
Stories, whether true or not, are one of the vital ways through which we attempt to explain our conditions on this planet. Flatland’s fictional A Square and Brecht’s semi-fictional Galileo both attempt to explain their worlds through a mix of stories and scientific reasoning. Their stories deal with large philosophical questions, such as the origin of their culture’s existence. But by doing so, these two protagonists are not embraced by their respective audiences; instead, in telling their stories they find their lives are at risk.
The predicament of A Square and Galileo underscore the difficult task of explaining the origin of humankind. Judging by the recent war of words between scientists and Creationists, this task is no less difficult today. While finding their truths in the creation myths found in Genesis of the Old Testament, most scientists cite evidence that man has evolved over time through a series of adaptations and modifications. Proponents of these two opposing views go to great lengths to prove that theirs is the “correct” explanation of why we are here. Whether or not we believe in either side’s evidence, the controversy does draw attention to two “truths”: a.) human beings have a need to tell and pass on stories, and b.) human beings yearn to know where they came from.
Moreover, it is illuminating to view both sides of the argument—creationism and evolution—as stories (Lewin 6). Anthropologist Roger Lewin explains that humans are generally egotistical creatures and want to read narratives about themselves and how they came to be. Similarly, one Professor Landau, a Boston University anthropologist, explains that the same important stages of a hero can be found in explanations about man’s decent (Lewin 6).
Of course, one popular method of explaining life is through the theory of evolution, or the study of how life has changed and is changing on earth for the past billions of years to present day (Campbell 421). This study really looks at the history of humankind through such cross-disciplinary lenses as comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, behavior, biogeography, comparative chemistry, and molecular biology (Campbell 423). By classifying various species, this collection of scientists hopes to discover useful patterns of evolutionary history in the hopes of leading us to a “Common Ancestor” and/or the very beginning of life on earth.
Such study has yielded many important and useful outcomes. By studying abrupt changes in evolution, we have learned about certain catastrophes that destroyed vast number of species (Campbell 422). By continuing to study such biologists hope to one day bes able to predict evolutionary changes, which would be helpful in understanding bacterial growth and bacterial antibiotic resistance. We might also be able to understand how viruses evolve and the frequency and expression of genetic mutation (Campbell 425). In addition, perhaps such study will allow us to understand the earth’s natural environment and ways in which to preserve it.
The Bible’s account of the origin of human beings is, of course, quite different. At the heart of this account is G-d’s creation of everything in and around the universe in six days (circa six thousand years ago). As we all know, over the course of these six days G-d created “man” in the “perfect” image of “Himself.” This account does not lack a body of supporting evidence. Many stories and events found in the Bible have been validated by numerous archeological finds ( It is possible to find truth in such articles of evidence—many Americans have done so. They agree with those “creationists” who believe that life is too complex to have evolved without the help of a higher power. The fact that there are parallel myths—such as a “flood” myth, which is supported by the existence of fossil fuels—within many unrelated cultures is very favorable to the creationists’ view ( Unlike the theory of evolution, such an explanation of the origin of humankind may even give people a sense of security about themselves ( This is a vital point; people need explanations for unknown phenomena, and luckily, explanations of such phenomena can be found in the Bible.
Since there were no human witnesses when the earth and universe were created, no one knows for sure which of these stories is “correct.” This being the case, scientists and creationists must continue to search for new evidence and data to support their claims. Someday, perhaps, G-d will give humans a sign that the Biblical account is truth. Or someday maybe scientists will find the “missing link” to human evolution. Until this happens, the stubborness of both sides prevents people from weighing the merits of both. Nobody seems to be the winner in the battle between these two opposing stories. Galileo and A square struggled to communicate their stories to others, and by doing so they enlightened people with evidence and new questions. For this reason both of these stories—Creationism and Evolution— should be universally taught so that one day someone might create one story that unifies them both.

Works Cited
Abramson, Paul., 9 October 2001
Lewin, Roger. Human Evolution: An illustrated Introduction. Malden, Massachusetts:
Blackwell Science. 1999.
Campbell, Neil, L.G. Mitchell, J.B. Reece. Biology. Menlo Park, California: 1999.

Name:  mel schottenstein
Subject:  creation and evolution stories
Date:  2001-10-10 10:26:14
Message Id:  442
Mel Schottenstein
English Seminar
Professor Nutting
October 9, 2001
Stories Used to Explain Our Origin
Stories, whether true or not, are one of the vital ways through which we attempt to explain our conditions on this planet. Flatland’s fictional A Square and Brecht’s semi-fictional Galileo both attempt to explain their worlds through a mix of stories and scientific reasoning. Their stories deal with large philosophical questions, such as the origin of their culture’s existence. But by doing so, these two protagonists are not embraced by their respective audiences; instead, in telling their stories they find their lives are at risk.
The predicament of A Square and Galileo underscore the difficult task of explaining the origin of humankind. Judging by the recent war of words between scientists and Creationists, this task is no less difficult today. While finding their truths in the creation myths found in Genesis of the Old Testament, most scientists cite evidence that man has evolved over time through a series of adaptations and modifications. Proponents of these two opposing views go to great lengths to prove that theirs is the “correct” explanation of why we are here. Whether or not we believe in either side’s evidence, the controversy does draw attention to two “truths”: a.) human beings have a need to tell and pass on stories, and b.) human beings yearn to know where they came from.
Moreover, it is illuminating to view both sides of the argument—creationism and evolution—as stories (Lewin 6). Anthropologist Roger Lewin explains that humans are generally egotistical creatures and want to read narratives about themselves and how they came to be. Similarly, one Professor Landau, a Boston University anthropologist, explains that the same important stages of a hero can be found in explanations about man’s decent (Lewin 6).
Of course, one popular method of explaining life is through the theory of evolution, or the study of how life has changed and is changing on earth for the past billions of years to present day (Campbell 421). This study really looks at the history of humankind through such cross-disciplinary lenses as comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, behavior, biogeography, comparative chemistry, and molecular biology (Campbell 423). By classifying various species, this collection of scientists hopes to discover useful patterns of evolutionary history in the hopes of leading us to a “Common Ancestor” and/or the very beginning of life on earth.
Such study has yielded many important and useful outcomes. By studying abrupt changes in evolution, we have learned about certain catastrophes that destroyed vast number of species (Campbell 422). By continuing to study such biologists hope to one day bes able to predict evolutionary changes, which would be helpful in understanding bacterial growth and bacterial antibiotic resistance. We might also be able to understand how viruses evolve and the frequency and expression of genetic mutation (Campbell 425). In addition, perhaps such study will allow us to understand the earth’s natural environment and ways in which to preserve it.
The Bible’s account of the origin of human beings is, of course, quite different. At the heart of this account is G-d’s creation of everything in and around the universe in six days (circa six thousand years ago). As we all know, over the course of these six days G-d created “man” in the “perfect” image of “Himself.” This account does not lack a body of supporting evidence. Many stories and events found in the Bible have been validated by numerous archeological finds ( It is possible to find truth in such articles of evidence—many Americans have done so. They agree with those “creationists” who believe that life is too complex to have evolved without the help of a higher power. The fact that there are parallel myths—such as a “flood” myth, which is supported by the existence of fossil fuels—within many unrelated cultures is very favorable to the creationists’ view ( Unlike the theory of evolution, such an explanation of the origin of humankind may even give people a sense of security about themselves ( This is a vital point; people need explanations for unknown phenomena, and luckily, explanations of such phenomena can be found in the Bible.
Since there were no human witnesses when the earth and universe were created, no one knows for sure which of these stories is “correct.” This being the case, scientists and creationists must continue to search for new evidence and data to support their claims. Someday, perhaps, G-d will give humans a sign that the Biblical account is truth. Or someday maybe scientists will find the “missing link” to human evolution. Until this happens, the stubborness of both sides prevents people from weighing the merits of both. Nobody seems to be the winner in the battle between these two opposing stories. Galileo and A square struggled to communicate their stories to others, and by doing so they enlightened people with evidence and new questions. For this reason both of these stories—Creationism and Evolution— should be universally taught so that one day someone might create one story that unifies them both.

Works Cited
Abramson, Paul., 9 October 2001
Lewin, Roger. Human Evolution: An illustrated Introduction. Malden, Massachusetts:
Blackwell Science. 1999.
Campbell, Neil, L.G. Mitchell, J.B. Reece. Biology. Menlo Park, California: 1999.

Name:  Chelsea Phillips
Subject:  Foucalt and Flatland- Telling Stories
Date:  2001-10-10 13:39:28
Message Id:  447
When someone tells a story, they must necessarily add in detail and imagery to make it appealing to their audience. For example, the detail in Flatland, while tiring, was preferable to the drone of Foucault. This is embellishment, and you will find it in every story you will ever read. If you try and become conscious of your own story telling, you will notice differences- usually subtle, and really not ultimately important. Do you remember telling stories when you were a child- the wild and more improbable the better. It was embellishment for shock value as opposed to embellishment for entertainment. Why do we feel the need to tell our stories? Why do we embellish and change? Is it good or bad? We tell stories to make ourselves important or more appealing to others, embellishment makes it more believable, and good or bad is arbitrary in most cases.
People tell stories for different reasons. One of the main reasons is so others might learn from their mistakes. We use stories, bad mostly, to illustrate why someone should make one choice over another- between lying and being truthful, the decision to tell someone how you really feel, etc. These decisions are weighed carefully with no small emphasis being placed on the experience of others. This is natural, considering that we learn walk, talk, feel, eat, and socialize all by example. I remember my brother playing with firecrackers in the woods when I was little. He, inevitably, lit a field on fire and the fire department came and my parents were a little mad. From his mistake, I learned that lighting fields on fire did not make my parents happy, and so I never did it. The numerous other lessons learned from my brother can’t even be recounted in ten pages, let alone two, so suffice to say that his mistakes taught me a lot.
I say I remember the story about my brother and firecrackers so well, but do I? It’s just like the Sister Olive who looked like an olive story that we read the first week of classes. How much do I really remember, and how much have I made up to fill in the blanks and make the story more interesting? For example, I remember that my best friend was over and we were playing with dolls. Do I remember that? Or do I assume that because it seems most logical? This embellishment fills the story with more detail. However, I also seem to remember that it was my idea that we should go and hide in the basement. But, how can I be sure that it was my idea? It could just as easily been Samantha’s idea. Perhaps I naturally give myself the important, assertive role because that was how I viewed our relationship. But is that really how it was? Maybe she wanted to go hide, and I wanted to stay. The only part of the story I remember and still believe to be fact is that I remarked the basement was safest because fire didn’t go through concrete- a fact corroborated by my mother, and therefore more believable.
All right, I know, boring story. So why tell it? Why do all of my friends know this story? What about it exactly makes me want to retell it? Entertainment value. Making other people laugh feels good. When people laugh at you, it hurts, but when you’re laughing too, it’s totally different. People think, “Oh, how cute!”- it’s positive reinforcement, and so I include it in my childhood stories repertoire, if you will. The ability to say, “Yeah, I was such a dumb kid, you won’t believe some of the stuff I did…” makes you more amenable to other people.
People enjoy being around people who can laugh at themselves. I have learned this through observation, and so I use it. I also used to think (and this is true) that little people lived in videotapes, and so the only thing that would keep me from watching “Kiss Me, Kate” for a sixth time every day was the thought that the little people were getting tired. See, I did it again. I told a silly little story to prove that I can embrace my childhood naïveté and use it as a cunning tool to trick people into liking me (maniacal laughter here). We learn that abasing ourselves often makes others enjoy our company more, because it makes the other person feel superior. However, if they are a true friend, they will give you a dumb story as well, thus relinquishing the right to superiority.
Our relationships are really founded on the telling and retelling of stories. People tell stories when they are just getting to know each other in order to break the awkward mood, to encourage them to open up; generally to put and be put at ease. So, is telling stories, even if they are embellished, a positive thing? Maybe. Does embellishment mean that all of our relationships are founded on lies? Well, who hasn’t lied at a first meeting, for the sake of peace and politeness? This doesn’t mean that the whole friendship is a hoax! Eventually you start being truly honest with your close friends; things you can hardly admit to yourself you can’t keep from them. The initial calculated responses and fallacy are a defense mechanism again the danger of abandonment.
Regrouping, we tell stories because we want to entertain, and make ourselves look better or more appealing as companions. Sometimes, changing our stories at first is a positive, because it sets up a relationship that no longer needs embellishment. It is a natural instinct, in and of itself neither good nor bad. How to relate all this to Flatland and Foucault then? Well, Foucault would support the notion that there is a connection between the motivation to cling to your parents as a child and to lie to strangers as an adult. These two seemingly unrelated things (in separate boxes at either ends of the table) are very much the same in terms of the unconscious.
Another example is the classifications used in Flatland. When the square travels to Lineland, he moves in and out of the one-dimensional world prove the existence of the second dimension. He says, “…besides you motion of North and South, there is a motion which I call from right to left” (Abbott 50). This is less than incomprehensible to the King of Lineland, and it frustrates the narrator. However, not ten pages later, the square describes in detail the way in which the sphere moves to prove to him the existence of the third dimension, sparking the “No, not Northward; upward…” (Abbott 60) quote. Does the author see the parallel? No! Not until much later does he realize that he behaved in the exact same way as the King of Lineland. The whole purpose of his first experience was to prepare and teach him for the second, and he missed the whole thing! The same is true with the narrator’s experience with his grandson. It too was an opportunity for the square to expand his realms of thought, and yet he brushed it aside as impossible, and did not even recall the occurrence until much later.
In an ideal world, we would understand all of our unconscious motivations. We would never forget an idea, no matter how absurd, because it might be useful later. We would also be very bored, I think. Telling stories helps us continue to learn and grow. It keeps people young; stretches for your brain. We don’t even have to understand or visualize everything. For example, the ten-dimensional universe we live in (and why stop at ten?!) I have no way of truly fathoming, but I can make an analogy using something familiar, which stretches my mind without undoing it. In my case, I think of the ten-dimensional universe in terms of Park Science Building. You can go in the east door, and walk straight east (occasionally going downwards, not southwards), and yet still end up on the west side of the building in the chemistry department, without going through the library! It’s a scary, twisted ten-dimensional universe out there…try to remember everything you’ve ever learned.
Subject:  csem101
Date:  2001-10-10 18:26:40
Message Id:  456
Science Art Religion Children

Brain Mind Spirit Soul

Meg Devereux

Science asks,
Isn’t it wonderful?

This creation is one of a multitude.
This atom can scorch bits of this creation to gun metal dust.
This atom can yield a power measured by men.
This atom is now in our control, or not.
This atom can be a new energy.

Science says, there are many answers.
There are many questions.
We are answering.
We are asking.

Art asks,
Isn’t it wonderful full?

This word can attach to that word and become a poem, myth, saga.
This color can be painted next to that color and become a painting to provoke us.
This sound can meet those sounds and become a symphony to jolt us.
This flower can be planted by that tree and become a garden.
This arm can encircle that waist and become a dance.

Art says, there are many answers.
There are many questions.
We are answering.
We are asking.

Religion asks.
Isn’t it wonderful full full?

This creation can be a wholeness.
This breaking of wholeness can be a loss.
This loss can be a reaching out in pain.
This reaching out can be a healing.
This healing can be a beginning for wholeness.

Religion says, there are many answers.
There are many questions.
We are answering.
We are asking.

The child asks,
Isn’t it wonderful? Full, full, full?

This child can observe the cells on his skin.
This child can be told this is science.
This child can look again and see anew.
This child can write a poem, paint a picture, beat a drum, sow a seed, dance for the stars.
This child can be a creator.

The child says, I have many answers.
I have many questions.
I am answering
I am asking.

Name:  carol
Subject:  creationism
Date:  2001-10-10 18:27:55
Message Id:  457
This paper needs work, I know, but I've been short of time. I think I've strayed away from the structure we talked about on Tuesday, but after talking to you, I remembered working on a biology textbook with Eldra Solomon and her co-author Bill Davis, who later published his own creationist biology book. Anyway, I thought that maybe I should include something from his book. What do you think--take it out?

In the book of Genesis, God created life in all its diversity in seven days. He began with a “formless wasteland” and first created light, then water, then sky, then living creatures, both plant and animal. On the fifth day, the story goes, God created man in his own image and tells him “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on earth.” After each act of creation, God paused to admire his creations and pronounced them to be “good.”

Evolution by natural selection is the scientific version of the story of earth. Most of the scientific community accepts the idea of evolution as an explanation for the biological diversity of life on earth. They agree that the earth is billions of years old and that millions of species of living things evolved over millions of years into their present forms. The theory of evolution has been studied and supported scientifically since Darwin and Wallace proposed it simultaneously (Is this true? I forget the details, but will fix in my revision.) in the mid-1800’s. Data have been presented and analyzed in the fields of geology, paleontology, genetics, and many other scientific disciplines. As in all of science, the theory of evolution has been assembled from a system of ideas and concepts that make sense of all the data. As is true of all theories, the story of evolution is always open to revision.

If we review the scientific method, we see that the nature of science is that it is always testable. It is based on inferences that are supported by observations and collections of data. Science is always open to debate and controversy. Science must follow the steps of observation, hypothesis, experimentation, all in light of the most certain of scientific statements—laws. Laws are considered to be facts, cases in which a contradiction cannot be conceived of and none has ever been observed. An example would be the law of gravity.

Creationists, who believe in the story of Genesis and sometimes call themselves “Scientific Creationists,” violate all the rules of proper science. They begin their studies with a belief system and then set about to provide explanations. This is a backward approach to science. A scientist sets out to test and validate theories and then acknowledges the results, come what may. Creationists, because they have a literal belief in Genesis’s account of the origin of life, seem to believe that their argument needs no testing. They simply gather evidence that seems to validate their already-established claims and they discount all other evidence. This might be a valid approach to theology, but it is not to science.

In their “creation-science” biology textbook, Of Pandas and People, Percival Davis* and Dean Kenyon present their evidence of what they refer to as an “intelligent design” as a way to reconcile their belief in Genesis with their knowledge of science. For example, they point to the gaps in the fossil record as evidence against evolution. They maintain that fossils which show a gradual change from one species to the next should exist, and that they just don’t. Their conclusion is that, therefore, all species were created in their *Really Bill Davis, a lapsed biology professor turned creationist professor.
present forms by an “intelligent designer.” Concerning the origin of Homo sapiens, they make the following statement:

“Does the fossil record provide any evidence for either the evolution or the intelligent design of man? It is interesting to note that in his book, The Descent of Man, Darwin did not cite a single reference to fossils in support of his belief in human evolution. Clearly his original idea of human evolution did not grow out of a study of human fossil evidence, but out of a previously held opinion about the origin of man. The same is true of many researchers today. Since Darwin’s time, evolutionists have been searching for fossil remains to establish their views that man evolved. Despite the absence of transitional series, this position is held in the expectation that the evidence will turn up…Meanwhile, it is easy to assume the idea of human evolution has been confirmed just by the confidence expressed by many biologists in the essential correctness of evolution.”

Is it possible to reconcile a belief in divine creation with all the available scientific support for the theory of evolution? Should we even try?

I think that we should view Genesis as the fairy tale version of the story of earth and evolution as the scientific version of the story. We should not try to reconcile the two stories but simply respect the needs they fulfill for different kinds of peoples and cultures. We should not abandon the old stories and simply replace them by new stories. Instead we should recognize that whatever comfort we find in any version of our stories is just that—comforting.

Davis, P. and Kenyon, D. H. Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Bilogical Origins. Dallas, Haughton Publishing Company, 1989.

Dorit R., et al. Zoology. Philadelphia, Saunders College Publishing, 1991

Campbell, N. A. Biology. Menlo Park, Calif., 1987

Name:  Emma
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2001-10-10 22:37:40
Message Id:  460
Emma Torres
Professor Dalke
College Seminar
October 10, 2001


As individuals we are motivated to share stories that entertain, inform, instruct, influence, enlighten, and heal. The most important stories we tell, however, are those that order our world and our place in it. And when we tell a new story of our world it is possible that some will hear it as a threat.

Evolution is the secular story we tell of our origins. It is a story made possible by the Western world's exploration of humankind's place in the universe through the method we call 'science'.
The National Academy of Sciences website describes science as "a particular way of knowing about the world." It goes on to say that "... Explanations are limited to those based on observations and experiments" and "Scientists can never be sure that a given explanation is complete and final" (Intro). This being the case, we should consider that by replacing a religious myth with a scientific theory we deny an important purpose of creation stories, namely that of bringing certainty and order to our world, and meaning to our existence.

The uncertainties that are part of science, anthropologist Jamake Highwater writes, have been most acute with the advent of Twentieth-century science where strict laws have been "ignored in the pursuit of a worldview that requires subtle and flexible truths." But this uncertainty is also a challenge inherent in the "emergence of a relativistic viewpoint" in our Twentieth-century culture (40).

Some people experience modern culture as chaos. There are new roles for women to be sorted out; demands by people of different cultures that their voices be heard; and the challenge to authority by our young people. The list of forces re-ordering our world goes on and on. Modernity can seem threatening to a person for whom the old order reflected all that was right about the world.

"With [the] constant onslaught of observations and hypothesis that countermand the rituals of Judeo-Christian dogma, and with today's deeply felt and daringly facilitated humanism, the first shock waves of a 'cultural earthquake' ... have aroused in us the possibilities of Western transience and fallibility" (40).

The attempt by Creationists to re-tell the Genesis story in our public schools is one response to 'the earthquake' of uncertainty. It reflects a desire to return our society to the comforting certitude that the religious way of knowing is meant to provide. Creationists desire to assert a public role for religion in a society they feel has moved away from God; a society that has delineated a separation of church and state, a separation of the secular public space from the private religious space.

The strategy Creationists devised for bringing religious belief back into our secular space is the re-telling of their Genesis story in the language of science. In the United States, they have been organizing to reassert such a place for their Christian understanding of the world since the founding of the Religion and Science Association by George McCready Price. Price was a Seventh Day Adventist who in 1935 published the "New Geology," which argued that all geological features today are the result of Noah's Flood.

Henry Morris, the father of modern Creationism, is credited with setting into motion the use of scientific data as a "tool for bringing people to Christ." He began presenting the Flood geology model as an "alternative science," strategically avoiding any mention of the Bible, or of Christ as the Creator (Nelkin, 78). Such omissions led to an outcry from other Creationist thinkers who complained that, "One might just as well be a Jewish or even a Muslim creation scientist as far as this model is concerned" (246).

However, Morris' re-telling was useful to the Creationist movement for several reasons. Chief among them is that American society believes in science as a way to understand the world. In the Creationist's re-telling of the Genesis story the movement benefits from the legitimacy of science. In Morris's words, "Creationism is on the way back, this time not primarily as a religious belief, but as an alternative scientific explanation" (16).

This residual legitimacy has had its rewards. Creationists have gained access to the media (as seen in the articles accessed at our various websites). And most significantly, this borrowed legitimacy provided access to local and state legislative decision-making processes. It made it possible for Creationists to have "Balanced Treatment" laws passed mandating equal treatment of evolution science and creation science in the classroom. In anticipation of success, Morris even wrote the definitive book on the science of creationism, and designed it to be suitable for use in school biology courses (16).

The Creationist's claims to science have been fully refuted. The National Academy of Sciences website states that: "Scientists have considered the hypothesis proposed by creation science and have rejected them because of a lack of evidence. Furthermore, the claims of creation science do not refer to natural causes and cannot be subject to meaningful tests, so they do not qualify as scientific hypothesis."

Others have addressed the specific scientific points made by Creationists, including those put forth by the intelligent-design theorists who Robert Wright agrees "are more sophisticated than past creationists." But he goes on to say that the movement's critique of evolution is nothing new. It is "just a fresh label, a marketing device" (slate/Earthling). In a 1987 ruling, the United States Supreme Court agreed. It declared that creationism is religion, not science, and cannot be taught in the classroom.

The story of evolution is, undeniably, our dominant creation myth, but the Genesis story will continue to be told because some find comfort in it. However, the Genesis story re-told by Creationists has no place in our schools. The classroom is where our children gather to hear secular storytellers, our teachers, pass on a view of our origins we can all believe in.

"Grace Theological Journal." 1983, cited in "Numbers," 1992
Morris, Henry. Troubled Waters of Evolution 1974
Highwater, Jamake. The Primal Mind Meridien, 1981

Name:  Lisa
Subject:  New Editions
Date:  2001-10-11 00:57:50
Message Id:  461
Note/disclaimer to my friends:

Tuesday I trudged around campus feeling lousy. I had a banging headache, over-caffeinated nerves, and my eyes felt like they were about to be catapulted out of my skull if someone were to let go of the rubberbands holding them in place. Just your typical pre-break Bryn Mawr woman, right? Except that none of these symptoms had anything to do with fairy tales, Foucault or Galileo, but in fact had everything to do with my nightly visitor.

Thomas, my four-year-old son, has been paying me visits in the wee hours of the night for the last four weeks or so. Most times, he doesn't say a word, but even in my deep slumber, I can sense his presence, hear his breath and I awaken to see him standing by the bed. "What is it, Sweetie?" I ask. He replies in a whisper "Nothing, I just want to look at you."

We walk together to his room, where I wrap him in his favorite blanket and we rock in our favorite chair, saying nothing, and for the moment, we are both blissfully content.

But oh the consequences of interrupted sleep.

The truth is, my little guy is not adjusting well to Mom's new world/hours. He's always been a Daddy's boy, so I admit to being a bit surprised by his sudden emotional state. With my absence from his world --even though it's only two days a week -- he seems to have suddenly fallen unabashedly in love with me.

I'm exhausted. Anyway, did I misunderstand something? I thought we didn't have to write about evolution vs. creation? I guess I'm still stuck on why we change our stories. Sorry everyone.

The course's theme has to do with getting it less wrong -- but I fear I'm moving in the other direction -- I'm getting it less right.


Changing/Replacing Stories

Our narratives have to evolve with the times in order to reflect changes in society, but we don't necessarily replace earlier stories, so much as we update or add to existing ones.

In my home library, there are two shelves devoted to books on child care and child development. The volumes are bound in different colors with individual illustrations. The authors are from various countries, and their works are published by an assortment of publishing houses. Other than the subject matter, they have something else in common. On each cover, these books boldly emphasize which "edition" they are.

With the creative use of italics, font sizes, and colorful stickers, publishers proclaim that what you are about to purchase/read is the latest, most up-to-the-minute version available in print. These new editions are marketed with the not-so-subtle message that anything but the latest edition is out of touch. Obviously their aim is to sell more books, but are these constant revisions necessary? In any bookstore, bright covers nearly shout out "New Edition," "Revised," and/or "Expanded." I can't decide - is this braggadocio for all they've updated, or is it an apology for all they've updated?

With most of these updated publications I have no way of knowing how, where, or why it was changed, and I find myself wondering what transpired in those years between editions to convince the authors they needed to revise their story. What exactly did they feel a need to change, add, or delete? Why couldn't the publisher have chronologically color-coded the text, so that I might see for myself the irrelevance of the now missing data?

I want to focus on an old favorite reference book, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, the cover of which boasts "40th Anniversary Edition, Revised and Updated for the 1980s…." The date on the inside cover is 1985, meaning it was already five years' old (and in need of revision?) when my first child was born. Upon thumbing through the old tome, I discovered a unique feature. The author devoted the first three pages of his book to addressing the very issue of "Why This Revision of Baby and Child Care."
These introductory pages present "new" theories on such subjects as divorce and its effect on children; step-children; blended families; and breast feeding hints for the working mother -- all topics that were not part of society's discussions in 1945, when the book was first published. These and other modifications to the book are useful to the readers, and I can clearly see the reasons for such amendments.

The last paragraph of this revision section however, addresses another issue, and provides an interesting history. In 1968, the widely read and respected pediatrician/author was publicly accused by some outspoken politicians of having taught "permissiveness." This permissiveness, they believed "…made so many young men oppose the Vietnam War, thereby making them irresponsible, undisciplined and unpatriotic."

Dr. Spock had openly opposed nuclear technology and the Vietnam War, and he joined young people in their public protests. He was arrested and convicted for conspiracy to aid, abet, and counsel young men to avoid the draft. (The verdict was later reversed on appeal.)

It's curious that Dr. Spock felt the need to use space in his 1985 book to update his readers on those events from years ago, defending his work. He claimed those who had harshly criticized his writings and philosophies at the time did so only because they had political differences with him.
While he doesn't use his book to name his adversaries, we know from news accounts that the most outspoken public figure was then Vice President, Spiro Agnew, who charged that Dr. Spock was corrupting the youth of America.

Many Americans have certainly altered or revised their opinions since the 1960s on the issues surrounding the Vietnam War -- enough so that they even twice elected a man president who had avoided the draft. Perhaps the more recent edition (for the 1990s) does not include this reference.
When I discussed this paper with Professor Dalke, we both thought it would be interesting and perhaps amusing in a nostalgic sense, to learn what the 1945 version of the book had to offer. With a few quick taps on her keyboard, our energetic professor discovered there was indeed a copy of the older publication available at Bryn Mawr's own Canaday Library.
When I look at the two books, the first difference I noticed was that the title changed from 1945's The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, to 1985's Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care.

In the first few pages of the 1945 version, Dr. Spock included a "Letter to the Mother and Father" and addressed the issue of which pronoun he decided to use throughout the book when referring to the baby. It was a difficult decision for him, and not too surprisingly for the 1940s, he chose "he/him." What did surprise me though, was his sincere and thoughtful apology to the reader for his choice. He said he couldn't bear "…the idea of using 'it,' and felt he needed to save the pronoun 'her' for referring to the mother." By 1985's version, he had apparently worked through the pronoun dilemma and settled on using the terms "baby," "babies," "child" and "children" interchangeably.

In comparing these two editions, I expected the older version would seem naïve to a parent in the 21st Century. I expected a few chuckles at its expense, and when I came across the sub-heading "Why not the stork?" I was confident it would provide the necessary material. It didn't. Oh I smiled, but more because the good doctor had impressed me with his solid opinion on the consequences of lying to children about where babies really come from.

One of the illustrations in the old book was rather poignant and telling. It depicted the new father viewing his newborn for the first time -- through a glass window. In those days, the father was not permitted in the nursery, nor allowed to hold the baby.

My husband and I well remember the stereotypical "Fathers Waiting Room" in the hospital where our children were born. It was empty! All or most of the fathers nowadays stay by the woman's side during labor and delivery, participating as much as possible in the process
-- unthinkable in 1945!

Forty years ago Dr. Spock chastised those who believed that the care of babies and children was the mother's job entirely, stating "You can be a warm father and a real man at the same time." (Two steps forward.) He then added, "Of course, I don't mean that the father has to give just as many bottles or change just as many diapers as the mother. But it's fine for him to do these things occasionally." (And one step back.)

The 1985 issue has 701 pages or 194 more than the 1945 version, and includes 873 sub-headings, or 366 more than the earlier version. A great amount of information has been added to the first version, but has not replaced the pediatrician's respected first effort.

Dr. Spock was an astoundingly progressive thinker in 1945. He addressed issues such as puberty, masturbation, sexuality, fatherless children, handicapped children and adoption. The newer version adds a variety of topics such as: Child Abuse and Neglect; Enjoying Your Baby; Learning to Parent; What are Your Aims in Raising Children?; Parents are Human; etc.

The author believed that children and adolescents' fears of nuclear war are real, and in 1985 he still advocated peace groups, demonstrations and the importance of voting.

Dr. Spock was nearing his 80th birthday when the 1985 version was published. He stated the main reason for this fourth revision was "…to introduce a collaborator and co-author, Michael B. Rothenberg, M.D." He felt this might be his "…last chance to work closely with a successor and ensure a smooth transition." (Another edition was indeed issued in the 1990s, but was not available to me for this piece.) Dr. Spock died in 1998 at the age of 94.

It seems there can be no final edition in our ever-evolving world. Dr. Spock came surprisingly close.


Spock, Benjamin
The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care
New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce
1945, 1946

Spock, Benjamin and Rothenberg, Michael B.
Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care
New York: Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

"United States," (Copyright 1998 by The Associate Press)

Name:  Joanna Simonis
Subject:  paper # 2
Date:  2001-10-11 13:16:05
Message Id:  463
Throughout history, scientists have argued on many points dealing with the origin of life. There have been multiple explanations for evolution and creationism, and many interpretations of their analyses. Because of the many discrepancies in these views, it is extremely hard for scientists to prove an exact theory and discover truth, but there is still the quest for understanding. Scientists, hoping for progress and the discovery of new developments, constantly test ideas and build on preexisting work. Galileo and advocates for both the theories on evolution and those on creationism tell stories of their theories in order for people to discover the truth of how the world works and how it began. They seek a way to explain the universe and life itself.

Galileo begged the people to understand that the universe was heliocentric. Like those in Flatland who refused to believe in a third dimension, the people refused to believe in Galileo’s theory. They were too closed minded to go beyond their conventional beliefs and accept these new ideas. Galileo was reluctant to tell his tale because he feared ridicule and even worse consequences, but he was also motivated to reveal the truth and expose the world to a “new dimension” of thought.

There were many costs Galileo had to pay for telling and not telling his story. It was dangerous to reveal his theory about the Earth. At that time, science was still entwined with religion. The Vatican was in charge of Italy, and therefore science. The Inquisition believed that Galileo’s Heliocentric Theory went against God and the church. They threatened to torture him if he did not disclaim his original-- and what was to them outrageous-- theory. Galileo went along with them, but later he still found a way to reveal the truth and revolutionized scientific thought. He had been afraid and reluctant to tell his story, but he always remained eager to enlighten others to the truth.

People today still try to view science with a religious base. Creationists and adherents of the Intelligent Design Theory explain the origin of human life and the Earth based on the belief that a higher being designed the world. They believe that evolution goes against the Bible. They tell their stories to prove that evolution is not a legitimate way to explain the origin of life. Supporters of the theory on evolution claim that creation science lacks pragmatic support and cannot be significantly tested. Scientists of all views, aware that others will attempt to disprove their theories, continue to strive for understanding and truth.

Scientists hope that by exposing the world to their stories, the truth will be learned. They persist in their search for evidence to prove their theories. By exploring the world of science, they enhance and enlighten others. The contemporary debate about science education will continue for many ages, and people will continue to reveal stories in the hope of uniting the world.

Name:  Stacy
Subject:  Paper #2: Why We Re-Tell Stories
Date:  2001-10-11 14:35:10
Message Id:  464
Stacy Claxton
College Seminar
October 10, 2001

Paper #2: Why We Re-Tell Stories

In his Preface to The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, Michel Foucault reveals a primary concern in his investigation: "observing how a culture experiences the propinquity of things, how it establishes the tabula of their relationships and the order by which they must be considered" (xxiv). In other words, Foucault strives to create order in a disparate universe: to characterize, to categorize, to define, to differentiate - namely, to arrive at some semi-satisfactory state of understanding that accounts for the vast inconsistencies that populate the world. Does this sound familiar? Of course: it reflects the end toward which humanity has been striving since the origin of thought. Do we not inherently realize, as Foucault puts it, that "a 'system of elements' - a definition of the segments by which the resemblance and differences can be shown, the types of variation by which those segments can be affected, and, lastly, the threshold above which there is a difference and below which there is a similitude - is indispensable for the establishment of even the simplest form of order" (xx) and consequently wish to act upon this idea? We do, a fact evident in our explanation of the biological hierarchy of life; in the construction of countries, states, towns and other non-natural borders; even in the divisions in our schools as to graduating year, academic field, extracurricular interests, and the like. But Foucault's purpose is not nearly so simple. He sees a spectrum of knowledge ranging from this "system of elements" or "fundamental codes of a culture" (xx) at one extreme to the "scientific theories or the philosophical interpretations which explain why order exists in general, what universal law it obeys, what principle can account for it, and why this particular order has been established and not some other" (xx) at the other. Between these extremes, he finds "the pure experience of order and of its modes of being" (xxi), the springboard for his ensuing "archaeology." In sum, he believes that he has found a fresh approach in humankind's epistemology and so wants to re-tell "the order of things" in relation to this new inspiration.
Is this any different from our own motivation for re-telling stories? Not really. When our experiences yield new epiphanies or when enhanced knowledge affords new perspective on our world, we feel compelled to share this learning with our compatriots in an attempt to make life's mysteries more comprehensible for ourselves and for those who share in humanity's struggle for truth - in essence, we yearn to re-tell the story in light of our personal findings. When we are captivated by a novel, a newspaper article, or a bit of gossip, do we harbor it silently, or do we tell a friend, a classmate, a teacher, or a family member? Most of us tend toward the latter. Why? Quite simply, the story has re-shaped our outlook. It has caused us to ponder and reevaluate our own conception of the world, and thus, in imparting it to others - in "re-telling" it - we can better understand our perception of this knowledge in addition to enriching the perception of our listener.
This matter of first gaining knowledge through personal experience and perception and of subsequently conveying one's findings to the world through re-telling stories is central to the ongoing debate over evolution and creationism. Both sides share the same goal: to impart truth based on personal knowledge. Where they differ is in their application of this objective: evolutionists adhere to purely empirical means in explaining the origin of life, while creationists find credence in Biblical teachings and the idea of a "divine Creator." If both groups are working toward the same end, why do their stories - their respective explanations for the origin of life - not coincide? The answer lies in the ambiguous nature of truth: what one person's experiences may regard as truth another's may deem mere speculation. For example, the evolutionist's story may go something like this: An explosion several billion years ago (i.e. the “Big Bang”) catapulted into space matter and energy that eventually coalesced into galaxies, stars, and, about 4.5 billion years ago, Earth. Biochemical reaction on the primitive planet created the simple organisms that evolved over billions of years into the life forms evident today. The evolutionist’s corroborating evidence (i.e. the "stories" he or she tells to prove the accuracy of this perception) may be sprinkled throughout this general progression, incorporating such fields as paleontology, comparative anatomy, biogeography, embryology, and molecular biology. In conclusion, he or she may claim, as does Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, that "the tremendous success of science in explaining natural phenomena and fostering technological innovation arises from its focus on explanations that can be inferred from confirmable data."
The creationist’s story will undoubtedly take a different form: The Biblical account of God’s creation of the universe, the Earth, and all its present life forms, whether taken literally or metaphorically representative of seven pivotal periods in Earth’s formation, establishes humankind’s origin as a divine effort. The creationist may avoid empirical evidence, urging readers of this “story” to ponder its validity through relevant analogies. Consider Mount Rushmore, the creationist might propose. Could natural forces have carved those intricate faces on the cliff? Of course not: it required man’s adroit hand to mold such precision. So, too, it is with life; it required God’s perfect hand to shape such complexity. The creationist thus would agree with astronomer, physicist and minister Hugh Ross, who claimed, “As a physicist, I have never seen a fundamental particle called a neutrino. But I have faith in its existence and act accordingly because of certain well-established facts. As a Christian, I have never seen God. But I have faith in His existence and act accordingly because of certain well established facts”: he or she may not be able to prove the Creator’s existence by scientifically accepted means, but nevertheless finds faith and the miraculous nature of everyday existence sufficient to substantiate His presence.
Thus two divergent stories have evolved to explain the same observed phenomenon – namely, that life exists on Earth. Which one is correct? More specifically, if truth is relatively finite, how can there be two valid stories? Must one not be false? Eric Bentley offers us a possible explanation in his introduction to Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo: “Truth,” he claims, “may be stranger than fiction; but it is not as orderly. Or as Pirandello stated the matter: the truth doesn’t have to be plausible but fiction does” (11). In other words, the truth – that life exists – may seem “chaotic and meaningless” (11), incomprehensible. Therefore, humankind creates the “fiction” – the explanation or the “story” – to account for the unexplainable in an orderly, sensible fashion. For some, evolution is the version of the story that makes sense according to their personal perception of the world, while for others, creationism may ring true. In this way, evolutionists and creationists, like Foucault or, for that matter, anyone with a "story" to tell, want to share their perspective, each re-telling his or her version in an attempt to convince the world of his or her own correctness.
This explanation, while proposing why we re-tell stories, arouses another question: If individuals are so eager to relate their experiences and to analyze them and propose questions in their eternal search for greater knowledge and in their eternal quest to validate the truth of their own perceptions, why, then, is storytelling such a specialized field? Should we not all be writers, poets, storytellers, or pondering intellectuals? In an informal sense we are: each time we share news, an anecdote, a piece of written work, and the like, we are manipulating a story to reveal our personal understanding of it. Naturally, however, there must be some inhibitions preventing us all from pursuing storytelling as a means of livelihood. Some may feel they are not equal to the task, perhaps deficient in the communicative gifts of the effective storyteller; others may fear persecution or discord stemming from their unique interpretation; still others may prefer to listen, ponder, and muse rather than question, assert, and propose. These factors hold particularly true in the case of the evolution debate: Some with a religious foundation may feel repressed within the scientific community and choose to subordinate their views, while, conversely, scientists might abstain from presenting their ideas in a religious arena. Others may have yet to formulate their own story - the explanation that makes the most sense to them - and thus refrain from expounding until it has reached a coherent form.
In the end, our decision to speak out or remain silent stems from a weighing of the costs and benefits of each. What do we hope to gain by exercising our capacity to re-tell stories? Do the benefits of this action surpass the sacrifices of deferring this right? Edwin A. Abbott, like Foucault, had a story to re-tell, yet his - Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions - takes a starkly different form. Why? More specifically, what did Abbott hope to gain in telling his story as a satire? What losses, what costs, did he wish to minimize? Taking into the consideration the social climate of the time, it is possible that a straightforward, academic piece may have invited rampant disapproval. Thus Abbott, undoubtedly feeling that his social criticism merited expression despite the possible cost in a dissatisfied audience, chose to submerge his message in the experiences of A. Square. He can still express his "hope that these memories...may find their way to the minds of humanity in Some Dimension, and may stir up a race of rebels who shall refuse to be confined to limited Dimensionality" (82) - in other words, his desire that future generations in his own world not be so insular - but without jeopardizing himself. In the same way, humanity weighs the costs and benefits of re-defining its world through stories that enlighten and attract readers without compromising their message.

Works Cited
Abbott, Edwin A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. 1884; rpt. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1992.
Alberts, Bruce. Preface. Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences. 1999 .
Bentley, Eric. Introduction. The Life of Galileo. By Bertolt Brecht. 1952; rpt. New York: Grove Press, 1966. 9-42.
Foucault, Michel. Preface and Forward. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. 1966; rpt. and trans. New York: Vintage, 1973. ix-xxiv.
Ross, Hugh. "The Shell Game of Evolution and Creation." Reasons to Believe. 1991 .

Name:  Diana
Subject:  Evolution vs. Creationism
Date:  2001-10-11 16:02:14
Message Id:  465
Diana Lowell
Professor Nutting
Evolution and Creationism: Scientific Stories
Storytelling is a big part of today’s society. Parents start telling fairy tales before their children are able to understand language. Throughout education, students are taught everything from history to science through the use of stories. Ancient civilizations also used stories to explain many things around them. With today’s knowledge of science, most of their “truths” can be easily dismissed. We know that lightning is not the result of a god throwing fire, and we also know that the earth is round. However, even in this day and age, no one can say with absolute certainty how the universe came to exist. The two major beliefs, evolution and creationism, are told to students much like other stories in the world.
Evolution hit the common people when Darwin recorded his observations of birds on the Galapagos Islands. Scientists used his concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest to explain the beginning of life. Evolution comes with a lot of unanswered questions. The first people to support the theory of evolution had to face criticism from all sides. Religious authorities accused them of grave sins because it was thought that evolution totally disregarded the existence of a god. Physical evidence was lacking at first, which also led to skepticism. However, as scientists have worked on the theory and found evidence to support it, those who were in the first group of supporters are now looked on as authorities. Among scientists today, it is generally expected that most, if not all, support the theory of evolution. Therefore, the theory of evolution is mainly told among nonscientists in order that there would be a unified theory.
A major breakthrough for evolution occurred when scientists were able to understand proteins.
In 1959, scientists at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom determined the three-dimensional structures of two proteins that are found in almost every multicelled animal: hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. Myoglobin receives oxygen from hemoglobin and stores it in the tissues until needed. These were the first three-dimensional protein structures to be solved, and they yielded some key insights. Myoglobin has a single chain of 153 amino acids wrapped around a group of iron and other atoms (called "heme") to which oxygen binds. Hemoglobin, in contrast, is made of up four chains: two identical chains consisting of 141 amino acids, and two other identical chains consisting of 146 amino acids. However, each chain has a heme exactly like that of myoglobin, and each of the four chains in the hemoglobin molecule is folded exactly like myoglobin. It was immediately obvious in 1959 that the two molecules are very closely related.
During the next two decades, myoglobin and hemoglobin sequences were determined for dozens of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, worms, and molluscs. All of these sequences were so obviously related that they could be compared with confidence with the three-dimensional structures of two selected standards--whale myoglobin and horse hemoglobin. Even more significantly, the differences between sequences from different organisms could be used to construct a family tree of hemoglobin and myoglobin variation among organisms. This tree agreed completely with observations derived from paleontology and anatomy about the common descent of the corresponding organisms (National Academy of Sciences 4).
When the theory of evolution became a viable alternative to ancient beliefs, those who still believed in a creation were forced to defend their belief with proof. The basic form of creationism is found in the Bible which relates the story of the earth being created in seven days. There are new theories about creationism that have formed as a result of the scientific inquiries about the validity of creationism. The new theories involve evolution, large time spans, and only the hint of a creator god. One can easily understand why these new theories have become popular. Unlike the square in Flatland who is persecuted for believing in something new, so scientists and lay people are criticized for believing something so old. Scientists who still hold to creationism face many difficulties in telling their story. They are thought to be ignorant and unintelligent, even though this is not always the case. Often their work in science is viewed as invalid. However, just as Darwin felt the need to write about his findings, so scientists who believe in creationism must share their ideas. Science is about the pursuit of truth, so when a scientist believes that he knows truth, it is his obligation to spread his facts and show others why he is correct. Creationist scientists may face negative consequences for their beliefs, but they have the same desire to speak as their evolutionist colleagues.
One story circulating about evolution is the concept of vestigial organs. Scientists cannot determine specific functions for certain organs in the body, which led to their theory that the organs without functions are leftover from the evolutionary process. However, Heinze refutes evolutionists with these thoughts:
The vestigial organ which has been most commonly used to prove evolution is the appendix. In some "less evolved" animals the appendix is larger than that of man, and has a clear function. It is stated that man evolved from hypothetical ancestors with larger, functioning appendixes, keeping his appendix but loosing its functions. There are, however, animals considered less evolved which have smaller appendixes than that of man, and other animals which have no appendixes at all. If it is true that man is more evolved than the animals which have more highly developed functioning appendixes, then man should be less evolved than the animals in which the appendix is less developed than ours, or even absent. Furthermore, it could just as easily be said that these animals evolved from man. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, "Animals that have the same organ in a fully developed and functional condition are believed to be close to the ancestry of the animals having the vestigial organ” (983). This puts man close in ancestry to the marsupials and rabbits in which the appendix is well developed, and distant from the monkeys which generally do not have appendixes! All of this goes to show that the appendix was never a really good argument for evolution. However, it is now well known that man’s appendix (like his tonsils) is not vestigial at all, but contains lymphatic tissue which fights infection (Heinze 3).
It is important to note that creationism and evolution are not always in direct conflict. As the stories have been told and knowledge has been added, some scientists have melded the theories in order that God created the world and life, and evolution took over after that. The intelligent design theory suggests that the earth may have been around billions of years and evolved, yet the complexity of life suggests the involvement of a high power. This shows how through the retelling of the stories, people have been able to piece them together so that what was once in stark contrast has been made into the same.
Fairy tales tell the stories of imaginary kingdoms from long ago, history stories tell us that Columbus once discovered America, and math stories tell us how we can manipulate numbers. Stories about the beginning of life have also been passed down. Both evolution and creationism will continue to be told because the tellers believe them to be true, and despite whatever consequences come from telling them, it is more important to spread truth than to be concerned with self.

Works Cited:

National Academy of the Sciences. “Evidence Supporting Biological Evolution.” Science and Creationism.

Heinze, Thomas F. “B3-The Pillars of Evolution.” Answers to my Evolutionist Friends.

Glanz, James. “Evolutionists Battle New Theory On Creation.” New York Times. (8 April 2001).

Name:  Cari
Subject:  evolution, creationism
Date:  2001-10-11 16:03:03
Message Id:  466
Cari Cochrane-Braswell
C. Sem. Paper
Evolution and Creationism
October 10, 2001

Creationism and evolution are such ideological ideas in today’s society. To believe in one idea is to discredit the other idea. Science can be used to support both ideas, and each side can find holes and errors in the other side’s arguments. The accusation from both sides is that the other tries so hard to prove their point that they don’t take into account all the other facts. There is still a long way to go to proving either theory correct, which just helps both sides find ways to argue the other side is wrong.
How children are brought up influences the way they will look at this question. If they were brought up in a very religious family, who went to church every week, they would be very familiar and comfortable with the idea of Genesis, and believe that this is the true origin of man. Whereas, in my family, we never went to church, and I never read the Bible. The idea that God created the Earth and all its organisms was completely foreign to me. I do not think it is anything more than just a story, whereas others may feel that this is the literal truth. Depending on the beliefs of parents, family, and community, children form their own ideas and beliefs.
To believe in evolution, to some deeply religious people, would be to discredit the word of God. To say that God had not created the Earth and the humans on the Earth would be to say that all of Genesis was a story, and nothing more. This can sit very badly with people who have spent their entire lives believing this story. The idea that this story is not real would mean that they would have to search for a new reason; it would shake their faith in their religion. It is hard for people to let go of things that they find comfortable. If they are religious, or were in their childhood, then they are comfortable with this story. If the story is not true then they have lost part of their foundation, and they must now find a new way to support that part of themselves. They would be lost without that support. This means that they will stick to their comfort zone and search for ways to prove that this foundation is true. An example of supports for this creationist foundation is found in the law of thermodynamics. This law is used as proof by some creationist since it states that energy cannot be created, meaning that there is no way that the universe could be created through the Big Bang theory. Creationists argue that evolutionists are using this theory without having any idea where this matter could come from in the first place, for it must have originated somewhere.
This idea of comfort can also be looked at from the other perspective. Evolutionists may not be comfortable with the idea that there is a greater force than all of us, or that there is no logical progression of humans or other animals. They would feel lost and adrift without this foundation of there being a logical progression from ape to human. They then use fossils that date back millions of years to prove their idea that humans developed from the primates, as the Homo sapiens fossils are found to be “younger” than the fossils of primates.
The idea of creationism can also be seen as the grasping on to of the old ways. Religions were first introduced, in their earliest forms, and in the ones still around now, as a way to explain the otherwise unexplainable. As we have progressed through the centuries and millenniums, scientists have discovered answers to more and more of these previously unanswerable questions. For example, we have found that the sky is not a blanket up above the Earth, or a cage that keeps the stars up. We now know that they are other celestial bodies that move in their own solar systems. We also know that we are not the center of the universe as we previously thought. As scientists continue to prove the old ideas wrong, those people who used those ideas as their supports have been thrown off. They have been forced to either find new foundations or cling childishly to their old safety blankets. We see evidence of this in “Galileo,” where the church is particularly offended by the new ideas of scientists in regards to the heavens. They do not want to come to terms with the idea that God did not create the Earth as the center of the universe because it would make their beliefs wrong. As they think that God has himself said that the Earth is the center of the universe, to say otherwise must then be blasphemous. In a similar way, the idea that God created humans and that there was no evolution involved is the old teachings of people before science discovered another theory. Those who believe in the creationist theory, however right or wrong, cling to the old ideas from the Bible that explained where humans came from, and why they were so different from the other animals on the planet that they had come into contact with. The old reasons still hold meaning to those religious people. While they are now founded in modern science and beliefs, the main tenant, God created the Earth, originated in the past.
The evolutionist theory represents the new ideas that scientists have come up with to explain the old questions. Like Galileo, they have been fighting the previous norms of society. This can be a harder battle to fight since scientists must win people over from their comfortable foundations. It is harder for people to switch their way of thinking once it has been ingrained in them from childhood. Eventually, though, as the population changes and the new generation searches for ways to break away from their elders, new concepts are accepted and then become ingrained in other individuals.
In the debate between evolution and Creationism, the new ideas and old ideas come into battle. Just as we see in “Galileo” the struggle between the old ideas, represented by the church, and the new ideas represented by Galileo’s teachings, we can also see the struggle in this modern debate. Until there is solid proof from either side, both will continue to find holes in the other’s philosophy. Each side has at stake their foundations that they have found security in from childhood. To have their idea disproved would be to have to refashion their old ideas to fit into a new world. As people grow older this becomes increasingly harder for individuals to do. Thus we tell stories of our take on the evolutionist-creationist debate to solidify and prove our foundations. We find ways to make sure that our foundation is not taken out from under us, leaving us floundering in the dark for a new one.

Name:  Annie
Subject:  Telling the Tale of September 11
Date:  2001-10-11 21:45:43
Message Id:  468
In the beginning of his article “The Uses of Enchantment,” Bruno Bettelheim writes, “if we do not live just from moment to moment but try to be conscious of our existence, then our greatest need and most difficult achievement is to find meaning in life.” September 11, 2001 was a day full of death and terror and disaster, a day when many people were living moment to moment in a seemingly endless torment of anticipation and shock. Now, over a week later, America is still horrified, and is struggling both as a people and as a country to become conscious of its existence and to grasp the meaning in that particular moment of life. Bombarded ceaselessly by images of murder and heroism, of tragedy and of grace, every person who lives in this union is struggling to find the meaning in their newly changed world. Why am I still alive when so many others are dead? Why did this happen? How could this happen? How can we ever carry on with our lives? Granted, daily life has continued, more out of necessity than desire, but none of these questions have been answered.
One of the most plaguing issues survivors face is trying to comprehend how this near-apocalypse will affect the next generation, the children who will be forced to shoulder whatever burden we shrug off as we enter our graves. Surely the blunt, unedited truth is too difficult for an adult to handle, much less a child. How, then, to pose the issues to a child? Bettelheim argues that “a realistic explanation is usually incomprehensible to children…while…correct answers make an adult think that he has clarified things for the child, they leave the child confused, overwhelmed, intellectually defeated.” A child cannot understand the abstract events of September 11th by hearing only the clear-cut facts; rather, the facts must be pieced together into a comprehensible narrative for the child to find any comfort in hearing it. Bettelheim maintains that there is no story that has a power comparable to one of the oldest and heaviest relied-upon traditions in the entire literate world: the fairy tale. “The child can find meaning through fairy tales,” Bettleheim concludes, and if that is true, than fairy tales have found their place in history again by being the ambassadors of hope and comprehension into young minds. I am not a therapist, I am not even a parent, but I put my trust in history. On that note, let me tell you a story.
The tale concerns a young boy who lived in a beautiful city with his parents once upon a time. One day the city is burned to the ground by a group of goblins. The boy is orphaned, and for lack of anywhere else to go as well as a desire to better himself, he joins the king’s army on their quest to find the goblins. The king’s spies have discovered that there is only one true goblin in the group, a vicious evil creature who is their leader. This Goblin Lord has made it his mission to lure humans into his castle by playing on their greed and turn them into heartless goblins like him. The king’s army sets out across the world, finding goblins and forcing them to drink a special elixir that returns them to their human form. The boy grows to manhood during this period, and becomes the best fighter in the army. Finally he is elected to accompany the king on the pinnacle assignment, to kill the Goblin Lord. The king attacks the Goblin Lord rashly and angrily and is wounded. The boy, however, uses his cleverness to succeed, and then sets out to liberate the rest of the goblin castle. He finds in his search the king’s beautiful daughter, who had been captured by the goblins as bait. Since the king is dying, the boy marries the princess, inherits the kingdom, and lives happily ever after.
This is a simplistic, derivative story, not designed to stand the test of time but merely to serve as an allegory, but it also fulfills the purposes of the psychologically sound fairy tales described as so essential by Bettelheim. The tale has been constructed step by step to correspond with Bettelheim’s arguments. Of course, no story, especially one as brief and plain as the one summarized above, can cover every possible issue to confront a child on his or her road to maturity, and so there are sections of Bettelheim’s requirements of sound fairy tales that have been omitted. For example, the frequent theme of rejection by older siblings is absent, as is any attempt to deal with Bettleheim’s oft-mentioned “oedipal conflicts.” Both of these pieces have been rendered obsolete with the death of the boy’s parents. Clearly, no child who lost a parent in the actual attacks will be immune to the difficulties of coming to grips with their parents, even when they are no longer alive, but this is one area in which there is no norm, no generalization that can be made in good conscience. The situation is truly unique, and every child’s experiences in this issue will be so vastly different that any intention to combine them in the form of a single story would surely be misguided.
With that caveat, however, it is fair to say that there are plenty of issues about September 11 that can and should be dealt with in such a broad manner. One of the difficult concepts to grasp about the attacks was the idea of viewing the actual terrorists as humans, and attempting to understand them as such. Parents would like to tell their children that all men are inherently good, but they know that such a generalization will only be proved wrong, as it was so gigantically when the first plane flew into the World Trade Center. How, then, to amend the aforementioned statement? Bettelheim suggests the use of fairy tales, because, as he affirms, “[they] present evil as being no less omnipresent than virtue. In practically every fairy tale, both good and evil are given body in the form of figures and their actions, as both good and evil are omnipresent in life and the propensities for both are present in every man.” The September 11th fairy tale gives the child evil in the form of the Goblin Lord, who is nothing less than an archetype of the prejudice and hatred that led to the attacks. The fact that the Lord is killed in the end of the story is designed to prove that, as Bettelheim writes, “the bad person (or in this case, quality) always loses out.”
The conceit of the humans forced into goblin suits is meant to embrace two of Bettelheim’s theories, the first an attempt to help children accept the “bad guys” as human. The murderous goblins actually being good, if misled, people is characteristic of the splitting of one person into two so often used in fairy tales to help “keep the good image uncontaminated” and aid children in finding “a solution to a relationship too difficult to manage or comprehend.” If ever there was such a relationship as Bettelheim illustrates, the contact that must be made between the next generation of both the Americans and the terrorist people is one. Secondly, the device of the human-goblins also reaches out to a child on a level they are often scared to reveal, the level that contains “the monster he [she] feels or fears himself [herself] to be.” Bettelheim maintains that every child is conscious of his or her own inner “dark side” to quote the allegorical Stars Wars movies, and that fairy tales serve as comfort for their guilt and as inspiration to control their own less virtuous desires. With such an attack, there is always the chance of the victims becoming the attackers in order to avoid being victims again, a futile, deadly cycle that must be avoided with this tragedy. Viewing the terrorists as humans, if not good ones, and identifying with them even on the basest of levels is one step in this direction.
One of the most troublesome concepts for anyone to grasp today is how anything can get better after the massive upheaval that occurred on September 11th. If supposedly rational, mature adults are having difficulty coping, how much more complicated must the healing process become for a child who is accustomed to depending on his or her parents for comfort? Bettelheim argues that fairy tales are extremely valuable for their ability to help convince children that successful resolutions to their problems are not only possible but feasible. He writes, “this is exactly the message that fairy tales get across to the child in manifold form: that a struggle against sever difficulties in life is unavoidable—is part of the human condition—but that if, instead of shying away, one steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles in the end and emerges victorious.” The goblins’ destruction of the city and mass murders is both unexpected and unjust, but neither the boy nor his king (who stands, not exactly for our leader but for our entire country) allows their actions to cower them. Instead the army fights back, recovering the captured humans and conquering the evil manifest in the Goblin Lord. Specifically, the boy, who is the attractive underdog hero Bettelheim maintains is the vital link to bring children into the story by their unconscious feelings of relating to him, achieves all of the fairy tale requirements for success. Once a sad orphan, the boy rises through the ranks of his quest, which to the reader is important, since it reveals that, “he has already started on the process of realizing his potential.” The boy becomes king, “[symbolizing] a state of true independence, in which the hero feels as secure, satisfied, and happy.” Children growing up today need to feel that they will have control over their own lives; even when outside forces sway them, it is still important for them to feel capable of living without their parents ruling them. The boy also marries the princess, forming the true bond of love that Bettelheim explains is the real meaning of the phrase “happily ever after.” The single most desperately needed ingredient for a child’s spiritual and emotional survival is hope: what better to give him or her that than a realistic, unabashed promise that life can end happily?
When Americans tell the story of September 11th, 2001, the plot, characters, and endings will differ for every speaker. There is a temptation to make the entire tragedy into a morality tale, to speak to the young minds and hearts of our country in terms of evil villains and brave vengeance, to warn them against ever trusting someone who is not like them, to learn to live with “caution.” Other parents desire simply to cover their children’s eyes, to read them rhyming books featuring talking fuzzy animals playing in a forest where the sun always shines, to soothe them and hug them and promise them that everything will be all right. Neither option is completely viable; Bettelheim would argue that while both are valuable, even together they could not accomplish as much good for a child’s psyche as a single fairy tale. The United States of America is surviving on the notion that there will be a brighter tomorrow, and no one could deny that that tomorrow depends entirely on the young people of today. “If a child is for some reason unable to imagine his future optimistically, arrest of development sets in,” Bettelheim warns, and this arrest must be prevented, even in a time such as this, when almost no future seems as positive. A fairy tale is not a panacea. It cannot heal the broken heart of an orphan or stop a Boeing 747 from flying into a building. What it can do, however, is make the confusing outer world of a child a bit more bearable. If a fairy tale can bring even one moment of happiness into a child’s soul, one second of conviction that he or she can succeed, can live, can change the world, then I put my faith in fairy tales. After all, I am not too old to believe in happily ever after.
Name:  molly
Subject:  Response
Date:  2001-10-11 23:38:08
Message Id:  470
We as humans are on a quest to place ourselves in our world. Consciously and unconsciously, we search to discover the meanings of relationships between each other and our physical environment. We have developed languages (such as mathematics and physics) to explain, and sciences (such as anthropology and psychology) to explore this conundrum. As humans, we all share the commonality of an unsure sense of existence and seek to find ways to stabilize and define life and it’s purpose. This universal search for meaning coupled with that of perspective, I believe, is the motivator for story telling. Universally we all share the privilege of perspective. Each human being is the possessor of his/her own unique outlook that is unlike any other. However, this commonality is the factor that conversely isolates us from one another. We each live our lives bubbled in by our own sphere of existence unable to truly grasp and comprehend the view of another. Storytelling is the bridge between the gaps of perspective. This particular assignment, which required the perusal of several web-cites dealing with the issue of creationism, prompted me to reach this understanding.
The conflict between religion and science has been a thorn in the side of many a man of thought. The relationship between the role humans play in our physical world is a complicated matter when it stands alone. When the ethereal presence of a God as well as the ramifications of a religion are calculated into the equation, the arguments and relationships become as messy as a pack of wolves at a pig farm.
Despite the timeless nature of this conflict, I never thought of it as having any direct affect to my life as an adolescent existing in the twenty-first century. Yet, as I was haphazardly looking at several of the prescribed websites I happened upon, a strictly pro-creationism anti-evolutionism web page. It was this cite that caused my dander to ruffle like a duck in flying backward in a wind tunnel. I was halfway through an incredulous and not so nicely worded email to one of the author’s on the cite before I caught myself and began to question my reaction. I was trapped between a mixture of disgust and bemusement. What prompted my response? Where did it come from? God knows (pardon the pun) it isn’t my undying loyalty to Darwin.
At first I couldn’t quite grasp exactly why I would take the, what I perceived to be, ignorance of fanatical creationism offensively. I consider myself an open-minded person and would identify myself neither as an evolutionist nor even as someone who was remotely informed or passionate about the current debate between these two extremes. And yet, despite my apparent indifference, I was moved to feel incredulous toward the absurdity of the creationist point of view. My reaction made me think. We are steeped in beliefs in doctrines that we take for granted as truths. Our own perceptions and our environment dictate what we believe. My own personal perspective as someone who had been raised with the belief that the evolutionary theories are not at all at odds with the church had a hard time taking seriously the perspective of someone outside of this tradition. This interference into my personal sphere of belief provoked me to react strongly and negatively to an idea that was contrary to what I had been taught.
This notion of personal response brought me back again to the idea that as humans we are all “steeped in relativism…and confined by our [own] narrative” as worded by Robert Stone that author of a New York Times article entitled “The Villain”. This isolation of perspective, however, prompted me to draw a parallel between current debate of creationism versus evolution and the past debate between Church and science as presented in Brecht’s The Life of Galileo. I admit I didn’t immediately make this connection.
While reading Brecht’s novel, I sympathized with Galileo’s struggle as he was pitted against the Church, which was basically portrayed as a wall of ignorance. In this scenario, my anger was directed against the established and accepted force of the Church. My reaction towards the web-cite, however, transposed this feeling. In this case, my incredulity was aimed against the “radical” or not very widely held view of the creationist, which can be aptly paralleled by Galileo’s position, while my own perspective could be paralleled by that of the Church. I think ultimately this experience was an exercise in perception exchange.
For the past month, we have been looking at different portrayals of our world and our place in the world. This relationship very much mirrors the heart of the religion versus science debate encompassed in both the creationism debate and the Brecht novel. This parallel has made me believe that the nature and motivation of storytelling is one of perspective. This challenge of perspective not only has the power to enlighten but also the power to alienate. The line between the two is often narrow and dangerous. And yet, despite the consequences, we see repeatedly that humans are driven to speak, to write, and to tell. The threat of alienation or persecution, two elements humanity fears most, cannot overcome the need to expound upon beliefs, ideas, and perspectives. Because we are all universally united by the quest for understanding there is an innate human need to communicate ideas and thoughts, in other words to bridge the gap of perception that conversely unites and isolates us.
Name:  Sarah Eberhardt
Subject:  Essay #5
Date:  2001-10-12 01:04:43
Message Id:  471
Sarah Eberhardt due 10/10/01
CSem Paper # 5

Fairy tales, Galileo, and Flatland all focus upon the struggle of individuals to discover and then to tell the story that they believe to be true. This theme is also the goal of the college seminar class. Through our various readings we have discovered ways to express the truth, and, more importantly, how to search for and decide upon which ideas are true in the first place.
Fairy tales are the most simplistic of the collected works thus far, presenting basic truths of life in a plain format meant to entertain and educate children. In writing our own fairy tales, we were each forced to examine our purpose, working to distill the various aspects of our message into a coherent story. This was a familiar medium, for all in the class have had fairy tales read to them in their childhood. On the second draft, however, we were asked to add darkness to our tales, using a bit more of the grim side of life to make our stories more applicable to real life. In this second draft we expressed a bit more of what we knew to be true: that not all stories end with happily ever after. These two different expressions of reality – one guaranteeing a happy ending, the other not – raise interesting and essential questions about the meaning of truth in a story. As Schiller said, “Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life” (Bettelheim 1). Fairy tales have a visceral impact on many, forming as they do a child’s belief in how the world should be; however, as a person matures and changes, more complex truths must also be integrated into this original truth.
Flatland is the opposite of fairy tales in that it seeks to raise more questions than it answers. Although the protagonist, like those in many fairy tales, is in search of the truth, his attempts to enlighten others are met with disbelief and censorship. The purpose of the story is to encourage questioning and exploration of the world, requiring a person to look at reality from different viewpoints and pointing out loopholes in our own reasoning towards truth. For example, the narrator cannot understand how the king of Lineland can exist solely in a one-dimensional world, yet when the Sphere suggests the concept of a three-dimensional world such as Spaceland, the narrator is as uncomprehending as the king had been. As a lesson in writing, this demonstrates the importance of considering readers’ personal biases and beliefs while writing a paper, in order to better facilitate understanding of concepts.
Galileo deals also with differing ideas of truth and the consequences when they collide. Galileo’s scientific advancements, rejected as heresy by the Church, forced people such as the Little Monk to debate which was true: the evidence of their own eyes and experiences, or the teachings of the Church? Besides these inner deliberations, an appendix to the play also presents “difficulties in writing the truth.” In this, Brecht condenses many of the most important aspects of the play into five points needed for good writing: “…the courage to write the truth when truth is everywhere opposed; the keenness to recognize it, although it is everywhere concealed; the skill to use it as a weapon; the judgment to select those in whose hands it will be effective; and the cunning to spread the truth among such persons” (133).
Through both reading literary works and writing our own, the class has been coming to grips with various modes of writing. The fairy tales, Flatland, and Galileo offer a natural progression of complexity. With these readings, starting with the basic fairy tales and working up to the deeper questions of personal truths dealt with in Flatland and Galileo, the class has been studying not only the mechanics and techniques of expressing oneself, but also the process of discovering and developing what one considers the truth of that particular work.

Name:  Andrea
Subject:  Fairy tales, Flatland, and Galileo
Date:  2001-10-12 13:38:07
Message Id:  476
Relating Brothers Grimm's Fairy Tales, Flatland, and Galileo
Humanity has always told and retold stories throughout history. Long ago, when writing was not a popular way of communication, fairy tales where orally told from generation to generation. These fairy tales were fantasy stories that symbolized the basic morals and life matters of the early middle-age society. Later, in the ninetieth and twentieth centuries, writers, such as Abbott and Brecht, wrote stories that revealed the thoughts and ideological changes of modern society. The first ones belong to a time period where there were no sciences or technology, and people's actions were judged only by the morals of good and bad. The two latter literary works, instead, belong to a period where technology and sciences were being developed, and where people's morals were based on capitalism and production. Still, The Brothers Grimm's Fairy Tales, Flatland (by E. Abbott), and Galileo (by B. Brecht) are all tales that emerge from human's imagination that attempt to recreate humanity's ways of living and thinking in order to understand our own existence in this world.
Anonymous authors created the fairy tales recollected by Brothers Grimm's during the Middle Age period. It was a tradition to tell stories that people 'have heard' somewhere else and that had a message for the listeners to learn. New storytellers would adjust a new meaning or moral lesson to the general plot of the story, but the main idea of the tale was always kept in each of them. Fairy tales were stories that emerged from inhabitants of middle ages societies, therefore the messages, morals, and ideas a reader learns from those stories correspond to this time period. For example, the image of the beautiful woman who lived in a castle and was saved by the charming prince belongs to the idea people in that time had towards women. Women were the "weaker sex" that needed to marry men in order to find true happiness. The confrontation of the fairy godmother and a stepmother respond to the moral issues of good and evil. Like these examples, we find many other moral meanings behind each of the characters and images presented in fairy tales. Thus, it is evident that the authors of these fairy tales wanted the community to visualize the abstract concepts they unconsciously worked with in every day life. Through fantasy people gained moral knowledge and this helped them understand their own actions and their goals in life.
In contrast to Grimm's' fairy tales' time period, Edwin Abbott, wrote his story in the Modern Age, when sciences and technology were strongly being developed. His stories are not only magical and imaginary, but they involve one of the big sciences of the time: mathematics. His story deals with worlds of different dimensions, which respond to the questions and doubts that appeared by the end of 1800's and the beginning of the 1900's. During that time, scientists were on their path to accept time as the forth dimension, but this new "crazy" idea was unable to fit with people's mentality that was used to understand the world in three dimensions only. Through Square's journey in the no dimensional, the one dimensional world, the three dimensional world, and his original two dimensional world, the author is capable of making the reader visualize and think about the radical changes in the ways of visualizing our spatial surrounding. Throughout Square's adventures and doubts, Abbott reveals humanity's own questions that are continuously present when trying to explain our existence; he represents the same society's problems we have been dealing throughout history (distribution of social-group classes, power of the strongest over the weakest, discrimination towards women, among others, construction of good and evil morals, etc.) in different dimensional worlds. As Banesh Hoffman says, "The inhabitants of Flatland are sentient beings, troubled by our troubles and moved by our emotions." Therefore, Flatland is a modern version of fairy tales told throughout a mathematical perspective.
Finally, in the last book, Brecht, recreates a drama piece concerning Galileo's contribution to humanity's search of an explanation for our existence in a historical moment where sciences were just appearing. Even though this book deals with a real historical person, his life is a story recreated two centuries after Galileo's life. Meanwhile, inside this fiction story of the scientist's life, Brecht introduces another story that deals with the Earth's position in the Universe. The play puts on view Galileo's new scientific proposal (story) of how Earth is no longer the center of the universe, but it is part of a small solar system where the Sun is the center. He confronts Galileo with a strong antagonist (the church) that stands for those who own a story based on belief and do no accept new stories that derive from doubt. By the end of the play, the powerful church wins while Galileo gives up. It is interesting how an nineteenth century writer, who belongs to the scientific era where questions draw from doubts and theories that explain them are proved by scientific methods, presents a play where religious faith wins over doubts that lead to reasoning. The inquisitor questions doubts in scene 11:" These men doubt everything. Can society stand on doubt and not on faith? "Thou are my master, but I doubt whether it is for the best" (Pp.108-109). The author, like Abbot in Flatland, represents in his story how human beings are reluctant to change their ways of understanding their surrounding; in other words, how they deny changing radically old stories that rely on faith for new stories that derive from doubts. He also displays how the strongest group (the church at that time) in a community/society manages to impose their story as the "true" one. Brecht does not intend to include factual information about Galileo's life, but throughout this fiction-scientific play, he attempts to create a fairy tale of a typical scene of human beings history: their confusion when confronting new perspectives of visualizing human existence in this world, and their tendency for accepting as "truthful" the traditional stories imposed by the powerful groups of a society.
The scientific theories, discoveries, religious beliefs, and imaginary creations are all stories that emerge from human's minds and present different perspectives about the same issue: the explanation of humans role in this world. The Grimm's fairy tales explain life stages through morality; Flatland is a modern fairy tale that uses mathematics to reveal the different ways of understanding our world; and, Galileo takes a historical character to represent human reactions towards the transformation of perspectives. The Brothers Grimm's Fairy Tales, Flatland, and Galileo are stories that recreate human's actions and thoughts and help the human readers understand more about them, in other words, they give readers different types of knowledge.
Name:  Mia Shea-Michiels
Subject:  Creationism vs. Evolution
Date:  2001-10-12 15:21:41
Message Id:  477
Evolution vs. Creationism
Mia Shea-Michiels
Galileo Galilei had told his story and the people had heard it. This is what had scared the church, the power at the time. By telling his story, Galileo had hoped to change the way people saw the world. Years later, Charles Darwin also experienced the heat of the church. He frightened the creationists with his idea of evolution. Both of these men were attacked for their radical views. The church wanted to erase their writings so that the word of God could not be questioned. But this was not possible. Science could not be silenced. Though Galileo’s findings are almost never disputed in present times, Darwin’s theory of evolution is still argued. We no longer only read about each sides case in books. We hear about natural selection and “Origin of the Species”, God and the Garden of Eden on the radio, television and even the internet. I visited many websites on the internet to discover just some of the ways different sides tell different stories on the same subject. What I found surprised me.
Creationists had always felt that humans were important. We know how to use tools, communicate and raise animals. Humans are at the top of the food chain. They believe that animals of the earth were put here for us to eat and wear. We have a right to do what we wish with these living creatures because they’re not part of us. We are far removed from them. God produced Adam and Eve and then made the animals. When we look at ourselves we see humans made in God’s image. We are part of the pureness that he represents.
Suddenly this man with evolutionist ideas stepped out of the shadows and said that creationists were wrong. We weren’t who we thought we were. He said that we slowly descended from chimpanzees over time in a process called evolution. He said that we even now share some characteristics with them. This was difficult to accept. Chimpanzees live in our cages and don’t wear clothes and pick at each others fur. They were not made from divine creation.
I realized, after visiting all the websites, that the creationists are now desperately trying to defend their position. For so long this view had been widely accepted. Many people had even been persecuted for disagreeing with the church. But now the priests cannot just satisfy the community with a simple statement. They re-tell their stories even more now to assure their audience that they are right and to reassure themselves. It was as if they felt that if one of their beliefs was wrong then perhaps everything they’ve ever believed might be wrong. Many of the websites seemed to be reaching for any point they could use to “prove” their story of origin. The creationism sites even reach towards scientific facts to help confirm their position. In the past science has been the enemy of religion. With trips into space and archeological digs new parts of the old origin story have been arising. Religious leaders are now trying to match the power of the scientific research that supports evolution. Kids can visit a section of a creationist website to see information on how dinosaur bones give evidence of Noah’s flood or visit a site that explains how carbon dating can help clarify the bible stories.
Just as Darwin said we slowly evolved, the beliefs of people seem to be slowly evolving. We have moved from blind faith to critical examination. Instead of silencing new stories we are now shouting them out.
Name:  Flori
Subject:  Evolution and Creationism
Date:  2001-10-21 01:45:31
Message Id:  490
Religion Versus Science
We live in a society that believes in the separation of church and state. While we practice the freedom of religion, there is a fine line drawn in public education, separating religion from science in order not to infringe on this freedom. However, in the sense of evolution versus creationism taught in our schools, there is a great contradiction to this separation of religion and science. While the government allows only the theory of evolution to be taught in order not to monopolize one religion over the rest, this theory in its pure form goes against the views of many possessing the belief in a Creator.
The two theories of creationism and evolution are such extremes that it is impossible to teach one and not the other without forcing people to compromise their sense of reason and belief. Why then do we insist on teaching one of them in its extreme form without introducing the other when neither has been proven but only exists as a theory? Many justify this by saying that creationism, relying heavily on faith, cannot be taught as a science because there is no testable evidence or scientific support behind this theory. Therefore, we will continue to teach evolution in our schools.
Our society today is very different from the one that existed in Italy during the time of Galileo. While we do not allow religion to be taught as a science in our public schools, Catholicism was the only true science taught to the people of Galileo’s time. The Italian people of the early 1600’s relied heavily on the Vatican as their source of truth about the universe as well as everything else. However, Galileo felt he had a different story. He had found scientific evidence against the church’s view that the earth is the center of the universe. He wanted to share his discovery with the rest of the people, retelling the story of the universe and adding a new perspective.
No longer would the world rely solely on faith, but be open to other interpretations of our universe that rely more heavily on scientific proof. Science today is constantly searching for proof. Many no longer rely on the old stories of creationism, dating back to the beginning of the Bible, but believe and teach what we can observe and back up with evidence.
Name:  Kathryn
Subject:  Paper#2: Retelling Stories
Date:  2001-10-23 22:36:33
Message Id:  517
Humans are truly fascinating because unlike other animals they have the ability to question and they possess free will. These two capabilities can create a frustrating dilemma for a person because it usually causes the person to ask how they should use this free will to live their life. People need to determine a purpose in their life in order for it to have meaning. Yet determining this purpose also requires the person to have an understanding of themselves and the world around them. A person's understanding of the world is based on a story, which is a sequence of events that attempts to explain humans or the world. For thousands of years, people have made up stories to explain how the world was created. The Greeks, the Romans, the Christians, and many other groups of people had stories that explained the earth's creation. These stories were extremely important because they also played an important role in how people choose the purpose of their life. This is why there is such a huge debate today about whether creationism or evolution should be taught in schools. Creationism is based on the book of genesis in the Bible that says that God created the world and human beings. Evolution is the scientific theory that humans and the world were created slowly from inanimate objects and natural selection. Evolution retells the story of the creation of the earth and life. This change creates benefits and drawbacks as all changes do, and the groups debating this issue differ their beliefs on whether or not they think change is good. Of course this debate is especially heated because it can significantly effect how people choose their purpose in life, which greatly stirrs people's emotions.

For many people, the creationist view is the first story they heard about the beginning of people and the world. Many of these people also chose to follow the Bible story as their guide to establishing their life's purpose. For these people, the creationist view satisfactorily answered their question, and this is the story they believed to be true. Therefore, when Darwin or the other evolutionists came along and questioned the story of the creation of the earth, it caused these people to have to question the world, the Bible, and their purpose in life. Some people were willingly to do this because they saw the evolutionist's evidence and agreed with this new story. They were not upset by being forced to question their foundations if it meant gaining a better understanding of the world, an understanding that they believed was closer to the truth. This then could become their new purpose, searching for the truth, or they could develop another purpose. But the major point is that they were willing to change their beliefs because they thought that the change would benefit them in some way. Other people were not eager to change because change produces uncertainty. Most people don't like to feel insecure or confused about something. People like to have answers and understanding, not frustrating questions. Therefore, some people refused to accept this new story because they were satisfied with what they believed in the first place, they had established their life's purpose based on the Bible and didn't feel any need to change it because someone decided to retell the story. If they were to change their beliefs it would prove their previous beliefs to be wrong, and the deeds that they did according to these beliefs would now be considered a waste. Most people would not like to feel like they wasted their life doing the wrong thing, especially older people. In this case, the retelling of the story of the creation of the earth is harmful.

The debate over evolution versus creationism has greatly affected people, some beneficially and others harmfully. Anytime someone retells a story there are going to be those that welcome the change and those that don't. Often times there are more people who don't want to accept the change. This is why people are conflicted when they come across something that will change a story. On one hand, they are motivated to retell the story because they feel that their new evidence or perspective will help people to gain a better understanding about the subject of the story. There are also negative reasons why people retell stories, such as to purposely create confusion and frustration or to make themselves look better or more important. On the other hand, most people don't like change because it can make them confused and uncomfortable. People who believe that change is helpful to people will naturally be inclined to retell stories. Those who dislike change will be reluctant. Even though change may disrupt many people's minds, they also have the choice not to accept the change. This is why people should be allowed to introduce new stories, because every person has the will to reject it. This is why I think both evolution and creationism should be taught in school. Students hould be given the opportunity to look at facts fom both stories and decide for themselves which one they think is true. History has shown that stories are always changing, and it would be silly to immediately accept or reject a revised story without looking at all the information. Part of school is learning to make your own decisions, which is extremely important because every person will eventually have to make a decision about how to live their life. This is why I think it would beneficial for students to become comfortable with comparing and analyzing stories before they make a decision about which one they believe. Too many people don't think about why they believe in certain stories, especially important ones such as how the earth was created. Retelling a story can be very powerful, and one should always ask why they want to retell it before they do, so they can determine whether it is a good idea to retell it or not.

Name:  Amanda Glendinning
Subject:  To Tell or Not to Tell, That is the Question
Date:  2001-10-24 00:31:44
Message Id:  519
Throughout history, stories have been told, been passed down from one generation to the next. These stories become truth and the accepted knowledge of society. As the stories evolve and become more deeply roots of society, they become harder to dissuade people from believing. Because of these social roots, people become apprehensive to introduce a new version of the story into society. The storyteller will see that there are pros and cons, reasons to be motivated and reasons to be reluctant.
When someone is going to tell people a new story, people become nervous about whether or not the tale will be accepted. The nerves that are shown make a lot of sense. If a person comes up with an idea that contradicts everything that everyone else knows, there is a very good chance that the teller will be ridiculed. Reluctance is quite normal. What person would want to be shunned by all, for telling a different idea? Also, the new tale might change all viewpoints later on. If this upsets people or confuses them, the person who originated the telling of the idea could be blamed. People don't want to take responsibility for anything bad that might happen. Therefore, the reluctance of telling a new story is quite understandable.
There are also some positives about telling a new story to a waiting public. First of all, the people who hear the story will be hearing new ideas. The yeast of the thoughts will cultivate and grow into a loaf of newly accepted brainwaves. The alteration that would come of this, if good, would be a positive change to society. Just as people do not like to take blame for the bad, they like to take credit for the good. Because of these reasons, people have some motivations to tell their new stories.
A good example of the positive versus the negative points of telling a new story or viewpoint is Bertold Brecht's "Galileo." In this play, Galileo thinks of a new idea along with his invention of the telescope and he has to decide whether or not to move to Venice to present his story. The pros of moving end up outwaying the cons but in the end he is ostracized to the point where his daughter loses her fiancé. Galileo chose to tell the story.
That choice is up to the story teller. Some are motivated and some are reluctant. In the end though, something will come of the decision, be it good or bad.
Name:  Laura Bang!
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Conflict and ... Compromise?
Date:  2001-10-24 00:46:10
Message Id:  520
Conflict and ... Compromise?
The War Between the Theories of Evolution and Creation

Would absolute, concrete knowledge of the origin of humans really make that much of a difference in our lives? For many people, this answer is a definite ‘yes’; and thus began the battle of evolutionism versus creationism. These two theories – and theories they are because neither has been undeniably proven with tangible evidence – are the two categories of the burning question that humans long to have answered: where do we come from? Are humans children of the gods or are we just soul-less clusters of atoms that happened together for no particular reason? And which theory should be taught to our children in schools? The answer to both questions is a combination of both evolutionism and creationism. These theories of our origins, however conflicting, should both be taught in schools.

Regardless of whether or not they are truth or fiction, science and religion are both stories. They explain why things are the way they are. The only real difference between these two story-telling methods is how they answer questions: religion answers questions with stories; science answers questions with narrower and narrower questions until a finite answer is reached. Both methods are flawed.

By answering questions with stories, religion makes the answers more accessible because they involve people like us so that the ideas being conveyed seem more tangible. The problem is that stories do not give consistent answers. Stories are more often than not intended to be somewhat vague in order to promote the thoughts of the reader. Every reader brings to the story their own thoughts and viewpoints, which leads each reader to draw their own distinct conclusions as to the story’s meaning. That is, different people can, and most likely will, come up with different interpretations.

Then science must provide the correct method of story-telling, right? No. By answering questions with more questions until a finite and tangible answer is reached can take a very long time. For instance, how long did people believe that the earth was flat, or that the sun travelled around the earth, or that women were inferior to men? The time it took for science to learn the correct answers to these puzzles was very long, in fact, centuries long. The flaw in this method of answering questions is that it is often very hard to put the series of questions in the right order so that they lead quickly to a finite answer. And it is sometimes difficult just to think of the right question to ask.

I am not, however, saying that either of these methods is wrong. On the contrary, I believe them both to be correct in their own way. That is to say, the theories of creation and evolution are both important because they come from the two leading spheres of knowledge in our world – religion and science.

Since children in school learn about living in our world, which has many conflicting ideas and events besides the war between science and religion, why should they not learn about evolution and creationism? But it is important to stress that the creationism aspect of school teaching should not focus solely on the Judeo-Christian creation myth. Children should learn about all, or at least many, creation myths from religions across the world. The similarities between these mythologies across cultures that are so vastly different from each other need to be taught so that our children understand that humans are similar regardless of what they believe or where they come from. And who is to say that the theory of evolution does not also share these similarities? If everyone could comprehend this significance, it would be so much easier for people to start understanding each other better.

One theory is not more important, or for that matter more “true,” than the other. They contrast and complement each other, like orange and blue or enthalpy and entropy. Conflicting pairs like this are a tradition of our world; and, yes, this occurrence, too, is answered by religion and science in their own ways.

Many conflicting pairs are able to compromise, at least somewhat. Take, for example, night and day. This is a very simple conflicting pair, they are opposites and no one disputes that. But at least twice a day, these two opposite forces are engaged in compromise: in the pre-dawn twilight hours, when it is neither day nor night. A more complex example involves humans. In spite of all the different backgrounds, people were able to come together in compromise in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. It is true there were people on either side of the compromise who either rejoiced that America had been attacked or instantly hated all people with the slightest similarity to the attackers. But the overwhelming majority of human reactions was one of peaceful, sorrowful, compromise. Even religion and science have been known to compromise, as demonstrated when the Pope stated that evolution did not flatly denounce his beliefs in the Bible.

Although it is difficult sometimes, or most of the time, to compromise, it is always possible if we are willing to try. There is no need for evolutionism and creationism to compete for a place in our children’s schools. They can be taught together in a way that would more effectively teach our children about the world we live in, a world of conflict and, however unlikely it may seem at times, compromise.

Name:  emily
Subject:  Supporting Role
Date:  2001-10-24 01:31:06
Message Id:  521
A person's entire life is based on a series of stories that are constantly changing. One story does not replace the next, but is simply added to the others to create a new interpretation. The saying "Wisdom comes with age" is misleading. Wisdom does not truly come from age, but from the ability to transform the large amount of events a person has been through into a meaningful story. Age simply gives a person more events to choose from. Similarly, any story should be looked at in view of its predecessor. One definition is often not enough; a combination of ideals over time is generally more effective.
More specifically, the evolution story, by itself, should not be taught in schools, but rather, taught in combination with its predecessor, the creation story. This principle of a story taught in addition to a previous explanation is not unfounded. Both Abbot's Flatland and Brecht's Galileo explore this ideal. In Flatland, another dimension is discovered, in addition to the two already known. Galileo is depicted as battling for a similar cause. His main battle is not in getting the people to believe his hypothesis, but to believe that there is even a possibility that it is true. Abramson and Lyttle further define this ideal in their articles. These articles further contribute to the idea that the solution to any problem is not often found in one answer, but in a combination of possibilities.
The evolution story can easily be thought of as the follow up of the creation story in terms of explaining the beginning of the world. In this sense, the evolution story is merely an addition to the creation story, and must be looked at along with the creation story. A. Square came across the same situation in Abbott's Flatland. A. Square was not denying the existence of the first two dimensions, but felt there was a third dimension that needed to be looked at in addition to the other two. The Sphere himself devised an example explaining the relationship between the dimensions. Abbott states,
Behold this multitude of moveable square cards. See, I
put one on another, not, as you supposed, Northward of
the other, but on the other. Now a second, now a third.
see, I am building up a solid by a multitude of squares
parallel to one another. Now the Solid is complete, being
as high as it is long and broad, and we call it a Cube. (69)
The Sphere used the second dimension in his explanation for the third dimension, thereby using the original story in combination with the new story.
The character of Galileo in Brecht's Galileo, although not necessarily adding on to previous principles, is not asking for complete destruction of them. Galileo believes his principles to be correct, but his greatest battle is not in convincing others of this truth, but in convincing others to allow his principles to be studied. The evolution story should be allowed to be taught, following Galileo's principles, but accordingly, so should the creation story. Granted, Galileo was not a religious man, and therefore one might argue that he would not be in favor of the creation story. However, it is also important to note that Galileo was a scientist, and as such, was more interested in the process of research than the product itself. Therefore, Galileo would be open to the study of both stories.
Furthermore, Galileo was aware of the naivety of the common people in his time period, and the great emphasis they placed on religion. At one point, the character of little monk tells Galileo of the common folks' need for religion. Brecht states, "They have been told that God relies upon them and that the pageant of the world has been written around them that they may tested in the important or unimportant parts handed out to them. How could they take it, were I to tell them that they are on a lump of stone ceaselessly spinning in empty space, circling around a second - rate star? What, then, would be the use of their patience, their acceptance of misery?" (83). Galileo is aware of the masses' need for religion, for without it, they would consider themselves to be nothing. In this particular case, the new hypothesis, Galileo's idea of the earth revolving around the sun, is rejected because it may harm the masses' contented view of their life. However, it is feasible that the opposite situation may occur, where the second story, instead of the first, may only be an attempt to console the masses. Because of this possibility, and in view of Galileo's distaste for following a story simply for its ability to please the masses, it is necessary to include both stories for proper interpretation.
Ron Lyttle further widens the argument for the necessity of both stories to be presented in relationship to each other. In his article, Could Life Just Happen?, he describes the evolution story, in many ways to be just as unrealistic as the creation story. According to Lyttle, both arguments, separate of each other, lack proof and are unrealistic. Paul Abramson shares Lyttle's ideas involving the need to combine the arguments. According to Abramson, one definitive answer by itself is not enough, but what is really needed is a combination of ideals presented together.
Neither the evolution story nor the creation story can stand entirely on its own, with so many strong arguments pulling in both directions. As Abbott suggests through the ideas of Flatland, perhaps one is merely an addition to the other, or a final step. Brecht's idea that both stories have the right to be shared, even if one is disconcerting, can also be applied. Both arguments are definitive in tearing down the other but do little for standing on their own; as a combination however, they create a more precise argument.
Name:  Chelsea Phillips
Subject:  Evolution vs. Creation
Date:  2001-10-24 01:43:57
Message Id:  522
Science is so widely accepted and practiced, taught and learned, that in can be considered a religion. Science is to the 21st century world what Roman Catholicism was to 13th century Europe. As society has grown and ‘evolved’ (no pun intended), we as a country have been carefully neutral- most notably in the separation of church and state. But, if science has become a religion, then should we not also have separation of science and state? If were are going to have bias in our school systems towards science, and away from religion, then we are better to not teach anything at all.
To this idea, most would scoff and turn a deaf ear; science is so much a part of our lives that we cannot fathom a way to separate it from modern government. Science is our rock, it is progress as well, and we need it. Think, though, of when this nation was first founded. Could the pilgrims have had a separation of church and state? Of course not, that would have gone against every ideal that became the basis of this country. So how can we now debate that it is okay to teach evolution, but not creation? The argument is, naturally, that it is wrong to force the beliefs of Christianity and Judaism on people who do not feel the same. But what about people who believe in creation and not evolution? Aren’t we doing the same- forcing science on them? And what about other religions and civilizations and their stories? If you can’t or won’t teach it all, you shouldn’t teach any of it. That makes it hard, doesn’t it? Without the basics, there isn’t much that you can teach. The only way to be truly fair is to present every story and let the students decide for themselves what they believe. Different aspects of the same story are also important.
It could be a completely separate class, and a prerequisite for all science and religion classes. In fact, it would not be unlike our college seminar, a forum for stories, all kinds, from all over the world. What exciting discussions might in sue; what a way to stretch people’s minds, and help them establish their own philosophy- personalized religion, you might call it. So much emphasis is placed on science, in fact even the way it is presented, that it is nearly impossible to see it as anything but cold, solid fact. But what if science is a story too. What if we revere science only because it is something larger than ourselves? Then, truly, it is no different from religion.
How do religions come into being? This question is fundamental if we are to argue that science is a religion. Generally, people need to reassure themselves that everything in life has meaning, and so they begin to search for answers and reasons. Explaining the impossible is an obsession for the human race. For a certain time, religion satisfied all of these things, but our curiosity has driven us to find answers more and more real and substantiated. When I say “real”, I mean tangible. Has anyone ever touched God? Can we mathematically prove the existence of God as we can scientific observations? No. Therefore, many are more inclined to believe in tiny atoms that we can’t feel but that we believe make us. Sounds like a religion to me. Belief in a higher power, belief in tiny atoms, spinning and forming universes…what’s the difference, really?
Above and beyond this argument, there is the case of believing both, theistic evolution. If both are equally believed, then should they not also be equally taught? For example, take the following math problem…

60sec/min * 60 min/h * 24 h/day * 6 days (God rested on the seventh day, right?)
= 518, 400sec * 10,000 yrs/sec (# of years passed on Earth for every second in heaven, according to Old Testament) = 5.18 billion years. Estimated age of Earth: 4.5-5 billion years old. Makes you think…

Even some scientists and religious philosophers agree that the two are not mutually exclusive. When they are taught, however, it is important to keep personal biases out of conversation. True, neutrality has never been one of our strong points, but without it the whole purpose of presenting both to the students will be lost. For what good is the presentation of one theory, when all conviction lies in another.
In terms of presentation, story format is natural and logical. When writers write, their main objective must be to captivate their audience long enough through language to get to the main point at which their piece is driving. Consequently it is most effective for presenting all material, even scientific proofs. Perhaps science could shrug off its generally stereotyped cold exterior and get a little funk to it…kind of like Catholicism WOW! from (the movie) Dogma. Not a bad idea, overall. It might inspire more young minds to delve in and explore, rather than relying on the material itself to capture the needed individuals.
The real problem with both these theories is that humans are relied upon to present them. There are too many strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Hypocrites abound and it does nothing for the credibility, or the maturity, of either side. Until we can all put aside our differences for the sake of the betterment of everyone- regardless of how different their beliefs are- we will never get anywhere. The love of argument has gone a little too far. To sacrifice progress of a more benevolent and beneficial kind, such as the improvement of life and learning of all people, for the sake of age-old arguments is absolutely ridiculous. There is no more point to it than there was in the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets (and we all know how that one ended). Argument is good, but not when it reduces us to the level of children playing with big words
In fact, beyond the debate over not offending people’s beliefs, why not do it anyway? Our children could be more cultured, understanding people. Maybe they would be more open-minded and compassionate- wouldn’t that be progress? Progress above and beyond more technology, machines and software programs. Whether the students would choose to accept all, some, or none of the ideas, exposure would be, could be, nothing but positive. With strong teachers and good, open discussions, a huge impact could be made on the ideology of traditional thought. Perhaps we would become less ignorant of our own world (own country, even) and more understanding of others and their beliefs, ideals and dreams that have shaped them. We could finally become the nation that we claim to be- accepting. A nation not of hypocrites and stubborn black and white thinkers, but arrayed with all the beautiful shades of gray and willing to learn. A magnificent rainbow of thought, without limits, biases or prejudice- the change would not be all at once, but what a start it would be.


Name:  Helena S
Subject:  Stories And Why They Are Shared
Date:  2001-10-24 03:26:17
Message Id:  523

What makes us decide to tell a story isn’t something that can be explained in so many words, but more of an instinctual drive that propels us into telling them. No story is, then, either utterly wrong or right, but simply a reflection upon a thought of someone who initially came up with it. If the argument is between scientific evolution and Creationism, the same argument can be applied.

Whenever we come across something new, we either shy away from it in fear of having to learn about this new aspect, or we embrace the novelty because it can be incorporated into our lives to make it better. Galileo’s discovery that the universe didn’t revolve around the Earth and that, with the telescope, he could prove that there were many other constellations and galaxies out there only showed that point. The Church at that time feared what would happen if Galileo was right – if one of their teachings was incorrect, people could begin to doubt other aspects of them as well. It is not to say that they are, but simply how one small novelty, or incongruence, can create a domino effect on society.

Perhaps that is the reason why stories are so widespread and popular. We tell stories every day in the form of anecdotes, exchange of information, or even a simple conversation. It is done unconsciously, and yet when we come across that one new aspect of a story this hidden side quickly surfaces into our consciousness.

It is not surprising that when the theory of evolution came along that there would be people unwilling to believe. Scientists find themselves discussing a moot point when it comes to Creationists and evolution. It is like saying that there are many stories, each one telling a different tale. However, there are different versions of the story, even if they tell of the same thing. Evolution and Creationism are similar, in a way. Although we are indeed curious to find out how we got to where we are and where we are going from here, we can’t forget that the important aspect is that we are here _at this moment_. The telling of the story in alternate versions, however, allows for all the other people who have not yet been aware of this new version to make a decision and go with what they feel comfortable with.

If God created the world in 6 days or if it came from the Big Bang and a grueling process of evolution is not the issue. Nevertheless, when there is a group of people who believe in their personal version of a story, they tend to want to stick to it. Just the thought of having to come across a new one is simply distasteful to them. Perhaps that is why there are so many problems with teaching new aspects of science, or creativity, to minds that want to have these new ideas shut out.

Once we accept a new idea, we try to find a niche for the old one. Sometimes we can’t find it, and the old idea has to either be discarded and forgotten or kept instead of the new one. Brecht’s “Life of Galileo” is a good example of what people are willing to believe but cannot. It demonstrated curiosity and a willingness to learn, yet a stubbornness to believe in what was taught and proven. If we have the end of the story, today, then we can write a story that fits with proof around us and say that is our history. As long as it makes sense, and there is something we can acknowledge as true, it cannot be wrong.

Storytelling is a double-edged blade, because while a story can entertain or teach a person, it can also cause others to infer a wrongful impression of the storyteller. So while we are willing to tell our stories, they might be modified or kept untold for the sake of the avid listeners.


Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Paper
Date:  2001-10-24 08:20:07
Message Id:  524
Jennifer Colella

Twin Towers of Civilization

Once upon a time it happened by some chance, by some being, or some freak collision of two molecules, that man walked the earth. It happened that the whole human race was born of this early ancestor, but by this time, the ancestor had been forgotten. The roots had been pulled up, and our past had become a mystery. So as the birth of mankind was taking place, the conception of the story was also occurring. Man needed a story to explain himself, to justify his life and his world. No creature is perhaps as insecure as this feeble creature, and so two stories took the stage: religion and science. Both stories answered man’s cry of loneliness and chaos, both gave him answers, and both gave to his darkness a light of reason and faith. Because both stories were addressed to the same audience and to the same issues, the two were destined to be critics of one another for all eternity, or as long as their stories were told and retold. In reality, however, the two stories are sisters, twins that were born of the same ancestor by the same necessity. The two stories are the same differing only with author, and yet it is between the sister stories that the greatest ideological battle of history is constantly waged.
This battle is due to the nature of man and not to the teachings of the story. Man is a creature very much lost in a sea of confusion, perhaps blessed with his intelligence or cursed with his doubt. Either way, there is a great quest for answers and comfort. Even in a sea of people, men “scare [themselves] with [their] own desert places” in which “the loneliness includes [them] unawares.(Frost, p.1627)” Men are constantly lonely, but not due to a lack of relationships but rather due to a lack of knowledge and understanding about themselves.
Therefore, it is a constant necessity for men to understand where they belong in the world. Galileo’s struggle against the church for the sake of science was less about “the truth [of] the distant stars (Brecht, p.65)” then it was about the “cage (Brecht, p. 48)” and the “locked up (Brecht, p.48)” men inside. The “desert place” for Galileo was the church, for “there is no support in the heavens (Brecht, p.62),” and his holy quest “to know the reasons for everything (Brecht, p.7)” was really a quest to know his place, his reason, and his contribution to the world.
This is his first complain to the porcurator, that he is “stupid…[understands] absolutely nothing” and feels “compelled to fill the gaps in [his] knowledge (Brecht, p. 14.)” The question was not whether or not the earth went around the sun or the sun around the earth but rather how Galileo orbited within his society and his life, and similarly, the Pope’s concern for Galileo’s treatise was also self centered. The Pope and all the clergy had learned one story; they took comfort in the story, and they were cured of their “desert places.” Galileo challenged that by “[announcing] to the world that [the Pope had] not the best advice about the heavens…up to now [his] only uncontested sphere of influence (Brecht, p.109.)”
Both men were merely struggling to find their place, to cure their fears and insecurities. One found religion to be his cure, his aid, and his faith. The other had no place in religion and learned nothing comforting from it; it was a trap for Galileo. He turned to science. Both stories answered the same question, both told their followers something of the Heavens so that there might be order in everything on Earth. If man honestly seeks only answers, then why was there so much debate between the two stories? As to the order of the Galaxy, both provided an answer, so did it honestly matter which was correct?
It did matter because different people found comfort in different answers; each answer carried with it a different purpose for mankind. Some found Galileo to be “frightening” because he “destoyed [their faith] (Brecht, p.61),” and they became “disgusted with the world.” Others found him freeing, declaring “obedience will never cure your woe so each of you wake up and do just as he pleases (Brecht, p. 102.)” The cause for this was simple. Many people “[drew] the strength they [needed]…from the little church and Bible texts they [heard]…on Sunday (Brecht, p. 83.)” Others found this demeaning since “people must keep their place, some down and some on top (Brecht, p. 100.)” Different people require different stories to find their place in the world. It was not necessarily a matter of truth, only purpose.
The story of this clash continues today in the modern example of creationism versus evolution. Science and religion are, as always, pitted against each other. Both provide the same answers; both give origin to man. However, it is not enough to just have origin; a man must have purpose. People do not want to believe that “life is but an empty dream” but rather that “Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest was not spoken of the soul (Longfellow, p. 941.)” Different people find their purpose in different stories because the context, the eyes with which they are reading the story, differ. Creationism allows God to exist; it maintains holy order and comfort. Evolution is liberating; man is free to determine his life, to better himself, to evolve, to change, to perfect. God takes a smaller role in controlling man, if he takes a role at all. Both speak to different concerns, to different perspectives on life.
Notice the reasoning and the argument are always the same, whether it be between Galileo and the Pope or school teachers and priests. Some will always claim “the bible is an antique Volume written by faded Men (Dickinson, p. 1187),” while still others will constantly declare that science “preyest…upon the poet’s heart, vulture, whose wings are dull realities (Poe, p. 574.)” It becomes futile to debate creation versus evolution because it is not a question of logic or truth but of natures, as it was with Galileo and the church. Truth is reality; “Reality is perception (Blair Witch 2);” and perception is incidental. This makes the debate a very curious and difficult ideological war between the two twin stories.
It is a difficult debate because both sides are right, and in fact, both sides are needed. What would happen to the world if tomorrow the Pope admitted to the world there was no God, no higher purpose, so consequence or hell? People would have nothing but reason to dictate their lives, but “can society stand on doubt and not on faith (Brecht, p.108)?” Cloning and weapons of mass destruction are only two consequences of too much freedom to reason. With evolution reason may allow the current rate of extinction based on survival of the fittest.
But what about a world in which there is no logic, no reason, only faith? Man would be reduced to slaves of the pope and the church, unable to think. Is it even worth being alive without the ability to determine one’s own life? Galileo didn’t think so. Such a world would be dark, grim, and also very violent; too much religious zeal kills as easily as scientific freedoms.
The sister stories grew up together; they changed together and in partnership, but their purposes are constant. Religion, creationism, and faith provide rules, order, and discipline to those who take pride in ordered purpose while science, evolution, and reason provide liberty, intrigue, and curiosity for those who value freedom. There is no right answer between structured purpose and freedom. There is no right answer between science and religion. The two stories are both right and they are both required to answer the insecurities of men. A world with no reason is equally as frightening as a world with no faith. Therefore, both creationism and evolution should be taught in the schools. Both religion and science should carry equal weight. In doing this, the nature of man would be at his freest and most secure. Religion and Science must both be allowed to the tell the story of man in harmony with one another since they are unable to do it with agreement.

Name:  Liz C-H
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2001-10-24 08:56:43
Message Id:  525
While in what seems to be perpetual friction, the theories of creationism and evolution are in fact similar on a most basic level. They are both stories that attempt to explain our origins, something that seems a necessity to humanity; however, beyond this function the two theories are hardly comparable. The creationist view of human history satisfies the spiritual side of our need. The evolutionary view satisfies the scientific side. While they accomplish the same end, one cannot be more “right” than the other; as individuals, we shape our own stories of our origins using both of these theories. The extent to which our personal story is scientific or spiritual depends on the amount of comfort and reassurance that we find in the scientific or spiritual explanations.
Evolution is based on evidence from observable natural phenomena such as fossils; this is what classifies it as scientific. It is a result of our logical and studious pursuits of knowledge of our origins. The evidence presented in defense of this theory is scientific, and therefore fact- and precision-based. Fossils, analogous structures, embryology, and molecular similarities in living creatures incite in people the security of reason, logic and “provable” fact. It answers questions of the physical, such as why we resemble monkeys and why whales have pelvic bones.
Unlike evolution, creationism offers a supernatural or divine explanation for our presence on earth. The idea that God created us and placed us on the earth gives people a sense of spiritual security. It appeals to their humanistic sides, and satisfies questions that cannot be explained by science, such as the existence of a soul in living things. There is no observable evidence of divine creation. This is what irreconcilably separates it from evolution. Both theories serve as equally fulfilling explanations of human origins. They can provide comfort and a sense of security to those who believe in them. The explanation or combination of explanations that a person chooses to believe merely depends on what particular role that person needs the story of human origin to play in his life.
In this way, creationism and evolution cannot ever be entirely and exclusively correct. Each one is right for the person who believes it. I myself find that I need both spiritual and scientific explanation for our origins. I tend to believe that the earth, its creatures, and the universe have evolved and are evolving in a purely scientific sense. I also believe that there is some higher power, some “om” to the universe if not a god, that makes it possible for life, and the soul, to exist. Each individual person decides for himself the combination of science and spirituality that makes up his view of human origins. Each person, then, writes and rewrites his own story of our past in a way that best suits his fundamental human need to explain our roots.
This individual creation of an explanation for our creation presents problems when it comes to what to teach in school. Views of our origins are so tailored to the individual, and extremists for both sides believe very strongly that theirs is the correct view. It is difficult, therefore, to teach either creationism or evolution without some resistance. In America, though, the “separation of church and state” for the most part makes this decision for us. Because creationism is so closely associated with religion, it is not regarded as suitable material for public schools to teach in many places. The theory of evolution, however, is often presented in a biology or similar scientific course, as an explanation for human origins. In a scientific context, I believe that we have every right to present this material as an option for children to consider. In response, parents have the right to endow their children with a more spiritually-oriented view of our past, and are free to teach children themselves or send them to religious school. By presenting evolution as the foremost scientific view, and allowing for the church or parents to present a more spiritual alternative, we allow children to create their own story of our past with the information given them.
Every person has a need to explain human origins to a certain extent to feel settled and secure in his place in the world. Each person creates his own creation story to best give him this feeling of security using some combination of evolution and creationism. In America, we teach children evolution in most schools and leave creationist teachings to the church and parents, which provides children with the ability to form their own views on the subject of human origins.
Name:  Sarah Friedman
Subject:  retelling stories
Date:  2001-10-24 10:04:26
Message Id:  526
The phenomenon of life on earth presents a mystery that humans have long sought to explain. Over time, stories have developed to serve this purpose. One story, entitled religion, tells that humans were placed on earth by a divine being. This story is valuable because it encourages humans to explore the context of their own existence, but it also sets boundaries within which this exploration must take place. Human understanding of the world is further expanded when new stories are conceived, and it is therefore good to add another story. A second, more modern story, attempts to explain the origin of life by examining the physical “evidence” left behind by the history of living organisms and our own earth. This epic story is called science. The subtitles of the respective stories described above are creationism and evolution. It is worthwhile to retell the first story of creationism as long as the intent is to provide an equally valid alternative. The two stories address the same phenomenon, and although they differ in their explanations, each is able to both expand and restrict the human capacity for knowledge. Because they share these characteristics, both stories are equally able to satisfy the human need for a general way of managing the way in which they see the world. In short, humans need a story, and both evolution and creationism fit the bill.
While it may be apparent that the freeing quality of the creation story appeals to humans, it may not be as apparent why humans need a story that restricts them in some way. Humans need to feel that they have some kind of control over their ideas and lives. By enforcing a limit to the infinite ideas and events available to a human, the inhibiting factors serve to provide humans with this illusion. In many cases, the limiting and freeing components are the same, as is evident in the argument that follows.
To understand how the story of creation frees human thought while also containing it, one may recall the book of Genesis in the Old Testament. The notion that an all-knowing power created a universe, day and night, and, finally, a pair of human beings, all in the time span of seven days, is an awe inspiring idea. In portraying a world where the formation of human life began and ended on the same day, the story releases humans from the insecurity of not knowing from whence they came. At the same time, this idea narrows the scope of other possible explanations. While in relating a world in which the creator keeps harm at bay, thus freeing humans from a potentially overwhelming fear, should disaster strike, the same humans would be limited in their ability to cope. In describing a world were an omniscient king not only protects individuals from harm but also has constructed a greater plan, in which the lives of humans are pre-determined, the story frees humans from the chaos of a spontaneous world. Simultaneously, this story ties humans down by suggesting that they lack the ability to think thoughts that have not already been planned for them.
The story of evolution also frees and restricts those who believe it. Because evolution is a scientific story, it has been constructed using the scientific method. This process involves asking questions, making preliminary a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis by experimenting and making observations, and then stating a conclusion based on the observations. This system continues indefinitely, and is thus built to withstand change. But the means by which scientists write their story behave in a way similar to the creation story described above. When a scientist asks a question, he might be removing the foundation of a former assumption. In this way the question would be a means of expanding thought, and thus a freeing agent. However, the scientist is still only able to approach a thought about which he can ask a question, and in this way the nature of a question holds back the flow of ideas. The evidence that a scientist collects and observes has the potential to present new possible “truths.” Such evidence can quickly cause stories to change, and in that way it feeds the growth of understanding. Nevertheless scientists are limited by the evidence that they know to look for, and are further limited in the way that they know how to assign it significance. After making careful observations, a scientist might want to state a conclusion. This conclusion frees the scientist from a certain degree of uncertainty, just as the very way that it is presented suggests that it is a definitive fact not to be questioned. Even though the entire process of constructing a scientific story invites change, and thus seems to be innately freeing, the individual ways in which the process takes place both free and bind.
Now that it has been established that both stories have the same effect on human thought, it is logical to state that these stories are equally valid, and should both be told. Even though the two stories differ in their approach to the question of human life on earth, and depending on individual preference, one may be more satisfying than the other, they both address the same concern in such a way the satisfies an important human need. While creationism states that a god created our universe, evolution claims that our universe happened without divine intervention and that life formed spontaneously from existing chemicals. Since the story of evolution was first told, humans have debated about which story holds more truth, and thus which should be believed. This debate, while understandable, is not necessary, because it is possible to construct two alternative stories on the same topic and learn from both of them independently.
Name:  Karen Pang
Subject:  Creationism or Evolution?
Date:  2001-10-25 09:49:29
Message Id:  536
Since the time humans were able to conceive logical thinking, we have been asking questions. Our lives dwell on knowing, and every minute is a time for learning. As our species lived on, the one question we constantly tried to tackle is the question of our origins. The answers that first satisfied our ancestors were the religious stories that told of supernatural beings who were able to control the universe. As time and human technology progressed, more suggestions were developed in explaining the beginning of our existence. Individually, we must decipher for ourselves which story to believe as the truth or possible truth. Some people may be apathetic altogether but eventually, the question of life’s creation will affect everyone either directly or indirectly.

Two main approaches exist today to explain the origins of life. Religion is the oldest “story” or “history” to explain this phenomenon. Belief in multiple gods suggest that each god specialize in one power while belief in one single omnipotent God suggests that He created and controls everything in the universe. Creationism and other explanations of supernatural origin of life are not testable in science unlike scientific knowledge, which is gathered by facts and results of experiments. However, stories such as these help people to coop with everyday lives and give reasons for many natural marvels and destructions.

Charles Darwin first introduced the other explanation of life in 1859 in his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection written after observing life on the Galapagos Islands. Evolution uses scientific proofs and theories to assert that every life on earth evolved from the same, single, inanimate source. Creation of Earth and other celestial objects are explained through scientific theories such as the Big Bang, a theory stating that our universe began as an extremely dense mass of matter that eventually exploded to form clutters of galaxies. As time went on, life began from one source (whose origins are once again explained through many different theories) branched out into different forms creating the life we see today on our planet. According to these theories, genetic material that supposedly makes up every living thing is still evolving.

Evolution is uses scientific approach in justifying our creation. Scientists gather facts and physical evidence and concoct various theories. However, theories are not facts—they can merely exist to be disproved by further observation. Creationism has only one definite answer to our questions of life: life does not evolve but God created us as what we see ourselves today. Our DNA does not change and there is no natural selection—what you see is what God created from the first days of life. Those who believe in creationism are determined to refute all together the idea of evolution. Organizations, books, websites, and numerous other informational entities reveal the discrepancies of evolution and try to convince others that the plainest and simplest answer to this baffling question is that God created us all and the world we reside in. However, science uses one natural phenomena to justify another and consequently lead to greater understanding of our world from the mere explanation of why boats float to why the universe is moving the way it is; theories are the answers in scientific approach and even then they can be disproved.

These two different views on life have sparked heated disputes between people who have the same goal in mind—trying to find the source of our existence. Not only are people arguing with other people, individuals fight within themselves to find a comprehensible explanation. Being in a public school, I was first exposed to small sections to the larger theory of evolution. Public elementary schools forced upon us the idea that everything happens for a reason and that in order to find the answers we must do it through careful scientific observation. Up until the end of grammar school, I believed this was true and that Big Bang seemed the most logical approach of all in pursuing an explanation for life existence. However, middle school approached and I suddenly found myself in a Catholic school—one of the only two non-Christians in the seventh grade. The only visible differences to me in being in a Catholic school were the uniforms and the addition of a new class called religion, a class I viewed as just another course to pass. As time went on, I began to realize they were teaching us two conflicting ideas in life. In the physical science class, we discussed the Big Bang and evolution theories. An hour later in another classroom, God was the almighty being who created our world. My scientific mind and religious mind has been in competition since.

On a much larger scale, lawmakers have been trying to pinpoint the best methodology to teach in schools. Should we teach the evolution theory or the “intelligent design theory”? Teachers are not allowed to teach one set of ideas as more true than another set regarding the creation of the world. However, most schools only show one side of the story, the scientific side. Though many are aware and are exposed to creationism, it is not an idea generally discussed deeply in classrooms because it may be called a “religious” teaching. States have consequently been discussing that creationism should be placed on the same level as evolution when teaching children about the story of creation.

There are people who believe that the creationism theories and true science can coexist with each other. Some spend most of their lives trying to disprove one or the other. Explaining life is much like explaining to a court judge who instigated a physical fight. To the judge, neither sides of the story can be complete truths because he was not there to witness the ordeal. However, both stories have the same intention—trying to identify the beginning of the fight. In the situation with the creation of Earth and its contents, our individual selves are the judges. We must determine which seems more credible or more dependable. If knowing there is a greater being watching over you gives you the support you need to live, then be it. If knowing your genes may one day help you survive a great plague, then be it. If you just don’t care, then be it.

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