The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories:
Exploring the Significance of Diversity

Forum 2
The Story of Evolution

Name:  Anne Dalke, Paul Grobstein
Subject:  Welcome
Date:  2004-01-15 10:45:48
Message Id:  7607
We're glad you're here, and hope you too are looking forward to an interesting and novel exploration, seeing what we can together make of the relations among story-telling, biological evolution, and literature. To get us started, have a look at the links under "Mars Landing" on the course web resources page. This is a very current "story in progress", the ongoing writing of a new chapter in the continuing saga of humanity trying to understand its own place in the universe. What do you think of this new chapter so far? How do you think it will come out, and how important do you think that would be for the larger story of which this is a part? Whatever your feelings, leave a few of your thoughts here in the forum as a way for us to start getting to know each other and exploring together.
Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Of Men and Mars
Date:  2004-01-15 17:59:26
Message Id:  7609
Hi. I didn't expect to be the first to post, but here goes... it's a great topic...and seemingly without end.

"What do you think of this new chapter so far?"
Well, I think it's not so new...Mars has long been interesting as the most likely other place where life might have existed, and it might have existed in a carbon-based form that might be linked to Earth life. About 8 years ago, Bill Clinton 'fessed up to such research when someone leaked NASA findings about a Mars meteorite that landed on Earth. Reportedly, years of exploration had preceded the leak. The scientists involved found carbonate patterns, but carbon is present in materials that have never been alive; they found hydrocarbons created by bacteria, but these could have been earth-based contaminants; they found "magnetite" globules in a shape that seemed to indicate they were created by bacteria, but not everyone is convinced; they found what looked like fossils but could just as easily have been mineral formations. So the research has continued and there has long been the need for more samples. So, the newest chapter, including Bush's latest proclamation of a Man on Mars program, brings a bunch of fascinating questions to the front bunner once again.

Say we do verify that carbon-based life form(s) did exist on Mars... does that lead to a revision in the evolution story that embraces the possibility of Earthlings and Martians as related? Is the rest of the evolutionary food chain then seen as separate from us? Does this then conveniently allow religion and science to call a truce and co-exist, i.e., evolution for all life-forms but not for man? Or does it mean that life is no big deal...that life can occur most anywhere, given the right (and relatively easy to implement) conditions plus time. That would really throw cold water on the notion of one or more supreme beings as our creators.

If Mars life existed, how did it die? Was it intelligent, advanced? Did they burn off their atmosphere and disintegrate any evidence of a civilization? Say man convinces himself that Mars life did itself we take any lessons to heart from that new belief? Do these lessons help us save ourselves from ourselves or do we become fatalistic? It's not even necessary for Mars life to have been intelligent. It could have inadvertently "traveled" to Earth as a simple life form and found a friendly climate and conditions in which to evolve. YIKES, things could even have gone the other way!

How do I think it will come out? Gosh. I think that we will eventually learn the facts regarding life or no life on Mars. I think that we will continue to hold hope about and maybe try to make Mars a second home for Earthlings in a bind—down the road. I don't think that the religion versus evolution (or versus science) debates will be resolved. They will evolve, but not complete. I do believe that Mars as an alternative eco-system would give us unimaginable clues and insights about our own. How we would use them is a anyone's guess.

I have two wishes of my own for this space venture. I wish that humans would mature beyond their need to be physically territorial (and aggressive), beyond their need to set physical foot on new ground in the process of answering the Mars questions. I have a strong hunch that much of the venture's work could be done by unmanned exploration, with technology acting as a virtual extention of man, by man. We would save so much money that's needed elsewhere—rather than have to pay for porting heavy stations through space. Seems the lion's share of cost is in how to deal with moving weight through space. More importantly, we might grow up a bit in the process.

My other wish is that the program's promoters would talk about the goals of this program as trying to find out whether there is/was life on Mars or not, with the understanding that it's just as interesting and important to know that Mars never had life as it is to find evidence of living organisms. I think we're denying the potential for valuable knowledge and fascinating implications (scientific and religious) if we don't acknowledge that it's equally OK to not find evidence of life there.

See you all next week!

Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder@bmc
Subject:  starlit destiny
Date:  2004-01-16 00:18:38
Message Id:  7610
Ro Finn wrote, "maybe try to make Mars a second home for Earthlings in a bind—down the road." In octavia butler's "Parable of the Talents" one of the characters says over and over "our destiny is in the stars." and though that might be true i hate it. it's as if we already beleive that this earth is destroyed and that to survive we have to find another home, whether it be on mars, or the moon or where ever. we're giving up hope. i don't care if it is a coincidence that we ended up on the most beautiful planet, or if some higher force put us here, but, man, look at this world ... there is no place more beautiful than where we are right now. and people are getting all psyched up about the perspective of having Mars as their address. have you seen the pictures in the papers? it ain't so pretty up there in the stars.

but, i'm not sure if that's completely accurate: that we are 'giving up hope.' i don't think that's what it is...i think it's that we're scared shitless ... and when we hear that the ozone is being depleated because of the SUVs that we're driving, when we hear that people are starving while we are padding our soft cusioned sofas with couchpotato crums, when we hear that in fifty years a HUGE number of species on our planet will be extinct because the way WE live ... What do you do when you hear that you are slowly, but most definatly, killing yourself? we freeze up and we don't know how to process this information. and instead of givig up our present lifestyles we say that we would rather move to Mars. But i don't think we know what we're talking about.
last semester i read a wonderful book called "the salt eaters"
in this book a woman has just tried to kill herself, her life is painful, and the way she deals with it is she leaves herself, she leaves her body, and floats over her own life ...
and i think that is what we're doing. things hurt down here and so we drink ourselves into a gadamn stuppor, we fill our glasses with our paychecks and our high falutent education and fancy degrees and long long resumes and we leave our world, our body, behind. and each one of us needs to be smacked in the face and told, 'get back down here, get the godamn hell out of the stars, get off of mars and look at yourself, look here!' we have enough problems right here and we don't need to be looking stary-eyes out into space. fix the here and now and if we fail i don't think we want to be living anywhere else anyways.
but again i am not accurate... it's not that we drink ourselves stupid, it's that we think that if we don't FEEL our own death then we aren't expereincing it. if we can float above ourselves and not feel our own death then it doesn't matter. we don't cherish life enough to realize that pain is such a minor part of life no matter how great. when it really gets down to it, when we are dying to most painful, ugly death we cling onto life so tightly. even in the greatest pain, the pain that is exclusive, WE STILL CHOSE LIFE.

but, silly me, i digress.

one more thing: i just saw the movie 'minority report' with tom cruise. in this movie there is an institution called 'precrime' that is able to see into the future and faultlessly predict a murder before it is about to happen. so, the precrime police go to the scene of the murder seconds before it happens and arrest the perspective (but sure) murderer. and the question is: can we change our desitny? is it moral to arrest someone who has not yet commited the crime, but whose destiny dictates what he is to do? do we have the choice in those last seconds NOT to kill? do we, NOW, have the choice NOT to destroy this world?

and i think our destiny is destruction, but can we change that????????? the only thing stopping us is that we already beleive that are destruction is imminent. we beleive that we have already died. and we are hopelessly bleeding to death. BUT WE AREN'T. This beleif is what's going to cut us. BUT WE AREN'T CUT YET.

Name:  su-lyn
Username:  spoon@hc
Subject:  Which way forward?
Date:  2004-01-16 01:41:56
Message Id:  7611

Ro, very interesting questions you raise, particularly about making Mars a second home for "Earthlings in a bind". This was certainly something at the back of my mind as I read "From Robot Geologists to Human Geologists on Mars", which talked about the life-support infrastructure being set up to make research on the planet possible.

I'm cynical, though: once all that is in place, how long will Mars be allowed to remain a laboratory? Special interest groups will spring up to stake their claims faster than you can blink. Our situation back on Earth is dire: daily we outgrow our means to live – let us in, let us in! What about the new Arab state? At last, a resolution to an age-old conflict! Ah, but we can pay our way to the red planet. Shouldn't we be first in line?

Shed a tear and spin a tale – we are, all of us, "Earthlings in a bind". How will we assess our 'rights' to Mars then? Who to let in, and who to keep out?

I wonder, will space exploration really deepen our appreciation of our own blue planet? Or will our technology cheapen it, creating other life-supporting ecosystems? Once we have begun to look further afield, will we ever look back? Will we choose to repair the damage when we have the option to simply move on? There is a great concern for the accountability of science – does this accountability (or the concern) lessen when we deal with something as infinite as the universe? Responsibility becomes threatened with triviality.

Then again, maybe my worries are themselves trivial, springing from an old story that is reluctant to be replaced.

So I confess a discomfort with the idea of an alien invasion of Mars. Given our track record with the planet we call home, and given that Mars is not, I find myself somewhat worried for the fate of our stoic little neighbour, and what may become the ghost of a planet from which we launched our grandest visions of exploration.
Name:  Elizabeth Catanese
Subject:  Mars, fiction and understanding
Date:  2004-01-17 19:15:58
Message Id:  7612
My first thought would be that there are too many problems on earth for the government to be spending so much to understand mars. I think that Ro's comment that "we would save so much money that is needed elsewhere [with unmanned technology]" is insightful and agree with Orah's feeling that "it's as if we already believe that this earth is destroyed and that to survive we need to find another home".

I think it is very important to explore WHY we are doing this just as much as what we are doing. It seems to me that "looking to the stars" is often what humans do to make sense of their own existence when things get particularly difficult on earth. The world situation right now seems somewhat similar to the situation that existed when we landed on the moon. It all boils down to a humans trying to create understanding- because I'm not quite sure if understanding is something the can quite exist organically. That's why writing and art are particularly valuable- they give structure and help to create an illusion of understanding- Maybe that's why we are doing this exploration- to create understanding. "How do you think this will come out?" I think it will inevitably make us think that we have succeeded in creating a "better" understanding. And better because the expedition is based in "reality" and confirmed by "technology". This is one of the reasons why this course seems interesting to me. I want to obtain a more expansive understanding of a relationship between science and literature- rather than seeing them as two distinct entities- one heavily based in reality and truth and the other rooted in the imaginative world. I can see already that it's much more expansive than that.

I think an interesting piece of fiction- something we "make up completely" could provide similar discoveries (just like the discovery of whether or not life can be sustained on mars, was there life etc...)if people had mindsets which were "inversely creative". I just made up that term- it's not the best :) By this I mean that people are creative enough to make up any story, to dream anything- but not "inversely creative" that is, creative enough to believe all stories to be valid and to believe stories as much as truth. We could just say that there was life on mars. We could say anything. Does there need to be proof? I think that 99 percent of people would say ABSOLUTELY! But I also know that the value of fiction is greater than people want to admit or perhaps want to explore- At any rate, the value of truth in the creation of and continuance of the story of evolution is something that deserves to be explored further.

However, there is a certain kind of excitement at the prospect of it all. I find the new discoveries and our relative success on Mars to be comforting. What we are doing there vaguely resembles an escape, like one of the undeniable functions that writing and reading can serve. I do think that there is a connection between the arts, the mind and space exploration which I'll think about more. I don't know why this in particular keeps coming into my mind. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with turning elsewhere- inventing an alternate future for ourselves, looking for an alternate reality. If nothing else it is an interesting mental exercise- the exploration itself and the technology that must be created in order to explore. The fact that we can do this does call to the forefront the power of the human mind. Just as one of the articles indicated that understanding mars would help us to better understand earth, I think that exercising the human mind in this vein could indeed help us learn to figure out various problems here. But that statement does frustrate me slightly because I'm not exactly sure how this would work.

The article about the clocks and Mars time being different from earth time was particularly fascinating to me because time is a human construct to begin with. Or at least I think it is. Is it? The fact that it would be important for us to measure Mars time seems to transcend technological significance. It makes me wonder what time is to begin with. And why humans made time. And why it is so important. Is it another instance of needing structure and understanding?

I think that the pictures of Mars are quite beautiful- because it seems so empty. I would love to do an art project with some of that imagery joined with the concepts of time and loss. It all seems like a very rich source for creative writing or artwork-

I loved reading the forum entries! Very interesting ideas- See you all soon!

Name:  Lauren Friedman
Subject:  thoughts
Date:  2004-01-18 12:43:54
Message Id:  7614
Wow, reading everyone's postings really got me thinking. I think Orah makes a very salient (though grim) point when she says that "our destiny is destruction." While that idea is certainly troubling, that has always been my main concern with space exploration. Elizabeth pointed out that the state of world affairs right now is reminiscent of when we landed on the moon. People seem excited by the possibility of finding life on Mars (or elsewhere), but our world today (like our world at the time of the moon landing) is a total mess. If we cannot even find peace among our own species, what will happen if we discover intelligent life elsewhere? If we cannot stop destroying our own environment and depleting our earth's natural resources, what's to stop us from total destruction of another world?
Elizabeth also talks about fiction and the possibilities of discovery within fiction. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but there are those who argue that the whole Mars exploration is a big hoax. In "Sure, It May Look Like Mars," which appeared in the January 10th New York Times, Jack Hitt writes about the proliferation of people in online newsgroups who are screaming "fake." They point to what they call "obviously stitched-together quality of the panoramic shots" to try to prove that NASA is making the whole thing up, aided by some fancy special effects. Hitt points out that these people often lack a basic knowledge of high school science, but to them, the lines between science and fiction have blurred completely.
I know my thoughts are pretty disjointed, but I look forward to many more tangential discussions in class and on the forum. :-)
Name:  Daniela Miteva
Subject:  Reality on Mars
Date:  2004-01-18 14:52:00
Message Id:  7615
Hello all! That is an engrossing discussion.
Thinking about the quantum theory, Mandelbrot, Darwin, it seems to me that reality much depends on the observer. Isn't it true then, that we sometimes see want we want to see and then think up of certain logic to substantiate our findings?
On Mars people are looking for a form of life that corresponds to that found on Earth, because they don't know another form of life. Given the different conditions found there, who cannot prove there is some sort of life? I guess poeple will never be able to get rid of their subjectivity...
Name:  Aia Hussein
Subject:  Whales and Mars
Date:  2004-01-18 16:18:21
Message Id:  7616
I think it's only fitting to have Melville's Moby Dick as one of our primary literature texts for this course, especially as we begin to explore the consequences of Mars exploration. My immediate thought was that of Captain Ahab and his monomaniacal quest for the white whale. While Moby Dick means many things to many people, I find it accurate to think of her as Ahab's imagined evil. And where Moby Dick is Ahab's imagined evil, Mars is Earth's imagined savior.
No tangible good ever came from chasing our imaginations.
To accept that there exists, or that there existed, the possibility of life on Mars changes Earth's role in the universe dangerously. No longer will we be subject to Earth's sometimes moody disposition – hurricanes, earthquakes, ungodly cold temperatures – but pushing nature aside and becoming masters of our own worlds, worlds that have the possibility of being more friendly once we figure out how to tweak the universe in our favor.
It is a dangerous thought, and one that I don't think the human species is capable of handling. There are some things that should be left alone to exist as they have always done without human intervention. Whales and Mars are only two.
Name:  Diane Scarpa
Date:  2004-01-18 20:01:01
Message Id:  7617
I think we need to focus on our reason for wanting to explore Mars in order to discuss the stories that will one day be told about us. I like Elizabeth's idea that our search is driven by the need for understanding. I like to think that much of what people do is in fact driven by an innate need for knowledge and understanding. Thats why we're all here, isn't it? And so, although I firmly believe that there are many other, more worthwhile places to put our money here on earth, I don't condemn the decision to explore Mars. The exploration refelect a curious, questioning society, however misguided we may be in choosing this endeavor. It is possible that we may be written up as an ambitious, somewhat intelligent people. But thats just my hopeless optimism speaking..
Name:  Reeve Basom
Date:  2004-01-18 21:50:12
Message Id:  7618
The capacity for imagination and wonder are beautiful, uniquely human traits and space exploration is a powerful manifestation of these qualities. But our reasons for exploring Mars seem to limit rather than promote the expansion of perspective and imagination. Searching for life on Mars has become a way of writing space into the human story rather than pushing the limits of human understanding to consider stories that are infinitely larger than our species. As others have touched on in previous postings, the conditions on earth are condusive to life and the condtions on Mars are not- it doesn't make sense to try to make an uninhabitable planet inhabitable so that we have somewhere to go when we make our own inhabitable planet uninhabitable. These misaligned priorities are reflective of another unique human characteristic, namely our need to be the center of our stories and, by extension, our need to feel powerful. It's about pushing the limits of our power, not our understanding. Space exploration exists on both sides of this line.
Name:  emily
Subject:  shortcomings
Date:  2004-01-19 16:55:22
Message Id:  7620
humans have been fascinated with space stories/aliens for so long, that it would seem that the discovery of life-forms on mars would only confirm what many people would like to believe. humans don't want to be alone. part of this may stem from the facts that orah and others mentioned-- if we're not alone, then perhaps there is potential for some kind of salvation for our race.
in gloria naylor's "mama day", the title character watches a daytime TV program where people speak of their opinions regarding aliens. a woman asks the host if it is possible that aliens might be bent on taking over the earth. "Her husband beats her," Mama Day thinks, "...and that's what she wants explained." i agree with orah in that the escapist view of mars as a future home does bring into startling focus the fact that as humans we very seldom take the time to self-examine. what is going on in the landscapes of our own minds and living rooms? who are we blaming for our own shortcomings? what texts are we creating in our search for a greater understanding of the unknown? is it possible to think of our space exploration as an open-ended missive to the universe? and what would it be-- an invitation or a politely worded warning? an SOS or a love letter?
Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2004-01-19 18:09:47
Message Id:  7621
Hellooo Emily!
good to 'see' you again...

your post made me think that, when I wrote about Mars as a possible alternative for "Earthlings in a bind down the road," (can one quote one's self?) I was actually thinking about that bind being caused by something out of our control, like the demise of our sun......but something that we might be clever enough to literally side-step, having started with "one giant step for mankind." It's interesting that those who've commented about the (good or bad) idea of Mars as a refuge have done so from the standpoint of man having ruined Earth and needing a fresh planet. What if it's just the next necessary step in the survival of our species? What if we were to clean up our act, take care of our planet, but still ultimately need to explore and develop Mars as a contingency plan?

Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  World without end. Amen.
Date:  2004-01-19 18:59:20
Message Id:  7622
I'm really feeling sheepish here...two posts in a row, but that's how my brain works. Sorry.

But I wasn't thinking when I wrote the last post... if our sun becomes a brown dwarf or dies out, then Mars will be toast, as will the rest of this solar system. What we need to find--if we're serious about the notion of a "world without end" (in either a religious or secular sense) is another solar system with accommodations and the means to get to it. In the meantime, we are all bound by the same fate. It's a matter of when, not if. Even if we take really good care of Earth, we still need to get out of Dodge, not just to the next way station. So, going to Mars could buy us time, teach how to better take care of this planet, maybe prepare Mars as a spare, but it's really got to be about learning soooo much more in time to make a much bigger move. Or should we go for quality of life and focus on the immediate stuff around us...for as long as we have?

What's really beginning to tug at me is the notion of a virtual world...a definition of "world" as "where we are."

Name:  Katherine Pioli
Username:  kpioli@brynmawr
Subject:  purpose of our mission
Date:  2004-01-19 23:55:01
Message Id:  7626
I have a hard time believing that our interest in Mars stems from anything other than a desire to colonize it once we decard the shell that Earth will inevitably become. Just look at what scienctists are searching for on Mars. Signs that it can or has at one point supported life. The presence of oxygen. Water. Water is a big one. People already know that fresh water is one of our most rapidly disappearing resourses. It has been predicted that the next great war will not be fought over oil or land or religion, but fresh water supplies. And though no water has yet been found on Mars both the European and United States web sites seem sure that it can't be too far under the surface of the plant.

I also enjoyed comparing the European web site to the United States site. I thought that it showed the European scientists to be far more objective and scientific and less hopefull(?)...fictional. They presented the facts, on the geography of the planet, the environment, the purpose for the mars exploration mission. The United States web site, however, constantly wanted to make Mars a fun little game. There was a disappointing small amount of solid factual information on the planet. Instead all energy seemed to be turned to making Mars appealing to children. And what a good job they did in their Mars related storytelling: "The danger of Mars still lurks in our conscience, for Mars today is a hostile world, blanketed in toxic soil and zapped with radiation... We begin to brave the hardships because Mars is the only planet on which humans could one day settle, making it a place of hope as well as trepidation."

Name:  Fritz Dubuisson
Subject:  Mars
Date:  2004-01-20 01:00:27
Message Id:  7628
The whole idea of going to Mars on the side of Americans reads like some great fairytale in the making. The government is willing to pour millions if not billions of dollars into what seems to be a dream. When the American mars scientists speak about going to mars, this dream seems more of a tangible concept. But when laymen speak of it it seems like some silly and fickle notion.
If the backing for the space programs were consistantly in the public eye like the war in Iraq, the notion of a moon base would not seem so far fetched. But these random spirts of interest work against any credibility that the government could have in the realm of exploring Mars.
The European scientist are working in the now. They are working to find out the comosition of Mars's atmosphere. Americans are planning what habitats and vehicles will be right. I agree with the European method of dealing with what is right in front of them now instead of already, this works to make a dream more of a reality.
Name:  Emily Senerth
Date:  2004-01-20 01:22:14
Message Id:  7629
one way to muster public support for government spending on the space program is to put a sci-fi, fantastical spin on missions such as the mars probe. adding a dramatic edge to what can seem like a dry, scientific study makes it more accessible to the average person because it grabs their attention. however, it is important to distinguish actual data from the numerous predictions and assumptions which abound in reporting on mars.
i agree with previous posters who stated that the european website does a better job of doing this than the american.
Name:  Heather Davis
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2004-01-20 01:55:49
Message Id:  7630
My initial reaction to reading these articles, I have to admit, was "Who cares about Mars?...Why are we doing this/wasting money?" I was reading "Savage Inequalities" for another class, and just finished reading about a town that could not afford to pump leaking sewage out of people's basements and public buildings. Children in the impoverished area are getting diseases and asthma because they cannot afford to have basic services. Meanwhile neighborhood towns turn their backs. And then....robots on Mars, learning about how to grow food on infertile land, turning piss into water, get enough oxygen. It seems crazy to me. And not only because I am pessimistic about a race that turns their back on thier neighbor's problems to respect any life on another planet, or maintain any living capacity that Mars is found to have. But because I do cherish human's ability and drive for understanding. There is SO much to learn from whats sitting right in front of us. I would like to say that it is obvious that we need a deeper understanding of our neighbors. And there is so much more to learn about Earth. Why are people living in filth and contamination? The Earth is naturally self perpetuating and healing and cyclic. Why do we produce so much waste from things that would otherwise be naturally reintroduced into the "cycle of life"? Why do we think we can "throw away" things? Where does that concept come from? Much exploration needs to be done in how to make a self-sustaining livelihood, if that makes sense, rather than on how to, say, make convenient disposable wipes or something to that effect which bombard me when I watch television. Why is it than, going back to what I was talking about in the beginning, when feces can be a good fertilizer, does it all accumulate and end up contaminating a small population?

To end my rambling, and on another note.....In answer to Ro's question on whether we should put efforts into finding a habitat for a future when Earth's sun dies...I think not. I think we should concentrate on what we have, both on changing what we can and enjoying the Earth as we know it. Who knows if, even after much time and energy and resources, if there will be another place we can live in. This agian relates to religion, in a weird way.

Name:  Mary Ferrell
Subject:  The Mars Story
Date:  2004-01-20 09:00:01
Message Id:  7632
The Mars story is a continuation of the story about the human quest for understanding. Does Mars have water? Was there ever life on Mars? If so, what does this teach us about our own existence? We seek knowledge of our world with our Beagle paws, and our stereo cameras eyes. Less romanticized about, less spoken about, the exploration of Mars is a continuation of the story about the human quest for power.
Powerful nationalists investing billions for more power. Countries do not spend extreme money to gain knowledge for knowledge's sake. NO --- WAY! It's knowledge of nature for power's sake, Baconian-style! The reward of financial power, technological power, prestige, the reward of an optional place for the powerful to go when the earth is unsuitable. Perhaps all humanity could escape devastation. It depends on who has the power though and what they allow.
Although the huge reward of knowledge is the most-spoken-of reward on the websites, and in the media, -- knowledge won't pay the bills for this expedition. Knowledge is not the driving force for the super expensive Mars exploration. The silence in this story tells a tale about humans also. Why is the drive for power not outspoken loudly?
The knowledge of Mars is going to be harnessed and utilized for some humans benefit. This kind of power through knowledge and exploitation of nature was suggested by Francis Bacon in 1600, and these days, post scientific revolution, knowledge through science and its technologies can be power, big power. Mars—DNA— humans exploring inward and outward—humans reveling in the wondrous creations around them, but also some humans ready to exploit nature for its power. Which country will get there first? Who will be capitalizing on the information gained? Who will be going there when the earth becomes inhabitable?
Although seeking power is not necessarily bad, power for some and not all is! And power through irreversible devastation of nature is treacherous. That's the part of the human story that I wish would evolve towards human power equality. Wishful thinking yes, but wouldn't it be more naturally selectable? Especially, if we were to consider the universe an important part of human nature, that needs to be utilized for our benefit but preserved as well.
The story goes on: humans continue to act in ways that are destructive to each other and to the environment for individual power? It seems to me that it is due to a very large human insecurity, a fear of the big unknown. What is life? What is death? Who are we? First there was God and now there is science to try and find answers to give us security. The fact that science plays such a big part in this story will reinforce the holy reverence of science. Even if things start to go bad on this mission, the scientific technology of the robotic Rover "Spirit" (how romantic), stepping onto the Martian soil, leaving its tracks there, how awe-inspiring is that? And the images of the earth with its moon viewed from a non-earthly location. Wow! For the last few centuries, "Science" is our God, i.e., our divine authority, our belief system, helping us with our insecurities. But if we find life 'was' or 'is' on Mars, we will probably become more insecure, because we will become less special. We will become more frightened OF THE ALIEN OTHERS! God, I hope not! (Religion will resume its prominence along with science). Especially if I'm right that fear leads to selfish power focus. But maybe us humans would then unite against the bigger OTHER, instead of individually being against the human OTHER. Either way sucks. If only we could be for one and all. What a chapter that would be!
Name:  Nancy Evans
Username:  nevans@bmc
Subject:  Can I send my Hummer to Mars too?
Date:  2004-01-20 10:16:41
Message Id:  7634
Mary's venture into the politics behind a Mars exploration ("it's knowledge of nature for power's sake") intrigues me. While I recognize the importance of exploration of the unknown as a means to learn more about the self, I see how the individual human implication of finding something extraordinary is a strong motivation tool. I will be the first to admit I am not a science buff, so I don't see what we might be able to learn from finding out that Mars used to have water. (Unless of course it means that one day earth will not have water, in which case I think I'd rather not know. Ignorance being bliss and all).

Su Lyn's idea of an Arab state on Mars channels my own idealism. If, in fact, Mars is to become a habitable environment, what a wonderful chance for the world to redeem itself... For Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, Kurds in Germany, decades or centuries of conflict over land rights may finally see a means to an end. Yet in the same breath, SuLyn deflates the peace bubble. We ARE the 'ones' with the power, the money and the need for trappings to prove ourselves to one another. Mars life will become the new status symbol, in the way that the cell phone was once rarely seen and oft envied. Which begs the question, at least in my mind, of how great a discovery this will be if it is only a means to take the disparity between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' to interplanetary status.

It confuses me, this human quest for tangible conquests. This is probably because I spend my time in college in search of some sort of momentary truth that is the least tangible and most fleeting, but what I consider the most desirable. Mars is not the solution for our overcrowding problems, our resource gluttony, our pollution creation. The red planet may risk becoming the next stage for the ongoing tragedy of the human nature of excess.

Name:  Patricia Palermo
Date:  2004-01-20 13:15:05
Message Id:  7638
The following passage inspired me: "What a wonderful chance for the world to redeem itself... For Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, Kurds in Germany, decades or centuries of conflict over land rights may finally see a means to an end."- Nancy Evans

Unfortunately, I don't see any reason to believe that we will treat territory any differently because of its distance from the earth. All of the aforementioned groups of people have important things in common; they believe that their form of government is best and (crucially) that their God is THE God. These religious beliefs often require the belief that "the other guy's beliefs" are somehow satanic or in great disrespect or dishonor to their God. Not all nations are governed so strictly by their religion, but there are many that are. The cohabitation of these nations under one government may be so hard that we may either be forced to socially and emotionally catch up with technology, or technology may just have to wait for us. Inhabiting Mars may be an ability that we may technologically sense as quite close, but I don't know if each separate nation would want their nuclear weapons protected by the "other guy'" government. We're just not there yet. Mars will have to wait. Until then, we could put the money into schools, international education, and other types of international relations efforts in order to make this "exploration of the stars" worth considering as a venture for new habitation

Name:  Patricia Palermo
Date:  2004-01-20 13:25:50
Message Id:  7639
On a lighter note, I wonder many little and trivial things about our hope to inhabit Mars: Would the climate and environment lead to changes or at least an interesting branch of the fashion industry? Would people who lived there consider themselves Martians? Even more interesting to me is the possibility that as generation after generation call Mars their home, would a distinctively noticeable new race of man emerge? For example, would people grow larger nostrils due to some environmental condition? Would people require different medicine to treat the common diseases that we treat on earth because of a morphing of human's biology due to environmental norms? How would this all change art, music, etc.? Will there one day be a love story written about the boy who had to leave mars to be with the woman he loved on planet earth and would their children write about the trials and tribulations of coming to terms with to different cultures? I don't really know. It's all just such uncharted territory.
Name:  Lindsay Updegrove
Date:  2004-01-20 13:45:37
Message Id:  7640
I have a hard time getting excited about the reality of landing on another seems like a dream that belongs more to my parents' generation than it does to me. While I can see that humankind may benefit someday from the knowledge we gain by such a mission, I think that now is an odd time to be focusing so much on another planet when our own has so much we could be improving. I guess I'm a little conservative when it comes to the idea of exploration; I don't think going to another planet out of pure curiosity is quite worth the billions of dollars. I would be a lot more supportive of the mission if we knew there was something to gain by it, other than a sense of affirmation.

On a different note, I'm really curious about how people in the non-Western world feel about the whole thing. I mean, do all "Earthlings" have a stake in the Mars exploration or is it just the people of America and the EU? If my government wasn't a huge proponent of the mission, I doubt that I would feel I was part of this story at all.

Name:  bethany keffala
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Is it all that bad?
Date:  2004-01-20 14:36:28
Message Id:  7642
I think it's pretty obvious that one of our main motives for looking for life on Mars is to open that door for ourselves in the future. We've realized that we've screwed things up here, that our resources are finite, that we may eventually need to 'move'. But I think another important motive is our fascination with life, ourselves, and our nature as human beings. We jump at the idea that we aren't alone in the grand scheme of things. We're sort of like an only child, dying for a sibling. Not that we aim for discussions with bacteria, but if that were discovered, the potential for something far greater would be present. After all, our entire culture is based on communication; what would be more exciting than communicating with someone else when you've been the only one for so long? Maybe this isn't really a motive at all, and I'm just trying to be optimistic, but I really don't think we're entirely despicable...only sometimes :)
Name:  Susan Willis
Subject:  avoiding the not-so-wonderful side of evolution?
Date:  2004-01-20 18:38:56
Message Id:  7646
With this whole idea of using Mars as our "back up" in case of some sort of cataclysmic desaster, I get the impression that we are just trying to avoid what may be considered our natural evolution on earth. I mean, we as humans can't come to grips with the idea of the extinction of our own species. We are so focused on the idea of prolonging life that we don't ever really "live". This idea isn't only relegated to the Mars mission, but also encompasses the medical industry as well. I find it rather ironic that we are talking of Mars as a possible geographic area of salvation for the human race while at the same time continuing to destroy each other here on Earth. Something to think about.
Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  science and story
Date:  2004-01-20 19:53:52
Message Id:  7649
Enjoying reading your thoughts here, and enjoyed hearing your reactions to my story this afternoon. Thanks for both.

Lots to talk more about (and looking forward to a semester of doing it) but one issue from this afternoon sticks in my mind particularly: the idea that "science" is different from "story", and is in fact something that one can appeal to to test the "validity" or "correctness" of a story.

I think that's lots of peoples' story of the relation between science and story, but its not what I was trying to convey in my story this afternoon. What I wanted to convey is the idea that science IS story, in the sense that it is nothing more (and nothing less) than something one makes up to make sense of observations. And then tests/revises (inevitably) by making additional observations.

Am I SERIOUS about this? As a scientist? Yep. Moreover, I think the story that science is a story is itself a GOOD story ("good" in terms we need to talk more about; perhaps, for the moment, "has a long lifetime"?). If you're intrigued by that story, here are a few other places/ways I've tried to tell it ...

Looking forward to talking more about this, among other things.

Name:  Webmaster
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  testing
Date:  2004-01-21 08:02:08
Message Id:  7687
Name:  su-lyn
Username:  spoon@hc
Subject:  story forms
Date:  2004-01-21 08:05:00
Message Id:  7688

One recurrent theme seems to be our perception of Mars as savior and as servant -- the vestiges of religion, perhaps, as Mary pointed out. Though the actors in our grand drama change over time, the underlying plot appears to remain the same. Maybe it speaks to the unchanging desires that underlie our efforts to make sense of who we are, where we are.

And we continue to express these desires in broadly familiar terms, in ways that allow us to recognize the conventions of established forms. We can choose to see space exploration as "an invitation or a warning, an SOS or a love letter" (Emily). At the same time, we pass judgement on which of these choices of form are appropriate. In comparing the US and European websites, we detect "some great fairytale in the making" (Fritz) and respond disapprovingly. Clearly, this is no longer an acceptable form for this particular story. We have grown more cautious about heralding science as the salvation of mankind. Priorities change and so do the ways in which we allow our stories to be told.

Which hopefully gives me something with which to approach a question that was raised in class. As someone mentioned, it's not as if old stories crowd the imagination, so why do we see the need to 'get rid' of them? But stories don't exist purely for the telling. They provoke action. Action is necessarily constrained by our scarce resources. So perhaps this is the selective pressure acting upon stories - not the allocation of space in our minds, so to speak, but the allocation of effort, time, capital for acting on those stories.
Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Science as Story
Date:  2004-01-21 08:56:55
Message Id:  7689
I think I agree that science is story.

My grandfather (and primary mentor) was a scientist (chemist and metallurgist) who, before that, bailed out of theological studies in his final year of preparations to become a minister, having decided that agnosticism was a whole lot more comfortable. He talked about his scientific exploration as if it were always entwined with his agnosticism, and maybe it was even vice versa. His hobby was the history of science--some of which he helped make as a researcher at the newly formed General Electric Company in the early days of the last century. After listening to you yesterday and reading your post, I'm remembering his and my conversations and beginning to think that he was always coming at his questions (and mine) by testing and tinkering in the context of his long views of religion and science--in order to "get it less wrong." I'm remembering that, for him, nothing was ever cast in concrete. Whatever his latest findings were, they just set up the next iteration of questions and 'tests.'

Thanks for some new thoughts about science and religion as maybe creating and maintaining a necessary tension--even as they seem to asymtotically converge.

Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder@bmc
Date:  2004-01-21 09:07:37
Message Id:  7690
in regard to the "validity" or "correctness" of a story:
recently saw the third lord of the rings movie in which gandalf, the white wizard, says (here, brutally paraphrased) that this world is one in which things are painted in dull grays and when we die we enter a world in which everything is made of beautiful glass. rilke writes in his second elegy, "if the dangerous archangel / took one step now / down toward us / from behind the stars / our heartbeats / rising like thunder / would kill us." and i ask you if these tales of the universe are less valid than the story prof. grobstein told us today? i don't think so. i think both forms of story are equally "valid" and "correct."
and after looking at those pictures don't you feel minute?! don't you feel ... i don't even know the word for it ... as small and inconsequential as can be ...
don't you hurt so much because you matter so little? ...
and isn't our only means of survival (our only means of escape from a death brought on by massive inferiority complexes) found in the telling of stories? it's the telling of the story that's the rub, not the "validity" or "correctness" of the story. the correctness of the story does not have consequence on our lives. the weight on our lives lies in the soothing voice of the story teller.
it seems that our primary mission as humans is to find this "unknowable:" what is beyond (life/the stars etc.) find the "unseen" because we know it's there. everyone spends her whole life trying to figure it out....and i love reading these beautiful images of "the after" "the beyond." i am reminded how in so many religions the individual is pushed to "surrender." surrendering is the key. surrender to what??? i think it means: surrender, believe in something, be it prof. grobstein's story or gandalf's story or rilke's or your own story. i think that is the key to a religious life. just relax and let the voice of the storyteller save your life.
Name:  Elizabeth Catanese
Subject:  soothing voice of the storyteller
Date:  2004-01-21 15:19:28
Message Id:  7697
"The weight on our lives lies in the soothing voice of the story teller."- Orah

I think that Orah's sentence is wonderful.(beyond the sentence's implications, I really like the way the second half of the sentence flows) As for what the sentence made me think about...the idea that what really matters is the extent to which a story teller's voice can soothe people is fascinating to me. The only thing that I'd like to add to this is the idea that the PROCESS of finding a "less wrong" story through observation, imagination and story telling has been a process of tremendous anxiety and to a certain extent upheval. (causing in various "chapters of the story of evolution" the death of some scientists (story tellers), the creation of new technology, the re-thinking of the values of society etc.) As each new story is created, people must expand their minds to fit the new information which (as many people have indicated in the forum thus far) often does not conform to a person's "world view comfort zone." (religious or otherwise) In order to be ultimatley soothed by story (I wonder if this is possible- I think so because sometimes reading fiction gives me this sense) people need to be OPEN to the ongoing process of story telling in all of it's complexity. I do think that today people are more open to the implications of discovery and more willing to embrace a story which evolves rather than remains static. I guess the question is whether it is ever completely possible to find comfort in a story whose very basis is change... change...the story of evolution is a story about change.

Name:  orah minder
Date:  2004-01-21 16:48:27
Message Id:  7700
quick revision of what i said: i don't think it is our "primary mission as humans to find the unknowable" but rather it is our primary goal as humans to find a story that works for us. we know that we can't find the "correct" IT. we understand that. so we stretch our minds to find sometime that calms us. and that is why the voice of the teller is so important. all we want is to be comforted. right? and when we are comforted, when we have found our line, then maybe we have found ... IT?
Name:  becky
Username:  rrich@bmc
Date:  2004-01-21 18:26:08
Message Id:  7701
Perhaps what makes the science story so good(if it's understood as just one story) is that it, almost by definition, must evolve as we observe new things. Some variations of the "science-story species" naturally die out, but unlike religions, which don't seem evolve well, the science story is immortal! In evolution, more often than not if something does not evolve or does not evolve quickly enough, it dies out, as many religions do. Since religion can also be understood to be only one story, I'll have to re-think this point... Religion does not evolve anywhere near as neatly as science- aside from reformations and the fact that new religions must feed off the old in some way, of the two stories, science and religion, religion certainly is the more static.

Is creationism, for instance, going to be around indefinitely because (drawing from Orah's comment) it satisfies the need for a story that works for us and is comfortable well? Or (drawing off of Elizabeth) will it die away because "in order to be ultimately soothed by story...people need to be open to the ongoing process of story telling in all of its complexity"? It sounds like Plato&Aristotle vs. Democritus&I-forget-the-rest again! (surprise?)

Here comes my cop out though; I think that the religion story- the story that God, or Gods, is/are behind the backdrop of the universe and running the show, not the story that God made the universe in seven days or any other given example of creationism, serves a different purpose than the science story. For this reason I do not believe that the two stories are mutually exclusive or that they are necessarily in competition with each other.

Name:  Perrin Braun
Date:  2004-01-21 20:41:44
Message Id:  7702
I think that the implications of the possible success and failure of the Mars mission are fascinating (even though I guess the question is a little inconsequential in the grand scheme of things). Suppose that NASA does find life on Mars—what's next? If the Red Planet proves to be barren, how far into the universe would scientists probe to confirm that extraterrestrial life does exist (or for that matter, how long will Washington and the taxpayers allow them to go on searching)?

Back to a somewhat more relevant topic...I think that it's both a blessing and a curse for mankind to be inherently expansionist and curious in nature. We can never just be content with what we have, which forces us to search (however futilely or fruitfully) for better prospects while simultaneously rejecting at least a portion of our obligations for the Here and Now. For the time being, I am personally more concerned about the future of our species than that of some other extraterrestrial life form. Say we do stick either the Israelis or the Palestinians on Mars. Does that really solve anything or does it just add to more animosity and resentment? I guess that what I'm trying to say is that Mars is most definitely not our Messiah, although it is certainly awe-inspiring to know that the potential for the space program is endless, as are the possibilities for the discovery of extraterrestrial life.

Name:  emily
Subject:  strange bedfellows
Date:  2004-01-21 20:46:30
Message Id:  7703
after a class discussion this afternoon in native american literature (and fritz can back me up here), i am not so sure that one story can be truly more "authentic" or "valid" than another. the phrase "getting it less wrong" has emerged, but whose standards are we judging right and wrong by? on tuesday, we were told a story of science that was pretty exclusive. i understand that for the purposes of the class and time that this perspective was chosen for the intro, but i am left wondering about all the other stories...
what i'm trying to say, i guess, is that i see no reason why the story of life beginning on the back of a turtle should be any less valid than the theory of evolution. or that we should call one constellation orion when there are probably hundreds of other names for it all across the world. so who are we to judge?
and just what makes the story of science "immortal", or cleaner than the story of religion? i do not mean to imply that i disagree or agree with any observations posted, but rather to nag with the same questions that have been nagging me.
maybe the best question should be: who am i to judge?
Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Storytelling IS Science
Date:  2004-01-21 20:59:11
Message Id:  7704

Yes, science IS story and (this will sound predictable, but I'll say it anyway): storytelling (well done) IS science. That is to say: if we acknowledge that every account is temporary (as we are temporary), that every account is unfinished (as we are unfinished), then all storytelling (like all living) is an endless predicting and testing and revising, as we ask ourselves repeatedly how useful our current accounts are for making sense of what we (and others) are observing and experiencing. I'm convinced that this process--Quakers call it "continuing revelation"--can happen in religion as well as in science.

And yes, one measure of a "good story" is that it has "a long lifetime"; but a better story does something else: it generates further stories. I got this idea from Michael Tratner: that the better stories are those with enough familiarity to be understandable, enough novelty to be surprising, and enough of both to provide a pattern for repeated variants.

I'd spoken publically about these ideas before this course began--but am already ready (you guys are GOOD!) to revise what I said there/then. Following Su-Lyn: the best stories are those which enable us to ACT. In preparation for a graduate seminar later this week on Explorations of Teaching, I'm reading Paulo Friere's Pedagogy of Freedom. Freire, the great Brazilian educator, talks about science and storytelling in just the ways we've been using the terms: as a permanent process of searching that involves what he calls "critical consciousness." Freire recognizes that the risk of establishing a genuine public sphere (like this one?) is that the outcomes of our storytelling are NOT guaranteed--AND that the point of the whole process is that it facilitates both individual and social CHANGE—i.e.: that it enables us to MOVE.

Here's the rub, I think, to Lindsay's observation that she could be more supportive of the mission to Mars if there were something to gain by it. Problem is, we CAN'T know, ahead of time, where the gains will lie. (See tomorrow's reading--Schwartz's NYTimes article--on this: we can't get there except by going there.)

And, know what? I feel well on our way, and most excellently accompanied en route. Thanks to all, and looking forward to more....

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  on having a stake
Date:  2004-01-21 21:08:56
Message Id:  7705

Oops--not quite done. One more query, stepping off again from Lindsay's question about whether "all Earthlings have a stake in the Mars exploration." What would be required--do you think it desirable?--to make this a "collective human story from which no one feels estranged?"

Name:  Lauren Friedman
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  more on truth & authenticity
Date:  2004-01-21 22:46:01
Message Id:  7706
I too was in the Native American Lit class that Emily mentioned, and with the discussion in that class of authenticity and truth, I kept coming back to our discussion on Tuesday. In the N.A. Lit class, as we debated whether stories are history and history is a story, I was reminded of Prof Grobstein's reminder to us about his lecture: he never said anything about "truth" or "evidence" -- he was just presenting different "stories." So if history and science are nothing more than the most-agreed-upon version of a story, does that make them any less valid? What is "valid" anyway?

In "A History of Strange Bounces, a Future of the Unexpected," John Schwartz addresses some events that unexpectedly shaped history. His mention of the previously-ignored bestsellers of pre-Revolutionary France ("that made a tremendous difference") made me think of this history/story debate again. Until these books were rediscovered, a version of history was being told that didn't include the books, one that perhaps -- by ignoring the books' influence -- was forced to invent reasons for why things were the way they were.

We recognize certain events -- like the exploration of Mars -- as profoundly significant in affecting the course of human history. But are there smaller events we may not acknowlege that will send our future off on a trajectory we cannot even imagine? Sometimes even the possibility of an event is enough to change things. In "Be Careful What You Look For on Mars," William Broad quotes Dr. Drake, who addresses the concern of some people that finding life on Mars would cause "a planet-wide inferiority complex." I would argue that the very possibility of that discovery -- the very fact that we are forced to acknowledge that it could occur -- makes us question our uniqueness in this universe, and puts into motion the formation of a possible "inferiority complex," even if no discovery is actually made.

I don't really have a conclusion to that posting, though I know it lacks any sort of cohesiveness or direction (sorry). I don't even know if we're supposed to be posting about these articles yet, but I had some thoughts.

On a side note, anyone who's really into this whole Mars expedition might be interested in this site, where you can download a scaled-down version of the software they're using to operate Spirit and Opportunity (the robots). Not related to this class exactly, I know.
Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Action
Date:  2004-01-22 08:37:54
Message Id:  7708
Su-Lyn wrote, "But stories don't exist purely for the telling. They provoke action. Action is necessarily constrained by our scarce resources. So perhaps this is the selective pressure acting upon stories - not the allocation of space in our minds, so to speak, but the allocation of effort, time, capital for acting on those stories." And Anne picked up on this, saying, "Following Su-Lyn: the best stories are those which enable us to ACT....AND that the point of the whole process is that it facilitates both individual and social CHANGE—i.e.: that it enables us to MOVE."

I wonder if the notion that the best stories (the only good stories?) are those that provoke movement or action...change something in ourselves that causes us to change something outside of ourselves...and turn the story wheel in the process... I wonder if this notion feels good because our culture is pro-action. Reminds me of a twist on an old saying: "Don't just do something, stand there!" Stand there and think, be. This is not enough? Maybe we already suffer from a form of universal inferiority complex , keying off Lauren's post from yesterday. What does it mean to evolve? Can we actually get our own evolution more or less wrong? Does that depend upon the stories we make that move us along?

Name:  meg
Date:  2004-01-22 12:30:41
Message Id:  7712
I think, in response to the previous posting, that stories do not have to provoke action. People have different reactions to different stories, and the reaction is based on many factors. Your life experiences, upbringing, culture, beliefs... they all contribute to how you interpret stories, and how they affect you. A story that may provoke action for one person, may not do the same for another. Even in stories that are universal, people have different interpretations and reactions. It is difficult to have one type of story that can be the "best" when there are so many different stories and so many different people. I do agree that our culture is in a constant forward progression. In my opinion people are always striving to find new stories, and this drive varies from culture to culture. But is it previous stories that drive us to change ourselves or the world around us?
Name:  Diane Scarpa
Date:  2004-01-22 13:58:35
Message Id:  7713
There seems to be a concensus that in order to be effective stories must provoke action, which concerns me. Perhaps we need to operationally define terms like "change" and "action" that are being thrown around here, or perhaps I am misinterperting what you all mean by them. However, I don't think a good story necessarily needs to bring about a change. Sometimes a mere comment on society/life/relationships etc. is enough to make a story worthwile. Reflection is, at times, sufficient. It is only after we organize imput from many different sources that we can make an educated decision to act anyway. It takes time and preparation. I find that when people become too active they tend to do things without thinking, and thats not the intent of the storytellers (I don't think!). Isn't thought, in a sense, action? It certainly should be what leads to action, although it doesn't always seem to be.
Name:  nancy
Subject:  Mars and the capitalism of storytelling
Date:  2004-01-22 14:30:20
Message Id:  7714
An interesting note: In the late 80's George Bush Sr began discussion of a manned landing on Mars scheduled for no later than the year 2019. The price tag of $400 million dollars caused enormous criticism of the project and Bush saw the possibility diminish.

According to Gregg Easterbrook, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, "Present systems for getting from Earth's surface to low-Earth orbit are so fantastically expensive that... it could only be accomplished by cutting heatlh care benefits, educations spending, or some other important programs. Or by raising taxes."

He continues "The drive to explore is part of what makes us human. Dreams must be tempered by realism, however. For the moment, going to Mars is hopelessly unrealistic."

The idea that the individuals desiring a manned exploration of Mars would attempt to make that dream a reality at the expense of large numbers of the less priveleged just re-enforces my fear that space exploration is the newest conquest for the elite.

This transfers into the discussion that has been going on about the purpose of stories. The notion that stories provoke action, and that action requires time, resources, and capital bother me a bit. The essence of a story lies in its intangibility, its availability, the fact that it is so utterly a characteristic of humanity that ties together, through shared human experience, the prince and the pauper. It seems a slippery slope towards elitism to assert that purpose of stories hinge upon allocation of resource and especially 'capital'. I dont like the idea of storytelling to be in any way exclusive. I\

Name:  su-lyn
Username:  spoon@hc
Subject:  Provoking action
Date:  2004-01-22 19:45:37
Message Id:  7716

Meg and Diane, I may have too readily given in to rhetorical flourish when I said simply that stories "provoke" action. My point, if I still remember it, was that stories inform our decisions and therefore shape our behaviors.

A somewhat extreme example may be the way in which the story of animal rights "provokes" some to switch to veganism. But I'm thinking of subtler ways of going about our daily lives. It may be that you leave your room every morning without having to worry that, upon return, you will find it has been usurped by a jealous suitemate. Or you think nothing of stepping onto a gas tank on wheels. Maybe you buy insurance. The story, in the 1st and 3rd cases, is told by the legislature that has been written into our actions. In the 2nd, it's simply that "nothing bad has happened to me yet, and the chances of it happening are slim".

Thus, tip-toeing closer to my original statement, stories provoke the choices of action that we may unconsciously make. So when Diane asks "Isn't thought, in a sense, action?", I emphatically say yes, because some thoughts become common sense so that we cannot help but act according to them.

Name:  Mary
Subject:  comforting stories
Date:  2004-01-23 19:25:47
Message Id:  7721
All this talk about action. What about stories that comfort?
On holidays, I hear my parents, aunts, uncles my sisters and brothers, and the younger children all tell stories of their life experiences. Remember the time that Georgie ran into the flag pole, or remember the party where we danced all night? There are tales of children waking up earliest to get the best choice of clothes, or the one about how Grandmom was in an orphanage when she was little and had to take a spoonful of cod liver oil every night before bed...We 3 generations all sit around, and listen and share and laugh and learn and love. Mostly, we feel good. So good that every holiday, someone always starts the tales by saying, "Grandmom tell us about the time...". She always tells a good story. And its funny, the way that some stories keep getting told, year after year and everyone listens again and again.
The story itself is an action. Stories can deepen bonds between people. They can comfort, teach, nourish. Come to think of it, religion and science do these things too.

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