Mars Exploration Rover Mission:
This image captured by Opportunity highlights the rock outcropping.

Course Renga: "Music"

"See" the echo...?

So... what story is being told in Georgia this week?

1/31/04 Philadelphia Inquirer: "In Ga., it's evolution by any other name: The Georgia school superintendent has proposed striking the word evolution from the state's science curriculum and replacing it with the phrase biological changes over time....

Cf. Ernst Mayr, p. 8: "Evolution is change in the properties of populations of organisms over time."

[Inquirer continued:] The change... drew criticism from liberals and conservatives...."

Former (U.S.) President Jimmy Carter: "As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by...Cox's attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia's students..."

(Georgia) Rep. Bobby Franklin: "If you're teaching the concept without the word, what's the point?...It's stupid. It's like teaching gravity without using the word gravity."

So: What Does "The Word" Matter?
(See What Is Information?: Comparing Our Conceptual Maps and Investments :
Sometimes, we are using common words that have different histories and meanings for each of us. In the interest of our "not filtering each other out" over the course of this semester-long conversation, Katherine [Rowe] suggested we begin by "testing the limits of overlap" and listening carefully to our different languages....)

So: What Does It Matter, When We Organize Words Into Stories...?

"Evolution: Truth or Story?"
Our reactions to Part I (1/29-2/01/04) or,
Working Ourselves (WAY) Beyond the Binary....

Perrin: Ok, here is my issue with the discussion in Prof Dalke's discussion section: I fail to understand the concept of no absolute truth, the absence of reality, and the denial of faith in general. I don't understand how people can deny reality, because if nothing is real, then why are we here? Do we have a purpose? If not, then why should we bother being moral and kind human beings? ...I think that the denial of reality is some sort of psychological device people use to protect thems elves against the unknown or things that they might want to know.

Patty: many times we cannot accept one person's story because it violates another. It invalidates another story. Even as Grobstien and Dalke infer that they may not have to, they do! And this is of ultimate concern....Historically we kill each other over this! Literally. This just blows my mind....how silly that was. To die for one story.

Orah: i changed my mind about why we tell stories. i don't think they are for comfort...but, alas, i still listen. and would have listened even if i knew what was coming. if all i wanted was comfot then i would have walked out. why did i listen? or a better question is why did prof. grobstein tell that story?

Diane: Today was an important class for me, Paul's "story" today affected me in the same way I imagine religion affects other people.

Ro: My problem was that I counld not come up with the reason why such a knowledgeable and well-respected scientist chose to skirt this central issue for his topic....it's driving me slightly nutty...I'm now second-guessing Mayr thought by thought. I'm no longer assuming that his writing is credible and unbiased. Bummer."

Emily: The zebra storyteller wasn't fit to be tied at hearing a cat speaking his language, because he'd been thinking about that very thing.... That is the function of the storyteller.

Mary: Why do we care what we know? Why do we want the truth?

Katherine: sometimes the study of science seemed so futile. everything that I learned in class was taught as an irrefutable truth: this is what an atom looks like, this is how genetics works. yet these truths were always changing....i always wondered why i should ...learn these biological "truths" when in a few years they would probably be as out dated and disproven as the information my parents were taught. Maybe I would have been less sinical and reluctant if biology had been taught as a story... I want to briefly comment on emily's story, which I loved....in this case the story and the truth were the same.

Where I see us heading? Toward 3 claims:

1. that stories (rather than being "opposed to truth") make things that have already happened "more real"

2. that stories also help us anticipate what will happen: they bring new things into being, actually enable us to act because we have imagined the possibilities (this is Emily's "zebra storyteller")

3. that there's nothing outside of story: it's a problem, that our accounts of our observations are stories, ONLY if there is some space that exists where there are no stories...

Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club
Three Contemporary Applications

(from which these notes derive:)
traditional theory of knowledge in western philosophy has two conceptual pillars: foundationalism and dualism
foundationalism--act of knowing is making a claim to knowledge beyond any reasonable doubt:
legitimacy of any claim derives from the claims before it--
project is tracing a chain of claims back to a foundation of certainty
knowledge is a quest for certainty

dualism we owe to Descartes,
who separated inner space from the outer
there is an I, a thinking thing (mind) that he could never doubt
("I think, therefore I am")--the one place where certainty was possible

the problem of knowing was then one of correspondence,
whether our inner representations correspond to an outer reality

storytelling invites us to make sense of the world in more pragmatic terms:
by asking how well ideas work
and searching, through conversation, for a ground of agreement
re-running experiments: always open/provisional
(communities legitimate knowledge, through interaction)
the goal is to stay in meaningful conversation
(bulwark again dogmatism is diversity:
undominated discourse: equal access of all)
what is key: all knowledge is provisional
and we must (and can!) act w/out complete knowledge....

two more local observations:

Orah: been reading some william james ..."ideas ...become true just in so far as they help us to get into satisfactory relation with other parts of our experience...any idea upon which we can ride...any idea that will carry us prosperously from any one part of experience to any other part, linking things satisfactorily...is true ...instrumentally... if an idea has a function...THEN it is a truth....an idea is 'true' so long as to beleive it is profitable to our lives...." so, is evolution a pragmatic story?

Reeve: evolution is ...a good story, a compelling story... an interpretation of evidence...It has incredible complexity and extends itself infinitely into other stories and has the ability to predict future changes....if you think about the fact that there is a certain level of biological simplicity at which organisms cannot evolve to be any LESS complex, than all evolution necessarily exists as movement away from this original simplicity, directional simply because any change from this point requires additional complexity.

am ready, now, for the story to get more complex....

I have a few very specific questions from the last few chapters
don't understand independence of
anagenesis-- gradual change fr. ancestral to derived condition; and
cladogensis --splitting of lineages -> speciation

don't understand relationship between
claim in preface that evolution deals w/ phenotypes, populations, species, NOT genes
and Mayr's claim in ch. 2 that molecules evolve

but/and want to hear more....

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