This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.

Contribute Thoughts | Search Serendip for Other Papers | Serendip Home Page

Story of Evolution, Evolution of Stories
Bryn Mawr College, Spring 2004
First Web Paper
On Serendip

The Myths Created by Stories

Erin Daly

_¡°Life as it now exists on Earth, including the simplest bacteria, was obviously derived from a single origin (Mayr, 40).¡± This idea of a ¡°single origin¡± has been the instigating factor for the split and ongoing battle between the creationists and the evolutionists, between those who believe God created mankind, and those who believe in the pure science of evolution. It is as if believing in a single source will validate either one of the schools of thought; superiority will come when one side finally convinces the other side of their argument.
_I was raised Catholic. I do not remember being told any sort of evolution story. Whether this was a purposeful exclusion or a matter of forgetfulness is to be determined. I learned that in seven days God created the earth and made man. That was the story presented, and it seemed reasonable. As I grew up, it seemed more like the story of Santa Clause or the tooth fairy, something that was told to me, something I took to heart, and was years later informed of its falsity, all as a matter of forcing me into a sense of maturity. Third graders could not believe in Santa Clause. I held onto the myth because it felt good, and I received presents, and no one can argue with the positive of receiving presents.
_Eventually, maturity replaces the myth, and we move forward. Forgetting the stories of our childhood, or at least revising them, leads us to a forward motion, to a more adult way of being. I suppose this is what happened with my religious beliefs. I am revising them to adapt to my newfound adult way of being. To believe without fully understanding is not to completely believe, and trying to understand evolution as it is presented is difficult with the implication that it may be just another myth I will later have to come to terms with and revise. The idea of understanding is an on-going process, as the story of evolution is also an on-going process. Stories are meant to be revised. They are also meant to have a beginning, middle, and an end. The story of evolution conflicts with the concept of storytelling, of writing stories, yet it is still a story that has survived and will continue to survive.
_It appeals because it does not have an end. It will not until life itself ceases to exist. Our concept of time invites us to enjoy evolution without the concept of it having an ending significant to our life span. I want to explore this idea of evolution as a story with no end by specifically citing the example of the chimpanzees. I was embracing the notion earlier that the chimpanzees will evolve further, and as I considered this more, it became an object of apprehension. ¡°If the chimpanzee is allowed to continue living he, too, might suddenly produce a race of chimp super brains and evolve an entirely new tool-culture (Goodall, 241).¡± I was trying to imagine this race of chimp super brains.
_Our culture has already imagined it. In the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, chimps can talk and civilization as we know it is endangered. The chimps are portrayed as violent creatures that are bestowing revenge upon the humans for all the savage treatment the humans had bestowed upon them. This same story was re-told in a 2001 production of Planet of the Apes. This must mean that there is some fascination on the subject. I have not seen either of the two movies, but they are categorized as science fiction, which means ultimately they sacrifice a portion of credibility simply by the nature of their narratives. The statement Goodall makes is interesting because of its rhetoric. It insinuates that there is a possibility for the chimpanzee to stop living; she states, ¡°If the chimpanzee is allowed to continue living,¡± but whom does she suggest will bring the life of the chimpanzee to a halt? It comes back to this idea of a ¡°single origin¡± which we use to make sense of our chaos, to make meaning of our existence.
_An interpretation of this statement could result in one of two possibilities: 1) that there is indeed a God who determines our existence and our extinction, and that the elements of evolution will eventually lead to an elimination of the chimpanzee as a species or 2) that humans will be responsible for the extinction of the chimpanzees because of our need to dominate (Mayr, 2001). The Planet of the Apes illustrates an envisioning of a violent ordeal between the apes and the humans; they fight for dominance. Is this a consensus? That if we were reduced to sharing superiority with the chimpanzees, it would become violent, and only one species could inevitably be on the top of the heap? Is it difficult for us to abandon this idea that our culture is the better one, the one that has accomplished more, achieved more, and will be exclusively in control of the environment? Or is this just a myth that needs revision? There is another thought to the theory that creating the narrative of evolution instinctively establishes distrust, an opinion that it could be a dischargeable myth. It is the GStudent Contributor hypothesis, which is described as ¡°Earth¡¯s inanimate and living worlds together form a well-balanced and programmed system (Mayr, 42).¡± The world we live in is full of conflicts and contradictions, causes and effects.
I view this in the details of how we exist together. If two skinny people are sitting on a bed and another overweight person jumps on the bed, the two skinny people will be lifted off the bed and will bounce. If one person runs a red light, another car will suffer the consequences. If a light bulb is left on for weeks, it will burn out.
_These are things that cannot be argued; they are physical occurrences that occur because something has happened to make them occur. This is how I interpret the story of the GStudent Contributor hypothesis. If a person punches someone else, that someone else will experience pain. These cause/effect actions lie at the basis of life, but the question remains: what is the original source of all things? If there has to be an inherent ¡°because¡± to every action, then what caused life? The GStudent Contributor hypothesis, put into perspective with the case of the chimpanzees, shows there is potential for a direct cause/effect state of living between the chimpanzees and the humans. One day, the ¡°inanimate and living worlds¡± which are ¡°well-programmed¡± will become programmed in such a way that the accepted nature of our culture, society and civilization will be challenged, perhaps in order to have a new order of species which dominates, perhaps with new concepts of what it means to be civilized. It is the obsession with the mysterious concept of a ¡°single origin¡± that presents us with the dilemma of the singularity of our world. Instead of thinking in terms of cause/effect, instead of thinking within in a framework of being in a ¡°well-programmed system¡± which is affected by our simplest of actions, we think in terms of how it happened and who made it happen and we argue about which one is the better myth.

Goodall, Jane. In the Shadow of Man. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, MA. 1971.
Mayr, Ernst. What Evolution is. Basic Books. New York, NY. 2001.

| Course Home Page | Forum | Science in Culture | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 10:51:51 CDT