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The Story of Evolution, Spring 2005
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Frolicking Through Design Space, Evolutionary Choose Your Own Adventure

Jessica Rosenberg

Jessica Rosenberg
March 4, 2005
Frolicking Through Design Space
Evolutionary Choose your Own Adventure

Immeasurably vast nothingness, freedom from time and space because neither the concepts nor the words are around. Everything is extremely boring, but boring doesn't exist, and there are no questions to answer.
a) Continue with nothingness. It seems to be working.
b) You are now the Word. Create whatever it is you'd like.
c) Random bubbling leads to a sudden, brief, improbable explosion not of matter but of space. In this Big Accident, all of the timeless nothingness explodes.

a) Continue with nothingness. It seems to be working.
More and more nothingness. Meanwhile, less and less nothingness. Because its nothingness. The End

b) You are now the Word. Create whatever it is you'd like.
As the Word, get the story started. You are with God, you are God, the nothingness behind you never even got to be nothing, because you are now the Beginning. Its not like being a person, a person can't be with God and be God like this. You are all Intent, Reason, Cause, Sayings, Tidings, Doctrine, Communication.

b1) Don't create anything. You're a solitary type of Word. The End.
b2) Create light by separating it from the darkness. By creating light and dark, you have separated the first evening from the first day. Congratulations, you have created Time! There are waters. Create an expanse to separate the waters, call this expanse Sky. You have created Space, and had a very productive second day. With your third day, gather the water in one place so that dry land is revealed. Let plants grow on your dry land. You've had a busy three days. You can:
b2i. You've made a delightful garden for yourself. Stop while you're ahead. The End

b2ii. Keep going. Use the rest of the week (a concept you came up with because all of these days were getting out of control) to create stars on the fourth day, birds for the sky and fish for the sea on the fifth day. The sixth day you really throw yourself into it. Create all of the beasts of the earth in the morning. In the afternoon, create Man in your Image. Command Man to populate the Earth and master it. You are beat. Take the next day off. Give everyone else the seventh day off, as well. It is holy.

Man follows your commandment, procreating like its his job. There are many, many more evenings and mornings. Man tells his sons how you put him there. Eventually, your Man gets together some surface area and something to stain it with, and writes down the story of how you put him there. Everyone likes this story. It is True.
People get better and better at making paper and writing things down. Stories are shared much faster. Man wants to hear more stories, and asks questions as a result of the stories.

On February 12th, 1809 a Man named Charles Darwin is born in England. In 1859, he writes down and shares a story called On the Origin of Species. He tells the story very well. People tell and retell and revise Darwin's story; they use other stories to convince people that there is truth to Darwin's story. For many people, believing in this story means that they cannot believe in you, your story, your Word or your Beginning. Though your story is still read, and many still believe it, it is no longer unquestionably True in the way it was before. This is The End for you in many ways. Though you picked B, C prevails. Time to read that story. The End.

c) Random bubbling leads to a sudden, brief, improbable explosion not of matter but of a space. In The Big Accident, all of the timeless nothingness explodes.
(You did not cause the Accident, nor were you there to see it, nothing was. You're just reading the story).

The Accident creates stuff. Something comes from nothing. As soon as there is something, it starts to fall apart. In doing so, something bumps into something, leading to Quarks, though they're not really quarks, that's just the name they are given millennia later. Quarks bumping into quarks lead to atoms. Atoms become molecules in the same way. Bumping of molecules results in mass. Eventually, someone will name all of these things the Active Inanimate.

At every given bump, something else could have happened. Every quark, atom, molecule and mass could have been something else, though once they were in existence, they became inevitable. One thing's appearance does not take away the other things.
Quarks, atoms, molecules and mass keep bumping into each other. A certain bump, no unlike the others, is unlike the others, because a prokaryotic cell happens. This is another almost as improbable Big Accident. Don't take this for granted. For example, prokaryotic cells have been bumping. Do they:
c1) bump together and stick, until they form a Six Flags Adventure Theme Park. You had previously thought that this would have been impossible, because physics didn't seem to be going in that direction, and what the hell is a theme park? But it happened, and you now have a theme park. The End.
c2) bump together and eventually eukaryotic cells are created. Eukaryotic cells do a similar bumping, resulting somehow in multi-cellular organisms. (This is all taking a lot of time. But there is nothing around that conceives of time, so no worries)
Down the line, someone classifies these prokaryotes, eukaryotes, and multi-cellular organisms as Model Builders, because they can deal with things outside of themselves, anticipating change. They can have communication, organization, choosing, purposeful behavior and cooperation, all without the internal experience of it, and without the ability to recognize or label any of those things or make anything of them. They just do it.

The model builders have, however, been reproducing themselves in interesting ways. Things are still bumping into each other, but with more force and purpose, and the things that are created from the bumping are more and more like the things that bumped. The multi-cellular organisms are sticking together with each other, forming social systems and ecological systems. They choose who to bump with baste on criteria such as fitness to bear offspring and pretty feathers.

Some of the multi-cellular organisms reproduce with each other in a way that takes them on a very special adventure. Just like the first Big Accident, there was nothing inevitable about this until it happened. Then, though it could have happened in every other way, it couldn't have, because it happened in this way. These organisms' brains get bigger and bigger, and it grows a neo-cortex.

The neo-cortex is very special. It is able to take what it sees around it, all the molecules and social systems and bumping, and create New Things. The neo-cortex can imagine, meaning it can make things that are not in front of it. One neo-cortex sees giraffes, and it sees a pack of cigarettes, and it creates a giraffe, asking someone for a cigarette, because the giraffe had a long day at work. Though no such giraffe, as far as that neo-cortex can tell, has ever done anything remotely like that, this giraffe now exists. These are stories. The neo-cortex's are Storytellers.

The storytellers use their power to create language, labels and symbols such as words, which express what they have in front of them and what they've created in a communicable way. They use language to tell their stories more clearly and quickly and to more other storytellers.

They tell story, after story, after story. The storytellers tell stories about Consciousness, Free Will, and Agency. These stories are terrifying to some of the tellers, but liberating to others.

Some of the storytellers start telling a story they call Creation. They had no way of knowing about the Accident and the quarks and such, but they know that the stories they tell must all have a beginning, and so the story of them must also have such a beginning. Creation becomes a very popular story. It calms the tellers who were frightened.

c2i) The storytellers like this story, and tell it forever and ever. On some level, the Accident might as well not have happened, because no one ever tells a story about it. You might as well have picked B. Go read it. The End.

c2ii) The storytellers tell this Creation story for a very long time. But eventually, many tiny stories are put together, and the tellers start to get a hint about the Accident. Using tools, more and more stories are gathered that agree with the story of Accident.
Some tellers are scared by the story of the Accident, still preferring Creation. Others find the Accident much more agreeable. Believing in the Accident or the Creation does not just involve those moments when they happened, either. Everything that followed after is part of story.

Even among those that believe in the Accident, there are differences of opinion about how it happened and what it means. Importantly, there are different versions of that issue of inevitability. Each step in the story preceded the last, but did it have to?
The tellers are very concerned with their next steps. Are there next steps inevitable, or are they only so after they occur? Some people like the inevitability, others want room for unpredictability in the story. No teller from either version of the story will ever be able to find what they call "empirical evidence," and prove their story True.

The very best storytellers know they'll never have any true story, because maybe on March 24, 2005, all of the giraffes will ask for cigarettes. They tell more and more stories, and the stories they tell all have Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. Except the story that is them, except for this story. It began in immeasurable nothingness, that is to say, it has no beginning, free from time and space. The words "immeasurable nothingness" are only symbols used to communicate the beginning. And their story has no end. If it ever came to and end, that is, if Everything returned to Nothing, it would be no ending at all, no storyteller would be able to tell the ending. And that return to Nothing would not be an end at all, but a Beginning.


Dennett, Daniel. Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Simon and Schuster: New York, 1996.

JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh. Jewish Publication Society: Philadelphia, 1999.

Grobstein, Paul. "The Story of Evolution: Whence Cometh Purpose/Meaning/Language/Choice/Morality/Altruism/Comfort? ... and Memes?
(or do we just forget about them?)." Serendip: Bryn Mawr College, February 14, 2005.

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