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The Story of Evolution, Spring 2005 Second Web Papers On Serendip

My Story Evolving

Tonda Shimbo

In a world of so many religions, and an increasing knowledge of the scientific and natural world around us, I find myself hard-pressed to re-assess my former outlooks on the world. It is difficult to be a Christian in this day and age though much more difficult to be anything else. There is so much hatred based on our ideologies on the stories we tell and the stories we believe. I find myself constantly revising my story incorporating new memes and rejecting old ones that had long been included. I can't seem to hold on to any particular story for very long. My story is one that is evolving via our culture. Our culture, which is so scientifically based, so intent on identifying right and wrong, so quick to point a finger at foreign or unknown memes, is a steady influence on my story, both positively and negatively.

The fact that my story has changed so drastically in so short a time shows just how fast cultural evolution can take place within an individual. All it takes is exposure to a new idea a new meme and there is yet another concept that must be worked into our story in order to avoid the ever-stressful dissonance which would occur in the back of our minds. My story challenges the idea of complete individual creativity it accepts that individuals can be creative, but argues that all ideas come from the memes we've absorbed throughout our lives, throughout our daily adventures, many of which we've no doubt forgotten even exist. And my story also attempts to do what many say is impossible to bridge and cross the gap between science and religion. My story may not be unique, but it is mine to alter as I need.

Storytelling is a result of two things experience, and a need to understand. In the beginning, people told stories to rationalize everything fire, love and drought to name a few. Gods and goddesses were told of, spirits created to explain natural forces, and stories were born from human curiosity and creativity. Humans have the amazing capacity to think beyond what has already been experienced we can come up with stories about other planets, other cultures, about future times, past times, even other dimensions. But as our knowledge about the world around us increases, our drive to tell stories decreases. We are very gradually losing our storytelling abilities to scientific text and machines run by algorithms giving us the facts we now desire. Darwin's idea was (and still is) a "universal acid," as Dennett claims, uprooting all of our beliefs about the world and forcing a new picture at us. Though this new idea creates more stories with its very existence, it drastically decreases the number which can now be told. I challenge you to imagine a time where our stories will no longer matter. Where the goings on of daily life will all be explained by human or perhaps even machine produced algorithms, and even our own emotional human reactions will no longer perplex us. I challenge you to imagine the end of storytelling.

I always picture it being dark and gray smoky skies from hundreds of thousands of years of human pollution and waste. But perhaps it is a sunny day. The beautifully engineered flowers are in full bloom, and the carefully monitored sun is near the peak in its daily course. Children gather around a large screen, with strikingly realistic animation telling the world's last story:

The war was nearly over thousands of years of research, and scientists fighting over which was the best way to go about the project's completion had almost finished. Scientists had finally caught up on all of the research. Diseases, which had not too long ago been an incredible rarity, were now completely extinct. All animals had been catalogued, and all new possibilities logged into a machine through algorithmic processes, entering in each chromosome and then carefully observing the species with special mechanic devices throughout their life-spans, which would log everything else into the machines. The only thing left to do was exchange research with the other scientists which had been the issue sparking the fiery intellectual war. There were very few countries remaining, and what were held very little resemblance to what we know of now as countries. Language and culture had been unified as much as possible so as to avoid conflict at all costs, and it was within these entities that the last bits of unknown information were held.

The problem soon became evident. If scientists traded off their last bits of unknown filling in those very last few holes in the story there would be no more storytelling. Stories would still be told, but the human mind, after so many years, had told every possible story, and explored every possible creative space, and slowly, through the invasion of knowledge through science, proven almost all of them impossible, and so any stories told after this event would simply be re-tellings; with no new creativity. Scientists and philosophers realized that these last bits of information would completely end all storytelling, for all knowledge would be in existence, and human curiosity would cease to exist. And so the war began. Many believed that all should have access to the knowledge, so strongly that they gave their lives to ensure this right. Others believed that had long ago been in our nature as humans to tell stories, and to enjoy hearing them, and learning from them, and so we should continue this rapidly vanishing tradition of the human culture. Others still just wanted some answers. This last human conflict was fought to no beautiful ending, knowledge intact in the newly completed story, and humans could now go on living their lives joyfully, with the knowledge that no harm could become them.

Humans had, in effect, become very machine-like, working under the strict constraints algorithms, and leading very predictable lives. No new stories were told - this last story quietly depicted an end to an era of human creativity, of humanity itself, in many aspects. How far should we take this quest to know all? Is it necessary to know absolutely everything there is to know? Or can we ever be content knowing that we are blissfully ignorant of at least some things.

References

1) Dennett, Daniel C. Darwin's Dangerous Idea. New York, New York: Touchstone, 1996 2) Mayr, Ernst. What Evolution Is. New York, New York: Basic Books, 2001


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