Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: hearing things
Date: Fri Sep 22 16:55:45 EDT 2000
I'm not entirely sure what you all got out of our class session today ... but I heard myself saying something I've never heard myself say/thought of before. One point, of course, is that there are indeed "natural categories" in the diversity which is our living system. And another is that the idea of "clumpiness", that groups of things which are like each other are separated (like galaxies) by empty spaces which might be occupied by "conceivable" things, but aren't. I've said things more or less like those two things before (though the analogy to galaxies is new and helps to clarify the image of "clumpiness" for me). What was really new though was the thought that the reason why many people have trouble learning/remembering the criteria for systematic categories is that they seem "arbitrary" or "dull", which is to say they don't themselves "make any sense"; they don't have any particular pattern to them and so aren't either very interesting or easy to remember. Now THAT is interesting. To me at least. And I'll try and explain why on Monday (or, of course, you can try and guess what's on my mind. For a hint, see the notes on similarities between science and life which I added one day last week).
In the meanwhile, I've moved last week's forum comments to their own file. And your assignment for the weekend is to think about what would give rise to the observed patterns in the diversity of life: clusters of similar organisms with spaces between them, the clusters themselves being made up of clusters of similar organisms with spaces between them, and those in turn ... etc. With, from the above, a notable arbitrariness in what defines the clusters? If you have some ideas, you can write about them. But you're free, of course, to write instead about anything else that struck you as interesting this week.
Subject: natural attraction
Date: Sat Sep 23 12:45:20 EDT 2000
Last week Professor Grobstein asked about why we want to classify things into groups. And we learned that there are ways, that we can see (with and without a microscope), by which things naturally divide themselves into groups by way of common characteristics. We also saw that these groups “clump” into patterns with space between patterns. We also learned that there are spaces in between these clumps. And that as we gain perspective we realize that what makes patterns into patterns are the spaces in between .
Consequently, I’ve been thinking about patterns; especially the repeating patterns of “clumpiness” that are found in and as parts of us; and that are all around us. I’m fascinated by the ways we and other living organisms are drawn to these patterns. I’m thinking about things such as the myriad of representations of the Fibonacci sequence and the ways in which the same shapes appear over and over again in the patterns displayed by plants and animals that invite reproductive activity.
Someone last week also asked if our classifications are merely social constructs. I don’t think we are smart enough or original enough to “construct” such patterns. They are biologically ingrained within us and we (and other forms of life) can’t help but to seek them out, be attracted to them, to recognize them and to want to recreate them; be it through our art forms or by way of organizing categories for the purpose of classification.
Date: Sat Sep 23 12:57:06 EDT 2000
Sorry folks, not only am I wont to ramble on (perhaps incoherently) I also often type wrong keys. I therefore apologize for and admit to being the “postee” with only the letter d typed as an email address. If there are other klutzes like me, be forewarned that hitting enter (accidentally or otherwise) will immediately post whatever has been typed thus far.
Date: Sun Sep 24 23:24:15 EDT 2000
First off, I must say I enjoy this term we are using: "clumping", or
"clumpiness". Our categorizations, I believe, come from our innate biases
when noticing things and the differences between them. The desire for
organizing living things, I believe, is cultural. For some reason we have
this desire to put everything in order: our society, government, language,
etc. And now we must venture into nature and attempt to organize there.
Albeit, I can see the fun in organizing and classifying. It's almost like
a "matching" game. What goes where and why, what do you see that
Subject: RE: catagories
Date: Mon Sep 25 18:52:39 EDT 2000
Following Joan's line of thought, I think that the desire to catagorize all aspects of life on Earth seems like an innate characteristic of human beings too. If things didn't have a place - a category - to fit into, we might assume a state of chaos. Therefore it is important to keep things organized. I think it is important to remember, however, that this is not always such a good approach, and in a lot of respects, we humans have taking this need to catagorize a little too far. And certainly, as time has passed and we have evolved, the categories have become more and more complex, as we discussed in class. And it only seems natural that evolution would proceed in this way because we are constantly learning more about the world and ourselves. And, as time has progressed, we are also finding that we humans have the ability to create/invent and thus add more things to the process of evolution, that in turn need to be organized and categorized to fit into the grander scheme of things...
Date: Tue Sep 26 13:15:26 EDT 2000
I think that the way we categorize life contains both elements that are socially constructed and elements that are natural. But my question is- why is the diversity of life clustered or "clumped" the way it is? Why is it that we are able to imagine a multitude of things that do not exist (or at least as far as we know)? And what are the implications of this towards life on other planets? In other words, will the diversity of life on other planets exist within the same clusters that exist on our planet? Are the things that we are able to imagine but do no exist on this planet things that actually DO exist on other planets?
Name: Sarah Naimzadeh
Date: Tue Sep 26 14:00:33 EDT 2000
It seems to me that the best explanation for clumpiness was given in class, that although we can imagine new things, they may not work. We can imagine a lot of things that may not function in our world. I think that the things that we can imagine do exist somewhere,but somewhere that they are most functional.
Name: Sonam Tamang and Katie Kennedy
Date: Tue Sep 26 14:49:34 EDT 2000
First we prepared a slide with a few drops of microspheres. We identified three different sizes of the microspheres (2um, 4um, and 8um). We looked at each different size of microsphere for a period of five minutes and recorded the microspheres' movement at one minute intervals in order to test the hypothesis that that the microsphere with the least amount of mass will travel further than a microsphere of a greater amount of mass.
Our results were that the 2um microsphere moved a total of 5 reticle units, the 4um microphere traveled a total of 1 reticle unit, and the 8um microsphere moved a total of 2.5 reticle units.
Our individual results did not match the average results of the class which were for the 2um microsphere - 5.4um, for the 4um microsphere - 4.5um, and for the 8um microsphere - 3.6um.
Date: Tue Sep 26 18:39:50 EDT 2000
I think we define "clusters" and categorize things according to our experiences. This can be seen in the diagram we've been creating on
the board over the past few days, as well as in our experiences with people we consider different from ourselves. We often go by
superficial details, such as appearance, and we rely on such characteristics to make judgements or assumptions about things, grouping or
associating them with each other in our minds. Perhaps, this is why the criteria for systematic categories don't make any sense to us-
because we have already established such groups through our observations and interactions and have assigned meaning or value to them.
Maybe the observed patterns in the diversity of life are groupings limited by our initial observations, because it is in human nature to compare
and contrast. Maybe we want to see similarities between some things and we don't want to see them between others. After all, who would
want to be compared to bacteria or to bugs or to some other "lower" forms of life, according to the diagram constructed in class?
Subject: Smart alec...
Date: Wed Sep 27 01:25:35 EDT 2000
that I am I made a comment to Jeff that i thought the controversy over new the creation of new categories (domains/kingdoms) for the minutae of this world was just a case of scientists failing to see the forest through the trees. Why, I asked, focus so much energy on the distinctions between bacteria, when the distinctions between human beings are so much more interesting. Why aren't scientists looking for some keen classifications that differentiate and help us make sense of the diversity of human kind. Well perhaps I am naive (or, okay, stupid),but in thinking about, i think the technical term is "clumpiness," I realize that higher order (more complex) organisms resist clumping. That even something that may seem like a natural category, like, race or gender do not work, because in the same way size was an unsatisfactory method for classification, humans range along a continuum, resisting discrete categorization. Am I on to something here, or do I need to start getting to bed much earlier?
Date: Wed Sep 27 17:25:20 EDT 2000
In response to Jakki's comments, I would first say that "interesting" is a subjective term - I'm sure the biologists who study bacteria find something interesting about them. Also, from a scientific standpoint, the human race has already been "clumped." A woman is not a different species than a man (even if it sometimes feels that way). Yes, the human race is diverse, but the structure of our bodies is so essentially the same that we all are one group.
Also, going back to Joan's comment about the "cultural" need to categorize things - I believe that this need to categorize arises from survival instincts. In the very beginnings, when humans were more on a level with animals (ie, no machine guns), they needed to be able to identify what was dangerous and what was not. Let's use "Bob" and "Tim" as examples. Bob does not categorize things. One day, Bob is walking along through the steamy jungle and sees a large, brown, sharp-toothed creature eating another human. He continues along into a very nice looking cave, where he sees a similar-looking creature. However, since every creature is essentially new to him, he does not recognize that it could be dangerous and is subsequently eaten when he sits down and makes himself comfortable. Tim, however, categorizes things. He also sees this large, brown, sharp-toothed creature eating a human (he and Bob were from the same neighborhood). He also sees this very attractive cave, and, venturing in, sees the same sort of creature (it had already finished the Bob-snack, so there was no obvious evidence that it wasn't a good idea to hang around the cave). Tim, however, makes the logical connection that if one such creature liked to eat humans, then another creature that looks pretty much the same also likes to eat humans. Tim gets the hell out of there and packs up his wife, children, and golf clubs to look for a better neighborhood. Thus, humans initially survived by categorizing animals, and it grew into a sort of instinct that turned out to be pretty useful in the long run. By shaping the world around us into some sort of semi-organized place, we can understand better what things are or why something happens if we can see similarities and differences. This is what science is all about.
Name: Katie Kennedy
Date: Thu Sep 28 02:45:14 EDT 2000
I have to agree with what Katie is saying about categorizing things "is what science is all about." Granted I think in many ways when we group general types of life together we find more generalizations about the group than we find more exact details. But in gerneralizing I think we learn a lot more and gain a better grasp of the big picture than we do when we analyze just one subject at a time. In generalizing we are able to see similarities and differences on a much bigger scale than we can by blindly comparing two random types of life. We can learn a lot when we analyze the differences between mammals and reptiles, but the connection (or lack there of) between bacteria and a blue whale is much more difficult to decipher.
Name: Srabonti Ali
Date: Thu Sep 28 13:00:04 EDT 2000
i think that we define things by categorizing them into groups because this is how we deal with our own differences as human beings. instead of focusing on the similarities that we have as human beings, we tend to always look at our differences whether they be physical, cultural, religious or anything else. this is how we cope with being in a world full of people who arent exactly the same as us. we are threatened by anything which is remotely different from us and need to feel a sense of belonging and same-ness (is that a word?) with people around us. so we isolate the people who dont fit our carved-in-stone definition of who we are supposed to be and regard them as the "other." i know i probably strayed from the topic A LOT so sorry but i just wanted to put my two cents in.
Subject: one of these things is not like the other
Date: Thu Sep 28 16:06:07 EDT 2000
we all seem sort of stuck on this idea of quantifying the differences between organisms. here's a thought on the similarity of organisms: we all share a lot of common dna. i even tried to look for the numbers in the book, but came up short, but the general idea is that something like 1% of our dna actually codes for proteins that make us unique and different. the rest of the stuff hanging out in all our cells is like the dna that the other species have, too.on a totally unrelated topic, i'm missing a blue folder with notes from a bunch of my different classes. i last remember having it in this class on friday. if any of you happened to see it or pick it up, i'd really, really like to find it. thanks.
Date: Thu Sep 28 17:08:04 EDT 2000
While cultural needs to "clump" things does affect the way we clump nature, I think that nature is clumped because of natural processes such as evolution. However, I must agree with previous posters that say how science is all about clumping. There must be a reason why some organisms seem a lot like some organisms and completely different from others. Science's need to clump organisms into groups helps to look at the big picture of organisms to understand their differences.
Name: Promise Partner
Subject: group vs. individual
Date: Thu Sep 28 21:40:34 EDT 2000
Though categorizing life seems at first to be on a linear scale, another perspective can allow us to see our tendency to group as more cyclical.
At first scientists pay attention to the details of an organism to be able to match it up to the specifics of other organisms. At a certain point the number of things in a like group becomes large enough to validate a generalized label. Then the scientists go back to details to separate the group into smaller groups and to further understand what makes organisms sharing a title both different and similar. They may once again return to generalizing to recheck the original label and then back to focusing on details.
I tend to see this as the same way humans label each other in social contexts. At times we observe and judge individuals by their specific characteristics and at other times we group others and ourselves into categories despite our distinctions. There are purposes and benefits to viewing the world in both ways and both are necessary, in the discipline of science and in general.
Name: allison h-c
Subject: clumpiness and categorizing
Date: Fri Sep 29 01:45:09 EDT 2000
I agree that the clumpiness (I love that word) of the many
species that make up life on earth is a "naturally" occurring phenomenon.
There are definite spaces between the clumps. (Although, who is to say that
these spaces could not be filled by species from other planets -- if they
exist) The clumps are not just categories derived from a social or cultural
need to "clump."
However, I thought what Jeanne brought up about the similarity of
organisms was very interesting and it ties into what people were discussing
in the beginning of the week on patterns. Science is about
categorizing species into different clumps so that we can understand them
better, but also it is about patterns that can be traced through the
clumps. And, to bring up an old topic, perhaps these threads that we can
trace through -- like the DNA that Jeanne talked about, or the makeup of
our cells -- are what we could or should use as indicators
Name: allison h-c
Date: Fri Sep 29 01:47:36 EDT 2000
indicators of life, that is... (I too learned the lesson not to hit enter)
Subject: social constructions vs. evolution
Date: Fri Sep 29 02:22:51 EDT 2000
I think in our discussion of clumpiness we have two distinct topics. One
is the social construction of a hierarchical system that classifies
animals, plants, and pretty much everything into groups. We can argue left
and right over the social need to clump things--whether or not it is valid
or PC, whether or not it is right to put humans on a "higher" scale than
animals, etc...... Then we have clumpiness that just exists in nature.
It is, well, I guess i can't say fact since we never know anything for sure
in science, but it is generally accepted that some species are more like
some other species and so on, as shown by Darwin, evolution, and many other
things. Take 5 organisms: a bear, a dog, a tree, a flower, a fish. There
is no denying that a dog is more like, or "clumps with" the bear more than
it clumps with the flower. Also, there is no denying that a greater gap
exists between the tree and the bear than the bear and the dog--or even the
fish. That's clumping, plain and simple, with no real social constructions
that I can see. It simply forms out of evolution, out of processes like
natural selection and geographic isolation. And I don't see any problem
with it. Its kind of nice to think that, a long time ago, humans and other
primates all developed out of a common ancester. It makes everything seem
a whole lot mor
Subject: last sentence
Date: Fri Sep 29 02:26:25 EDT 2000
a whole lot more....... interconnected.
(my comment got cut off for some reason)
Name: Rachel Hochberg
Subject: more clumpiness
Date: Fri Sep 29 10:41:45 EDT 2000
I agree with most of the comments on this subject; I think that there definitely is a "natural clumpiness" which distinguishes living organisms from one another. I also think that this clumpiness happened because the organizms which fill the spaces haven't evolved yet, simply because there's no ideal environment on earth that I can think of where, say, a troutflower would grow and thrive. However, I think that all of the argument that goes on in scientific circles as to which system of classification is best is utterly pointless; it doesn't really matter which one we use, because as science advances, the system may need to be changed anyway. It may seem like strange mutations only happen in movies and cartoons, but it's possible that in twenty years there may be mutated people walking around along with everyone else. That would definitely change the classification system. Another possibility is the discovery of life on another planet. It doesn't have to be life in the sense of Vulcans or anything, it could just be an alien bacteria that doesn't fit into any of our categories. Thus the inherent clumpiness of diversity would still be present, but the scientific classification of those clumps will constantly change.
Name: Katie Kaczmarek
Subject: "lower" life
Date: Fri Sep 29 16:50:47 EDT 2000
I especially liked the comments in class Friday on whether or not we can characterize life as being "good", and that from the standpoint of life, good=survival. Because of this, bacteria are just as good as humans, etc. etc. Someone made an earlier comment about not wanting to be clumped with "lower" organisms like bacteria. Although we may view bacteria as being lower, millions of humans die every year from bacteria-related illness. True, we can come up with antibiotics, but the bacteria can adapt to them just as fast as we make them. So in that perspective, are humans really that much higher, if the simplest organism on earth can kill us?
Name: Jill McCain
Subject: the "good" life
Date: Sat Sep 30 14:27:52 EDT 2000
in regards to the previous entry, i was thinking about how much we humans try to defy (unhampered) evolution. we're trying so hard to ensure our continued existence that i wonder how much we're screwing up the evolutionary cycle. theeoretically we could mess with it so much that we wouldn't necessarily picked the things most adapted to our environment. there's been a study circulatingthe newspapers in the last year about how kids that grow up with a lot of exposure to germs (i.e. on farms, in rural areas) tend to have stronger immune systems. there's a book called "the coming plague" that talks about how we're due a serious plague. we contribute to it's likeliness by using all these anti-bacterial soaps that kill lots of bacteria, but also make them mutate in order to survive as a species. we consequently get stronger and more types that we spend moremoney on trying to kill. so are we staving off death only to invite extinction? it's a little extreme, but i wonder in long run what all this means for the human race.
Subject: Evolution on other planets
Date: Sun Oct 1 17:02:39 EDT 2000
Name: Trudell Smith
Subject: Evolution on other planets
Date: Sun Oct 1 17:11:05 EDT 2000
Do anybody believe that aliens abduct humans? It could be possible if our forms of life are different from theirs. If we had the devices and technology, I would aduct organisms on other plants. If I land on Europa and I saw "life" there, I would definitely take it back to earth and examine it.
Subject: change is good
Date: Sun Oct 1 21:12:08 EDT 2000
to continue jill's thought: a lot of people are also concerned about how easily species (both plant and animal) can spread nowadays. seeds are accidentally carried across oceans on the soles of our shoes or in the ballast of a ship, or a frog takes over australia when brought in the pocket of a little boy. the result is a big move for "native" species to be restored. but what species are "supposed" to be there? humans weren't native to north america 600,000 years ago, but we're not trying to get rid of them along with crazy vines and norway rats. some say pre-columbian, others try to preserve the plants and animals of their memory.... you can see where the confusion sets in. anyway, i also wonder what effect all this has on evolution -- we're changing the habitats of species by introducing new organisms to them, which changes their (and their offsprings') chances of survival, which changes their evolutionary course. all of which seems to be leading to a dramatic loss of biodiversity. and we decided that diversity is essential to life. this can't be a good thing, now, can it?
Name: jabeen obaray
Subject: alien abduction
Date: Sun Oct 1 22:10:47 EDT 2000
as a comment to trudell's question about aliens abducting humans...so then we are suggesting that the "other" life which is doing the abducting of humans is superior to humans?...otherwise would we not have "found" them, and the humans they've abducted, somewhere out there in our own continuous exploration? it is true that we should take a good look at it in this way: if we were to find life on another planet, would it be "right" for us to take it back with us to examine it? but by that token, wouldn't it then be "right" for another life form to take a human in order to further their exploration?
Name: Melissa Donimirski
Date: Mon Oct 2 14:51:40 EDT 2000
It seems to me that we are looking at 'clumpiness' in a sort of one-sided fashion. That is, I can definitely see that things can be categorized in acertain fashion, but it seems to me that there can be many different methods of categorization. For instance, let's say we decide to categorize based on numbers of cells, placing single celled and multi-cellular organisms in different categories. Then we would find humans and reptiles and trees all in one category, but we decided that these things should not be categorized together in class. It seems that there are many methods of categorization, and so this 'clumpiness' is a many-layered phenomenom...meaning that there aren't spaces inbetween the clumps.
Name: Debbie Plotnick
Subject: Judgments and science
Date: Mon Oct 2 21:07:59 EDT 2000
Today after a discussion with my 13 year old son about an op-ed piece by an Eagle Scout who joined the ranks of those who have returned their badges to the Boy Scouts, I employed a method, which may not be open to all parents, to get the kid to tell me something about his school day: I told him something about mine. I related Dr. Grobstein’s admission that science has historically been used to justify and foster oppression, especially with regard to gender and race. And then my son and I discussed some possible ways that science can also be used in the opposite manner, to end discrimination; and thus will likely be employed to discredit the Boy Scout’s position.
But the bulk of the conversation centered on Dr. Grobstein’s position that no species that has proved itself by evolutionary means is better than any other that has done so. And then we both offered examples of some of the ways in which even when things are scientifically verifiable, because they often stem from erroneous assumptions, the assumptions are problematic because they are judgmental. Some examples that we talked about included the position that males are superior because in almost all species the males are “stronger” than the females; and conversely, the assertion that because females gestate, give birth and nurture young they are superior. But when I stated for my son, my equally ridiculous thesis (based on this type of utilization of science) that ants must be the most superior creatures on the earth because they are the strongest based on relative body weight, he accurately summed up what I took to be the most important thing that I thought about in school today. “The science may be absolutely correct but the scientist might be totally wrong.”
Name: Jakki Rowlett
Subject: I am really trying
Date: Tue Oct 3 00:13:52 EDT 2000
to NOT be resistant to this stuff, but the idea of "natural" categories realy does bother me, and not for the reasons that allison and jess suggest (PCness, etc.), my argument is with the acceptance of methods of classification, as I tried to assert in my last post, and which Melissa brings up again in her post. Nature does not create clumpiness, human observations create it. It is unavoidably a social or cultural construct - the culture is the scientific community that has decided on the methods of classification and have accepted certain methods as being the road to truth (or, less wrongness), and have made further sets of observations based on their acceptance of existing methods. That the categories are being debated at the level of kingdom and domain and that there are some organisms that don't exactly fit into the categories as established is enough reason for me to have some doubt.
Name: Sarah Naimzadeh
Subject: life is clumpy
Date: Tue Oct 3 10:02:46 EDT 2000
I agree with both Jakki and Melissa's comments - that there really aren't spaces in between the clumps, we just haven't the organisms that fill them yet. I think that the things in the spaces do exist, maybe not on this planet but somewhere.
On another note, I was thinking about our equality with simpler organisms and I wonder if it matters to Life, that we are a destructive species. Sure, we are still here and so we are on equal footing with the single celled organisms but look what we have done to other life forms in our path, removing rainforests, using a disproportionate amount of natural resources, etc. Does this not matter to Life? Just a thought.
Name: Melissa Donimirski
Date: Tue Oct 3 10:25:23 EDT 2000
It seems to me that there are many different, legitimate ways of categorizing things, and if we take many different methods, they will overlap one another leaving no "spaces" at all. For instance, say we decide to categorize based on cellular structure - single versus multi-celled organisms. Then, many of the items we had separated on the board would be grouped together - the tree and the human and the reptile, for instance; items which would/could be grouped separately in another system.
Name: Melissa Donimirski
Date: Tue Oct 3 10:27:49 EDT 2000
I posted the same thing twice - sometimes my browser loads my comments up and sometimes it doesn't...and then I got worried that I got lost in cyberspace. Please ignore my doubled-comments...
Name: Katie Kaczmarek
Subject: forgot to add this on my last comment
Date: Tue Oct 3 15:54:35 EDT 2000
I came across this quote the other day that spurs a lot of interesting thoughts:
"It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value."-Arthur C. Clarke
This could be why there are so few "intelligent" species in the world...maybe in the grand scheme of things, intelligence, and hence humans, don't work.
Date: Wed Oct 4 01:49:57 EDT 2000
Hm - In response to Katie's comment - it worked once! We're here! *waves at all*
In response to Jakki's comment though - Sociology is the study of human social relations. I think that's as far as I want to go in making a biological study of humanity. It's too easy for someone like Broca, author of "The Bell Curve," to reinterpret such biological distinctions as definitive implicators of inferiority or superiority.
I want to once again register a textbook complaint. I keep trying to read it and find myself unable to focus on the words. This is odd for an English major, but then again, fiction and political writers rarely introduce new vocabulary EVERY SENTENCE and expect one to immediately grasp it. Unless I keep going back to the glossary every other second, I go nuts.
One other comment - I don't want to forget about what I came up with in class the other day. Isn't a form of life complex enough - improbably assembled enough - in essence random to all intents and purposes? Given that, is randomness itself evidence enough for lifelessness? Can we trust improbable assembly since, at its most improbable, it does not resemble improbability?
Date: Wed Oct 4 09:36:34 EDT 2000
Joe stop doing that or I'll put you in a CATEGORY with the text-book people!!
Date: Wed Oct 4 20:22:57 EDT 2000
for the vote of support Sarah, but I really wasn't trying to say that there isn't clumpiness - there is, in the way that scientists have categorized things, by virtue of what they deemed to be important (or obvious, or facile, or whatever)distinctions. I am merely pointing (as I think Melissa is, as well) out that the methods of categorizing can't possibly be, to my way of thinking, "natural," because a category by its very nature is a construction, and a value judgement is required to determine what distinctions qualify or disqualify an organism from inclusion in a category.
Joe - RE: the text - Yup. Mine is broken, too. Re: Highly random highly improbable,improbable assemblies: Said it in class and I'll say it again: GOOD ONE. that is a real poser.
What could the answer be?
As far as Broca - well, yeah he's an ass. But, my whole point is kinda, what if, maybe instead of trying to find and make discrete distinctions as a way of making sense of things, instead of deciding what will handily constitute a category, rather look for a continuum; applaud the fact that categories often fail (or, at least acknowledge that they are human constructs and therefore fallible). Prof G. kind of implies that pure science is somehow above the accusation of making value judgements because it isn't declaring a thing's superiority or inferiority. But there are other choices scientists make about the way one looks for things (or, chooses not to look for things) either consciously or unconsciously. I'm not saying right or wrong, here, just different. I can't help but wonder what kind of different sense we could make out of science/life in avoiding categories. And, I admit I don't yet have the weapons at hand for that kind of a revolution. So, I am just going to try to shaddup n learn somethin (emphasis on TRY;)
Subject: Periodic Table
Date: Thu Oct 5 17:55:30 EDT 2000
I just wanted to comment about Wednesday's class and its focus on biochemistry, which I (surprisingly) found enjoyable :)
I think it's a lot easier to look at the periodic table, than living organisms, for categorizing things. (It's funny that it makes so much more sense now than it did in high school.) I think it may be easier to understand because of the visual representation of the different elements in the form of a table. However elements are also more abstract than actual living organisms. Maybe it's because we are so caught up with the visual perceptions that we have of living organisms that we can't seem to think of natural categories- there are so many different characteristics that would apply. Whereas with elements, there isn't much visual representation to look at- we can only depend on a model to help get a grasp of the concept.
Subject: various responses
Date: Fri Oct 6 00:20:50 EDT 2000
#1 I, too, enjoyed wednesday's focus on biochemistry. I have never
looked upon the periodic table as both a compilation of an incredible
amount of highly complicated information as well as a well-organized, even
simple, chart of this information. Also, though in the shadows of
"clumpiness", grabbiness is a fine word.
#2 Secondly, regarding the highly "random" improbable assemblies: I
think this is perhaps one of the most interesting assertions that has come
out of the discussion of improbable assemblies. I think, for certain, it
is possible that such assemblies exist. In fact, to the extent that we
agree that improbable assemblies "more" complex ( I know it is hard to
judge complexity) than us exist (or could potentially), then these "random"
assemblies must nesessarily exist. Of course, these assemblies would SEEM
to be random. That is, too complex for us to understand. Did you get that?
I'm not sure I did.....
#3 Third, in regard to spaces and clumpiness: However we categorize
species, there are going to be spaces. Yes, certain spaces go away
according to how you categorize...ie trees linked with mammals if we are
only talking about single cell versus multi cell.....but the spaces are as
certain as the species themselves. If the spaces fail to exist, so do the
animals or species or anything -- matter becomes just matter...
Name: Rachel Hochberg
Subject: do humans work?
Date: Fri Oct 6 10:43:41 EDT 2000
In response to Joe's response to Katie's comment (whew, that was a mouthful): Just because it's been working for however many millions of years humans have been on the earth, that doesn't mean that we won't die out sometime. I mean, in comparison to organisms like bacteria, that have survived for billions of years, we're still in the "testing" stage--we could concievably experience some devastating natural disaster or disease or something and all die out. Hence, we were tried, but we didn't work.
Date: Fri Oct 6 16:47:58 EDT 2000
Our class on Wednesday reminded me of a discussion we had in an earlier class which asked the question that if we did come across intelligent life on some other planet, would we find that all that we know about biology today is no longer relevant. I think that this is not completely true in a biochem sort of way. Granted we may find non-carbon based organisms, and we may even discover knew elements. But I believe that what we know about the elements, and molecules, would hold true, and therefore we would not be so lost in determining how these organisms can exist - we would just have to be a little more open minded in parting from our knowledge of life.
Subject: alien abduction
Date: Fri Oct 6 19:55:45 EDT 2000
In response to jabeen's comments---whoa! I never thought about alien abduction in that way before...But if we were to find life outside of Earth, wouldn't our only option be to take it from where it originated? I mean, it's not like we can stay in outer space long enough to conduct a thorough study of our findings....
Also, I just wanted to say that I also found Wednesday's lecture on the Periodic table pretty interesting as well...
Subject: catagories again
Date: Fri Oct 6 20:39:20 EDT 2000
I don't really understand the problem everyone has with catagorizing
things. I mean--we catagorize literature, we catagorize shoes etc... Why
does this necessarily mean that we are inferring inferiority and
superiority. Yes, there are many ways to look at different species, and we
could, if we wanted to, organize them in different ways. But the way they
are organized now is one way that makes sence because its based on
"relatives" that have the same "ancestors." Kind of like how we catagorize
our families. And sometimes these catagorys have to be changed, because we
discover new things, but I think we have already established that science
is constantly changing. And thats not a bad thing.
What I don't get is
why everyone assumes that these catagories mean that we are putting things
in lists from good to bad. I know some people think that humans are better
than other animals (and these people are pretty annoying), but what do the
catagories made up by science have to do with this? Aren't we just one
little tiny part of one little catagory?
Someone said, these
catagories don't exist in nature. Well, they are not "spoken" in
nature...but does something have to be sopken to exist? No. In fact,
catagories do exist in nature. An animal knows what is prey and what is a
preditor. A carnivore knows the distinction between animal and plant.
They are not spoken,
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