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Training Aunt

Training Aunt

What will grow quickly, that you can't make straight
It's the price you gotta pay
Do yourself a favour and pack you bags
Buy a ticket and get on the train
Buy a ticket and get on the train
-- Black Swan, Thom Yorke

She was born in the city, but she grew up in the country. A Haitian father and a white American mother, they struggled to move their family out of a two-bedroom apartment in Harlem and into the bucolic Hudson Valley. She was nine when they loaded up the truck and followed it in their Peugeot up the Palisades Parkway to a small town on the Hudson River. When they got out of the car she was sheepish, didn’t know what to do. She circled the four-acre property with her older sister Ingrid while her parents fumbled with the keys to the house. She and Ingrid discovered plant life with no name. “Is that a dandelion?” “Actually,” said Ingrid, “it’s not even yellow.” There was a stream, a babbling brook, running along the back edge of the yard, and a pond with an island in the front. “You think anyone can see us?” asked Fleuriana. “Probably not,” said her sister. So Fleuriana removed her shirt and shoes, picked half a dozen purple flowers and sang the dandelion song anyway. She waded in the stream and toyed with a mass of fishes eggs. She was interrupted by her mother, who opened the back door, demanded to know why she’d wrecked the irises, and where in the world was her shirt anyway. Her father laughed.

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Aspirant Evolution

Literature and science are both attempts to explain reality. The story of evolution explains the process through which species mutate, adapt, and evolve. Evolution offers an answer to the question, How did we get here? Literary stories are not as devoted to offering answers to that question, but focus more on the Why are we here?, What is our purpose? Literature is an attempt to tell stories that get it less wrong in terms of the way in which we think about people and their interactions. If we think about science as a process of discovery, we can also think about literary analysis as an attempt to discover the answers to the big questions, and we can use the loopy scientific method to offer insight into literary analysis. Not attempting to find the Truth frees the thinker up to discover other things. For me, this means less pressure and freedom to experiment with ideas rather than having to be Right.

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Evolution of Belief

The Evolution of Belief

“Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music.”
- Sam Harris

There is debate about whether or not religion evolved as an adaptation or as a spandrel. If religion is an adaptation, there was some reason for it to aid us in our journey to survive and procreate. If it is a spandrel it serves no purpose and is just a byproduct of the other mechanisms of our physiology. Earlier this month, an article in the New York Times Magazine entitled “Darwin’s God” highlighted the debate over this issue. Scott Atran, a renowned anthropologist was the focus of this article. His view is that belief in a God and creator is the easy way it; is the cognitive path of least resistance and takes less effort than disbelief. A few weeks later there was an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times entitled “God’s Dupes” which took the argument a step further. Not only is belief simple-minded, but it is unnecessary self-deception; humans should recognize that we no longer have a need for this troublesome behavior. Religion is the cause of war which leads to poverty and famine. The most striking element for me in these ideas is the misplaced arrogance with which they are wrought. I find the idea that religion, whether it comes from adaptation or as spandrel, cannot be unnecessary. This is a premature idea for the following reasons: we do not know why we came to have religion, if we say that it is unnecessary we are devaluing its worth in our lives presently, and we do not know where it will lead us.

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Subjectivity and evolution

Danielle Joseph
February 16, 2007
Evo-Lit : Dalke Section

Humans have a desire to create order both in their physical settings and in their intellectual ones. If something is disordered we create boxes and shelve everything nicely away, cleaning up the mess of nature. This is a difficult task as our environment is constantly changing, so we have to constantly change in order to keep up with it. When we look at the natural world we are confronted with a huge amount of diversity and struggle with a way to categorize and qualify objects. This man-made order is how we make sense of our world; it is a coping mechanism in an environment of chaos. It is also a means of survival. The evenly spaced apple trees in the orchard, or the rows of field corn used to feed our domesticated animals, not only ensure our food supply but also impose order on an unruly landscape. In addition to creating order, as humans, we have always questioned our origins, and the purpose of our existence. The stories that we tell are a way of sharing our observations about our place in the world.

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