Week Five (Thurs, 2/17): Small Group Discussion


I. coursekeeping
Paper check-in: missing alexandrag, bee27
get through 'em all this weekend, will respond on-line
in the interim: read one another, respond!
discover anything in the writing process,
not known when you left here last Thursday?
talk about experience
of doing this sort of on-line writing??

want to have writing conferences
w/ you all next week and week after: sign up, please

Tuesday’s reading: skip Dennett's Part II
(on biological evolution; been there, done that!),
go on to Part III: Chapters 12-14 (pp. 335-427)

Week after, finish his text;
you'll have a second paper due the Friday before break;
on thinking evolutionarily beyond biology

II. Naming: look around/who don't you know?
who wants to pass the test of naming us all??

III. Leftovers/postings:
Vivien Chen re: humans vs. robots/chess vs. jeopardy (Wilson won Wed night)
Vicky: your mother's connection to Mitochondrial Eve?
OrganizedKhaos re: the subject pours into other disciplines and weaves its way into society and popular culture... having a crush on evolutionary theory...that tall dark mysterious man we all dream of...But I sense a rocky relationship ahead. Is it worth it?
cr88: revolutions in Egypt and Tunesia as exs. of evolution beyond biology
Lethologica on journey, not destination

IV. Let’s wrestle directly w/ Dennett--
what did you learn? What questions do you have?
what was “added to you” by reading this; what doesn’t make sense?

big question: what happens to algorithmic, undirected process
when directors (humans) enter the picture?

reading notes of “introductory section”
(11-12) Engaging in persuasion; telling an artful story

Ch 1: Tell Me Why
“mind-first” universe reigned before Darwin,
w/ God the source of all design
(46) anyone today who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant—inexcusably ignorant, in a world where three out of four people have learned to read and write.

Ch 2: An Idea is Born
species not eternal, immutable, but evolve through “descent with modification”,
via mindless, mechanical, algorithmic process of “natural selection”—that’s the dangerous idea

Ch 3: Universal Acid
(63) refuses the forces of containment
(keep evolution out of ethics, politics, religion)
(64) what’s the difference between Order and Design?
(regularity + purpose)
(68) power of economic metaphors from deep feature of argument: gradual accumulation of design
(69) life a reversal of entropy; a designed thing organized ag. disorder
(73) tools for R&D: skyhooks or cranes?
(75) non-question-begging lifting, vs. the miraculous
(76) mindless, motiveless mechanicity, vs. ‘mind-first’ process
(77) Baldwin Effect: follow the lead and confirm the direction
(82) good reductionism: non-question-begging science (vs. greedy)
proper reductionism leaves Minds/Purposes/Meanings standing,
demystified, unified, placed on more secure foundations

Ch 4: Tree of Life
(86) general fan-out not controversial, but
how explain all the patterns in diversity?
(87) higher not more designed, but LATER
(92) species identification only pragmatic, aesthetic;
no essences
; need gaps to form boundaries between classes
(96) can only identify species, Mitrochondrial Eve, and jokes retrospectively
(101) deliberate use of false theory to make calculations feasible:
neural nets, population genetics not good science
(103) patterns in Tree of Life contrastive:
look @ possibilities, “non-actualized alternatives”

Ch 5: The Possible and the Actual
(104) four (nested) grades of possibility:
logical, physical, biological, historical
(107) Borges’ Library of Babel (all possible books)→
Library of Mendel (all possible genomes: vast, but finite #)
(114) presupposed reader/reading process
(115f) gene centrism overestimates DNA “recipe”;
silly biological =literary deconstructionism

(119) what rules govern travel through this space?
logic, physics, accessibility
(122) QWERTY phenomenon

Ch 6: Threads of Actuality in Design Space
(125) sheer absence of opportunity accounts for most non-actualities
drifting + lifting: astonishment of design
(128) forced moves
cost always an object (per 2nd law)
(130) Marvin Minsky: sparseness principle
(133) design work: solving “problems that arise”
(135) everything actual united w/ everything else in one Design Space
(136) homologies/versions of near-perfection dead giveaway of copying
(140) scientific discoveries replaceable, art not:
discovery vs. creation
: belong to no one in particular,
solutions to specific problems (process more imp’t than product)
(141) plagiarism: theft of crane
(143) memes: units of cultural transmission