Day 5--"Near-Sighted Visionaries": On Beyond Versus

I. on being lost?
finding the forum?
logging in before posting?
(read through Chapter 8 for Thursday's small group discussions....)



This course differs from Newsweek
in offering "and" rather than "or" relations

--on the question of Lincoln's and Darwin's relative greatness;
--on the question of the relative "worth" of
science and humanities, biology and literature
(applied in departmental mtg. last week!); and
--(given Marina's comments/our discussion last week,
about the purposes of education)
on the relation between "institutional thinking"
and "thinking for oneself."


But our conversations here are clearly surrounded,
and commented on, by those taking place in the media
(where "the versus" is clearly in play...)

Contra Tim's report, that "Professor Grobstein's lecture struck many of us as completely revolutionary/ thoroughly countercultural...."


and another that finds a parallel
between science and democracy:

presenting science as something that is culturally thought of as hard facts and right answers, yet is often truly more loopy than one might think.

Lucie, reading another that characterizes scientists as
"cautious, uncertain, and full of conjecture,"
asked, "Why didn't anybody tell me??"

Why didn't anyone....?

The book(review)s Elana catalogues tell very different
stories about Darwin(ism): check out
Intellectual Selection;
The Art Instinct;
and most especially
Charles Darwin, Abolitionist,
which contrasts two versions of his life:

A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life calls both men "near-sighted visionaries," and focuses on Darwin's practices of “pure plain looking.” What set Darwin apart was that “he liked to look at things the way an artist likes to draw, the way a composer likes to play the piano, the way a cook likes to chop onions"....Darwin’s emphasis on “the homely, the overlooked, the undervalued” made him...both a great scientist and a great writer.

Yet! Compare!
How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution, which sets out "to overturn the widespread view that Darwin was a “tough-minded scientist” who unflinchingly followed the trail of empirical research
until it led to the stunning and unavoidable theory of evolution....Darwin’s starting point...was the abolitionist belief in blood kinship, a ‘common descent’ ” of all human beings.

These are not only two different stories;
they are two different KINDS of stories:
one is bottom-up, one top-down.

In the language we were given on Thursday,
one is "foundational," one "emergent"
(i.e.: Darwin either started w/ a theory about kinship,
then found evidence to support it;
OR he started with data,
and built up a theory from there....
OR (PER RACHEL):
"I wonder whether he was a foundationalist to begin with but...
had been working on his theory for long enough...he could no longer ignore following his own train of thought..."

(Given your reading so far,)
which story (do you think) is true?
Which story is more problematic?
Which story is more useful?

Rina: Are not the most successful stories the most controversial?.... I’m wondering if there is a systematic narrative
to those stories we idealize.


Tim: what kind of fundamental claims do our narratives rely on?

They seem to include certain ideas about
Darwin's personality,
his way of being in the world, and
the way he might be modeling for us
a way of being (scientists?) in the world/
readers of the world (and the word):

Morgan: I see Darwin as an optimist...all i see is appreciation and fascination of what is going on around him and how it all comes together.

Jackie: Darwin is not at all arrogant.

Keely: I have come to realize how much Darwin did not know.

Katie: It's obvious with the number of disclaimers that Darwin himself is unsure about how true his story is...

We seem similarly unsure about the usefulness of
these new forms of storytelling:

Lisa: Defining a foundational and non-foundational narrative taught me that literature could supplement science....Something was always missing in my study of the Origin of Species and that turned out to be literary criticism.

[but? although?]

Erin: the gap between science and literature is rapidly closing....My question now is how valuable it is to alter our perception of science....what does subjective science give us that we can't get through our current concept of science? What use is it to inject a scientific abstract with personality and voice?...[many found] Origin of the Species...to be just as dry and difficult

Tara: The parallels between literature are many when we talk about them but when trying to put them into practice it seems like all the similarities vanish.

Arielle: His addressing of the reader, his insistence that we have to trust and believe him forced me to think about the possibility that I might NOT believe him...

How useful is that?

Back to the man who tells
(but does not "believe") in stories....

Another chapter (or four) in this one?