EvoLit: A Work in Progress

A Work in Progress
27 Jan 2009 (PG)

 

Darwin Day Celebration - "An International Recognition of Science and Humanity"

Charles Robert Darwin - born 12 February 1809; published Origin of Species in 1859

Abraham Lincoln - born 12 Feburary 1809

Also born 1809: Edgar Allan Poe, Felix Mendelssohn, Nikolai Gogol, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Fanny Kemble

Also in 1809: James Madison succeeds Thomas Jefferson as US President, Robert Fulton patents the steamboat, first practical US railroad track (wooden, Philadelhia), Mary Kies first woman to receive a US patent, Ecuador declares independence from Spain, Napoleon attempting to conquer Europe, Goethe publishes Elective Affinities

  • Evolution = a work in progress about work in progress? ... but first
  • Science = ? and then
  • Humanity= ? along with
  • Humanities (eg literature) = ?

Empirical science as ... story telling and story revision, a work in progress

Traditional linear view of science
Loopy, story telling view of science
   
Science as body of facts established by specialized fact-generating people and process

 

Science as successive approximations to Truth

 


Science as authority about "natural world"

 

Science as discovery

Science as work in progress, a process of getting it less wrong, potentially usable by and contributed to by everyone

Science as ongoing story telling and story revision: repeated making of observations, interpreting and summarizing observations, making new observations, making new summaries ... individually and collectively

Science as skepticism, a style of inquiry that can be used for anything, one which everybody is equipped to to/can get better at/be further empowered by, and contribute to - a way of making sense of what is but even more of exploring what might yet be

Science as creation

The crack
  • Multiple stories for a given set of observations
    • 3,5,7, .... ?
    • 1+1=2 or 1+1=10?
  • Observations in turn depend on stories
  • Science is as much about creation as about discovery
If science is as much about creation as discovery then the "crack"is a feature, not a bug ... and differences among people are an asset to the process rather than a problem or an indication it isn't working

Trying out science as story ...

Which of the following two stories do you prefer?

  1. The earth is flat
  2. The earth is round
Because of ...
  • personal observations?
  • observations made by others (personally verified or not)?
  • social stories (heard from others)?
  • usefulness?
Relevant observations:

Is one or the other story true? Have there been others? Will there be?

Which of the following two stories do you prefer?

  1. The sun goes around the earth
  2. The earth goes around the sun
Because of ...
  • personal observations?
  • observations made by others (personally verified or not)?
  • social stories (heard from others)?
  • other?
Relevant observations:

Is one or the other story true? Have there been others? Will there be others?

Which of the following stories do you prefer?

  1. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of a previous and ongoing process of evolution consisting of random change and natural selection (differential reproductive success).
  2. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of repeated creative acts of a supernatural being with a plan and intent?
  3. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of an initial creative act with a supernatural being with a plan and intent?
  4. Other?
Because of ...
  • personal observations?
  • observations made by others (personally verified or not)?
  • social stories (heard from others)?
  • other?
  • is one or another story "true"?
Relevant observations:

Scientific stories are efforts to summarize the widest possible range of observations, always motivate new observations and hence new stories, should never be understood as "authoritative" or "believed in", do not compete with or invalidate other stories. Key issues about scientific stories

  • What observations do they summarize?
  • In what context are they useful?
  • What new observations do they motivate?

If empirical science is story, then what is literature/fiction?

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