Week Six (Thurs, 2/24): Small Group Discussion


I. Naming game: yourself, those behind you: cumulative process

II. Papers
responded to all of 'em on-line (but dfishervan);
am in the midst of seeing you all
(ashley: need to make an appointment)

several of you expanded on your postings:
ems8140: accommodation and assimilation
alexandra, AnnaP, bee27, hannah, sarah, tangerines
all wrote (as promised!) on evolutionary education

several of you wrote on really surprising things:
Hope on epigenetics
Vivien on natural selection for altruism
themword on Darwin's colonizing language (from her poli sci positionality)
ib4walrus on the evolutionary "paradox" of homosexuality

and several of you entered into conversation w/ one another:
ewashburn did a debate/co-wrote a paper with ckosarek;
kat had responded earlier to one of hannah's postings about the evolution of words,
and used that to build a paper on that "foundation";
ashley, OrganizedKhaos and vlopez all wrote about religion and science,
and I told you all on-line that you should talk some more (on-line if you would?),
since your papers are so interestingly alike-and-different

really great to see you responding to,
building on one another's thinking--
I want to encourage that!

couple of general comments:
remember that you are writing on the web:
so "Paper #1," conventional headings are both not necessary
(because embedded in links @ top) and offputting --
people like to read about ideas, not undergrad papers

continue to nudge you all to use the web more resourcefully
(readable type, spaces between paragraphs; cf.
active links; cf. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/9198
manipulating (and citing) images--what work are they doing?
cf. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/9189

also to use technology as a way of doing different kinds of research:
Calamity's spread sheet on the gaps in Alice James's diary;
survey monkey on science education;
rubikcube's netlogo model for gender expression

check out my On Beyond Webpapers link on Serendip for other exs

III. Okay: how are we doing w/ (Paul's translation of) Dennett?

IV. Reading Notes from Chs. 12-14 (335-427)
Part III: Mind, Meaning, Mathematics, and Morality
333: begins w/ Nietzsche’s epigram, dismissing sentimentalities!
Ch. 12: Cranes of Culture
338: we differ, have culture, ha e transformed process that created us
339: cultural evolution operates many orders of magnitude faster
explanation for cost of being awake/cheaper to sleep
341: invasive memes w/ Darwinian origin
343: evolution requires variation, heredity, differential fitness
344: meme a unit of cultural transmission, of imitation (=memory)
propagate themselves, obey laws of natural selection
“scholar is a library’s way of making another library”
Mozart: “thoughts crowd into my mind….I have nothing to do with it”

(totally misplaces level of agency!)

347: human language as infosphere for cultural evolution
349: meme’s prospects depend on its design: phenotype
353: what is preserved, transmitted in culture: information
354: not high-fidelity copying
356: semantic, not syntactic
(syntax: rules; semantic: meaning; text vs. story)
358: glory of science: find patterns in spite of noise
360: what I call my individuality is only new atoms remembering yesterday’s dance, or pattern (Feynman)
361: Darwin on analogy taken too far:
conceding disanalogies between genes and memes
humanists filter sociobiology: extension not literal
362: meme’s eye view challenges central axiom of humanities:
cultural trait evolves in a certain way because advantageous to self
363: no necessary connection between its fitness/its contribution to ours
366: myth of our autonomy and self control:
how could I be held accountable, if not the captain of my vessel?

Ch. 13: Losing Our Minds to Darwin
373: need-to-know vs. commando-team principle
(give agents little or all knowledge)
374ff: five different floors to the Tower of Generate-and-Test:
Darwinian creatures (blind generation of best surviving designs) Skinnerian creatures (blind trial-and-error learning/
conditionable plasticity: simple invertebrates)
Popperian creatures (pre-selection among possible behaviors:
mamamals birds, reptiles, fish)
Gregorian creatures (inner environments informed by
designed portions of outer environment: us)
Scientific creatures (who engage in deliberate,
foresight-ful generate-and-tests)

379: when words enter a child’s brain,
they find homes already built for them
380: learn to savor one’s mistakes, in public, to get help w/ corrections
387: Chomsky on language competence as innate
393: intellectuals responsible for likely misapplications of their work?
395: empiricism/adaptationism/behaviorism
Skinner’s greedy reductionism:
operant conditioning accounts for all mentality
398: Searle on LAD (language acquisition device) in human brains
399: minds are results of design, not their inexplicable sources

Ch. 14: The Evolution of Meanings
403: Dewey re interpreted version of evolution: sustains multiple goods
404: concern for intrinsic vs. derived intentionality
408: exaptation: reuse of machinery for new purposes
indeterminacy precondition for evolution
(vs. essentialist determinate something)
411: human meanings are derived, dependent on function

(cf. two-bitsers, frogs): retrospectively attributed
412: attempt to distinguish real meaning from artificial:
yearning for skyhooks, something “principled” that could
block gradual emergence of meaning from mechanical cause
412f: two black boxes
420: regularity of external behavior but internally different
421: no substitute for intentional stance
422: designing system to preserve yourself til 25th century:
fixed like plant or mobile like animal? Which better further yr. interests?
444: self-controlled chess-player, decision-maker, risk-taker;
445: derived intentionality
=our selfish genes are unmeant meaners, not us:
the original source of our intentionality
446: resolution of tension between self as source or meaning
and product of billion yrs of R&D: real meaning an emergent property