Evolution and Literature

cevans's picture

Evolution of Intent

The evolution of literature is seen in many ways, through modern use of classical references, through literary influences, and most obviously in adaptations. Within the range of evolution in literary adaptations is the evolution of characters, settings, language, plot, meaning, and intent. The authorial intent is the one aspect that must always change when literature evolves because it is the most deeply personal aspect. When the plot of a story remains recognizably the same but the message and meaning has been completely altered some people would say that the work was a bad adaptation. I say that it is a good evolution of the original work, that kind of adaptation is analogous to homologies in tetrapod limbs. A bats wing has the same basic structure as their ancestor’s yet they serve a completely different function. To me this is the biological equivalent as literary pieces with the same or similar plot points that are being used to convey different meanings. One story that has been adopted into several different medias and incarnations is Hans Christian Andersen’s 1836 story The Little Mermaid.  

ekorn's picture

On Cloning

    The essence of storytelling in and of itself is an act of reproduction. When we tell a story we are reproducing details of an event or series of actions that have happened or are happening in this or parallel universes. If we come to the understanding that storytelling has this power, to reproduce, then it is not so far fetched to wonder if there could ever be a kind of evolution in the process of telling a story. The aim of this paper, with emphasis on the literary realm, is to gain a better understanding of whether or not there is an evolutionary process in storytelling and what kinds of evolution we are witness to if any.

CT's picture

Translating between Species

The emergence of species within evolution provides for ecology where differentiation is valued. Species branch off, isolating and defining themselves as different from their predecessors. This is not only true for species in biology. It is a process visible in culture, and in academia. Each field of academia is a self contained species, with individuals sharing a common biology and society of existence. Each species and culture must coexist. Exclusivity between subjects is not possible or even viable. Symbiosis is a mutually beneficial existence; all species exist within an ecosystem. Species exist in a web of interconnectivity which sustains them and the whole. Abandoning connections with others leaves a species, or academic field, dangerously isolated. Interaction, and therefore intercommunication, is essential for the different species to successful survive.


kgins's picture

Where's the Emotion? The Forgotten/Left Out of Biological Basic Needs

From the very beginning of our academic experiences with biology, we were taught about basic needs. Most textbooks covered these basic needs in a systematic kind of way: they listed, discussed, explained, and moved on. We were tested on them: asked to recite, relay, and paraphrase. After going back, now about 12 or 13 years later, and looking at textbooks and websites, I realized how limiting these basic needs were. The most popular, seemingly most agreed upon basic needs of living organisms, were the needs for food, water, energy, oxygen, living space, and to be able to maintain the conditions inside of oneself, better known as homeostasis (1, 2, 3). While these describe physical necessities, I started to wonder about the importance of another major class- the importance of emotional desires- are these needs? Maybe we can’t measure, to the degree we can the physical, but there appears to be a major lacking in biology in attention to the more mental side of things. Maybe physical necessities keep numbers up and a heart ticking, but aren’t emotional desires a large part of what differentiates organisms? Aren’t our conscious minds- and understanding ourselves- a different, but perhaps just as real need- or desire- worthy of mentioning, even at the most basic biology level? If we’re taught in first or second grade about basic physical necessities- it seems that, in addition to teaching that food and water are necessary, we should be taught about emotions, even to the smallest degree that we could understand at that age.

fortunesfool's picture

Aquinas and Evolution

In America today, the tension between science and religion seems only to be growing. The country is rapidly becoming more religiously conservative than it has been for the last several decades, sparked in part by the conflict with Islamic extremists in the Middle East. Between the push and pull of evolutionism and creationism, though, is the Intelligent Design camp, or ID for short, which is gradually gaining much steam and becoming a way for people to reconcile perceived conflicts between Christian religious beliefs and scientific evidence, which seems to support the evolutionary theory.

Katherine Redford's picture

Universal Morality and the Attempt to Affect Evolution

 In understanding biological evolution as a meaningless process with no certain destination or endpoint whatsoever, many questions are raised.  How does this explain the meaning that we as a human species have applied to our existence?  What, then, is the purpose of art or culture that we have created?  What about the moral standards we have applied to our societies?  It might be difficult to accept or admit that the moral codes, on which we base our governments, religions, and all social structures, may just be a by-product of the evolutionary process.  However, this fact may prove to be the reason that so many differing, and often contradicting moral codes may exist.  Additionally, we are also able to explain the reasons for which the evolutionary process came about.

rebeccafarber's picture

The evolution of humor and how it impacts evolution

The evolution of humor and how it impacts evolution

The theory of evolution dictates that we as humans are the products of a random process consisting of natural selection and common descent. Furthermore, our existence as a human species is rooted in innumerable variables beyond anyone’s control as well as an ancestral heritage consisting of apes. Beyond just our physical arrival, there are cultural ramifications of evolution that distinguish the human species from any other evolved animal. “All the achievements of human culture – language, art, religion, ethics, science itself – are themselves artifacts… of the same fundamental process that developed the bacteria, the mammals, and Homo sapiens” (Dennett, 144). Over the course of our time here, the human species has experienced developments of moral codes, growth of languages, and a widespread interest in the arts. Humans have expanded their meaning to transcend just survival, but also to include morality, pleasure, organization, and culture. A quality unique to humans is our proneness to engage in humor – for the most part, we enjoy laughing, telling jokes, and being funny. I claim that humor is a necessary trait in the success of evolution and serves as an adaptive quality.

J Shafagh's picture

The Evolution of Thought Affecting Biological Evolution

                Looking at the evolution of thought and thought processes among many different cultures can shed light into a better understanding of our evolving world today and, albeit, our interpretation of the world, for over time, the two work hand-in-hand.  Our thought gives us explanations of how our world came into existence, and as life evolves and the story becomes more expansive, our world evokes the evolution of more thoughts on aspects of our culture, health, society and future. Thus, biological evolution creates a framework for understanding the evolution of many other things, such as the human thought process, as they continue to influence one another over time.  However, because human culture and society can also affect our thought processes, this complicates our understanding of the interplay between the many factors which can affect our overall biological evolution.
               Among humans, the evolution of thought is the long and slow transition from the earliest beliefs in myths and magic, to the implementation of science and reason, and continues to rapidly evolve today.  In the earliest of times, humanity’s knowledge of the universe was very limited.  Natural phenomena such as changes in climate and weather were poorly understood, travel was more tedious and difficult, communication between individuals in far off lands was rare, and there was an overall simplicity to life and lack of understanding of many of life’s processes.  When catastrophes struck the world or countries, such as Bubonic plague, the only thing that people understood could help them was prayer and religion.  In essence, these ideologies and poor medical knowledge caused the death of billions of people, affecting the course of biological evolution.
                   However, after the advent of movable type and the expanding Western Civilization, books became readily available to many, the opportunity to learn and be educated was more common, and humans became more interested in studying the physical world.  The blooming science and technology spurred the Industrial Revolution, creating a middle class, more education, many books, and a way for people to begin thinking freely and independently.  Increasing communication meant sharing medical information and publishing and reading medical texts, and increasing means of transportation meant more access to healthcare and faster assistance and treatment when needed.  Furthermore, technology advanced the tools necessary for medicinal practices, and a larger emphasis was made on cleanliness and hygiene.  These factors combined helped improve patient healthcare and prolong life, which in turn, affected biological evolution of human beings.
                  As civilizations further evolved in different countries and among different cultures, education, learning, and thinking were able to take on their own course.  Although there was expanding communication between human beings in different locations, different ideologies and philosophies of life still grew and expanded.  In a world filled with opportunities for many, especially with an increased acceptance of the freedom to choose, intellectual growth and stimulation developed in different subjects and among different people.  As Richard Nisbett, author of The Geography of Thought, puts it, “Leisure meant for the Greeks, among other things, the freedom to pursue knowledge.”  Thus, cultures varied in their intellectual pursuits, which to some degree, affected their respective biological evolution.  For example, in some countries, where modern conveniences were readily available, such as easier transportation, better health, access to healthcare, public education, prepared and packaged food, child day care and a modern civilized society, the time demands and ideologies used in the past life were replaced with newer thoughts and ideas and more time could be placed on pursuing science and medicine.  Consequently, more diseases are being cured, people are living longer, vaccines are created, women can choose to abort fetuses or use birth control, and overall, human beings are essentially affecting their own biological evolution through their advanced beliefs and emphasis on health and medicine.  In other countries, which have more ancient beliefs about healthcare and a different ideology and emphasis on education, older and outdated practices can be performed.  For example, the process of childbirth can render more fatalities and birth problems, whereas a similar birthing practice could be carried out successfully in other areas of the world.  This, too, affects those individuals’ biological evolution.  Conversely, the high-fat diets and over-consumption of pre-packaged foods in the US has caused a rapid increase in health-related issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.  Whereas, other countries with limited food supplies which are nutritious, healthy and fresh have individuals who are more lean, slender and healthy. 
                      Currently, in the US, medical practices and technology are bringing us into an era of prolonging life and overall, enhancing the quality of our lives in our elderly years.  Reproduction has been more easily controlled, more vaccines are becoming available and imaging technology has helped us target certain tumors and cancers for more effective treatment and accurate diagnoses.  Pace makers allow our hearts to keep beating, transplants allow us to utilize others’ organs for survival, genetic counseling and testing allows us to abort fetuses which may end up with low survival rates and complications, and so on.  Laparoscopic surgeries help us become more efficient and cause less remnants of surgical procedures having been performed, and many medical practitioners work towards beauty enhancement and perform elective surgeries.  To continue, stem cell research, the future of science and medicine, has been working towards rebuilding organs and organ systems from scratch, and is growing among many other medical advances in the arena.  And when disasters such as the Avian flu or SARS may occur in the near-future, we are more prepared to tackle the problems and fight the disease, so as to promote our lives, build up our tolerance and immunity, and prolong our biological evolution in years to come.  Even things like cleaner water, purer air and safer infrastructure has helped change the course of biological evolution.
                        Overall, it is our inquiry, our thoughts and beliefs, and our desires to explore the world, science, technology and other worldly phenomena that help us understand things in more depth.   In essence, our reason and scientific inquiry bring us the current technology that affects our world and life, and in turn, this drives us to rethink things, inquire, and learn more, which ultimately affects our biological evolution.  Thus, there is a profound interplay between our thought, culture and society which all affects our biological evolution.   Today, the notion of ancient beliefs, traditional medicines, and old teachings connotes a deeper understanding of life and the world, as our modern thinking portrays the current understanding of our progressive world.  In sum, experimentation, rethinking, and learning through experience and observation continually change our thoughts, which in turn change our respective biological evolution, helping us to get things less wrong and continue to ask more questions, which may affect our own biological evolution throughout time.        

EB Ver Hoeve's picture

Escaping from the Sea: Transforming the Written Word

Elizabeth Ver Hoeve
The Story of Evolution and the
Evolution of Stories
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Escaping from the Sea: Transforming the Written Word

Imagine the classic American childhood game of “telephone.” One player invents a simple phrase and whispers it into the ear of the closest player – Sarah diligently walks her rambunctious dog every day after dinner. The second player listens, interprets, and translates the message for the next person, who in turn, translates the message until it has gone full circle and is finally repeated aloud. Although initially strong both grammatically and logically, the structure and meaning of the original message deteriorates as increasing numbers of people attempt to repeat it. In the end, the misconstrued phrase – Sarah, the rabid dog, walks dinner – resembles the original message but most would agree that something was lost in translation.

evanstiegel's picture

The Evolution of Racial Understand over Time

      Many individuals in the contemporary United States view slavery as one of our country’s biggest embarrassments and wrong-doings.  About 230 years ago in United States, slavery had very opponents and was widely accepted as a social norm in American culture.  Although slavery is frowned upon today, tension between races and the idea of racial superiority still exists.  Many believe that prejudice, stereotypes, and racist attitudes have been dwindling over time.  These sentiments, however, are no less prevalent than they were when slavery was flourishing in our country.  Instead, they exist in different forms that are accepted by our culture today.  The mindset, not the existence, of racial superiority by citizens of the United States has evolved from the past until now and continues to evolve in our society. 

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