Story of Evolution and Evolution of Stories course
I was very interested in our class discussion on Thursday about truth and the idea that nothing can ever be proven true. In my Biology class we recently read an article on truth in science and how common it is for scientists to edit their results in order to publish something of significance. In the final lines of the article, the author questions the scientific method and states “Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved.
I enjoyed the discussion in class on Thursday. Even though I'm a very science oriented person and was somewhat frustrated when Professor Grobstein questioned why he wasn't walking "down" if the Earth is round, I still appreciated the fact that he was asking questions and getting us to think about looking at facts/assumptions more abstractly. I hadn't really thought about the idea that a hypothesis or theory could never be "true." However, after class on Thursday and further thought, it makes perfect sense that something could never be "true." If something was true, then that would mean that this belief or theory would never have the opportunity to change/develop/advance.
I think there are so many reasons why Darwin's theory of evolution is one of the greatest ever conceived and developed. There's the story behind it, the Beagle voyage, the social implications, Darwin's reluctance to publish, which is pretty incredible. There's also the fact that the intellectual rigor and experimentation Darwin applied to his theory, spending years testing his theory in every way he possibly could, which is one of the reasons Darwin is so representative of how science and scientists should be. But I've always been attracted to how the theory of evolution is so beautifully applicable to fields outside of biology. There's now a field of psychology referred to as evolutionary psychology, it has affected anthropologists, doctors, scientists,
I'm a little late to the game but I'm Toan and am a freshman at Haverford. I don't really have any plans on a major yet but I've always had an inclination towards the sciences especially biology and chemistry. However, I do enjoy english and other humanities courses. What sparked my interest for this class was the fact that it was cross-listed between english and biology. I wanted to see how traditional biology courses with clear-cut and (mostly) definite procedures/answers/methods could be intertwined with the creativity and free-spirited form of english literature (not saying that the sciences lack creativity). Additionally, evolution as a topic intrigues me and I have yet to apply it to literature.
I feel like this first week of class helped me to see how science as a whole is not as stiff or fixed as I often make it out to be. I have always been more interested in my english classes than my science classes, and I love experiencing and interpreting other people's stories. To me, science has always seemed so distant, so unapproachable, especially compared to my beloved literature, which I found myself able to jump into. However, in class on Thursday, through our discussion on how a lot of science (like the sun rising) is not considered true, but instead probable, I found that I was given a new outlook on science.
So as far as Darwin goes, there is a reason I already owned the book. It was my overly ambitious goal in high school to read through as many "classics" as possible. On the Origin of Species is one of the few books I have placed on my "can never actually finish" list. However for the sake of this class I have been trying again and doing a bit better. When I think of Darwin, the witty words of David M. Bader's summarizing haiku always come to mind first:
the same beak as Aunt Enid's!
While reading On the Origin of Species, I could not shake Professor Grobstein's directive to us to read it as we would a romance, or any other novel. I felt so little of the words on the page held romance in and of themselves, that, instead, the true romance was somewhat hidden beneath the work, hinted at by Darwin's throwaway comments about his research, life, and contemporaries. Every so often his pure joy for his subject would come tumbling out: "We see these beautiful co-adaptations most plainly in the woodpecker and missletoe [sic]; and only a little less plainly... in the plumed seed which is wafted by the gentlest breeze; in short, we see beautiful adaptations everywhere and in every part of the organic world" (p132).
Based on my education on the topic of evolution, I have been taught to believe that evolution is exclusively applied to organisms. Darwin's observations and conclusions coupled with Mendel's genetic experiments on living organisms told me that evolution is "survival of the fittest", "natural selection" and that the inheritance of these fit traits are guided by a set of rules and probability. After this first week of class, I found myself thinking too close-minded about this topic. At it's core, evolution is about perpetual changing so the term can generally encompass anything that changes over time such as language and culture. Because my education has always tagged evolution to biology and the Darwinian concepts, my thoughts have been biased.
In class, Professor Grobstein asked the class, "Why am I here? Or rather, Why are you here?" And the first word or phrase that came to my mind was "chain-reaction." Darwin, in his novel "Origin of Species," says that, "We have.. seen that it is the most flourishing and dominant species of the larger genera, which on average vary most; and varieties, as we shall hereafter see, tend to become converted into new distinct species." He then in a later chapter asks how have these adaptations from organisms been perfected. I believe that chance has a lot to do with how we got here and how other organisms became what we now know them as, which correlates to my previous chain-reaction thought.