The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories:
Exploring the Significance of Diversity

Forum 2
The Story of Evolution: Getting Started


Name:  Anne
Username:  adalke@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-23 18:22:03
Message Id:  7720
Comments:
Friends— we had an awfully interesting conversation Thursday afternoon in my section of "Evolit" (Paul's term; I'm advocating for "Lito-eve" as shorthand/pet name for the course, but expect I'll lose on this one...) Anyhow: am recording here what I found of interest—along w/ an invitation to all of my students, and to Paul and all of his, to post what they found most intriguing in the areas they were exploring on the other side of the hall.

Very few of those in our room wanted to be on the first "wo-manned" ship to Mars in 30 years: most of us (if not actively protesting the use of resources/damage to the eco-system involved in the flight) intended to be engaged in caring for or exploring things on this earth. A number of us will be interested in what such a landing might discover, but either fearful for our own safety or of what damage we might do on arrival to actually go on board ourselves. There was some discussion about whether the resource question was that a "red herring"; a review, from Bio 103, of the signs of life as we know it; and much speculation about whether we could even recognize life—more interestingly, intelligence—if it differed from what we know. We also talked about the disjunctions between our own experience (of the world, of the sky) and the stories that science tells (actually, the one that Paul told us) about the nature of the universe.

But for me, the most intriguing question had to do w/ whether (and why) the discovery of life elsewhere would challenge (rather than re-inforce) our sense of uniqueness--esp. if that life differed from what we know and recognize. We kept returning to the question of whether our religious stories would be brought into question by the discovery of extra-terrestrial life; whether the experience of our own specialness is necessarily incompatible w/ the discovery of life on another planet (we weren't all convinced that it was); and if, so, whether we could hold in our minds, simultaneously, two incompatible stories.

We ended w/ a query about the limits of the analogy between the "story of evolution" (in which, Mayr will soon show us, many more species became extinct than survived) and the "evolution of stories" (in which, we speculated, all sorts of contradictory stories might occupy adjacent spaces, serving different purposes, w/ very little trouble at'all).

But that's just MY story of what was interesting Thursday afternoon.
What's yours?


Name:  Mary
Username:  mferrell@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  comforting stories
Date:  2004-01-23 19:25:47
Message Id:  7721
Comments:
All this talk about action. What about stories that comfort?
On holidays, I hear my parents, aunts, uncles my sisters and brothers, and the younger children all tell stories of their life experiences. Remember the time that Georgie ran into the flag pole, or remember the party where we danced all night? There are tales of children waking up earliest to get the best choice of clothes, or the one about how Grandmom was in an orphanage when she was little and had to take a spoonful of cod liver oil every night before bed...We 3 generations all sit around, and listen and share and laugh and learn and love. Mostly, we feel good. So good that every holiday, someone always starts the tales by saying, "Grandmom tell us about the time...". She always tells a good story. And its funny, the way that some stories keep getting told, year after year and everyone listens again and again.
The story itself is an action. Stories can deepen bonds between people. They can comfort, teach, nourish. Come to think of it, religion and science do these things too.
Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Thursday Thoughts- 1/22
Date:  2004-01-24 05:22:52
Message Id:  7722
Comments:
Good morning;-)

Picking up on the invitation to post our Thursday Thoughts...
It also seemed that many/most of us who met in Paul's section would rather not take the Mars shuttle seat--for reasons ranging from fear of flying, the unknown, the time it would take away from higher priority concerns and interests, missing spring break...you name it. Sarah was enterprising enough to want the seat in order to sell it--a cool idea that was dampened somewhat by Paul's proclamation that he wouldn't take it because, by then, most of what's to be known about Mars would be known by then (therefore, of less saleable value :-). Su-lyn and I would have gone on the ride (as anthropologist and writer) in order to experience the dynamics among the humans going with us--not so much for the Mars stuff. The story is still people--of, by, and for the people.

That segued into speculation about why we explore--why go to Mars or anywhere for that matter? We talked about a "need" to seek, to move "outward" and agreed that outward movement could be accomplished inside/inward, i.e., in our minds...as any movement away from the last mental or physical point of thinking or being or acting...which led to paramecia and coffee...and magnetospirillum who supposedly made the magnetite found in the Martian meteorite that landed in Antarctica thousands of years ago. I think you had to be there--in our session, I mean--to make cloth from this thread. The paramecia spread out when dropped in water. The coffee spreads out when dropped in water...aimlessly, so it seemed to me. Unlike the bacteria that create their own internal magnets...these little fellows engineer their movement for a purpose: survival. They create their magnets in order to be able to follow the perpendicular magnetic fields of the earth through the water to get at stratified layers of oxygen--for survival. Which has me wondering if we, too, spread out with our seemingly highly complex (and complicated) reasons for doing do in order to fulfill a basic instinct--survival.

One thought came up towards the end of our session--the notion that the phenomena of "expansion and contraction" seems to be a pattern in many aspects of our social and physical lives and also in our surroundings. For example, while the coffee expanded, it also fragmented/dispersed...as Earthlings have done by expanding,then creating tribes, then nations and religions--all "inside/outside" entities...as stories (including literature) expand and contract...and the universe itself expands and contracts...all birth and death with movement in between.


Name:  spoon
Username:  spoon@hc
Subject:  Cheating death and those sorts of things
Date:  2004-01-24 07:59:01
Message Id:  7723
Comments:
Crikey, Ro, I thought I was jetlagged! :)

One of the questions we thought about on Thursday was how much of what we know now will still be "known" in 100 years time. That led me to propose that there are two different aspects to this question.

There are things that we know we don't know, and these are much easier to speculate about. A reply to the question, then, may be that we will, in the future, fill these gaps in our knowledge.

But then there is a second kind of knowledge that is much harder to address. I refer here to those things that have become common sense and that we take for granted. That is, in a reversal of the first type of knowledge, these are the things that we don't know we 'know'. To be able to step outside of that and speculate about how such knowledge will change is quite beyond me. But many years down the line, we may look back and regard today's inescapable 'truths' as mere convictions.

What if a three-dimensional world is just a conviction? (Prof Grobstein)
What if death is just a conviction? (Ro)

PS: My apologies for sounding like Rumsfeld.
Name:  spoon
Username:  spoon@hc
Subject:  Part Deux
Date:  2004-01-24 08:58:12
Message Id:  7724
Comments:

Hmm, thought I might add that I see what I listed above as two phases in knowledge production, rather than two necessarily different 'types' of knowledge. New observations raise new questions. They expose our inherited wisdoms and challenge them. Now we're uncertain: we know that we don't know. Over time, a new story emerges. It becomes a part of our lives, something that doesn't even bear thinking about (after all, it's all been done before). And the cycle begins again...
Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  so its going to be like that, huh?
Date:  2004-01-24 11:17:25
Message Id:  7726
Comments:
Alright, alright ... we'll do it YOUR way. YOU all say what we said and then I'll add MY story of what ACTUALLY happened.

As per Ro, what I came away with from our Thursday conversation with was the apparent and intriguing generality of an "expansion and contraction" pattern. The issue was, as I heard it, whether human exploration (movement out of Africa, relatively recent human movement to North and South America, Columbus (and lots of earlier episodes of conquest), moon, Mars) was economically motivated or whether there were instead or in addition other explanations.

Paramecia dropped into a lake will spread out, presumably with no "economic" or other cultural motivation. That in turn raised the issue of whether there was a "purpose" to the expansion, and led to the observation that cream spreads out in coffee, suggesting that expansion might not only occur without an economic/cultural explanation but perhaps even without any explanation in terms of a "purpose". The "contraction" part was that humans, while expanding, also exhibit a phenomenon of forming aggregates, ie tribes, clubs, ethnic groups, nations etc. So perhaps there is also something that opposes expansion, perhaps also without complete explanation in terms of culture, intent, or purpose? (a new Serendip exhibit may be relevant in this context)

What made all this particularly intriguing was the suggestion that the same expansion/contraction pattern seemed to be present in science, and in religion, and in biological evolution, and in ... literature? Which would imply ... ? Wonder if this has anything to do with the distinction between stories that motivate action and those that comfort?

Hmmm ... there ARE some advantages to being reactive rather than proactive. For the sake of the record, Paul didn't not want the seat to Mars because there wouldn't be anything "saleable" there but rather because there wouldn't be anything NEW there (for him). And, yep, there were some other things going on in the conversation as well, including a really interesting question of whether and how one might notice and alter that which one takes so much for granted that one doesn't normally think about it at all.

So, proactive or reactive, as Anne said

that's just MY story of what was interesting Thursday afternoon. What's yours?
Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-24 14:38:44
Message Id:  7727
Comments:
why do we tell stories? another idea:
we spend our whole lives trying to tell people who we are. our biggest concern is that we won't be understood. ts eliot writes in 'the love song of j alfred proofrock' about a woman about to die who says, "that is not it at all, / that is not what i meant, at all." and i don't think anything could be more heart wrenching. we spend our whole lives trying to convey ourselves to others. do we inevitably fail as eliot suggests?
and we ask, why do we go to mars? and i think it's because we beleive that we are extra-special in this universe and when it seems as though the universe doesn't care about us here on earth, doesn't care that we are going to kill ourselves, we try to press out and go to mars and tell our story and prove to them that we are extra-special. we want THEM to understand us, and know that humans are different. and it scares the crap out of us that relatively speaking, in relation to the universe, we humans are about the same size as those single celled organisms.
reading back over previous posts i am very intruiged by the idea ro brought up in contrast to the idea that we tell stories to insight action. she writes, "I wonder if this notion feels good because our culture is pro-action. Reminds me of a twist on an old saying: "Don't just do something, stand there!" Stand there and think, be." she's right, i think, that stillness is something that is NOT accepted in our culture. we are in a constant flow of outward or inward movement. we are always laboring: expanding contracting. what are we trying to push out?? what are we trying to do?? i think we are trying to scream ourselves. are are fumbling our way into dark space trying to find a receptive ear to listen and to understand us. are we alone here with no one else to appreciate us? we're scared that we are alone, here, in the dark and the cruel objective death blow of nature is going to take away our sun, our only means of light.
and i wonder if we're ever going to get tired of laboring. when does it stop? when can we rest?
Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Expansion/Contraction
Date:  2004-01-24 15:35:47
Message Id:  7728
Comments:
"Alright, alright ... we'll do it YOUR way. YOU all say what we said and then I'll add MY story of what ACTUALLY happened." ...and so began the TRUE story of Thursday's story :-) Hmm.

Having just finished the reading of Mayr for next week and still musing about the expansion/contraction thing, I started to jot down some of the "sets" that I think I see aligning with the notion of expanding and contracting. For example, "an evolving world" of cycles and flux; recapitulation as expansion vs. structures that become vestigial as contraction; a single cell expanding into multiple cells that then specialize in a sort of "division of labor," etc.

A pattern?...but what does it mean? The gradual, directional change of a population does not require this phenomenon, does it? Or is expansion and contraction the cyclical process of evolution...of populations, stories, stars and planets, literature?


Name:  reeve basom
Username:  rbasom@haverford.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-24 15:36:22
Message Id:  7729
Comments:
I notice that we have been considering the role of stories in OUR CULTURE and I understand that space exploration is basically the product of a particular culture, but it makes me wonder how cultures/people that are less invested or involved in space exploration interpret this kind of project, this kind of outward motion and expansion. What stories do other cultures tell about the significance and meaning of humans in space and on Mars?
To what extent does science operate outside of culture and to what extent is it a cultural product ?
Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Game of Life
Date:  2004-01-24 15:52:52
Message Id:  7730
Comments:
Paul wrote, "So perhaps there is also something that opposes expansion, perhaps also without complete explanation in terms of culture, intent, or purpose? (a new Serendip exhibit may be relevant in this context)"

...and this is very weird (the new exhibit contains a link to the Game of Life), because I was working in a compiler group writing an APL compiler in the early 70's when Conway's Game of Life was published. For fun and as a good exercise of the software, we programmed one of the first viable versions of the game and distributed it for free (not imagining the computerized game market of today)...but the weird thing is that I erased a paragraph about being reminded of this simulation game at the end of my last post and before I went to this new Serendip exhibit. I agree--it's relevant.


Name:  Diane Scarpa
Username:  dscarpa@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-24 20:25:53
Message Id:  7731
Comments:
Ro makes a strong point, one that was briefly touched on in Anne's section and one which I think deserves some development. It is true, the majority of us do not, as of now, wish to go to Mars. However, we are still "acting" and striving in other directions. For instance, consider Kat's decision to exploit the microscope rather than the telescope.

Initially I wasn't sure exactly why the trip to Mars was so unappealing to me, I just assumed it is because I know what I like. Life is so precious, it seems silly to me to chase after Everything I haven't tried on the off chance that some of it might be good while neglecting the things that I'm already sure that I love to spend time doing. But its more than that. I'll use an education analogy to explain my point. You wouldn't get a PhD before you complete your undergraduate work, would you? I think that so many of us are still mastering the basics here. To jump into something we aren't psychologically prepared for would be unwise. After having this revelation I was forced to reconcider the class' almost unanimous decision to stay on earth and while at first it seems like we aren't motivated I think that the decision to stay behing is courageous, we know ourselves well enough to gage our preparedness. I'm proud of us all, keep us the honesty and self-awareness, girls.
Name:  Elizabeth Catanese
Username:  ecatanes@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  open/closed systems/evolution of planets
Date:  2004-01-24 20:26:54
Message Id:  7732
Comments:
During Thursday's class Professor Dalke said that she wasn't sure if she agreed with the argument that there were too many problems on earth to justify spending money to go to mars and that maybe this type of response was hiding larger issues- other reasons (such as the potential threat to our uniqueness) which might occur if we continue with mars research and expeditions. (this is a very very general paraphrasing- I'm very willing to be corrected if I heard incorrectly). At any rate, this and what she said about not believing in closed systems really made me re-evaluate my thoughts after class. I think at this point I'd have to revise my thinking to say that spending for mars IS a worthwhile cause, independent of the things that are going on here on earth that need funding. Someone in our section made an insightful comment which was something to the effect that if we spend money on this endeavor, if someone discovered a cure for AIDS, there might not be enough money to fund that discovery. At this point I was almost re-convinced of my original conception that more money should be spent on earth than should be spent in space. But reading the first part of Mayr made me stick with my new opinion that all the money that is being spent on Mars is worth it.
This idea arose from a parallel that I saw in Mayr's book. He states in the first chapter that the concept of entropy dictates that evolutionary change should produce disorder. (If I understand correctly (which I may not), according to Mayr, this concept is not valid because evolutionary change does not produce disorder.) He goes on to state that "the law of entropy is valid only for closed systems, whereas the evolution of a species of organisms take place in an open system in which organisms can reduce entropy at the expense of the environment." (p. 8) I think that exploration (specifically on Mars) is something organic to human beings, a product of an open system, an evolutionary process itself, therefore there should be nothing that stands in the way of it, nothing at all wrong with it. Money can be likened to something which promotes entropy (a closed system) and because people on earth have created money, we have created our own closed system. Maybe money is what's going to cause us to ultimately dig ourselves into an evolutionary hole. The problem, then, is not the allocation of money but that there is money in the first place. Admittedly, I'm not quite sure of the exact right alternative to having money be a driving factor in life (there have certainly been many failed plans to do something about this in history) but I think that more people need to think about what in life stops us from living completely in an open system, (a system which promotes growth and change, fluid and complex evolution which is not limited or disorganized) In class I indicated that perhaps stories could somehow transcend money. Having read the first four chapters in Mayr and digested some of what was said in class, I think that this is because stories promote open systems. One example of how stories do this is that they allow us infinite possibilities including the opportunity to hold multiple ideas in one's head at the same time, even if those ideas are contradictory.
In chapter 1, Mayr writes, "what made Darwin such a great scientist and intellectual innovator? He was a superb observer, endowed with an insatiable curiosity. He never took anything for granted but always asked why and how." To me these are not just characteristics that make good scientists, but characteristics that make a very good story teller. I think that contemporary poets, memoirists, fiction writers etc... could be described in the same way. This makes me think even more that there is much less of a disjunction between science and storytelling- I know we've said this in class and on the forum but it is just beginning to sink in more, for me, at least.
Reading more of the Mayr made me wonder about Mars soil and whether scientists will/have been able to date it? It would be interesting to find fossils in different layers of soil on Mars.
Mayr describes the concept of finalism on page 75 "the belief that the living world has the propensity to move towards even greater perfection". I was thinking about the implications of rejecting this concept- according to Mayr, in terms of evolution, we no longer feel that this concept is valid. Yet I think that somehow it is still the way that many people perceive evolution to work. I was thinking about the implications of rejecting this idea. And that made a different "story" pop into my mind. I don't think I actually believe it but it was a really fun thought so I thought that I'd share it.In order to believe this story, the concept of time has to be rejected or perceived as something which is not linear and planets as whole units need to be thought of as living and evolving. Here goes...
Maybe all planets are essentially the same, but at a different stage of evolution. Planets do have key similarities... in terms of elemental composition and shape (just like animals of the same species) For example, maybe at one point earth looked like Jupiter and at one point earth will look like Mars. Or maybe Mars will evolve to have intelligent human life at which point Earth will become exactly like Saturn. The "intelligent life" stage could be a process that every planet goes through at a certain time... It could be a point in a very cyclical process that has been happening infinitely in the universe. However one of the many reasons why this might not be the best story is because of the fact that species evolve differently, a chicken is not an evolved frog just as earth is not an evolved mars. Unless they are. But they certainly aren't according to Mayr or Darwin.
Finally, Mayr indicated that " many more years of experimentation will likely pass before a laboratory succeeds in actually producing life..." This made me laugh because I pictured a scientist on Mars going up there and creating life there an experiment if no actual life was found there and then having to deal with the consequences of PRODUCING life on Mars.
Whew! O.k. so the last thing that I'm thinking about was a discussion from one of the links from the last forum... It was refering to metonym and metaphor and comparing one to science and one to storytelling. I remember thinking that this link was fascinating- I think it was also the one that compared scientists to simplifiers and storytellers to complicators... but I can't remember where it was or any additional details... if anyone knows or had any ideas about this that would be cool... if not that's o.k. too. And there was the one where you had to pick whether life would be a salt shaker or a ketchup bottle- again I don't remember the significance but I picked the less preferred option there.

Thanks for reading this....I feel like so many things in my post are not quite accurate but I wanted to just get them out of my head to see what would happen. I'm very open to changing my mind about everything :-)I can tell that with everyone's ideas this is going to happen a lot for me. Looking forward to the next class!


Name:  emily
Username:  emadsen@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  revisions
Date:  2004-01-25 10:19:15
Message Id:  7733
Comments:
it seems i am going to have to revise my story. while i will be happy to be here on earth while the exploration of mars continues, i am no longer convinced that the exploration is such a bad thing.
my initial reactions were similar to many others voiced-- so much to accomplish here, money could be better spent, etc. last night i tried to step back and think big picture: how does nasa's budget compare to, to take Lauren's example, the national endowment for the arts's budget? or how does nasa's budget compare to our defense budget? (i also, reading the posts, think that elizabeth did me one better in terms of big picture by introducing the idea that it's not where the money's spent but the money itself.) that said, looking at these numbers could teach us a lot about our priorities. we're told the story that spirit and opportunity are really very exciting and important, but the real story seems to lie in unvoiced statistics... how many hidden stories are flowing along beneath above and around us as we walk sleep and dream? i want to listen to these subtle stories. what are they saying about us, and are we listening?
Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  entropy and biology
Date:  2004-01-25 11:27:07
Message Id:  7734
Comments:
Elizabeth, there are some ideas in your post that are fascinating. I also picked up on Mayr's comment (on page 8) regarding entropy. You wrote, "He [Mayr] states in the first chapter that the concept of entropy dictates that evolutionary change should produce disorder. (If I understand correctly (which I may not), according to Mayr, this concept is not valid because evolutionary change does not produce disorder.) He goes on to state that "the law of entropy is valid only for closed systems, whereas the evolution of a species of organisms take place in an open system in which organisms can reduce entropy at the expense of the environment." (p. 8)"

If I remember correctly (guys, please keep me honest here...)
1- According to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, energy moves from a concentrated state (to, from, or within some system of atoms and molecules plus the environment of that system) to a spread out state, as long as nothing impedes its movement, and
2- Entropy (change) is the measure of the tendency of energy to spread out—as a function of a difference in temperature—from the cooler to the warmer entity...for example, from cool cream to hot coffee.

I don't think of entropy as disorder or even measuring a degree of disorder. And I don't see how the 2nd law of thermodynamics is violated by or irrelevant to the on-going creation/evolution of more and more complex substances from simpler ones. If complex compounds have less energy than the simpler elements that comprise them, then doesn't the 2nd law of thermodynamics align with the theory of evolution? Perhaps I'm totally confused. Since one of the arguments used by "creationists" is that evolution volates this all-important law, I'd like to understand Mayr's reference to/dismissal of entropy.

Checking the dictionary definition of "entropy," you get these choices:
"1. Symbol S For a closed thermodynamic system, a quantitative measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work.
2. A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system.
3. A measure of the loss of information in a transmitted message.
4. A hypothetical tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.
5. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society."

I think that most of these definitions are surprising, given the word's simple root: "Greek tropT, a turning, change." Makes me wonder what stories are at work in the spins on this word's meanings. Elizabeth's notion that "stories promote open systems" is uplifting—although I can't say why I find it uplifting just yet...and not in light of a few of these definitions. Right now, I have only questions.


Name:  Ro Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  entropy--correcting what I wrote
Date:  2004-01-25 12:09:39
Message Id:  7736
Comments:
Arggh...I need to fix my definition of "entropy." It is NOT from cooler to hotter (duh) but from an entity with higher/more energy ... The energy can be thermal, kinetic, etc. Seems that innocent little paragraph on page 8 was a black hole for me. Still stuck in it. Sorry.
Name:  Daniela Miteva
Username:  dmiteva@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Hmmm...
Date:  2004-01-25 14:46:44
Message Id:  7739
Comments:
Well, I do not want to be sarcastic, but what I found most intersting on Thursday is that we all had our own stories and stuck with them till the very end of the discussion.

All of the stories, I think, were inextricably connected with the identity of the storyteller: they reflected the different way of thinking of the speakers and their unique experiences. As soon as we change, our stories (and consequently, our perception of the world) will follow suit.

The fact that no one of us seemed to budge from her original position seems to me in proof that we (as weel as many other people) need to impose order on the surrounding environment: that is to say that we need to explain clearly what is going on. It might be a scientific explanation, a religious one etc. Adopting 2 contrasting views at the same time does not, at all, contribute to such an aim. So, internally we resolve any conflicts that might have arisen at the promulgation of a new piece of information and try to incorporate it into our extant system of views.


Name:  Perrin Braun
Username:  pbraun@bmc
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-25 21:17:12
Message Id:  7745
Comments:
Maybe it was silly of me, but I was actually surprised that such a vast majority of Prof. Dalke's class was adamant about staying on Earth. Granted, I myself would stay behind as well, and the reasons for not going to Mars were certainly valid, but it made me wonder just how and why humans have made such drastic psychological changes since the Age of Exploration. I guess that in the time of Columbus, people weren't hesitant to hide their ambitions or weren't as PC as we are now, but where would we without Europe's blatant lust for gold and land? Probably not in America...

In the case of the Mars exploration, I don't know if the ends will eventually justify the means, but I'm wavering in my choice in rejecting the opportunity to explore new horizons. Might it possibly enrich our lives in the end?


Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder@bmc
Subject:  scrambled thoughts for midnight breakfast
Date:  2004-01-26 00:44:03
Message Id:  7746
Comments:
been reading some whitman for a religion class and got to thinking about his view of the ultimate expansion. he writes that when you die it is as if the body dissipates into nature, that the physical becomes unfocused to the point of nonexististance. this, i think, is the ultimate story of expansion. we are bigger than ourselves. "every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you." whitman is so 'expanded' that he leaves his SELF. but, in LIFE, as we said in class our pulse is one of expansion and contraction. we think big thoughts, we reach towards mars, but we contract back into ourselves and exclaim our individual uniqueness. and i wonder what the ultimate example of contraction would be. i don't know, but i think that contraction is a kind of comfort. we curl into ourselves in pain. but expansion too is a comfort...or, rather, a search for comfort, a search for someone who will verify our uniqueness. but in itself expansion is a risk; lest you lose your base, yourself, can't find your way home, lose you life to the blank, never contracting whiteness. loss of gravity, stability. loss of the solid stance: 'this is ME.' is expansion a venture from the self? the attempt to write a story from the outside looking in? isn't that the voice every writer tries to emulate? the voice that speaks so deeply from the inside that it speaks with a voice common to all? so is the contracted, kneeled over, movement of the writer a contraction or an expansion? is the searching eye of the scientist like the pen of the writer? they search for an objective stand point. an escape from the dearly cherished self. they risk so much. they risk losing themselves. there is no greater risk. what are they looking for so intently? lost loves? the ultimate search for a oneness with all?

in life both fail. the universe is too big. eventually we lose gravity and footing. lose ourselves in the blank darkness. and the writer can never lose herself enough to write in the universal voice. and ahab ventures too far. but is death a failure? or is it what we have been spending our whole lives tring to acheive and just don't know it. is it the exquisite STILLNESS of the ultimate expansion? do we keep pushing away our ultimate goal?
man, i don't know if that makes anyanyANY sense...hopefully, morning light will make it clearer.


Name:  
Username:  ominder
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-26 01:05:11
Message Id:  7747
Comments:
figured it out!!!!
death is when both the ultimate expansion and the ultimate contraction exist, in stillness, at a single moment. physically our existence is contracted into the unmoving body; while spiritually we are expanded into this ONENESS that whitman speaks of. and that's when we can rest.
aaahhh...much better...now i can sleep.
Name:  katherine
Username:  kpioli@brynmawr
Subject:  the Graham technique
Date:  2004-01-26 10:01:18
Message Id:  7749
Comments:
First of all, did anyone else notice the new announcement last friday? Maybe the report has changed, but last time I heard the little photographing Mars machine - Spirit or whatever- stopped sending in pictures and no one knows why.

I am really happy to draw on a few points from the earlier postings and perhaps make them very personal. I would like to comment on the ideas of expansion versus contraction- which really makes me think about Martha Graham and modern dance- and the comment that Daniela made, that none ofus changed our stories. I have to challenge that and say that we may have stuck to our stories and opinion in class, but notice how many people started waivering on their dissision once they thought for a while longer.

Now that I have just brought our attention to how many people are changing their stories I would like to say that mine has remained pretty much the same. I don't want to go to Mars, I do want to stay on earth. I feel that I am in a moment of contraction. I want to focus my life and bring the cream back to the center of the coffee. Maybe I am inhuman, but I am honestly- at this moment in time- not curious about Mars in the slightest.

This contraction and expansion idea is really beautiful. They go hand in hand. I see it as a math class, where you learn all of these complicated functions and feel frustrated becuase you are clueless to its application. Then someone explains where in life you would use these functions to solve a problem, or in some other way you are able to step back and see the big picture and then the usefulness of the math really makes sense. This is my image of a contraction and expansion. contraction being the focus, the detail, and structural support, the emotions and the expansion being the wider picture, the big story, the functionality. anyway, my life is sliding down the path of detail and emotion and since I don't see Mars exploration going that way, it doesn't interest me.


Name:  reeve basom
Username:  rbasom@haverford.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-26 15:09:42
Message Id:  7753
Comments:
It seems to me that not only expansion, but contraction as well is infinite. We think of expansion as going beyond self, as Orah said- risking self in order to find oneness, but self may not be the endpoint of contraction and therefore isn't the self also made vulnerable by contraction? That which upholds life and the possibility of selfhood, the "atom belonging to me as good belongs to you," provides an equally infinite space in which to expand in the process of contracting. We understand our vulnerability by positioning ourselves along this spectrum and we move in both directions (contracting and expanding) in an effort to find a less vulnerable position. But ultimately, self IS vulnerability, it is a precarious point on an infinite scale. Maybe death releases us back to the infinite.
Name:  meg
Username:  mfolcare@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-26 15:24:11
Message Id:  7754
Comments:
I agree that both expansion and contraction are infinite actions. However, I 'm not sure that I agree that it makes us vulnerable. I think expanding and contracting ourselves both the physically and emotionally (or mentally) is human nature. We are not stagnant beings, nor are most things in nature. We do engage in risks in our expanding and contracting, but so does everyone. Expanding and contracting ourselves makes us stronger rather than more vulnerable. It helps us prove to ourselves that we are adaptable, and are not destined to be the same person our entire lives. We are able to change through expanding and contracting every aspect of ourselves, and I don't think that is vulnerability. I agree however that death does release us back to the infinite. Even though expansion and contraction have infinite possibilities, once life is over we are no longer seesawing between expansion and contraction.
Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder@bmc
Subject:  i agree
Date:  2004-01-26 15:35:17
Message Id:  7755
Comments:
yeh, i think you're right, reeve. hadn't thought about it that way. both expansion and contraction can be brought to the vulnerable point of loss of self. the self is such a finite point of existence. and is surrounded by this much greater being. i can't say it better than you...but, yes, SELFness is vulnerability. whether we are traveling in outer space or in our own minds we risk drowning in a sea of oneness. our existence is always moving to this oneness. in time we move toward death, but also we are all both scientists (expansionists) and writers (contractionists) and our life pulses. life is the energy created by the movement toward oneness. life is the moment before two things meet. life is the flickering existence of the vulnerable unit. it cannot last by itself, we know that we will die. life is the fleating pulse, the trembling before the approaching unity.
Name:  Student Contributor
Username:  
Subject:  Evolution of Man
Date:  2004-01-26 20:16:36
Message Id:  7757
Comments:
It's hard not to think about creationism (or rather, essentialism) when reading Mayr, but one particulary interesting line in the book that caught my attention that essentialism fails to address (or atleast to my knowledge, fails to adequately address) is the existence of different races in humans. "...it was widely believed that the Negroes had black skin because they had been exposed for thousands of generations to the tanning effects of the tropical sun" (Mayr, 81).
Is this to say that race, as Darwin knew it, was nothing more than a gradual response to environmental influences? If so, does this change at all the way we identify ourselves?
Name:  kat
Username:  kmccormi@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  point of contention
Date:  2004-01-26 21:43:18
Message Id:  7759
Comments:
In our original calss on thursday, someone suggested that the anti-pluralists believed what they believed because of a character flaw- a need to feel unique. However, couldn't the pluralist point of view also be seen as the extrapolation of yet another human emotion: loneliness? And did these men truly form thier opinions of extraterrestial life purely based on whether, at heart, they more longed to feel with or apart from other life? Honestly, the idea seems silly to me, to imagine that all of what we think and believe has to be so aligned along a central idea.

As for class on thursday, the idea that most stuck with me throughout the weekend was Lauren's suggestion that many people did not want to go to Mars because they were afraid of being affected by or adversly effecting whatever we found there. This fear of interaction and affectedness strikes me as particularly strange considering that almost all interactions, whether terrestrial or extraterrestrial, have at least some small effects on each of the involved parties. Why start being afraid of this now?


Name:  bethany keffala
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  change and the unknown
Date:  2004-01-26 23:51:31
Message Id:  7765
Comments:
The point that stuck with me from our discussion on Thursday was the point Stefanie made about the inevitablity of 'messing things up' on Mars, that there would be change there if we chose to go. The conversation then briefly shifted to address change in general; is all change 'messing something up'? And then it drifted to the next topic...BUT I think this concept has considerably more to it, especially in light of one of the articles we had read for Thursday, "A History of Strange Bounces, a Future of the Unexpected". It spoke of small, unnoticed catalysts creating big changes over time. We see their effects now, but may not have been able to predict them then. If we go to mars, it could have implications we might not dream of from where we now stand. Thinking about this concept again, after the Mayr reading, this is also a concept in evolution; tiny changes that gradually snowball into a big difference. What if something had gone differently? There are so many possible outcomes, and so many variables. As a part of our nature, humans hate not knowing (Another reason to go to Mars?). That, I believe, is why we have science, religion, stories. We need them in order to predict what we don't know (for example, remember the examples from Mayr of predicting how/when a certain specie would appear, and then later finding the fossils that confirmed these guesses). If we think of change as messing things up, which it really is, in a way, then everything seems so chaotic. There are so many possibilties, so many alternate stories/realities, that we just can't handle it. That's why we create tools for prediction. Through stories (including science), we can predict anything. Perhaps that's why stories are comforting, and why people find refuge in religion.
Name:  Julia
Username:  jeddy@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-27 00:19:45
Message Id:  7771
Comments:
Well, the topic from Thursday's discussion in Prof. Grob.'s section that stuck with me was the persistence of the coffee metaphor that Prof. Grob. tried to develop. The idea was that when a population of anything, living or not, is dropped into a vast environment, the population spreads out.

The first example was a drop of Paramecium released in a lake, spreads out, as is also the case with simple life spreading into more complex life via evolution. The exemplified life and paramecium are obviously examples of living creatures, but the interesting element that Prof. Grob. brought up was that the nonliving drop of coffee also spreads when dropped into water. If the metaphor is valid then it implies that perhaps there is a consistent and omnipotent force (of which the source is unknown, of course) to spread out or expand beyond boundaries, and this force is not only impossible to control but also applicable to absolutely all elements of the world (perhaps the universe).

I don't know if I buy into this thought that eveything (living and nonliving) respond to the same forces; after all the examples of evolution as a whole and the drop of paramecium both represent elements with the power to "think" and/or respond to their environments and I don't know how plausible it would be to assume that the element of thinking and responding didn't have something to do with the expanding action in question. I'm not sure that living and nonliving entities can be directed in exactlye the same way when one has a distinctive power that the other does not ("thinking").

Perhaps this is not entirely what Prof. Grob. was really getting to with the coffe metaphor, however, it is where the thought took me and it raises some interesting questions to consider.


Name:  Jen Sheehan
Username:  jsheehan@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Affecting/being affected by our discoveries
Date:  2004-01-27 00:40:27
Message Id:  7775
Comments:
Kat wrote, "This fear of interaction and affectedness strikes me as particularly strange considering that almost all interactions, whether terrestrial or extraterrestrial, have at least some small effects on each of the involved parties. Why start being afraid of this now?" I think that fear of being affected by whatever we discover (in this case, life in space) is not really so recent; fear of /affecting/ what we discover, on the other hand, is.

Expansion beyond one's world (usually one's culture and society; in this case, an actual world!) has always been a source of fear for people. There's the old adage that people fear what they don't know, and Prof. Dalke brought up in Thursday's class an interesting example from a play about Galileo (and I apologize if I get the details off) in which a monk looks through the telescope and can see the Jovian moons...but refuses to tell anyone and risk destroying their entire conception of themselves as unique beings who are uniquely loved by their God. The monk feared how such knowledge would affect other people's worldview and self-perception, and I imagine that the possibility of discovering life on other planets -- which would be considerably more extraordinary than most average human interaction! -- holds a lot of fear for those who feel that such a discovery would damage their sense of self -- that they would stand to lose from any encounter or interaction with alien life.

As for adversely affecting anything we might find out there, I'd say that we are only now concerned with this because people rarely cared in the past; the conquistadores, for example, most likely didn't lose any sleep over how their presence would affect the natives. I DO think that it's very worthwhile to consider how human exploration into space might affect/alter what we encounter, and while I don't expect that any signs of life will be discovered on Mars, I do wish humanity could come to some sort of consensus as to how we would deal with the discovery of another sentient species should it ever occur. Such a consensus, however, would probably be impossible.


Name:  Mary
Username:  mferrell@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Thinking about stories
Date:  2004-01-27 08:07:57
Message Id:  7781
Comments:
I'm thinking of how scientific stories transform slowly over time, and at the same time they have inertia that keeps the same story told over time. (Like expansion-contraction, action-comfort , phenomena that goes on simultaneously). And then other times --bam-- paradigm shift, the ratio between transformation and inertia drastically changes. A new story accelerates in and the old story begins to fall apart. Is this transformation of stories similar to biological evolution? In1859, after Darwin's pages hit the streets, away went fixed species, and essentialism and a lot of the creationism crowd. Not completely though, creationism still has a pull on some of us and finalism still has a pull on a lot of us.

This explanation of scientific stories sounds like biological evolution to me. Stories gradually changing and staying the same is like variation within species. A paradigm shift (a new worldview needing acceptance from a population in order to have the shift) emerges from the synthesis of the gradually transforming scientific ideas (genetic variation) like a new species evolves from the genetic variation that survives within a population. Biological evolution involves creation of new species that can't reproduce anymore with the ancestral species. Thomas Kuhn calls it lost science when old concepts can't reproduce anymore with the new paradigms.

Now, I'm wondering about literary stories? Do they transform/shift (evolve?) similar to scientific stories? Our stories definitely transform slowly but at the same time have inertia. Claryssa Pinkes Este's book Women Who Run with Wolves is an example of the transformation and simultaneous inertia of stories
She presents the history of certain long-lived myths over time and talks about how they change a little according to the culture that is telling them. Does literature ever have a paradigm shift?

Why do we replace stories? Biological evolution goes from simple to complex. Is that what stories do? Science, today's popular story is more complex than yesterday's popular story, religion.

One of my motivations for taking this class is to better understand the mechanism directing the evolution of social thought through stories? As in biological evolution, is it the same mechanism - natural selection? Does science help humanity to survive better? There's a chance, I suppose.
Marquis de Condorcet, one of les philosophes who led the French Enlightenment, writes, in his Sketch for an Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, of science advancing humanity firmly toward the truth and establishing a coming era of "reason, tolerance, and humanity". I think the stories of science can be a tool utilized for surviving on earth, be it for technology or as an example of freedom (towards the search for knowledge) that stimulates freedom in politics. But it must be coupled with ethics or else it could be a tool towards tyranny and devastation. Which brings me to my comment for class last Thursday. I think that the trip to Mars is unethical at this time when humanity needs food and resources to straighten out life here on earth before we go off for scientific research. I don't believe the open system as mentioned in class can accommodate both needs of aid to suffering people and Mars research at this time. There is immediate need. I don't think we can ever make everyone comfortable on earth but I do think its time to make an effort towards balancing the power to provide a more sustainable future for all. These days the way I see it, science does not have enough ethics. And it should because it is powerful. Will the evolution of scientific stories help humanity to survive better? There's a chance, I suppose. But it's only a tool. It needs to be coupled with ethics.


Name:  becky rich
Username:  rrich
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-27 11:19:13
Message Id:  7785
Comments:
well, im having trouble coming up with something new to say, but post i must, so here we go: i really like Elizabeth's thoughts on exploration, specifically to mars, being a result of an open system and important to our evolution. im still not sure that i agree though because, as others have said, there are still plenty of ways for us to evolve and change inwardly, in our own societies, and we do have the power, in a sense, and the responsibility, to decide where we want to evolve and how.
the theme paul came up with on thursday, that things are in a cycle of expansion and contraction, is something i'd like to explore further. so it seems we expand out of a drive to explore, or arguably, the drive to expand is inate~ the paremiseum/coffee example seems to suggest it's almost a law of nature. and the exibit demonstrates that people in an integrated society with even a slight preference to be around people similar to themselves eventually produces a segregated community... and i'd be interested to know where someone else might take that next!
Name:  Stefanie
Username:  sfedak@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  you're messed up
Date:  2004-01-27 12:58:33
Message Id:  7787
Comments:
A point which many of you, including myself, in Prof. Grobstein's section found interesting/relevant to the topic was that of change. I, as Bethany stated in her earlier post, brought up the idea that perhaps the idea that going to Mars might "mess things up" was inevitable, the introduction of anything new (a new catalyst) into the environment would bring about some sort of change. When I think of the coffee in the water example I think about those small molecules fundamentally changing the environment of the water. Change, not "messing things up", happens on a very regular basis and even on the smallest scale. But I wonder, if this is change or as we brought up in the Grobstein section and as Mayr made reference to in his book, merely a series of contractions and expansions. All change is cyclic on earth. But would that be true on a planet like Mars. If we were to inhabit it, and later in the history of a martian civilization "mess it up", is that just part of a greater cycle in all life/planetary systems?
Name:  Meg
Username:  mfolcare@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  meant to be
Date:  2004-01-27 13:18:38
Message Id:  7788
Comments:
I agree with Stefanie, I think that everything in existence is destined to be changed. Change isn't necessarily "messing things up", it is an essential part of life, and the existence of non-living things. Change is meant to happen, otherwise nothing would exist. Going to Mars will change it, even in a small way, but it is something that was bound to happen. We cannot say that change in life, or planets, or solar systems is "messing up", it is the future, the next step, it can't be stopped or slowed. And if mars is "messed up" by humans, is that bad, or is that the next logical step in mars's existence, and our evolution?
Name:  Anne Dalke
Username:  adalke@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  from melancholy to biology....?
Date:  2004-01-27 21:23:03
Message Id:  7792
Comments:

Feeling somewhat melancholy and retrospective, I opened this afternoon's class with the story of Lot's Wife, as told first in Genesis and then (giving somewhat more weight to the power of grief) as re-told by the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. But now I find myself wondering (this is a serious question) how that story might be re-told by a biologist. How would/could a human body "turn into" salt? What would be involved in that process of "concentration" and crystallization?


Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder@bmc
Subject:  such an interesting talk today...thank you.
Date:  2004-01-28 02:02:19
Message Id:  7794
Comments:
the idea that the messying of one thing can cause the ordering of another seems so true in relation to everything. a war can cause a rise of nationalism within a nation. the blood of war causes a unity within a nation. great chaotic pain can cause us to hold tight to each other. the order lying in the clinging. the cool stillness before a storm. knowing the frantic ache of imminent destruction nature sits calmly. the ordered moment while sitting with the now cold sickened body. the silence is the order: a form of acknowledging the REALITY OF ENTROPY. the acknowledgment is the order itself.
prof. grobstein talked about not 'beleiving' in evolution. and yet i assume that he KNOWS evolution to be a truth. i think that beleif is a much much deeper form of knowing. yes, we KNOW that evolution exists but can we take this knowledge into our souls? can we LIVE this knowledge? we KNOW that entropy and death are realities. can we acknowledge them? can we beleive them? can we order them in ourselves? do you BELEIVE in death? (i'm really asking...i don't know the answer)is there a way of beleiving entropy? can we live beleiving that we will one day dissipate? i'd say no, except for that silence. that calming order makes entropy okay. it's the acknowledgment, it's that moment before the sun explodes. that order comforts me.
Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Woman of Salt
Date:  2004-01-28 10:19:30
Message Id:  7797
Comments:
Anne D. wrote, "But now I find myself wondering (this is a serious question) how that story might be re-told by a biologist. How would/could a human body "turn into" salt? What would be involved in that process of "concentration" and crystallization? "

Gen 19:26 "But [Lot's] wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt."
Anne, I have no idea how to transform a body into salt, nor does this next thought diminish your question...but it seems to me that this biblical passage--and the definition of 'salt' in it and other places in the Bible- maybe should be interpreted figuratively, not literally. Consider this: "the Phoenicians used the phrase "pillar of salt" to mean "paralyzed" as from a stroke (thrombosis or aneurysm)." Could it be that Lot's wife became paralyzed (from the grief of losing her home?) instead of becoming salt?

More stories of stories...


Name:  Diane Scarpa
Username:  dscarpa@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-28 13:05:34
Message Id:  7800
Comments:
Anne, I'm not sure that I have a proper biological explanation for what happened to Lot's wife, but it is certainly interesting that a biological explanation seems possible. I think this is one of those instances where science and storytelling go hand in hand. I don't think that a scientific explanation would, in this case, derail the story. Moreover, while the bible tells the more overt story a scientific explanation would offer a covert chain of events that occurs under the surface and makes us see what we see. It would help us understand, and perhaps appreciate it better. In this way the science behind it is also a story, or part of the bigger story. Sometimes the stories we can't initially see are essential..
Name:  Elizabeth Catanese
Username:  ecatanes@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  salt and stories
Date:  2004-01-28 15:30:01
Message Id:  7801
Comments:
I think it would be possible for a person to actually turn into salt. Why not! I do think that bible stories are meant primarily for metaphoric significance but somehow I think figuring out the biological way that a person might turn into salt might even enhance one's understanding of this more metaphoric significance- even if in our lives we don't encounter anyone who is turning into salt. I don't know what this biological explanation would be exactly but it brings me back to a link that was in the first forum. I am going to try and put the link here except I'm not sure how HTML works so it might not show up. Here goes. O.k. that won't work... so I'll just explain here what's on that page. There is a theory expressed on that page that "systems are alive based on the quality of order they manifest". It is followed up by a ketchup bottle and a salt shaker. The question was asked; which has the most "life" or "which is a better picture of the self". 80% of people choose the salt shaker which illustrated the point... I think people chose this because the ketchup bottle looked more disorderly... messy. I actually scrolled down and choose the ketchup bottle because I thought it was more interesting- had more life because it was more colorful and had the little ketchup drizzles on the inside of the bottle... and the red kind of looked like blood which to me indicated life (actually I think the part about the blood is a retrospective thought- they may all be retrospective thoughts). But at any rate I can most certainly see why people would choose salt... This is where I think this experiment relates to Lot's wife... salt seems like the most elemental reduction of something- that somehow salt reduces things to their essence and thus to order. This is if we assume that essence=order. Now, admittedly a salt shaker... i.e. salt contained is much different from salt dispersed... a loose pile of salt (Lot's wife). But, Lot's wife was looking back... perhaps to her own essence, memory (the things she looked back to were painful to her) Looking backward at life and where she had been somehow reduced her to her own essence which was... o.k. here is where I pause... there are two ways that this sentece can go. #1 Looking backward at life and where she had been somehow reduced her to her own essence, something fundamentally ordered (as manifested in salt) ... This corresponds to the web site. #2 Looking backward at life and where she had been somehow reduced her to her own essence, something fundamentally disordered (as manifested in salt).... This corresponds to our evolving notions of entropy... everything getting messy, spreading out in an effort to make other things less messy) Let's go with number 2 for a bit. If she didn't look back at what was messy (what was behind her), she could have moved on to what was less messy (disorder allowing for order)... the mess behind her could have propelled her if she did not stop to become a part of it (literally, by becoming salt). Is looking back what somehow promotes disorder? ------------------------------------------------------------------------ I was thinking about Prof. Grobstien's quote about not believing stories. I think the ideas expressed are quite beautiful and believe everything that he said (the WHAT of what he was saying)... for example I too think that one should "listen to stories, learn from them and use them when they are useful." But something about the idea of not believing stories was tremendously unsettling for me and I was just trying to understand why it made me feel that way. I think it really is just a semantic(?) thing... a question of words and meaning I don't know if I'm using the right adjective... Here is how I would revise the quote to reflect my beliefs (using Prof. Grobsteins language with a few additons and subtractions) but still saying something similar. "I believe in stories, wherever they are from. I listen to them, learn from them, and make use of them when I find them useful. To "believe" a story is, for me, to continue the process of "getting it less wrong". Obtaing a full and deep knowledge of the story and it's significance involves entering the world of the story without reservation- trying as best as one can to understand the story as if one had written the story herself. This is believing a story. Only when one fully believes a story can one propell oneself forward beyond that story and onto new stories, perhaps in conjunction with scientific observation. However, the creation of a new story does not preclude belief in the old story. Every story deserves to be belived in. Believing stories is what allows us to be expansive human beings. This is what allows us to change, emerge, evolve." Happy to change my mind about any of this! See you all soon :-) Does anyone know how to make the paragraphs come up as you type them... when I indent or space on the thing it doesn't come up on the posting- Thanks!
Name:  Heather Davis
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-29 03:15:39
Message Id:  7812
Comments:
I have many disjointed thoughts. First of all, I'm having a hard time with the idea of science as a useful story rather than a search for "truth." When I was reading Mayr, it made me think of this one time when I was talking to a man who was sitting next to me on an airplane. He was studying to be a pastor, and mentioned that he didn't believe in evolution. I wanted to convince him that evolution was a fact, although I didn't really say that to him, and I ended up explaining it really badly. It was really frustrating. So, when I was reading Mayr, I was just thinking of all the proof and explanations I need to remember in case I ever come into that situation again. When Grobstein said in class that he tells people stories that he finds useful so that they may find it useful, I thought of this man again. I didn't approach telling him my story (although its not really MY story, maybe the one I find useful?) in a way that was reflective of what he was looking for to be useful. Although, could he have been open to gain anything from my "story"?(I'm still having a hard time thinking of evolution as story) For that matter, was I open to gain anything from his story? I guess we approached the stories as mutually exclusive, so we couldn't gain anything from each other. As to finding the story of evolution "useful," I found Orah's comment really insightful as to the difference between "knowing" and "believing." Knowing being a more logical maybe superficial thing, while believing is a personal thing, living life in a way that reflects that knowledge. I might be paraphrasing badly, but thats what I got from it. For me, evolution is a story that I "know" (as "truth"?) but do not "believe" because it doesn't jive with the way that I live my life. This thought brings me back to my rejection of the seat to go to Mars. I don't want humans to go to Mars because I think we need to work on humanity. I "believe" that we need to spend money on fulfilling basic human needs, ending suffering, ending the destruction of the environment. When I was reading Mayr, specifically about the history of the earth and early life, I found myself questioning everything. Why am I so concerned with humanity if it is destined to end? With the environment if, as Stephanie said, "messing things up" is just change which is inevitable? With the rights of animals when they are just one small branch of the abundance of life on Earth? I mean, the life of a bacteria growing inside my body, which of course I want to destroy, is as much life as that of a cow, right? And as much as I may know those things, I don't believe them. So, although I "know" the story of evolution, and I agree with what everyone is saying about human's exploration/expansion being good and even inevitable, I don't/can't live my life in a way that reflects that knowledge. I don't find it useful. I don't "believe" it..... I also wanted to add a couple of random thoughts. This may be far fetched, but I think that there could be a kind of "life" on Mars that we cannot see/understand because we are looking through our own lenses.....Also on a different note, life doesn't evolve, as Mayr says, to greater perfection. I don't know if he said this or not, but for me it is useful to think of life as not getting more perfect, but more "useful" for its surroundings. This is the same kind of idea as stories.
Name:  Susan W.
Username:  swillis@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-01-29 07:24:32
Message Id:  7813
Comments:
Alright. I can't sleep and its 7am. I might as well post, right?
It seems as though we all assume that one inherent aspect of stories is the fact that they all involve a second party; that is to say stories exist to be told to someone else. But is that really true? It seems to me that we create stories all the time that others dont see. Journals would be an example of that. Would the same reasonings for producing stories for others hold true for producing stories for ourselves?
And another thing that has been bugging me is the idea that stories are all "written". stories can take so many other forms! I think that as a child, one of the most moving stories I ever heard is actually in the form of music, and that would be "Peter and the Wolf". Stories can also be very visual, ranging from films, to painting, to photography, to theatre and all other areas of fine arts. Does the medium in which we tell the story effect the way it is recieved, and the impact it has on us? Would you use one method to achieve a certain emotion or action verus another method? What about Content vs. Medium? (I can't help but think of Brecht and his bizarre, yet wonderful take on how one should conduct a theatre piece: that it should not be a piece of culinary slop, but should instill in us motivation, yet at the same time a complete sense of alienation from our own senses). Just thoughts.
Name:  Ro. Finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Blame it on the puppy
Date:  2004-01-29 07:51:22
Message Id:  7814
Comments:
Good Morning,
I couldn't sleep either, Susan :-) The puppy got me up at just past 5am to go outside (YIKES, it is COLD)...

I"m still stuck in Mayr's muddy last full paragraph on page 8 of his book...I hope this is more amusing than annoying to you guys...

I tried to dissect that paragraph and come up with a succinct set of questions and bothers. Here goes:

Mayr wrote, "It is sometimes claimed that evolution, by producing order, is in conflict with the "law of entropy" of physics, according to which evolutionary change should produce an increase of disorder."

But in Paul's material (Chapter 1, on the link to "The Essential Link Between Life and the Second Law of Thermodynamics") it states, "The overall direction of change in the universe is from less probable (more organized) states to more probable (less organized) states."

My read: Evolution produces order? Evolution is the process by which the next higher, more complex, but not necessarily closer to perfect version of a population comes into being. Evolutionists have applied a scheme for ordering/categorizing that which they observe evolving. But does evolution move according to a predictable scheme? There seems to be a fair bit of chance (right conditions coming together) involved. Has science been able to predict the next turn of the evolutionary wheel on any population?

Mayr continues, "Actually, there is no conflict, because the law of entropy is valid only for closed systems,"
But I need to ask how it is that entropy applies only in a closed system when we know that it can be slowed down, i.e., altered? And how are we (Mayr) defining a closed versus open sytstem anyhow?

Mayr persists;" whereas evolution of a species of organisms takes place in an open system in which organism can reduce entropy at the expense of the environment..."
My issue: Entropy (physical) measures the tendency for change/movement in energy as a function of temperature. It is not disorder, nor is it disorderly, nor does it measure disorder...just the likeliness of a movement of energy...any kind (kinetic, thermal, etc).

Mayr finishes that paragraph with:"and the sun supplies a continuing input of energy."
Me again: Does "continuing" mean "endless"? If not, then isn't the solar system closed? Evolution would then be occuring in a CLOSED system. And entropy would then apply.

So why has Mayr deliberately gone out of his way to dismiss entropy (and therefore, the 2nd law of thermodynamics) as being applicable to evolution. What am I missing?




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