Mayr (page 5)
Grobstein (http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/local/suminst/eei03/forum7.html#6178; see also "I Believe ..." Its Significance and Limitations for Individuals, Science, and Politics, A Vision of Science (and Science Education) in the 21st Century
I don't "believe" in stories, wherever they come from. I listen to them, learn from them, and make use of them when I find them useful. To "believe" in a story is, for me, to end the ongoing process of discovery, of "getting it less wrong", and that's not something I'm inclined to do. I'd rather go on changing/evolving/emerging.
And I don't tell stories in order to get other people to believe in them. I tell the stories I tell because I find those stories useful and so offer them to others for whatever use they might be to them
|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 ... Heather Davis|
|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 ... Elizabeth Catanese|
|If science doesn't/can't deal in "Truth", then evolution must be a story. Questions then become |
|IS evolution "directional"? In what sense?|
To return to ...
"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. Actually, there is no conflict, because the law of entropy is valid only for closed systems, whereas the evolution of a species of organisms takes place in an open system in which organisms can reduce entropy at the expense of the environment and the sun supplies a continuing source of energy" (p 8)
|Directionless change ("expansion", consistent with "law of entropy") can yield directed change; the two are not only not in conflict but may be mutually dependent. |
|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? ... Ro Finn
|Darwin was a good story teller?
anagenesis = gradual change from ancestral to derived|
cladogenesis = splitting, production of diversity, expansion?
two distinct processes?
Can do #1-5 with "common descent" (p 21) and reproduction with variance
Need differential survival for #6?
"Anagenesis" from common descent and reproduction with variance?
"Cladogenesis" also from common descent and reproduction with variance (assuming multiple starting points)
(Third Week Prospectus)
(Your story of) ... Paul's story of Mayr's story of Darwin's story of ... observations
Extensions/implications/relations to other stories appropriate/desirable ... also need
Paul: "expansion", "random change" AND ... ?
To be continued ... (in course, in biology, in me/you/us, like all evolution/story telling?)Bonus:
Issue raised by several students: "What caused transitions (prokaryotes to eukaryotes, eukaryotes to multicellular organisms)?"
PG (off cuff, but with antecedents): "time", ie no "cause" other than playful (undirected) change. Interesting story:
In any case, point is that random variation is a (the?) major driver of most (all?) of evolution (and probably itself responsible for significant aspects of the patterns it exhibits) ... differential reproductive success ("elimination of most members of each generation"), and perhaps some other things, are shapers rather than drivers.
To add to story: relation to extraterrestrial processes, extinction, differential reproductive success, other things ...
|Darwinian/evolutionary story telling||Other kinds of story telling|
|Population thinking and continuous largely undirected change
"A population or species changes through the continuous production of new genetic variation and through the elimination of most members of each generation, because they are less successful either in the process of the nonrandom elimination of individuals or in the process of sexual selection (i.e., they have less reproductive success)" (p 77, Box 4.1) ... this indeed, and very important, but it IS not only a story (a good one) but a story in progress (there may be more going on)
" We have spent a lot of (valuable) time using evolution as a lauch pad from which to bounce off into explorations of our ability to experience/understand/share reality. And we have heard time and again that evolution is just a story. But I think it is important to consider what makes it a good story, a compelling story, one that has in some sense been written in fossils, in genes, in ecosystem dynamics and that humans are reading ... if you think about the fact that there is a certain level of biological simplicity at which organisms cannot evolve to be any LESS complex, than all evolution necessarily exists as movement away from this original simplicity, directional simply because any change from this point requires additional complexity." ... Reeve
And what a fine story evolution makes as well. I particularly like when Mayr (while not being very objective) tells the story that "evolution is not deterministic" on page 121. I like the case that evolution is a constant story of change without a greater direction, just chance interactions which can lead to more change. While some changes seem to occur because they express a state of being better suited to continue in the story, it is actually just random happenstance that the right combination of trait and environment should arise. I find such complex randomness just mind boggling ... Julia
"I was thinking about Mayr and the description about genetics. I was trying to think about how genetics might relate explicitly/metaphorically to stories. What are the genes of a story? Is the story a product of nature or nurture? I think that words are the genes of a story. I think that a story IS a product of nature (these words) and nurture (the culture into which the story is born and in which it is read.) Mutations are experiments in style or content, sometimes radical which are either viable enough to be transferred into the style of other stories or not. ... Story conventions change, adapt, evolve as we've said. And like the whole process of evolution- stories are heavily dependent on the way things have evolved in the past. Every past story is in some sense both still alive AND a "story fossil" Variation in stories is indeed, most often, a recombination of certain story elements. Is a story's creation closer to sexual or asexual reproduction? I would say something closer to sexual reproduction- the union of thought from many places... but there is something that also feels slightly self-generative about stories ... Elizabeth
"Last class we talked about clumpy diversity, which I think relates really well to the generation of stories. Maybe whatever it was I read about there only being a few stories really meant that there are a few clumps that plots, if simplified, could be grouped into. I guess that would still make it possible for infinite stories to abound, while sharing certain "traits" as living things do." ... Lindsay
In the humanities and the social sciences, I am conforted by the fact that my words, my explanantions, and my emotions could possibly change something or someone. But with science, even the most earnest show of emotion does nothing to stop the processes of life and nature ... Nancy
To be continued ...