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evolution « Plebian Design: Blog

Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

Teach the Controversy

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I know this to be true. I looked it up in my gut.

So the title of this post is in reference to the Kansas State board of education debacle from a few years back which prompted the Intelligent Design community to ask that the controversy between evolution and intelligent design be taught in schools. It was rejected pretty strongly by the scientific community. But maybe it should be reconsidered in a different light?

Maybe the root of the fight is that God and evolution are actually the same guy. All knowing. All at once. But also nothing, just a way. Thanking the personal God for blessing you and thanking the random chance of evolution are the same gesture. Its a simple admission of the larger forces at work. But which larger force is the problem we are stuck on. So why not teach that controversy? Why not talk about the reason that we disagree so strongly? How do we acquire such strong beliefs? This is certainly an important part of the story of evolution and should be more useful to most kids trying to make their way in the world than memorizing when the dinosaurs roamed. In a world of 6 billion, understanding strong beliefs of different peoples should be pretty high on our list of things to study.


So there are brains inside our skulls. Inside the skull it’s dark and there is electricity. From time to time, some chemical named Dopamine is passed around (or so they say). When this happens, you believe. Jogging, eating, having sex, going to church, working out, solving problems, participating in group action, helping someone, skateboarding, taking drugs, making money, whatever. A few of these things you really love. These are the things that give you a high. Maybe one in particular is the strongest truth. You just know that it is true. It couldn’t possibly be false. Rational brain be damned. This is the evidence that scientists always claim is lacking from religion. But evidence is not lacking. The high is the evidence. It is the only evidence we have.

They say that this feeling is Dopamine being passed around inside your head. The truth is defined by that feeling, that motion of chemicals and electrons. (it’s probably a little more complicated than that but lets not get bogged down on details here.)

So why does one belief exclude the other? And why don’t we believe each other? I think it relates to some of the oldest of wisdom. No one of us is in control of much of anything. Nobody likes to see others who get too big for your britches. This is really the heart of the controversy. This is religion vs science or right vs left or climate change vs no climate change. Everybody in these debates has experienced a high. Everyone has experienced their evidence. Everybody knows that humans are fallable and frequently wrong. So the wrongness of the other side is obvious.

This is why many rely on God, the entity who can’t be wrong. Scientists also really on a God, the God that is the scientific method and the God that is the process of evolution. It’s everywhere from particles to galaxies. Evolution can’t really be wrong either, it’s just moving forward.

So what would “Teach the Controversy” entail?
There is the discovery institute policy and there are some science lover t-shirts.
But the idea would be something like moving behavioral psychology into the course on evolution. Why is it that we disagree? Not so much the validity of one or the other of the beliefs but the paths of events in an evolutionary system that would lead us to such different viewpoints and why this is advantageous in the long run for the species. All of us, one way or another, are building some set of constraints for dealing with the modern world (which is really crazy and uncomfortable to a bunch of almost monkeys). In order to reduce the number of things you have to think about, you have to make some rules. God is often one of these rules. God and religion make things simpler. Science also simplifies and reduces. (I think the science establishment has plenty of problems too. More on that later.)

Further reading and viewing:
What the surveys say we believe.
The power struggle in wikipedia entries.

And from a business point of view, maybe this means we all should follow the same basic rules of drug dealers: If you are selling a proper high, you should be able to give away the first one. If it goes well, you can be sure they will be willing to pay it for the future?

Who Made Us?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

The awesomest thing about my child’s Lutheran School so far is that every day they focus on very core questions: How do we treat others? Where did we all come from? Where do we go when we die?

We were riding the bicycle back from school yesterday afternoon and Rhett asked me: “Who made you?” I said “Grandma and Grandpa.” He says, “Well, who made all of us?” OH!  At school all day, they talk about how Jesus/God made everyone and everything. He was asking about that. (more…)

Plebian Book Club: An Ecopoetics of Beauty and Meaning

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Turner, Frederick. “An Ecopoetics of Beauty and Meaning” Excerpted from Brette Cooke & Frederick Turner, ed., Biopoetics: Evolutionary Explanations in the Arts (Lexington, Kentucky: ICUS, 1999), 119-138.

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What follows is a relatively unedited stream of direct quotations and paraphrases most salient to me while reading this essay.
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The word God

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Main Entry: God
Pronunciation: \ˈgäd also ˈgȯd\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German got god
Date: before 12th century

1 capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality: as a: the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe bChristian Science : the incorporeal divine Principle ruling over all as eternal Spirit : infinite Mind 2: a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship ; specifically : one controlling a particular aspect or part of reality3: a person or thing of supreme value 4: a powerful ruler

This NPR “This I Believe” entry is one of the first things I posted to my facebook page, an essay from Penn Gillette on being an atheist. I really enjoy this piece a lot, it struck me.
I posted it and several other atheist writings to my facebook page and got some interesting discussions with religious friends. It was the first time I really felt like facebook delivered something valuable to me. A truly different opinion than I was used to getting from people in cambridge or nyc…

But lately I would say I do believe in God. It’s not a statement I would have imagined myself making but it’s true, I do believe in a supreme or ultimate reality. A being or a principle seem to be the same thing to me in this area.

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Frights and Flights of the Imagination

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

We all have fears. Some are raw and strike us as obvious—heights, lions, tigers, bears, dark places. Others are strange and entangled with threads upon threads of culture. We can all literally scare the shit out of ourselves, with a little help from our imaginations. I would like to share two fear inducing flights of the imagination that, to this day, make my whole body tense up. In fact they do so on a regular basis. Let’s call the first one the pool shark, and the second one, the dark-basement grandpa.
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There’s a Zoo in Us

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

I recently came across this old Sesame Street cartoon. I wonder if the writers knew the real depth of what they were saying with this.

What better way to get kids pumped on evolution? There’s a zoo in us! We are full of animals. Through the cumulative processes of evolution, we became who were are. There were many steps along the way, which we can see, somewhat frozen in time, at the zoo. It is hard for some to admit, but if we allow ourselves to look in the mirror that is the zoo, so many of the behaviors we see are ours. In most cases they have been elaborated upon by our imaginative minds and through the cumulative feedback loops of culture. So many of these emotions and behaviors continue to operate in us, animating and guiding the acquisition of this culture.
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