The idea was that all life on earth, and we within it, came from a random and meaningless process of struggling to make more copies of DNA snippets. It wrought its damage on us, convincing us that all pretense to value or meaning was an unscientific illusion. Fellowship was reduced to calculation of the gain to be had in a bargain, and love became a strategy for increasing reproductive success.
A century of loneliness and depression followed Darwin’s theory. All dissent from the canon was mocked with caricature of Grandfather with a white beard calling down from heaven to create the world in seven days.
Only after powerful computers allowed us to actually try out the neo-Darwinian orthodoxy in simulation did skepticism become scientifically respectable. Darwin’s greatest fear about his theory was that all diversity would collapse in short order, and natural selection would grind to a halt once there was no variety from which to select. This proved to be prescient. Mendelian inheritance can’t prevent the collapse of diversity in a brute contest for maximizing reproduction. Nor could the standard model explain community, or the vast scale of cooperation or the complex web of interconnectivity characteristic of ecosystems.
Most difficult of all has been the question of the origin of life. The gap between the most complex system that might arise by chance alone and the simplest system capable of reproducing itself in the oceans of a proto-Earth only gets wider the more ingeniously we try to bridge it.
And the very process of evolution didn’t come for free. Most genotype-phenotype maps are not capable of evolving at a decent rate. How did evolution evolve?
Questioning the plausibility of the simplest neo-Darwiniian models became scientifically respectable, and now it is almost mainstream. Evolution’s capacity for creating diversity and complexity is far more efficient than we can yet explain. Evolution creates a powerful illusion of foresight and planning. The Great Chain of Being holds its mystique.
Article by Richard Watson
Response by Marion Blute
He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree-hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder-broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter-love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried
Unless it was the embodiment that crashed
In the cliff’s talus on the other side,
And then in the far distant water splashed,
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,
And forced the underbrush—and that was all.
by Robert Frost
The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.
— Abe Lincoln
On this date in 1943, young John Kennedy was skippering a small torpedo boat on a mission to sneak up in the dark on a Japanese Navy outpost in the Solomon islands. Instead, a Japanese destroyer rammed Kennedy’s boat and snapped it like a matchstick.
Kennedy sustained a spinal injury that would cause him chronic pain throughout his short life. But that night, he had strength and gumption enough to swim to shore, leading the crew who could swim, instructing them to push with them a piece of the wreckage where those who could not swim were clining. As the legend goes, Kennedy held in his teeth a rope that towed a crewman who had been badly burned.
17½ years later, Kennedy was inaugurated President on the Capitol mall, and he invited to the ceremony not only the two Island natives who found and rescued Kennedy and his crew, but also the captain of the Japanese destroyer who rammed PT 109 on the night of August 1, 1943.
Time stands still with gazing on her face,
stand still and gaze for minutes, houres and yeares, to her give place:
All other things shall change, but shee remaines the same,
till heavens changed have their course & time hath lost his name.
Cupid doth hover up and downe blinded with her faire eyes,
and fortune captive at her feete contem’d and conquerd lies.
When fortune, love, and time attend on
Her with my fortunes, love, and time, I honour will alone,
If bloudlesse envie say, dutie hath no desert.
Dutie replies that envie knowes her selfe his faithfull heart,
My setled vowes and spotlesse faith no fortune can remove,
Courage shall shew my inward faith, and faith shall trie my love.
We welcome the view of others. We seek a free flow of information across national boundaries and oceans, across iron curtains and stone walls. We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
— John F. Kennedy
When asked to define improvising, I say I play music that is less than five minutes old. Yet it isancient, in that thes ounds that attract me have an archaic feel. When it is truly happening I feel that I am lightly touching something deep in culture, deep in genetics, deep in our animal nature &mdash a fundamental connection to others. Making art, whether you do it solo or in a group, derives its patterns from everything around us, in an interdependent network. We learn to work as nature does, with the material of ourselves: our body, our mind, our companions, and the radical possibilities of the present moment.
— Stephen Nachmanovitch
I grew up thinking that bacteria = disease, and the only good germ is a dead germ. The medical community turned around, and it is now common knowledge that our health, our happiness, and our very lives depend on thousands of species of bacteria in our intestines and on our skin. Commensals vastly outnumber parasitic bacteria.
Could the same be true of microscopic worms? Modern Western standards of hygiene usually keep our bodies worm-free. What are we missing?
The best documented benefits of worms concern Crohn’s Disease, seasonal allergies, and other immune dysfunctions. Worm treatments for MS are on the horizon.
My own research has shown that thousands of humans are now using intestinal worms, from a variety of sources, to effectively treat a wide range of allergic, autoimmune and digestive diseases. Based on previous studies, we were not surprised that people were having success. But we did find one puzzler: people and their doctors were reporting that helminths were helping to treat neuropsychiatric problems such as anxiety disorders and migraine headaches.
— Article by William Parker