Writing the Future: Progress and Evolution

Overview

The theory of evolution connects us to the natural world, explaining how and why we are a part of nature. The idea of progress, on the other hand, projects a destination. "If nature can supply wonderfully elegant solutions to the problem of survival by trying out test models derived solely by chance, then surely it's possible for us to find our way forward," write David Rothenberg and Wandee Pryor,
setting the terms of the discussion. But is ...

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Overview

The theory of evolution connects us to the natural world, explaining how and why we are a part of nature. The idea of progress, on the other hand, projects a destination. "If nature can supply wonderfully elegant solutions to the problem of survival by trying out test models derived solely by chance, then surely it's possible for us to find our way forward," write David Rothenberg and Wandee Pryor,
setting the terms of the discussion. But is society going somewhere in particular?
Is nature improving? The stories, poems, essays, and artwork in Writing the Future examine the concepts of evolution and progress through a variety of artistic and scientific lenses and speculate on how these ideas can help us appreciate our place in the world.The first section of the book, "Science, Mustard, Moths," looks at evolution's founding concepts and personalities, and includes Theodore Roszak's challenge to a Darwinian orthodoxy, which he traces back to another pioneering theorist, Alfred Russel Wallace. The second section, "Steps from the Cave," focuses on human change, and features Ellen Dissanayake's unusual look at prehistoric cave paintings in France, poetry by John Canaday, and a richly layered short story by
Floyd Skloot. The third section, "Places in Time," moves outward to examine the world evolving and includes a reminiscence by Leslie Van Gelder of growing up "in the church of Darwin" and Eva Salzman's account of an infinitely reverberating walk through a Long Island neighborhood. In the fourth section, "Getting to the Future,"
the writers consider different manifestations of progress: Katherine Creed Page examines a "future perfect" through reproductive technology, Kevin Warwick reports on linking his nervous system to a computer by means of a small electronic circuit implanted under his skin, and Joan Maloof meditates on our possible future
"de-evolution" -- an abdication of our dominating role and gradual return to nature
-- which brings the book full circle.

The MIT Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"... [A] book that will delight the reader... an exemplary anthology."
William Kowinski San Francisco
Chronicle

The MIT Press

"The strength of these pieces lies in their powerful sense of place,
binding diverse human activities to their natural context." Elizabeth
Sourbut
New Scientist

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262182355
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Series: Terra Nova Books
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Rothenberg is Professor of Philosophy at the New Jersey Institute of
Technology and founder of the Terra Nova book series. His most recent books are Always the Mountains and Sudden Music:
Improvisation, Art and Nature.

Wandee J. Pryor is former Managing Editor of Terra Nova projects at the New Jersey
Institute of Technology.

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Table of Contents

Where are we going, where have we been?
I Moths, sex, and chaos
Wallace's dilemma : evolution and transcendence 2
Letter from Charles Darwin to his sister, Catherine 19
Is evolution a social construction? 27
Science evolving : the case of the peppered moth 37
Why do birds and bees do it? 51
The first mantophasmatodeae 60
Prismatic progress 63
II Steps from the cave
Of caves and humans 73
Lascaux, Pech Merle, Chauvet 86
Tyger tyger 88
Rock is naturalist scripture 92
The man who spoke to stones 95
From the cane flute 107
New England ghazal 116
The wings of the wind 118
Riders on the earth 131
III Places in time
Childhood in the church of Darwin 140
From broken island 151
January 163
Dave Brubeck's garden 177
Progress 178
Notes from an urban dig 181
IV Getting to the future
Quest for a future perfect 193
Intelligent robots or cyborgs 201
De-evolution and transhumanism 213
Moral Progress 221
Coevolutionary flashes in the withering beam of progress 234
The abundance of less : from a different kind of luxury 245
From how little I know 261
Contributors 268
Sources 274
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