Friday 10 July 2009

Ooo, I like this term: "evolution culture"

What a great description. "Evolution culture".

Adam Goldstein has penned an academic's guide for blog-newbies in the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach, entitled Blogging Evolution. After discussing the style and structure of blogs, Adam Goldstein turns to an insightful and apt look at some loose categories of evolution blogs.
Over at Laelaps, Brian Switek has a careful analysis and there's some interesting comments shaping up about missing categories. I find the practice of categorizing the interconnected community of blogs apt and self-referential -and funny. An organizational tree of evolution blogs sprang immediately to mind.

Adam shared via my twitobite account that he had included The Flying Trilobite under the taxonomic family category of "Imaginative" along with Carl Zimmer's cool The Loom. From the article:

I hesitate to call blogs focused on art and culture “imaginative,” because doing so suggests a contrast with the other categories of blogs as “non-imaginative.” I see science as an imaginative endeavor, even at its most arcane. Perhaps “evolution culture” would be a better name for this category.

I like that. We need more of that. We need Richard Dawkins' suggestion for a Mesozoic Symphony. We need evolution hipsters. Oh no wait, hipsters are out. Evolution b-boys then. That never goes away. I sound flippant, but I'm quite serious. Evolution as a concept in nature is tremendously cool, and infinitely fashionable. It needs to reach heights of creative output - and not be mixed up synonymously with development. Understood as it is, simple rules leading to emergent, beautiful, myriad forms and behaviours.

Goldstein's article showcases some interesting categories and a number of blogs. Including some that are not ones I'm familiar with. Seeing it from an outsider's perspective also interests me. Blogs I can't live without were missed, though I credit the author with hitting on so many of the of blogs about evolution. The Flying Trilobite appears alongside The Loom, and with Pharyngula, The Beagle Project, Why Evolution is True, The Evilutionary Biologist and The Wild Side. (How have I missed Genomicron? He's like an hour away from me!) Be sure to check it out - this is not an accomodationist list. This is an (albeit incomplete) list of the right stuff.

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Sean Craven said...

Evopunk? I've got to say that it's really interesting that evolutionary theory is the hot front of the culture wars between science and religion and between intellectualism and anti-intellectualism.

While most of what I write is more fantasy than science fiction I try and be as explicit as possible about my materialistic perspective. Even when I'm writing about ghosts and deals with the devil.

Glendon Mellow said...

Evopunk - that's awesome!

If evolution wasn't the hot button issue between religion and rationality, what would be? The size of the cosmos? That's fun to ponder.

Nothing wrong with fantasy - it's fiction, not a manifesto. Fans of fantasy and sf tend to be bright skeptical types much of the time anyway.

Sean Craven said...

Well, they're making an attempt with creation astronomy...

... which demonstrates a new level of awareness in creationist circles -- that all science is linked and that they can't bring down the edifice without attacking the whole thing at once.

The minute they come up with effective and reliable faith-based engineering I'll give their claims a more thorough inspection, but at the end of the day the big difference between a materialistic and a mythological view of the world is simple and not subject to debate.

Science works. You can do things with it. How many automotive faith healers have you seen?

Laelaps said...

Well there has already been some evolutionary steampunk -

And a great Levi's evolution commercial -

Evolution & Darwin definitely are integrated into modern culture. People are at least aware of it even if they don't fully understand it. That's part of what makes it such a hot issue; it's something everyone has an opinion about.

I agree, though. It would be great to see some more expressions of "evolution culture', like the "Teach the Controversy" shirts and other things that have grown out of an appreciation of/fascination with science.

Unknown said...

The Quest for Right: A Creationist Attack on Quantum Mechanics. Here's a different take on creationism/ID: The Quest for Right, a multi-volume series on science, attacks Darwinism indirectly, by attacking quantum mechanics. A more sophisticated way to argue against Darwin is certainly to argue against modern physics. Without modern physics, you lose astrophysics too, which enables the author to make the case for YEC [young earth creationism]. The author goes on to prove that things like red supergiant stars and X-ray pulsars don't really exist, except in the imagination of scientists.

Glendon Mellow said...

Laelaps - evolution is a hot issue in some circles, but not the culture at large. Most of my friends and people I work with are still a bit fuzzy about the trilobite tattoo on my arm and what it is exactly. You're right, the amount of people online and their creative projects are growing all the time - but in popular culture the background understanding of evolution by natural selection is not common enough knowledge for (most) people to play with.

It seems to me every time a creationist attacks the age of the universe or cosmological theory as a way to "attack Darwin indirectly" it just leaves it open for people to point and giggle. Even the most disinterested lay-person in the culture wars should be able to see that whether or not organisms change over time has little to do with pulsars.

But then again, astrology is still popular. Such is pop cognitive compartmentalizing.

Laelaps said...

I think my meaning might have come out a little garbled.

I think evolution is a "hot issue" in pop culture at large in that evolutionary imagery is often co-opted and understood. More than that, lots of people have an opinion about evolution (right, wrong, interesting, irrelevant, whatever) even if they do not fully understand it. I'm not saying there is necessarily an established "evolution culture", but I would say the average person is at least familiar with the idea and thinks they have some comprehension of it. That's something that people in the know could play into.

I wasn't talking about people on the web. I know we're basically preaching to the choir here. I am just saying, generally speaking, the public at large is at least aware of evolution. It's not some obscure topic that is totally unknown. Even if what the avg person knows is wrong, it's still something to work with.

Glendon Mellow said...

Oh! Sorry for my misunderstanding Brian.

For myself, I often forget that other people don't share my interests, and I'm surprised by stuff I need to explain.

You're right of course. Even misinformation is something to work with. I have a feeling we'll all be doing a lot of patient explaining when Creation comes out.

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