One Long Argument
The debate over evolution is a chronic liability of modern
culture, one long argument in Darwin's phrase, and never seems
to go away or resolve itself. In fact, that is not surprising.
Darwin's theory has been made the foundation for an entire world
view, and yet it is patently unable to sustain such a project.
This debate consistently fails to distinguish the 'fact' of
evolution from the 'theory' that attempts to explain it, natural
selection. We can critique natural selection, and still accept
the reality of evolution. The problem is that real evolution is
difficult to observe. Many criticisms have been given of natural
selection, and as many criticisms of the criticism, but the key
problem always remains, and is simply the inability to provide
the conclusive evidence that would prove the case. Because of
the difficulty of observation theories of evolution are prone to
concealed metaphysical assumptions, and this is what tends
to drive religionists especially to dissent from the claims.
The emergence of Darwinism was in concert with a positivistic
tide of 'Science Triumphant', and this has tended to enforce the
assumption that science has all the answers, and that the
methodology of science as currently proposed can produce a
theory of evolution. The problem is that evolution is not
physics, and the right foundation for a science of evolution has
yet to be properly set. For example, one of the key issues is
that of directionality. Darwinism is forced into a corner by its
own reductionist tendencies, and uses natural selection to have
its cake and eat it too. On the one hand natural selection is to
banish all vitalist forces, on the other to account for the
whole complexity of evolutionary outcomes. Thus directionality
is claimed as a result, but never allowed to enter the form of
the explanation. This situation can exist only in the absence of
closely tracked evidence of how evolution really happens.
Another problem with the reductionist project is its
inability to handle questions of ethics. The fact-value
distinction, so-called, seems to stand in the way. Values don't
enter physics, physics is the foundation, therefore the
successors to physics cannot do values either. Just there, in a
line or so, we probably have the reason for the confusion. The
subject of evolution, we suspect, requires the issue of values
be taken into account.
There was always something implausible about Darwin's theory.
It is really about random evolution. From the reductionist
viewpoint, it is suspiciously convenient to simply claim that
natural selection, i.e. random evolution, can produce the
complexity of life-forms, this without actually tracking the
process in real time. But random evolution once it is made
intuitive suddenly stands out like a sore thumb. We never think
that way about things we see at close hand. They don't 'just
happen'. We should be suspicious here. The problem is that if
random evolution fails, so does reductionism (probably), and the
problem becomes complicated all at once. There are no simple
alternatives to random evolution, at least in our limited
technological environment where the four forces of physics seem
to be sufficient to explain all.
But we suspect Darwinism will go wrong on the issue of
randomness, and we actually do have a source of
counterevidence--the study of history. Remarkably, the question
of evolution, as far as man is concerned, can be resolved if we
detect non-random evolution. And this we can do by looking at
world history as a whole. The reason this is important to do is
that in history we have evidence chronicled at the level of
centuries. What if there were some evolutionary process that
happened very quickly and suddenly over a short interval of a
few millennia, say, getting its work done in what would be an
eye blink of time compared with the periods Darwinists take for
granted? That is just what the eonic effect shows us.
Turning Points in History
The rise of archaeological knowledge since the nineteenth
century has transformed our views of history and in the process
resulted in some surprising discoveries. The first is the clear
sequential logic of world history, and the second related to the
first, that of the so-called Axial Age.
These discoveries of the archaeologists have pushed back our
view of ancient history all the way to the Neolithic and before,
but have especially made clear the question of the rise of
higher civilization by showing us the world of early Sumer and
The strange way we always took traditional history consisted
of taking arbitrarily as central the birth of our traditions in
the time of, for example, the classical Greeks, the Prophets,
Buddha in India, Confucius in China. It all seems to start in
the middle of something. The world of Egypt and Mesopotamia
seemed to be an obscure adjunct to this more central history, a
sort of quaint prelude or sideshow to the main story. But now we
see the reason we always took it this way. These earlier
civilizations have their own histories going backwards several
millennia to their dawn near the end of the third millennium.
So we suddenly have a strangely larger picture with a simple
logic. Suddenly we have the rise of civilization, then a long
period of all that, with many successors to Sumer and Egypt,
then the birth of our classical civilizations, after which there
is a long period of the successors, once again, and with a long
medieval period after the decline of the Roman Empire.
Then, once again, we have a sudden upsurge, a new step in
this odd series, the rise of the modern period. This suddenly
transparent drumbeat effect is as obvious, once seen, as it is
The Enigma of the Axial Age
The discovery of the pattern of the Axial Age, which we can
see is simply one part of our series of turning points, is the
other unsuspected finding emerging from the extension of our
knowledge of world history. However, the question of the Axial
Age raises another issue beside that of sequential logic, that
of synchronous or parallel evolution.
Because the implications of this data are so revolutionary
many students have tended to simply close their eyes to it. The
basic finding is the way, all at once, in a period from about
-900 to -400, or so, five, or more civilizations, suddenly
undergo rapid renewal and change, with a host of seminal
thinkers appearing suddenly in a way that is foundational for a
whole era to come.
We see this clearly in the period of Archaic Greece,
the core Old Testament, in India, and in China. This period
produces a truly stunning amount of what constitutes the core
tradition of humanity, including the birth of two great
religions, the rise of Greek science, democracy, many
literatures, and in general the sources of almost all the
cultural forms that have persisted up to the rise of the modern
The simplest, or clearest, case is that of Greece. The Greek
Archaic period shows the whole effect in cameo, as Greece pulls
out of a Dark Age, produces an immense amount of cultural change
in a few centuries, then by the period after -400, everything is
over, and the period of rapid innovation is over.
This would be surprising enough, but suddenly we see that the
whole phenomenon is replicated five, or more, times, from Rome
to China. Especially remarkable is the light this throws on the
Old Testament which is really a concealed description of the
Axial Age, built around the various earlier myths and legends of
the period that came before that.
We see, then, that the Axial Age is really the second stage
in our series of turning points.
The Eonic Effect
We have an unmistakable non-random pattern right in our
backyard! We see a sequential and synchronous logic at work in
tandem. These two properties make for a very complicated system
however. But the basic logic is clear. To summarize,
Suddenly, we have a clear holistic
interpretation of world history in the form of a non-random
pattern behind us in the chronicle of known history. It is
non-random in the way it demonstrates an intermittent clustering
of creative action over long periods beyond the scope of
individual will. It is a pattern that explicitly defies the
logic of chance, as it generates a sense of coherence. We can
even see ‘system return’ processes, like feedback,
attempting to restore direction or elements that have died out.
The Eonic Effect We
see a macrohistorical ‘volution' or ‘rolling out’
associated with the emergence of civilization in a long
frequency or directionality, suggesting long range feedback or
system return, morphing in direct and focalized fast transitions
the large scale event-space of cultural entities. We can
reverse-engineer this unmistakable pattern with a question, Does
world history show evidence of general sequence? The answer is
yes, and we see very strong correlation with an intermittent
sequence pattern that can only be called ‘evolution’.
This pattern is so elusive that we barely
see it, but we sense it, and it suddenly comes alive as we clock
its strange timing, and adopt systematic periodization. It is
made difficult by the need to examine relative changes,
i.e. incremental change in a stream of prior continuity.
One thing we must do is acquire the knack
to distinguish the action of a system and the free activity that
is mixed with it, like the difference between the motion of an
ocean liner and the relative free action of the passengers in
that context. Two categories of motion are superimposed. This is
what blinds us to historical dynamics. This pattern explains at
a glance many of the contradictions we live with and that
characterize our sense of history. The implication is of a
process that can act globally, generate rapid change in whole
cultures in short bursts, and proceed across millennia in
coordinated fashion. Careful accounting of time periods shows
this global system at work.
An Unexpected Challenge to Darwinism
We have introduced the term 'evolution' to describe the eonic
effect, and this might at first seem to misuse the term.
Actually, we can define 'evolution' in many ways, and this
process we see in history can best be defined as 'evolution'.
The question that must haunt us is the suggestion that our views
of earlier evolution are missing something, and what is missing
is visible in the eonic effect, albeit in a different context.
The data induces a reality check, for we see that 'evolution'
isn't random at all, but has an associated driver.
What's more we see the very high level at which this
'evolution' operates. It virtually remorphs whole cultures on
the spot in a matter of centuries by seeding the elements of
revolutionary changes in a short interval. Everything is
included, culture, religion, art, philosophy, science, political
forms, and much else.
This 'evolution' shows a clear developmental mainline in the
emergence of civilization, so-called, and is clearly associated
with all the major advances of human history. It shows a
definite global progression in alternating phases.
The Great Explosion--A Photo Finish Contradiction
Once we see the eonic effect, we are suspicious of current
accounts of the descent of man. Around 50000 years ago, a sudden
explosion over ten thousand years produced modern man in his
current evolutionary form. It was always hard to see how this
could have happened so quickly, granting that the data for this
was always less than adequate.
But all at once we see another instance of this fast
evolution in our own history. We can't be sure, but we suspect a
connection, speaking generally. If even the late stage of
emergent civilization required a background driver, how much
more true that would be of earlier man. We don't want to jump to
conclusions, but we should caution Darwinists against doing the
same thing. We sought the one intangible thing, a case of
non-random evolution, and found it. The stock of the usual
accounts projected backwards on earlier times and places
plummets and is seen for what it is, speculative.
We see that Darwinian explanations seem to flunk a photo
finish test. The last phase of emergent civilization shows one
kind of evolution. How could be restrict ourselves to natural
selection for the earlier period?
We see that natural selection simply isn't the explanation
for the emergence of world civilization, it is something much
more complex at work. In fact, as the Axial Age makes clear, it
almost seems as if our evolutionary process has to compensate
for the effects of natural selection. It is bypassing the
effects of competition and dominance by doing endruns around
previous civilizations, starting over in each new period in a
We have finished the basic overall presentation of the eonic
effect, and can conclude by showing the gateway to the
construction of a model.
History and Evolution
Our use of the term 'evolution' seems at first illegitimate,
but we can see that it is the Darwinian usage that is
problematic. Darwinists tend to restrict evolution to genetics,
and thus confuse cultural and biological evolution. While it is
perfectly legitimate to separate the two, that strategy won't
work in defining species change, at least for man. The
two aspects, cultural and biological, must be braided, and
overlap in the period of the descent of man. It seems to
Darwinists as if early evolution produced a 'man' who was free
enough to create civilization. But we see that is not true, that
even the late stage of cultural evolution involved in
civilization required a macroevolutionary process. The attempt
to reduce that to genetics is a clear problem now for
Nonetheless we are going to carefully delimit our sense
of the term 'evolution' and we can do this by asking a simple
- When does evolution stop and history begin?
This is a paradoxical question, since the 'when' is
ambiguous. Clearly it couldn't have happened all at once. Some
kind of transition must be involved. But that is just what we
see in the eonic effect. A series of transitions. At each stage
man becomes relatively more realized or free to proceed with the
issues of civilization.
We will define our subject then, not as 'evolution', but as 'eonic
evolution' or the Great Transition, from evolution to history.
We define history as the stage of relative freedom, one in which
man looks backwards at the greater process of evolution from
which he emerges. In this sense evolution and history clearly
overlap, and are distinguished by the degree of freedom
This means that man is exiting from evolution, so to speak.
Note that the definition of 'man' therefore is up in the air,
for man's speciation is not a completed process in the
This definition is much more flexible and allows us to bring
evolution (the macro process in the eonic effect) into the
present or even future, even as the dimension of history
(freedom) continues in tandem. This creates a two-level approach
and this immensely clarifies the issues currently so confused.
History, Historicism, and Historical Inevitability
Beyond the controversies of evolution lie those of what
called 'historicism', the claims for Big History, or historical
dynamics. We have stumbled into this other debate with the data
for our eonic pattern. Clearly some kind of Big History exists,
what we will call Universal History, to invoke a phrase from the
philosophy of history.
The issue of historicism, or historical inevitability was
that of causality and freedom. But in our approach we already
see the way to reconcile these two, for we have two levels, one
semi-causal driving the evolution in the large, and the other
'free' in some sense (not necessarily free will) in the sense
that people are inside the evolutionary system but still acting
freely in a host of ways.
Take an example, an ocean liner and the passengers. The
system dynamics is controlled at the high level by the ship's
motion, but inside that system the passengers have relative free
action. Whether you sit in your cabin or play shuffleboard on
deck is your choice, and makes no difference to the ship. The
interface of the ship's motion and those passengers also the
crew is thus an important question, but doesn't change the
effect of two levels.
In the same way, but much more complex, our 'eonic evolution'
operates on a scale of millennia, while the individuals of
history are often doing something on their own. We see the
intersection of these two factors in the eonic effect itself.
In essence, speaking briefly, we have a way to bypass
causality/freedom issues by looking at the way both operate
Theories and the Oedipus Effect
One of the issues of historicism in Popper's sense is the way
in which theories are used make predictive statements about the
future. The problem is that in most cases the behavior of
individuals can anticipate the claimed prediction and try to
falsify it. Deterministic theories can't forbid the choices of
men in the present in order to produce causal explanations.
We need a new kind of theory that simply stops in the
present, and restricts its statements of dynamics to the past.
But our emerging model is tailor made to do just that. We will
create a hybrid where the system represents causality, and
individual freedom. We call them 'eonic determination' and 'free
action (not necessarily free will)'.
Thus our theory is about the past, contains statements about
what the system did, and what individuals did inside that
system. Then as we reach the present the system is no longer
operating, and the future is left to the free activity of the
individuals who make it up.
This is actually strange, but we do this all the time with
our economic logic. We look at the history of economies, detect
a cyclical rhythm, perhaps (boom and bust). We are free to
choose inside that system, and yet it also shows some kind of
Then as we close on the present the situation changes. The
system is open to our intervention, perhaps, and the set of
cycles can be modified by our present activity, perhaps.
This kind of modified theory using two levels, system and
individual, has a clear precedent in economics, and we proceed
to construct an analogous more complex version of this type for
our eonic system.
Idea For A Universal History
We see that our emerging model of the eonic effect, just as
it shows an overlap of evolution and history, shows an overlap
of evolutionary theory and the philosophy of history.
And we have seen that the question of the 'science of
history' is ambiguous, because we have conditioned causal
statements to coexist with freedom conceptions.
This kind of tandem model is essential since otherwise we
would have no real history at all. The only way to reconcile the
contradiction is a system of intermittent action where degrees
of freedom alternate in sequence. It is remarkable that history
directly reflects this situation.
The philosophy of history is unfairly thought an
old-fashioned subject, but our reference to it can be justified
as precisely this discussion of freedom and necessity. And
before Popper it appeared in classic form in the work of figures
such as the philosopher Kant, whose essay on history asks us to
find the 'pattern of Universal History'. We can see that we have
found precisely what was asked for, an evolutionary/historical
pattern that answers to the issues of the emergence of
civilization, and freedom inside civilization.
An Evolution of Freedom
We can conclude this all too brief summary of the eonic
effect, then, as an 'evolution of freedom', seen in the Great
Transition from passive evolution to free history, left with a
question, which is whether the dynamics we see in the eonic
effect is at an end. Whatever the case, we see that our position
in history is at the end of the third of three great
transitions, and we are free outside the eonic pattern, with
evidence, looking backwards, of a remarkable pattern of
'evolution' in our own backyard, one able to resolve some of the
paradoxes of the enigmatic descent of man. We can see that
something much more complicated than natural selection is at
work, and that evolution shows directionality, operates at a
high level, and involves our consciousness.