Darwin's Botched Theory
Time for a wake up call. Darwin's theory of natural selection is one of the
clumsiest and ill-considered theories in the domain of science. It confuses
biological and cultural evolution completely, and shows its ideological
character in its resemblance to economic theories. It suffers an Oedipus Effect,
and poisons the environment with Social Darwinist innuendoes.
And the Coefficient of Murder
Historicism and The Oedipus Effect
We need a new approach to
theories to rescue social action from the wrong influence of bad theories on our
behavior. The eonic data suggests the answer, and we can construct, not another
theory (although we propose a theory of the evidence), but a simple model that
is an empirical map, one that correctly orients past, present, and future, in
the mind of the observer of evolution. The strategy here is to look at the
relation of history and evolution, examining the meaning of evolution, to
construct a firewall against misapplied evolutionary thinking running rampant in
We can base our critique on the notion of the
Oedipus Effect, the way in which theories tend to violate their domain of
application. We take account of the place of the observer/theorist inside
the phenomenon he is observing, and the codependency of theory and evolution
We have a short tutorial on the model, and
this echoes the alternate tutorial on the Eonic Effect proper, cf. Menu on
The nice thing about the eonic model is that it
can throttle back to nothing more than a periodization matrix of dates, which
can be useful also for organizing a study of world history. Theories of
evolution are metaphysically borderline, with a hairtrigger dialectic on key
issues, well analyzed by a figure such as Kant. The advantage of the eonic model
is that we can construct an empirical map of evolution over a stated range,
within which the theory is itself a variable.
construct a empirical realization of the model as an 'Idea for
A Universal History' that becomes an 'Idea for An Historical
Database' to accompany this map. You can
start using it immediately, without much theory, as a list of transitions which
conveniently map out the terrain of global history. We see three turning
points in history and these become transitions. These transitions form an eonic
sequence. This creates a two-level model able to show how directionality can
emerge from seeming randomness.
One of the legacies of scientific
theory is that of the model, a construct whose theoretical properties match the
data in a one to one representation of the properties of the phenomenon under
investigation. Usually these models are deterministic, or wish to be, although
chaos theory now proposes intriguing new perspectives on this (deterministic
chaos, of course, remains the foundation).
As we discover the eonic effect, the need for a model of a new
and different type arises, yet one that still resides somewhere near the
category of 'complex systems'. The clear evidence of historical directionality
requires a complete reorientation of our methodologies and theories. So our
subject is not so much the issue of models as of the way models fail. Here the
thinking of Kant comes to the rescue and we can sort out causality questions in
light of the idea of freedom. We can devise a new type of model, then, that
embraces the difficulty itself. The theoretical strategy is in essence very
simple, and a smart investment in 'theory' yields a huge payoff in
understanding, with a sense of historical coherence a free gift of this
The basic strategy of the model will lie in the following steps:
1. We need to address the question of historicism, historical
inevitability, and the so-called Oedipus Effect. These issues, addressed by
Karl Popper, will allow a review of causality/freedom basics, along with the
way theories and ideologies cohabit together. This starting point will then
graduate to a more complex Kantian treatment.
2. We will define our subject as the Great Transition, the transition from
evolution to history, as an evolution of freedom. We can base this on a
question, When does evolution stop and history begin? We can create a
cornucopia situation where history is emerging from evolution.
3.We will create two levels for our model, one corresponding to a high level
system, like the ocean liner, and the other to the 'free action' of the
passengers. 'Free action' and 'Free Will' stand in a dynamic relation to each
other, and are not the same. The eonic effect describes the high level system,
the evolution, while the low level system is a set of individual 'evolving'
out of the system into freedom, however defined.
4. We will take our turning points as transitions in our Great Transition, as
it breaks down into sub-transitions. This sequence of transitions is the
'eonic sequence'. We can ask a new kind of question, Is there an 'end of the
5. This system we are describing takes into account the
continuity/discontinuity issues that plague evolution, along with the question
of absolute beginnings. We see that our transitions are like relative
beginnings in the middle of a continuous stream. This approach allows us to
let our model start arbitrarily anywhere in its basic sequence. We don't
require an absolute starting point. Thus the properties of the system at its
relative starting points define the system.
As the issue of historicism suggests our starting point is
inherently ideological, it seems, and courts the contradictions of historical
inevitability. In fact, we use the term model instead of theory because of this,
and our subject is really about how theories tend to fail, and our model stand
just above theory creation, and is going to be something ultra simple about
something ultra complex, as it falls out of the class of strict models. Another
issue that: numerical parameters fail completely and there is no one to one
match of the model to the data. We are left to count on our fingers,
periodization, as we 'follow the elephant', trying to map out its large
As we proceed we notice something. Theories
are historical constructs, and have a temporal evolution inside our pattern,
thus theories are part of our data. We need to stand back and look at
theories with a somewhat ironic look on our face. The two aspects of the model
collapse into one. That's why we speak about the model, although talk about
theory continues, but as data inside the system. This approach also allows us to
study systems in which we are immersed, and for which we have no data on their
absolute beginnings or endings.
The basic strategy of periodization is all you need to begin to
study world history. That is the model, if you like. You may certainly disagree
with this periodization. In fact, even that much has a concealed ideological
component. But the evidence is telling, and will prove convincing over time. And
the whole point of our model is to buffer the past and the present, in order to
properly use 'theory' at all. The model has a remarkable property in that it
allows us to do just this.
This model, then, is highly fuzzy, but requires recursive
approximation, more and more zooming, in, and stops just short of theory
So the model is....Given three turning points we create a
sequence of three transitions
Rise of civilization
The Axial phase Transition 2
Rise of the Modern Transition 3
Note that this sequence has no beginning, or end,
and the model is designed to allow this approach, using only fragments. This
sequence of transitions generates two levels, and suddenly we discover something
So you are ready to go with the minimal model.
This raises obvious issues. Why these three turning points? Good question. The
whole model can be reverse engineered around a simple question: Does world
history show signs of general sequence? The answer is that there is a high
degree of coherence to this intermittent mainline. But note that the assertion
of even of periodization contains ideological assumptions. However, we can use
this scheme simply as an experiment, and then we will discover a partial
solution to the issue of ideology.
Losing Prediction, Looking Backwards
That's the basic foundation. There is more, but that's the gist. This
produces a very elegant and beautiful, but quite strange though workable
situation where there is dynamic relation of two levels. Our model has the at
first strange property that its dynamics is visible only in retrospect, looking
backwards. Because of the Oedipus Effect, we must devise a theory in such a way
that the dynamics never impinges on the present. Thus the system alternates
between system action and free action, and must be devised so that the last
system action is in the recent past. There is nothing we need devise, for the
data of the eonic effect does the job for us, beautifully so. We hardly need to
bother with all this theory! The eonic effect spawns our model automatically,
and the model simply throws up a mirror to the data.
Theory and Ideology
The trap of evolutionary theories is ideology, and we make that explicit in
our study, basing the model on the interplay of causality and freedom. That's a
classic gesture, implicit in the distinction of theoretical and practical reason
of Kant, for example. Ideologies concealed in scientific dress can be
deadly, like vipers in the woods, you don't see them until too late. Consider
the plight of Marxism, in case the point seems unclear. For that reason,
ideologies of freedom allied with Big History are notorious among postmodernists
now, but we can easily embrace such criticisms, which often have a perverse
character in any case, and the ideologies of causality allied with Flat History
ask one and the same 'deconstruction'. So it boils down to the facts: what do
the facts suggest? Random (flat) or non-random (Big, or macro) History? The
eonic effect shows the data for the latter. Please note in what follows that we
base our starting point on Karl Popper's critique of ideological pseudo-science
in history, so we can't be faulted for ignoring the critics.
History and Evolution
Everything is based on a trick question: When does Evolution stop and
History begin? This question arises at the point where Darwinists try to defend
themselves from the charge of confusing biological and cultural evolution (and
they might attempt a countercharge that the emergence of civilization is not
'evolution' in any biological sense).
This paradoxical question actually allows us to derive the eonic
model as a sequence of transitions. Our answer is open ended, on a sliding
scale: Evolution stopped in the Paleolithic, and cavemen began history,
or, Evolution will stop in the future, and History will come into being.
This approach allows us to consider that Evolution/History are braided together
based on the degree of freedom man shows. Thus his 'evolving freedom' measures
his degree of emergence from evolution. This is jargon, but it works. And it
allows us to bring Evolution into the present, without the snafu that arises so
visibly in the works of Spencer, and, yes, Darwin. This comes as a shock.
Evolution, biological and cultural, are inseparable, and something more than
genetic variation/mutation/selection. Before rejecting Spencer let us note one
insight (via Kant perhaps) he had that we rediscover: there is a 'noumenal'
aspect to evolution, something deep and beyond our representations. All we can
do is clock its transformations in time. The deep source is (probably)
unknowable. The latter is not a new dogma, but we should remember the Kantian
warning about the Second Newton of Biology. It wasn't Darwin, that's for sure.
What we will do here is take the question to the classic stalemate visible in
Kant's so-called Third Antinomy, the remarkable contradictions of freedom and
Moral #1: NEVER trust anyone who
claims to have a theory of evolution. They are probably pulling your leg.
That applies. Moral #2, as well to the current 'design' theology
attempting to confuse the issue with arguments Kant, once again, critiqued
The reason for this type of model then is the sheer complexity
of what is under analysis. System theorists speak of 'complex systems', but this
system is ultra-complex. At one and the same time what our system does is
transparent, elegant and simple, and we can track its behavior using our
map/model armed with a special type of periodization. If a Martian cone-head
shows us a new kind of can opener so advanced that we don't understand it, we
can still see that it opens cans, and that much at least is clear.
We see the eonic system for what it does, then, It is also quite
spectacular. We see that 'evolution' is able to operate over tens of millennia,
remorph whole cultures in short time frames, and involve itself in all the
particulars of culture. We know this because we keep accounts using
periodization, and notice that explanations require two-level models to make
sense of the facts.
Another reason for the difficulty lies in the qualitative nature
of the data being considered. If a system's behavior is influenced by aesthetic
issues, let us say, how could we measure that? The answer is, we can't, and the
judgments of the observer have to match the qualitative aspects of the system.
This issue arises at once if we consider the 'evolution of art'. Or of ethics.
The attempt to reduce ethics, along with the fact/value distinction, to some
form of mechanized explanation simply doesn't work. But that also has a big
consequence: reductionism fails. Standard science therefore is going to be
confronted with its limits.
Two Level Models
Our approach, however, is based on an hypothesis about Big History, and this
involves the controversies of the philosophy of history. The answer is simple:
take it under advisement. That's all that can be asked. The results are
convincing, but you can use the model even if not convinced. By examining all
the possibilities, and one of those, that of Big History, is neglected, we
become so adept at models of history in their full spectrum that peddlers of
propaganda can no longer pull the wool over our eyes.
It seems to violate scientific assumptions to depart from causal
fundamentalism, but the type of model we consider has a real existence in a
multitude of instances, let us consider the case of a computer user with a mouse
and his computer. A deterministic system, a computer program, say, proceeds from
start to finish, and then stops. A computer interacting with a user is
different: it has a so-called GUI program built in a special way. Such a program
executes the input of the user and then idles, waiting for the next interaction.
In a nutshell (no doubt actual cases are more complex) the system alternates
between the system action (computer) and the user action. There are two
histories here, the determinate sequence of the program and history of
choices/inputs of the user. First the computer does x, then the user inputs y,
then the computer does the 'y input' and then idles, as the user then carries
on. Any attempt to produce a science of history provokes futile efforts to
reduce these two situations to one, but as we can see nothing in the computer
program really tells us much about the user's mind. The two histories simply
braid together over a brief interval, and then the computer is turned off and
the user proceeds down the pike on his own business.
This kind of breading and alternation is precisely what we see
in the eonic effect, where a system and a population interface with double
histories. It is interesting to consider the computer program for a computer
mouse. Such programs automatically create two levels, as in a 'Do.... While'
program segment, where a subroutine does a series of actions and then returns to
the higher level. We won't have much more to say about this example, except that
it shows the way hybrid systems on two levels are a fact of life, something we
deal with all the time. So it is important to adopt a seemingly paradoxical
strategy, on the one hand invoking causal reasoning, and at the same time taking
into account the free activity of individuals. Not one or the other, but both
Since we have two levels we have double, or multiple, histories,
and this division into levels makes the plague of contradictions that leaves
historical (and evolutionary) theory a hopeless muddle go away. This muddle is
fully in evidence at all stages of evolutionary theory, and Herbert Spencer, for
better or worse, makes all the mistakes that Darwin inherited unconsciously, in
the confusion of biological and cultural evolution.
We should note that Lamarck, who is better known for his
wrong-headed speculations about adaptations and giraffes necks, had the gist the
solution in the way he sensibly divided evolution into a two level system, with
the now banished idea of evolutionary progress on one level, and another level
of differentiation and/or adaptation. The idea of progress is so confused that
many totally reject it altogether, but the point is not the ideology of progress
but a two-level system. All the confusions of Darwin and the Darwin debate
spring from Darwin's false reduction of evolution to one-level monistic
evolution. The result is the classic crank theory masquerading as science.
But the problem is that observing this other level is exceeding
difficult, and requires a new scientific methodology, and the observational
requirements can only be satisfied with the most exacting observation over time,
long range and short range. Thus seeing the limits of reductionism requires hard
work, the right data, and the reward is the collapse of science as we know it.
Small wonder Darwinists are adamant that an oversimplification will do the
It is remarkable that the eonic effect is the unique dataset
that gives us a glimpse of these two levels at work, and we react with some
alarm at just how misleading one level theories can be. Misleading and
dangerous, because the only recourse to action on one level is the survival of
the fittest scenario, which drives everyone to think they must compete furiously
to seize the future. But in a more complex system of real evolution, the future
is bound up with a different level in the system, and we can even consider the
possibility of leapfrogging over stalemate situations. Again the eonic effect
shows just this.
But at best we can detect this empirically without necessarily
being able to explain it. We can therefore simply create an empirical map
descriptive of what our system does over the particular range that our data
holds out. But even such a restrictive approach uncovers some remarkable
system properties, and this turns out to be the secret of success. The result
gives us a powerful way to see the dynamics in action behind world history, and
the only name for the result is evolution. It seems at first as if this confuses
cultural and biological evolution, but in the final analysis this is probably
the right use of the term for the descent of man, and is certainly so for world
history, as we create a kind of firewall against theories misapplied to history.
The evolution of history, hence of that history of man in the Paleolithic, has
to be something more than genetics.
However, we justify the use of the term 'evolution',
properly qualified, for the simple reason that we define it the way we do. That
simple. We can describe the eonic effect with or without the term evolution. But
we devise it to collide with the Darwinian because its implications almost
certainly apply backwards to earlier stages of man's emergence.
System and Individual
In general, please note, our empirical map works fine alone, but
produces a theory of the evidence, but not so easily a theory to explain that
evidence. Thus our use of the term 'evolution' is empirical. A theory of
evolution is a tall order indeed. Our strategy allows us to proceed without
injecting bad theories into what should be the straightforward perspective on
the fact(s) of evolution, 'of some kind'.
The key is to devise a two-level model, and use this to produce
a hybrid construct of 'system' and 'individual'. Think of an ocean liner and the
passengers. The 'system' is the ocean liner, operating in deterministic fashion,
and the individuals as passengers are inside that system, and yet have their own
histories. We have already a considerable tradition dealing with this type of
situation, actually, and the works of Kant virtually reinvent a new approach to
science, using a variant of this kind of thinking. The basic idea is simple,
introduce the idea of freedom into the context of a causal system. Since the two
contradict each other, and yet are clearly harmonized in some fashion by nature,
relabel determinism as 'determination of some kind', and 'freedom as free will'
as 'free action, as choice, free will or not'. This kind of hybrid is actually
quite frequent, once we realize it, and occurs in a host of situations. Thus,
take the contradiction between causality and freedom, and make them work
We should note in passing that Newton to his credit was acutely
aware of this problem and that he exempted human will from the laws of physics!
So the founder of what became the reductionist fallacy was not party to what
came in his wake, however inadequate his ad hoc solution. Kant in many ways
cleans up Newton's thinking here. The result is a classic 'two level model',
with an additional relationship of the 'phenomenal' to what he called the
'noumenal', which is beyond our knowledge. That's the catch as we introduce two
levels to evolutionary theory. One level may be beyond our knowledge. But we can
at least detect its existence. This the eonic model does.
That's the crux of our problem, but it gets worse. In general we
need a kind of model where the observer is inside the system being analyzed. In
fact, theories themselves are a part of the evolution of the system, and the
agent's interaction with his own theories has to be taken into account! In a
strict sense the 'theory' is another variable in the dynamics.
This is not a trivial issue either. The history of science, for
example, is a subhistory of the history under examination. What is its status?
Is it proceeding independently of greater history? Clearly not. But this simple
fact has a huge consequence. Theories are part of the data, and their ability to
produce a total explanation would seem limited. We suffer a crisis of
Free Will and Self-consciousness
We need to both embrace and escape from the metaphysics of the
free will question. Here Kant can help, with his reminder of the metaphysics of
soul, divinity, and free will, a permanent condition of man's being. It is not
likely someone will solve this question of free will in the near future. But
unless we can solve this question we can't construct a theory! If we take sides,
we probably restrict ourselves to an easily rebutted theory, with an arbitrary
assumption. Since we can't solve it, we can't close on the theory. What to do?
Actually, we lose theory, but can proceed with a clever way to take it either
way. That is latent in our distinction of system and individual. The system
shows some kind of determination, but not so much as to preempt choice inside
that system. That choice factor is real, and requires no absolute stance on free
We will call this intermediate situation one of
'self-consciousness'. We match that to the 'power of attention'.
Self-consciousness is a real state of man, one that invokes the power of
attention as 'will' (perhaps) to change states of consciousness.
Self-consciousness can be taken either way, either as a
determined situation where consciousness changes its character in order to be
the vehicle of change, or as a degree of freedom, 'creative consciousness' that
is realizing its potential to act freely, thus changing the determination of
that system. Thus, self-consciousness gets the job done of theory, without our
deciding in advance whether it is free or determined. Proofs of the existence of
free will might be a future state/accomplishment of the very system in question.
Til then, we can proceed to describe our situation, at least. We experience
'self-consciousness' all the time as we transit between states of consciousness,
the latter being relatively mechanical. Thus you 'notice' something, waking up
we call it, a moment of self-consciousness, then everything returns to a
mechanical state of consciousness in action. This is a close call, with our
fingers in the pie of the metaphysics of freedom, but we scrape by our idea of
self-consciousness, and get our model without the usual built in time bomb of
the metaphysics of free will.
Look at the Axial Age again. That's just what we are seeing,
speaking broadly, creative individuals, i.e. men in an altered state of
Actually, this seems difficult, but all we have to do is follow
the data of the eonic effect, with its suggestion of an intermittent effect. The
Axial Age, and the progression of three turning points, suggests a mouthwatering
opportunity to apply a new kind of model to history and evolution, a so-called
'discrete-continuous model'. That's a fancy term, but not hard. Think of an
on-off switch versus a continuous current loop. The switch connected to the loop
creates a discrete system from a continuous one. Note that a switch creates a
new situation altogether where something from outside can influence the
Directionality and Teleology
Out of the blue we have produced a strong case for historical
directionality. And this will inevitably raise the question of teleology. Note
that teleology is a far stiffer requirement than simple directionality. We can
see that a system is moving a particular direction, or that it is changing
direction, but that is enough to suspect, short of proof, that teleology is a
factor, quite short of saying what that teleology is. We graduate then to some
very controversial issues, but in a way that can allow us to proceed with
greater caution, and better foundations, than is the case in most treatments of