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Last modified 12/21/2008

Starting a new revision of this series: the revised pages are indicated in red in the table below. 

The Evolution Controversy   
The Limits of Observation

A Non-random Pattern: The Eonic Effect

History and Evolution

An Outline of History
 

 Introduction 

 The Evolution Controversy

The debate over evolution endures as one of the most intractable of modern civilization. In part this is due to the built-in metaphysical and political agendas of the scientific and religious groups ambitious to control the defining ideology of human origins. Although the idea of evolution is as old as philosophy itself, its reappearance in the modern Enlightenment arose in the wake of the discovery of deep time, and produced a broad spectrum of speculative, but still controversial, beginnings of theory. But it was the Darwinian interpretation, almost a popularization, in the era of Positivism that defined, or contracted, the idea in terms of reductionist science.

Darwin’s theory of natural selection collated with the sudden public realization of the fact of evolution produced the revolution of thought we associate with the idea of evolution. But this also produced the oversimplification of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, thence the confusion that has never gone away. If the basis of science is its empiricism, then the claims for evolution are overwhelming while those for natural selection are insufficiently documented by data. This simple point tends to be lost in the immense noise produced by religious and Darwinian diehards quibbling over the ‘fact’ and the ‘theory’. The result is the classic metaphysical deadlock of the Darwin debate, effectively depriving the public of any clarity or viable options on the subject of evolution.

The problem of the Darwin debate is compounded in the attempt to define the nature of secularism in terms of the constricted methodologies of physical science inherited from the seventeenth century Scientific Revolution. The theory of natural selection thus became the talisman of metaphysical foundationalism. Even if we are defenders of modernism and its secular culture, we remain confounded by the preposterous resurgence of fundamentalist religion. But this appears like a failsafe near the prospect of an anthropology of scientism determined to enforce the ideology of a soulless machine-man. The spare-parts drama of the Frankenstein constructed by natural selection in the Just So stories of the survival of the fittest seems like another such fundamentalism. The modern Enlightenment produced a far broader perspective than the later contraction of scientism, one fully capabable of responding to retrograde fundamentalism, and yet this has been swept away in the tide of reductionist science. The result is a misleading polarization of science and religion.

Modern public culture influenced by Darwinism has lost any sense of universal history, and cannot so much as address the issue of values.  Thus, the center of gravity of cultural modernism remains in the archaic heritage of the Axial Age, as the traditions of monotheism remain by default the baseline of public philosophy. The mythical stories of the Biblical tradition are not so denatured by reductionist obsessions and appear to retain the vitamins of universal history able to at least discourse on questions of ethical action. And yet these sagas belong to an age or culture of bards and their epics. The limits of reductionist science were well understood in the generation before Darwin in the high tide of the much-misunderstood Enlightenment, which contains its own self-critique, and an attempt to complete the project of a robust secular philosophy able to complement the causal monism of rising science embarking on the enigma of evolution. The philosopher Kant directly addressed the limits of Newtonian science, limits well understood by Newton himself, and created the necessary extension of thought in the idea of freedom, able to complement the project of science, as theoretical reason, with a protocol of historical action, under the rubric of practical reason. The final irony is that the Old Testament contains a concealed clue to the meaning of evolution. The rising tide of Biblical Criticism has eroded the foundations of the epic world modern man still inhabits, but in the process has left an enigma of historical dynamics, seen in the sudden perception of the so-called Axial Age, that constellation of sudden advances in the onset of classical antiquity. 

The collision of science and religion has produced a crisis of secularism. But how do we define modernity? The attempt to set the foundations of the meaning of the secular with the claims of Darwinian theory, or more broadly the canon of reductionist scientism, is entirely misleading, and can only set the Enlightenment Project into retrograde motion. Darwinists have thus precipitated a very narrow interpretation of secularism itself. The issue finally is the weakness of Darwiniand theory itself. Fundamentalists, perhaps because they are so outside of the closed focus of technology-mesmerized secularism, understand well enough that they are under no obligation to take the selectionist metaphysics as an established science, and castle behind their archaic mythologies of religion, themselves beset by the revolutionary findings of Biblical Criticism. The encounter of Biblical history with archaeology has forced us to reexamine the Old Testament as a basic text of monotheism. Creationists make life easy for Darwinists by taking them at their word and willfully confusing the fact of evolution with the theory of natural selection, using the problems with the latter to challenge the former. The resulting confusion produces a naiveté that tends to make Darwinists overconfident, when in fact the truncated view of man produced by modern science is as inadequate as anything in their opponents who can at least speak without reductionist contortions about a real human with self-consciousness.

The Darwinists, in the idee fixe of their selectionist world-view, are hard pressed to handle even elementary issues of altruism and have produced a sort of Ptolemaic adjunct in the concoctions of kin selection and group selection to save the appearances in their theory. This bag of tricks tactic of making selfishness, the prime suspect of an age of economic liberalism, the key to the altruistic enigma, is clever but beside the point. This form of explanation is by definition wrong, because it denies the existence of the problem to be solved, the evolution of agency and consciousness. We should recall that a first dissenter on the question of natural selection was Alfred Wallace himself, the too often dismissed co-founder of modern ‘Darwinian’ selectionism. Biologists might have done better to heed the warning of this, the original, and first proponent of selectionist evolution who, whatever his confusions and wild pitches, seems alone to have maintained a sense of realism about these questions. 

The claims for natural selection remain suspect because they are made the basis for an entire metaphysical worldview. As if Kant had never existed, a new dogmatism comes forth, with new certainties on the questions of god, soul, and free will. It seems like a ‘get rich quick’ scheme in the realm of philosophy. Darwin ’s theory is treated royally like an adjunct to Newton ’s laws. And that it is not. Part of the problem is that adaptationism is a useful rubric for productive research whose outcome is a wealth of new data while the ‘proof’ of natural selection proves forever elusive. Darwinists have fallen into a dogmatic rigidity that has made biological thought strangely inflexible. In no other science has the claim to already know all the answers so dominated the natural process of enquiry. The point is to stick to the principles of right science, which so far imposes the frustrating discipline of ignorance on the enigma of evolution. The question of evolution is that of deep time, and the quest for knowledge is difficult. It just won’t reduce to a standard science such as physics. Its understanding requires a long search, and seems almost to outstrip human capacities for understanding. 

The most recent initiative in the debate is the intelligent design movement, which has injected the long controversial question of design into the forum, obscuring the basic question once again, the need, within the context of methodological naturalism, of finding evolutionary processes beyond natural selection. The question of design is the other hardy perennial in the debate and provokes all the metaphysical ambiguities of natural selection, itself ironically a ‘design’ term. Both natural selection and classic design arguments are kin, and thoroughly vacuous propositions, bordering on metaphysical presumptions. The intelligent design gambit in the culture wars seems to be a strategic finesse to avalanche the dialectic into a false antithesis, ‘materialistic’ natural selection or ‘spiritual’ design. The result is a very tricky pun, it being quite obvious that any functional piece of working DNA is designed to do what it does by design. We are still left to explain how it evolved, with poor grounds for abandoning naturalism. If the discovery of evolution suggests anything it is that efforts to remain within the realm of naturalistic explanation have born fruit. The problem lies in the inherent contradictions inflicted on naturalism by the experience of causal physics. Scientists are left unable to deal with such a simple issue as that of facts and values with half their subject put beyond their reach by the false dualism of their basic assumptions.

The design argument is based on an ancient and honorable intuition, one that graced even the early stages of science, but one that has proven forever elusive. It has also been the object of some devastating, if not decisive, refutations by such figures as Kant and Hume. The question of design is really one of teleology and an inevitable ambiguity arises as biologists confront systems that simply won’t fit into the rubric of physics. Causal explanation proceeds apace, and always prospers, but never closes the case on the mysterious organismic totality for which no methodology has yet to be invented. Kant provided a complete methodology for the study of teleological questions in biology, and this produced a whole generation of teleomechanists far more careful metaphysically than Darwinists, so prone to their concealed metaphysical extravagance. This promising advance at the dawn of modern biology was swept away in the Darwinian paradigm. The result is the intractable character of the Darwin debate in the midst of almost total historical amnesia on the part of tightly conditioned scientific cadres condemned to propagandizing against religion in their iron cage. 

Limits of Observation 

The issue is not science versus religion, but the limits of explanation using natural selection as a universal law of biological evolution. We need to be finished with this Darwinian pretense about natural selection, a task accomplished by considering the nature of history. Immense metaphysical claims are made on the basis of Darwinism, but the issue of verification haunts the theory of natural selection. To state that complex structures arose via natural selection demands far more proof than what Darwinists have given us. The question is very simple: were there any witnesses to the facts claimed? No. Therefore, why such obsessive claims? And these claims stretch over immense vistas of time, sight unseen. If we have reason to suspect evolution is more complex than this then the status of natural selection is open to challenge at once, due to its inadequate, indeed suspect, empirical basis. Evolution could be, and probably is, something entirely more complex, and we would never know, unless we mapped out the scale and temporal intervals for the real thing, a tremendous job, one that is consistently followed in historiography. 

Evidence density: Darwinian theory suffers from low evidence density, i.e. the balance of observations over long intervals and the fine-grain observations of short intervals possibly showing high-speed changes. 

Look at history, which gives us that fine grain, but only over relatively restricted intervals. Once we grasp the relationship of history and evolution we will discover that history falsifies Darwinian claims. The question of history is relevant because nothing less than a full account of all events at all times on the total surface of a planet is acceptable as an answer to 'what happened'. We may be able to manage something at a lesser standard, but the danger of jumping to conclusions is always there. What happened 'when human language evolved' falls into this category. 

This warns us of the foolhardy and irrational character of Darwin's oversimplification, threatening to make a mockery of Enlightenment affirmations of Reason. Therefore, Darwin's claims are on hold, and that is that. If you gainsay this, you are violating the rules of science. In science, evidence rules. If we suspect better evidence, then the stock of Darwin's theory falls. We make no claim to refute Darwin, or to produce a better theory. Only that false claims of certainty here are dogmatic. That, with grim finality is the bottom line for the Darwin project, or obsession. In fact we can determine with relative certainty that natural selection is inadequate to the explanation of human origins. 

Here's the problem. If we say that something evolved by natural selection, we are making statements about complex regions on the surface of a planet over tens of millennia, sight unseen. We must mistrust conjectures about something that complex. Historians who do that are sent packing at once. Look at the amount of work it takes to document five thousand years of history. And yet Darwinists exempt themselves here. 

Hurricane argument: Consider a hurricane, ultra-simple by comparison, as a global 'system evolution' on the surface of a planet. We know a hurricane when we see one, but its dynamics, mechanism, and full progression require incremental 'closing' on degrees of evidence and observation, a task not fully accomplished until the advent of satellites able to map global coordinates. In the same way we know evolution when we see it, roughly speaking given the fossil evidence, but its dynamics, mechanism and full progression require incremental 'closing' on degrees of evidence and observation, a task not indeed fully accomplished, not at all! Note the analogy suggests global positioning satellites over the entire planet over millions of years, to observe drifting species and their changes! A territorial grid of weather stations must map immense, global, geographical regions. Note how misleading it is to consider this natural selection the full explanation of changes in population. Note how a rough sketch of world history might miss entirely the whole Axial Age, especially without a written record.

 

Non-random Evolution: The Eonic Effect

We can see that there are degrees to the discovery of the fact of evolution. We might detect evolution, but even so we must zoom in to study the process in detail before we can get a sense of how it works. This, we have seen, is a tremendously difficult thing to do. The problem of evidence is especially critical in the case of the descent of man whose emergence is a mystery still unresolved by the speculative assumptions of current reductionist science. However, the facts working biologists themselves have uncovered don't inspire confidence in the Darwinian interpretation. The appearance of man is uncomfortably sudden in the reckoning of periods enforced by the evidence we have. Here Alfred Wallace ended up in dissent on the issue of human evolution by natural selection on the grounds that man simply appears with a hidden potential that could not have arisen in response to environmental challenges.

The question of behaviorally modern man's sudden appearance on the scene complete with language and advanced culture, if that is what the facts show as the so-called Great Explosion, simply don't square with current views and their incoherent timelines and discussions of 'slow' or 'fast' evolution. The ad hoc derivation from Darwinian assumptions of adaptationist scenarios, complete with unspecified mutations in developmental genes able to produce advanced linguistic behavior at one stroke, have at no point been demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt. Wallace with his rather naive confusions over spiritualism nonetheless realized that something was missing in Darwin's account. His thinking also reflects the tide of New Age, occult, theosophical, and Buddhist rising against the onset of positivism at the end of nineteenth century. Who do we find at the finish line of man’s evolution? Who is it that has been said to evolve?  

There is an irony to the enigma of evolution, especially the evolution of man. In all the confusion over the observability of evolution, there is one ‘evolution’ we can see in detail, world history. And it is here that a new insight can be found. Aren’t ‘evolution’ and ‘history’ two separate things? History and the descent of man, man’s emergent evolution, must be one and the same subject, and if we are to find evolution we must find it in history. Where would we look? Isn’t it simply the random stream of historical activity? Would that ‘evolve’ over time? Maybe it is a question of one stream outfighting, outbreeding another and exterminating the others, to be the evolved men of the future.

History is visible to the naked eye. We have the facts, but we must understand them. How can we claim a science of evolution, with insufficient evidence, and no science of history, armed with a plenitude of data? This contradiction haunts Darwinism. The point is that historical observation sets the standard. Observation means a complete chronicle of past events, at the level of centuries, decades, years, or less. Theories are frowned on, almost off limits. No convenient summaries or universal generalizations can be applied, sight unseen. This caution about historical theory, in the presence of considerable data is an ironic commentary on the Darwinian presumptions to theory without such evidence. But the riddle of history remains. We confront a paradox: there is no science of history. And yet, there must be a science of history. Further, history itself must resolve this paradox. We must be missing something. In fact, our observations of history have only recently reached the critical mass necessary to study it in the large. And we can begin to find the reason for the persistent failure to find any laws of history. We have simply had no data to conclude anything. Yet now for the first time we can begin see intervals of five thousand years as one whole. The result is surprising.    

One of the most persistent dogmas of the Darwinians is the assertion that evolution is a purely random process without directionality. Does history match this assumption? We have been so conditioned to this assumption that it is very difficult to conceive of evolution in any other way. Yet nothing in the fossil record proves this point.  A more complicated picture is arising in the wake of modern archaeology. The issue of random evolution arises on the spot once we examine the actual evidence of world history, there to discover the presence of an enigmatic non-random pattern that can only be called 'evolution', 'evolution of some kind'. This evidence, in one incomplete form, is known as that of the so-called Axial Age, the remarkable synchrony of emergence in the case of the classical civilizations.

The eonic effect Age as 'evolution': Later we will look at the data connected with the Axial Age. This data leaves Darwinian claims about human evolution dead in the water. This is a prime example of high-speed cultural evolution in a matter of mere centuries. We must be able to observe a comprehensive global history over the period of several centuries, in detail. Suppose such data were needed for earlier stages of man's evolution. We would apply natural selection in a completely misleading way to such periods of man's early emergence. The Axial Age is completely mysterious, at first. But it is very clearly seen to be evidence of a still larger pattern, which we can call the 'eonic effect', one we incompletely observe, but nonetheless decisive in its implications for the 'meaning of evolution'.

Nature is silent, yet it must show its hand. History in this sense gives us the clue to evolution. Evolution springs from a powerful natural force driving whole civilizations in short time slices. In this context natural selection seems an impostor. If anything natural selection is a drag on historical evolution, too often allowing the triumph of retrograde processes. It is one thing to debate teleology in the abstract. We need a new kind of historical model to help us see how directionality, if not teleology, is realized in reality. The eonic effect provides the data for this construction, and the result can throw light on the question of evolutionary progress, long banished from biological science, to the hopeless confusion of the whole subject.

It is relatively simple to show that world history shows a non-random pattern of ‘evolution of some kind’. Whatever we are to conclude about deep time, history itself stands our as evidence falsifying Darwinian presumptions. The eonic effect can be understood in very simple terms. Evolution is not a purely mechanical process. Facts and values are to isolated in the pursuit of science. But if we can show that the value domain is braided with the dynamism of historical evolution then we have in the simplest fashion shown the limits of reductionist explanation. Once posed, the question is not hard to answer. A non-random pattern arises because of this entanglement of facts and values. In fact, the data shows more than a non-random pattern, it shows an ‘eonic effect’, a large-scale system of directionality ‘evolution’, ‘evolution of some kind’. We are left to wonder at the earlier phases of human evolution. Clearly we are missing something.

The eonic effect is a pattern of data, an empirical demonstration, in the one area where the facts are available. The result makes us suspicious of glib assertions from biologists. Thus, the solution to the evolution puzzle must be one of arriving at the facts first, without the distraction of false claims that Darwin got it right once and for all, and this project of research requires an immense effort. We are confronted by the great difficulty of really observing 'evolution', even of defining what observation means. What does it mean to 'observe' a single 'incident' of natural selection as this occurs over tens of thousands of years in a statistical aggregate of life-cycles spread over large and very diffuse regions? Here, the revolution in our knowledge of the emergence of civilization must be part of any claim on the meaning of evolution. History sets the standard. We demand data at the level, at the very least, of centuries. Anything less should be deprived of dogmatic status as a tactic of legitimation. This seems to confuse cultural and biological evolution. But the antithesis is false. Darwinists would claim ‘evolution’ constructs genetic man, thence the elements of his culture. But it cannot be that simple.

History and Evolution

As we explore the eonic effect we begin to realize that we have stumbled on the real meaning, evidence, of evolution. A basic question arises here, on the way to the answer. When did 'history' begin? The question itself is paradoxical. The relativity of this 'date' forces us to bring evolution, properly defined, into history, and history, properly defined, into evolution. The study of early man cannot be divorced from what we find in recent history. We tend to assume that man somehow reached a completed state in the Paleolithic, proceeding thence to construct civilization. Then the search begins for the 'gene for religion', and everything else, in the vain hope that some speculative notion about an adaptive scenario will explain the phenomenon. But history itself is the neglected source of evidence for the evolution of religion. We think ourselves objective observers of an evolutionary past, yet we are bound to earliest men by the very nature of our language, and if our Darwinian assumptions about how this evolved are limited, then our view of history will be impoverished by dogmatic assumptions not solidly based in reality. The concept of evolution has been misdefined.

This brings us to the crux of our subject, seen in the connection of questions of historical 'evolution' to the long lost kin of scientific evolutionism, the philosophy of history. Questions of Universal History are themselves controversial, but as our knowledge of the historical chronicle reaches a critical threshold the issue of a science of history forces us to confront the philosophy of history, and its antinomies of freedom and causality. Darwinism defaults to a false picture of natural selection in history, and suggests subliminally that the immense diversity of this universal history is condemned to the conflict and competition of its fragments in the name of future development. A science of history must be a science of freedom, that is, of the evolution freedom. 

Thus the study of history is the bottom line for theories of the evolution of man. If rapid evolutionary changes can take place globally in a matter of centuries, then we are left to wonder at the immense vistas of deep time for which we have essentially no evidence. History is the only record at the level of centuries that we have for the evolution of anything. And it induces a severe reality check. T. H. Huxley himself took this position. We keep speaking of how evolution occurred in the past. But in history we are doing something quite different, to the point of contradicting 'evolution', as a matter of principle. How do we resolve this obvious discrepancy save by speaking of some other kind of evolution? Whence this other 'evolution'? Once we know where to look we can easily find this missing piece. The result tells us that Darwinism flunks a photo finish test. The presumed beginning doesn’t correspond to the ending. We must carefully study the final result of human evolution, civilization, to be sure our account of origins squares with the outcome that we see. 

Darwin's theory assumes a kind of universal generalization will suffice across the entire spectrum of evolving entities. Natural selection is made to mimic a law of physics, and becomes a surrogate fundamental force. Yet the study of history shows clearly the fallacies of selectionist scenarios. If we examine sudden discontinuous emergence, and then the outcome of the Axial Age, we see how many of its basic advances perished swiftly in the arena of culture turmoil, the natural survivors being those least open to the potential of the future. The appearance of non-random processes, almost invisible to the naked eye, to reset evolutionary directionality does not inspire confidence in Darwinian assumptions about deep time. This leaves us suspicious that Darwinism on the subject of man is simply speculation. The suggestive resemblance of the data of the eonic effect to what we call the Great Explosion reminds us that we can't just ruminate about 50000 year time intervals based on 'Just So' stories of adaptation. The question of natural selection is that of random evolution. A pattern of non-random evolution, detached from genetics, is assumed to be an impossibility. Yet history itself shows just this. Sometimes, in attempts to counter such thinking, it is claimed that natural selection is 'non-random'. But our sense of the term 'non-random' is that of a process that can operate over the long-range, skipping between times and regions, in a global field of action.

The data of the Axial Age, thence of the eonic effect, is the smoking gun for the whole question of evolution, of man at least. Suspicions about a missing component of ‘macroevolution’ have been a constant in evolutionary theory. We find it where least expected, in history itself. And the result is more than simply ‘macro’, it is evolution itself, at least with respect to man. This 'evolution' is an immensely complex and powerful directional process operating intermittently over tens of millennia, able to remorph whole cultures in its direct path.  And one of instances of this lies embedded in that Axial classic, the Old Testament, which puts the block of theistic historicism in the path of grasping what we are seeing. This is but one of the problems. We need to decipher the riddle of the Axial Age religions, and attempt a secular account of the fascinating Old Testament myths, now seen to be evidence of the eonic effect. In general, the 'evolution' of religion requires a new understanding and is something more than Darwinists had bargained for.

The question revolves around the great unknown, the evolution of consciousness, and the mystery of the ethical agent. It is a mystery of the evolution of freedom. In fact these issues emerged powerfully at the dawn of modern biology in the brief flowering of the philosophy of history. And if we are to apply an idea of evolution to history we are beset with this legacy of the philosophy of history with its confrontation with the antinomies of freedom and causality. The critiques of historical inevitability that were conveniently applied to the ideology of Marxism are strangely forgotten once we are offered Darwin’s version, with its suspect kinship to economic logic. Once we take into account the paradoxes of freedom and nature we can unlock the riddle of man’s evolution, and discover the significance of our own history. And this is the key to the eonic effect.

The issue of a science of history is one of historical laws. A consideration of freedom and nature will resolve the paradoxes of such laws, and explain the failure to find a science of history, on the way to just such a science. It is significant that while we do not have a term for a 'science of history' we do have one to indicate, as it were, the failure to find such a science. This is the ' historicism' of Karl Popper, who challenges all efforts to find laws of history. But as we proceed we can use the contradiction itself between causality and freedom to see how the 'evolution of freedom' in history itself provides the key to the much sought-for science. We can also take our cue from postmodern critiques of 'metanarratives' by turning them on their head, by deconstructing flat history, to expose the Darwinian ideological narrative of conflict and competition as it fails to account for the facts, showing us how the descent of man is justly termed a 'narrative' of freedom. We have been dealt a curious hand by the demand that science be applied to all aspects of reality, as this confronts the stubborn refusal of history to yield to the reductionist regime. Ironically, this does not preempt the possibility of detecting evolution, as an empirical finding. 

We can set our prime objective as the demonstration of a non-random pattern in world history, as a falsification of a basic Darwinian assumption. We will attempt to summarize the evidence for this pattern, the 'eonic effect', using a basic strategy of periodization, and then propose a very simple model that can help us to visualize this pattern. Then we will discover that this evidence is that of evolution itself, ‘evolution of some kind’. The result is the spectacle of an ingenious way to do 'evolution' on the surface of a planet.

 

An Outline of History

Claims that history is random are confidently asserted, but never put to the test. Simple periodization shows that such claims are false, whatever we make of the result. But as we move toward the examination of world history we confront the task of rapidly assimilating an immense amount of data and it becomes problematical as to how we are to accomplish this. The study of world history languishes as an object of public or educational study. This is a symptom of the reign of propagandas. The ‘history’ recorded in the Old Testament is especially confusing, and buffers the views of religionists against close examination of ancient civilizations. Secularists go to the other extreme and flatten out the account with exposés of myth. Rightly understood, it contains a fascinating clue to the nature of historical evolution. Histories of ‘Western Civilization’ routinely filter out a misleading mainline from the diversity of total world history.

In fact, on one level, in the age of Internet search engines, the task is simpler than we might think, to start. We can begin with simple periodization outlines of world history since the Neolithic, with a rough sequential sense of the major civilizations, especially as the 'fog clears' to some degree after ca. -3000. We discover a strange fact. The simplest outline uncovers a system of history, the eonic effect. The Table of Contents of simple world histories is already describing the eonic effect.

Zoom targets: data on demand The logistics of historical study is immensely difficult, and we need to process the whole of world history all at once. Standard narrative accounts would require thousands of pages, and still be insufficient. Each narrative account would suffer ideological selection problems. At what level of expansion have we achieved a fair account? In fact, a general outline is sufficient, although it is also true our subject thrives on detail. One solution to this problem is to create a simple outline as series of starting points for further expansions, zoom targets. Our discovery of historical pattern will partially solve this problem, since the pattern attempts to cover a global maximum with a minimum of action. We discover that our dynamics is invariant to many accounts, and that simple 'generic' history will be enough to make our point. The point here is that the burden of historical study, and liberation from propaganda, is on the reader. We can conceive of an ‘ideal speed reader’ who can set a standard against which to measure our chronicle. If we refer to, e.g. Archaic Greece, then we assume from the reader this data on demand, as a zoom target en passant. The point is we don’t want to associate the eonic effect with an excessively detailed, hence biased, narrative of our own. We can deal wholesale with an aggregate bibliography of particular periods. By and large, the eonic pattern is invariant to these different perspectives. On the scale of five thousand years we begin to detect the unsuspected unity of history seen in the intangible, yet definite, emergence of directionality.

As we adopt a more holistic approach to the study of world history we discover that a principle of coherence is at work, the eonic effect, and this greatly simplifies its study. To look at the whole is in reality much simpler than to break the subject up into area studies. In fact this fragmentation is itself the strategy of cultural bias.  Instead of the obsessive accumulation of detail in one area, we can fret our study to a series of isolated regions and move towards the whole in concert from separate moments of initial specialization. The discovery of the eonic effect will turn out to be the discovery of an efficient means for the study of world history, and it is useful to construct our own outline of history.  In fact, we can discover the answer to the historical enigma by examining the standard Table of Contents for most world histories. 

We should begin with an outline produced on the spot, which can be expanded to any length. The basic standard is data at the level of centuries or less, and this only occurs after the invention of writing. Thus the first requirement is an account of relative beginnings, without claims about absolute origins.

Paleolithic Current biology distinguishes anatomically and behaviorally 'modern' man (note the relativity of the term 'modern'), the first appearing ca. 200000 years ago, the second in the period after -100000, with the remarkable threshold, called the Great Explosion, around 50000 BCE, associated we are to suppose with various 'Out of Africa' scenarios. Is this a myth? At the very least in the dialectic of the rival proponents of fast and slow evolution, we seem forced to conclude that all the characteristics of a new species appeared rather fast indeed. But these periods are completely beyond the range of our emerging historical standard, the 'centuries level test', and we can only wait for further research to confirm or falsify this emerging but fuzzy picture of the suspiciously sudden appearance of homo sapiens. The obvious resemblance of the phenomenon of the Great Explosion to the eonic effect leaves an immediate question mark for Darwinian claims, or plaintive hopes, that some lucky mutation suddenly appears to accompany the seeming fait accompli of a hominid (modern indeed!) so accomplished in language, art, religion, and the elements of 'technical ingenuity' that will transform the nature of cultural evolution. 

Neolithic A relatively static period ensues until, in the interstices of the various Ice Age rhythms, human cultural evolution begins to take off with the discovery of agriculture. Man emerges from the Paleolithic and sometime around -8000 we see the Neolithic underway. Our subject probably begins here, but even this earlier period still fails our 'centuries level' test. This is the true beginning of ‘civilization’, in the progression, village, town, city, and we arrive at the emergence of complex states, often called the ‘rise of civilization’. It is probably in this era, incidentally, that we are to find the birth of ‘religion’ in the later sense of what we see as the ‘world religions’. Five thousand years separate the onset of the Neolithic and the rise of higher civilization. We are drawn to a distinction between the ‘discovery of agriculture’, a technological advance, one that may or may not have happened independently several times, and the crystallizing cultural formations that transform Paleolithic man as he enters into an entirely new stage of social evolution. And this is related to the fact that the prime focus of the Neolithic lies in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. In fact, the remarkable technological complexity of irrigation societies that we see in the coming world of the Sumerians is already an advanced descendant of these earlier advances.

The Eonic Effect Now we come to the remarkable pattern of the eonic effect, visible due the invention of writing: three periods in a row of rapid transition, equally spaced, inside the slower current of world history, relatively static by comparison. Three complex transitions 2400 years apart fret the whole of world history.  

Suddenly around toward the end of the third millennium we see what is conventionally called the ‘rise of civilization’ in the dramatic, and synchronous emergence of the Sumerian and Egyptian complexes. These two civilizations cross a threshold into a stage of higher social complexity, indicated by the scale and complexity of their social and political formation. They will prove the dynamic sources for millennia of descendants in the oikoumenes or diffusion fields that they generate. We had thought that this was an ad hoc advance based on contingent factors as described in the various unsuccessful theories attempting to explain the phenomenon (e.g. Toynbean ‘challenge and response’). But in fact we detect an element of timing in a process that has a mysterious ‘scheduling’ or cyclical period. Notable is the invention of writing, the beginning of the historical record, and here as we proceed this era in relation to what follows we will be surprised to detect the beginnings of our non-random pattern. Three times in a row we will see this phenomenon of three or so centuries of sudden advance, the achievement of a plateau that is never matched its immediate successors which are relatively static or even moving into ‘medieval’ decline. Nothing in this gainsays prior slow development. But the sudden jump to a new social formation has always been a puzzle, and we will see that to our surprise the timing is non-random.  Here is where we find the resolution of the Axial paradox. The Axial Age is simply the next in our series of such sudden jumps, transitions, or turning points.

Transition 1 We are really talking about the emergence of complex forms of the State. This occurs in the centuries before and around 3000 BCE, and we have the invention of writing, and the sudden onset of two classic advanced civilizations, Dynastic Egypt and the world of Sumer. Two (relative) starts in parallel. This period is conventionally described as the 'rise of civilization', although the slow transition, village, town, city, that defines the Neolithic is all too obviously an earlier stage of gestating 'civilization'. But a new threshold of human social complexity clearly comes into existence very rapidly at the end of the third millennium BCE. This initial burst of advances rapidly becomes fixed in place until the next phase. Nothing can quite match the creative phase of early Sumerian city-states, and the large oikoumenes generated show the drift into empire formation that characterizes the coming centuries. The world of Egypt produces its theocratic state and then remains almost frozen in place for two millennia. This transitional period generates an immense diffusion field across Eurasia, and we can clock the rise of complex states almost in proportion to distance and time in the wake of this phase: the Indic and Chinese systems are underway within a millennium. This period is still a bit murky, just on the threshold of our centuries-level test. We can see that slow and fast evolution are reconciled in practice. Both are true. And we realize why we are unclear how to refer to the ‘rise of civilization’.  It has been rising since the Neolithic. We are referring to the sudden transition that takes place in our eonic serires. This point becomes clearer as we examine the next phase, the Axial Age.

Transition 2 The next rapid burst is the so-called Axial Age, from around -900 to -400, the period from -900 to -600 being the generative period. Around a center of gravity ca. -600 we have the beginnings of our classical traditions, the world of the Greeks, the core Old Testament and its Prophets, the world of Buddha and Confucius. We see independent sourcing areas suddenly undergoing transformation in synchronous timing. From this period springs the constellation of great traditions that lay the foundations not only for 'western' civilization, but the civilizations of India, China. The Axial Age can be confusing because of its wide dispersion of effects from Rome to China. But this is because we think in terms of ‘civilizations’ while our pattern respects and acts only in relation to diffusion fields. The areas that respond in Axial phenomenon already lie in the wake of the diffusion field from the first transition.

The diversity of the Axial Age is remarkable and we see not only the birth of two world religions, but of the world’s first democracy, and the first Scientific Revolution in Greece.

This period reaches a plateau, as innovation becomes less intense, and in fact many of the innovations die out as this period wanes rapidly and we enter period of the Occidental Roman Empire and its long decline, followed by what we call the Middle Ages. 

We could almost guess the next step in the series. The only period that resembles the Axial transition is the sudden rise of the modern. 

Transition 3 Then once again quite suddenly we see he remarkable rise, with uncanny timing, of the modern world, a great take-off about 1500. In three centuries starting in the sixteenth century the world system is transformed and reaches a new level of civilization and cultural organization. All at once we realize that the progression from the Axial period into a protracted medievalism, followed by the sudden rise of the modern world is no accident. It is part of the precise timing of the eonic effect. We have become hopelessly confused by the question of Eurocentrism and so-called ‘Western Civilization’ in discussions of the modern world. But as we study the eonic effect as a whole we will discover its various properties, among them a kind of ‘frontier effect’, whereby each of our transitions moves to the exterior frontier of its prior diffusion. The emergence of modernity at the fringes of Eurasia is thus a side effect of the overall pattern. The period from 1500 to 1800 is the crucial transitional interval, a claim that clarifies at one stroke the confusions of historical dynamics mixed with modern/postmodern distractions. We should note that each of our transitions occurs in a staging area, whence its effect spreads by diffusion in a process of globablization. The Euro-centered staging area of modernity is thus explained by its place in our eonic series, along with the remarkable insight that historical evolution is occurring on two levels, in a global process that acts on the whole via a series of local parts.   

That’s it. We have a short outline of world history. But our outline has turned into something more, the detection of a non-random pattern, one that is as simple as a Table of Contents, and yet at the same time a complex system operating as a unity over thousands of years. We can proceed to create a kind of model that will help us to see what is going on. Our non-random pattern is, however, highly complex with some definite properties.

An intermittent sequence Our pattern shows an alternating sequence. If random patterns are to fail, one of the simplest non-random patterns to consider next is an alternating or drumbeat series. The evidence shows just this and falls into place easily with its slow undulation of transition/medievalism.
Synchronous emergence This drumbeat pattern is made more complicated by also showing a synchronous emergentism at each of its transitions. The Axial Age is thus a step in a sequence, but one with several branches.
A frontier effect Why do Egypt and the Sumerian region fail to respond in  the Axial stage? Why does the sequence jump to Western Eurasia in the last transition? This puzzle disappears at once when we realize that our sequence jumps between regions, and resurfaces at the frontier area of its previous action.
Historical directionality This pattern shows clear elements of directionality, generated by its drumbeat action, and our transitions even show a kind of recursive effect, picking up where they left off. Consider the double birth of science and democracy in the second and third transitions.
Global action All at once, we are confronted with the action of a global system that operates over many millennia, producing a kind of globalization effect as it concentrates and expands.
Punctuated equilibrium This pattern is an almost perfect example of what the phrase ‘punctuated equilibrium’ wishes to indicate. This term has suffered many confusions and we will tend to avoid it, but the alternation of punctuations and (relative) equilibrium describes our pattern very well.

The eonic effect is a surprising discovery. As we can see it is something ‘we already know’, implicit in the very way we take world history. However, it is also true that it is a sudden discovery in the wake of the immense extension to our knowledge given to us by the discoveries of archaeology and modern historiography.  It is a function of their being comprehensive world histories for the first time.

We can simply describe it minimal terms as a non-random pattern, with or without interpretation. We can ask a simple question: is historical evolution really random? In fact it is not, and we detect a strong correlation with a simple type of intermittent sequence. Thus history contradicts a basic Darwinian assumption: the eonic effect, a clear non-random pattern. This is an empirical finding, and that's all it takes to falsify the generalization against non-random historical processes. 

The relationship of 'evolution' to human history suddenly gels, and we have a two-aspect theoretical matrix for reconciling dynamics and human free activity. We find essentially two evolutions, a macro aspect visible in the eonic effect, and a micro aspect, as self-evolution, which we ordinarily called 'history', seen as an evolution of freedom in a formal sense. The final irony is to see that our attempts to posit human evolution in the past producing the complete species, homo sapiens, are misleading, and require revision to establish the reality of the case, that man's evolution, braided in the self-action of history, is moving towards its own completion in the evolutionary narrative of first and last apes, and last and first men. 


 

 

 

Introduction

 1 3 4 5
1.1 2.1 3.1 4.1 5.1
1.2 2.2 3.2 4.2 5.2
1.3 2.3 3.3 4.3 5.3
1.4 2.4 3.4 4.4 5.4
1.5 2.5 3.5 4.5 5.5

Conclusion

 Outline