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Last modified 10/24/2008

 

 Introduction 

 One of the most insidious aspects of evolutionary theory, particularly in an age of Darwinism, lies in its concealed ideological character. The reason is that such theories, or any theory, if it is taken, whether openly or by an unconscious association, as a statement of a universal law, impinges on our present and future in a paradox of causality and freedom, a paradox well explored by critics of Marxist theory, such as Isaiah Berlin or Karl Popper. The issue finally insinuates itself into any attempt to produce a science of history, where the search for historical laws is frustrated by the obstinate demand for an idea of freedom. This fate tends to befall the theory of natural selection since it is considered a universally omnipresent process. 

The eonic effect, and its attendant model, show us an ingenious, and ultimately simple way to resolve this paradox, with a new approach to theories, and a stylized application of the idea of freedom to descriptive historiography. The result shows us a way to construct a formal idea of the 'evolution of freedom' as a generalized matrix of historical action, harmonized with science by the introduction of a new concept of the meaning of evolution. The result unexpectedly uncovers the hidden dynamics behind the emergence of democracy across world history, and this precipitates a kind of ideological bravura behind the model itself, crossing the trip wire of legitimation tactics in the use, or abuse of theories. But in fact we can see that all of this is really quite appropriate, and that the perception of the inchoate emergence of liberalism in the early modern is not an ideological affirmation, but a statement of fact in a matrix of periodization, and we see that the subsequent explosion of democratic revolutions is bound up in the non-random evolution we detect in the eonic effect. This perception needs to be subjected to any number of caveats, and yet we can say easily that empirical evidence leads us to this result, and that democratic emergentism is, in a sense qualified by the eonic model, an evolutionary process, that is, a correlate in the 'eonic evolution of civilization'.

 The result allows us to challenge the anti-modernism and anti-democratic subversions of classic, and contemporary, reactionaries with a cautious demonstration of historical directionality, which in turn is associated with a new understanding, and critique, of teleological thinking (or its opposite) in discussions of socio-biological systems. The result is, however, severely critical of the Darwinian paradigm of evolution, at least as this is misapplied to history, and also leaves us with a distinctly uncomfortable feeling that the early evolution of man has been thoroughly misunderstood by the prevailing discourse of Darwinized or Neo-Darwinized (genetic) biology. In fact, we must ask to what extent biological theory is appropriate at all in its current form as it is applied to the civilizational systems we see emerging since the period of the Neolithic.   

The onset of Darwinism, next to the influence of Herbert Spencer, was always an ambiguous version of classical liberalism, with many echoes of the classic debate over Malthusianism. And its association with Social Darwinism, forever disowned, in the late nineteenth century, is a desperate clue to the ideological quagmire of Darwinian politics that generates Social Darwinist confusions almost automatically in the misperception that 'natural selection drives evolution'. But the idea of evolution, emerging in the era of Lamarck and the French Revolution, was often a radical idea, in the company of the tide of revolution, delaying its acceptance, and the relatively conservatized version of Darwin enabled the oversimplified 'pop evolutionism' of the selectionist hypothesis, and generated the sudden massive acceptance of 'scientific' evolutionism, not least among the new professional elites of the late nineteenth century. From there the fortunes of evolutionary theory have seen the rise of creationism, the anti-Darwinism of the progressive liberal, still ambiguously fundamentalist, William Jennings Bryan, and finally in our time the striking polarization of the Darwin debate around a conservative wing of Intelligent Design proponents and so-called 'liberal' proponents of the standard paradigm of Darwinism. This polarization is misleading since a Darwinian conservatism pitted against a progressive critique of Social Darwinism, primordially visible in the figure of Bryan, would have constituted, it might seem, an equally likely, or more consistent, outcome of the whole debate.

As we look back on the history of the idea of evolution we see that another of its earliest forms is visible in its association with the idea of progress, an association banished from the reductionist scientism of the Darwinians, with the result that the idea of evolutionary progress is considered an almost metaphysical pre-scientific version of evolutionism. But it is hard to make sense of biological development without some notion of the idea of progress, as the first proponents of evolutionism well understood.  The claims against teleology, a term with an exceedingly complex history of interpretation, are virtually cast in stone, not only in evolutionary exposition, but in the scientific background from which it claims derivation. Still another notable aspect of the debate lies in the swift conversion of the nineteenth century left, in its Marxist version(s), to the Darwinian viewpoint, notwithstanding Marx's own ambiguous early statements against natural selection, often forgotten. But the tide of 'materialist evolutionism' of radical progeny was very strong, and while it is not surprising that a Feuerbachian faction should find the 'atheist materialist' evolutionism of the pre-Darwinian radicals an appropriate ideological garb, the fact remains that as critics of ideology, marxists should have better evaluated the concealed economic ideology in Darwin's theory of natural selection. But this was not to be, with the result that the critics of ideology have themselves become an ideological wing in the promotion of the 'standard paradigm'. We see that the questions of secularism, religion, and biological evolutionism are hopelessly entangled from the beginning, and that the use of Darwinism as a foundation for religious secularization, and frequently the promotion of atheism, has become a habit hard to break. The meaning of 'secularism' has itself become bound up in the 'evolution sweepstakes'. 

In the final analysis, the real issue is simply the inadequacy of Darwin's theory of natural selection, and the demand for a more viable theory, and a clarification of how this theory applies to history, and finally the politics of history, itself an evolutionary given. The discovery of evolution was one of the greatest achievements of the Enlightenment and the generation in its immediate aftermath, but its premature crystallization as a theory of natural selection precipitated an endless debate, not only on the biological grounds of its adequacy as an explanation, but as a foil in the spastic and confused ideological renditions of the idea of evolution. In many ways the moment of the emergence of evolutionism in the generation of Lamarck is potentially a better guide, despite the considerable pitfalls of unscientific interpretation, to a future understanding of evolution, or at least the cultural aspect of evolutionary theories. The data of the eonic effect suggests that the idea of evolution itself needs to be recast, or recalibrated, to match the facts of world history, with a means to show the connection with earlier forms of evolution, in the transition between 'evolution' and 'history'.    

The context of Darwinism has been that of the rise of so-called 'scientism', the species of reductionist science that claims a nearly metaphysical title on all aspects of reality, and the theory of natural selection has proven the key to 'enforcing' a new dogma of this reductionism. And this constellation of scientific worldviews has left the proponents of secularism with an impoverished view of history, indeed of the whole evolution of man. This loss of a sense of a 'universal history' is one of the most striking distortions of so-called liberal/secular culture, and undoubtedly constitutes one reason for the resurgence of religion in a 'postmodern' context. It is important, without indulging in anti-science, to see the dynamics of this side effect of scientism. The inability of reductionist theories to properly account for the evolution of consciousness, ethics, or even the idea of freedom, has left the proponents of public philosophy in a kind of schizophrenia as to the relationship of science and religion. But the real issue is not religion, which must confront the inexorable tide of secularism, but a public philosophy that does to science what Kant's 'practical reason' does to 'theoretical reason'. We could hardly ask, speaking very generally, for a better definition of liberalism than one based on such a distinction, mindful that we might create a new terminology for Kant's usage, where the term 'practical reason' is embedded in various issues of Kantian ethics that are not a part of our discussion. Instead of theoretical and practical reason, we might think in terms, simply, of theory and action, and demand of theory that 'action', and 'sequences of action' show a freedom from deterministic projections on their future, a demand easily satisfied by the eonic model. We cannot do this by rejecting the demands of causal reasoning, so how to proceed? In the eonic model we discover a new kind of dynamical system where the 'causality of freedom', in different modes, is given a fundamental status. Like a melodic instrument the key variable, self-consciousness, can play a double tune, in an oscillation of degrees of freedom, indifferently cast as a determinate state of consciousness, or a surrogate for 'free will', in the spontaneity of action. By making self-consciousness the fulcrum of evolutionary action, macro and/or micro, we have a sliding variable that can shift gears in the theory in relation to praxis. 

 Further, the glaring fact of the inability of reductionist science to produce a science of history is sidelined in the quixotic search for a kind of universal mechanics of the human totality. We should consider, then, the history of science itself, and attempt to evaluate the possible limits of scientism in the interpretation of culture, even if this tables the possibility that science, in the heritage of Newton, cannot in its current incarnation reduce the totalities it claims under its banner to scientific law, a proposition present from the beginning, we should note, despite the protestations of the adherents of universal scientism. Further, we should consider that this possibility applies to evolution itself, and that the hope of reducing biological evolution to a variant of physical theory in a scheme of universal laws is, certainly so far, misconceived. In many ways, as evolutionism crossed the threshold of science in the work, and the generation, of Darwin, it became problematical, as if downshifting to a fixed dimension in a greater universe of discourse. The result has been the remarkable drama of a fixed Paradigm (now cast in its genetic upgrade to Darwinism as the Neo-Darwinian synthesis) turned into a universal statement on Reality, one that consigns most of its cultural surroundings to exile status.

The resolution of this question lies in a broader view of the meaning of evolution, especially as this becomes visible in the historical discovery of the eonic effect, and its interpretation as the 'eonic evolution of civilization'. This produces a generalized framework of evolution that is adapted to the simple observation of history, still in the context of theory, and a schematic of action in terms of a 'general exception' to generalized causality science with the idea of freedom. The result is not a theory of the behaviorism of historical action after the fashion of physics but a study of the 'action sequences' that are fretted, but not fully determined by a sequence of evolutionary transformations in which the observer himself is immersed, and poised between an objectivity of description and an impulse to participatory realization. The 'action sequences' indicated can take any form but are often associated with the key turning points visible in the eonic effect, or more specifically the eonic sequence. Remarkably one of the classic action sequences constituting eonic data is the emergent liberal stream associated with the modern transition, so-called, and this 'output' recast as an 'action sequence' becomes illuminated in its historical basis as an evolutionary outcome of historical evolution. One of the typical examples given in the eonic model of an action sequence is seen in the relationship of a computer and its user, mediated by a GUI, allowing (mouse) input. Instead of an isolated deterministic program with causal output, we have a dynamic relationship of a (sermi-)deterministic computer and a user with 'options' based on choice. The user applies input to the computer, which responds, and then user proceeds, etc, in an alternation of the two in a larger system. Thus instead of the deterministic output of the computer we have the 'action sequence' of the user, i.e. the historical record of his interactions with the machine system. This kind of framework is easily adapted to the eonic effect, and results in a hybrid chronicle with accounts of the 'machine output' (the eonic effect) and the intermediate accounts of the user's history of interaction (mideonic histories). Surprisingly this allows us to harmonize theory and 'free history' as the theoretical component has its say in a statement about age periods even as it displaces to the background to allow the 'free history' narrative to come back to the fore, in the standard practice of historical writing.  

The possibilities of confusion here must be, and are, addressed in a framework that can bind the ideas of evolution and history together in a unified understanding, This is provided by the model of the eonic effect, with its depictions of two levels at work, with the result that we can bring an evolutionary understanding to our present, but this in the reciprocal form of an historical 'action sequence'. The point here is that science and ideology can coexist in one description because they are operating on different levels. 

In that context, we can easily reconcile the chronic confusions of theory and action, causality and freedom, evolution and history, in a unified framework that shows how Social Darwinism arises as a side effect of an improperly constructed evolutionary-historical theory, that of Darwin. In the process we can produce a remarkable account of the emergence of liberalism as an evolutionary potential, or action sequence, this backed up by the context of the greater eonic sequence. 

It is never legitimate to abuse theory to indulge in the legitimation of ideology. Yet Darwinism, indeed, all universal theories of evolution, do this implicitly. In the account of the eonic effect, we plead guilty, yet note that issues of ideology arise automatically as a side effect of our depiction, a good example being the 'eonic emergence' of liberalism, an entity clearly visible in the early modern. First this is data associated with the modern transition, an aspect of the eonic effect, thus 'output of a system', whatever we think of it, thence an outcome in which we are immersed and likely to promote as a scenario bound up in our personal political realizations. We speak of an 'eonic observer' who is immersed in the system he is depicting, downfield from the stages of transformation (e.g. the modern transition) he observes looking backward. His behavior is conditioned, but not determined, by the givens of his immersion in that modernity. 

We must hope therefore to learn to shift gears between the search for objectivity in the demonstration of the eonic effect in the light of some 'eonic science', and yet, being temporal observers in the downfield of an historical transformation, the beneficiaries of the action so observed, wishing to execute its later consequences. This interplay between 'eonic determination' of a proto-ideological cluster, and its later realization as 'free action' in the execution of a realized ideology (of liberal freedoms) puts a kind of bias into our interpretations, one that we can't avoid, but that we can at least discipline with some caution from its larger context. In fact, the whole game is perfectly safe, and playing on both sides of the fence can prove beneficial. The reason is that the eonic model invokes something larger than ourselves, reminding us that our downfield realization is likely to decline or deviate from its sources, and, further, that while can be inspired by the spectacle of teleological grandeur behind our political aspirations, no confident teleological projection is allowed by the model in our downfield present, since directionality, hence a suspected teleology, is bound up with a different level of the model. Thus, while we might 'abuse' our model from ideological purposes that might leave us biased, the reality is that this approach might make us wise and teach some kind of post-ideological search for objectivity with renewed urgency.  

In the eonic model, we get away this kind of double perspective because we don't produce a theory at all, with a claim on the future by prediction, but an evolutionary map that shows the evolution of politics as (very partially) a function of evolutionary periodization. And it does this by showing how a system described by a 'discrete-continuous model' produces a high potential at the conclusion of a given transformation and then stops, leaving the system outcome to the free activity of its downfield agents. Thus our ideological bias is clipped at the onset, and makes no statement or prediction about the realization of the given potential. Thus we are freed from ideology almost as soon as we embrace it. Thus our objective is not to claim spurious science to justify ideology, but a 'terrain perspective' of universal history that can show directly the logic of evolution, on one level, in the emergence of political forms over history, and on the other a balance or spectrum of perspectives operating in parallel in a robust 'dialectic'. Thus our stance is embrace the larger framework, which immediately generates, if not complete objectivity, then at least a thoroughly balanced picture of all ideologies in motion. 

In any case the eonic effect produces its own set of failsafes, in the process segregating theory and action by the nature of the model proposed. Further, its statements are always clipped from the present by referring only to the history inside of the eonic sequence. The 'tracking' histories in the wake of these transformations is a separate task. 

Against the backdrop of world history the emergence of liberalism is a dramatic moment. Against the incomprehension of epochal reactionaries it deserves a bit of 'eonic backup' as hortatory 'history on our side' theoretical bemused rhetoric, and an equal challenge, pace a figure such as Marx, to its potential realizations as a distorted outcome from sources or first principles. Correlated with the rise of the early modern, the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment, liberalism cascades around the moment that the eonic model calls the Great Divide, ca. 1800, at the conclusion of the modern transition. The complexification of this picture in the light of the Marxist and other critiques and challenges is par for the course, as we conclude the eonic history and resume the 'execution' of the 'action sequence' into our present. Our model shows us, against the objections of reactionary anti-modernists, that liberalism has evolutionary status, in our sense, at its inception, without predicting anything about its future or endorsing its formulations in its later descendants. 

The point of the exercise in this form is to show how, armed with the data of the eonic effect and its attendant model, we can resolve the absence of a sense of an idea for a universal history in the legacy of scientism by challenging the Darwinian theory, especially in its concealed form applied to history, and then producing an historical-evolutionary replacement based around the idea of freedom taken as an adjunct to the claims of universal causality emerging in the viewpoint of science. This exercise was well and truly pioneered by the philosopher Kant, whose discourses on freedom, rights, and liberalism, are themselves an aspect of the emergent liberalism under description. In this context, we should note that Darwinism is a later product of history than the liberalism of the early modern, whose constructs still thrived in the legacy universal histories of late monotheism. The concurrent rise of Biblical Criticism in the generation of secularism has put the foundations of liberalism at risk, in so far as the foundational aspect of scientism cannot allow the idea of freedom as fundamental in any sense, thereby rendering itself unable to deal with the phenomenon at all. In a nutshell, by creating a model of the evolution of freedom in the context of scientific causality, we create an evolutionary discourse that is compatible with the free adoption of 'procedures of historical action', whether ideological or not. 

We have already produced a whole series of 'blogbooks' like this one in a standard format depicting the eonic model. 

Descent of Man Revisited  &:

1. The Eonic Effect: Climbing Mt. Improbable
2. Enigma Of The Axial Age
3. History And Evolution: A New Model Of History
4. Kant's Challenge: Idea For A Universal History

And 

1848+: Theory, Ideology, Revolution

These are permutations and combinations of same booklet and take the form of a series of mini-chapters, roughly:

The Darwin Debate

The Eonic Effect

History And Evolution: the eonic model

Transition And Modernity

Ends and Beginnings.

We will produce an outline like this here (see the menu on this page), but not redo the whole thing again, except to link to parts and pieces of such with some short notes, with some commentary that can cast the issues in a new key, reflecting the ideological issues latent in the presumed objectivity of the eonic model. Chapters 1-3 are compressed together, as are 4-5.

Thus the reader can proceed to the conclusion, using the accessory material as reference notes to further study.

We should note here that using the eonic model requires thorough grasp of the material in World History And The Eonic Effect, along with a need to expand on generic historical chronicles with detailed study of history itself. Please be wary of using the eonic model with a clear picture of the eonic model there described. The online versions are slightly oversimplified.

The eonic model gives a bird's eye view, and then stops, sending you on you way with the actual historical data you have inherited in real time from the classic foundations and revolutions of modern liberalism. The model 'sets you free', and you are on your own after the 'cut off' point. We estimate that near the Great Divide, viz, ca. 1848. Tracing your history from the cut off then is your first task (one you are surely already doing!).

The general theoretical strategy of the eonic model is to connect the idea of evolution and history, and speak of an 'eonic (evolutionary) sequence', connected with macro and micro aspects. A 'theory' is cautioned by the Oedipus paradox, and must apply only to the past. The system alternates between 'eonic determination' and 'free action', and always shuts down prior to our present. Thus we look backwards at the 'eonic determination' of liberalism, yet live in the micro phase of the realization of 'liberalism' as free action. We see that shutdown effect at the Great Divide, so-called, and in the resulting take-off in the nineteenth century of the various liberal systems, with far-leftist challengers, in the time-period.

The first order of business would be to put an 'eonic tracer' on the term 'liberal' (its sourcing in the Spanish independence era), and see the many changes of meanings and usages it has undergone. Thus our terminology is already post-transitional, and is anachronistic perhaps. In current political terms, we see that a confused conservative gesture is rejecting the term 'liberal' wholesale, in an attack on later outcomes to classical liberalism. But such conservatives are well and truly liberals of some kind, almost by definition, and well and truly confused.

Our general format is 'eonic' and we have

1. The modern transition (TP3, or 'ET6,...), a formal construct, macro, ca. 1500-1800, system action

This transition if localized in its 'frontier effect' (relative to the Axial Age) format, i.e. the differential zone and period comprising source points and globalizaling diffusions. More specifically, we see the workhorse zones in the crescent along Northern Italy, Germany, Holland, England, France, Spain (exteriors to old Roman empire source, etc...). Thus our subject is not 'Europe' but a differential frontier zone relative to Eurasia and the previous eonic phase (Axial era, the TP2 transitions, etc...). Thus we have a series of differential sourcing points in a Euro-sector, and the resulting globalization fields (one of the first being the American diffusion field of the English sector). Needless to say the spurious perceptions of Eurocentrism will greatly complicate this picture (as they did with the localizations/globalizations of the Axial monotheist transition field, 'antisemitism', in the Israelite/Canaanite sector in the Axial transition spectrum).

2. A post-transitional realization period, micro, after ca. 1800, (1848+ in the 'cute' lingo of WHEE), free action

We put eonic tracers on the principal 'eonic emergents' of the modern transition: a quick list, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the English Civil War, the Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, American/French Revolutions, etc,...

We can see clear 'proto-liberal' sources by the seventeenth century, Locke, Spinoza, ...

We should add bibliographies to bibliographies and systematically comb the modern transition, first in terms of its general emergents, and then for its liberal source points, a task done very well by many historians, to whose works we can rapidly adjourn. We should also perform a similar study of the emergent ideologies of capitalism, and define what we mean by that term, in its modern context, then against the whole of world history.

Finally we must adopt a caveat, one that will wreck our whole enterprise, fortunately, it seems, which is that our model suddenly puts a premium on qualitative action, and thus we must derive an ethics of action from first principles. Yet we are confronted at the onset by the stark contrast of opposites in the 'sluggish Machiavellian' tactics of political operators, droning on ad infinitum, confronted with the invocation of the ideal that we see in the democratic revolutions, or in a theoretical figure such as Kant.

Thus we can offer no quick fix to this dilemma, restraining ourselves to grant no legitimation in advance to a Machiavellian 'science', as we recall the curiously quaint challenge of Kant to Benjamin Constant on the issue of lying. This constitutes the 'just desserts' of our model, that one must forever attempt the gesture of 'reconstructing the ethics of political action' from the search for first principles. Therefore, whatever it is, given the state of politics two centuries from the Great Divide, we probably can't endorse it in practice, and probably not in principle.

The model is still very useful without that added feature, in the study of the macrohistorical dynamism of liberal politics in world history.

And it is an important reminder, as it points to a mystery in the emergence of freedom, that the episodes connected with the eonic sequence show a macro factor, while the micro 'action sequence' in its wake are left to their own resources.

Thus we see that the fate of democracy in the wake of the modern transition is a prime object of concern, and history shows us the brevity of its manifestations in Greek antiquity.