3. Descent Of Man Revisited    

An Evolution Formalism And The Eonic Model


Section 3.1.1

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism, And Theories of Evolution
4th Edition
The Book
By  John Landon





3. Descent Of Man Revisited 
     3.1 Climbing Mt. Improbable: The Eonic Effect  
        3.1.1 An Evolution Formalism and The Eonic Model 
     3.2 History and Evolution: A Paradox  
        3.2.1 Huxley's Contradiction and Evolution #1 and #2 
        3.2.2 Deconstructing Flat History  
        3.2.3 Conflict Theories: Incredulity Toward 'Infranarratives' 
     3.3 An Unexpected Challenge to Darwinism  
        3.3.1 The Great Explosion   
        3.3.2 Measures of Evidence Density  
        3.3.3 A Photo Finish Test 
     3.4 From Fisher's Lament to Kant's Challenge 
        3.4.1 A Certain Strangeness: Beyond Space and Time? 

     3.5 A New Model of History: Eonic Evolution  
        3.5.1 A Gaian Matrix: Detecting A Global System  
        3.5.2 Stream and Sequence, Transition and Oikoumene
        3.5.3 An (Eonic) Outline of History
        3.5.4 World Line of The Eonic Observer


 4. Idea For A Universal History


    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

   3.1.1 The Evolution Formalism And The Eonic Model 


This phenomenon which we have called the eonic  effect gives us an entirely new insight on the question of evolution. It presents us with a complete evolutionary sequence in all its complexity and refuses us a theory unless we can explain all its aspects. Further, as we begin to discover, the dynamic itself is hidden from view behind its manifestations. All we can do is to track ‘evolution’ (or, in this case, what we will call the ‘eonic evolution’ of civilization) over the range for which we have data. The result is illuminating and will transform our understanding. Compared to the complexity of this pattern the claims for natural selection as a driver of evolutiom seems naïve and delusive. We can see that world history is operating on an entirely different principle. 

The eonic effect shows a clear pattern of developmental sequencing, and we can also call it the eonic sequence, as evidence of the ratchet or ‘eonic’ evolution  of civilization . The justification of the term ‘evolution’, qualified by the term ‘eonic’, is direct: first, any form of development attracts the term (some writers, to be sure, distinguish development and evolution, perhaps influenced by Darwinism), and, second, the uninterrupted sequence from the earliest dawn of man to the rise of civilization is all of a piece, and we cannot ascribe random evolution to the emergence of man if we find a process of non-random evolution at its latest stage. We have already derived the connection by asking our paradoxical question, when did evolution stop, and history begin? We can see that there must be a Transition between the two, and that this, very logically, would break down into a series of transitions alternating with regular history. Such thinking would seem very strange did we not see exactly that in the record. The term ‘eonic’ can be taken to mean ‘discrete’, or ‘stepping’, as opposed to ‘continuous’, in long-term units of time. ‘Eonic evolution’ might also be called ‘ratchet evolution’. This dynamic is non-genetic and acts directly on the self-consciousness of individuals.[i]

We can explore a simple model of the eonic effect, which we can summarize here. But we must remain empirical, and our model is merely a set of descriptive terms that can help us to understand what we are seeing. We construct a basic evolution formalism , something quite absent in Darwinism, because it looks at evolution on only one level. As we examine the eonic effect, we can see that it only makes sense if we consider its action on two levels. This kind of thinking was clearly touched on by the idea of ‘punctuated equilibrium’, but the idea became confused with Darwinian thinking. Consider the implications of this fascinating terminology: we see one level of a continuous stream of life evolving by one process and another level that intermittently punctuates this. The first is microevolution and the second macroevolution. Normally we cannot distinguish the two because we don’t have the right data. But with the eonic effect that data is unmistakable and gives us an experience of what ‘evolution’ really is, beyond the purely genetic, or natural selection.

The Evolution Formalism: An Eonic Model Our model is not a theory of evolution, but a simple outline or empirical periodization of world history based on the pattern of transitions and the ‘medieval’ periods in betweenm evolution seen in an empirical sequence. That’s it. But the correlation of the data to this simple scheme is very strong, and we know we are onto something, but what? Our distinction of System Action  and Free Action comes to the rescue: our evolution formalism suggests that the sequence of transitions can be seen as ‘macro’ evolution while the human free action that emerges in its wake is ‘history’, or the record of free activity. This approach is unavoidable: we can see that the ‘eonic sequence’ changes its action at different stages, making generalizatins perilous. ‘Evolution’ is itself evolving, as it were.

We need to bring in our idea of System Action and Free Action to connect the the processes or levels: thus, we see the transition from evolution to history, in the form of a series of transitions, and these transitions show the driving ‘force’ of evolution (system action) and at the same time are realized as emerging history given as the expression by free action of system action. Thus history, as free action, is emerging from evolution, as system action. We will connect this idea to the thinking of Kant by looking at the relationship of system action and free action in terms of causality and freedom, and to how our data resolves this seeming contradiction, allowing us in principle to look at a science of history as the ‘evolution of freedom’. It is not necessary to worry too much about this model: it is enough to follow the basic outline of world history given by the eonic effect itself. That simple world history will start in the next chapter. Here is a short list of ideas connected to our data:

The Eonic Effect Against expectation, world history shows a non-random patern: we see a macrohistorical ‘evolution ’ or ‘rolling out’, in the ‘macro’ variety, associated with the emergence of civilization in a long frequency or directionality, suggesting long-range feedback or system return, morphing in direct and focalized fast transitions the large-scale event-space of cultural entities.

Self-organization One of the persistent themes of critics of Darwinism has been to posit self-organization as a process standing beyond the dynamics of natural selection. This is often connected to thermodynamical issues of the emergence of order. The eonic effect is a spectactular instance of self-organization, speaking descriptively. But it is far beyond the realm of thermodynamics, its action visible in the total spectrum of culture. And yet the effect is clearly an ‘increase in order’. The dynamics of this, however, shows a strong element of directionality, and this teleological component is something larger than the self-organinizing process of molecules.

The Mystery Force—found! We have indicated that some hidden intangible factor lies behind the apparent stream of historical or evolutionary sequences. In world history we can detect such a ‘force’ factor. The language of ‘forces’ will have to graduate to something different. We are simply using the term to refer to some principle of sufficient reason. But the point is clear: we find a massively complex evolutionary driver behind our eonic sequencing. In fact, we see clear signs of a field effect with this ‘force’.

Evolution? What is the meaning of evolution  and how can we use the term for an historical process? In fact, nothing in our account requires the term at all, but as we examine the scale and significance of the eonic effect we realize that our emerging perspective on historical dynamics must collide with other attempts to define it (for human emergence), especially the Darwinian. We will construct a simple model to recalibrate the usage of the term ‘evolution’ (carefully qualified) so that it can coexist with the idea of history. We do this by defining ‘(eonic) evolution’ as macroevolution, and history as microevolution, the chronicle of historical action. The questions of freedom and causality must be carefully defined, resulting in a formal ‘evolution of freedom’ concept as a framework, or model for the eonic effect. In the final analysis noone has a monopoly on the use of the term ‘evolution’, and our usage is correct because that’s the way we define it, in distinction to the also clearly present genetic evolution, which we will clearly see is insufficient to account for the facts.

Universal Histories Our evolutionary model will connect with the classic themes of ‘universal history’, and we will explore the paradoxes that arise in any attempt at a science of history in the thinking of the philosopher Kant, with his ‘idea for a universal history ’. In fact, we will discover two, or multiple, universal histories, one corresponding to the macro-action visible in the eonic sequence, and the others consisting of the diversity of ‘cultural histories’ that make up the spectrum of world civilizations. We will also call this the ‘stream and sequence’ effect, the streams of culture intersecting with the eonic sequence.

Punctuated Equilibrium This eonic data is virtually the defining instance of what should be called ‘punctuated equilibrium’. But we will use this beautiful terminology only in passing, due to the confusion with Darwinian usage. We can see that we have, however, found the real thing, and it has nothing to do with natural selection theories. This form of ‘evolution in history’ requires carefully detailed description, and is not genetic evolution.

An Evolution Formalism We are done: we have demonstrated a non-random pattern in world history. The rest of the book will simply expand on this bare perception of the eonic effect. In the process we can slightly extend our basic demonstration by creating a simple formalism to mirror this data. Looking at the modern ‘punctuation’ we see a kind of transition, three centuries in length, closed by a divide effect. We can think in terms of a simple model of three-century transitions in a matrix of periodization. To this situation we can apply our evolution formalism , of macro and micro, in what we will call an ‘evolution’ of freedom, connecting our data to an insight of Kant. Using this framework we can deduce a number of hidden properties of the eonic pattern. The result is an empirical map of the ‘eonic, or ratchet, evolution’ of civilization. We will soon discover/suspect we are seeing on one half of sequence stretching backward into the Neolithic. We will connect this framework to an ‘idea for a universal history’ that can examine the nature of freedom in relation to a dynamical causality.

System Action , Free Action The key to this framework is to distinguish system action and the free activity that makes it up, a situation we have discussed already. Thus our model, reflecting a process of macroevolution, will distinguish the macro-action of our eonic system and the free activity or micro-action inside it.

The Old Testament Riddle A good example of this distinction lies in the Old Testament, an account of a people living through the Axial interval. Their detection of this struck them as theistic intervention in history. In terms of the eonic model, this expression is the micro-action. The macro-action  is the dynamic of the Axial, or eonic, period behind this, clearly detected in the discontinuity of the core Old Testament history (the three centuries leading up to the Exile). All at once we have a magnificent new perspective on the Old Testament as an account, remarkably, of ‘eonic evolution’!

The Modern Transition!? To say that the rise of modernity is connected to a dynamic sequence solves at once one of the riddles of world history, but creates a theoretical difficulty, if we apply a question of historical dynamics to our present. We have already noted the way the so-called Oedipus Paradox haunts Darwinism, generating Social Darwinism (the misapplication of a theory of evolution to the observer’s present). Our new type of ‘eonic model’ will show us an ingenious way around this difficulty, and our emerging distinction of macro-action and micro-action will allow us to bring ‘evolution’ into our present in a proper manner. More specifically we must define the ‘modern transition’ and clearly distinguish this dynamic of generation from modernity itself, with its ideological content. This new perspective on modernity as combined macro-action and micro-action will help us unlock the mysterious riddle of the ‘modern’.

Hopscotch and a Frontier Effect One reason we adopt the idea of transitions is that our eonic sequence transcends the question of ‘evolving civilizations’, and produces transformations of several civilizations in tandem in time-slices of action. Thus the ‘civilization’ ceases to be the useful unit of analysis . In fact, as we go along we will see that our system can do lateral hopscotch or synchronous steps (as in the Axial Age ), and jump to new regions. We will later see a ‘frontier effect’, the way our eonic sequence always jumps to restart in a new location at the frontier of its prior advancing front.

Finally, we need to consider the contradictions (we already have in fact) of freedom and causality: our model is set up to look at the way in which this contradiction is bridged and a discussion is possible on two points of view: causality and free will. In practice this takes the form of an intermediate state we will call ‘self-consciousness’ which is a variable state that can express degrees of freedom. This might seem confusing, and can be set into the background. But in general, we have in reserve a way to resolve the issue of a ‘science of history’, by looking at the way in which causality and freedom are reconciled in historical evolution.

Self-consciousness In the eonic effect we see an evolutionary process that is non-genetic and that acts directly on the self-consciousness of individuals. It might be better to say that it ‘emerges through’ the self-consciousness  of individuals. This distinction of self-consciousness and consciousness is unusual, and yet has many classic antecedents, and will help us to distinguish degrees of consciousness, or creativity. Self-consciousness, for our purposes, is simply consciousness in a state of transformation. This situation, we should note, creates the dilemma that downfield observers, immersed in one and the same system, may be unable to match the self-consciousness detected in the phases of macroaction.

Eonic Observers For this reason we will introduce the idea of an eonic observer of the eonic effect, and we must study the observers as much as the effect itself. The redactors of the Old Testament were eonic observers , influenced by the emergent factors they wished to describe. A modern eonic observer is influenced by the modern transition. These observers may not be able to rise to the self-consciousness of those innovators inside the sequence.

This pattern gives itself away in the Axial phase, like the tip of an iceberg, but is at first so elusive that we barely see it, but we sense it, and it suddenly comes alive as we clock its strange timing, and adopt systematic periodization. It is made difficult by the need to examine relative changes, i.e. incremental change in a stream of prior continuity. And we must acquire the knack to distinguish the action of a system and the free activity that is mixed with it, like the difference between the motion of an ocean liner and the relative free action of the passengers in that context.

Two categories of motion are superimposed. This is what blinds us to historical dynamics. This pattern explains at a glance many of the contradictions we live with and that characterize our sense of history. The implication is of a process that can act globally, generate rapid change in whole cultures in short bursts, and proceed across millennia in coordinated fashion. Careful accounting of time periods shows this global system at work.

The key to its understanding is to see that its effect is short-acting, or intermittent in series of punctuated transitions. This intermittency is seen in many categories. A remarkable instance, itself a clue, is the Greek Archaic  period, and as one example of the on-off enigma, that of emergentist ‘democracy ’, leapfrogging history, as if in a jumpstart process. This seems to hint at a deeper process. World history seems to be operating on two levels. This is the effect of an evolutionary driver alternating in peaks of intensity. We call this the ‘eonic’ or intermittent, frequency look-alike effect, and it is still an incomplete perception, yet one whose significance is obvious even in fragments, in the same way that a few pieces of a puzzle can cohere without any knowledge of the whole. The problem is that it doesn’t follow standard causal logic in its action. What we see is the ‘causality’ of Big History, so to speak. We see a strange intersection of cultural stream and a larger sequence. This shows us the need to look, not at whole cultural histories, but time-slices, or relative transformations of culture. The idea is so strange we would not consider it unless the facts demanded it. But once we realize this is how real evolution would have to be and that nature acts that way, the solution to the puzzle is swift.

We have already always noticed isolated aspects of this eonic effect, often disguised as myth, or the generic periodizations we routinely apply to history without noticing they are clues to a larger pattern. We do not see the eonic effect, and yet we are always unconsciously ‘noting’ its presence. This must be so if we are immersed in the very evolution we are discovering. We had to have sensed it all along. The moment we use the term ‘modern’, the ‘middle ages’, the ‘birth of our traditions, or the ‘age of revelation’, we are speaking disguised eonic language, i.e. the language of periodization, of intervals or epochs. Now for the first time we see the pattern as a whole, and the reason for our perceptions is clear.

Man’s history has always confronted him with an anomaly in the peculiar periodization of its dramatic incidents, in the sense that its sequence shows an unmistakable character of relative, rather than absolute, beginnings. If we watch the beginning of the second act of a play, arriving late at the last part of the first, the appearance of transition and relative onset conditions our perspective, as a given of incomplete information. This is not unlike our perception of world history filtered through the great traditions, but before the discovery of early Sumer and Egypt . The Old Testament is really describing such a relative beginning, in medias res. It is describing intermittency, a new era coming into existence, against the backdrop of Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations, which simply enter the tale as givens with unspecified origins. The Old Testament makes a point of dramatizing the relationship and disentanglement from these apparently sourceless worlds that were simply there as a new era comes into existence. Our traditions have this character of relative onset and seem to source in the middle of world history, with a hazy preamble, in the centuries clustered around the great era of the Classical Greeks, itself synchronous with the period at the core of the Old Testament.

We are thus left with the sense that this era of great beginnings is an entr’acte, and that we are in a tale of changing scenes. And this is a clue to modernity, this ‘new age’ effect at work, once again. And this phenomenon in antiquity is not confined to the West, for we see it in the Oriental civilizations as well, as they seem to echo the same rhythm. Chinese history is variously the legacy of the Shang emperors, or the richer world suddenly coming to life around the era of Confucius. The world of the Buddha and Mahavir visibly both start, and yet continue from, and against, their own antiquity. Here in splendid simplicity is a clue to the whole question of historical evolution. We see the action of a system in evolutionary parallelism operating in a discrete series of relative beginning s. Such a system smacks of a frequency interpretation, and shows a hypercomplex system at work, complete with its own built-in evolutionary clock.

This sudden double discovery of structure, moving backwards to the dawn of civilization, and moving in parallel through the intricacies of the great burst of advance stretching across Eurasia in the proximate period of the Archaic Greeks, and Hebrew prophets, presents us with a moment like that in the solution of a puzzle laid out at random when an entire sector is resolved in isolation from a still greater whole. This is not the total solution to the puzzle. Coherence is clearly inferable from one fragment of a puzzle as the pieces show an overall meaning. The great clue bestowed in the silence of millennia debriefs our myths of revelation with its clear demonstration of their meaning in a macro-historical functionality. But our tactics of study must be forensic, and not metaphysical.

Although the eonic pattern is a short sequence (like three beats from a whole symphony) and fails any inductive test for universal generalization or an adequate theory, it gives us a telling glimpse of a purely abstract ‘evolution  in action’ and suggests indirectly how emergent sequencing and integration might have occurred in the descent of man. We live in the first generations of human history with records of any kind stretching across the five thousand year minimum we will find necessary to establish the minimum three beats of historical rhythm in a 2400 year intermittent sequence. After this interval since the invention of writing  we seem finally able to document an evolutionary sequence.

And suddenly we are suspicious of current evolutionary accounts of the descent of man, and the so-called Great Explosion  in the Paleolithic. This pattern shows the one thing Darwinists must dread most, overlay evolution in high-speed differential transformations, in concentrated regions, acting over a short range, mere centuries. Our ignorance of deep time will allow no such simple generalization as the Darwinian theory if we have even the slightest suspicion, here the strongest evidence, of such fast-acting processes. The stock of Darwinism plummets at once, and should be put on hold until we can zoom in on the incidents claimed in absentia as evidence of the theory.



   Web:  chap3_1_1.htm


[i] As a contraction of a term ‘aeonic’, its usage is taken from the Greek word ‘aionios’. The term ‘eonic’ is also a play on the term ‘eon’, and in addition the electronic term ‘eonic’, often referring to systems of digital signal processors with their discrete sampling of continuous processes.





Last modified: 09/21/2010