3. Descent Of Man Revisited     

An Unexpected Challenge 
To Darwinism


Section 3 .3

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

   3.3 An Unexpected Challenge To Darwinism


The eonic effect is something we can see all at once, and at many levels. Like a fractal, we zoom in on separate areas, and then zoom out to see the whole. We will construct an outline of world history to help us visualize this pattern. If we highlight the data with some simple periodization what we are seeing will stand out. But in one way we are done—a non-random pattern is indicated. We are confronted with a classic question about the meaning of evolution. Clearly it is something more than genetic.

We can pause here, anticipate our conclusions, and consider in a nutshell this still fuzzy perception of the eonic effect, before zooming in on its details. It goes immediately into an evolutionary category, ‘evolution of some kind’, and ‘macroevolution ’ to boot. And this just doesn’t square with Darwinian  thinking, nor can we say that Darwinian evolution led up to this ‘other evolution’, for reasons we will explore. We cannot be making Darwinian claims on the descent of man, sight unseen, given such data for visible world history. Darwin ’s theory of natural selection  fails a photo finish test. The horse that starts the race has to match the horse that finishes. The reason is the sheer scale of the effect. And the way it violates, or ignores, purely genetic evolution. There isn’t some ‘god gene’ generating ‘religion’, but a stupendous macro factor that, among other things, generates whole religions in its wake. We tend to get stuck on the reductionist oversimplification of Darwinian evolution because we can’t imagine any other way for ‘evolution’ to occur. Yet our pattern gives us grounds for what at first might seem one of the least plausible: incremental advances in block regions in a sort of stepping stone process. Our thinking has been too conservative. Armed with some real evidence, we must change our sights completely.

Thus, if we look closely at this data, especially in the core Axial period, we see that this ‘evolution of some kind’ is global in its action, acting selectively on different regions. Its effects are local, and yet match a pattern in a global sequence. It seems to switch on and off and induce change on schedule over distributed regions. It can change its focus and hopscotch between regions, and leapfrog across centuries. It can act simultaneously on all variables in a total culture, and remorph whole regions by seeding clusters of innovations. It acts on parallel cultures, and parallel components of culture, simultaneously, and directly on creative consciousness and is involved in the generation and transformation of religions. But we cannot really say this process ‘acts’, for it is clearly mechanical in one way. It does nothing, yet suddenly everything is done. Its effects as circumstantial evidence show its hand. Rapid advances and flowerings of philosophy, religion and science are correlated with its action.

Objectivity is difficult. The observer is sequentially dependent on its action since his protocols of discourse, and scientific methodologies, show clear interaction with the pattern. This non-random pattern shows a dynamic acting at long range, signs of evolutionary progress, and ethical action built into this dynamic, as an abstract ‘should’ (i.e. the system ‘should’ induce change on cue, the minimum ‘should’ of a feedback device), and an embedded rationality, as it were, that is beyond easy description. And yet, paradoxically, we cannot safely violate any principle of historical homogeneity, nor claim that these periods in question are inherently any different from any other period, and everything we see there ought to be something, more or less, than is present to us in our time. That seems to make the question incomprehensible. But the paradox is resolved if we think in terms of creativity, or more generally, what we have called self-consciousness. Then it is clear that while creative action is potential at all times, the eonic effect shows it to have clustered evolutionary patterns. That’s a very remarkable fact, but it doesn’t violate the principle of homogeneity. Here traditional accounts are misleading, for the factor of self-consciousness often hides behind theistic visionary experience.

In the best-documented case of the Greeks in their Archaic and Classical periods we see the rapid remorphing of an entire culture in a brief time-slice, with the seeding of a complex literature, political experiments resulting in the birth of democracy , and a crescendo of art. This process operates in the large, yet manifests itself in the creative action of widely separated individuals. It transcends the specifics of individual cultures and civilizations, and we must carefully distinguish the action of a system from the action of individuals. Finally, we can see that the Old Testament arises in this context, and contains implicit observations of the eonic effect.

We spot a mysterious system at work and it operates in parallel and (intermittent) sequence, therefore directionality and thence teleology  become relevant. We cannot assess teleological issues if we are immersed still in the system in question. But we can, looking backwards, assess changes of direction. This effect is clearly staging a kind of globalization . The three clusters or turning points in a sequence also show geographical patterning that follows a basic rule we will discover. They are like transitions driving this evolution, with massive innovations at the key times and places.

These ‘fast interrupt’ phases are about three centuries in length, the so-called Axial Age being two things, a generative and first flowering period. The pattern is associated with several new religions, and the emergence of democracy is directly correlated in two steps of the sequence, dying out after its first appearance. This will provide a clue to a hidden theme of freedom and necessity. This sequence generates great art en passant. The period of the emergence of the Old Testament as a literature, almost parallel to that of the Iliad, is directly correlated to the middle phase. It operates beyond the individual civilization and performs a kind of phasing intersection on a given ‘civilization’. Civilizations in the right time and place tend to have a temporary edge. But the full effect is clearly global and doesn’t pertain absolutely to the area of transmission. Including the modern phase creates problems with ideology, making caution necessary. We are inside this system still, but after its last manifestation. We tend to be blinded to the full scope of what we see, and what we conclude can easily lead to wrong results based on the imbalance created. This system does not follow some ‘economic evolution of history’. It is much deeper. Economic history is one isolated aspect of the picture.

Overall it is clearly strategic, seems to start at a Eurasian center of gravity in the Middle East , and generates globalization, each area of transition seeding a field of diffusion. It never acts twice in the same area, reappearing each time in an adjacent prepared region. This ‘evolution’ is therefore able to somehow scan whole regions, or respond to parameters concealed to us, remember its tracks, and leapfrog to new starting zones. It never determines a whole, and leaves its trace in human activity, which executes all action as theme and variations. It acts through creative incidents and individuals. Its action is entirely different from ‘natural selection’ or survival of the fittest. Instead, if anything, we see a ‘natural’ selection of the less dominant and almost helpless innovators in fast development regions followed by a trend toward equalization and integration. It shows direct correlation to intensity of creative advance. Note this is not the evolution of creativity. Men at all periods are potentially creative. But the periods in our pattern show an especially strong relative intensity.

The only name for what we are seeing is ‘evolution’ in the dictionary sense, a process of ‘rolling out’ in a developmental fashion. Nothing in it contradicts the facts of variation, genetic drift, or genetic mutation, save that these ought reasonably to be taken as a side issue. We will not speculate as to whether processes that can morph whole cultures could also treat genes as information switches. But this is an immediate reality check on Darwin ’s theory. Many of the processes claimed for genetic evolution are strongly correlated with a detectable dynamic suddenly appearing from the time of writing. This is non-random evolution because we see ‘system return’ on definite ‘event regions’, an extraordinary fact. We are left with several possibilities: this ‘evolution’ is an entirely new process, it was present all along, or else switches on at critical stages of development. It is clearly ‘macroevolutionary’ in some sense, and transcends or overlays genetic evolution.

More intuitively, instead of random evolution we see three waves of focalized advance in selected regions that feed the whole via diffusion, an obvious way to evolve something, plain vanilla evolution, but this Darwinian selectionism is not. Darwin ’s theory, in fact, was always a non-standard ‘exotic’ theory, a free lunch claim. The whole evolves through the part, and shows clear directionality, and correlated system response over millennia. The problem is that while we can describe it that way, we can’t ‘see’ the mechanism, so to speak, nor account for the sudden jump in complexity that attends each step in our eonic series as new and complex ‘information’ flows into the system from nowhere. Whatever we call it, and the issue of what to call it is secondary (we can also dispense with or qualify the term ‘evolution ’, e.g. ‘eonic or stepping evolution’), we have some hard data here, observed at close range, relative to Paleolithic, which Darwinists have not observed at this close range.

Clearly, applying Darwinian thinking in this situation could lead to disastrous counter-evolutionary effects. Look closely at the middle periods, such as the falloff in the post-Axial. The ‘fittest’ do indeed survive better, and the trend toward decline and empire takes hold. A period of great innovation comes to an end. And many of those innovations do not make it. The Ionian Enlightenment is buried, democracy barely gets off the launch pad, emergent science fades away. We suspect our ‘system’ has to prompt these innovations, and then restore them after they fail a ‘fitness test’. We must take the result as is, historically given and buffered from whatever other evolution in deep time our speculative theories propose with limited evidence. Since this ‘evolution’ in history shows clear directional aspects, and is able to change direction, we might suppose it has changed direction from processes said to have occurred earlier in the descent of man. We can see that the Darwinist is going to lose history, hence also the Paleolithic descent of man. For we will see that ‘history’ in this sense must overlap with earlier phases of the descent of man.

The regime of natural selection as theory makes no sense, never did make any sense. Now we suspect what the real evolution must have been like. Culture, we should note looking at the eonic effect, doesn’t arrive through and can degenerate under the pure regime of natural selection, whether of individuals, cultures, empires. Advance and innovation require an end run driver to bypass the sandbanked victors of the survival regime. But there is still the consideration that Darwinists might claim that their account produced the lead up to history via natural selection. We can move to protect our subject by showing that they probably lose this lead up also, by looking at the so-called Great Explosion. From there we can move to the study of history on its own terms, without the red herring of Darwinism lurking in the background to confuse thinking.

Darwinism, by claiming purely random evolution, always left the relation of causality and chance ambiguous. Confronted with the eonic effect, we see precisely that extra process, ‘cause’, or ‘force’, subject to its inexorable confusions, present to ‘drive’ evolution, it being granted that such language is purely formal, subject to revised language, and that this system is something highly complex. As remarkable as that is, it is nonetheless precisely what we might have expected, and warns us that our easy assumptions about higher complexity arising by chance were off the mark.

1. Evolutionary Directionality We are thrust all at once by the intermittent character of this pattern into the perception of historical directionality, hence possibly teleology of some kind , contrary to the usual assumptions. Although a scientific red light should go on at this point, there is nothing to forbid this. The facts must speak for themselves. The reason for this renewed perception is that successive turning points show a developmental sequence, often picking up where they left off millennia before. Current evolutionary thinking rejects all teleological thinking, and we will proceed gingerly here, and for our own reasons limit our argument to directionality with an extended hypothesis about teleology, but we can see indirect evidence of teleology in the intermittent stepping process. The problem is that directionality can be empirically demonstrated for the past, while teleology comes with a very high price tag and claims on the future. A drunkard can take three steps toward Kilarney, and that’s proof of directionality, but he could fall in a ditch on the fourth step, and never make it, a future unknown. It should be clear from inspection that world history shows ‘purposive’ directionality but the stepping progressions seen in the eonic effect show the way retrograde motion throws us off the scent, to say nothing of the metaphysical propagandas of the great religions whose effect is to distort perception.

Nothing in this approach therefore preempts a counter-claim of causal explanation of a new and different kind, some ‘causality’ of Big History. Another problem is that we can only speak of the ‘aggregate cultural evidence’ of very large turning points, making teleological statements very generalized at best. And the system requires special treatment in the observer’s present. Further, if some ‘teleology’ of organismic development is considered, then one might consider the ‘evolution of freedom’ in any sense. Then the direction set by the system is ambiguous. If ‘freedom’ develops, the system should stop acting, short of a ‘telos’. It cannot determine the future then. So which is it? Given many such considerations, teleology is tabled to discussion by directional empiricism, but not allowed in the basic model.

Total history is wildly chaotic, and the selection and amplification of substreams against the whole is obviously needed to prevent long-term inertia. Suddenly we discover it, for example in the rapid fall off of the Hellenistic after the Greek miracle. What happened? A whole advance seems to fade out. The difference between directionality and teleology can also be seen from the sheer variety of the Axial cousins. No single ‘telos’ could be ascribed to this system, although we might conceive of a more abstract common denominator. But we can barely describe what we are seeing. Stating some teleological end state collides with our present. However, directionality, changes of direction, can be described.

Our prime objective is to demonstrate a non-random pattern. But we are entering dangerous terrain beyond that basic objective where the issue of teleology appears to challenge standard thinking at its foundations. We need a way to preempt ideological misuse of the conclusion. Ideology  arises because it is a highly desirable state of affairs to say your current activities are endorsed by a teleological plan.

The pattern itself provides the answer. Its intermittent character proceeds by incremental action, often changing direction. What occurs inside the pattern, and in the in-between periods could be two different things. Again, to repeat, we will in fact only claim empirical ‘directionality’, a more limited claim. There is essentially no way to either settle on a causal science of history or a teleological interpretation that is not riddled with metaphysical assumptions. That is not true of empirically mapped directionality. Please note that we are dealing with high-level cultural (and biological) historical evolution. The problem therefore is that teleological ideology is itself a product of the sequence in question. And these severally might contradict each other. That complicates analysis. Noone can claim history with an ideology of ‘telos’. We must proceed by another avenue, and with some caution. We will limit ourselves to historical description of directional intermittency visible looking backwards, with a special treatment of the present (since it is outside the intermittent phase).

We should note, in any case, the evidence of the Axial Age , the exploration of different directionalities, simultaneously, like subroutines in a master sequence. That, and the scale of the pattern, should induce severe caution against premature teleological speculations. This issue is especially acute in the last phase of our sequence, where questions of Eurocentrism, and much else, complicate the analysis. In fact, we can proceed with a safe strategy on such questions. But the subroutine problem returns to haunt the directionality (apparently) set by the modern differential phase.

Note: Natural teleology We need to be clear that teleology can be an aspect of nature (a point once again made clear, we should note, in the Critiques of Kant). The current polarization of reductionist versus some ‘spiritual’ brand of explanation misses this significant insight. Science has naively yielded the ground of its potentially better domain of discourse, and that’s not surprising. But it should also be considered that gains in understanding are marginal here, giving the opportunity for the religionist to claim all ground not rendered over to scientific explanation. This is a problem in monotheistic cultures, and doesn’t finally concern us. We should also note that there is a teleological aspect to physical mechanics, with its action principles. It is simply not the case that teleology has been banished from modern science.[i]

 2. Evolution and Ethics—At close range We already have enough data to reconsider the basic weakness of Darwin’s theory with its inability to account for the evolution of ethical behavior. The current models of population genetics with their claims about group and kin selection are forced into a corner at the limits of purely genetic explanation and the attempts to account for altruism. But if we look at the Axial Age data we can see that evolution in our emerging sense shows two religions appearing almost out of nowhere, one theistic, one atheistic, almost—we see relative transforms in each case. This process is far beyond anything Darwinists can conceive, and we end up flabbergasted by the sheer scale of this spectacle in our backyard. This does not mean we have solved the question of the ‘evolution of morality’, that has long since been, in some fashion, a human reality. The religious manifestions of human culture emerge, proliferate and decay, and in the Axial interval we see a remarkable spectrum of situations ‘toning up’ a chaotic religious diversity. The evolution of religion and that of behavioral morality are not exactly the same, and yet the two must overlap. And in any case our still incomplete picture already gives us a reality check: the issue has a macroevolutionary component. But the point is that religion is not an adaptation to environmental conditions, but an independent process mixed with general evolution in the large. We are confused by the output of the system, i.e. a particular religion associated with our pattern (as opposed to religion in general), and the system itself, which does something ‘wholesale’.

We should be careful here: our eonic data shows a very late stage of development and does not exhibit the earliest stages of ‘ethical consciousness in evolution’. We see the icing on the cake, not the earliest stage. But we can see that something far larger than random genetic evolution is at work.

In one way the category ‘religion’ is (possibly) redundant, since it is really a function of the development of consciousness (often with an overlap with the category of ‘state evolution’, i.e. law codes for transcultural regions). We see that ancient men perceived what we call ‘evolution’ as a religious phenomenon. But then, in that case, the master clue is at hand to sorting out our elemental confusions. We are confused by our inability to distinguish the process as it emerges historically as a human creation (micro-action) in an eonic context (macro-action) and the deeper dynamic of the process itself which stands beyond the particulars of the individual religions, here Buddhism and the proto-Judaic corpus. Even a cursory glance at the full spectrum seen in the Axial period provokes a conundrum. For we find more than just religion. And if we zoom in on the Indian case we see a whole field of religious experimentation preceding the later outcome. Part of the problem here is that, despite the advances of science, we are still very close to this period, and tend to be caught up in the misleading historical accounts. We have no concepts to handle this kind of sudden phasing, nor any ability to put our theoretical present in correct perspective. Thus we fail to grasp what we are seeing at the gestation of these two religions in the Axial period. But we must suspect just how far off the mark Darwin ’s style of thinking really is. We can see from the Axial period the phenomenon of ‘distributed evolution’, sourcing in one cultural stream, then proceeding towards a more general environment, crystallizing as a ‘religion’, complete with self-generating ‘ethical codes’ confected on the spot from the input stream culture’s mythological corpus. We are in the minor leagues of theory still, confronted with operations on this scale.


   Web:  chap3_3.htm


[i] Cf. J. Barrow and F. Tipler, The Cosmological Anthropic Principle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).





Last modified: 09/21/2010