3. Descent Of Man Revisited     

A New Model of History: Eonic Evolution


Section 3.5

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

   3.5 A New Model of History: Eonic Evolution


The historical emerges from the unknown, the primeval scenes of evolution, and the emergence of the hominid creature with a runaway brain from the Paleolithic, the ‘primordial minus infinity’ from which man arrives to commence the arts of agriculture, and the creation of civilization. This tale must be one of relative beginnings  and pass on from the still clouded threshold moment when modern man passed, or by-passed, the Neanderthal in an explosion of cultural and artistic creativity. But as we look back at the lost world of man’s cultural existence in the later Paleolithic, we must wonder if the historical, then still so far in the future, was not prefigured in that passage. We have seen the wisp of evidence for a Great Explosion. Does the explosion of creativity that suddenly appears with the beginning of earliest man show any relation to what we see later? Is the historical the evolutionary? That is, how is the historical related to its greater source, the descent of Man? This is one of the most difficult questions, for it evokes at once the search for historical causality, the mechanisms of evolution, both genetic and cultural, in the context of physical laws and in the headwind of all ‘arguments by design’, teleological philosophies, and the nature of purpose in relation to both organism and its environment.

The discovery of the eonic effect as a concealed process of macroevolution operating in world history has forced us to examine the meaning of the term ‘evolution’. We adopt our own usage of the term but with an open-ended suggestion of an overlap with earlier phases of the descent of man. Perhaps the details of the account are lost forever. Yet the eonic effect warns us that high-speed changes may have occurred, and these are no longer visible. We need a model that can adapt to relative beginnings. Otherwise we may suffer the plight of Darwinism, whose source myth based on insufficient evidence is being applied to the study of history, where we do have evidence, an absurd situation.

The point is that our data suggests the way we can do without the account of absolute beginnings that vitiates theory with a false consistency. This sense of the relative beginning of history is essential because we must take man as we find him. Our argument throws severe doubt on current accounts of the descent of man, because we see that many of the cultural aspects of man ascribed to adaptation are the result of a different form of evolution altogether, one visible in history. In the final analysis, we cannot indulge in the speculations of Darwinists. We weren’t there. But what we can say is that world history is not evolving in this fashion. It is a preposterous situation where speculation about what we can’t observe is applied to what we can see, after we have put blinders on. We can do without the account of absolute beginnings because the result will be a model that is an empirical map, a theory of the evidence, not a full theory of evolution. We cannot produce the latter until we resolve the facts. An intermittent model allows a component chain of relative phases of evolution.

Further, we suspect that those who apply this theory to history have an agenda. They may wish to induce competition, survival of the fittest, with an excuse for this. Witness the subtitle of Darwin’s Origin. This was the age, for example, of the extermination of the American Indian. If you wish someone’s land, a theory like Darwin’s is a useful excuse to flout morality. Thus we must examine the motives of theory, for theories are emergent processes in real evolutionary time. Their status as ‘objective’ is open to question. A close look at the eonic effect can be used as a test of ‘competition’, historically. This might be too harsh, Darwinists merely confused, but this is what they themselves have declared. It is convenient to have ‘scientific’ grounds to relieve conscience, justify conflict. We can however extend our view of history to see that meaningful development follows a different course. The onset of civilization after the Neolithic, taken as one relative beginning, shows its own dynamic. And this is not a struggle for dominance of ‘favored races’. We don’t have to inject the red herring of some speculative theory about unobserved eras into this history. World history is moving toward an integrated community of man, not some divisive struggle between winners and losers in the game of survival.

Wallace pointed unwittingly to the basic flaw in Darwinism, man has a complex potential, difficult to realize, how could this be the result of adaptation? Man is confronted with the demand to understand himself, his latent potential, and consciousness. In simplest terms, we need the evolution of an agent, not of an ethical robot with altruistic genes. It is hard to see how adaptation could account for the man behind the man. Without this there is no definition even of what organism it is that has evolved at all. Whatever the case, Darwinism offers us no such account. Committed to absolute beginnings, a full and total account, it must plug the gaps with a universal generalization, a claim on a law of evolution. Natural selection is perfect for that. It is devastating to consider that Darwinism has missed the main issue altogether. It seems an insoluble puzzle. Where did Darwin go wrong?

A first problem is the nature of the observer himself. Since the time-scale of evolution surpasses the lifespan of a human observer, the question arises as to what is meant by the concept ‘observing evolution’. Historians can never deceive themselves that guesswork can be applied to gaps in history. The facts, and all the facts are needed. We have produced our hurricane argument, and must remember that the temporal and spatial scope of evolutionary process is tremendous, and that we never see and cannot easily visualize evolution, and are prone to misconceptions. If we apply the term ‘evolution’ to world history we see at once the difficulty of correct observation with respect to five thousand years of civilization, let alone theoretical generalization. And even there we detect an evolutionary macro process entangled at the highest level of culture. Thus warns us that you must close in on the facts at close range, and that is still beyond our ability. We must have eyes to see.

A strange question lurks in Darwinian theory: is there a difference between evolution and history, and if so on what date did the transition occur? Clearly there would not be a ‘date’ for this, but some sort of incremental transition. We can make the distinction formal by allowing history to emerge from evolution. The eonic effect foots the bill here. This means that history is really appearing in the Paleolithic, a not unreasonable usage, which we will take informally as a significant comment on our standard usage, noting also that history is sometimes also defined as starting with the invention of writing , the first period of the eonic effect (!). We can also speak of the ‘eonic evolution of civilization’, to qualify our use of the term ‘evolution’.

From Evolution to History We can make the evidence of the type seen in the eonic effect  explicit grounds for defining both the unity of and a distinction between evolution and history. We could call history the record of free activity rising in the wake of the passive evolution of volition. At what point has relative free action  emerged for man to create culture as a free agent? This definition includes the possibility that this has not yet occurred.

The ‘Eonic Evolution’ of Civilization We can call the evidence of our three turning points the ‘eonic’ or intermittent evolution of civilization, as some form of ‘macroevolution’ turning into history. Then we can keep rough track of the two levels of history we detect in the eonic effect . This will create a puzzle of two distinct forms of action, one inside the eonic pattern, one outside. We will say that system action shows ‘eonic determination’, or macro-action, while behavior outside of it is simply ‘free action’, or ‘micro-action’.

The Great Transition Armed with these distinctions we can call the passage from evolution to history The Great Transition, with a possible echo (or not) of The Great Explosion. However, we are immersed in this transition, and may or may not have reached the end of its clearly intermittent action, seen as a series of individual transitions.

This connection is a variant of our photo finish argument, and it has a significant twist, which is that many fail to find any science of history, while the science of evolution  is taken as a given. We should be suspicious that our eonic data is precisely the type of sequence, complete with intermittent transitions, required to fill the discontinuity between history and evolution.

Laws of History and Popper on Historicism Even as we respond to the challenge of Darwinism, we must confront the legacy of historical theory, as we embark on a path often labeled ‘historicism’. This thinking was prefigured by the Kantian analysis, but it is useful to see how this consideration was reborn in the wake of Kant’s philosophy of history. The perception of the eonic effect, in the evidence of what we have called the eonic evolution of civilization, seen in the strange hints of periodic motion in its emergence, must by its nature propose to reopen the issues, well-known to students of historiography, of macrohistorical structure and sequence, ‘laws of history’, in the debate that has attended the rise of modern historical research, beginning in the early nineteenth century.

This research has tended to skirt these very issues as intractably difficult, or undecidable, in the first priority of accurate historical fact-finding. Indeed, a healthy skepticism is generally brought by the specialist narrative historian to the legacy of Universal History  as it emerges in the movement, for example, of German Idealism, and to attempts to find laws, forces, or regularities of the kind studied in the more fundamental branches of science. In the latter category must be placed the Darwinian theory of evolution, and in the middle, the Marxist theory of historical materialism , this a significant inversion of an idealist program. To these can be added the eclectic world of the macroeconomic model, seldom explicitly offered as a model of historical evolution, but very much so taken in practice in the various ‘economic interpretations of history’.

Related to this, one of the most interesting challenges to the attempt to find historical ‘laws’ is the work of Isaiah Berlin in his Historical Inevitability. The basic difficulty raised by this and other critiques is the factor of spontaneous human action, whether or not we ascribe to this as an element of will, in the difficulties of all theories of will. Thus, Karl Popper’s well-known critique of historicism is one perspective that cuts to the root of the problem of both historical and evolutionary theories:

I mean by ‘historicism’ an approach to the social sciences which assumes that historical prediction is their principal aim, and which assumes that this aim is attainable by discovering the ‘rhythms’ or the ‘patterns’, the ‘laws’ or the ‘trends’ that underlie the evolution of history.

This term has a complex and confusing history but we will take Popper’s version to start. This important critique (directed at Marxist predictive ‘laws’) does not apply to our eonic effect, for the simple reason that our evidence is empirical, and gives us the answer, without telling us what the question was. We see pattern, rhythm, but these are not laws, and we make no predictions from the observation. But this was our problem, not nature’s. We can retreat from causal explanation to pure periodization, and correlated causal association.[i]

It would seem that the case against laws of history, laws of evolution strangely exempted, is so overwhelming that we should abandon their consideration. But the ironic result of seeing the eonic effect is precisely this, to find strong, conclusive, evidence of historical regularity that courts rather than preempts the issues of freedom. Our three turning points suddenly start to make sense, for they show us nothing but free activity, and yet this is demonstrably different in the crucial eonic intervals, witness the Axial Age. More, we see the idea of freedom born in this very context of historical determination, e.g. emergent democracy shows historical conditioning. This provokes the classic contradiction in the question, what causes freedom? We will explore in the next section the simple solution we see in action, which is to find some middle ground between ‘freedom and necessity’ in the factor of self-consciousness.

Thus, we can adapt our thinking to the eonic effect, by taking the contrast of consciousness and self-consciousness as surrogates for determinism and free will. And then freedom can be an evolutionary idea carried as a virtual potential realized at points of ‘relative freedom’ or self-consciousness. Indeed, note the paradox that arises here, which is that ‘freedom’ in history, and ‘the generation of freedom’ cease to be the same thing. We must realize our own potential, and activate that. Note that the emergence of philosophical ideas of freedom itself shows correlation to our non-random pattern.

A Freedom Paradox Consider as scratchpad heuristic thinking the contradiction (there are any number of variants), speaking very loosely: either man is free to self-evolve or else he is not so free and is ‘evolved’ by a larger process toward that freedom, at which point there should be a transition to a post-evolutionary era where ‘evolution’ is switched off and freedom takes effect. Note the dilemma. If he is too ‘evolved’ by that larger process, that self-evolution can never begin or exercise itself, yet if that ‘self-evolution’ is total he might never advance, remaining at the level of his starting point, and never reach freedom (which we didn’t define, the definition might itself be evolving). One resolution of the paradox might be to consider that some form of ‘evolution of one kind’ must initiate an evolutionary sequence toward freedom as un-interfered with ‘sort of freedom’, and yet operate intermittently in a series of on again off again bursts of ‘evolving’ between which self-evolution can occur. It is like the extra wheels on a child’s bike. The temporary constraint on ‘freedom to ride’ is necessary as a stage toward riding solo. We have just found a way to derive the eonic effect with its distinct alternation of degrees of freedom. Thus an evolution of freedom might well break down into a series of alternating intervals of degrees of freedom, induced or not induced. Such situations occur all the time in real life, e.g. the ‘third wheel’ on a child’s bike.

Popper and Historicism We must consider the rejection of the entire domain of macrohistory in Popper, who amplifies Fisher’s Lament, in his attack on ‘historicist’ beliefs in The Poverty of Historicism, where he criticizes grand clichés of historic Destiny and the ‘dramatic’ view of history, the idea that history has a plot or significant structure. Unfortunately, the term ‘historicism’ has changed its meaning here. Not only Kant’s Idea, but Herder’s other Idea, arises in a genuine dialectic at the eonic synchronous moment of German philosophy. The different historicism of Herder, the complex world of nineteenth century German cultural philosophy, the phantom Book never written, The Critique of Historical Reason of Dilthey, as the emphasis on the unique, and Popper’s critique of his definition of historicism, as the historical generalization of physical law, show the complex legacy of this perspective, as the term seems to shift into its opposite. The eonic effect beautifully synchronizes the contrary meanings of the term ‘historicism’, for we can see therein a way in which the ‘lawful’ and ‘determinate’ can be taken in a sense that does not contradict the unique, the particular, or the potential individuality of the historical agent.[ii]

 Causality, Freedom and Self-consciousness We noted the critique of theories of history using Popper’s idea of historicism. But we have found empirically that there is such a thing as macro-history, and our data shows us how to reconcile the contradiction of freedom and causality. The resolution of the paradox of historicism is empirically given by the eonic data, and lies before us in something like the electronic ‘on-off’ switch, to match our intermittent or ‘eonic’ data. That’s crude thinking, but sufficient for large-scale periodization analysis. We have a mixed situation, free agent, and (causal) mechanism. Choice and mechanism operate in tandem. We see our mysterious drumbeat switches on over a brief time scale of centuries relative to millennia in non-contingent evolutionary event-regions. Instead of an on-off switch we see something like ‘switched on’ periods with relative degrees of freedom in the appearance of less conditioned periods able to innovate rapidly. How to proceed with such a strange set of facts? But there is a simple explanation here: change can occur in the agent’s self-consciousness, in the middle ground between determinism and freedom. Look at the eonic effect. Higher degrees of freedom show both deterministic and free influence overlaid. We call that ‘creative action’, in most cases. Note that creativity creates a sense of freedom, but isn’t controlled by its agent. Thus, confusing the question is the fact that ‘free agency’ and ‘freedom’ are not the same necessarily. ‘Choice’ is an observational given, however we explain it. We need not decide about free will to recount the history of ‘choices’, branches of potential outcomes becoming realized. We have the clue to proceed.

Further, as we will see as this logic unfolds, the ‘causal agency’ is trying to ‘cause freedom’. The eonic effect is itself like an ‘evolution of freedom’. This crosses the tripwire into a classic ‘contradiction’ as our subject transforms into something else, that something being somewhere in the vicinity of the philosophy of history. We will see that the eonic effect straddles the twin domains of the deterministic and the emergence of man as a ‘free agent’ with potential freedom. The problem of historicism disappears if we renounce causal laws and predictions of the future, and look only toward patterns of creative action, in the past, taking care to define the transition from this past to the open present. We don’t need a proof of man’s free will, or some scheme of historical laws, and will complete our eonic model  without deciding these issues. But we do need a model that shows some kind of ‘determination’ in our pattern, and yet switches off in the present, for the evolution of freedom must have a free future. Such seemingly bizarre properties are in fact everyday occurrences, and will form the basis of a model. That’s very strange, and only an example will help, make it transparent. The eonic effect is such an example.

The issue of self-consciousness can be grounded in nothing more complex than the power of attention, contrasted with states of consciousness that are more mechanized. We don’t need to commit on any psychological theory to consider it this way, although collating creativity and self-consciousness is an oversimplification. No theory of evolution has ever properly accounted for the emergence of the power of attention (which clearly antedates man’s emergence). But we must assume, as an example of our issue of relative beginnings, the man we find, a creature with a complex power of attention, which he can control to some extent. The point is that there is nothing mystical in the issue of self-consciousness.

The Evolution Of Freedom Our distinction of System Action  and Free Action conceals an idea of the ‘evolution of freedom’, and we need to explore this new perspective on systems and individuals in tandem. This is an empirical approach, passing through the thicket of ideas of freedom. Our objective, here, is to throw the idea of freedom into deep time, asking for close tracking, then produce closely tracked data in historical time, in the fashion of our photo finish strategy.

One way to see the problem with Darwinism is to consider the ‘evolution of freedom’, as the empirical study of the evolution of volition, free activity, consciousness and more general ideas of (possibly political) freedom. We have seen the Kantian perspective on ‘free will’, and make no claims here, one way or the other. But the ‘freedom grab bag’ as a seminal archetype is more general than free will. We can be free to make choices, on some level of freedom. Choices leave historical traces as ‘one thing instead of another’, whatever the source of that choice. Since the existence of ‘free will’ is not claimed in these assumptions, we can even look at the evolution of the idea of freedom, an idea  that can be entertained without a realizable freedom. Note this point: a new potential as self-consciousness could arise as evolution of some kind, armed with the idea of freedom, as a motive to action. This suggests we are still inside such a process, even as we use the idea of freedom, although it is difficult to define it.

We can see that the idea of freedom enters the eonic pattern as the very lack of ‘freedom’ to create civilization without a macro helper. We also see the double emergence of democracy as a significant riddle of the data. Thus, since we have some spectacular evidence of the ‘evolution of freedom’ as a macroevolutionary process in the eonic effect (to be developed as the distinction of system and free action, and the discrete freedom sequence ), we can challenge Darwinists on this score. The interest of this approach is that the idea of freedom must overlap between evolution in the Paleolithic and the emergence of civilization taken as evolution.

Note the contradiction arising as we speak of freedom, its evolution presumes its relative absence. How much more true that must have been at earlier stages of his emergence, as a cultural hominid. We can draw no direct conclusions, but the clear appearance of a macro factor in history severely challenges claims of random emergence. Darwinists say this happened at random. We could just as well claim it happened in a long-range sequence of relative advances that sourced in one area and diffused thence to a greater species environment. We naturally begin to wonder if this sequence would terminate at some point, its job done. We certainly see increasing degrees of freedom in history. Look at the difficulties of history, and consider the helplessness of unorganized tribal systems.

We need more than theories about the Paleolithic, we need histories. We can use this to demand from evolutionists finer grained data, or withdraw their claims, based on an idea of evolving freedom. Darwinists are claiming that a genetic mutation or mutations arose that left man ‘free enough’ to create civilization (however any such genetics that might accompany greater evolution would be of first interest). But we can show that this assumption is false. Note that our basic pattern shows us already the macro factor in the ‘evolution of freedom’, in a sense to be made clear.

We could also think in terms of ‘volition’, perhaps, instead of ‘freedom’ as ‘free will’. How did ‘volition’ evolve, and at what point, if any, did it evolve into freedom, if any? Is there a macro factor involved in the evolution of volition and/or freedom? If so, where’s the empirical proof? This language is fuzzy, but makes approximate sense, and really asks us to define, and find evidence for, what we mean by evolution in terms of a whole man, as a self, or agent. This agent must choose between courses of action. All this amounts to is a request for more data on earlier behavioral stages, and their degree of freedom, which to our view needed some extra vitamins each step of the way. And we are required to specify the evolutionary psychology ‘claimed to have evolved’. It is simply an assumption to say that a ‘utilitarian’ account constitutes the bedrock of theory. In fact, man seems to downshift into low gear, and switches between different evolutionary psychologies. He has the problem, altogether appropriate in any account of evolution, of bringing ‘self-consciousness’ to the mechanization of consciousness.

 Two questions lurk here, and we will not be dogmatic. One is the genetic issue of man’s ‘human software’ and how it evolved and how it works. Far be it from us to refuse some lucky mutation, if someone can fix its historical coordinates. But we must be sure we know what that software is, and can’t restrict its description in order to make natural selection work. The lurking nemesis of such thinking is the possibility of a macro factor associated with ‘freedom’ that operates beyond the genetic level. All at once we have unexpected data for it. Subtract the eonic effect from world history and you lose the birth of civilization, all the great religions, the Greek Miracle, etc… Flat history in long sluggish eternities of no advance.

In general, as one historian of evolution has put it, echoing Wallace, “Here at last volition has taken its place in the world of nature.”[iii]

Man Makes Himself The basic issue is very simple, and should be taken empirically by looking at world history with one simple (theoretical) question, Does man make himself? Thus we can restate the whole issue in intuitive form, using the title of a book by Gordon Childe, Man Makes Himself.  To say that ‘man makes himself’ implies that ‘freedom to do so has already evolved’. But questioning that was one of our starting points, and we can see already from superficial inspection of our turning points that emergent civilization has a hidden driver, and that otherwise it tends to sandbank, slow to a crawl, medievalize, drift from initial states of high advance, degenerate into empire, lose its initial advances. Man enslaves man, while we will see that our discrete freedom sequence (the double emergence of democracy) comes to the rescue twice in a row, and also includes the emergent ‘abolition ism’ by correlation in its ‘eonic effects’.

Notice that science and democracy are born in ancient Greece, then die out until our next turning point. The Roman Republic goes from bad to worse as libertas becomes imperium, and then everything seems to collapse in a Dark Age. There is even a tendency to think decline a form of advance. So the issue is complicated, and we see that while man is the only candidate to self-create his own freedom, make himself, and civilization, there is a helper-driver visible by looking backwards at the globally interconnected way in which advance seems to alternate intermittently. This is a limit on the idea of freedom, and we must be wary not to ‘alienate’ ourselves in a system of determinism in the name of evolving freedom. The answer is simple. Such a system must terminate, and leave man on his own, evolution must become history. That point must come as we begin to observe it, ready or not. And our model will automatically take care of that, in the short term. It switches off in the recent past, as theory goes out the window and is replaced by free action, free or not.

 Upon reflection, we realize that ‘evolution’ on the surface of a planet is not something simple, and that the eonic effect shows one of ways this can happen, one of the simplest and most plausible, however extraordinary. Darwinists just snap their fingers, things just happen. We see that a driver is needed, and a very delicate one that does not overdetermine or underdetermine what emerges. And at some point, like a jump-start process applied to car, that determination process has to yield to a completed or ‘free’ process, i.e. the cars starting, of our evolution turning into history. The gist of it is that the whole can efficiently evolve through the parts, which show intervals of ‘system action’ or eonic determination.

One way to distinguish history and evolution might lie just here, by considering the transition from passive to active organism, from behavior to free (ambient or locomotive) action, in the ambiguity of the term ‘free’. Perhaps if man is free then evolution ends and history begins, if this is our choice of definition. Or, if he is not free, his evolution continues, and the term ‘history’ is so far another term for this process.



   Web:  chap3_4_1htm


[i] Isaiah Berlin , “Historical Inevitability”, Four Essays on Liberty (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969), Karl Popper, The Poverty of Historicism, (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 3.

[ii] Georg Iggers, The German Conception of History (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1983), R. Burns & H. Rayment-Pickard, Philosophies of History (New York: Blackwell, 2000), p. 57, ‘Classical Historicism’, Maurice Mandelbaum, History, Man and Reason (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1971), Charles Brambach, Heidegger, Dilthey, and the Crisis of Historicism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995). The term ‘historicism’ has a complex history and multiple strains of definition beyond that given by Popper. Robert D’Amico, Historicism and Knowledge (NY: Routledge, 1989).

[iii] Loren Eiseley, Darwin’s Century (New York: Anchor Books, 1961), p. 349, “We have spoken of the brain of man as a sort of organ of indetermination”.





Last modified: 09/21/2010