3. Descent Of Man Revisited     

A Gaian Matrix: Detecting A Global System


Section 3.5.1

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

   3.5.1 A Gaian Matrix: Detecting A Global System


We are confronted by the strange fact that world history, behind its appearance of randomness, shows in fact the operation of some kind of global dynamical ‘system’, one whose properties both resemble and part ways with those of standard dynamical systems. The result seems suddenly to make sense, but can be confusing because we don’t quite see the ‘how it works’ aspect properly. This ‘system’ is of planetary, or Gaian proportions, and seems to spawn Civilization almost like a hothouse plant.

We can thus use the idea of a ‘system’, taken in a neutral sense. In the end, however, all we need is a careful periodization outline of world history: we need to visualize an empirical pattern. This pattern gives itself away by the simple mechanism it demonstrates, that of a set of transitions. We see, first, the strong resemblance to the idea of punctuated equilibrium.

A Frequency Pattern Our system seems to follow a frequency pattern based on 2400 year intervals which are marked by discrete transitions three centuries in length in an eonic sequence overlaid on a stream universal history:

TP1: Transition 1: -3300 to -3000, relative rise of civilization

TP2: Transition 2: -900 to -600, relative ‘Axial’ interval

TP3: Transition 3: 1500 to 1800, relative rise of the modern

We see these transitions or statistical regions as relative transforms packed with eonic emergents. Note that this third transition switches off in our recent past. And our current action may or may not express the aggregate directionality shown, which is highly complex in any case, comprising multiple parallel streams. Thus the teleology, if any, inferable from the continuation of TP3, may be quite different from that of the overall sequence. We have said that TP3 is a major turning point. We didn’t say that what happened in its wake was, or was not, a bungled continuation. We must define our relationship in the present to this set of observations about the past, and invent, not a postmodern, but ‘post-eonic’, ‘strategy of historical freedom’. Our eonic system is a ‘macroevolution’, but our present behavior must be a ‘microevolution’. Scrambling these two modes is the bane of Darwinism with its nasty Oedipus Paradox.

We have a core pattern, the eonic effect, and a frequency hypothesis. It is important to get a sense of the way we are dealing with relative transformations. Looking at the eonic effect , especially the Axial interval, we see what we can call ‘eonic emergents’, the data that stands out as improbable, and these often look like absolute innovations, but which, on closer examination, often turn out to be amplified relative transformations, spurts of growth, incremental remorphing.

The sunlamp analogue If we turn on a sunlamp in a garden, we see, not the absolute growth of plants from seeds (although that may occur too), but the relative accelerated growth of those plants. The causal domain is contextual and may show two levels. The sunlamp has nothing to do with the ‘causal stream’ of plant growth processes. In the same way history in and outside of the eonic effect is autonomous and proceeds by its own logic. The eonic effect is built in, yet a distinct process.

Unexpectedly we have connected the two ideas of evolution and history, and we can proceed to build this relationship into our model. We have stumbled on a truly global process operating beyond the scale of individual civilizations, and the result is a remarkable realization of an almost Gaian theme of planetary evolution. We need to clarify the way that ‘evolution’ and ‘history’ are connected. The answer to that question is very simple and elegant.

An Evolutionary Driver We can call this a drumbeat or discrete-continuous model because we see a discrete series of drumbeat punctuations or transitions overlaid on a continuous pattern of world history. That gives expression to a sense of something ‘driving evolution’. In our attempt to consider a science of history, using our model, we see how such a science becomes contradictory. We have already wistfully summoned up the idea of a ‘science of freedom’, that has to be our line of attack, at this point. Even such a simple model is quite powerful, and will uncover some hidden properties behind our data.

The data of the eonic effect has an elegant simplicity that matches this type of system model, in its stepping progressions: our punctuations become transitions, three centuries in length (a guesstimate), that switch on an off, in the alternation of a system action and then free activity, or what we have called ‘macro-action’ (instead of causality) and ‘micro-action’ (free activity, which may or may not show ‘free will’). As an example, among dozens, of a ‘discrete-continuous’ process (our original example was that of a computer and its user), a thermostat interrupts a continuous time stream with a discrete series of discontinuous actions. Note that thermostats are not supernatural devices because they exhibit ‘discontinuity’. A more subtle example, if we listen to a concert, we hear the continuous music. But if we listen carefully we will detect a discrete tempo (counting numbers are ‘discrete’), or beat. That’s nice, the absolute minimum example, where the dynamic has been replaced with esthetic productions, leaving only tempo as a mechanical process. So with our ‘eonic’ effect, our drumbeat suggests a tempo. This tempo is a clue to some hidden order, quite invisible in the sequence. This order may be unknowable, but it must show its hand if it has any relation to our world at all. Thus we detect its signature. Tempo is the only property left to analysis after everything else disappears into hypercomplexity. Standard theories won’t work because theories are output of the system.

You can bypass the abstractions of the model and simply follow the general periodization which will spring to life without these abstractions.

The model is designed to never get in the way of the data of history. But, whatever its limits, the model will help clarify the causality problem involved in any attempt at a science of history, and this approach is an order of magnitude superior to the confusions of flat history.

We can see already the dilemma of thinking in terms of ‘civilizations’, as the fundamental unit of analysis (to use a phrase of Toynbee). Our unit of analysis  will be the transition itself. An immense amount of wasted effort goes into thinking about civilizations, when the basic dynamics is visible in the transitional intervals. We have one basic unit: humanity, the surface of a globe, and differential time-slices of various streams to generate a global sequence moving toward an oikoumene. The confusion caused by the tribalism of ‘civilizations’ is the tale of a still primitive species.

The Unit of Analysis We should stop thinking of civilizations as the unit of analysis, and instead look at our transitions.

The Myth of the Continents  World history tends to be divided into geographical regions as ‘civilizations’ or ‘East’ and ‘West’, or the ‘rise of the West’, ‘western civilization’. Up to a point nothing is wrong with such terms, until we find that nothing is right with them. We can instead take our field as the surface of a globe divided into sectors, where ‘eonic evolution’ steps between zones of relative transformation inside the civilizations. Beyond tribal obsession, there is no such thing as ‘western civilization’. It is a function of global evolution. It is misleading to divide the field into continents. There is one global mainline.[i]

Our transition shows a comprehensive character that no individual, so far, can match. We think in terms of the ‘rise of the West’, or of Western Civilization. But this, as noted, misses the point of what we see, the global interconnection of all three of our great turning points. We are starting to see, beyond the ‘civilization’, the issue of what Toynbee called the ‘unit of analysis’, and to something global, as already suggested in our idea of eonic evolution.

From Evolution to History: Deducing the eonic effect We have the key to a new way to unify the evolutionary and the historical. The issue of history and evolution is a confusing one, and it seems as if we are making a category error. In fact, not so. Quite the contrary we have the real clue to evolution. Consider the following question: when did evolution stop and history begin? This tricky question will trip up the Darwinian approach and leave it to collapse in a contradiction. The answer of course is that there couldn’t be an instantaneous switch. We can see that to set a specific date is contradictory. So we must specify a transition between evolution and history. What form would this hybrid take, passing from evolution to history? Either it is all evolution or all history?? Or maybe a series of mini-transitions with evolution dominant then history dominant. In alternation. Now look at the eonic effect: it speaks not just of evolution, but of history and evolution, the two braided together, with history emerging from evolution. And this eonic effect takes the form of a sequence of alternating periods, with evolution (in our sense) dominant during eras of transition, and co-related periods with history (in our sense) dominant. Thus we actually see in history the data matching the deduction about transitions, passing from evolution to history.

If we pursue the eonic effect and its model in detail we find a formal definition of ‘eonic evolution’ and ‘history as free action’ with the two braided together in a drumbeat alternation pattern. This is defined as an ‘evolution of freedom’ in a purely formal fashion. As ‘freedom evolves’ (in this sense) history comes into being. The enigma of the Axial Age, for example, yields at once to this kind of analysis. The question of a category error is irrelevant, really. We assume evolution is solely genetic, and that biologists have the defining standard. But they don’t. The term ‘evolution’ means ‘rolling out’, and ‘eonic evolution’ means the rolling out of civilization in the context of the eonic effect. We see that there is a ‘macroevolution’ involved with this. Note that we use the term ‘evolution’ in a host of contexts, economics, art, philosophy, any category. Do we forbid those too? Those usages are just as valid (and maybe as incoherent) as the Darwinian. Darwin never actually used the word, in his first edition.

 The Formalism of Evolution: The Macro/micro distinction We have seen the striking resemblance of the data of the eonic effect to punctuated equilibrium. We will be wary of this idea, but use the formalism of evolution that we developed in the previous chapter. The point is that the alternation of some active process of evolution with equilibrium in the middle is a very general idea that could apply in a host of situations. Since the term has already been defined in a different (and false) way by Darwinists, we will not directly use it, save to note that our historical dynamic shows an obvious pattern of ‘punctuations’ followed by equilibria! In fact the eonic effect gives us the correct framework for any true theory of evolution which will show operation on two levels, macro and micro. As noted already the phenomenon of punctuated equilibrium should really be about the macro component of some evolutionary process or ‘force’, balanced by its micro component. The problem is that it is hard to detect the macroevolutionary component to general evolution, but the eonic effect gives us a spectacular example: we see that we must track data at a finer grain.

Our model is a unification of the idea of evolution and history, in which the macro component will be the so-called ‘eonic sequence’ and the micro component history itself, with human individual action coming to the fore against the backdrop of evolutionary dynamics. This ‘evolution of freedom’ will be the historical chronicle itself.

Thus our transitions represent the macro aspect of evolution (in history) and the periods in between represent the micro aspect of the historical free activity of man. The periods of transitions are themselves historical, of course, but their evolutionary component is visible in the sudden spectrum of creativity and self-consciousness that advances civilization. The sequence of transitions, or eonic sequence, is embedded in history seamlessly and produces a directional component. The conclusion of the eonic sequence is probably taking place in our own era, as the modern transition produces a endpoint of ‘eonic evolution’, human freedom rising in its wake.

An elegant, if at first strange, formulation of the idea of evolution, adapted to the idea of ‘evolution of freedom’.



   Web:  chap3_5_1htm


[i] Martin Lewis et al (ed.), The Myth of Continents (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)..





Last modified: 09/21/2010