4. Idea For A Universal History

   

 
 
From Life's Origin 
To The Dawn of Human Culture 

  

Section 4.2.2




 
World History 
And The Eonic Effect

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

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 CHAPTERS:
 

 

 
 

 
4. Idea For A Universal History  
    4.1 A Short History of The World  
       4.1.1 The Modern Turn: Looking Backward          
    4.2 Big Histories, Universal Histories  
       4.2.1 In Search of The Big Bang 
       4.2.2 From Life's Origin to The Dawn of Human Culture  
    4.3 Neolithic Beginnings  
       4.3.1 Fields of Diffusion  
       4.3.2 Genesis of the Great Religions 
       4.3.3 The Tower of Babel           
   4.4 Egypt, Sumer and The 'Rise of Civilization'  
      4.4.1 Sumer and The Cuneiform Civilization
      4.4.2 Egypt: A Synchronous 'Axial' Effect
NOTES  
   4.5 From Akkad to The Assyrians...and Israel...  
      4.5.1 The Indo-European Migrations   
      4.5.2 The Curse of Mideonic Empire 

Next: 
 5. Symphony of Emergence

 
  
        

    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

     4.2.2 From Life's Origin to The Dawn of Human Culture  

 

The mystery of the origin of life, and the so far intractable character of the enigma, remains an invariant of discussions of evolution, and should caution us that without an understanding of the beginning, excessive confidence in the now standard explanation of evolution after its beginning, the Darwinian scenario of natural selection, is misplaced. Our eonic perspective suggests immediately what is wrong, as a red warning light goes on, but we cannot use it to solve a problem for which it wasn’t designed.

A Noumenal/Phenomenal Mystery Our brief consideration of Kant’s Challenge uncovered the way in which the dynamic of our ‘eonic evolution’ was not visible while the phenomenal aspect was visible as the eonic effect. We suspect immediately what is wrong with the origin of life debate, beset by the egregious claims of design theories. The dynamics of life emergence, whatever the biochemical details, may well have a noumenal aspect. That is very different from confusing the issue with supernaturalism.

There is something entirely odd about the beginning of life. It arises relatively quickly in the wake of planetary formation, in seeming defiance of probability. Within a relatively short period of time the passage to the RNA world, and then the DNA world of the cell is accomplished. In fact, the era of unicellular life is much longer, and the onset of the ‘animal’ in the era of multicellular life leaves us the clue, one we still do not understand, the sudden and rapid emergence in the Cambrian era of all the standard body plans that will fret the era of life to come.[i]  

4.5 billion years ago: formation of the Sun, planets, and earth

3.7-3.8 billion years ago: origin of life

1.5 bllion years ago: appearance of eukaryotes, sexual reproduction

550 million years ago: Cambrian era, multicellular organisms

500 million years ago: vertebrates appear

250-150 million years ago: first dinosaurs, mammals, birds, flowering plants

55 million years ago: first apes

  From the Cambrian to the era of Primates seems a short progression compared to the far longer period of one-celled organisms since the dawn of life. We seem to confront precisely the kind of pattern, expanded to a larger scale, that we have seen with the eonic effect, a basic directionality on two levels in the course of development. It is the collation of the two levels that confuses us. This is the great heresy of evolutionary progress, but we suspect the obvious, an evolutionary ratchet effect, and our perspective suggests ‘stepping progression’ would be a better word, in the sense of an effect reaching new successive plateaus where microevolution takes over. This approach preempts the fallacies of teleology by keeping the different levels of action distinct, although directionality in the final analysis is a brand of teleology, save only that we make no statements about a telos, instead looking at the relative motions of successive steps. S. J. Gould, always so critical of the idea of progress, suggested nonetheless the right framework, that of punctuated equilibrium. That idea, however, is not the same as that of natural selection, and should be taken in a generalized and minimal sense, as a descriptive patterning of evidence.

In fact this stepping progression is visible at all stages of evolution, from the first step of the origin of life, to the Cambrian, and the emergence of man. We should consider one further such stage, on a tentative basis:

The Origins of Mind Although the exercise of seeing the unity of man and nature, man the third chimpanzee, is one of the great insights of biology, one we should embrace, at one and the same time the suspicion arises that the stage of man crosses a threshold in the origins of mind as significant as the origin of life itself. The physical realm, the realm of life, and the realm of the cosmic, for lack of a better word, a realm that transcends life, yet mixes with it, stand together in a complex unity that we so far fail to understand. The stage of mind is a threshold to a stage that brings history to evolution.

Ethical Action The evolution of man is more than a question of ‘mind’. It is also a question of ‘will’, and the ability to make choices in a contemplation of potential action. No account of a naturalistic ethics has ever produced an adequate depiction of this aspect of man, let alone of its evolution. In our formulation the distinction of consciousness and self-consciousness is one avenue toward reconciling the contradiction, and mediating the transition, whatever it was, to man as we know him, in principle capable of freely chosen acts, and liable as such in courts of judgment. This is always coexisting with the slovenly and disorganized fluctuations of self-consciousness between willful action and mechanical reaction that are so characteristic of man.[ii]

It is possible that the ‘evolution’ we see in the eonic effect is giving us a record of this transition. However, we should be wary of using the data of the eonic effect, to jump to conclusions about a problem it is not designed to solve, but we suffer a sense of déjà vu, and a frustrating realization that the standard accounts are probably backwards because they don’t take into account the interplay of two levels we see in the eonic sequence.

Surely the emergence of a basic ‘evolutionary toolkit’, the world of evo-devo, in the realization of the potential of developmental sequences, should be a hint that the basic regime of natural selection is at best a secondary process. And yet we are led to believe that this tool-kit arises by chance, when many of the generated sequences themselves were once incorrectly ascribed to random evolution. Clearly the complex interplay of the two is precisely the kind of macro/micro level action that we have begun to suspect for historical development.

We can make such statements now without the dialectical intractability between directionality and randomness that tends to overtake all discussion as it founders at the limits of reductionism in the antinomies of teleology. Scientists are rightly bunkered down in purely causal analysis, but as the Kantian perspective reminds us this reductionist regime will nonetheless prove insufficient. This is seen in the ‘symptom’ of teleological action, namely, the unsettling discovery at so many points of so-called ‘fine-tuning’. As to teleology, the mode of its realization is unseen, but we can at least see that ratchet directionality is not incompatible with the facts, for we see the evidence is open to the same two-level analysis we have discovered. Such discussions are so distracted by theological sideshows of theists and atheists that the probably obvious cannot be considered, the cosmic imperative, in the phrase of Christian de Duve.

Scientific wariness at this is more than understandable, but the plain fact of the matter is that the development of life falls as well into a pattern of directional evolution overlayed on the random. Once we grasp the pattern of two levels at work, the typical confusions of Darwinian analysis are seen for what they are. We can see that there can be an intermediate set of alternatives, such as the alternating or on-off directionality we see in the eonic effect. We need to consider that, just as with history, the greater evolution of life is operating on different levels, as this produces both differentiation and the relatively random play of forms via the microevolutionary processes such as natural selection, and a larger direction setting process that always selects on strain of its multiple outcomes.

This perspective, taken with great caution as a range of hypotheses, without metaphysical extras, might help us to see that the evolution of primates into man is probably two kinds of evolution overlaid, a ‘stream and sequence’ effect, just as in world history. The branching outwards, the failed lineages, the plateaus of stasis, should not blind us to the way that, most improbably, a clear set of stages is visible in the record, leading to the final appearance of modern man.

The recent discovery of so-called Ardipithecus suggests the earliest stage before the emergence in parallel of man and chimpanzee. By five million years ago we see the separation of man from these ancestors of the chimpanzee, and in this strain of the bipedal ape visible in Australopithecus we see the beginnings of a series of relatively brisk steps up a ladder to the final crossing of a threshold to the first man-ape, homo, from homo habilis, thence to homo erectus 1.7 million years ago. With homo erectus we have first true ‘man’, a bipedal tool-making hominid who stages the first exodus from the African continent into Eurasia, differentiating into the Neanderthal in Europe . No coherent theory has emerged along Darwinian lines to account for this.

5-7 million years ago: separation of chimpanzees and first hominids

4 million years ago: first australopithecines

2.4 million years ago: homo habilis

1.7-1.9 million years ago: homo ergaster/homo erectus, first exodus from Africa

300, 000 years ago: ?Neanderthals branch off

200 to 100,000 years ago: anatomically modern man appears in Africa

100 to 50,000 years ago: appearance of behaviorally modern man, second exodus

A stream and sequence argument would fit this data handily. The ‘streams’ of continuous evolution producing several side branches from Australopithecus to Neanderthal cross a threshold in the period ca. 200,000 years ago, and then somewhere in the period from 100 to 50,000 years ago a ratchet transition occurs that produces the finishing touches on behaviourally modern man, who then proceeds to migrate across the whole planet. This action must produce a creature that can use language, has a characteristic human consciousness, and the ability to innovate and create art. To say this has resulted from Darwinian evolution is a speculative claim. We can see the clear resemblance to the kind of evolutionary macro process in disguise that we are familiar with already.

It is once again from Africa that we see the next stage of man, and the final crossing of the threshold to homo sapiens. Around two hundred thousand years ago, or less, the first anatomically modern man appears. It is important to consider the distinction that arises at this point between the anatomical threshold and the subsequent, and still mysterious, threshold of behaviorally modern man who does not appear until after fifty thousand years ago. That leaves the period from around a hundred thousand years ago for us to find the explanation for a remarkably sudden appearance of the species ‘man’ in the sense that we now see him. The various multiregional hypotheses have yielded to a basic ‘out of Africa’ scenario, in which the new species, dramatically ahead of his ancestor homo erectus emerges from Africa in small bands and proceeds within a very short period of time to what is the first of several great globalizations of man.

This new man, it would now seem, is quite distinct from the Neanderthal, with whom he seems not to have interbred. And within a relatively short period of time we see the rise to sole dominance of the ‘out of Africa ’ man who has achieved the passage to all of the characteristics of the human species, from language, to art, to conceptual thought. We have already broached our speculative suggestion that in the eonic effect we can see how this development of behaviorally modern man can occur via a macroevolutioinary sequence that is more than genetic and that can operate on entire populations as whole units.

We can draw no final conclusions on this point, save to feel a little more comfortable with the facts that we have, clearly outlined, for example, by Richard Klein and Blake Edgar in The Dawn of Human Culture, suggesting that as of fifty thousand years ago a ‘great leap forward’ had occurred. Klein notes the clear application of the idea of punctuated equilibrium to the evolution of man and points to four such events in the descent of man:

1.      2.5 million years ago when flaked tools appeared

2.      1.7 million years, human versus ape-like body, more advanced tools

3.      600,000 years ago, the rapid expansion of the human brain

4.      50,000 years ago, the ‘great leap forward’, producing modern man

These stages roughly correspond to homo habilis, a somewhat questionable transitional figure, but one showing the first advance toward man the toolmaker in the so-called Olduwan phase, then homo ergaster, initiating the new phase of toolmaking the Achelean, and his immediate successor homo erectus who stages the first exodus ‘out of Africa’. Next, we have homo heidelbergensis, and the accelerating transition to homo sapiens as a body type in the period after 200,000.

This perspective on the last stage of human transition has been challenged by findings that show a more gradual emergence of the traits we now ascribe to man in the period from ca. 300,000 onward, but the two perspectives are not necessarily contradictory. In other words, still another continuity/discontinuity dilemma, grist for our mill. The stream and sequence metaphor is being confirmed here by the obvious pattern of double facts.

And the idea of the ‘Great Leap Forward’, or the ‘Big Bang’ of human evolution could have a slightly different meaning from the purely genetic evolution considered by biologists.

Out of Africa Klein and Edgar begin their account with the Twilight Cave . This cave in the East African Great Rift Valley shows artifacts of 40,000 years ago of advanced toolmaking, but more tellingly ostrich eggshell beads, whose symbolic significance is suggested by their persistence to contemporary !Kung who have maintained this technology as an exchange or reciprocity medium with neighboring tribes. This would constitute a token of the dawn of modern humans.

 Our perspective on the eonic effect warns us that even with genetic innovations in place a larger transformation is required to effect the realization of the new potential. This is exactly what the facts suggest. And the question of language evolution simply will not go away. Our perception of the eonic effect should remind us that even at the most advanced level of human development a mysterious evolutionary macro process is detectable. How much more likely it is that this would this be needed at the earliest stage of human emergence! And let us note that our statements here are not (necessarily) about genetic evolution. Jumpstarting an already present potential requires explicit action from a macro process.[iii]

Let us recall the clear evidence of the Axial Age, in which we can see rapid emergentist development across the whole spectrum of culture in relatively isolated regions, and this in short bursts on the level of centuries. Our feeling about what we see from the evidence of a ‘Great Leap Forward’ is that the religious, linguistic, artistic, and other, evolutions of man occurred likewise in some kind of concentrated evolutionary sequence, relatively but no absolutely isolated geographically, undoubtedly in Africa, and then that a small contingent of this new man became the basis for a new globalization of the result.

The beginning of our tale, then, is appropriately the second of the ‘Out of Africa’ sagas, beginning somewhere between 80,000 to 50,000 years ago. Out of the blue, modern genetics has given us in the analysis of mtDNA and the Y chromosome a complete set of histories that can locate and map the migrations of early man out of his African home. There are a considerable number of variant hypotheses here, some considering a migration through Northern Egypt to the Levant , and beyond. But the genetic data now suggests a single exodus, and the likeliest candidate is the crossing of the Red Sea at its southern end, the so-called Gate of Grief, from Africa to Yemen in a period when that still relatively easy to cross, most probably island hopping with boats or rafts. The evidence suggests one unique migration, by a small number of people, perhaps only several hundred. The great migration then proceeded along the coastal highway of the Arabian coast all the way to India , and then all the way to Australia . There are a number of timelines for this great migration, depending on just when man reached Australia , but the basic scenario is clear from the genetic record.

This shows that the first migrants followed the ‘beachcomber’ route all the way to India and East Asia . Significantly, a branch of this migration headed north in the vicinity of Pakistan and finally reached Europe , often known as the peoples of the Aurignacian period. Our basic framework is set for the transition to human settlement, then agriculture and the forms of higher civilization in the period after the Last Glacial Maximum.  

50, 000 years ago: the passage ‘out of Africa’ toward India , the beachcomber trail

46, 000 years ago: first evidence of modern man in Australia

45,000-35,000 years ago: exodus branches in India takes over Eurasia, and enters Europe

45,000-10,000 years ago: Upper Paleolithic, Aurignacian, Gravettian

10,000 years ago: onset of Neolithic

This period is the first great flowering of modern man, despite the challenge of climate in the worsening fluctuations of the Ice Age until the Last Glacial Maximum around 20,000 years ago. This period of man the hunter-gatherer shows the capacity for general innovation, art, proto-religion, and the full capacity for language. It also shows the devastating impact of man’s advancing technology on the environmental balance of species, in the multiple extinctions of man animals confronted by the human diaspora.

There is something remarkably convenient, and mysterious, about all of this. Man is repeatedly ‘evolved’ in Africa , and small subsets of the result commence their global migrations. Although we see microevolutioinary effects in the Eurasian spehere, for example the emergence of Neanderthal in the European Ice Age environment, we see no real large-scale effects, with true speciation occurring only in Africa . Say what you will, but this is quite suspicious.

 The hothouse evolutions of man in the African Eden, accomplishing all the major transitions, set the stage for all the rest. We can at least see this as confirmation of the basic spatio-temporal architecture of punctuated equilibria. We should consider the image arising spontaneously of a period in Africa, perhaps in some Ethiopian Eden, not far from the jumping off point, ‘out of Africa’, where man consolidated his linguistic evolution in a period not unlike that of our eonic series, in the emergence of his characteristic cultural forms, perhaps riding on the realized potential of music, song, and choral association. The man who will emerge is a story teller, a musician and singer, a creature whose emerging self-consciousness will leave him at the threshold of what he will hallunicate as the ‘spirit world’. It is very difficult for us even as modern men to correctly evaluate this side of man, since we are that man, and subject to the same limitations of consciousness. The data of the eonic effect can give us at least a suggestion of how thic could be.

And ‘after Eden’ there comes into existence a hominid who begins to destabilize the global environment that he begins to discover in his movement across Eurasia, and then into the Americas. For the first time, unlike homo erectus, who seems to remain in relative equilibrium with is outer world, man has the edge in his dealings with that world, and this increasing mastery shows a want of his own self-mastery as he begins the long cycles of species extermination across Europe, Asia, and the Americas . This upset equilibrium impinges, of course, into our own time, as the species character of man provokes a crisis of his future evolution.[iv]

 

    Notes

   Web:  chap4_2_2.htm

 

[i] Christian de Duve, op. cit., p.7.

[ii] Christian de Duve, op. cit., “The Biology of Ethical Values”, p. 264.

[iii] Richard Klein & Blake Edgar, The Dawn Of Human Culture: A Bold New Theory On What Sparked The “Big Bang” Of Human Consciousness (New York: Wiley, 2002), Nicholas Wade, Before The Dawn: Recovering The Lost History Of Our Ancestors (New York: Penguin, 2006), Stephen Oppenheimer, The Real Eve: Modern Man’s Journey Out of Africa (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2007), Steve Olson, Mapping Human History (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002).

[iv] Kirkpatrick Sale, After Eden : The Evolution of Human Domination ( Durham : Duke University Press, 2006).

 

 
 


 

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Last modified: 09/23/2010