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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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Genesis Vision
Learning Planet
Organic Universe
Earth Life Emerge
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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Twndividuality

7. Systems History: Personal and Planetary Individuation

Brague, Remi. The Wisdom of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. A history of the shifting premises and metaphors of the human encounter with an earthly, cosmic and Divine reality. But in the latter twentieth century, this grand endeavor has fallen to pieces, hope evaporates and angst reigns.

Burger, Oskar, et al. Human Mortality Improvement in Evolutionary Context. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109/18210, 2012. With coauthors Annette Baudisch and James Vaupel, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research scholars report a three times increase in average life expectancy over the last century as humankind’s culture shifted to a global technological civilization. For more, view the MPIDR's “Modeling the Evolution of Aging” page where group leader Baudisch’s publications can be found, and also Oskar Burger, et al. “Industrial Energy Use and the Human Life History” in Nature Scientific Reports (1/56, 2011), second quote below. What does this passage it immortality mean and augur for?

Life expectancy is increasing in most countries and has exceeded 80 in several, as low-mortality nations continue to make progress in averting deaths. The health and economic implications of mortality reduction have been given substantial attention, but the observed malleability of human mortality has not been placed in a broad evolutionary context. We quantify the rate and amount of mortality reduction by comparing a variety of human populations to the evolved human mortality profile, here estimated as the average mortality pattern for ethnographically observed hunter-gatherers. We show that human mortality has decreased so substantially that the difference between hunter-gatherers and today’s lowest mortality populations is greater than the difference between hunter-gatherers and wild chimpanzees. The bulk of this mortality reduction has occurred since 1900 and has been experienced by only about 4 of the roughly 8,000 human generations that have ever lived. (PNAS Abstract)

The demographic rates of most organisms are supported by the consumption of food energy, which is used to produce new biomass and fuel physiological processes. Unlike other species, modern humans use ‘extra-metabolic’ energy sources acquired independent of physiology, which also influence demographics. We ask whether the amount of extra-metabolic energy added to the energy budget affects demographic and life history traits in a predictable way. Currently it is not known how human demographics respond to energy use, and we characterize this response using an allometric approach. All of the human life history traits we examine are significant functions of per capita energy use across industrialized populations. We find a continuum of traits from those that respond strongly to the amount of extra-metabolic energy used, to those that respond with shallow slopes. We also show that the differences in plasticity across traits can drive the net reproductive rate to below-replacement levels. (NSR Abstract)

Bynum, Edward Bruce. The African Unconscious. New York: Teachers College Press, 1999. A Nigerian-American psychologist provides a luminous exposition of the holistic, animate roots of civilization now lost to a materialist Western world. Their integral recovery is possible by way of nonlinear science, which can recognize a fractal-like recapitulation of personal and planetary embryogenesis.

When it comes to the emergence of civilization in many areas of the Earth, we will observe how the presence at critical times of Kemetic influence along the Nile profoundly affected an emerging civilization. This ‘butterfly effect’ or ‘sensitive dependence on initial conditions’ is seen in early Olmec and Dravidian civilization. Also, this influence in concert with the natural tendency of systems to re-create themselves from a common mold will be seen to reinforce this belief and perception. This is the so-called self-similarity of structures, or the ‘infinite nesting’ effect. This can operate because again there is a common root, a shared stock of genetic, anthropological, morphological, embryological, and blood or serological reality to work with. These all point through the depths of history and blood to the African origin of human consciousness. (7)

Christian, David. A Single Historical Continuum. Cliodynamics: Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History. 2/1, 2011. The Macquarie University historian and main founder of the “Big History” view surveys the course of human imaginations of more expansive spatial and temporal vistas. This is traced from Before the Chronometric Revolution, onto a sense of deepening time, to realizations through the 19th and 20th centuries, and just now a marriage of cosmos and civilization as a singular development, most tracked by an increasingly energy efficient complexity. What makes its human phase special is our social formations of collective intelligences.

So far I have talked about constructing a Grand Unified Story embracing all parts of the single historical continuum. Is it possible to think even more ambitiously? Might it be possible, through collaborative work between all the disciplines that make up the single historical continuum, to tease out general principles of change that explain how change works across the entire continuum? Might it be possible to unify our understanding of change in the human and the biological realms just as the discovery of an “electro-weak” force unified understanding of the electromagnetic and weak forces in the early 1980s? Is it possible that, lurking behind the emerging GUS there is the historical equivalent of a GUT, a Grand Unified Theory of History? (24)

Christian, David. Future Stories. New York: Little, Brown, 2022. The Macquarie University, Australia big historian notably founded this widest integral field in the early 2000s. After many popular writings and collegial projects (search) this new work turns about to look ahead, imagine and survey further trajectories of life’s entire evolutionary course, as we Earthlings may be able to track and trace. True to style, sections run from how microbes seem to sense and plan, onto to life’s emergent, communal, cognizant organisms, and to our sentient, curious selves as we may begin to scan and consider near and far astronomic complexities.

But as his prior works have emphasized, a special emphasis is the constant occasion of a collective learning process in all manner of groupings by which they sustain, prevail and ascend. See Optimizing the Location of the Colony of Foragers with Collective Learning by Sanchayan Bhowal, et al (arXiv:2211.02424) from the references. We would then highlight the cultural importance of this natural tendency and extend it to our EarthSmart Learns moment as another way to appreciate how our planetary prodigy can gain vital knowledge on her/his own.

The future is uncertain, possibly dangerous, maybe wonderful. We cope with this uncertainty by telling stories about the future. This book is thus about looking ahead as a sort of a User’s Guide. We all need such a guide because the future is where we will spend the rest of our lives. David Christian, historian and author of Origin Story, is renowned for pioneering the emerging discipline of Big History, which surveys the whole of the past. But with this volume, he casts his expansive vision forward to introduce whatever near and farther realms might be imagined from the individual to the cosmological. (Excerpt)

The Social and Cultural Differences of Language and Collective Learning: Along with those enhanced skills our lineage got an unexpected evolutionary bonus. Larger brains enabled an even more transformative change: collective learning. Many species have some form of culture because they can share information. But humans can uniquely transfer detailed knowledge across scales and generations to an extent that an accumulated store is achieved. That is what I mean by this phrase, and ability which has taken over the whole world. As collective repositories grew our lifeways, thought processes and technologies have profoundly changed. (122-123)

Christian, David. History in the Landscapes of Modern Knowledge. History and Theory. 43/3, 2004. An essay review of The Landscape of History by John Lewis Gaddis which goes on to note that historical scholarship is now moving beyond a mechanistic universe model toward an organic emergence guided by quantum physics and complex system theories. See also Christian’s World History in Context in the Journal of World History, 14/4, 2004.

Christian, David. Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. A rare, expansive work on the scale of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme’s The Universe Story. Although it spans the trajectory from cosmic origins and life’s earthly evolution to modern global times and onto a far future expiration, it does so in usual fashion without wondering is an intrinsic development going on. The book is actually two main sections of a big bang to hominid recount along with a standard historical chronicle. But a notable contribution is to recognize that the quality which most distinguishes human beings is an immense ability to learn, which results in a collective social intelligence as the driver of this emergent brain evolution. Our era of “One World” is seen as “collective learning at a species level.” In a preface, the historian William McNeill lauds the courageous project and notes that Christian does allude to a recurrent evolutionary pattern for both stars and civilizations. Check Christian's article in the Mindkind section for further thoughts on his concept of a cumulative knowledge of humanity.

Christian, David. Origin Story: A Big History of Everything. New York: Little, Brown, 2018. The Macquarie University, Australia scholar (search) is the original conceiver in the early 2000s of the now popular academic field of “big history” whence our human phase is joined with the entire course of life’s cosmic, galactic, stellar, and planetary evolution. This is neatly told by a series of eight Thresholds from the big bang to an anthropocene currency. This long retrospective view opens upon salient themes and vectors such as an increase of relative complexity, informational knowledge, and a main trend of a rising collective intelligence. As Vladimir Vernadsky once saw, a noosphere of shared global reason appears to be forming over the biosphere. One might tnote that while Pierre Teilhard took a similar view, he read an oriented rise to our phenomenal humanity. Here the evolutionary passage is said to go on by Darwinian selection alone via an interplay of physical necessity and chaotic chance.

Most historians study the smallest slivers of time, emphasizing specific dates, individuals, and documents. But what would it look like to study the whole of history, from the big bang through the present day, and even into the remote future? David Christian set out to answer this question when he created the field of "Big History," the most exciting new approach to understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. In Origin Story, Christian takes readers on a wild ride through the entire 13.8 billion years we've come to know as "history." By focusing on defining events (thresholds), major trends, and profound questions about our origins, Christian exposes the hidden threads that tie everything together -- from the creation of the planet to the advent of agriculture, nuclear war, and beyond.

Christian, David, et al. Big History: Between Nothing and Everything. New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2013. David Christian is a Macquarie University, Australia, historian and main founder of this vast panorama that rightly situates human history within cosmic evolution. He is joined by Cynthia Brown, a Dominican University, California, historian and author, and Craig Benjamin, a Macquarie University historian, to provide this thorough textbook. Chapters flow from The Universe, Stars, and New Chemical Elements to The Emergence of Life, Origins of Agriculture, Toward the Modern Revolution, and onto The Anthropocene: Globalization, Growth, and Sustainability, and coverage of all else in between. An overarching theme and thread is an ever increasing in complexity, along with recent propensities for collective learning.

Clemens, Walter. Complexity Science and World Affairs. Albany: SUNY Press, 2014. The emeritus Boston University political scientist and author presents a rare perspective upon recent history as a manifestation of nonlinear dynamic systems phenomena. In this view, their effects can be seen to explain national or political success or failure, and hence provide better guidance if properly understood and applied. A salient example (search WC) are the Balkan states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after the breakup of the Soviet Union. A Foreword by his friend Stuart Kauffman who met long ago when they were counselors at a summer camp, embellishes the endeavor.

Why did some countries transition peacefully from communist rule to political freedom and market economies, while others did not? Why did the United States enjoy a brief moment as the sole remaining superpower, and then lose power and influence across the board? What are the prospects for China, the main challenger to American hegemony? In Complexity Science and World Affairs, Walter C. Clemens Jr. demonstrates how the basic concepts of complexity science can broaden and deepen the insights gained by other approaches to the study of world affairs. He argues that societal fitness—the ability of a social system to cope with complex challenges and opportunities—hinges heavily on the values and way of life of each society, and serves to explain why some societies gain and others lose. Applying theory to several rich case studies, including political developments across post–Soviet Eurasia and the United States, Clemens shows that complexity science offers a powerful set of tools for advancing the study of international relations, comparative government, and, more broadly, the social sciences. (Publisher)

Clemens, Walter. The Baltic Transformed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001. A Boston University professor of political science applies a rare blend of Darwinian tenets and complex system science to uniquely understand the successes and failures of national societies and peoples. As a microcosm, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are studied from their years under Communism to many struggles in the 1990’s to redefine and reconstitute themselves. Whether they become self-sufficient or not in terms of a relative social “fitness” depends on their degree of self-organized viability. This extraordinary work exemplifies a new historical method that not only draws on evolutionary theory but situates human cultures within a dynamically creative universe.

Complexity theory modifies Darwin’s emphasis on natural selection as the key to evolution. Survival is determined not just by luck (the correspondence between genetic mutations and environmental conditions), but by a capacity for self-organization and mutual aid. (13) Complexity theory converges with liberal peace theory and a normative theory of mutual gain grounded in interdependence. The synthesis of these theories suggests that a fit society is likely to be self-organized for the mutual gain of its members and, as international conditions permit, with other societies. (16) Good government is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for high societal fitness. For that, broad and deep structures of self-organization are also required. Self-organized fitness depends not only on constitutions and free elections but on social capital, a democratic political culture, civil society, and human development. (73)

Clemens, Walter. Understanding and Coping with Ethnic Conflict and Development Issues in Post-Soviet Eurasia. Harrison, Neil, ed. Complexity in World Politics. Albany: State University of New Press, 2006. Further synoptic insights from the pioneer scholar, via the Santa Fe Institute, of dynamic national societies, for better or worse, as self-organized complex systems.

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