VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
7. Systems History: Personal and Planetary Individuation
Smail, Daniel Lord. On Deep History and the Brain. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. We quote here from the publisher’s website, but found the work to be somewhat not up to the hype.
This brilliant and beautifully written book dissolves the logic of a beginning based on writing, civilization, or historical consciousness and offers a model for a history that escapes the continuing grip of the Judeo-Christian time frame. Daniel Lord Smail argues that, in the wake of the decade of the brain and the bestselling historical work of scientists like Jared Diamond, the time has come for fundamentally new ways of thinking about our past. He shows how recent work in evolution and paleohistory makes it possible to join the deep past with the recent past and abandon, once and for all, the idea of prehistory. Making an enormous literature accessible to the general reader, he lays out a bold new case for bringing neuroscience and neurobiology into the realm of history.
Spier, Fred. Big History and the Future of Humanity. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015. The University of Amsterdam historian is a founding The University of Amsterdam historian is a founding contributor to this movement to situate and root our worldly sojourn in its stellar, galactic, and cosmic environs. From this late retrospect, a few millennia of recorded events can be integrated with a temporal continuity casting back billions of years to singular origins. As noted in Thermodynamics of Life, an overarching vectorial theme, with much reference to Eric Chaisson, appears to be an increase in energy transduction and its resultant scales of animate complexity.
Spier, Fred. The Ghost of Big History is Roaming the Earth. History and Theory. 44/2, 2005. An essay review of David Christian’s book Maps of Time by the professor of world history at Amsterdam University who is one of the few advocates of this expansive view which joins cosmos and humankind. Check Spier via Google for more info and links to some Russian work in this regard.
Spinney, Laura. History as Science. Nature. 488/24, 2012. A report on the innovative ideas of University of Connecticut historian Peter Turchin that by way of the new sciences of nonlinear mathematics we may discern within the seemingly serial chaos of human events, yet the presence of reliable patterns, which then augur for general laws. The full article can be found on Turchin’s website Cliodynamica http://cliodynamics.info, after Clio the Greek muse of history, along with much more material in support.
Swimme, Brian and Thomas Berry. The Universe Story. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992. Noted more in Current Vistas, the later chapters on Human Emergence, Neolithic Village, Classic Civilizations and the Rise of Nations, written by the cultural historian Thomas Berry, convey an historic turn from an original feminine milieu to a dominant masculine paradigm with its destructive, potentially terminal consequences.
Targowski, Andrew. The Limits of Civilization. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Scientific, 2016. Noted more in Complementary Civilizations, the Western Michigan University professor of computer information systems and global citizen philosopher provides another volume of luminous cultural and environmental guidance.
Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind. New York: Harmony Books, 1991. One of the most concise, insightful, well-written accounts of the history of Western philosophy. Tarnes argues this project has been a wholly masculine intellectual quest to recover its lost feminine ground and recreate an Edenic earth. The book was reviewed earlier in Part II, World Philosophy.
For the evolution of the Western mind has been driven by a heroic impulse to forge an autonomous rational human self by separating it from the primordial unity with nature…Whether one sees this in the ancient Greek subjugation and revision of the pre-Hellenic matrifocal mythologies, in the Judaeo-Christian denial of the Great Mother Goddess, or in the Enlightenment’s exalting of the coolly self-aware rational ego radically separate from a disenchanted external nature, the evolution of the Western mind has been founded on the repression of the feminine - on the repression of undifferentiated unitary consciousness, of the participation mystique with nature: a progressive denial of the anima mundi, of the soul of the world, of the community of being, of the all-pervading, of mystery and ambiguity, of imagination, emotion, instinct, body, nature, woman. (441-42)
Tehranian, Majid. Towards a Fourth Civilization: The Dawning of the Informatic Age. Global Dialogue. 3/1, 2001. An overview of the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (2001) whose imperative rapprochement may be achieved through an appreciation of a living biosphere Gaia and its cerebral noosphere. The journal issue is devoted to a search for commonalities between Western, Asian, and Islamic cultures.
The Fourth Civilization calls for a new cosmology more in tune with the common destiny of humanity facing global problems that stubbornly demand global solutions. (123)
Tehranian, Majid and David Chappell, eds. Dialogue of Civilizations: A New Peace Agenda for a New Millennium. London: I. B. Tauris, 2002. Articles from four international conferences held in Okinawa, Moscow, Oxford and Cyprus in search of a palliative unity in diversity. An introductory essay, Informatic Civilization, by Majid Tehranian offers a succinct capsule of history from Nomad to Neosphere. The theologian Hans Kung then provides a reality check preface, from which we quote. But it ought to be noted that all the authors are men, unless an integral feminine complement is included a real cease fire, worldwide truce and social rapprochement will not occur.
There will be no new world order without a world ethic, a global or planetary ethic.
Turchin, Peter. Arise ‘Cliodynamics’. Nature. 454/34, 2008. The University of Connecticut historian and author proposes an academic project in search of systemic, shared patterns and processes in the rise and fall of cultures, nations and empires. A book on the subject entitled Secular Cycles, coauthored with Sergey Nefedov, is to be published in late 2008 by Princeton University Press.
Turchin, Peter. Secular Cycles. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. The University of Connecticut biologist, anthropologist and founding editor of Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution develops a tacit premise with a long pedigree that the course of human affairs can ultimately be understood as an exemplary reflection of underlying forces and patterns. Into the 21st century, a sufficient quantification is possible by way of, for example, a fractal topology of historical dynamics. A conclusion which is said to fulfill Leo Tolstoy’s prophesy, is that “general laws and regularities” are indeed present and visible across the chaotic centuries.
Turchin, Peter, et al. Quantitative Historical Analysis Uncovers a Single Dimension of Complexity that Structures Global Variation in Human Social Organization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 115/2, 2018. A significant article by some fifty international, multidisciplinary coauthors such as David Christian, Andrey Korotayev, Amy Bogaard, and Harvey Whitehouse, broadly based at Oxford and Cambridge. An abstract Abstract broaches the project as it reaches a general but auspicious conclusion. As long intimated, from our global, retrospective vantage the presence of independent, constant, repetitive societal and cultural patterns at last becomes strongly evident. While these are not specifically seen as complex dynamic systems, the arduous homo sapiens, migratory, national, war torn course from a middle east cradle to planetary civilizations gains a deep dimension of independent, mathematical regularities. Search Neil Johnson, Pedro Manrique, et al for another statistical physics view.
Do human societies from around the world exhibit similarities in the way that they are structured, and show commonalities in the ways that they have evolved? These are long-standing questions that have proven difficult to answer. To test between competing hypotheses, we constructed a massive repository of historical and archaeological information known as “Seshat: Global History Databank.” We systematically coded data on 414 societies from 30 regions around the world spanning the last 10,000 years. We were able to capture information on 51 variables reflecting nine characteristics of human societies, such as social scale, economy, features of governance, and information systems. Our analyses revealed that these different characteristics show strong relationships with each other and that a single principal component captures around three-quarters of the observed variation. Furthermore, we found that different characteristics of social complexity are highly predictable across different world regions. These results suggest that key aspects of social organization are functionally related and do indeed coevolve in predictable ways. (Abstract)