de Chardin described two major tendencies in Evolution: more complexity
+ more consciousness. In my article "From
Matter to Mind", based upon a text from Beatrix Murrell, I gave a first
approach to this question.
Here I'm trying to
describe these processes in more detail, including some ideas from Capra's
Web of Life. 
If one looks to the
evolving reality from "outside" (a phenomenological approach --hence
Teilhard's The Phenomenon of Man), some things are easily observable,
others only indirectly. Teilhard hinself called these two kinds of phenomena
the Outside (the With-out) and the Inside, also called
In the Outside,
the directly observable aspect of the elements of the Universe, two aspects
can be discerned: structure and activity. Structure is the durable constitution of the elements, most giving it its identity.
Changing the structure usually changes the identity. By contrast, activity is the general name for the light, temporary structural changes, including
movement, that occur in many systems. Although those changes are not durable
and not important enough to change the structure, they usually are strong
enough tro provoke changes in the environment.
The Within is only indirectly observable. We can presume it, from the high complexity
of the organism's activity, and, of course, recognise it in ourselves.
In this Within we can recognise two kinds of mechanisms: organization or internal interactions, and communication or external interactions.
These four fundamental
mechanisms use energy, of course. But we can distinguish two dimensions
in this energy: quantity and direction.
From a quantitative viewpoint, it is easy to distinguish macro- and micro-energy: macro-energy
structures, and provokes macro-effects. Micro-energy is not strong
enough to provoke structural changes, but can be detected by sensitive
subsystems (sensors and sense-organs). We call its effect a micro-effect.
From a directional point of view one can discern energy, directed towards itself, or
at least to an identical system (one's baby), from energy, dircted towards
structure (or structuration)
= macro-energy directed towards self.
activity = macro-energy
directed towards the outside world
organization = micro-energy
directed towards self
micro-energy directed towards the outside world, and received
Let's consider now
these four fundamental processes in universe in some more detail.
This process results
in the making, the structuration, of new, more complex systems,
but also in the making of analogous systems, similar to those already existing.
Several mechanisms can be distinguished:
In this stage, there
seems to be no other constituting factor than coincidence of internal
and external factors, of course within the limits of the laws of Physics.
However, in the beginning these coincidental processes are highly enhanced
by two factors in the environment: (1) high energetical levels (the
Big Bang, the inside of stars and suns) provoking intensive "structural"
collisions and interactions, and (2) high concentration of the elements.
This concentration is typical for the initial stages of the universe, and
is later reproduced in gases condensing into stars. The first four stages
of the Evolution, and partly the fifth, were governed by this process.
And at this fifth stage, most parts of the universe stop their evolution
indeed: all that "dead" planets and asteroids, just circulating nearly
without any change since eons through the nearly empty cosmos.
During the "organic"
stage of phase 5, an impressive new phenomenon occurs, at least in some
fortunate places on some fortunate planets (at the surface of the oceans
in an atmosphere without oxygen): complex organic molecules develop, and
one of their first characteristics is that they, at least in a "rich" environment,
are able to elicit the development of other, identical molecules. This
process can be compared with crystals catalysing crystallization. This
replication capacity is used by nature till the end of the biological phase:
cell organelles, viruses, and cells can replicate into identical offspring.
Starting with multicellular
organisms (level 8), nature no longer replicates for reproduction, but
In fact, metazoic beings including plants, animals and man, can't replicate
as such. Their existence starts with a unicellular forerunner (ovum and
spermatozoid), and then the multicellular being is rebuilt from scratch.
This procedure has several advantages compared with the replication style:
(1) as major defects (illnesses and aging) are not yet resolved, dying
individuals are continuously replaced from fresh constructions; (2) the
evolutionary process can be enormously enhanced, because each generation
has virtualy the chance to include genetic improvements, where a multicellular
replication system should be too complicate for that. (3) Moreover, the
sexual exchange of genes enhances the probability for mutations and for
a transfer of new "discoveries".
be defined as subliminal, often cyclic structural changes that, generally
speaking, don't affect the structure of the system, but that modify the
position, the form and the structure of other systems. In the first stages,
there's no observable difference between structure and acitivity. Apart
from electro-magnetic effects, all activities by simple objects (from strings,
level 1, to atoms, level 4) imply structural changes, e.g. chemical
reactions, melting, raining, etc. It's only with eobionts (level 6) and
unicellular beings (7) that we see movements, the most primitive form of
a kind of borderline activity because it doesn't change any structure.
Nevertheless, it is very important for the system to reach useful objects,
to avoid danger and to realize important, existential goals. Moving starts
with unicellular organisms (7). Viruses don't move autonomously.
By changing we mean that elements of the environment are used for the profit
of the active organism. These changes are mostly destructive (hunting,
feeding), but sometimes constructive (the making of warrens, nests and
hives). These constructive changing is close to the next procedure. The
metabolism, from stage 7, is an illustration of changing activities.
be defined as a combination of elements into a new one with new possibilities.
The making of tools, by adapting some existent objects (e.g. the bone or
the fur of a dead animal) is the first stage of this procedure, and evolves
eventually to high skills as watch making and the development of electrical
devices. Making only starts with the last stage, socialization (9), although
primates can use tools, but generally don't make them.
When the making of
objects is transfered to mechanical devices, productivity can be enhanced.
The development and use of machines is very progressive, passing
through a long period of enhanced production with tools (pottery and weaving
looms). Also machines were developed that didn't have any production: e.g.
to this stage is the use of external forces (slaves, animals and natural
forces) to provoke certain effects: it started with fire.
5. Machines making
This seems to be
the limit in "activity": everything, from energy to action, is transfered
to an artifact outside man. It's activity to the second degree.
If we define organization as an internal directing interaction of micro-energy, we can consider the
elementary structure of an atom (level 4) as a first form of organization.
This principle seems rather fundamental, because also planetary, solar
and stellar systems are organized that way. Although the used "micro-energy"
(electro-magnetism, gravity) doesn't change anything in the structure of
the "peripheral" subsystem (electrons vz. planets), it defines its place
and moving possibilities. It seems as if the transition from kernel forces
(strong, weak) to long-distance forces (electro-magnetism, gravity) marks
the transition from simple cohesion towards organization.
This is the most
simple form of organization: a more powerful, central part of the
system determines place and movemental possibilities of the peripheral elements: the nucleus of the atom "guides" the orbiting electrons. One
could say that the organization is still rather "structural": no specialized
subsystems (as the nervous system e.g.) exist at these levels.
Codes are the transition
form structural organization to informative organization. Codes are structures,
which --in an appropriate environment--, elicit some structural changes.
E.g. the DNA codes on genes direct some biochemicval processes, which result
in structural changes.
progress, new possibilities in structure and behaviour are added. Instead
of the enormous work of repositioning each time the complete DNA code,
nature preferred a much more simple technique: just adding the new DNA
codes to the old. So some new possibilities, and suppressing some obsolete
instructions, emerged. This accumulative principle leads to a continuously
increasing number of chromosomes, and a development of metazoaic beings,
who perform their individual development (ontogenesis) by mimicking the
biological evolution (phylogenesis) from very primitive stages.
Here we pass from
structural organization towards a specialized subsystem in living organisms:
the nervous system. We have an analogous system, the hormonal system,
that has the same effect: to observe some conditions (signs, signals),
and to release some hormonal messengers or transmitters which provoke some
strong reactions. In plants, we have an analogous system: phytohormones.
In all cases the "behaviour" is genetically regulated: the hormonal and
primitive nervous circuitry is part of the structure: it is "firmware"
that can't be altered.
5. Learned Reflexes
Nature didn't stop
at that point. With the emergence of mammalians and already, to some limited
extent, with birds and reptiles, another behavioural regulating mechanism
is introduced: behaviours most often incidentally performed but rewarded
by an agreeable outcome, have a tendency to be repeated in appropriate
circumstances. This learning capacity is enhanced by some conditions,
including (1) examples from peers or parents (although they probably just
push the subject into a learning situation rather than showing the
behaviour); (2) a generalized undirected behavioural activation, elicited
by anxiety or enthousiasm, increasing the probability of discovering some
new favourable behaviour by wildly trying out a number of possible activities,
and (3) generalizing or associating existing behaviour in similar situations,
with a chance to refine it.
The next step in
organizing the activity of a system, is to develop, by imagination and
enhanced by language, an internal image of external reality so that
coincidence, trial and error can be shortcut, and largely replaced by a
mental preparation of a new activity by imaginary experiments and integrations.
It is important to conceive that "an internal image of external reality"
is not at all comparable with a photographic image, but is a combination
of knowledge about observable reality, extended with (1) general hypotheses (laws, abstractions) about this reality and (2) a huge collection of images
of parts of reality never observed, but imagined with deduction
from abstraction and from descriptions by others. Moreover, these "ideas"
are intensively linked with emotional and behavioural associations, which
is not the case with a photograph.
Communication can be defined in several ways, but the most simple and general definition
is: an exchange of micro-energetic signs, called information. It
is essential to keep in mind that information requires at least two intelligent
(sub)systems: the one which codes (symbolizes) ideas into information,
and the one which decodes information, translates it back into ideas, hoping
that the message passed as it was meant: emitter and receiver.
Of course, systems
sensible to micro-energy can observe some significant signs which
weren't sent as signal: the view or the noise of an approaching
danger, the noise or smell of a victim, etc. This is observation, not communication.
The latter only starts with the purposeful emission of signals, and this
occurs with metazoa (level 8 --perhaps some monocellular beings including
bacteria already give some chemical signals to each other). Anyway, the
border between the observation of unintentionally given signs and intentionally
given signals is not very sharp.
more or less simultaneously with the emergence of instincts. In fact, instincts
are genetical reactions to signs and signals.
The first mode of
communication is the exchange of signals. This occurs mostly, but not entirely,
on an instinctive base: nature provided such reactive circuits. An animal
spontaneously emits some signals if intense emotions, including pain and
anxiety, but also aggressiveness, are experienced. Other animals and members
of the group are alerted by this, and can react for their own safety before
it is too late. Mothers start feeding or protecting their offspring. Often
the emission of aggressive signals prevents fight, as the intruder leaves
the territory upon receiving an aggressive signal. Learning processes in
tamed animals exclusively consist of signals, completed, during the training
stage, with significant rewards and punitions. This kind of communication
probably was the one Neanderthal men used, when "language" only consisted
of a collection of primitive sounds, accompanied by movements.
signals already occurs in stage 8, but the next forms of communication
are limited to stage 9 (socialization, Noosphere).
2. Knowledge Transfer
For this and the
next forms of communication, language is required, i.e. a collectrion
of symbols by which reality can be symbolized. This way, people are able
to describe to each other parts of reality that they not (yet) have observed
by themselves. From tales at the camp fire to gossips, this "Knowledge
Transfer" enormously extends the capacities for people to have a broader
knowledge about reality than individual observation allows. It is clear
that by knowledge, information or news we only mean here:
information about observable parts of reality.
Due to our tendency
to associate and generalize from knowledge, mostly on an unconscious level,
each individual starts to build up a series of intuitions, right
or wrong, about reality in general. This is the unconscious precursor of
3. Insights Transfer
The next step in
communication is the transfer of insights, by which we mean abstractions,
general rules, hypotheses and laws about reality. This can be united
under the notion inductions. This general ideas about reality enable
two kinds of deductive suppositions: (1) images of parts of reality
that nobody has observed so far (or that are unobservable indeed, e.g.
subatomic structures, the inside of planets and stars, etc.), and (2) ideas
about possible things to come. This is creativity.
At this level, the
elaboration of insights predominantly is an occupation of individuals:
scientists, philosophers, geniuses. Of course, they are inspired by the
work of predecessors, and reflect --if they are not censored-- upon the
feedback of peers and the general public. But their thinking activity generally occurs at an individual level, and their publications bear their name as
at this level is the exchange of insights and theories.
The last step so
far in the development of communication is integrative communication,
the elaboration of new explaining inductions and creative deductions by
an intense cooperation between thinking people. Their intellectual interaction
no longer aims at proving the truth of Hypothesis A, and the falseness
of imcompatible Hypothesis B, but rather supposes that both most probably
contain a part of total reality, and that both can be completed with the
elements added by the other approach.
Internet, as a quick,
cheap and apparently limitless means of global communication, is essential
for integrative communication. Integrative websites should feature this
word in the keywords, so that research engines could pick them out as instances
of high level communication, the highest value enabled by Internet.
1. This is a model
about evolutionary mechanisms in general. Yet the most interesting processes
occur during the Noophase. I'll try to integrate ideas about the Mechanisms
of the Noospheric Evolution in another article.
2. Although the model,
presented here, takes into account many information and ideas about evolution,
an integration has still to be performed with models proposed by Jean
Edward Beck and Ken Wilber. We have also
the interesting ideas from some creative members of the current Teilhard
eGroup, including Tony
Kelly and Rudolf
3. This model seems
to be integrative indeed, yet I'm not totally pleased with it. I'm wondering
if no more symmetry could be elaborated. The fundamental scheme macro-/micro-energy
seems to be very essential, as seems to be the structuration/activity and
organization/communication distinction. Still I'm lacking a more fundamental
model, replacing the seemingly unstructured development of new mechanisms
in the evolutionary process. Perhaps the integration with the other models,
amentioned above, will shed light.
4. Some fundamental
tendencies already seem clear: as well in the macro- as in the micro-systems,
the general tendency seems to aim at progressively more changeability,adaptability,
and integrability in both senses
of the word: factual and conceptual. The 'blind' and rigid evolutionary
tendency progressively is replaced by an internal, symbolic, virtual world
--evolving towards consciousness-- in which the next stage of evolution
can be prepared without trial and error, without coinflict or war.
5. If one looks to
this model, the introduction of a soul at a certain point, or another kind
of animating energy, seems completely superfluous, and only reflects our
anthropomorphic way of thinking. In this model, we observe a natural emergence
of the different elements of organization and communication, and never
an unexplainable step is encountered.
6. Perhaps Teilhard's
fundamental Law ("Evolution tends towards more complexity and more consciousness,
each factor enabling the other") could refined into "Evolution tends
towards an integration of all existing systems, as well factual as conceptual,
each factor enabling the other." These formulation also suggests the
a very cherished idea of Teilhard, where complexification just is
a cold, quantitative notion. On the other hand, consciousness is
only the very last stage of the development of insight and communication,
and many misunderstand it in the sense that they look for kinds of consciousness
in earlier, prehuman systems, where the organizing phenomena better respond
to labels as reflexes, codes and micro-effects.
Capra, Fritjof. The Web of Life. Anchor Books, NY, 1996.