The Evolution of the Universe


1. Is there anyhow an Evolution?

The question either there is an evolution in our existing universe, or things were just created more or less as they are nowadays, it out of the scope of this site, and can be found well documented on the WWW, e.g. at the Skeptics Page. Here we consider the evolutionary hypothesis as a scientific reality.

2. Linear or layered?

Most people, and also some biologists, popular philosophers and futurologists consider evolution as a vague, mere continuous increase towards complexity. They are impressed by growing numbers, and by the apparently unlimited progress of scientific knowledge and technology. This false impression is in part explainable by the fact that some major evolutionists only consider one layer in this evolutionary tree. E.g. Lamarck and Darwin, just studied the evolution of the biological beings, nowadays considered as layer 8 (the metazoa).

It was the contribution of a Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), scientist and philosopher, to have discovered some of the fundamental rules of cosmic evolution, especially its layered, phasic course. But even if was the first, he was not the only to describe some fundamental tendencies of the universe. The biologist Julian Huxley (1887-1975 ), the grandson of Thomas Huxley, Darwin's lifelong friend, and first Director General of the UNESCO, formulated exactly the same view, without any religious implication, while he was a convinced agnostic. Recent publications (e.g. Lawrence Hagerty, The Spirit of the Internet, and Neo-Darwinism in general, add many recent discoveries and views that confirm Teilhard's and Huxley's views.

3. Description, analysis and projection

In fact, evolutionary theories consist of three consecutive domains:

1. An objective description of  the facts of evolution. Because this description tries to be objective, only the facts are considered. We are confronted with the observable quantitave aspects (i.e. complexification) of the evolving universe.

2. An analysis, from the observed facts, of the tendencies of this evolution. This concerns first of all the tendecy to develop an internal organization. Although this organization is partially observable (e.g. DNA, the nervous system), the more general tendencies (e.g. the "need" for complexification) are more hypothetical.

3. A projection, based upon the tendencies, of the future of the evolution of the universe, including the "near" future, the end stage, and the things before and after the observable process, including the Designer hypothesis.

These three stages, typical for every scientific research, are necessary, and the former stage has to be completed before the next can be successfully undertaken. Sometimes a non-integrative approach is made to analyse and hence to project future stages of the evolution of the universe.

Some non-integrative theories include:

1. Lovelock elaborated a theory about stage 9 of the evolution (the socialization, labeled as "Gaia" hypothesis) only taking into account some analogies between stage 8 (biological stage) and stage 9. Many tendencies of the former stages of evolution, including the individuation tendency, were not taken into account when he made his projections about the future of evolution on earth.

2. The übermensch hypothesis, considering that the next stage in biological evolution will be a genetically enhanced humanoid, and making the emergence of a better world secondary to the creation, either by nature or by genetic manipulation, of a better human race. This conclusion doesn't take into account the universal tendency to a natural limitat each evolutionary level, as soon as the next level develops.

3. Some scientists simply jump stage 2 of the theory development ( a study of the tendencies of the evolutionary process), and directly formulate conclusions about the future of cosmic development and about the Designer hypothesis.

4. The search for new baryons and atoms by high energy collisions (e.g. at the CERN), that up to now only produced rapidly decaying structures (of the order of milliseconds), is still hoping to discover one day more stable atoms and baryons, situated in a so-called Island of Stability. While this expected stability is now reduced to a few minutes -millions of times longer than the typical results obtained so far- the dream persists.

5. Leaving the field of science, Science Fiction constructions about future civilisation(s) only take into consideration technological progress. Man's mind is supposed to keep all its primitive aggressiveness and self-centredness already encountered in cave men, who only dreamed "to destroy the enemy", although this time on a cosmic scale.

4. The Academic Dilemma

Science since Renaissance. The Renaissance provoked a revolution in scientific progress, not only by introducing a new mental approach (1. things are not necessarily what they always have been told to be, and 2. man is able to understand things hitherto unexplained), but particularly by introducing the exact deductive control tool in scientific theories: scientific hypotheses have to be controled by formulating predictions, checked with exact observation and whenever possible with experiment. Both elements -a mental attitude and an exact control tool- enabled a boom of science and technology since four centuries, at elast in those fields where measures and controls are feasible.

But this change in approach had also some deplorable side effects: (1) sciences, where exact measuring and systematic experimentation where not possible, gradually lost their qualification as scientific, and (2) scientists were required to know ever more details about their knowledge field, and inevitably tended to become hyperspecialized in ever more limited fields.

The days of the Homo universalis were gone. Leonardo da Vinci and Blaise Pascal probably were the last ones. The qualification university went into an illusion.

Impossible sciences and hence unexisting curricula. The problem is that for several important scientific fields including cosmic evolution and general systems theory, there simply is no scientifical university curriculum that prepares you for such a research.

At the PCP (Principia Cybernetica Project) website the question is studied why general systems theory and cybernetics, the most interesting part of it, didn't get the attention they deserve. The most important reason therefore is perhaps the fact that there simply is no academic faculty dedicated to a general scientific approach:
What is the reason that cybernetics does not seem to get the popularity it deserves? What distinguishes cyberneticians from researchers in the previously mentioned areas is that the former stubbornly stick to their objective of building general, domain-independent theories, whereas the latter focus on very specific applications: expert systems, psychotherapy,thermodynamics, pattern recognition, ... These applications attract attention insofar that they are useful, concrete or spectacular. On the other hand, the aim of general integration remains too abstract, and is not sufficiently successful to be really appreciated.

But why then is cybernetics less successful than these more trendy approaches? Clearly the problem of building a global theory is much more complex than any of the more down-to-earth goals of the fashionable approaches.

Of course, one can think about multidisciplinary teams. But as creativity is pre-eminently an individualistic activity, a team can hardly replace it. Brainstorming is rather enhanced reciprocal inspiration than collective creativity.

Inevitably, the sincere impression of many scientists is that a project as an evolution theory transgresses the limits of scientific accountability. They react with suspicion or incredulity when a scientist infringes the confines of his education.

When I asked to a philosopher from Cambridge, which whom I had dinner a few years ago, what he was thinking about the philosophical considerations of Julian Huxley (whose brother was sitting at my other side), he answered me with an obliging smile "Suppose I wrote a book on biology".
As long as the universities don't offer an academic training englobing all (nine --up to now) levels of cosmic development, perhaps by a faculty of philosophy with an integrative curriculum designed from scratch, this problem will persist, unless the scientist trains himself in the academically neglected fields of education.

Posted 11/01 - Latest Update 12/3/02