The Tendencies ("Laws")
[The subsequent 9 known levels in the evolution of the Universe - Scheme]
For internal structuration and external interaction on an ever more grandiose scale, an organizing principle was needed, a kind of steering system. Three mechanisms were used during evolution till now:(1) the structure of the system itself, enabling and preventing some possible moves and combinations, thus enhancing and limiting coincidence, and elevating evolution from chaos. This steering principle regulated levels 1 to 5. Teilhard called this the lithophase, the lithogenesis or the lithosphere. "Litho-" (stone) is preferable to the nowadays prevailing "geo-" (as in geosphere), because this evolutionary phases occurred long before planets and earths (gaia, ge, geo-) came into existence. It is the organizing principle of dead matter.It is clear that the Noosphere came into existence as early as at the dawn of human intelligence, but gained in importance with the progressive development of tools to communicate (and preserve) insights. Internet is the latest contributor to this noosphere, and makes it so obvious that even people who never heard about it begin to see it. At the same time it boosted the noogenetic process at such an extent, that one could believe that it came into existence only recently. But, of course, it is as old as man. If Teilhard should have had an intuition for something as Internet, he shouldn't have needed to include "telepathy" as a possible condition for noospheric development.
(2) a structuring code (DNA), in which the experience of the past is recorded, so that the organisms don't have to "re-invent warm water" each time. This code guides the development and behaviour of the systems of layers 6 to 8. At the same time a cyclic way of existence is developed, to enable more frequent procreations and more rapid development. At a certain moment an intercellular (and inter-organismic) combination of codes -i.e. experiences- (sexual multiplication) is introduced, further accelerating evolution. This stage is called bio-phase, the process bio-genesis, the result bio-sphere.
(3) with man, biological evolution stops (or is nearly completely outstripped and become obsolete), because the universe switches to another steering tool: intelligence, also called consciousness. Insight becomes the organizing principle. Complementary to the instincts, a learning ability is developed, and the development of intelligence is further enhanced by interaction possibilities (communication) starting with spoken language, enhanced by written communication (that got a boost with Gutenberg's printing tool, books and press), electric communication (phone, radio, TV) and, eventually, Internet. This stage is the noo-phase, the process noo-genesis, the result noo-sphere. So the Noosphere, in its evolutionary function, can best be defined as the (still developing) steering system of universal evolution. Seen from the inside, the noosphere, to be able to perform its steering function, includes an "image" not only of existing reality, but also of its ruling laws, and, most importantly, of its developmental possibilities and the practical ways to achieve this evolutionary process. Moreover, this "intelligence", this "consciousness" is shared and "crossfertilized" by more and more communicating people -ideally by all-, enhancing and stimulating its own progress (as sexual multiplication enhanced biogenesis).
Teilhard suggests that, as complexification -the most striking aspect of universal evolution- started with the first organisms, also consciousness, so apparent in humans, is supposed to exist in a kind of primitive pre-form within primitive organisms, such as electrons, atoms, cells and plants. This statement provoked hallucinating hypotheses such as "souls" residing in plants and atoms. But if one recalls that consciousness is just one type of steering, and that the very structure itself (e.g. a watch, and even a snowball) can determine what a system/organism will do and will not do, then souls are no longer necessary to explain such a primitive forms consciousness.
SOME OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF EVOLUTION
1. At every level nature encounters a natural limit, (Teilhard called these boundaries critical points) apparently marking the exhaustion of evolutionary possibilities (although evolution continues at a higher level, adding just one degree of complexity).In every domain, when anything exceeds a certain measurement, it suddenly changes its aspect, condition or nature. The curve doubles back, the surface contracts to a point, the solid disintegrates, the liquid boils, the germ cell divides, intuition suddenly bursts on the piled up facts... Critical points have been reached, rungs on the ladder, involving a change of state -- jumps of all sorts in the course of development. Moreover, when science and technology try to transgress this point, it up to now never succeeded, to th egreat frutsration of scientists. The most striking example of this in the development of more compelx atoms than Uranium (92), nature's ending point. No cyclotron up to date succeeded in the breeding of a new stable element: only extremely short living times were encountered so far. Scientists already feel gratified when they encounter a "stability" close to 1 second...
For the same reason "Teilhardians" fear that transgressing the ending point of Man (stag 8) will prove difficult or perhaps impossible, to the great frustration of genetic scientists.
2. During evolution, the "dominant" system organizing the superior one, moves form the left end of the range (simple building blocks) to the right (the most evolved samples). E.g. at the molcular level, the most important and central atomes are simple elements such as hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. At higher biological levels the most elaborated structures become the building blocks: well developed cells for metazoa, and man for the socialization. This shift arises from the organizing principle: in dead matter structural versatility is of the essence, so that simple, versatile elements are favoured. On the contrary, with more complex organisms, complex intelligence is preferable, so that for the "last" level of evolution, socialization and the noosphere, the most elaborated metazoon, homo sapiens, offers most possibilities.
3.There exist some impressive analogies between level 8 (the metazoa) and level 9 (socialization): as blood vessels transport products and cells from the point of production to the point of application, rivers and streets develop in society. As the nervous system transports information in both senses between decision making and executive centres, electrical and other communition devices connect people. The description of society as a planetary body of humans (and other beings and objects) is more than poetic.
Nevertheless there are some striking differences, due to the fact that. with homo, evolution changes its tactics for a versatile interaction with the environment. We observe a disconnection between the organizing and the performing device, the latter becoming external to the person. Up to the sub-primate level, progress in evolutionary effectiveness consisted in anatomic adaptation. Animals that run fast are physically conceived to run fast, most often at the expense of other abilities, say climbing, flying and swimming. In biophase, we observe a universal differentiation and specialization. With man, both functions are disconnected:
[Scheme of The transition from biological evolution into
psychological and technological evolution]
We can observe the same trend in nowadays' computers: they are becoming "mutipurpose", taking the "intelligent" part of the job for themselves, and reducing peripheral devices as printers, scanners, musical instruments and speakers to their most essential performing aspects.
This departicularization of the intelligent element, i.e. man, not only leeds to a even more far-reaching organization and transformation, through technology, of the non-human world, but frees humans. For the first time in history, an organism is able to take part in complexigfication without losing its individuality. This means that futuristic theories which imply the loss of an individual's ability to move or to think independently, and with a total, global application filed: human thinking and consciousness intends to cover all aspects of intelligible reality, and will, at least for the final decision making, not be surpassed by computers. We'll discuss this interesting topic in another page.
This is bad news for genetists, who are dreaming to perfect human nature, reduce his aggressiveness etc. by genetic manipulation. In fact, biological evolution came to an end, and did so already a long time ago. Of course, genetic manipulation will allow us to make some useful corrections and repairs in diseases. It is, from a Teilhardian perspective, unlikely that psychological and technological evolution will be stopped one day, and that nature should return to a more primitive strategy.
 Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre: 'The Phenomenon of Man' (Fountain Books, 1977), p. 86. -- Thank you, Brian Cowan.
Est. 11/01 - Latest Update 31/3/02