We have used the stream and sequence concepts to illustrate some issues in the ‘evolution’ of religion. Those terms are a little puzzling. That’s because we are so close to a much larger phenomenon that we don’t see the ‘sequence’, save in one of its steps. As we move from antiquity to the present we start to see the larger sequence, if indeed it is real. Once we see the pattern in proximate antiquity it is easy to spot its extensions, but we can’t really be sure. We MUST have data at the level of centuries or less, and that’s only possible in the last two phases, with an ‘almost’ for the deadringer we spot just before -3000 BCE in Sumer and Egypt. From there it is also easy to spot the two points before, in the Neolithic, but we don’t really have the data to prove the point. If we try to describe this it tends to draw a blank: it doesn’t quite make sense, at first. We can give it a try.
The basic scenario for evolving civilization seems to be the beginnings of hunter gatherers settling down more or less in fixed spots, and we see this in stages up to 8000BCE (very roughly) and most of all in the Middle East and the territory around the site of Jericho, i.e. the Mediterranean Middle East. This zone makes the breakthrough to a first agricultural proto-civilization in that area, then curls around the Fertile Crescent into Anatolia, Northern Sumer and Eastern Iran, with a second ‘sequence’ point to the north of Sumer as the beginnings of irrigated agriculture emerge in tandem with the first ‘religions’ and near state formation. That would be about 8000BCE to about 5500BCE to the centuries before 3000BCE. This is driven development, but only in the ‘sequence’ phases, the ‘stream just does the best it can with the input. Agriculture was probably invented several times, but directed evolution of civilization (with agriculture) seems to start only in the Middle East, at the start. The case of the New World is confusing because we don’t know to what extend diffusion is present.
Then we see the take off in southern Sumer in the period up to 3000BCE. Then we see the first of the ‘sidewinders’ appear in Dynastic Egypt, heavily influenced by Sumer, or its lead up, but quickly an independent stream of civilization. We suspect that a series of ‘almost’ sidewinders are gestating in Eurasia, India, and China. These will not burst forward until later. We then see the onset of ‘stream starts’ in India and China in the centuries after 300oBCE. These areas have long since become agricultural by diffusion. Then in the Axial period we see the suddenly flowering of five plus stream areas in the sequence, in parallel, with five plus sidewinders.
Enough for the moment. We can see how a brief explanation gets confusing. If we make guesses that ‘sequence’ points occur around 800BCE in the early Neolithic near the Mediterranean, and around 5500BCE north of Sumer, evrything makes sense, however odd, but we just don’t have the full data set. The argument needs to be built up over a period of time and study. You can’t complain it’s too complex. Neuroscience is ten or more times more complex, and we don’t complain there. It is the bad habit of darwnism that makes us addicted to oversimplification.
The point we are making is that if you don’t have enough data you will default to stupid Darwinian explanations, not realizing you are dead wrong.
The evolution of civilization (and most probably therefore of man himself as homo sapiens) is acomplicated dance of stream and sequence points using a minimax pattern to make directional development balance over a large region.
This new scenario needs another generation plus of archaeology. Then we can probably close the gaps.
We can see how it is almost impossible to grasp how civilization ‘evolves’ without the ‘stream and sequence’ model. And the full data is still lacking.
This is a reminder to be wary of evolutionary generalizations: look at the Axial Age, immense changes happen across a global set of locations in under three centuries. We should be from now on wary of thinking we know how things evolve if we don’t have close range data.
The perception of a sequence is confusing for another reason. It is not continuous in time, OK, but also in space: it is like a path across a stream using stepping stones, arranged in a diagonal going downstream. Development in world history is concentrated in such a sequence: it moves between short intervals in different streams in subsequent eras, e.g. archaic Greece and the rise of the modern. This process is complicated by one more subtlety: splitting into parallel streams or ‘sidewinders’. This throws us for a loop until we sense that a unilinear sequence can only cover a small amount of ground. If a directional process is ‘global development/integration’, it cannot do that with a unilinear concentration of resources. It must sort of ‘minimax’ it with another discontinuity, sideways, or in parallel ‘sidewinders’. Suddenly we understand the Axial Age: at one phase a process splits in multiple parallels.
This is strange, at first, but logical, consider the sudden appearance in parallel just before 3000BCE of advanced civilization in Sumer and Egypt. If two processes in parallel but at different stages/rates of development suddenly undergo a transformation at the same time then we have evidence of the kind of process we posit in our stream and sequence processes. Very strange.
One confusion is the rapid spread of the Neolithic by diffusion, and the layers of the Neolithic then overlaid with diffusion imitations of the first ‘higher civilization’ in Sumer/Egypt. ‘Higher civilization’ is misleading. A huge amount of early ‘civilization’ must occur in the Neolithic using oral traditions and memory. We said that we suspected Indian religion is very ancient: we suspect an early manifestation in the Neolithic, then perhaps another jumpstart around 3000BCE. If so then our model shows ‘sidewinders’ appearing very early but not easily detected now. In general the era around 5500BCE is the suspicious starting point for what we call religion. And there might well have been a parallel in India at that time.
We have used this argument for the only visible examples that we have, with the cases of Egypt/Sumer on the borderline. At that point we can’t easily distinguish the birth of new religions, and this was before the onset of the first ‘universal religions’ or monotheism, so the religious issues are embedded in the larger culture of politics and economy. The real issue overall is not religion, but the larger emergence of civilization. At that point the stream and sequence argument is equally useful for the study of larger culture, and there the prime exhibit in antiquity is the era of Greece in the Axial period. There is a lot of material in WHEE at history-and-evolution.com on this larger picture. But the point here is the lesson that Darwinian processes just don’t explain civilizational evolution. Further, we suspect that what we have seen so far is the ‘real’ process behind the ‘evolution of religion’. The endless junk Darwinism used to explain religion is blinding us to the reality which is entirely different. And from there we suspect that our stream and sequence argument is the key to all earlier human evolution. Look at the ten thousand years since the Neolithic: human culture has ‘evolved’ at break neck speed, because it has a hidden driver, our ‘stream and sequence’ analysis uncovering the evidence there. It seems quite unlikely that an explicit and visible driver at such a later stage could coexist with random evolution at an earlier stage. And the evidence in the eyes of many has been for just his kind of rapid emergence in sprints of rapid development. But we don’t really know yet. It is hard to close the case for the same identical reason we find later: evidence at the level of centuries, or less, is crucial. But with earlier evolution we are dealing at best with intervals of ten thousand years (and mostly hundreds of thousands to millions) with the sudden suspicion we have missed the real keys.
This kind of argument needs to remind us of the dangers of applied darwinism. It is hard to think of a more confused and stupid theory than darwinian natural selction. This theory is dangerous in the hands of the economic social darwinist elites and confused scientists: these people are secretly lusting for the opportunity, egged on by Nietzsche who preached behind a disguise the higher morality of mass murder, of using genocide as a eugenic ‘induced evolution’ of man. This kind of project actually happened in the context of the Holocaust, whatever its other causes, and we can see the real dangers of darwinian lunatics.
Once we see the real almost incomprehensible complexity of the emergence of civilization we won’t take the darwinian oversimplification seriously. And we will see that the emergence of religion isn’t explained by evolutionary psychology or its genetics, but is something entirely different.