The reign of Darwinism is slipping, and it is also time to be wary of the coming substitutes. Here the material of WHEE can of help to see that the idea of evolution has never been given either a proper definition or a proper foundation.
Many readers are unable to avail themselves of the material in the book which sprawls over six hundred pages, and written in what seems like a foreign language. But the core idea at least is simple: world history shows the signs of a kind of dynamic. That’s reduced to a minimum claim of showing a non-random pattern. Darwinism makes an assumption of random evolution, and indirectly implies that no form of non-random evolution exists. But a close look at world history shows an obvious example of something non-random, with hints of a developmental sequence. That’s the strength of the argument: it doesn’t propose a new theory, but instead points directly to a form of overall structure in world history. But the details are perhaps a bit much. That’ because history is not a mechanical event but a much more complicated ‘history’ which is unique at all points. No ‘law’ can summarize the data, only a ‘history’ suffices. That’s the defining character of history: we can’t use some variant of, say, Newton’s laws to depict events via a formula. Instead we must describe each unique event in detail. And the level of detail makes all the difference. We can summarize a century of history, up to a point, and we are forced to do something less than a minute by minute description (if we had the data), but in the main we must ‘tell the story’ of history. We don’t have to do that with planetary histories: we can use Newton’s laws to depict the whole thing (at least in principle, if it is not too complex). But history as we know it is not without structure, and any chronicle of human events can have all sorts of structure. A play can have a set of acts and scenes, and any story tends to have a very clear if intangible structure, beginning, middle, end, with a core plot that is indeed a structure of some kind, however obscure. We can often guess the end of a story, up to a point, because the plot is somehow a logical structure that unfolds somewhat predictably. But this is not the same as the scientific claim of laws. In world history we can find a developmental structure visible in the way the so-called ‘Axial Age’ seems to generate a new ‘chapter’ in world history.
So the basic strategy of WHEE is simple: we see world history at its end stage where data is plentiful and the result shows a clear progression embedded in an otherwise ‘random’ sprawl of civilizations. That is surprising, and we should realize how little we understand history and accept that we live in the first era of world history able to detect such a thing. And this frees us of darwinian attempts to reduce history to a sterile dynamic of blind natural selection.
The idea of evolution in history seems odd, at first, but the relationship of history and evolution is janus-faced, as one emerges out of the other, the two ideas are really linked in their symmetry of opposites.