History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Reading WHEE: world history and its models

March 1st, 2015 · No Comments

Sunday is our day for a ‘quick read’ of WHEE, with one section per chapter.
WHEE: using the text The attempt to interpret what the ‘eonic’ or ‘macro’ effect describes is a bit touch and go. I discover my own ‘mistakes’ in the process of trying to simplify the discussion. A good example has been loose talk about ‘reformations’ in religions with no position in the early modern. I have thus talked about ‘reformations’ in buddhism, and Islam. But this can be misleading. In the full jargon of the macro effect, the reformation of Xtianity in the early modern was a macro transformation inside a transition. To speak of reformations of religions in the larger context of the aftermath of the early modern can be misleading. It won’t happen that way again. I mentioned the president of Egypt’s assertion about a reformation for Egypt. But there is no macro transformation effect there, and the whole thing will be piecemeal and ad hoc. In buddhism, the issue of a reformation is perhaps irrelevant, and in fact buddhism was a reformation of hinduism, millennia ago. But the ‘revolution’ of Turkey came close to a kind of home-made reformation. The reformation of the early modern is far more elusive than we think.
The point is that the macro model is a very peculiar model, because it analyzes in two modes: events inside the transitions, and then outside the transitions. That takes some getting used to. But the point is crucial, and as we examine the sudden decline in American political government in the sense of its devolutions into the liabilities of capitalist globalization (imperialism) we can see that the entities initializing in the early modern can lose their coherence.

The whole subject is based on a finesse that is actually a ‘deduction’ after the fact: what is the relation of history and evolution? We see that the logic here suggests a series of transitions, and, lo and behold, we have a clear suggestion of the rationale of ‘transitions’. That’s even before defining what we mean by ‘evolution’. In this case it is the transformation of the ‘culture matrix’ of hunter gatherers into the complex cities-to-civilizations stages of the development of societies, religions, and political forms. The questions of religion are confusing to us now in the modern world, but perhaps it was always thus. If modern critics of theism protest a kind of idolatry, we suddenly notice that the dawn of monotheism was quite like that: ancient critics of polytheism protested a kind of idolatry.
In the study of the Axial Age (starting in chapter 1) we see that greater nature doesn’t seem to honor the distinction of religion and non-religion: the case of Greece shows that it was already filled with cultural premonitions of modern ‘secularism’: the birth of science, a first Ionian ‘enlightenment’, and so on. The question of religion is not settled in the modern world, despite a strong initiative to move beyond ‘religion’. I think that thinkers like Kant discovered that rationale critiques of religion were essential, but the results were unexpected. For example, stripped of ethical attitudes, modern physics thus forced the philosophical rediscovery of that which science seemed to ignore, e.g. the ‘freedom’ idea, and specifically the ethical agency of man in the context of Newtonian determinism.

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