The debate over evolution has continued since the time of Darwin without resolution, in part because it is a metaphysical contest that is conducted beyond the limits of observation. The claims for natural selection have turned into an ideology short of real science, a kind of metaphysical reductionism. The result has thrown the study of history into confusion, and handed an ideological pseudo-science to many with Social Darwinist agendas. History should be the antidote to this kind of speculative excess, for it enforces the discipline of observation at short range, a century or less, something entirely absent in the study of deep time where generalizations about immense intervals of time are taken for granted without direct empirical observation.
A devastating question haunts standard thinking on evolution: what if the real force of evolution acts intermittently at high-speed over a range of mere centuries? The vastness of deep time would swallow up such brief episodes and leave no trace whatever. As we examine world history precisely this possibility becomes confirmed. The question of the so-called Axial Age arises in this context with an ominous warning that we can get the question of evolution completely wrong, as a myth of ‘scientism’. We are thus prone to hallucinate evolution with substitutes, using oversimplifications such as natural selection. And history simply won’t conform to the assumptions of Darwinism and reductionist scientism. It may well be that a full theory of evolution is beyond human abilities as yet, and we might do better to follow the facts of evolutionary sequences empirically, mindful of the dangers of naïve theories.
The Eonic Effect: A dose of empiricism The revolution in our knowledge of world history has uncovered something that must challenge the Darwinian assumptions about random evolution and natural selection. As we extend the scale of history to the scale of five thousand or more years, the empirical given of the historical development of civilization in a remarkable portrait of spontaneous self-organization shows us something that Darwinism cannot explain, and, further, the result looks like a complex hybrid of history and evolution. Instead of botched theories that distort our thinking we can follow the empirical outlines of episodes of evolution using periodization and descriptive analysis.