|Cosmic Evolution||Cosmic Evolution|
|Timescales||Palaeos||The Self-Organizing Universe|
Stars and Galaxies
Life on Earth
The Self-Organizing Universe
Big History Deep Time
This unit is the partner (see site map) to the pages on deep time; between them, the two units introduce the basic orientation of evolution through time.
The current pages are also more philosophical and speculative than the more specific coverage of Palaeontology and Earth History that is Palaeos' main focus. They represent an exceedingly incomplete overview of some of humanity's attempts to understand the history and the evolution of the life, the Earth, and the universe as a whole, not so much or just or even as science, but as a narrative account, a story of where we are, where we come from, and where we are going; the big picture, in other words. Incorporating human history, the evolution of life and the Earth, and cosmic evolution is what is sometimes referred to as Big History.
There are basically two orientations that can be taken here. One is to follow the sequence of Time, the other Evolution. The word "evolution" is here used in two different contexts. One, systems theory, explains the natural world in terms of the emergence of progressively more complex structures. This is Evolution in the sense of the big picture, aka Cosmic Evolution. The other is biological (darwinian) evolution, which involves the process of natural selection acting in in populations of species, as well as ecosystems and communities. Biological evolution is only one subset of systems theory understanding of evolution. There is also cosmic, galactic, stellar, planetary, mineral, geological, socio-cultural, technological, and other forms of evolution.
To keep things simple, evolution in the cosmic context, is divided into five emergent and perhaps arbitrary stages: cosmological (itself further dividing into several sub-stages), biological (or socio-biological), mental or psychological or socio-cultural, and a possible future stage, posthumanity, or technological singularity (which assumes technology will continue along an exponential curve, as shown in the colour coded table below:
Cosmological evolution establishes the parameters of space and time, the large scale structures of galactic clusters, great walls and so on, as well as stars and galaxies, and the atomic elements and quantum particles, and thus sets the stage for the rest of evolution. By the rest of evolution is here meant increasing complexity and information structures through self-emergent local reversals of entropy throughout the universe
Abiotic evolution includes the building up of atoms and simple molecules in chemical or energetic reactions, or brought together into planetesimals through gravity, to form nebula, asteroids, moons, and planets, and various inorganic compounds, including increasingly more complex molecules resulting both in mineral evolution and the development of the Earth and other planets, and also in the origin of life, both on Earth and elsewhere in the universe, which takes us to the next stage: Biological evolution
The way biological evolution works was first explained by Darwin and Wallace, who independently discovered Natural Selection. There is also phylogeny, mapping out the family tree of life on Earth, and which is the main focus here at PalaeosImage: Evolution Bush, World Wildlife Atlas, copied from Dinosaur World - "Milestones of Evolution
So far we haven't put anything here on Socio-Cultural evolution, but hopefully at some point some material can be added, which will mean the link at the left can be updated.
There is also no reason why consciousness and evolution cannot surpass the human position. Transhumanists refer to a Posthuman stage of evolution, that will succeed or replace current humanity. Of course there are any number of possible singularities here. I'm not necessarily happy with the term "Posthuman", because of its anthropocentric nuances. It's retained here only for the sake of convenience (a possible alternative might be postsapient). Of course all speculation along these lines is just that, speculation. But it is a popular theme in science fiction; perhaps the best example is by Stanley Kubrick's movie (co-written with Arthur C Clarke) 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Big Picture of Evolution is all about, well, the big picture. It terms of an evolutionary cosmos, this means the emergence of complexity and development and evolution of successive modes of matter, life, consciousness, culture, technology, and more, from the Big Bang till now, and speculation on the future, as illustrated in the above diagram. Obviously, the account of the evolution of life and intelligence is limited here to the Earth, but there is no reason why this things should not have appeared on other worlds and solar systems. If you find it all too irrelevant, eccentric, or speculative, feel free to skip ahead to the Geological timescale page or the story of the meaning of life (or minimal version of said story). MAK110918
|Timescales||Cosmos||The Self-Organizing Universe|