levels in the evolution of the Universe
For internal structuration
and external interaction on an ever more grandiose scale, an organizing
principle was needed, a kind of steering system. Three mechanisms were
used during evolution till now:
structure of the system itself, enabling and preventing some possible moves and combinations,
thus enhancing and limiting coincidence, and elevating evolution from chaos.
This steering principle regulated levels 1 to 5. Teilhard called this the
lithophase, the lithogenesis or the lithosphere. "Litho-" (stone)
is preferable to the nowadays prevailing "geo-" (as in geosphere), because
this evolutionary phases occurred long before planets and earths (gaia,
ge, geo-) came into existence. It is the organizing principle of dead matter. It is clear that the
Noosphere came into existence as early as at the dawn of human intelligence,
but gained in importance with the progressive development of tools to communicate
(and preserve) insights. Internet is the latest contributor to this noosphere,
and makes it so obvious that even people who never heard about it begin
to see it. At the same time it boosted the noogenetic process at such an
extent, that one could believe that it came into existence only recently.
But, of course, it is as old as man. If Teilhard should have had an intuition
for something as Internet, he shouldn't have needed to include "telepathy"
as a possible condition for noospheric development.
(2) a structuring
code (DNA), in which the experience of the past is recorded, so that the organisms
don't have to "re-invent warm water" each time. This code guides the development
and behaviour of the systems of layers 6 to 8. At the same time a cyclic
way of existence is developed, to enable more frequent procreations and
more rapid development. At a certain moment an intercellular (and inter-organismic)
combination of codes -i.e. experiences- (sexual multiplication) is
introduced, further accelerating evolution. This stage is called bio-phase,
the process bio-genesis, the result bio-sphere.
(3) with man, biological
evolution stops (or is nearly completely outstripped and become obsolete),
because the universe switches to another steering tool: intelligence,
also called consciousness. Insight becomes the organizing principle. Complementary
to the instincts, a learning ability is developed, and the development
of intelligence is further enhanced by interaction possibilities (communication)
starting with spoken language, enhanced by written communication (that
got a boost with Gutenberg's printing tool, books and press), electric
communication (phone, radio, TV) and, eventually, Internet. This stage
is the noo-phase, the process noo-genesis, the result noo-sphere.
So the Noosphere, in its evolutionary function, can best be defined as
the (still developing) steering system of universal evolution. Seen from
the inside, the noosphere, to be able to perform its steering function,
includes an "image" not only of existing reality, but also of its ruling
laws, and, most importantly, of its developmental possibilities and the
practical ways to achieve this evolutionary process. Moreover, this "intelligence",
this "consciousness" is shared and "crossfertilized" by more and
more communicating people -ideally by all-, enhancing and stimulating its
own progress (as sexual multiplication enhanced biogenesis).
that, as complexification -the most striking aspect of universal evolution-
started with the first organisms, also consciousness, so apparent in humans,
is supposed to exist in a kind of primitive pre-form within primitive organisms,
such as electrons, atoms, cells and plants. This statement provoked hallucinating
hypotheses such as "souls" residing in plants and atoms. But if one recalls
that consciousness is just one type of steering, and that the very structure
itself (e.g. a watch, and even a snowball) can determine what a system/organism
will do and will not do, then souls are no longer necessary to explain
such a primitive forms consciousness.
OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF EVOLUTION
1. At every
level nature encounters a natural limit, (Teilhard called these
boundaries critical points) apparently marking the exhaustion of
evolutionary possibilities (although evolution continues at a higher level,
adding just one degree of complexity).
domain, when anything exceeds a certain measurement, it suddenly changes
its aspect, condition or nature. The curve doubles back, the surface contracts
to a point, the solid disintegrates, the liquid boils, the germ cell divides,
intuition suddenly bursts on the piled up facts... Critical points have been reached, rungs on the ladder, involving a change of state --
jumps of all sorts in the course of development.  Moreover, when science
and technology try to transgress this point, it up to now never succeeded,
to th egreat frutsration of scientists. The most striking example of this
in the development of more compelx atoms than Uranium (92), nature's ending
point. No cyclotron up to date succeeded in the breeding of a new stable
element: only extremely
short living times were encountered so far. Scientists already feel
gratified when they encounter a "stability" close to 1 second...
For the same reason
"Teilhardians" fear that transgressing the ending point of Man (stag 8)
will prove difficult or perhaps impossible, to the great frustration of
2. During evolution,
the "dominant" system organizing the superior one, moves form the
left end of the range (simple building blocks) to the right (the most evolved
samples). E.g. at the molcular level, the most important and central
atomes are simple elements such as hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. At higher
biological levels the most elaborated structures become the building blocks:
well developed cells for metazoa, and man for the socialization. This shift
arises from the organizing principle: in dead matter structural versatility
is of the essence, so that simple, versatile elements are favoured. On
the contrary, with more complex organisms, complex intelligence is preferable,
so that for the "last" level of evolution, socialization and the noosphere,
the most elaborated metazoon, homo sapiens, offers most possibilities.
3.There exist some
impressive analogies between level 8 (the metazoa) and level 9 (socialization):
as blood vessels transport products and cells from the point of production
to the point of application, rivers and streets develop in society.
As the nervous system transports information in both senses between decision
making and executive centres, electrical and other communition devices
connect people. The description of society as a planetary body of humans
(and other beings and objects) is more than poetic.
are some striking differences, due to the fact that. with homo,
evolution changes its tactics for a versatile interaction with the environment.
We observe a disconnection between the organizing and the performing device,
the latter becoming external to the person. Up to the sub-primate level,
progress in evolutionary effectiveness consisted in anatomic adaptation.
Animals that run fast are physically conceived to run fast, most often
at the expense of other abilities, say climbing, flying and swimming. In
biophase, we observe a universal differentiation and specialization. With
man, both functions are disconnected:
from biological evolution to
and technological evolution
We can observe the
same trend in nowadays' computers: they are becoming "mutipurpose", taking
the "intelligent" part of the job for themselves, and reducing peripheral
devices as printers, scanners, musical instruments and speakers to their
most essential performing aspects.
This departicularization of the intelligent element, i.e. man, not only leeds to a even more
far-reaching organization and transformation, through technology, of the
non-human world, but frees humans. For the first time in history, an organism
is able to take part in complexigfication without losing its individuality.
This means that futuristic theories which imply the loss of an individual's
ability to move or to think independently, and with a total, global
application filed: human thinking and consciousness intends to cover all
aspects of intelligible reality, and will, at least for the final decision
making, not be surpassed by computers. We'll discuss this interesting topic
in another page.
This is bad news
for geneticians, who are dreaming to perfect human nature, reduce his aggressiveness
etc. by genetic manipulation. In fact, biological evolution came to an
end, and did so already a long time ago. Of course, genetic manipulation
will allow us to make some useful corrections and repairs in diseases.
It is, from a Teilhardian perspective, unlikely that psychological and
technological evolution will be stopped one day, and that nature should
return to a more primitive strategy.
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre: 'The Phenomenon of Man' (Fountain Books, 1977),
p. 86. -- Thank you, Brian Cowan.