Introduction

The Achievements and the Days

Pornocracy by FĂ©licien Rops

Science is the sum of its hypotheses1.

However, human knowledge has become unmanageably vast. All that remains is the scientific specialist who “knows more and more about less and less”. The specialist, including philosophers and theologians who know less and less about more and more2, puts on blinkers that shuts out from his vision all the world but a small spot to which he focuses his attention. Perspective is lost. Darwin had an idea3 that unites the two most disparate features of our universe: the world of meaningless matter in Brownian motion on the one side and the world of meaning, purpose and design on the other. This idea of evolution excluded human history that remained, according to Shakespeare, a story full of noise and furor. A chronological record of historical events4 shows that there is progress but the sense of the evolution is not evident. The question is, considering the wealth of scientific information presently available, is it possible to draw up a coherent, if schematic, view of evolution, encompassing the whole phenomenon?

The magnitude of the task may appear too great for the shoulders of a single individual, who cannot possibly have mastered all the aspects of the various scientific disciplines that contribute to this endeavor. There is always the danger that depth of treatment and command of issues will be wanting. A collegial approach -if such an approach had been feasible- would have introduced a guarantee of authority in the problems tackled. However, by its very nature, this approach would have destroyed the unity of the work and denatured its purpose. My attempt is not to produce a textbook but to present the reader with information that may be useful in establishing the different successive steps performed by evolution, leading from the origin of the Universe to contemporary Man.

There is no science that does not rest on subjective bases. Even professions of objectivity are subjective. From the wealth of information available, the choice of the material selected and incorporated in this endeavor to present an over-all view of the entire phenomenon of evolution entailed a subjective approach. Subjectivity does not equate with partiality or intellectual dishonesty. The sequence of events that lead from the origin of the universe to contemporary man appears to me most coherently explained by the information selected. Other hypotheses, such as proteins being the basis of life instead of nucleic acids; gravitational energy and cosmic rays being the causes of turbulence in the universe instead of antimatter; mutation and speciation being the basis of hominid evolution instead of genetic drift; race being the basis of human intellectual development instead of circumstances; nation-states being the initiators of progress instead of Christendom and Free men, have appeared less valid or fecund for the intended purpose.

With the abundance of new information daily generated, additional discoveries may at any time invalidate the most generally accepted theories. Nothing is known for sure. Stark and uncritical belief in the theories proposed is not warranted. As any book of large scope, I do not expect this essay to be without errors.

Man’s intellectual activity usually functions within a frame of accepted concepts. He is the prisoner of paradigms that are only reluctantly questioned or abandoned. Centuries may elapse before the accumulation of paradigmatic abnormalities forces an overhaul of the accepted theories (e.g. the sun revolves around the earth; the earth is flat; the universe was created in 6 days; the intellectual superiority of Western man is scientifically proven; European Nation-States fostered scientific progress; tuberculosis does not induce an humoral immune response; Stalin took advantage of an ailing Roosevelt at Yalta, etc). This adjustment and adaptation of our current Weltanschauung to true facts is usually violently contested and met with hostility. I have, once Historical Man came into focus, indulged in an overabundance of names, places and dates. These references to specific events, people and times were deemed necessary and useful to the reader who might wish to verify that our description of the facts, and their interpretation, can be controlled in the face of controvert conclusions.

Mathematics is the creation of a logical reticulation whose vocation is its extension to the whole of the universe. It accomplishes this by formulae that condense in mathematical terms an immense experience. Modern science maps the chemical and physical pathways that constitute biological systems, making the complexity of processes like inheritance, development, evolution, the origin of life, and of course cosmology, increasingly tractable. The idea of a science-driven unity of knowledge extends into the human sciences and has begun to transform our understanding of behavior, mind and culture. Most human minds, including in the West, are not prepared to abandon their daily human concrete experience. I know how difficult it is to manage formulae and mathematical signs for readers not familiarized with scientific methods but, throughout this essay, it is sometimes not possible to avoid them.

Most of the chapters have been composed from disparate sources. Some parts will however be recognized as bearing heavily the mark of a master in his field. Quotation of sources was in this respect desirable. If applied to every observation reported, it would have been honest to a point of scrupulosity wherewith the burden of the enterprise would have increased to an unwarranted degree while not adding much to the conveyance of thought. References have often been omitted, including that of Hesiode, from whom I borrowed the title of the work.

Contemporary good epistemological manners impose on the writer of this essay an orderly, sequential description of successive events. This approach runs counter to common human cognitive processes. We usually grasp a reality as a whole and only later break it up into its constituent parts through analysis and reconstitute it through synthesis. I cannot advise enough and encourage the reader to proceed as he wishes, for example from the last chapter toward the first if it suits him.

References

1. K.R. Popper: Logik der Forschung, Springer Verlag, Vienna 1934. Translated in English: The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Basic Books, New York, 1959

2. The Story of Philosophy, by W. Durant. Washington Square Press, New York, New York, 1953

3. Carl Zimmer : Evolution. The triumph of an idea. Harper and Collins, New York, 2001

4. Kroniek van de mensheid. B. Harenberg, Elsevier, Amsterdam-Brussel, 1986

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