THE PATTERN OF BIOLOGICAL…
THE PATTERN OF BIOLOGICAL PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM EVIDENT IN CULTURAL EVOLUTION
By Masse Bloomfield
When I read the obituary of Stephen Jay Gould in the New York Times on May 21, 2002 , it seemed the main contribution that he made, was the theory of punctuated equilibrium. In 1966, I produced a chart on the cultural evolution of man for a term paper on the ideal college in a class on higher education. Then in 1973, I published a book “Man in Transition” which included a chart of the history of man, but that book made no mention of punctuated equilibrium. Then in 1993, I published the book “Mankind in Transition,” again with a chart of the history of man. But this book
does mention punctuated equilibrium. In the Preface of the 1993 book, I wrote;
History in this book, is based on an evolutionary progression as defined by punctuated equilibrium. Punctuated equilibrium characterizes evolution as a series of steps where there are long periods of stability interrupted with short periods of transition to new and more complex species as the result.
The way I have defined history, it follows the patterns of punctuated equilibrium. The pattern shown in this book has mankind now emerging from a long period of stability in an agricultural society. It is engulfed presently in a short period of transition when all human activities are going thought enormous and agonizing changes. These changes will result in a future stable society that I have named the automated society.
It seemed to me from reading the obituary that that theory that Gould had presented in 1972 was limited to biological evolution. It had been apparent tome that mankind’s cultural history can be shown as a series of steps, from stability, to instability and again to stability. The cultural history of man matches it biological history. It only makes sense that an evolutionary biological creature would reproduce its cultural progress as it did its biological progress.
As you can see from the chart, man started as animal evolving biologically through several species to become Homo sapiens. These biological species changes and dates are subject to controversy. However that we have gone through a biological evolution is obvious.
In the biological progression of evolution as defined by Gould, he could find no transitional species. In one strata of rock, he found one species and in the next strata of rock, the next species. He did not find transitional species. When we investigate the transitions of human culture, only in our current transition can we document with certainty what the transitional cultural artifacts are. When it comes to tools for the tribal society, we know when rock tools gained handles. Finding the evolution of the plow is fairly difficult, be we do have several kinds of plows. We can do a lot better in determining the cultural evolution of our artifacts than biologists can in finding the transitional animals of a species change. That difficulty of biological species can be seen when we talk about the missing link in man’s species changes.
In our cultural evolution, for man to have a tribal society, we needed tools, fire and language. Tools were used 2.5 million years ago, fire half a million years ago, but a date for language is impossible to calculate. I have assumed the tribal society started with the origins of Homo sapiens or on my chart about 300,000 years ago. I have to put in a disclaimer here. The dates that I have used prior to 1700 A.D., have to be inaccurate.
I have tried to use the best authorities I could find for them, but they have to be subject to argument. The date for the beginning of the tribal society can be off by as much as 200,000 years.
I have defined the technology for the tribal society as needing tools, fire and language. The sociology of that society is composed of a chief, medicine man, warriors and everybody else. This contrasts with an animal society which has a dominant male and everyone else. The technology and sociology and biology of the tribal society are far more complex than any of our animal relatives. No animal matches tribal man for cultural and social complexity. The tribal society had a food technology that is known as hunting and gathering.
Then about 12,000 years ago, the tribal society began a transition to an agricultural or peasant society. I give that transition 2,000 years. When permanent housing appeared, the transition was nearly over. Permanent housing first appeared in Jericho about 10,000 years ago. For a peasant society to arise, there had to be dedicated land for farming, with domesticated animals and permanent housing. The technology of the peasant society is characterized by a man, a plow and a domesticated animal. The technology of the peasant society is characterized by a man, a plow and a domesticated animal. The sociology became quite complex. There are four social categories: a production category led by a nobility, with overseers plus ninety percent of the people as peasants; then a religious category with bishops, priests and laymen (mostly peasants); a military category with generals, officers and soldiers; and finally a tradesman and craftsman category with apprentices. This sociology had developed in its most complex form by the time Egypt became a kingdom, or about five thousand years ago.
Once the technology of the peasant society took hold, it spread over much of the world. It lasted for about 10,000 years. It only began to change 300 years ago with the introduction of the Newcomen steam engine. And since then there has been nothing but change. We continually predict change in our current world and are not disappointed. It was the tractor that brought about the most change in the life of the peasant. With the tractor, the number of agricultural workers has been reduced to about three percent of the total population. In a peasant society, ninety percent of the people have to be farmers or peasants. The tractor more than any other machine, was the forcing element in changing peasants into industrial urban workers. The technology of the industrial society has the machine attended to by workers. There are office workers needed to document what the other workers are doing.
Along with the cultural changes over the last 300,000 years, there has been a significant increase in population. This increase in population is directly related to the increase in technological capability or in other words, productivity. It has been the increasing productivity on the farm that has increased food production.
Deevey in a 1960 article in Scientific American on demographics, has a diagram which shows population growth over that last 15 thousand years. His diagram links population growth with technological advances. These advances are linked to productivity. He has 0.04 of a person supported per square kilometer 8000 B. C. or in a tribal society; one person per square kilometer at the time of Jesus or in an agricultural society; and sixteen people per square kilometer in a 1950 industrial society. I have calculated that number to be 41 people per square kilometer for the year 2000. In my estimation, Deevey’s diagram although given on a log-log scale, parallels my figures. Deevey produced a chart that confirms punctuated equilibrium, long before Gould or I thought about the concept
The technology of the peasant society, the dedicated land, the man, the plow and the domesticated animal have been totally replaced by tractor and machine. The sociology has also changed. We now have many more categories along with the production category, the military category, the religious category and the tradesmen and craftsmen. I have added a government category, an education category, a medical category, a legal category, a sports category, a finance category and a miscellaneous category. In the book “Mankind in Transition,” I have a chart which shows the industrial society as characterized by sixteen categories and fortuy-two ranks. This compares with four categories and eleven ranks for a peasant society
The contrast in both the social and technical complexity between the peasant society and the industrial society is obvious. This contrast only tells us that we are far more complex now than what we were some two thousand years ago. The population reinforces this position. Two thousand years ago, there were about 300 million people on earth and now we have over six billion. It was the tractor on the land that allowed for the increase in food to maintain the increase of population of about 500 million in 1650 to our current six billion. It should be obvious that we are in a transition. The technology and the sociology has changed dramatically in the transition. We are in one of those short periods of change. We are in a transition from a stable agricultural society to a transitional industrial society which will result in a stable automated society. I doubt if the transition will take more than 600 years. This would mean that the transition that started in 1700 will end on or before 2300.
Each of the societies stable as well as the current unstable one, had or has a specific sociology, technology and culture. The automated society can be seen somewhat dimly at this time, but it no longer a complete unknown. Its sociology probably will be no more complex than our industrial society, but that is an order of magnitude more complex than the last stable social system, the agricultural society.
Thus it is possible using punctuated equilibrium to characterize human societies, their technologies, and predict our cultural future. It is impossible to use punctuated equilibrium to predict what our next biological change will be. We can only rely on the past history to say that the next species change resulting in a stable organism, will be more complex than Homo sapiens.
Gould did not extrapolate punctuated equilibrium to human culture. He kept his theory open only to biological evolution. Using punctuated equilibrium, it can be shown that it can be extended to human cultural evolution. And by using the human performance over our history, it is possible to show man’s future specific cultural and technological capabilities.
There is no doubt in my mind that we are in the midst of a transition from a rural stable agricultural society becoming an automated society. In an automated society, humans will no longer need to do manual labor. All that will be done by computers controlling machinery. Man will have all the goods and services we will want for free. We will know the automated society has arrived when we can no long improve productivity.
The one place where man will have an open-ended future will be in space. We have yet to set a colony of men on the moon. I predict colonies of men on distant star systems.
It is within these colonies where man will have the potential to evolve into a new species. It is doubtful that we are going to be able to get a biological change with six billion people who are interbreeding without any effort at keeping the races separate and pure. I believe that the same kind of interbreeding will occur with the solar system in the future. In order to get a biological change, we need to isolate communities so that they can diverge from the genetics of our current species. I believe that this will only occur for those colonies of men outside the solar system.
Even with cloning, DNA insertions and genetic tampering, I can see no way that a genetic change can occur in Homo sapiens if we are restricted to the solar system. There are just too many of us to have species change in the near future. We may be able to introduce a different gene or two into the species, but not a species change. To get a species change, we have to have complete isolation of the new organisms and I believe that is impossible within the solar system.
But at this time, we humans do not put a very high priority on space activities. We currently need orbiting satellite solar power stations to provide us with the energy we will need to rid the world of most of the sources of pollution. And at the same time, provide mankind with the energy needed to build the food factories to feed almost unlimited numbers of humans while preserving the wilds for animals.
That time is coming. But our leaders are much too short sighted to even begin to have a vision which includes an automated society or space colonies. It is too bad that Gould, who had a national voice, did not lead the way to that future.