A Thermodynamic Interpretation of History
CHAPTER 10.A: The Progressive Bildung of Open Dissipative Structure From Cell (Plastide) through Multicellular Organism (Person) to Supraorganism (Corm)

10.A. General Principles: Plastide, Person, and Corm
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copyright © 1999, 2003, 2006 by Lawrence C. Chin.

1. The Growth of Corm out of Person

As said, the self-organization (of open dissipative structure) results when the energy gradient (in the present case, the influx of energy from the Sun to Earth) becomes too large for the work of linear energy-dissipation process and requires more organized form of dissipation. The bio-sphere was the product, some 3.8 billion years ago. On the basis of the humble beginnings of the bio-sphere, i.e. the single-celled bacteria, more and more complex organisms organized themselves and thrived -- like parasites, using the surplus generated at the bottom layer by "the lower forms of life" to build something more complex and magnificent at the top layer, just as in the beginning of human civilization the aristocrats, who did not "work", utilized the surplus generated at the bottom layer by the social inferiors who did work to create the grandeur (institutions and intellect) at the top that we call culture or civilization. This is the universal pattern of evolution, of self-organization, of complexification. This progressive building of parasites on top of the previous level of existence -- multicellular on top of single-celled, meat eater on top of plant eater on top of photo-synthetic -- continues nicely, as long as energy never ceases streaming into the Earth from the Sun, like allowance. Until human beings built an artificial open dissipative structure on top of the natural ones, economy, or noo-sphere consumption cycle, on top of the bio-sphere consumption cycle. Here we shall be concerned with this process of the growth of Corm out of Person, or of economy out of bio-sphere.

The entropic process of the Universe before the appearance of Life consists in the Universe's dissipating its energy, or reaching thermodynamic equilibrium, through the linear movement of particles from the hotter regions to the colder ones. This we consider to be the "first" level of entropy-increase: un-mediated (or immediate) dissipation. (C.f. the "Layered Structure of the Universe.") Within the "field" of this first-level dissipation (within the total Universe) the excessive flux of energy in certain regions (such as on Earth) causes the dissipation-process to transcend into a "second" level, the level of alternative, non-linear pathways of dissipation. This is the level of mediated dissipation where the process of dissipation is accomplished in an organized way, via an open dissipative structure (Life, or bio-sphere) that dissipates by processing incoming energy into (edible) organic "nutrients" before releasing ("dissipating") it outside in disorder. E.g. photosynthesis processing sunlight into bio-chemicals (that special part of organic [carbon-containing] chemistry) which animals eat to defecate and release into random heat (about 40%). This is called "metabolism." This process of dissipation-via-open dissipative structure (the level of bio-sphere) has progressively acquired the character it has today (energy in photons turned into "edible" [bio-chemical] organic "nutrients" turned into heat and other organic waste to be recycled back into the network [by decomposers]) by evolving in concert with (or being accompanied by) the internal building of and by the open dissipative structures themselves.

In time within a certain region of the field of this non-linear entropic process, i.e. within a certain region of the earthly bio-sphere, the non-linear dissipation or the open dissipative structure of the second level elevates itself into the third level of dissipation -- also a level of open dissipative structure: dissipation via economy. The character of this level is that, on top of the second level of dissipation mediated through organic nutrient processing dissipative structure, a new dissipation process imposes itself which accomplishes itself via a new open dissipative structure that dissipates by processing incoming energy (solar photons plus Earth's natural resources) into non-edible organic or inorganic "luxury" items (something like "symbolic nutrients"), consuming them, and releasing them outside in disorder. This is human economy (noosphere consumption and defecation), which is correlative of supraorganisms (state/ society, i.e. corm) just as metabolism of the second level is correlative of (single- or multi-celled) organisms (person). This third level of dissipation process first revealed its humble traces during the Paleolithic period with the advent of our species (although some elements of it appeared before our species, in the earlier Homo species: e.g. fire and stone tools, which together however could not be considered as yet to constitute an "economy"). It became full-blown then during the Neolithic Revolution. (We are talking about the prehistory of the present day "MacWorld.") Although it cannot be said that the third level was "caused" into being directly by the second law -- we said that the next level appears when conditions of the previous level make its appearance possible though not necessarily necessary, just as the conditions of life of the multicelled organisms made possible though not necessary the subsistence of parasites, or the conditions of life of plant-eaters made possible though not necessary the subsistence of meat-eaters parasitic on them -- it cannot be denied that this level represents a region of enormous debt-paying to the second law. While the consumerism of the MacWorld is about to usher in another atmosphere-altering planetary disaster with its attendant mass-extinction, seemingly reminiscent of the first, the oxygen-crisis, brought about by the cyanobacteria 2 to 1.5 billion years ago, the current crisis differs from the previous in that it is mediated at the third level of dissipation, via inorganic (and non-edible organic) luxury consumption (noosphere dissipation) rather than at the second level, via edible organic nutrient processing (biosphere dissipation).

Another difference between the second level (biosphere) and the third level (noosphere) dissipation is this. The second level of dissipation, i.e. metabolism, is intra-body, or occurs inside the organism (to be specific, inside the cell with single-celled organisms, and inside the total organism but between cells [as well as inside the cell, of course] with multicellular organisms). The third level, economy, on the other hand, is, from the standpoint of the organisms comprising it, extra-body (between the multicellular organisms), but, of course, intra-body from the standpoint of the supraorganism.

At the second level, an organism applies energy to a resource and transforms it into a product to be consumed. A tiger applies energy in the form of hunt to a zebra and ends up with zebra meat to be consumed. But this is not yet metabolism. It really starts when the tiger then applies energy to the first product as resource, and finishes when a second product is produced and consumed. Thus the tiger applies energy to zebra meat in ways called ingestion and digestion: chewing, digesting, and distributing to all cells of the body the digested matter: it is here in the cell that metabolism finishes itself: sugar molecules the release of whose energy reformulates ATP from ADP (ATP = the final product to be consumed); lipids, amino-acids and nucleotides to be employed in bio-synthesis to build up the body's structures (DNA built up from nucleotides = the final product to be consumed/ used; proteins built up from amino acids = the final product to be consumed/ used; membranes built up from lipids = the final product to be consumed/ used). One sees that at this level consumption occurs inside the body of the organism, between and inside the cells in this body.

At the third level, humans apply energy to iron ores as resource, for instance, to end up with an automobile as the product to be consumed (driven). This consumption occurs outside the human (the organism's) body but inside the body of the supraorganism (cars as the agents of its circulatory system). This is of course not the whole story of supraorganismic metabolism (the auto-catalytic closure called economy), but pertains only to its structural aspect, correlative with bio-synthesis, or with those lipids, nucleotides and amino acids functioning in organismic metabolism as the organism's structural components. Then humans apply energy to fossil fuel (from extraction through purification to combustion in the car's engine, the energy applied being either their own bodily energy or the energy they have captured from nature and imbued into the resource of fossil oil via machinery), and release the energy stored therein during the past 500 million years -- this energy is the product to be consumed. In this case the consumption process, outside the human body but inside the structural components of the supraorganism, is analogous to the consumption of sugar molecules on the second level: it has the purpose of providing energy for the running of the bodily parts (cars) of the supraorganism, just as sugar molecules provide energy via ATP for the operation of proteins (enzymes) built up by bio-synthesis. (This discussion is an elaboration of the ideas of John Vandermeer in his Reconstructing Biology.)

This energy-release of the third level is much more powerful than its correlative at the second level, as John Vandermeer has noted in his Reconstructing Biology. It was initiated by Homo habilis around two million years ago in Africa. Their discovery of fire thus marks the point de départ of the third level in this local region of the Universe, in the Solar System. Not only was the energy released by Homo habilis through the burning of wood consumed outside their body -- but within the supraorganism (premature at this moment) as one of its catalytic events, like a single instance of catalysis carried out by an enzyme in the body of an organism -- but the whole process (burning) released in an instant the energy which it had required of the tree 30 years to accumulate (p. 81). "The ability to rapidly release stored energy from biological material outside of the body was a human development that was unparalleled in any other species" (p. 81; emphasis added).

A third contrast between the third level and the second is this. The third level, the economy of the supraorganism, uses also biological energy for the running of its structural parts, just as does the second level, the bio-sphere of organisms: energy stored in the chemical bonds between carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, united in organic compound; and which energy is released through the breaking of these bonds. Even the method of release (of breaking the bonds) remains the same for both levels: oxidation. However, the oxidation release occurs at a much faster rate on the third level than on the second, through, first, the burning of coal, and then of fossil fuel. The release of energy at the second level, respiration within cells, is a much slower form of "burning." The release of energy within the supraorganism to power its structural parts is causing the crisis of global environmental degradation because it releases too much too soon: there is a price to pay for the supraorganism's more powerful release of energy from biological material than that of organisms' on the second level. We are talking about the modern phase of supraorganism's metabolism, the phase that started 500 years ago and is termed the "hydrocarbon age." This modern phase of supraorganismic metabolism consists of two sub-phases, first the age of coal and then the age of petroleum. This is how it works. During the tens of millions of years of the Carboniferous period some 300 million years ago, the overabundant trees were buried too soon to be decomposed by decomposers which would otherwise have returned their carbon content (C-H-O) into the atmosphere. This carbon content, with its weaker C-H-O bonds trimmed away during hundreds of million of years of compression, became a more concentrated energy repository and far more susceptible of energy-release (burning) than the simple wood. This repository was coal. Then in 1500s, when a new supraorganismic metabolic phase was initiated in that particular supraorganism named England, an energy crisis occurred there, due to the excessively rapid deforestation for energy-input. (The old energy-release method, the burning of wood, first begun by Homo erectus, was evidently no longer sufficient for this new type of supraorganismic metabolism that was growing in England at the time: the rate of consumption exceeded by a large measure the rate of replacement of trees.) The English supraorganism turned to coal and in this way, after the adoption of this method by all the European and then global supraorganisms, the carbon content that had been removed from the atmosphere was suddenly released back into it in 400 years. The situation worsened as the modern supraorganismic metabolism entered its second sub-phase, the age of petroleum. It works like this. For almost 500 million years some animal organisms had always been buried without going through the work of decomposers which would have recycled their carbon content back into the atmosphere. In this way they carried the carbons in them with them to underground, resulting in the atmosphere's perpetually losing carbons. Or some buffalo dung was buried without the decomposers having a chance to "break it down" and return its carbon content back to the atmosphere. Or small organisms in the ocean died and sank to the bottom, escaping recycling by decomposers and accumulating into large reservoirs. The annual loss of carbon by the atmosphere (by its carbon cycle) may be on the order of 1/1000 of 1%. (Reconstructing Biology, p. 209) This small amount adds up through hundreds of million of years. For example, all of the limestone formations around the globe represent the very slow removal of carbon from the atmosphere through the formation of calcium carbonate skeletons of marine organisms. (ibid.) These large underground reservoirs of carbon content, with its weaker portions also trimmed away to become highly concentrated, formed today's oil reservoirs. When the supraorganism, beginning with the twentieth century, with the age of petroleum, derives its energy from the extremely rapid oxidation of C-H-O called the burning of fossil fuels, it is releasing back into the atmosphere, in 100 years of its fuel-using existence, all the carbon that, as organisms buried too soon, escaped recycling back into the atmosphere and remained absent therein in the past 500 million years (ibid, p. 210). The atmosphere and the biosphere therein cannot possibly adjust themselves to this return of carbon 5 million times more rapid than its departure. As the human Corm/ supraorganism changes the atmospheric composition too rapidly, it will kill itself off with the waste, the by-product of its metabolism, this time carbon, just as the organisms, cyanobacteria, nearly did 1500 million years ago, that time with oxygen as their metabolic by-product.

This is the contemporary situation, "Global Warming". Since the beginning of the twentieth century human supraorganism has been using fossil fuel (in the form of gasoline) as the source of energy for its structural parts: automobiles, electronic apparatus which use electricity derived from the burning of fossil fuel, etc. Before the twentieth century and after the 1500s, during the first phase of modern supraorganismic metabolism (the first phase of hydrocarbon age), the main source of energy for human supraorganism was coal, which, in its later uses, powered the steam engine that propelled many of the supraorganism's important functionings (trains, ships, loom, etc.). Burning (and the release of carbon stored in dead organisms back into the atmosphere) has always been a major energy source for human supraorganism ever since the beginning, but the rate of burning has been progressively and eventually exponentially increasing in proportion to the "advancement" of the formation of supraorganism -- the supraorganism is then progressively being threatened by its own metabolic waste product. (For the transition from the age of coal to the age of oil, c.f. Vandermeer, p. 240 - 254.)

2. The Progressive Bildung of Open Dissipative Structure

At this point let us recall the time line of the Universe we have laid down in "The Layered Structure of the Universe".

We distinguish here three levels of dissipation, which correspond to the Multiple 1, 2 and 3 on our time line of the Universe. The transition from Person to Corm -- from multicellular open dissipative structure to supraorganismic open dissipative structure -- is occurring on the border between Multiple 2 and Multiple 3.

The history of humanity that we have just reviewed in our thermodynamic interpretation of history is thus the second stage drama in the history of the progressive Bildung (formation: building) of open dissipative structure by the Universe, which itself constitutes that part of the history of the Universe (in five stages: radiation-predominance, matter-predominance, geosphere, biosphere, noosphere) running from phase 4 (bio-sphere) to phase 5 (noo-sphere), these two phases together constituting the history of non-linear thermodynamic dissipation in the Universe.

When we said that starting from phase 4 (biosphere) the Universe starts doubling itself by becoming reflexive and reproducing itself, we were implying that starting here the Universe starts a process, in some of its regions, of closing itself off from itself and therefore setting itself against itself. For an organism, whether single-celled or multi-celled, is a region of the Universe itself, but this region is closed off from the rest of the Universe and set, so to speak, in opposition to that rest. Such self-closure is the fundamental structure of life, i.e. chemo-autocatalytic closure. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called this closure "corpuscle", which is the essence of the complexification of the Universe: "while organically limited in its contours so far as its own existence is concerned it also, at certain higher levels of internal complexity, manifests strictly autonomous phenomena"; and "it is indefinitely extensible from within". (Man's Place in Nature, p. 20) This closure, as the complexification of the Universe, is furthermore self-reproducing, and in this way is able to build its complexity continuously through "evolution", through adding more complexity throughout generations. At the first level of dissipation, at Multiple 1:

Quelles que doivent se révéler demain les modalités... de la formation des atomes, celle-ci présente en tout cas, par rapport aux choses de la Vie, un caractère différentiel... l'absence de lignées (ou phyla) véritables. Qu'ils se forment d'un seul coup, ou en plusieurs phases, les atomes, au cours de leur histoire, ne subissent (même en mettant les choses au mieux) que des 'ontogénèses'. Plus ou moins lentement, chacun d'eux finalement ne naît que pour soi seul -- sans rien transmettre. (La Place de l'Homme dans la Nature, p. 33)

Whatever modalities of the formation of atoms may be revealed tomorrow, these, as compared with things of Life, present a very different character... [i.e.] the absence of real lineages or phyla. Whether they are formed in one instant, or in several phases, the atoms, in the course of their history, undergo only ontogenesis -- even if making things better. More or less slowly, each of them in the end is born only for itself, without transmitting down anything.

At the second level, Multiple 2:

L'essence de la vraie complexité corpusculaire... est de s'exprimer... en groupements unitaires fermés sur eux-mêmes. Or il est deux façons différentes de concevoir pareils système clos -- suivant qu'ils se trouvent définitivement arrêtés sur soi (cas d'une molécule d'eau ou de benzine) -- ou bien au contraire qu'ils se montrent capables de modifier leur composition, c'est-à-dire leur complexité, sans se défaire (cas de la cellule, tout justement)... la complexité pouvant continuer à augmenter... sans rupture de la particule" (Ibid., p. 37 - 8)

Mais, à la différence de ce qui se passait auparavant, ces corpuscules ne se construisent et ne subsistent plus que sérialement, additivement à la faveur les uns des autres, -- comme une file et une trajectoire, -- en porte-à-faux les uns sur les autres, -- vers un achèvement pas encore atteint... l'invention et les développements de la Phylogénèse! (Ibid., p. 39)

The essence of the true corpuscular complexity... is its self-expression in unitary groupings closed up upon themselves. Now there are two different ways of conceiving such closed systems -- according to whether they are definitively arrested in themselves (the case of water molecule or benzene), or whether, on the contrary, they show themselves to be capable of modifying their composition, that is to say their complexity, without compromising themselves (the cellular case)... [here] complexity can continue to increase without rupturing the particle.

But in contrast with what went on before, these corpuscules only construct themselves and subsist serially, additively one in favor of the other, like a thread or a trajectory, overhanging one on the other, until a perfection not yet attained... [This is] the invention and developments of the Phylogenesis!

When Chardin wrote these words, Schrödinger had already shown the non-contradictoriness between the complexification of the Universe and the second law of thermodynamics. But because the necessary relationship between the two sides (which we have reviewed in Chapter 1) was not yet known, Chardin had to constantly try to purge complexification of its (still) unlikelihood (though no longer contradiction by the second law) and emphasize the two-trend-ness of the Universe: regressive trend, i.e. entropy-increase, and progressive trend, the constructiveness of complexification.

Abondonnée à soi... une partie de l'étoffe cosmique, non seulement ne se désagrège pas, mais encore, par une sorte de fleur d'elle-même, elle se met à vitaliser. Si bien que, en plus de l'Entropie... en plus de l'Expansion... en plus des attractions électriques et gravitiques (par quoi s'agglomère la poussière sidérale), force nous est désormais... de considérer et d'admettre, animant la masse totale des Choses, un courant constant, pérenne, de "complexification intériorisante". (Ibid., p. 41)

Abandoned to itself, a piece of cosmic stuff not only does not disperse, but, in the manner of self-flowering, it starts to vitalize. So much so that, the more there is entropy, the more the Universe expands, the more there are attractions electric and gravitational (by which the sidereal dust conglomerates)... the more we must consider and admit a constant and perennial current of interiorizing complexification which animates the total mass of things.

Today we know, of course, that complexification is simply the natural consequence of entropy-increase, that order is merely another aspect of disorder. Complexification of the Universe is no longer a strange phenomenon amidst its disintegration by which we may be puzzled.

"... un Univers qui, d'un seul bloc, du haut en bas, s'enroulerait sur lui-même, jusqu'à s'intérioriser, dans une croissante complexité" (Ibid., p. 40. "A Universe which, in its totality and from its highest to its lowest, involutes upon itself [turns upon itself] in increasing complexity, until its interiorization."). That is, within the animal kingdom, the Universe's self-reproducing, complexifying involution eventually reached a higher level (so three levels above dead matter), when a certain region of the organism itself involuted and closed up upon itself to generate consciousness: at first the sensual awareness of the animals (sensory informational closure) and then the symbolic awareness of human beings (symbolic informational closure, i.e. the closure of "thoughts"). Here the Universe has completed its closing-off of itself in certain of its regions from itself and thereby its setting of itself against itself: it is reflexive, conscious of itself. "L'homme: ce sur quoi, et en quoi, l'Univers s'enroule." (Ibid., p. 45. "Man, that on which, and in which, the Universe involutes [turns upon itself].")

Since the rise of the first traces of consciousness in the animal kingdom over 500 million years ago, since the beginning of the reflexivity of the Universe, the fundamental truth of the Universe, as embodied in the laws of thermodynamics, has been entering into this consciousness -- especially important here is the first law of thermodynamics -- to become a hidden memory, until the Awakening (Wachsein) by the Homo sapiens sapiens, who, by attempting to recall the hidden memory of the first law, have been able to arrive at the truth of the Universe (the truth of existence), simply by Logic (Logos), in the enlightenment traditions of philosophy and religions. This recall is also their attempt to negate, with the memory of the first law, the horrible affairs of disintegration and meaningless consumption and defecation ordained by the second law: salvation -- or so they think. This is the spiritual meaning of life, a tangential development in the formation of open dissipative structures called life, and this is the topic of part two of this book. Thus, with better knowledge about the implication of the second law of thermodynamics, we must disagree with Chardin and assert that the goal of the Universe's complexification and involution is not its self-consciousness manifested as the spirituality of humanity, but its self-consciousness as an additional (dissipative) feature of the open dissipative structure and at the same time, tangentially, as that precious spirituality.

We shall present a short overview of the progressive formation (Bildung) of open dissipative structures on earth, that is, of the history of life, from single cell organisms (plastid) through multicellular organisms (person) to supraorganisms (corm).

The terminology is from Ernst Haeckel. (The following is based on his Allgemeine Anatomie der Organismen, Berlin, 1866.) He distinguished six organismic levels: (1) Plastide (cell); (2) Organe (cell fusion, homoplastic organ, tissue, heteroplastic organ [organ in the narrow sense], organ-system, and organ apparatus [e.g. for self-maintenance: eating-digesting-defecating; for reproduction, for relating to the external world (Beziehungen zur Ausserwelt)]); (3) Antimere (body segments side by side); (4) Metamere (body segments one after the other); (5) Person (multicellular organism in the proper sense); (6) Corm (colonial formation from multicellular organisms, to which belongs our supraorganism such as human social collective). For our purpose, only Plastide, Person, and Corm of this complicated hierarchical scheme are relevant, Organe, Antimere, and Metamere being assimilated into Person as simply multicellular forms. His hierarchy roughly, but not exactly, corresponds to contemporary biologists' hierarchy of organismic structure, which is: (1) cellular (e.g. a cell of the heart of a zebra); (2) tissue (e.g. the muscle tissue of that heart; various types of tissue in animals are epithelia, covering and lining the body and its parts; connective, binding and supporting other tissues; muscle tissues; nervous tissues forming communication network); (3) organ (e.g. the heart); (4) organ system (e.g. cardiovascular system); (5) organism (the co-operative of many organ systems, such as the zebra itself). In contrast, Haeckel's organismic stages actually correspond to real living, fully mature organisms of a species, what he called the "actuelles Bion": "Dieser Grad [höchst Grad morphologischer Individualität = actuelles Bion] is für jede organische Species ein bestimmter. Es ist also z. B. das actualle Bion bei den Phanerogamen ein morphologisches Individuum sechster, bei den Wirbelthieren fünfter, bei den meisten Mollusken vierter, bein den Spongien (?) dritter, bein den Volvocinen zweiter, bei den einzelligen Algen ester Ordnung." (Ibid., p. 534.) Furthermore, in Haeckel's view, a developing embryo (such as a human embryo) also goes through these stages of his in the process of "ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny", from the fertilized egg (Plastid) through the intermediate embryonic stages to the baby ready to be born (Person);1 the embryonic stages are what he called "virtuelle Bion", Bion with the potential to (but not yet) reach actual Bion.

While Haeckel's philosophical biological thinking has faded out within the century and a half of enormous growth of knowledge of evolution, our specific purpose in reviving his terminology is precisely the Romanticistic philosophical nature of his thinking on evolution, in particular his assimilation of the social collective of organisms within the hierarchy of organismic levels: i.e. the Corm (sometimes referred to as Stöck).

Examples of Corm in the plant kingdom:

Als die Grossartigsten aller physiologischen Individuen müssen wir aber die Manglebäume (Rhizophora) und die indischen Feigenbaeume (Ficus indica) betrachten, bei welchen durch bleibenden Zusammenhang zahlreicher zusammengesetzter Stöcke, die aus einem einzigen hervorgehen, diese alle zusammen ein einziges Bion darstellen, oft unter der Form eines ganzes Waldes. Die colossalen Stämme und Krone dieser Riesenbäume lassen as höchst zusammengesetzte Stöcke an Volum und Masse Alles weit hinter sich, was je einzelne Personen (z. B. Walfische) leisten können. In dieser Beziehung zeigt sich die höhere physiologische Ausbildungsstufe, welche durch Zusammensetzung der Personen zu Cormen erreicht wird, sehr deutlich. (Ibid., p. 362-3)

We must consider, as the biggest of all physiological individuals, the Mangrove (Rhizophora) and the Indian figs (Ficus indica), among which, through the persisting collective of a number of stocks growing together -- which arise from single [Persons ?] -- all these together constitute a single Bion [roughly the minimal survivable unit of life], often in the form of an entire forest. The colossal stems and crowns of these gigantic trees surpass, as the greatest composite stocks in terms of volume and mass, all other living masses which single Persons (e.g. whales) are able to constitute. In this connection we see clearly the higher stage of physiological formation which is reached through the combination of Persons into Corms.

Examples in the animal kingdom: "Doch uebertreffen auch hier die echten stockbildenden Formen durch colossale Massenentwickelung bei weiten alle einzelnen Personen, wie schon die Anthozoen-Stoecke der Sudsee zeigen, die ungeheuren inselbildenden Corallen-Riffe." (Ibid. "Here also the true stock-formation formed through gigantic mass-evolving surpasses all single Persons, as shown by the Anthozoen stock of the South Sea, or the immense insular formation of coral-reefs.")

Instead of the formation of Bion -- roughly the minimal survivable unit of life -- out of the symbiosis among a colony of plant-like, immobile organisms -- to offset the disadvantage of immobility -- the mobile animals form supraorganism in a particular way:

Der quantitative Nachteil, den die physiologische Individualitaet der hoeheren Thierre durch mangelnde Stockbildung erleidet, wird aber aufgewogen, ja weit ueberwogen durch den qualitativen Vorteil der freieren Beweglichkeit der Personen, welche bei allen hoeheren Thieren als actuelle Bioten fungieren. Ausserdem tritt dann hier noch an die Stelle der gebundenen Stockbildung die freiere Gemeinden- und Staat-Bildung. Die Arbeitstheilung entwickelt sich hier in nicht minderen Mass als dort, und die nothwendige Wechselwirkung der thierische Personen, die in Heerden, Familien, Gemeinden, Staaten beisammen leben, is nicht weniger innig, als diejenige, welche zwischen Personen eines und desselben Stockes stattfinden muss. Der einzige Unterschied ist, dass hier ein materielles und continuirliches, dort ein ideelles und contiguirliches Band die Vielheit der Personen zur Einheit der Gemeinde zusammenhaelt. Wenn wir demgemaess auch die freien Staaten der Menschen und der anderen hoecheren Thieren niemals als morphologische Individualitaeten auffassen koennen, so werden sie dennoch als actuelle Bioten in weiterem Sinne zu betrachten sein. Die mehr order minder innigen Vereinigungen von vielen Personen, welche die actuelle physiologische Individualitaet der Gemeinde und des Staates bilden, sind bisher nicht naeher von tectologischen Standpunkte aus als ideele Aequivalente der Cormen, der Form-Individuen sechster Ordnung, untersucht worden. Die Bildungs-Gesetze sind hier wie dort dieselben. Die Staaten der Menschen sind ebenso wie diejenigen der anderen Thiere nach den Gesetzen der Aggregation und des Polymorphismus gebildet. Auch die vershiedenen Staatsformen wiederholen sich bei den verschiedensten Thiergruppen. Viele Thiere namentlich Arthropoden, und unter diesen besonders die Ameisen, uebertreffen viele menschliche Staaten durch die reine Entwicklung der republicanischen Staatsform, der hoechsten und vollkommensten Synusie, welche groesste Freiheit mit vernuenftigsten Einheit verbindet. (Ibid., p. 362 -3)

The quantitative disadvantage, which the physiological individuality of the higher animals suffers because of the lack of stock-formation, is balanced, or in fact, outweighed by the qualitative advantage of the free mobility of the Persons, which among the higher animals function as the actual Bions. Here instead of the composite formation of stock, we have the free formation of community and society [Staat]. The division of labor evolves here in no less measure as there, and the necessary interactions among the animal Persons, which subsist together in herds, families, communities, and states, are no less profound than those which happen between Persons of one and the same stock. The only difference is that here a material and continuous binding, and there an ideal and contiguous binding, is at work to maintain the many Persons together within the oneness of the community. If we accordingly can never conceive the free societies of men and the communities of other higher animals as morphological individuals, still these must be considered as actual Bions in the wider sense. The more or less profound unification of many Persons, which thus forms the actual physiological individuality of communities and societies, has until now not been studied closely from the tectological standpoint as the ideal equivalent of the Corm, of the form-individual of the sixth order. The laws governing the formation here is the same as there. The societies of men are formed, just like the communities of other animals, according to the laws of aggregation and polymorphism. Also, the various forms of the collective are found repeated among the most varying groups of animals. Many animals, namely the Arthropods, and within these the ants in particular, surpass many human societies by their pure and simple evolving of a social collective of the republican form, which is the highest and most complete form of unity [Synusie], and which combines the highest degree of freedom with the most principled [vernünftigsten] unity.

Two points: first, human social collective can roughly be considered a "Bion" in that although it is possible for an individual human being to survive outside of any human collective -- as attested to by, for example, the wild child found outside Paris in the late 1800s -- much of the human functioning of the person would be lost: he or she would not possess the ability to speak a language, would not be able to engage in abstract, symbolic thought, etc. (See John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmary's comment for the level of Corm in the next chapter.) Second, the supraorganism formed by the arthropods, such as ants, is not equivalent to human social collective insofar as no "function" in the narrow sense, i.e. no emergent property of any sort, emerges from it. The material base or internal structure of the human supraorganism (the network that regulates human interactions, e.g. marriage laws, moieties, kinship, etc. for a primitive tribe) evolves or complexifies through time (e.g. the break down of tribal and extended family system in favor of mass government and institutions of the modern nation state): it has a "history" -- and moreover an autonomous history of its own not reducible to the sum histories of its human constituents -- that is not found in arthropod social collectives; this autonomous evolution of the supraorganism in its material base has been the preceding object of study in our thermodynamic interpretation of history. Nor do we find among the Arthropod collectives a "culture" -- the function of the material base of the supraorganism -- a symbolic system that has its own channels of consumption and defecation which are different than any preceding biological channels of whatever level of corm or person (e.g. the market of movies, music, art, etc.) -- consumption of ideas -- not to mention that a tangential development of spiritual awakening may arise from this symbolic system. The next level of the complexification of the Universe -- the Noo-sphere -- is the function of human corm and not of Arthropod corm or any other. And this noo-sphere, or the "cultures" that comprise it, have a life of their own and follow their own evolution, outside of human control. The most visible example here is language. Language clearly has a history of its own; it changes outside the human will and according to its own rules which have been discovered by historical linguistics -- in terms of the laws governing sound-change and in terms of its morphology, i.e. that an agglutinational language always changes toward inflectional which changes towards isolating which changes back toward agglutinational again and so on. (Hence language is said to "change" and not "evolve" because its "evolution" is of a circular nature.) The history of the symbolic system which this language expresses, on the other hand, is really the history of the evolution of consciousness. This symbolic system, always evolving in a certain way in whatever civilizations, will give the impression of a "morphology of history". Hence Oswald Spengler's "Decline of the West" (Der Untergang des Abendlandes). But this morphology is in fact erroneous, illusory, its regular way of evolving across different civilizations being merely the effect of the underlying evolution of consciousness and social organization which universally follows the same trend because the trend is set by logic itself. The regular way of the history of human symbolic system, together with the effect of the growth of human supraorganism upon the behavior of individual human persons -- which also tends to be constant across cultures -- are what Spengler erroneously took to be the natural, organic life-cycle of every culture. We will take up this theme at the end of part two (Scientific Enlightenment), after we have traced the evolution of consciousness. Suffices it to say here that the human collective is truly a supraorganism that is more than the sum of its parts. On the other hand, Haeckel's comment that the Arthropod society exceeds the human one in degree of integration may be quite justified, although our preceding analysis has shown that the human collective is catching up fast. But whether among Arthropods or among humans, there is not much issue about the increase of freedom within the context of the growth of the social whole, as we have discussed. The only thing constant in the growth of supraorganism is the power of the collective over the individual constituents. Haeckel evidently inherits the Hegelian history which is the increase of freedom even while the social collective grows, and this specific liberal legacy from the Enlightenment period is strictly an ideological smoke screen generated by power to deceive.


1. "Dieser Grad [i.e. virtuelles Bion] ist zu verschiedenen Zeiten, in verschiedenen Stadien oder Perioden der individuellen Entwickelung ein verschiedener. Es ist also z. B. beim Menschen und bei den Wirbelthieren überhaupt das virtuelle Bion zuerst ein morphologisches Individuum erster (Ei), dann zweiter (Blastoderma), dann dritter (Embryonal - Anlage ohne Primitivstreif), dann vierter (Embryo mit Primitivstreif), dann endlich fünfter Ordnung (Embryo mit Primitivrinne und Urwirbelkette). Bei den Anthozoen, welche Stöcke bilden, z. B. den Astraeiden, ist das virtuelle Bion im ersten Stadium der Entwickelung (als einfaches Ei) ein morphologisches Individiuum erster, dann (als kugeliger Zellenhaufen) zweiter, dann (als protaxonier, noch nicht diradiirter Köper) dritter, darauf (als diradiirter Köper mit sechs Antimeren) vierter, dann (als Polyp mit gegliederter Hauptaxe, nachdem die horizontalen Böden, Tabulae, ausgebildet sind) fünfter, endlich (nachdem die Stockbildung durch Theilung oder Knospenbildung begonnen hat) sechster Ordnung." (Ibid. p. 334)

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