Metaevolution in symmetry breaks

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note: The following text and diagram is from From Erich Jantsch - The The Self-organizing Universe, pp.222-227

Eventually the following text will be split up and the diagram made interactive (making it more managable)

"The history of universal evolution may be described in terms of symmetry breaks.... Each symmetry break unfurls a new space-time continuum for the self-organization of structures. Each new kind of symmetry break, however, also implies the transition to a new level of evolutionary processes and thus self-transcendence of evolution in meta-evolution. The symmetry breaks may be interpreted as alternating breaks of temporal and spatial symmetries.

In cosmic evolution, this is not so clearly evident...Nevertheless, some of these symmetry breaks are not difficult to recognize at the macrobranch of cosmic evolution. The big bang established an expansion of the universe which, for our purposes, may be regarded as irreversible. Thus, a temporal symmetry between the past and the future is broken.  The origin of matter from an excess over antimatter breaks a temporal as well as spatial symmetry. The condensation of macrostructures in a multilevel hierarchy breaks the macroscopic spatial symmetry of the originally homogeneous universe. And with the appearance of stars, a further time symmetry is broken, perhaps already with galaxies. Individual evolution commences. The energy generation in the transformation processes of matter has a beginning and an end and runs through a specific sequence of qualitatively different phases.

In a process paradigm, even the microevolution of subatomic particles may be understood as some sort of endosymbiosis between sets of systemic properties which Bastin and Noyes (1979) call Schnurs, suggesting concatenating strings. A meta-evolutionary hierarchy emerges in a similar way as it does in the microevolution of life through endosymbiosis of prokaryotes to form eukaryotes and of eukaryotes to form multicellular organisms. Bastin and Noyes obtain a combinatorial hierarchy in which the number of possible states at each level increases according to the sequence 3, 7, 127, 2127-11038, which looks like a striking illustration to the creative hierarchy evoked in Lao Tzu's Tao Teh Ching:

Tao gave birth to One,
One gave birth to Two,
Two gave birth to Three,
Three gave birth to all the myriad things.

Bastin and Noycs (1979) interpret the first level as expressing the three absolute conservative laws (baryon number, lepton number and charge in the universe), the second level as pertaining to the quantum states of baryons and the third as referring to baryon-lepton interactions, whereas the fourth level would indicate a wealth of possible unstable configurations. But they also recognize in the numerical sequence the inverse of the superstrong, strong, electromagnetic and gravitaiional coupling constants, so that the symmetry breaks in the transitions from one level of the hierarchy to another would refer to the unfurling of the physical forces, setting the space-time stage for cosmic evolution.

Fig. 43. Schematic representation of the coevolution of evolutionary process levels in the sociobiological and sociocultural phases of evolution. Each transition between two levels of autopoietic existence is marked by a specific break of spatial or temporal symmetry. For the explanation of the dynamics see Figs. 41 and 42. Framed fields indicate autopoietic system levels

This kind of consideration, however, becomes much more interesting when it is applied to the history of life on earth. Figure 43 attempts to present a rough sketch of some of the basic aspects of evolution from the biochemical biospheric to the sociocultural phase. The macrobranch of co-evolution is autopoietically structured at least since the emergence of the Gaia system. It is interesting that the first differentiation of the solidifying earth surface may be meaningfully described with the four elements of Greek natural philosophy, earth, water, air and fire (the lightning which was so important for starting chemical evolution as predecessor of biochemical evolution). Ecosystems, in the true sense of a web of vital relations, appear only with heterotrophy. Social systems soon start to structure themselves in hierarchical ways. This becomes an important feature of insect societies The recently discovered colony of red forest ants in the Swiss canton of Vaud, the largest known in the world, has a population of 200 to 300 million insects, but is subdivided into 1200 ant hills which extend almost over one square kilometre. And colonies, too, seem to be connected in space and time. With mammals, the hierarchy ranges from species and regional populations to kinship groups and core families. African elephants, for example, appear primarily in matriarchally organized kinship groups (Douglas-Hamilton, 1975) which, in turn, form groups of hundreds and thousands of animals.    The transfer of functional ecological information along the macrobranch of evolution assigns a special role to the holistic system's intuition in the transition to new autopoietic levels. Since information, generally, is not consevatively stored at the macrobranch, the systemic memories of the macrosystems are the principal links in an evolutionary learning process.  A sociobiological system, or a niche, which differentiates out of a more comprehensive ecosystem, orients itself according to the total structure of dynamic relations within which it sets out to establish its autonomy. Self-consistency, the principle ruling subatomic particles, also reigns here. The macroevolution of life is determined in essential aspects by the development of higher complexity along the microevolutionary branch. Its role is primarily a balancing one whereas microevolution plays a more innovative and outreaching role on the basis of conservatively transmitted complexity.

Along the microbranch it is not so evident which are the true autopoietic units forming distinct levels of existence. Organs, for example, are not autopoietic but are, with others, specialists in the service of the organism as a whole. The frequently cited hierarchy cell-organ-organism would be misleading here. However, there are many intermediary steps of autopoietic systems which are co-ordinated in the framework of the organism; they do not appear independently and have not become integrated by symbiosis, but originated in the hierarchical differentiation of complex organisms. The hypercycles of the Eigen type did appear independently but they still belong to the level of dissipative structrues.  A sharp transition between these levels cannot be identified so easily and may not have occurred at all.

At each level of autopoietic existence (emphasized by a frame in Fig. 43) there is a holistic criterion-or perhaps more than one-for the self-determination of the system with regard to its stability in the presence of fluctuations and thus to the space-time structure which it chooses. Some of these criteria are tentatively indicated in the scheme. A particularly important criterion is increased flexibility to cope with the unexpected. This increase is revealed not only in genetic over-determination, which in humans is about ten- or fifteen-fold the required information, but also in the emergence of an immune system which improves during the whole life-span of the organism. The human organism, for example, possesses a practically complete library of all anti-bodies which it has produced during its lifetime for defence against bacterial and viral infections. An invader (antigen) is tested by these antibodies as to its molecular form and is recognized by the antibody "in charge" (a protein molecule) whereupon a process is set in motion by which the normally acting inhibitions against the production of the specific antibody are cancelled and large numbers of the required antibodies are produced in the so-called immune reaction. In such a way the organism cannot protect itself against the novelty of a bad experience, but against its confirmation in repetition. The sequence of newly arising capabilities and optimization criteria expresses an increase in autonomy vis-a-vis the environment, and thus in consciousness. An aspect of this increasing autonomy is the already mentioned step-wise emancipation of the individual from the collective. Gregory Bateson (1972) has pointed out another aspect: evolution proceeds from the "adjusters" (for example, poikilothermic animals which adjust their body temperature to the temperature of the environment) through "regulators" (for example, homoio- thermic animals which maintain constant body temperature) to "extra- regulators" (for example, humans with their capability of creating an artificial environment in the form of heated or cooled shelters). The earliest life forms were by far the best adapted. If the meaning of evolution was in adaptation and in increasing the chances for survival, as is so often claimed, the development of more complex organisms would have been meaningless or even a mistake.  Each transition to the next higher level of microevolution involves a symmetry break. In addition to the temporal symmetry break in equilibrium thermodynamics-the past becomes distinguished from the future-the further transition to nonlinear non-equilibrium thermodynamics (dissipative structures) marks a break of spatial symmetry becoming visible in spontaneous structuration and polarization. In the evolution of a dissipative structure each instability threshold with a transition to a new structure marks the break of a further spatial symmetry. In the transition to higher levels of microevolution temporal and spatial symmetry breaks alternate. In the first pair to follow, the temporal and spatial distribution of past experience is bound in such a way that it may become effective in the present. In the next pair, the autonomy of the evolving system from its environment becomes enhanced, at first by the increasing importance of the epigenetic process and subsequently by the establishment of an autonomous inner world. In the final pair it is at first the symmetry between the processes creating the outer and the inner world which becomes broken, and then the connectedness of man with the evolving universe becomes structured in a specific way. These four pairs of symmetry-breaking processes may also be correlated with four phases of the microevolution of life: thermodynamic/chemical, biological/genetic, epigenetic and neural (sociocultural) phases.  An even more comprehensive dynanmic order in the evolution of life emerges when the steps, in Fig. 43 numbered 1 to 4, are combined into biological/metabolic evolution, steps 1' to 4', into neural/mental evolution and steps 1"...into spiritual evolution. The fourth steps always falls together with the first step of the following group. Four is the "powerful retrograde connection to the primal one"; as Marie-Louise von Franz (1974), developing C G. Jung's thoughts, has found confirmed in many mythologies.  Evolution is basically not the linear progression as is suggested by Fig. 43 for the sake of simplicity of the graphical representation. Considered from whatever angle of view, evolution is always a spiral as is Iocated in the side sketch to Fig. 43. The connectedness over time and space, the unity of evolution as a total phenomenon, thereby becomes even more sharply accentuated."

The Self-Organizing Universe - Erich JantschErich Jantsch, The Self-Organizing Universe - Scientific and Human Implications of the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution, New York: Pergamon. 1980, pp.222-227

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