2017.09.06 Third International Symposium Big History and Global Evolution Moscow, September 26–28, 2017

On September 25–29, 2017 Lomonossov Moscow State University will hold the International Congress Globalistics-2017. In the framework of this congress, the Eurasian Center for Big History & System Forecasting in collaboration with the Faculty of Global Processes at Lomonossov Moscow State University and the International Big History Association (IBHA) is organizing the 3rd International Symposium “Big History & Global Evolution”. Big History is a relatively new field of study. It is a synthesis of disciplines from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, one that seeks to explore overarching trends that stretch across all existence for 13.8 billion years, – based on the most current scholarly thinking. The definition adopted by the International Big History Association is as follows: “Big History is the attempt to understand, in a unified and interdisciplinary way, the history of the cosmos, earth, life and humanity.”

Vladimir N. Alalykin-Izvekov

Calamities in Pitrim A. Sorokin's Philosophy of History

Revolutions, wars, and other social upheavals fascinated and intrigued great scholars and thinkers of all times. One of the most remarkable thinkers to study them has been the Russian-American sociologist and philosopher Pitirim Sorokin. During his long and prolific academic career the scholar published about forty books and some five-hundred articles and essays (Johnston 1999:25; Sorokin 1991:VI), and his scholarly legacy continues to attract new followers every day.

Barry V. Johnston, the author of Sorokin’s scholarly biography, notes: “Sorokin was one of sociology’s most stimulating and controversial statesmen. In a six-decade career his works opened new fields and broadened traditional sociological concerns. Sorokin crafted major contributions to the study of social mobility, war and revolution, altruism, social change, rural sociology, the sociology of science and knowledge, and sociological theory.” (Johnston 1995: IX).

In his early works the young scholar considers social upheavals no more than giant nuisances on the path of the humanity’s inexorable progress to the social and cultural perfection. However, the ordeal of the Word War I (1914-1918), the Russian Revolution (1917), and the Russian Civil War (1917-1923) soon dramatically alters this optimistic outlook.

In the process of his continuing quest for the “Holy Grail” of sociocultural universe, the scholar proposes a concept of “cultural supersystem,” the theory of which he brilliantly and richly develops. This concept becomes a centerpiece of the thinker’s philosophy of history. From now on, according to P.A. Sorokin, history is a magnificent, if at times horrifying parade of juggernauts of “cultural supersystems,” eternally replacing each other in the process of sociocultural evolution. According to this highly original and fascinating paradigm, revolutions, wars, and other sociocultural upheavals punctuate history during the periods of change and crisis. Furthermore, they are often interconnected, triggering each other in the prolonged cycles of horrifying human suffering. Having analyzed ideas of some of the greatest philosophers of history of all times, Sorokin arrives to the conclusion that they all share a surprising and significant number of similarities.

What, then, is a possible way to alleviation of the humanity’s seemingly endless suffering? After a lengthy and careful analysis, the scholar arrives to the conclusion that the problem is essentially “systemic” in nature, in other words, periods of crisis arrive when a society is misbalanced and un-integrated. For example, during the last centuries humanity made significant strides in the fields of knowledge (Truth) and arts (Beauty), however, lags in altruistic and creative love (Goodness). As a result, the human civilization is presently in great peril.

The thinker finds the key to these eternal problems on a higher plane of human thought and endeavor by proposing a number of highly controversial and seemingly paradoxical, yet in essence eternal and universal concepts.

This presentation follows an extraordinary evolution of the Pitirim Sorokin’s views on the subject by analyzing a number of the scholar’s milestone works, published over the span of more than 50 years, such as “Crime and Punishment” (1914), “System of Sociology” (1920), “Hunger as a Factor” (1922), “Sociology of Revolution” (1925), “Contemporary Sociological Theories” (1928), “Social and Cultural Dynamics” (1937), “Man and Society in Calamity” (1942), “Society, Culture, Personality. Their Structure and Dynamics: A System of General Sociology “(1947), “The Ways and Power of Love” (1954), “Integralism – My Philosophy (1957), “Modern Historical and Social Philosophies” (1963), and “Sociological Theories of Today” (1966). In those seminal works the scholar introduces a sophisticated analytical apparatus into the sociocultural theory and research, achieving a more systemic understanding of a number of highly complex phenomena.

To help analyze the evolution of Pitirim Sorokin’s analysis of calamities, the evolution of his philosophy of history could be divided into six periods: 1) Christian-Ideational; 2) Positivistic-Behavioristic; 3) Transitional; 4) Integralistic; 5) Altruistic, and 6) Generalizing.

Ken Baskin

The Evolutionary Origins of Religion

Abstract: Religion emerged as the distinctly human version of an evolutionary survival strategy common to all living things – the need to model an environment that can never be more than partially perceived. Bats model their world with sound; dogs, largely with smell. Human beings evolved as them large-brained, language-using animals with a need for symbolic coherence. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, including neuroanthropology, complexity theory, and evolutionary and developmental biology, this paper will explore how humans model their world on explanatory stories, how those stories become the symbolic order that creates shared meaning for any society, and how that order has historically been expressed as religion. In addition, the presenter will speculate on how the cultural evolution of such religions/symbolic orders has enable human communities to grow from hunter-gatherer bands to cities Hundreds of thousands of times larger.

Craig Benjamin

A Little Big History of Private E.E. Benjamin and the First World War
E.E. Benjamin served on the Western Front during the last two years of WWI as a member of the Australian Imperial Forces, and kept handwritten diaries of his experiences. This paper examines Benjamin’s experiences from a Little Big History perspective, considering a range of factors including the cosmic processes that created the elements that were so lethal when applied to weapons technology; the industrial innovations that made conflict on this scale possible; the climatological and geological factors that contributed to the conditions on the Western Front; the political developments that led a young Australian halfway round the world to participate in this European conflict; and the psychological and social impact of these experiences on both the individual and his generation. This Little Big History treats the experiences of Private Benjamin as an example of larger historical and planetary processes during the early twentieth century.

David Blanks

The Church Scientific or La religion de l’humanité relancé
Big history, arguably, was born in opposition to religion, religion understood in a particular way, as a form of the great world religious traditions—and perhaps this is where the trouble begins, because those traditions have been manifest but for a small fraction of the time that our ancestors have walked the earth. There are many aspects to this dilemma, not least among them, that our emerging discipline has not yet attempted an analysis of the role of religion in the early formation of human consciousness and culture, nor yet looked deeply into the question of how spirituality, faith, and early religious institutions were in their own right the Goldilocks conditions necessary for sweeping, large-scale changes in cultural evolution. My focus in this paper, however, will be on the origins of the big history worldview in medieval and early modern Christianity, on the way in which its “science vs. religion” discourse has changed very little since the mid-nineteenth century, and on how scientific history, for all its insistence on objectivity, empiricism, and scholarly method, often approximates in practice and outlook the very religious traditions that it desires to overturn.

Javier Collado Ruano

Big History and Biomimicry: Learning to Co-evolve with Nature

The objective of this paper is to study the co-evolutionary processes that life has developed over billions of years in the context of “Big History”. The main intention is to identify their operational principles and strategies in order to learn how to co-evolve harmonically with nature. The most important observations show us that all forms of life are developing sustainable co-evolutionary strategies in nature since life's first appearance about 3,8 billion years ago. Biomimicry helps to integrate the sociosphere into the biosphere because it creates sustainable designs in economy, architecture, engineering, and so on. As result of discussions, those co-evolutionary operational principles of ecosystem cooperation must be bio-mimetically copied, emulated, and improved to reduce ecological footprint. In conclusion, biomimicry finds in Big History a perfect theoretical model to understand how humanity must co-evolve in harmony with nature.

Keywords: Big History; Biomimicry; Nature; Co-evolution; Education for Sustainable Development.

Gelis-Filho, Antonio

Geoculture: The Symbolic Aspects of World-Systemic Transitions

Geoculture is one of the fundamental concepts in Wallerstein’s world-systems analysis framework. In spite of that, it has been relatively less explored than other concepts.

In this paper, I explore the nature of geoculture as a fundamental aspect of any world-system, and how knowledge about it has become even more important in our current times.

In a period of crisis in the hegemonic structure of the Western world-system, the symbolic aspects of hegemony become crucial. In order to command legitimacy from the semiperipheral and peripheral areas of the world-system, the core must exert its power also at a symbolic-psychological level. And it is exactly at that level that the corrosion of hegemonic Western power is now more visible than at any time since perhaps the end of WWII. Understandably, that is also one of the hardest fought spaces in the current "phony cold war" moment. The consequences of further erosion on the West's symbolic hegemony has the potential to unleash processes that could accelerate the transition, revert it or de-stabilize the system. Understanding the importance of the symbolic-psychological space is therefore vital.

I proceed in this paper as follows: first, I present Wallerstein's concept of geoculture, arguing that his definition takes a single species for the whole genus: geoculture, unlike his belief, is essential to any world-system, and not only to the Western one. I also present evidence to the fact that geocultural phenomena are particularly critical during transitions. Then I proceed to analyze how the weakening of the geoculture is an important aspect of the current turmoil in the semiperiphery and the periphery of the system. Finally, I present some scenarios for the unfolding of the current crisis of confidence in the world-system, from a semiperipheral perspective.

Lowell Gustafson

Science and Politics
To better care for global ecology and sustain global development, universities need to lead a project of universal education. This entails three aspects. The first is an educational curriculum that will permit students to understand what is known now about the development of our known universe and how the origins and development of Earth, life, and humanity fit into this universal narrative. Key objectives of the curriculum will include how life and humanity depend on global ecology and strategies for sustainable development. The second aspect is to integrate all the disciplines that contribute and make possible universal studies. This requires that faculty throughout the university and university administrators understand and support the goals of the curriculum. The third aspect is to actively seek the participation and contribution to this educational project by faculty and students from universities throughout the globe.

Johanna Hookes

Agroecology versus Agribusiness for Sustainable Food Production

This paper addresses the following question: Can the world’s nutritional needs be met by a sustainable food system, that is, one that simultaneously protects the environment from pollution, prevents loss of biodiversity, and reduces carbon emissions so as to stabilise the climate?

The relationship is explored between climate change, environmental pollution, and our present dominant system of industrial food production of agribusiness. The latter is heavily dependent on external inputs such as energy from fossil fuels, heavy mechanization, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and genetically modified hybrid seeds. This industrial farming system currently delivers bulk supplies of food to consumers but with a colossal wastage before getting to market - up to one third of production! There is now sufficient evidence to critically examine the robustness of this Big Business approach to meeting nutritional needs of people and caring for the planet. The agribusiness model is examined to see if it can play a significant role in meeting the need for an efficient, sustainable food system required for the estimated 9 billion population predicted by 2050.

The industrial food production system – initially developed in USA to bring plentiful and cheap food to the populations of large cities – is now being promoted as the solution to Africa and Asia’s food production challenges, with some very influential people such as Bill Gates and very powerful transnational companies such as Monsanto having the attention of policy makers worldwide.

However, many environmental scientists, agronomists, social scientists, aid and development organisations see Big Food Operations as Big polluters. They say that they are a major contributor to the climate destabilisation, poverty and environmental problems, particularly loss of biodiversity. They look to an alternative, less environmentally stressful, food production system practiced by small farmers the world over with a lot less dependence on external inputs. For instance, farmers save and share their own best of seeds for next year’s planting rather than buying them from agribusiness suppliers. This alternative system is called the AGROECOLOGY model of working with nature, making use of appropriate sustainable technology such as solar energy, with local small farmers and trained agroecologists working together. The evidence is considered as to whether agroecological farming methods can provide an efficient way of producing enough food to satisfy local community needs and, when scaled up using renewable energy inputs, meet the requirements of a healthy population of a healthy planet as whole.

Having analyzed the benefits of this low carbon input agricultural system it is concluded that agroecology can indeed be the alternative, robust and sustainable system that will reduce carbon emissions, protect the environment from chemical pollution and maintain biodiversity. But it will need the will of governments to act to stop subsidizing agribusiness whose huge operations are no longer sustainable for people and planet. It is concluded only when we can arrive at a Sane, Humane, and Ecological (SHE) vision of future rather than a Hyper-Expansionist (HE) one, will the temperature increase of the planet’s atmosphere remain below 20C as agreed to by 196 countries at the Paris climate summit in December 2015.

David Hookes

The Second Solar-Digital Revolution.

To survive as a species on this planet, to prevent the possibility of the earth becoming a dead planet though run-away global warming, then we need to have a second solar-digital revolution. The first solar-digital revolution was the beginning of the evolution of complex life itself. It was only possible for life to evolve beyond a very primitive level of bacteria and archaea when it had developed a solar energy source that could be linked to an existing quaternary digital system (qDS), that is, the genetic code. The latter was necessary to control the release of this energy and to pass on adaptation to environmental changes to the next generation. Life at its origin probably derived its energy from the naturally occurring proton gradients, from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, in alkaline thermal vents on the ocean floor. Once the cyanobacteria developed photosynthesis to capture solar energy, with the concomitant creation of an oxygen-rich atmosphere, it was possible for evolution to ‘take-off’. Solar-derived oxygen then provided an immediate rich source of energy from respiration. For evolution of life on the planet to continue we must replace fossil energy by renewable largely solar energy- in a sense a return to our evolutionary origins. Binary digital systems (bDS) technologies will enable the integration of the different intermittent sources of solar energy, store it, possibly, as hydrogen, and then control its release. This bDS technology will also allow the development and integration of a new socio-economic system driven by this new energy source. For instance, the second solar-digital revolution will also make possible the replacement of the present unsustainable industrial food system (agribusiness) by one based on agroecology. The bDS will also allow for a revolution in human culture , especially the development of a science-based universal discourse, that will help in the spread of the solar-digital revolution itself, for instance , by convincing the majority of humankind of the scientific arguments for replacing fossil energy by solar energy. Again, bDS will allow us to continually monitor the effects of our socio-economic system on the environment so as to prevent its further deterioration. Finally, it will allow us to model the complex interactions of energy, matter, and information and thus understand the total planetary system.

Сadell Last

Towards a Big Historical Understanding of the Symbolic-Imaginary

The scientific philosophy of evolutionary development forms a narrative-frame for thinking about the human position and relationship to universal processual dynamics. This narrative-frame is often structured temporally with a specific astrophysical singularity origin as the first cause in a continuous and progressive complexification of organization from sub-atomic particles to human civilization. In this processual dynamic key events are identified as representing punctuated discontinuous qualitative phase transitions where complex relations form emergent integrated wholes with properties that are more and/or different than the sum of their parts. Thus this scientifically legitimized thought form grounds a teleological, emergentist, and holistic philosophy temporally orienting human individuals towards the next stage of complex organization in cosmic evolutionary development. This next stage of evolutionary developmental imminence is often described as a universal technological singularity where complex organization is expected to form a globally emergent integrated event horizon beyond which the human mind will no longer comprehend or understand dynamic process. However, a potential complication with this form of philosophical analysis involves the fact that the “parts” involved in this future integration towards a more complex organization are irreducibly “subjective” and thus not only possess their own internal psycholinguistic temporality, but are also collectively responsible for the scientific construction of a universal temporality of physical processual dynamics via a priori interpretative narrative-frames (i.e. the subject is always-already the synthesizing agent of objective “big bang to global civilization” dynamic process). Thus, a few salient questions emerge in this analysis: how are scientists of humanity to understand a technological singularity futures horizon given the consequences of a multiplicity of psycho-linguistically mediated internal temporal forms?; and how are philosophers of science to understand the dynamic processual nature of linguistically constituted scientific temporality of the universe in the context of historical temporality?


The Current Trends of Globalization of the "New Wave" in the XXI Century.

In the development of the globalization of the last decades new trends appeared. They mean a qualitative shift in the life of the world community – the transformation of the world political system into the global political system.

Globalization in the twenty-first century is an objective phenomenon that manifests itself as a complex system with many non-linear relations between their subjects and objects. Owing to the nonlinear nature of this phenomenon the causal relationships in this system don’t work, and technology of forecasting and foresight methods do not give results.

Many experts admit that the law of indispensable causal relationships in the context of globalization do not always work. It becomes increasingly clear that there are many factors of globalization which impossible to consider and it is impossible to predict their effect, but they can produce a number of nonlinear effects, when the phenomenon of the "input" into the system is quite different from its "output".

In the works of many experts we can find the words "the change of epoch" and there is a paradoxical idea: the end of the era is coming, but it will not be an epoch-making change (‘the change of epoch, not an epochal change').

It is obvious that the new wave of globalization has a number of specific characteristics and trends. There are apparent the following new features "of globalization-XXI" or "new era":

- broadening of dimensions of a multipolar world,

- growth in the number and variety of global players, including the non-state actors;

- considerable increase of interconnections and interdependence of the local (regional) and global systems, resulting in if local problems are not solved, it can lead to catastrophic global consequences;

- decay, destruction, disintegration, disruption, turbulence and instability that shake our planet.

These trends have led to the emergence of negative consequences of globalization, which include: rising of unemployment in the developed countries, growing income inequality, fiscal deficits of some countries, environmental degradation, the crisis of global governance, the disruption of the balance between globalization and national sovereignty of the state, the growth of social malaise, corruption in the system of international institutions.

These characteristics do not mean a process of de-globalization, but they are symptoms of the transit from one model of globalization to another, from a monocentric structure to a polycentric world. We can call this model a "non-global" globalization.

Today the attention of experts is focused on several positions, which form directions for Globalization Studies in western science. They are globalization as it is, protection and protectionism; economic growth, trade, inequality and poverty; the search for paths of sustainable and inclusive development; sustainable development policy and global cooperation.

The most problematic are the following important spheres of the global community.

First, it is the problem of so-called "fair globalization". We are trying to search and find once more, its cultural and political meaning which in the new political situation has become an essential task. Nowadays humanity faced such an unexpected phenomena of globalization, that it has become vital to find a new synthesis of civilizations and build their dialogue on equal grounds.

Secondly, it is time to consider whether the leading countries are able to take responsibility for problems, which are the results of globalization and whether they are able to create adequate to these challenges the global governance and to steer the world civilization on the path of sustainable development.

One of the problems for which it is necessary to find a solution – is the idea of ‘responsible nationalism’. It is uncertain today whether the concept of ‘responsible nationalism’ good or bad for the future development of the world system. Is this idea relevant only in the context of relations between developed countries with developing countries?

Another issue that bothers today the world community is the increasing inequality and insecurity at the national and at the global level. For example, Europe is unable to provide the adequate development of its economy and its economic growth. Therefore, the gap between the economies of European countries and Asian countries is increasing.

Another reality that we cannot ignore is the shrinking space of democracy and the irrelevance of democratic experience, and at the same time the increase of support for the policies of populism. Such policy is gaining more and more votes in many countries, not only in France and in the USA.

Finally, not only European countries but also, perhaps, all the world community has just entered the era, which can be defined as "post-Brexit". There is every reason to believe that a British exit from the EU will affect the interests not only of Europe, as well as it will influence the whole global world and it will become the turning point in its development.

An analysis of the topics and main points of discussion in foreign science allows us to see how globalization is represented in the Western political discourse, how they estimate its effects, whether the experts and politicians are able to respond to new challenges.

First, globalization is considered an objective phenomenon, independent of the will and consciousness of people. Globalization is a phenomenon that is impossible to deny or to cancel by a volitional act of any government or any international organization. However, this process can be monitored and controlled with the appropriate instruments and international agreement based on a common position that is shared by all countries and all population of the planet.

Second, the creation of a global government as a management instrument for controlling the globalization processes seems impossible today, as well as to reach consensus on the main problems of globalization and the ways of their solution. Existing international organizations have proved to be ineffective and functional disable. That is why many agreements and statutory rules designed to mitigate its negative consequences, are not implemented or even ignored.

Thirdly, globalization in the West is perceived very narrowly, namely, as the process of integrating the economies of different countries and building a global economic system. Political aspect of globalization remains outside the attention of politicians and experts, though many economic problems are the result of political globalization, or can be solved within the framework of global politics.

Fourth, the period of euphoria and allure of globalization is obviously over. Today, it is not relevant to speak about the benefits that globalization brings to the countries and peoples of the world. On the contrary, they get used to calculate carefully the damages and losses, which many developing countries suffer because of globalization. It indicates a lack of objective approach to globalization and too much emotional its assessments.

Fifth, politicians and experts show their confusion while facing the new challenges and threats of globalization. Yet there is no ready-made recipes and no measures have been formulated to neutralize these threats, and the process of finding adequate solutions has been delayed.

As for Russian Globalization Studies, they are developing on a parallel course, and they are not only lagging behind, but in some cases they even ahead of the Western political science in the study of political aspects of globalization. Many of our ideas and concepts coincide with the position of Western scientists, and the difference in our methods of studying the globalization is not so crucial.

A research of new trends and the impact of globalization shows that the world has entered a new era where major changes in all spheres of the life of the global community are coming. We must share the tasks, which the international community will have to solve in the nearest future until the situation has become catastrophically irreversible.