Evolution’s Arrow

“The arc of the universe is long.  But it bends toward justice.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King

For years, poets have talked about the arc of the universe bending toward justice.  But is there any convincing scientific evidence to support this conclusion?  Does the universe actually have a direction?  

The answer is a resounding YES! 

The answer to the first question is: Yes! The universe has a direction.  Scientists call this direction by various names, including Evolution’s Arrow, Arrow of Time, or Entropic Time. More about this below. 

If evolution has a direction, so what?  What difference does knowing this make in your life?

Knowledge of Evolution’s Arrow drives the decisions of the world’s most successful people

This knowledge has been the guiding principle in the lives of the world’s most successful people.  Successful leaders  including Dr. King, Predsident Obama, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, have based their lives on the foundational truth that the Universe Bends toward more love, more awareness, more kindness. 

While the truth of Evolution’s Arrow is obvious to some successful people, many other people know that the universe has a long history, but falsely assume it has no particular direction.  Most people assume stars merely appear and then they explode. Species emerge and species go extinct.  Societies rise, societies fall.  It’s all a random cycle.   What they don’t know is that exploding stars give rise to new elements. Emergent species contribute novel genes to the global gene poor. And good ideas from fallen societies continue to inform modern society.   The old informs the new.

Most people don’t know (including many scientists) is that the universe does have a direction. That is beginning to change.  Now, more and more people recognize “Evolution’s Arrow.”

“The emergence of organisms who are conscious of the direction of evolution is one of the most important steps in the evolution of life on any planet. Once organisms discover the direction of evolution, they can use it to guide their own evolution. If they know where evolution is going, they can work out what will produce success in the future, and use this to plan how they will evolve.”
~ John Stewart in Evolution’s Arrow

Successful entrepreneurs, effective civil rights leaders, presidents, and financiers all understand Evolution’s Arrow

Knowing that the universe has a direction gave Dr. King the vision that someday, people would be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Knowing that the universe has a direction gave Barack Obama the Office of President of the United States.  According to President Obama, he knew that a person of color would be elected within 20 years of when he began campaigning.   His election 15 years ahead of his estimation  surprised even him. 

“The arc of our evolutionary history is long.  But it bends toward goodness.”
~ Nicholas Christakis, MD and Author of Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Toward Greater Complexity

Over billions of years, energy coalesced into matter, which in turn coalesced into stars and planets and into ever more complex molecules.  On Earth, life evolves toward ever greater complexity of cells and organisms.  Complex brains gave rise to greater consciousness and eventually ever greater compassion.   Human culture, over thousands of years, has evolved ever more complex technologies.

One of the great achievements of scientific research was discovering the second law of thermodynamics.  In a nutshell, this law tells us that energy flows. As energy flows, it gives rise to local pockets of order and complexity.

Energy flow is the basis of physical, biological and cultural evolution.  Energy flow underlies the evolution of stars and galaxies as well as the evolution of microbes and men.   Energy flow also underlies the evolution of art and culture.     And most importantly for you,  energy flow describes how you will evolve in your life.

For most of human existence,  no one understood the physical laws supporting the direction of the universe. Then, beginning around 200 years ago, scientists began discovering properties of energy that led to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.   Basically, this law says that energy flows from areas of high energy to low energy.

More recently, Eric Chaisson has shown that the second law of thermodynamics applies to the whole Epic of Evolution.  Energy flow accounts for the evolution of stars, the evolution of life, for the evolution of societies. 

Eric Chaisson is an astrophysicist and cosmologist who studies energy flow in evolution. He describes this in his 2001 book, Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature.   Chaisson shows that all organized systems (ie a rock, your dog, an iPhone)  have energy patterns that characterize their emergence, development, and evolution.

This may sound incredibly abstract, but it has huge implications for your life.

Once you know that the universe has a direction, you can  use this information to create an extraordinary future.

 

Check out Tim Blais’ musical description of Entropic Time: