Is there one “law” or explanation that helps us make sense of the Epic of Evolution? Is there one principle that underlies physical, biological and cultural evolution?
According to Eric Chaisson, professor of Cosmic Evolution at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the answer is yes.
Chaisson seeks a unifying cosmic-evolutionary worldview that explains the origins and evolution of galaxies, stars, planets, life, and society. As a teacher, his goal is to help people find a sense of place within the Epic of Evolution.
One of the unifying themes is energy rate density (energy flow) Energy rate density is the amount of energy per unit time per unit mass. According to Dr. Chaisson, this is also a measure of complexity.
Over 14 billion years, systems have emerged with ever greater complexity. This complexity can be measured by energy rate density.
For a wide spectrum of systems is plotted versus the number of billion years ago they first appeared. An increase across 14 billions years is observed, implying rising complexity throughout historical time.
Chaisson has also determined that complexity can be measured as an amount of energy flowing through mass for a given amount of time. more complex an object is the more energy needed per gram per second to maintain this. As it turns out, human society seems to be one of the most complex things in the universe.
He explains how “the evident ‘constructiveness’ of cosmic evolution is thus reconciled with the inherent ‘destructiveness’ of modern thermodynamics.” Find out more at his website on Cosmic Evolution.