Andrey Korotayev

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Evolution: Cosmic, Biological, Social 


1) Is it possible to transfer satisfactorily the notion of progress from the sphere 

of human activities to evolutionary biology?  

2) If so, would it be possible to formulate scientific criteria that allow us to 

define the notion of progress in organic evolution?  

Different scientists suggest diametrically opposite answers to those ques-

tions. There are even more problems with the application of the notion of pro-

gress to the study of social macroevolution (see, e.g., Korotayev et al. 2000; 

Korotayev 2004; Grinin 2006 for more detail).  

In all these cases, it appears necessary to take into account the fact that both  

in social and biological macroevolution the point of view of an observer and  

her or his value system plays a major role in defining the notion of progress  

(Grant 1985). Furthermore, the application of the notion of progress to the  

study of social evolution introduces a number of ethical problems. Although  

a great many attempts have been undertaken to apply the notion of progress more  

objectively in such studies, it has turned out to be impossible to avoid ethically  

charged positive connotations with this notion. In fact, the claim to be able to  

define the social progress with the aid of ‘objective criteria’ may imply the  

claim by some groups to know ‘objectively’ better than other people what these  

other people really need.  

In his article Constructing a General Theory of Life: The Dynamics of 

Human and Non-Human Systems’ Graeme Donald Snooks maintains that the 

ultimate objective of theorists studying living systems is to construct a general 

theory of life that can explain and predict the dynamics of both human and 

non-human systems. Yet little progress has been made in this endeavor. Why? 

The author suggests that this is because of the inappropriate methods adopted 

by complexity theorists. Snooks claims that by assuming that the supply-side 

physics model – in which local interactions are said to give rise to the emer-

gence of order and complexity – could be transferred either entirely (social 

physics) or partially (agent-based models, or ABMs) from the physical to 

the life sciences, we have distorted reality and, thereby, delayed the construc-

tion of a general dynamic theory of living systems. According to Snooks, the 

solution can only be found if we abandon the deductive and analogical methods 

of complexity theorists and adopt the inductive method. With this approach it is 

possible to construct a realist and demand-side general dynamic theory, as in 

the case of the dynamic-strategy theory presented in this paper.  

In his contribution ‘Ecological Darwinism or Preliminary Answers to Some 

Crucial though Seldom Asked Questions’ Edmundas Lekevičius asserts that 

evolutionary regularities might be deduced from basic principles describing 

how life functions, most notably part-whole relationships and control mecha-

nisms. The author suggests adding the concept of functional hierarchy to 

the concept of the struggle for existence: no solitary individual or species is 

functionally autonomous. Life as we know it can exist only in the form of a nu-

Introduction. Evolutionary Megaparadigms 


trient cycle. Only two purely biotic forces – ‘biotic attraction’ and ‘biotic re- 

pulsion’ – act in the living world. The first one maintains and increases diver- 

sity and organizes solitary parts into systems integrated to a greater or lesser  

degree. The second one, in the form of competition, lessens biodiversity but at  

the same time provides life with necessary plasticity. On that ground, tentative  

answers to the following questions are given: (1) Why does life exhibit such  

a peculiar organization with strong integration at lower levels of organization  

and weak integration at higher ones? (2) Why did particular species and guilds  

appear on the evolutionary stage at that particular time and not at any other? (3)  

Why was the functional structure of ecosystems prone to convergence despite  

a multitude of stochastic factors? 

In her article ‘Evolutionary and Behavioral Aspects of Altruism in Animal 

Communities: Is There Room for Intelligence?’  Zhanna Reznikova analyzes 

the phenomenon of the altruistic behavior by animals from an evolutionary per-

spective. The altruistic behavior of animals is still enigmatic for many evolu-

tionary biologists, even though a great many data have been analyzed and sev-

eral rational concepts have been developed, such as the theory of inclusive fit-

ness and the theory of reciprocal altruism. Altruistic behavior in animal socie-

ties is based on the division of roles between individuals who are dependent on 

each other as a result of their behavioral, cognitive and social specialization. It 

is a challenging problem to explain intelligence within the framework of social 

specialization in such animal communities. In this review, the characteristics of 

different levels of sociality are considered and the role of flexibility of individ-

ual behavior within the functional structure of animal communities is analyzed. 

In some situations, behavioral, cognitive and social specialization can be con-

gruent; maybe this is the formula for happiness in animal societies. 

In their contribution ‘Biological and Social Aromorphoses: A Comparison 

between Two Forms of Macroevolution’ Leonid Grinin, Alexander Markov, 

and Andrey Korotayev emphasize the point that the comparison between bio-

logical and social macroevolution is a very important although insufficiently 

studied subject, whose analysis offers new significant possibilities to compre-

hend the processes, trends, mechanisms, and peculiarities of each of the two 

types of macroevolution. Even though there are a few important differences be-

tween them, it appears possible to identify a number of fundamental similari-

ties. At least three fundamental sets of factors determining those similarities 

can be singled out. First of all, in both cases we are dealing with very complex 

non-equilibrium (but rather stable) systems whose principles of functioning and 

evolution are described by General Systems' Theory, as well as by a number of 

cybernetic principles and laws. Secondly, in both cases we do not deal with iso-

lated systems but rather with complex interactions between both biological and 

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