Synthese 36 (3):315 - 351 (1977)
|Abstract||The world I grew up in believed that change and development in life are part of a continuous process of cause and effect, minutely and patiently sustained throughout the millenniums. With the exception of the initial act of creation ..., the evolution of life on earth was considered to be a slow, steady and ultimately demonstrable process. No sooner did I begin to read history, however, than I began to have my doubts. Human society and living beings, it seemed to me, ought to be excluded from so calm and rational a view. The whole of human development, far from having been a product of steady evolution, seemed subject to only partially explicable and almost invariably violent mutations. Entire cultures and groups of individuals appeared imprisoned for centuries in a static shape which they endured with long-suffering indifference, and then suddenly, for no demonstrable cause, became susceptible to drastic changes and wild surges of development. It was as if the movement of life throughout the ages was not a Darwinian caterpillar but a startled kangaroo, going out towards the future in a series of unpredictable hops, stops, skips and bounds. Indeed, when I came to study physics I had a feeling that the modern concept of energy could perhaps throw more light on the process than any of the more conventional approaches to the subject. It seemed that species, society and individuals behaved more like thunder-clouds than scrubbed, neatly clothed and well-behaved children of reason. Throughout the ages life appeared to build up great invisible charges, like clouds and earth of electricity, until suddenly in a sultry hour the spirit moved, the wind rose, a drop of rain fell acid in the dust, fire flared in the nerve, and drums rolled to produce what we call thunder and lightening in the heavens and chance and change in human society and personality.LAURENS VAN DER POST, The Lost World of the Kalahari.|
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