As a science-oriented philosopher and historian living in Yugoslavia during the emergence of Darwinism, Bozidar Knezevic (1852-1905) was greatly influenced by the theory of evolution. He extended Darwin’s process view of life on earth to include the future of organic evolution on this planet within a cosmic perspective. Knezevic”‘s philosophy of time and evolution was presented in his two-volume work The Principles of History (1898-1901). His incredible vision was a mixture of facts, concepts, and rational speculations that embraced both the ascent and subsequent descent of life forms on earth (including our own species) over a vast period of time.
Knezevic” acknowledged the awesome immensity of this dynamic universe in terms of both time and space. He claimed that humankind is merely a fleeting aspect of cosmic reality. Focusing on our planet, he saw three major stages of material development: inorganic, organic, and psychic levels of evolution. Within this sweeping perspective, our species recently emerged on the earth. Like all other forms of life, Knezevic” maintained that humankind is subject to the same finite history of evolution and then devolution that will eventually engulf all species on this planet. He referred to this history as the semicircular model of cosmic reality in general and organic evolution on earth in particular. This geometrical scheme is an engaging approach to understanding and appreciating the vulnerability of life forms throughout time.
According to Knezevic”, the history of our planet has been a material evolution of organic forms from simplicity to ever-increasing complexity, from the first appearance of the earliest life forms and then the fishes, through amphibians and reptiles, to mammals and the recent emergence of humankind. In the future, he speculated that organic evolution will result in the disappearance of life forms: Humans will vanish first, this will be followed by the extinction of the other mammals, then reptiles and amphibians will vanish, and finally the fishes and simplest organisms will become extinct. As the last species to emerge in evolution, humankind will be the first form of life to disappear; our species is linked to the fatal destiny of the earth and this solar system. Likewise, the first life forms to appear on earth will be the last forms of life to vanish.
For present environmentalists, this semicircular model of organic evolution may be relevant to a meaningful degree. If our planet changes significantly, then it could be the fact that the more complex life forms will become extinct first, while the fishes and invertebrates will survive much longer, far beyond the duration of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Eventually, perhaps even bacteria and viruses will vanish from the earth.
For Knezevic”, time is both creative and destructive. Through evolution, time created the enormous diversity of organisms on this planet, as well as life forms and intelligent beings on other worlds. Through devolution, time will destroy all life among the galaxies. Knezevic” also envisioned all other planets, galaxies, and entire universes passing through such a semicircular history. Collectively, all these semicircular histories represent God as an infinite series of creations and destructions within the endless flux of cosmic reality. Only matter itself endures throughout time, while time creates and destroys all objects and events in a process that is both unending and beyond human comprehension.
- James Birx
See also Cosmology, Cyclic; Darwin, Charles; Evolution,
Organic; Extinction; Extinction and Evolution;
Materialism; Spencer, Herbert; Time, Cyclical
Birx, H. J. (1982). Knezevic” and Teilhard de Chardin:
Two visions of cosmic evolution. Serbian Studies 1(4), 53-63.
Knezevic”, B. (1980). History: The anatomy of time (the final phase of sunlight). New York: Philosophical Library.