Social Evolution

This web page is a continuation of the topic of evolution from the Transcendent Evolution web page. For a greater understanding of Social Evolution, visit the Transcendent Evolution web page first

Social Organisms:

The idea that evolution occurs in social systems is not new. Aguste Comte, who coined the word 'sociology' (1838), set about proposing how social systems developed. Herbert Spencer, in his Synthetic Philosophy (1855-1893) avidly supported and extended this concept, and founded the study of sociology in the US. The theory of transcendent evolution proposed earlier also continues the idea of social evolution in animal social structures, including those of humans.

The theory of transcendent evolution proposes that social systems are organisms that both transcend and morph similar to the process that eventually produced multi-cellular creatures. Transcendent social evolution produces family, clan, tribe, and state. Morphological social evolution produces different types of families, different types of clans, different types of tribes, and different types of states.

Emotional Attachments

The internal coherence of a multi-cellular creature, such as an individual human being, is easy to accept because much of the body's cellular structure is visibly connected together physically, and we observe the creature animate its parts, as we our self do. Moreover, a great deal of scientific research exists on normal body and mental attributes, as well as body and mental dysfunction, traumas, injury and death.

The internal coherence of a group of individuals is not as easy to see, partly because the connections that cause the individuals in the group to act in unity are not directly visible to the human eye, and partly because such relations are complicated. Nevertheless, observations do reveal that the separate actions of an individual can elicit specific reactions in other individuals within communication range. The stronger the group member affinity is, the stronger the specific reactions.

The 'glue' that binds members to their group is emotional attachment of each member to each other, and to the group. Several types of emotional attachments are observed. In group animals emotional attachments are to another like individual, and to the group. In humans these emotional attachments extend to an idea, to an institution, or to a thing. Within a group of humans all of these types of emotional attachments may be manifested in varying degrees - between individuals, and between the individual and the group as a whole.

Component Creatures:

When certain animals and human individuals aggregate in close proximity to one another, they more often than not form into groups, with varying levels of cohesion and unity of purpose. Such groups of animals and humans are component entities. That is to say that the members of the group are not physically glued to each other as are the cells of an organism. Instead the members are bound together by a powerful emotional attachment' phenomenon that operates over physical distance separating members. Other names for this concept is component creature, component organism and social organism - all meaning the same thing.

An example of a component entity is a wild-dog pack. Members of a wild-dog pack develop complex attachments to each other that affect their individual behaviors when they come within sight or smell of each other. Even domesticated dogs, by themselves docile and friendly, if allowed to aggregate in close proximity, will without much warning form a pack that acts in unity - attacking other animals and even humans - maiming, killing, and even eating them. In domestic dog packs the packing is ephemeral, In wild dogs, the packs lasts through generations.

Humans also form component entities - a vast variety of different groups - far more than any other animal. Very few human individuals find it tolerable to live apart from a community of some kind for very long. In humans this complex attachment is also described as emotional attachment. It is as powerful and even more complex than in wild dogs. This human emotional complex is a group phenomenon that binds the human group together and affects and modifies individual behavior, though individual members might be vast distances apart.

A collection of individuals that have no emotional attachment to each other, or to something in common, will not act in unity, and such a collection is not a component creature.

The 'Soul' of a Component Creature

A component creature is a group that is acting in unity. The life span of a component creature may be as ephemeral as a few minutes, or it may be as long lasting as a millennium. A component creature also has a life-force, analogous to the 'soul' of a human individual. For reasons which will become clear later, various forms of the word 'god' are used to designate the 'soul' of the group, depending on the level of transcendence. For family, the 'soul' is simply called 'family unity.' For the clan, the soul of the clan is merely called ‘clan identity.’ For tribe the 'soul' of the tribe is termed 'god,' with a little 'g.' For state the 'soul' of the state is termed 'God,' with a capitol 'G.'. For the next level above state, which is yet to be identified, the 'soul' would be termed 'GOD,' with all capitals.

Component creatures come in varying sizes (number of members), strengths (cohesion and unity of purpose), and forms (organizational complexity). The power of the component creature is a combination of size, strength, and form. The 'god' of the component creature is related closely to group cohesion and unity of purpose. Component creatures with strong 'god' can prevail over another component creature that is otherwise more powerful.

Transcendent Social Evolution Path

Family, Clan & Tribe:

 Animals, including humans, range widely in the type of family structure. In many animals, offspring once produced are left to random chance. Mammals as a rule give extended care to offspring. In some mammals the sire is only present at conception. Examples are bears, cheetahs, and leopards. In most mammals, including humans, sires are instrumental in raising their offspring. Lion cubs without the sire around are very likely to be killed by any new male intruding into the pride. Offspring are the next generation of adults, and failure to produce the next generation and care for them may mean specie extinction.

Animals that form strong families, i.e., biological parents that carefully guard and nurture their offspring during their development to adulthood, become very successful species. Humans evolved as a family animal. While other animal families may nurture their young for months, and a few for years, only the human child receives decades of such protection and support.

Family: It is not possible to separate the individual human, family, or clan as separate evolutionary stages, as they evolved simultaneously and together. A family is defined as the basic sociological unit of human groups. The basic human family is defined here as a mother and father, and their pre-adult children. In human families, members develop emotional attachments that bind them together as a unit. All other influence constant, human families with strong emotional attachments dominate over human families with weak emotional attachments.

In humans, the family is the basic social unit, and the name assigned to the life-force of a family is "familial bond."

Clan.  A clan is a group of related families that ally together as an extended family unit.  The mechanism binding clan members is an extension of the familial bond extended to 2nd, 3rd, or greater, degree of sanguinity (blood-ties.)  Related families that learn to form a strong clan alliance quickly becomes dominant over individuals and families without strong extended familial bonds. Worldwide, clans predominate over single family units.  Evolution appears to have settled on a strong clans as the most numerous unit of social evolution. Only in recent history, particular in the West, have clans been broken into individual family units.

The mechanism for building a strong clan is to promote cousin marriages, and discourage intra-family incestuous relations.  A Clan is the next level of sociological development beyond family. It might seem that the difference between a family and a clan is not an evolutionary jump, as varying degrees of clan identity exist in every human family.  However, the mechanism that promotes strong clans (inter-family breeding at the expense of intra-family breeding, i.e., cousin marriage) is an important social practice that allows powerful clan identity to develop, and is an important differentiator leading to higher social evolution.  


Tribe.  In larger alliances of families and clans, several related clans may develop a transcending tribal alliance that is stronger than the tie that binds a clan's members to each other. This tribal attachment, or alliance, is in addition to the emotional blood-attachment that clan and family members have with each other, and can conflict with it.

Allegiance to the tribal alliance binds the clans and families and their members together to the tribe, to act as a unit. Precisely at what point loose alliances of clans and families transcend to a consolidated tribe and become a singular entity is not known. Probably when the allegiance to the alliance among a preponderance of the members becomes stronger than their attachment to the clan or family. At some point the alliance transcends to a tribe, with a life-force of its own.

In Transcendent Evolution this tribal life-force is termed a 'god,' and is analogous to the 'soul' of an individual. The life span of an individual is measured in years, the life span of a family may be measured over several generations. The life span of a clan may span centuries.  The life span of a tribe may span millenniums.

Families provide continuity between generations, Clans provide continuity between families. Tribes provide continuity between clans.  The life-force, or 'god' of a tribe may be weak or strong - depending on how strong the unity of the tribe is, and how well it organizes itself. Tribes form rudimentary forms of government that transcends family and clan.  A tribe with a strong internal alignment will dominate over families, clans, and weakly aligned tribes.

Within a human tribe, families and clans cooperate with each other in providing protection, gathering food, and collectively sharing their prosperity. Without a unifying tribal identity, families and clans vie with each other for territory and resources, We can observe different clans of the same animal or species fight and kill each other for territory, food, and dominance. We observe wars and battles between clans tribes of primates, as well as humans.

Human tribes rally around a symbol that represents and focuses their unity. Such a symbol, often termed a totem, is often mistaken as the god of the tribe, when in fact it only symbolizes the tribal life-force, or 'god.' Like human life, the tribal unity can be disrupted and its life-force, or 'god,' weakened or destroyed. Although we cannot create human life, we can greatly enhance the strength of the 'soul' by nurturing the individual. Likewise, we can greatly enhance tribal unity, or 'god,' by nurturing those attributes that promote unity. So while the emergence of a tribal 'god' is a natural phenomenon, to some degree it is malleable.

The word 'god' is used deliberately here as the tribe's life-force, because it gives a more correct and natural (as opposed to supernatural) meaning to the almost universal tendencies of tribes to form religions with a god, and link the well-being of the tribe to their god. Transcendent evolution postulates that this is not mere chance - the 'god' does exist, as we set forth herein - though not necessarily as promoted by the tribe's religious propaganda.

The structure of a tribe can be as simple as a couple of clans loosely aligned, with a loosely recognized chieftain, perhaps a shaman. Or the tribal structure may be as complicated as a kingdom, with a ruler, a court of various officials, a legal system, a religious system, an educational system, and many related clans. Tribes are predominately a single ethic group, and may be nomadic, i.e., without permanent structures in their territory.

The mechanism for producing strong tribal alliance is to discourage first-cousin marriages in order to weaken clannish bonds and promote marriage between more distant relatives within the tribe, and to suppress intra-family incestuous relationships.


The State. Tribes that have learned to form alliances with each other quickly dominate individual families, clans, and tribes. Tribes that form permanent settlements, engage in agriculture, and develop specialized groups for different commerce and industry tasks are most likely to develop into city-states first, and later, as there influence grows, into multi-city states with large permanent territorial boundary. States have a defined territory with permanent structures that are vigorously defended.  "State" is the next sociological evolutionary stage after tribe.

Nomadic tribes may form temporary alliances when they feel threatened or are in conflict with other strong tribes or city-states, but seldom attain lasting statehood as nomads.  Nomadic hoards such as the Huns under Attila (406?- 453), the Mongols under Genghis Khan (1167-1227), and Tatars under Timur (1336-1405), massed cavalries up to 800,000 (Timur) strong to plague and lay waste to ancient states and empires. While these nomadic tribes inflicted great damage on weak states, they did not themselves endure for long.

When emotional attachment to the alliance of tribes grows so strong that the survival of the alliance outweighs the survival of a member tribe, clan or family,  the alliance reaches statehood, with a life-force of its own which we term its God. Such state allegiance may be in conflict with tribal allegiance and clan or family attachments, and the state God may often be depicted as the dominant ‘father’ or king God over the lesser tribal gods.

Similar to the life-force or 'god' of tribes, the life-force or 'God' of a state can be weakened or destroyed. This may happen by war, assimilation into a stronger state, natural catastrophe, internal conflict and collapse, inability to adapt to change, or a major paradigm shift that leaves the state stranded in obsolescence until it withers and dies.

The word 'God' is used deliberately here as the state's life-force, because it gives a more correct and natural (as opposed to supernatural) meaning to the almost universal tendencies of states to form powerful religions with a God, and link the well-being of the state or nation to their God. Transcendent evolution postulates that this is not mere chance - the 'God' does exist, as we set forth herein – as the collective social conscience, though not necessarily as promoted by the nation's religious propaganda.

Many social animals besides humans form extended families and clans, and some might even form tribes, However, no other animal except humans are known to form states.  The internal structure of states take on many different forms, and appear to be evolving. 

State, Nation, and Empire.  In popular use, there is little, if anything, to differentiate between the meaning of ‘state’ and ‘nation, However, we need terms that signify the evolutionary stages after the political state. For this purpose we will reiterate the definition of 'state,' and define 'nation' and 'empire' as follows:

State - a collection of tribes, clans and families under a common, central authority, and usually having a defined physical territory.

Nation - a collection of states united under a central government. 

Empire - a collection of nations under a central government

It can be argued whether or not any true nations or empires presently exist under the above definitions, but clearly some collections of states appear to be evolving in super-state direction, if they haven’t already reached it or surpassed it.  Some super-state examples are the present United States of America and its vast global influence - willing and able to topple governments who oppose its will,  the ever-expanding and increasingly powerful European Union, the 18th century United Kingdom and its vast colonial holdings, the former Soviet Union and its captive states stretching across the Euro-Asian continent, and the ancient Roman Empire, just to name a few super-state developments past and present.  Then there are quasi-government and non-government corporations and organizations whose internal cohesion and cognizance span the globe across diverse states.  Examples of these are the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN), and a multitude of multinational corporations engaged in trade and commerce. 

Super-states Multi-cellular creatures come in a variety of complexities and sizes, from microscopic water fleas to enormous whales. Similarly, states and nations appear in many sizes and forms.  Exactly how these various forms are classified and might evolve remains to be seen. Most existing countries of the world are states, and not nations – defined by their centralized governments and non-autonomous subdivisions.  Very few countries, if any, are true nations as defined herin.  A confederacy of states is a weak nation, and few have survived the test of time. 

Super-states might be the next logical progression in transcendent evolutionary development, The present United States of America, and the newly forming European Union, are super-states, i.e., they obviously can be classified as a more complex form of state.  But whether that complexity amounts to a transcended entity remains to be seen. It may be more reasonable to classify such organizations as just a more complex form of a state, analogous to even another layer of management in a corporation.

Besides states, there are multi-national organizations, such as international commercial corporations, and military alliances, such as NATO that at times act as a social entity of another form.  States and nations also conquer, intimidate, and assimilate each other to form new states.  

We may not be able to define transcended super-state entities until we are sure some have formed, and can study them. If that time comes, we anticipate defining its life-force as 'GOD,' continuing the tradition established for tribal 'gods,' and state 'Gods.'

Complicating the super-state evolutionary picture is the observance that government and quasi-government organizations vary greatly in power and influence.  For example, the United Nations - the extant symbol of global unity, has no real power unto itself. Its member states, especially the powerful ones such as the United States, Russia, or China, can and do ignore the dictates of the UN with impunity.  The European Union - the hoped for European equivalent of the United States of America, has only limited powers over its member states, which can withdraw from the union at will.  The EU has no central police force or armed forces, and, except for the World Court, none of the member states are willing to cede any such power to it, 

god, God, and GOD.  In the evolution of social consciousness, god first gains sentiency at the tribal level, and emerges as God at the state level. At the tribal level, god is the social consciousness of the tribe, and the tribal religion is the social conscience of the tribe - determining what behaviors serve the greater interests of the tribe over those of the individuals, families, or clans composing the tribe. At the state level, God is the social consciousness of the state, and the state religion is the social conscience of the state - determining what behaviors serve the greater interests of the state over those of the individuals, families, clans or tribes composing the state.

Beyond the state, the social consciousness or life-force of the entity that transcend state would be GOD, which some might want to attribute as the social conscience or life-force of a nation or empire.  However, it is possible that a super-state status as a nation or empire, as we define them, are just a more complex forms of state, and not a true transcendence of state. The difference between a state, a nation, and an empire may be more analogous of a worm to a woad to a wolf - all are multi-cellular creatures, but differ vastly in complexity, mobility and capability.  Under this analysis, the soul of the nation or empire may be just a more complex God, and not a transcendence to GOD.

The Essence of Transcendence. The transcendence of tribe to state is profound,  A family, clan, or tribe has familial blood-ties as the primary tie that bind the members to act in unity, have only rudimentary government structure at best, and little specialization of effort.  States, on the other hand, have a well-developed central government with government institutions to promote and enforce unity in action, specialization in trade, commerce and industry, develop currency to standardize and replace bartering, develop transportation systems to facilitate the production and distribution of essential materials among themselves, organize police for internal discipline, and have standing armies and navies for defense and conquest.

The elaboration of state to nation or empire, however, does not appear to produce profound changes in structure, but rather forms only additional layers of government.  It may be, however, an intermediate step to the next level of transcendence - for the eventual evolution of GOD.

Diversity.  One measure of the evolution of state structure may be how diverse the population is in terms of ethnicity, cultural identity, political persuasion, and religious affiliation, A high degree of diversity in these characteristics may be inimical to the survival of weak and emergent states, but crucial to super-states.  Diversity in weak and emergent states may foment dissention, intolerance, misalignment of purpose, rebellion, and civil war.  On the other hand, mature states and those aspiring to the next level of transcendence, must find a stabilizing process to promote diverse populations to accommodate each other peacefully and productively.  In any regard, diversity is not a matter to be taken lightly.  Morality tenets for dealing with diversity are discussed further in the Morality and Ethics web pages.  Generally and traditionally, one ethnic group or culture tends to dominate state politics, and power sharing with rival ethnic groups is rare.

Regression.  In very recent sociological history, some western states have promoted the individual as the basic social unit, and have attempted to greatly weaken the basic family unit by eliminating the father, and sometimes the mother, from the basic family unit. While there is sociological justification for weakening clan and tribal bonds to promote strong state allegiance, the weakening and deliberate disintegration of the basic or nuclear family has enormous negative social consequences, and is tantamount to the social suicide of the state if allowed to continue, 

Mechanisms of Social Evolution

The underlying mechanisms of social evolution are not precisely known. It would appear that there are identifiable characteristics of individual members, of the group, and environmental stimuli, that affect group formation, form, member interaction, and external actions. Any exterior act modifying these characteristics might affect the group membership, interaction, and reaction to the environment.

Transcendent Evolution: The occurrence of group transcendence into a unified entity appears to be an ephemeral process, with only a rare occurrence of long-term or permanent formation. The observable mechanisms of transcendent evolution appear to be similar to those that led to the evolution of multi-cellular creatures:

·         Grouping: The collection of independent entities into a group


basic unit


Related families remaining in the same area


Related clans remaining in the same area and


tribes sharing common territory and trading with each other

·         Symbiosis: The development of symbiosis and dependence among the grouped entities


basic unit


Common protection


Common protection


tribes allying with other for barter and defense

·         Integration: The subjugation of independent action by the once-independent component entities, now acting in concert as integrated components


Basic unit


Inter-family marriages


Inter-clan marriages


Family, clan specializations in trade, finance, commerce, defense

·         Maintenance of the whole
The maintenance of the whole takes priority over the maintenance of the components


Basic unit


Blurring of family lines by extensive inter-family marriages


Blurring of clan lines by extensive inter-clan marriages


Police power of the state enforcing order and compliance

·         Replication: The ability of the transcended entity to replicate and replace defective or expired components and to replicate itself.


Basic unit


Satellite families and remotely-located, but related, clans


Satellite clans and remotely-located, but related, tribes



 Tribes have power, influence, and reach into its environment far greater than a family or clan. Precisely at what point transcendence from an alliance of families or clans to a tribe takes place is not known, but certainly at the point the tribe is not dependent on a particular family or clan to maintain cohesion and unity, and acquires the power to discipline errant individuals and families. Tribes more often split during periods of scarce resources, rather than form satellites.

States have power, influence, and reach into its environment far, far greater than a tribe. Precisely at what point transcendence from an alliance of tribes to a state takes place is not known, but certainly at the point the state is not dependent on a particular tribe to maintain cohesion and unity, and acquires the power to discipline errant individuals, families, and tribes. States more often form satellites or colonies than split.

Morphological evolution: Animals below humans do not appear to have a large variety of social groups. It is known that primates form small clans, and fight wars between clans. But it is only in humans that a wide variety of groups are formed. It is probable that mutations in human DNA are manifested in human socializing tendencies in individuals. The group paradigm, i.e., the set of social rules and actions that a group adopts, appear to have a life of its own once established. Paradigm shifts can cause intense social stress as formerly coherent groups break and polarize into advocates of change versus advocates of maintaining and preserving the status quo.

The observable mechanisms of morphological changes appear to be similar to those that led to the evolution of multi-cellular creatures:

·         Mutation - Mutation is manifested as a change in form, function or focus of a social organism.

Mutation of the individual: Individual mutated offspring of a cellular organism may have altered tendencies or abilities to function in a group setting. If such altered tendencies are propagated to numerous offspring, the form and function of families, tribes, and nations may be expected to change over generations.

Damage to the family: Prolonged absence, death, disease, or dependence on mood-altering substances of a parent can damage the family structure and emotional attachment tendencies of children. Such disturbances can propagate through generations. Environments which produce high frequencies of disturbed families over generations may suffer impaired or altered form, function or focus in tribe and nation.

Infection of the tribe or state: Tribes and states may be infected with biological or ideological diseases. Ideological diseases are ideas and paradigms from external sources, most commonly from outside tribes and states, which may be partly or wholly assimilated into the host by conquest, or merely proximate. Such external ideas and paradigms often spread through the host like a disease, permanently altering the form, function, or focus of the tribe or state infected. Few tribes and states, if any, escape unscathed from such infections.

Toxic substances: Families, tribes and states often come in contact with substances that are widely used but unbeknownst to them - toxic. Widespread usage over a prolonged time may result in a large segment of the population to be physically, mentally, or emotionally disturbed. Some scholars advocate that the widespread use of lead pipes to supply drinking water to Roman homes contributed to Rome's fall, by producing insane emperors. Other, often widely-used, substance that are toxic to children and some adults are monosodium glutamate, high doses of table salt, and high doses of table sugar. Tribes and states addicted to toxic self-poisoning suffer impaired function, if not form and focus.

Invention: Humans are particularly adept at inventing - both physical things and ideas. No other animal even comes close to human inventive power. From time to time, human invention has altered the form, function and focus of tribe and state - permanently. Inventions generally give the inventing state a decided advantage economically, commercially, militarily, or strategically. Competing tribes or states that fail to invent may be completely subjugated or annihilated. An example of a far-reaching physical invention is atomic power - which can be used for a production of electricity, or a very destructive weapon.

Most such mutation, damage, infection and poisoning appear to be quite disadvantages to the tribe or state, and may lead to its early demise and eventual extinction as a unique social form. A few such changes, however, appear to be quite advantageous. The abandonment of human sacrifice and slavery are notable exceptions.

·         Isolation: There is little doubt that isolation of tribes or nations from each other contribute to social organization differentiation over time.

·         Finite life cycles: All social organizations appear to have a finite life span. However many appear to simply morph from one form to another without an identifiable death. From time 'A' to time 'B' the organization is observed to be very different, but between 'A' and 'B' no single event may mark the change over. Part of the reason for this is that individual humans do not usually die because their tribe or nation expires. As a paradigm weakens over time, it becomes easier for individual humans to let it go and adopt another - especially if it comes in stages. For example, when did Rome die and Italy begin? The answer is that Rome took several hundred years to die, losing its provinces and power in stages, and changing its form and function and focus in stages. At some point in time, Italy existed and Rome was no more, but no single point in time identifies that changeover.

There are social organisms that exist with very strong member allegiance, and the death of all of its human members might be required to kill the social organism. The Sicilian Mafia appears to be such a social organism, and is reported to kill all male survivors of an executed member's family to prevent retaliatory blood feuds from occurring. The Christian Old Testament, and the Hebrew Torah are full of stories where the invading Hebrews killed every man, woman and child in a conquered city - we presume to prevent retaliation and to hasten subjugation of the outlying villages.

·         Survival of the fittest: Unpredictable, and often catastrophic, environmental changes interrupt and stress the form, function, and focus of established social organisms. Competition for essential resources may become very intense. And social dominance and territorial control may become prime concerns. This may from time to time result in producing an environment that causes some forms of social organisms to be more advantageous than others - with the less-advantageous forms succumbing to assimilation or conquest, if not annihilation.

Related Topics. Social evolution is intertwined and elaborated on in the topics below:

Family, Tribe & Nation


The Seventh Transcendence