Despite what the great ‘Divine Books’ such as Torah, Bible, Quran, Bhagavat Gita and so on and so forth say about the existence of life on earth, scientifically life on earth originated from single cells which then mutated to form multi-cellular organisms. The evolution of primates (comprising apes, chimpanzees, gorillas and eventually humans) can be traced back to over 65 million years. Primates are one of the oldest of all placental mammal groups, which withstood the vagaries of life.
There is now a consensus of opinions among the evolutionary scientists that evolution of Hominidae (apes) took place around 28 million years ago and then subsequently subfamilies – homininae (humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas), homo genus (humans, Neanderthals, homo erectus), homo sapiens (intelligent humans) and finally anatomical modern humans took place about 8 million years, 2.5 million years, 0.5 million years and 200,000 years ago respectively. This chronological development of evolutionary chain is what is accepted now as incontrovertible scientific fact.
The anatomically modern human beings who first appeared in South West Africa – near the coastal borders of Namibia and Angola – were intelligent animals with highly developed brains, and this intelligence led them to become savage animals in the rough and tough world to survive. Around 50,000 years ago, they started migrating to other continents (as permafrost offered them land migration routes) and colonised other areas. When they came across Neanderthals (a subspecies of homo genus) in Europe and other hominins in Asia, they were systematically eliminated. Neanderthals completely disappeared around 30,000 years ago. The victorious modern human beings were, nonetheless, hunter gathers competing for food with four legged animals like wolfs, hyenas, dogs etc. That was the time when one can call human civilisation at level 0.
Since that time, human brain rather than brawn evolved drastically, which is directly attributable to evolutionary mechanism. Although evolutionary process was in action for millions of years, it took a step change. Humans as a distinct species (two legged animals) coalesced together and started to fight jointly against other species. They developed cooperation, communication, collectivism etc, all of which gave them superior strength which no other animal species could muster. Human civilisation was gradually progressing, but still it was stuck at the primitive level 0.
A step change in civilisation came about at around 10,000 years ago, when ice in the Ice Age started to recede after hundreds of thousands of years of permafrost. As ice melted, soil started to surface and vegetation, plants, grasses etc appeared. The human beings with their ingenuity started to farm land, domesticated animals such as cows, horses, dogs etc., produced agricultural products, formed communities and tribes. The hunter gathers were no longer solely reliant on animals for food, they developed diversified food products and eating habits. Whereas previously they used animals for food, now they started to produce food with their own hands. The energy they expended per capita could be estimated as around quarter of a horse power (~200W). This development can be designated as level 1 of type 1 civilisation.
From that time on, human civilisation started to progress at accelerated pace. Humans started to appreciate, admire and even worship the powers of nature; wondered about the might of the sun, rain, storm, fire, earth and so forth and created in their minds and thought processes various deities, gods etc, who were perceived to be more powerful than mere mortal human beings. These fictitious constructs gradually got embedded in the minds as irrevocable entities and these formed the seed corns of numinous undertakings, which flourished eventually as religions.
About 5,000 years ago, Abraham in the land of Canaan (in the Middle East) merged all these disparate and conflicting gods and divine constructs into a single entity and created a unitary God. That was the beginning of monotheism which culminated into three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The unitary God was proclaimed to be all powerful, all knowledgeable, all pervasive, eternal creator of everything. Over the centuries, these three versions of the unitary God fought for supremacy and allegiance of human beings.
Whether the advent of religions, either monotheistic or polytheistic, is a progress in human civilisation or a sheer retrogressive step is open to question. This religious mindset, relegating human beings to moronic state totally reliant on the whims of abstract all-powerful non-existent God is delusional, to say the least. This transfer of human accountability to this God is so tempting and enduring that religions have taken over the thread of civilisation in a way that no other philosophical undertaking could possibly do. For centuries since Abrahamic time, through Jesus Christ and Mohammad, literature, art, culture, architecture, philosophy etc were dominated by religious ideas. Numerous sculptors, painters, poets, authors and so forth all eulogised the existence and powers of God.
Around 300 years ago, another civilizational step took place with the coming of industrial revolution. Steam engines started to drive machines and locomotives. No longer humans were dependent on their bare hands or on animals. Cars, trucks, trains etc were driven by steam engines or internal combustion engines. Electricity was produced by steam engines (turbo-generators) due to the motion of electromagnets. Industries of various sorts started to develop, human population increased, towns, cities started to develop. Population grew not only due to the availability of food but also due to the advancement of biological/medical sciences taming all diseases in general and diseases like cholera, TB etc, in particular, causing epidemic among population. Progress in science and technology steamed ahead and civilisation went up few notches.
Another enormous step change came during the past few decades. This time it was not the physical expansion of wealth generation and prosperity, but the increase in information technology. No longer humans were dependent on mode of communication by notes on papers, letters, telegrams or even fixed line telephony, but on electronic communication, where electrons danced through cables, fibre-optics etc. People now communicate live in various continents, send photos, documents etc instantaneously. A man in the UK can talk simultaneously to people in Japan, Australia, America and Argentina all at the same time. People can move from one place to another at enormous speeds.
Satellites in the sky can detect an object anywhere on the ground as small as few meters. Satellite navigation is a common mode of identifying location, particularly for transport vehicles, replacing age-old traditional maps. Letters, parcels etc can be delivered by drones, flying in air and descending at the back of gardens within a matter of hours. Although drone technology is available now, but it could not be put in practice until some safety provisions and regulatory requirements are enforced. This advanced state of civilisation can be placed as level 7.
There are yet many more technological advancements to be had in this world and we can gradually move towards civilisation levels 8, 9 and 10. At that stage, human beings would be looking beyond our planet into the outer skies.
Now the readers must be admired at this stage who had come this far without knowing what this ranking of civilisation is and what are these levels? Back in 1964, a Russian astrophysicist by the name Nikolai Kardashev was probing the outer skies – planets, stars, galaxies etc – for signs of civilisation. But then he was confronted with the very fundamental question of ‘what is civilisation’? Is civilisation just an abstract concept which cannot be quantified and ranked, only felt and sensed? If that is the case, are we not constrained in categorising a civilisation as to its level of achievement?
Kardashev realised that different professions would tend to define civilisations differently – an artist might define a civilisation by the creative flavour of paintings by its inhabitants; a poet might define it by the quality of poems, culture and the society; a philosopher might try on the basis of abstract theological ideas, its society, government and so on. A physicist might like to quantify on the basis energy it needs. And that is how the scientific ranking of the civilisation is portrayed here.
According to Kardashev if the civilisation of a planet or heavenly body is solely dependent on the energy or power it receives from its primary source – Sun in the case of Earth – then that civilisation is Type I. He then quantified that a ball point figure of 1017 watts as the limiting power for Type I civilisation. A Type II civilisation is one which harnesses stellar energies – energies beyond the constraints of the planet itself. A Type III civilisation is galactic, harnessing energies in the outer skies coming from millions and billions of stars and galaxies.
The human civilisation has not even reached the zenith of Type I civilisation. With all the advanced technologies, we may be hovering around level 6 or 7 and so we have three more levels to go before we could be harnessing around 1017 watts to reach the end of Type I civilisation. It might take a century or two before we reach that stage.
Two more articles will be presented here dealing with Type II and Type III civilisations. So, watch out readers for stellar and galactic civilisations!
– A. Rahman is an author and a columnist.