The Billion-Year Story of How Life Turned Chaos Into Complexity

Humans stand out at the end of this 14-billion-year-long arrow of creation as choice-making, word-speaking, energy-transforming creatures.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you for this exciting and stimulating article. I think this work is strong evidence for the concept of directionality in evolution, as you state. The connection between higher energy rate density and biological complexity is fascinating and could lead to some new insights in evolutionary theory.

i very much like your theological connection, as related to Imago Dei. The exponential jump in energy density for humans, is perhaps a more accurate and quantitative demonstration of human exceptionalism than simply pointing to human abilities and characteristics in a qualitative way, many of which are shared by other animals.


As you can see, I have not rushed to make any particular comments about this thread … with this one exception:

This sentence is gorgeous: “Humans stand out at the end of this 14-billion-year-long arrow of creation as choice-making, word-speaking, energy-transforming creatures.”

compared to the actual title of the thread: “The Billion-Year story of how life turned chaos into complexity.”

Though I do note that “Life”, rather than “Evolution” is the ‘Actor’ in this title. And that seems like a good word choice!


Thank you, Ben, for showing us the best way to study evolutionary change.

Dawkins & Co. limit evolution to genetic change and miss the full understanding of ecological development. You have written an excellent article without mentioning genes once.

Ecology gives evolution direction, purpose, and meaning, not found in NeoDarwinism. Jesus is the original ecologist.

Thank you, Ben, for this fine summary of Olivia Judson’s article. I am going to write something that is going to sound a little heretical (i.e. new age-like) coming from a Christian. It is becoming more and more apparent that the earth is in essence alive. It is a being—a living, breathing, and developing organism with a life of its own. I have taught Developmental Biology off and on over the years and to read Judson’s summary of earth’s history is a little bit like studying the unfolding of an embryo in its mother’s womb. Starting with the embryonic geochemistry of life’s processes and moving stage-by-stage to the current anthropogenic era, earth is unfolding just like the living being it is. In a manner not unlike that of a developing embryo our beautiful planet has become increasingly complex through its many interacting processes which intricately depend on each other for health, stability and wholeness.

I don’t think it is a stretch to think of the earth this way. (In addition to Judson’s article see these two important books that help us rethink earth’s biological history). With the arrival of our genus in the last .05% of earth’s history, and more significantly the advent of agriculture in the last .0003%, our influence on this “living organism” has been ever-so-brief. With our creation everything had the potential to change in complex ways, and we were given the task to be God’s image-bearers as it relates to creation as a whole. As N.T. Wright shows us so profoundly in his recent book, “The Day the Revolution Began” we have surrendered our responsibility to forces and powers far outside our image-bearing calling (1322):

This is how creation was designed to function and flourish: under the stewardship of the image-bearers. Humans are called not just to keep certain moral standards in the present and to enjoy God’s presence here and hereafter, but to celebrate, worship, procreate, and take responsibility within the rich, vivid developing life of creation. According to Genesis, that is what humans were made for. The diagnosis of the human plight is then not simply that humans have broken God’s moral law, offending and insulting the Creator, whose image they bear—though that is true as well. This lawbreaking is a symptom of a much more serious disease. Morality is important, but it isn’t the whole story. Called to responsibility and authority within and over the creation, humans have turned their vocation upside down, giving worship and allegiance to forces and powers within creation itself. The name for this is idolatry.


When are we going to become a part of God’s revolution?

I enlisted already. Though I still think we need a good Katniss Everdeen-esque salute to rally with. Someone should get on that.

I have two problems with this article.

  1. The title “Life turned chaos into complexity”
  2. This comment “life learned to use a different source of energy”

How can ‘life’ learn?
Is ‘life’ an autonomous being?

God has been replaced by a being called ‘life’ which learns?