Toward a Big History 2.0 A brief position paper


Gregg Henriques
Tyler Volk


We propose a “Big History 2.0” framework based on a time-by-complexity relationship that the two authors converge on, a synthesis from their prior independent work. In particular, the framework distinguishes a line of levels of combogenesis from quarks to culture, in contrast to patterns of emergence involving larger aggregates or groups. The framework identifies major transitions to novelty marked by innovations in general evolutionary dynamics (PVSR; propagation, variation, and selective retention), which have occurred multiple times following the Big Bang. As in Henriques’ Tree of Knowledge System, we take the Mind-Animal plane of dynamics as one of these major transitions because of the innovative PVSR-dynamics in the mindedness of animals. We note the need to simultaneously attend to patterns and processes of formation, and we describe avenues of further consideration that follow from this framework. This position paper has been improved and slightly expanded from the version originally presented to the Big History Research Group for general discussion on November 20, 2022.


Author Biographies

Gregg Henriques, Graduate Psychology, James Madison University

Gregg Henriques is Professor of Graduate Psychology at James Madison University in the Combined Doctoral Program in Clinical and School Psychology. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Vermont and did his post-doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical psychologist and has developed the “Unified Theory of Knowledge,” which is a consilient scientific humanistic worldview to unify psychology. He is the author of A New Unified Theory of Psychology (Springer, 2011), and A New Synthesis for Solving the Problem of Psychology: Addressing the Enlightenment Gap (Palgrave McMillian, November 2022). His scholarly work has been published in the field’s best journals, and he has developed a popular blog on Psychology Today, Theory of Knowledge, which has received over nine million views. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the 2022 President of the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration, and founded the Unified Theory of Knowledge academic society, which hosted the 2023 UTOK Conference, Consilience: Unifying Knowledge and Orienting Toward a Wisdom Commons.

Tyler Volk, Biology and Environmental Studies, New York University

Tyler Volk, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, New York University. At the scale of 4 billion years, the scale of life on Earth, he looks for new models and draws links across various disciplines. Author of Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be (2017) and Metapatterns: Across, Space, Time, and Mind (1995), here Volk, a self-described “patternologist,” compares his tripartite system of dynamic realms with the working conceptual structures currently deployed in the field of big history.