Denizens of a detritus domain—social soldiers, wholehearted workers, decadently-desirous drones, and the quintessential queen—all strive in altruistic service to the collective. Never lacking in work to be done nor wanting in survival needs, they more than merely exist—they expand, branching out with imperialistic ambitions. Colonized, helpless plebeians, unable to resist, the aphids yield their milk to the harvest of the imperial force in exchange for symbiotic protection. Concealed crop, forgone fruit of fungal yield, the cultivated fungi of the leaf cutter grows underground—owing its existence to the agrarians who garner its pre-digestive work on arboreal reapings. Trapped in the collective river and torn to shreds by its tide, the ground beetle is carried away piece by piece by the tropical army of red.
Communists, socialists? – No. Ants—highly social invertebrate animals. “Go to the ant, you sluggard!” enjoins the biblical writer. The writer observes that the ant diligently works in communal commitment and is never lacking. In this way the ant is proposed as a model for human emulation: Man is at his best when he works in conjunction with commitment social sustainability.
Human morality is a product of evolutionary development in the primate and later hominid taxons. Primates and hominids are social creatures. We make use of social relationships to better our individual chances for survival and to improve our ability to distribute genetic potential. Societal success is hence critical for the occurrence of sexual selection (aka, “natural selection’) in social creatures, and societal success cannot be removed from a commitment to societal norms (e.g., morality).
Behaviors that threaten social sustainability encounter the combative pressures of sexual selection. However, more than just genes are at risk when human behavior defies accepted norms. Deleterious behaviors themselves and the collective cognition of the civilization are threatened by asocial or anti-social behavior.
Humans generally reproduce through sexual intercourse between a male and female of the same species. In an ant colony, only a select drone and one queen have this “privilege.” The worker and soldier ants do not reproduce—they are all females without developed gonads. How then does their behavior contribute to the distribution of their genes? How is it that the behavior of the one ant effects the potential for her genes to be favored for dispersal.
In the next installment, the relationship between collective cooperation and reproductive dispersal of genes and memes will be explored in ant societies. This will further concretize the survival benefit of altruistic behavior in social taxons as the end-product of evolutionary developmental pressures.