Friday, September 28, 2007

Joseph, Ants, and Meme Stability (part 2)

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.

23 comments:

Andrew T. said...

Peter,

Nice bit of armchair scholarship. Necessary or profound? Not really.

Daniel said...

Not surprising that you believe (or say you believe) morality evolved, Peter. But let's not confuse societal selection of its more moral members for sucess as an example of evolution. It is no more evolution than natural selection (misnamed micro-evolution by evolutionary propagandists).
Dan

Andrew T. said...

Daniel,

The people who call natural selection micro-evolution are not "propagandists". They are more accurately describing the way that process works within the evolutionary system.

Andrew T. said...

Peter,

What is it with the pictures of you and Sara in intimacy? Is there something going on between you two, or are you just very good friends?

PeterS said...

Hello Andrew,

Sara is a good friend and more. I am not sure if I want to publicly define the nature of the relationship, so this answer will have to suffice for now.

PeterS said...

Hello Andrew,

You accept the scientific viability of evolution. We agree on many (if not most) facets of science in this regard. I wonder, though, what your thinking is about morality vis-a-vis evolution. A primary intent with this series is to further elaborate on what I have already touched on previously: the evolutionary relationship or morality.

It appears to me that you are opposed to my assertions that human morality finds its roots in our evolutionary history. This opposition surprises me because you otherwise appear to accept evolution as a divinely accepted or even ordained mechanism. If evolution is acceptable to your theism, then why is it that you are opposed to the idea that human morality has it roots in sexual/natural selection?

I am sure that you can find multiple ways to connect divinely-revealed morality with evolutionary morality. The two need not be polarized. I wonder if you just have not given the requisite thought to your apparent opposition.

Daniel said...

Andrew,
Nothing "evolves" when natural selection occurs. In fact, the environment excludes part of the genome of a species. So what is happening is a reduction of genetic variety. It is thus dishonest to call it "mirco-evolution" since it is not an example of "evolution" in the classic sense at any scale.

Daniel said...

Peter,
I wouldn't be surpised at Andrew's probable inconsistency here. An if he's not inconsistent here, there always the next step, the evolution of religion. The real problem is that once a person is an unbeliever, as you have chosen to be, their congitive dissonance and inconsistencies increase!
News for you: Russ Humphrey's published an article in Acts and Facts, "Creation Cosmologies Solve Spacecraft Mystery". This is in reference to the Pioneer anomaly.

Andrew T. said...

Morality requires a rational choice.

Evolution allowed the human species the capacity to make moral decisions.

Animal species do not have the capacity to make moral decisions.

In this manner, evolution has certainly led to human morality.

Species evolve when natural selection occurs because the remaining genes within the species have led to more effective survival in the natural habitat of that species than those genes that did not pass into the new generation. That is when a tiny evolutionary adjustment happens in the species as collective -- when the genes that survive into the next generation of that species allow it to survive and prosper in its natural habitat of circumstances slightly more effectively than the previous generation. That is all that evolution is -- species physically adapting to their environments through natural selection of superior survival traits, resulting in whole new species over long periods of time. You completely misunderstand the process.

Evolution is not a hoax crafted by a few evil geniuses in the scientific community to make people of faith feel bad about themselves -- it is the only theory that accounts for the over 2-billion year old fossilized history of development of life on earth in any comprehensive way.

PeterS said...

Hello Daniel

Natural selection is the constructive pressure behind evolution. It favors that which is beneficial and rejects that which is deleterious. Random mutations occur. A mutation that is harmful or neutral is generally erased from the genome through natural selection. Most mutations are either harmful or neutral; however, a mutation that is beneficial is favored by selection pressure for survival and reproduction—causing the mutation to spread to the next generation of breeders.

Many creationists consider natural selection to be the net negative process of deletion—a process that causes created kinds to loose original genetic potential. A challenge to this idea is the wanting genetic potential in any given creature. No genotype contains the inherent potential to radiate beyond its current limitations; however, given the work of time and the occurrence of random mutation, these barriers melt away.

Majority young-earth speculation envisions uniquely created kinds emerging from the Ark. These representative pairs or populations housed the genetic potential to radiate to the plethora of species seen today. For example, a hypothetical primordial cat kind radiated into the variety of cats seen today—from lions, to fishing cats, to ocelots. The initial cat pair contained *all* of the potential for these later species to emerge through the process of deleterious natural selection. Specializations in this scenario (e.g,. the fishing cat’s webbed feet) existed as genetic potentials contained in the original pair’s genome.

In the above scenario, the original pair was a dynamo of biodiversity—a bastion of genetic potential. So much potential was found in these initial genomes that within less than a thousand years of repopulating the Earth, koalas were specialized to eat eucalyptus, ant-mimic spiders were trailing behind ants in mimicry and predation, fishing cats were chasing fish in south-east Asia using webbed feet swimming aids, mantids were imitating flowers as they waited in ambush for specialized pollinators, etc. This young earth idea lacks evidence. There is no evidence for the existence of primordial diversity. The claim for such diversity is simply ad hoc—a necessary assumption to accommodate modern-day biodiversity and bio-geography.

Modern-day biodiversity is not the handiwork of gods or other an extra-dimensional numen. Natural selection accounts for what we see in nature: from “irreducible complexity” to specialized predation, all is accounted for by the explanatory abilities of evolution via natural selection. What I state does not negate theism or deism as it is possible to reconcile the godlessness of evolution (and gravity for that matter) with the existence of a multi-modal maker. While evolution and gravity do not negate theism, they do derail the faith of gap worshipers who seek to enlarge the vacancies of human ignorance for the habitation of preferred numens.

Andrew T. said...

Peter,

ha-Sheim is my Elohim, not a gap of ignorance. The parashah this week is be-Reishit once again. See the Paqid's treatment of evolution (and of course, Torah) at the only Netzarim website: netzarim.co.il/BeitKneset/Parashat-Shavua.htm

On another subject, how is Sara "more" than a close friend? The closest that a man and a woman may be without romance and a sexual relationship as an implicit conclusion is close friends.key

PeterS said...

Hello Andrew,

I was not accusing you of gap worship. I was speaking in general of those who consider the explanatory power of evolution a threat to theism.

Sara and me... I do not understand why this is important to you. I guess that I opened this door by posting pictures of us on my blog. If it gives you any peace of mind, from the perspective of Torah-halakhah, there is nothing issur in our relationship.

Tandi said...

Hello Peter and Sara,

Sexual behaviors that threaten social sustainability include promiscuousness, fornication, adultery, lesbianism, homosexuality, bisexuality, harlotry, pornography, incest, polygamy, bestiality, pedophilia, evil concupiscence, covetousness of another’s spouse, etc. In other words, anything other than a pure, undefiled marriage to one wife/husband, honoring the vows taken before God “for better or worse, richer or poorer....till death do us part.”

Children do not thrive in broken homes and will likely repeat the mistakes of their parents in forming throw-away marriages unless the cycle of abuse is broken and a renewed commitment to “love, honor, and cherish” restored.

Altruistic behavior, collective cooperation? All fine and good. Please continue with your thesis.

Andrew T. said...

Tandi's points are correct this time around for the most part. Although:

"honoring the vows taken before God “for better or worse, richer or poorer....till death do us part.”"

You're quoting vows taken at a Christian wedding, not a wedding founded in Torah. If you claim to make points from Torah, don't mingle them with ideologies not compatible with Torah (like Christianity). The Bible explicitly calls for a laser-thin separation between ha-Kodesh (the holy) and khol (the ordinary/profane).

You also neglected to mention nidah (separation during the menstrual cycle), also required of Torah for for married couples.

Daniel said...

Hi Peter,

You said:

"Natural selection is the constructive pressure behind evolution"

Right off the bat -- a misleading statement. Natural selection "constructs" nothing. It only eliminates a species or variation that cannot survive a deterioration of enironment. Therefore, it is properly a "destructive" mechanism.

Andrew T. said...

Daniel,

It is "constructive" in that the results of the process become more acutely able to adapt in their natural environment.

Over billions of years, it's led to quite a lot of life forms.

Tandi said...

Hello Peter,

You should develop your treatise into a read-aloud (with expression) at open mike night at one of those bohemian coffee houses, complete with bongos of course. : )

I actually read part of this aloud to my neighbor, enjoying the alliteration as always. My neighbor was impressed. By the way, he often uses the word detritivore now, impressing his friends. Pat does as well.

If I may edit a bit, I think your poetic piece would sound better this way.....

Denizens of a detritus domain
Social soldiers
Willing workers
Decadent drones
And the quintessential queen
All strive to altruistic service to the collective
Never lacking in work to do
Or wanting in survival skills
More than merely exist...
They expand...
Branching out with imperialistic ambitions.

Colonized, helpless plebeians
Unable to resist
Aphids yielding milk to the harvest
Exchanged for symbiotic protection
Concealed crop
Foregone fruit of fungal yield
Agrarians garnering, arboreal reaping
Trapped in the collective river
Torn to shreds by its tide
A ground beetle, carried away, piece by piece!
By a tropical Army of Red!

Communists? Socialists?
No!....Ants! (bongos here)

Go to the Ant, thou sluggard
Consider her ways and be wise
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler
Provideth her meat in the summer
And gathereth her food in the harvest
Man at his best
Conjoins and commits
To social sustainability.
Altruistic behavior...
Collective cooperation...
Successful civilization.

By the way, I mention you at my blog (Sukkot Sorrow). How I miss the old Peter. I still pray for a miracle. I think I hear Gabriel’s prayer..and I second it.

Andrew T. said...

Tandi,

Good poem denouncing collectivism.

Daniel said...

Andrew,

You wrote, "It is "constructive" in that the results of the process become more acutely able to adapt in their natural environment.

Over billions of years, it's led to quite a lot of life forms."

This is pure nonsense. Actual observations show that over history there has been a net loss of life forms due to environmental deterioration. That represents a loss of genetic variation over time. There is nothing constructive about it. Natual selection is not a mechanism 'constructing' new life forms. All one has to ask is where are the Mammoths? Where are the dinosours? Answer: all this genetic variation that God created during the six days of creation has perished due to environmental malfunctions which are due to man's sin.

Andrew T. said...

Daniel,

To cut directly to the chase:

"All one has to ask is where are the Mammoths?"

They went extinct, although the survivors within the species evolved into modern elephants.

"Where are the dinosours?"

They went extinct, although small mammals were able to survive the conditions that they did not.

PeterS said...

Hello Andrew,

A quick correction, the pachydermic phylogeny of the mammath and mastadon ends at these particulars. Hence, modern African and Indian elephants are not descendants of mammoths, etc. Unfortunately, the mammoths and mastedons went extinct with no progeny to greet us today.

Daniel said...

Peter,
You rebuke of Andrew leaves something to be desired, namely plain English: the genetic line of the Mammoth ended. You could have said the same for dinasours too, though Andrew wasn't foolish enough to claim that!
Say did you see the PBS Nova special on EpiGenetic changes? They even went so far as to suggest that drinking, smoking, e.t.c. might affect progeny to the "third and fourth generation" --I'm being facetious, but hey the Bible suggested it first!

PeterS said...

Hello Daniel,

Yes, the mammoth genetic line ended. That is what I said. However, the dinosaur genetic line did not end. It is overwhelmingly obvious that birds are the evolutionary ancestors of some dinosaur varieties. Of course, not all dinosaur varieties evolved into birds, but of the ones which did, the genetic line continues.