Among social insects, why does it pay for workers to help the queen in some situations but then also pay to kill her in others? What explains why some queens get killed and not others, and why kill her at all? One expert explored these questions, and found that by eliminating the queen, a matricidal worker frees the way for workers to lay male eggs.
“Workers are assessing the situation in their colony and deciding to revolt against the queen only when the genetic makeup of the colony makes it favorable to do so,” Loope said. “The main advantage is to allow your sister workers to lay male eggs, rather than the queen, who typically stops worker reproduction by egg eating, attacking reproducing workers, and by laying many of her own eggs. By eliminating the queen, a matricidal worker allows other workers and herself to lay male eggs.”
Workers do all the tasks of raising the brood. They forage for food, feed the offspring and the queen, build the nest and defend it. Only occasionally do they attempt to reproduce. Males are produced at the end of the year and mate with the new queens. Then the males die. Workers never mate but can still lay male eggs due to a quirk in their genetic system. This allows them to compete with the queen for the production of males.
“Hence the matricide,” Loope said. “Workers are not mindless automatons working for the queen no matter what. They only altruistically give up reproduction when the context is right, but revolt when it benefits them to do so.” More.
So the researchers are saying that insects have minds, “assessing” and in consequence, acting. In plain English, they have a strategy. And that is supposed to be an explanation in science?
Now, it may be that insects have minds and strategize. But it isn’t science until we have answered Mike Behe’s question, step by step: How exactly?
Darwin’s followers will of course offer Darwinism (natural selection, acting on random mutation, generates huge levels of information, not noise) as an explanation.
But Darwinism is an explanation only if we assume that Darwinism itself is a mind behind life forms, a mind that somehow strategizes.
And how do we infer this supermind ? We observe that hive workers sometimes kill their queens. Then, in the absence of anyone else to do it, they lay eggs.
And they all lived happily ever after. The end.
Wait a minute. If half grown bear cubs kill their mother, they must hunt and forage by themselves. Those who learn fast survive. Does that make their actions a strategy? Does the continued existence of bears demonstrate that it is?
Which leaves us with a broader question: What constitutes a satisfactory explanation?
That question is one reason that claims for Darwinian evolution are in trouble with everybody from philosophers (What Darwin Got Wrong, Mind & Cosmos) and mathematicians right across the spectrum to the growing numbers of non-Darwinian biologists.
In Darwin’s world today, a satisfactory account is “an account that conforms to Darwinism”. The biologist’s job is to look for evidence to sustain such an account, not to look at the whole picture.
That’s all fine to the extent that Darwinism is the state religion. It doesn’t go down so well among the increasing numbers who doubt the state religion.
A similar Darwinian fairy tale may be found at: Do horses really think this way?
Note: There is a book called Darwinian Fairy-tales by Australian philosopher David Stokes. Well worth your time.
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