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Darwinian evolution can create a life strategy for male insects?

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One problem with the Darwinian model of evolution is that it seems to imply greater-than-possible intelligence in life forms (or else in the unconscious subunits of same).

Have a look at this copy from Phys.org:

In the desert along the Arizona/New Mexico border, the scientists observed mating between two species of Pogonomyrmex harvester ants that are known to hybridize. The queens of one species will happily mate with males of another species. But these queens have a trick in their antly boudoir: they only use this sperm from the other species to produce sterile worker ants that they need to build their colonies.

This, you might imagine, isn’t what the male ants are hoping will happen with their precious seed. Sure, these males will produce lots of daughters via this queen, but these daughters will be sterile and “so they’ll have no grandchildren,” says Sara Helms Cahan, a biologist at UVM who co-led the study with her graduate student and lead author Michael Herrmann.

Do we have a reason for believing that these male ants could know or care? If not, then who or what exactly does?

Sterile offspring are directly contrary to the males’ long-term evolutionary interest in passing on their genes.

What  long-term evolutionary interest in passing on their genes?

What difference does it make to the insects if their line goes extinct?

Then it gets clever:

Then—perhaps a bit like other dawnings of awareness among males of a well-known species in the middle of the sex act—the male ants figure out they’ve made a big mistake. Realizing that they have mated with the wrong species, they get clever, and reduce the rate at which they transfer their sperm into these crosstown queens. “They can mate again,” Helms Cahan explains, “so this would preserve their sperm for investment into better mating.”

Dawkins claims to have discerned a selfish gene that does all the thinking and caring via natural selection acting on random mutations.

Presumably all the randomness can create not only information in the mathematical sense but also a personal life strategy for insects. But, come to think of it, the same people believe that about humans too, don’t they?

The curious thing is that anthropomorphism (that’s what this is called; it means assuming that animals/insects think like people) used to be regarded as a sign of primitive thinking. Now it’s Darwinian evolution and therefore science, by definition.

No wonder even Nature, is becoming more more open to dissent.

The question of whether randomness can create bewilderingly complex information in a comparatively short period of time will probably gain traction because, unlike this stuff, it is subject to testing.

See also: Evolution driven by laws? Not random mutations? (If an establishment figure can safely write this kind of thing, Darwin’s theory is coming under more serious fire than ever.)

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29 Replies to “Darwinian evolution can create a life strategy for male insects?

  1. 1
    wd400 says:

    One problem with the Darwinian model of evolution is that it seems to imply greater-than-possible intelligence in life forms (or else in the unconscious subunits of same).

    Nothing in the linked article requires intellegence on the behalf of ants. People don’t complain that, say, quorum sensing in bacteria requires intellegence. And not sure why this example should be different.

  2. 2
    News says:

    Actually the article is written as if they are indeed showing intelligence, and that raises a question: How, exactly? Isn’t bacterial quorum sensing done by chemical detection?

  3. 3
    wd400 says:

    Like almost everything else on physor, it’s a press release, not a real article and certainly not a real paper.

    Quorum sensing is achieved by detecting chemicals, and so is mate identfication in most insects. Cuticular hydrocarbon and mating pheremones being the most common methods. Far from being untestable, these ideas set up future studies — why are pre-copulatory cues not useful for these lineages (this probably relates to the density of “on-lineage” and “off-lineage” males in mating swarms, but other explanations are possible), what cues to males and females using once mating has started.

  4. 4
    News says:

    wd400, it is unclear what or who is doing the calculation outlined, and I am not the only person who has identified that as an ongoing problem with the selfish gene/.

  5. 5
    wd400 says:

    Well, I guess it’s true that lots of people don’t know what they’re talking about.

    I don’t see why anything needs to be doing any calculations here. Again, quorum sensing doesn’t require bacterial cells to calculate. How is this different?

  6. 6
    wd400 says:

    BTW, who do you think is making the calculaton?

    The paper shows the sperm storage/limited exchange happens during “off-lineage” copulation. So it’s a fact that needs explaining, what’s your explanation and how can we test it?

  7. 7
    Rich says:

    Denyse – is it true that no-one has yet found the selfish gene?

  8. 8
    Enkidu says:

    That ant mating strategy is certainly convoluted! Can anyone offer a hypothesis from the Intelligent Design perspective of why designing a system to behave like that would make sense?

  9. 9
    keith s says:

    Rich:

    Denyse – is it true that no-one has yet found the selfish gene?

    She’s making progress, Rich. It used to be “the selfish gene”. Now it’s “a selfish gene.” One of these days, she may actually understand the concept.

    Denyse:

    Dawkins claims to have discerned a selfish gene that does all the thinking and caring via natural selection acting on random mutations.

    +1

  10. 10
    ppolish says:

    That ant mating strategy is certainly convoluted! Can anyone offer a hypothesis from the Intelligent Design perspective of why designing a system to behave like that would make sense?” Asks Enkidu.

    Well, the system did evolve. But Evolution is not a fundamental process – it emerged. What did it emerge from? From nothing? Course not, it emerged from ID.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    As to News observing that

    “One problem with the Darwinian model of evolution is that it seems to imply greater-than-possible intelligence in life forms (or else in the unconscious subunits of same).”

    and wd400 objecting:

    Nothing in the linked article requires intellegence on the behalf of ants. People don’t complain that, say, quorum sensing in bacteria requires intellegence. And not sure why this example should be different.

    Actually contrary to what wd400 believes to be true, and as Talbott has clearly pointed out recently, a major problem with Darwinian explanations is how to describe the complexities of life without illegitimately using terminology that invokes agency,,,

    The ‘Mental Cell’: Let’s Loosen Up Biological Thinking! – Stephen L. Talbott – September 9, 2014
    Excerpt: Many biologists are content to dismiss the problem with hand-waving: “When we wield the language of agency, we are speaking metaphorically, and we could just as well, if less conveniently, abandon the metaphors”.
    Yet no scientist or philosopher has shown how this shift of language could be effected. And the fact of the matter is just obvious: the biologist who is not investigating how the organism achieves something in a well-directed way is not yet doing biology, as opposed to physics or chemistry. Is this in turn just hand-waving? Let the reader inclined to think so take up a challenge: pose a single topic for biological research, doing so in language that avoids all implication of agency, cognition, and purposiveness1.
    One reason this cannot be done is clear enough: molecular biology — the discipline that was finally going to reduce life unreservedly to mindless mechanism — is now posing its own severe challenges. In this era of Big Data, the message from every side concerns previously unimagined complexity, incessant cross-talk and intertwining pathways, wildly unexpected genomic performances, dynamic conformational changes involving proteins and their cooperative or antagonistic binding partners, pervasive multifunctionality, intricately directed behavior somehow arising from the interaction of countless players in interpenetrating networks, and opposite effects by the same molecules in slightly different contexts. The picture at the molecular level begins to look as lively and organic — and thoughtful — as life itself.
    http://natureinstitute.org/txt.....ell_23.htm

    Thus News point is more than valid, and wd400’s denial that biologist rely on design terminology (agency in particular) is ‘not even wrong’!

  12. 12
    humbled says:

    Evolution sure is magical 😉

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    I don’t see why anything needs to be doing any calculations here. Again, quorum sensing doesn’t require bacterial cells to calculate.

    lol

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    As to insects in general, it interesting to note that the insect that has been tested the most in laboratories, the fruit fly, has failed, spectacularly, to confirm Darwinian presuppositions as to unlimited plasticity:

    Experimental Evolution in Fruit Flies (35 years of trying to force fruit flies to evolve in the laboratory fails, spectacularly) – October 2010
    Excerpt: “Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles.,,, “This research really upends the dominant paradigm about how species evolve,” said ecology and evolutionary biology professor Anthony Long, the primary investigator.
    http://eebweb.arizona.edu/nach.....l_2010.pdf

    Response to John Wise – October 2010
    Excerpt: A technique called “saturation mutagenesis”1,2 has been used to produce every possible developmental mutation in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster),3,4,5 roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans),6,7 and zebrafish (Danio rerio),8,9,10 and the same technique is now being applied to mice (Mus musculus).11,12 None of the evidence from these and numerous other studies of developmental mutations supports the neo-Darwinian dogma that DNA mutations can lead to new organs or body plans–because none of the observed developmental mutations benefit the organism.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....38811.html

    Darwin’s Theory – Fruit Flies and Morphology – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZJTIwRY0bs

    …Advantageous anatomical mutations are never observed. The four-winged fruit fly is a case in point: The second set of wings lacks flight muscles, so the useless appendages interfere with flying and mating, and the mutant fly cannot survive long outside the laboratory. Similar mutations in other genes also produce various anatomical deformations, but they are harmful, too. In 1963, Harvard evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr wrote that the resulting mutants “are such evident freaks that these monsters can be designated only as ‘hopeless.’ They are so utterly unbalanced that they would not have the slightest chance of escaping elimination through natural selection.” –
    Jonathan Wells

    And as far as we can go back in the fossil record and find fruit flies, we find that fruit flies have always been fruit flies:

    50 million year old Fruit Fly fossil compared to modern Fruit Fly – picture
    http://en.harunyahya.net/fruit.....on-museum/

    There is simply no empirical evidence that Darwinists can appeal to, despite extensive testing on fruit flies, to show that fruit flies have anywhere near the pasticity of form as is presupposed in Darwinian evolution.

    A few more notes of interest:

    Seeing the Natural World With a Physicist’s Lens – November 2010
    Excerpt: Scientists have identified and mathematically anatomized an array of cases where optimization has left its fastidious mark, among them;,, the precision response in a fruit fly embryo to contouring molecules that help distinguish tail from head;,,, In each instance, biophysicists have calculated, the system couldn’t get faster, more sensitive or more efficient without first relocating to an alternate universe with alternate physical constants.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11.....038;st=cse

    Study of complete RNA collection of fruit fly uncovers unprecedented complexity – March 17, 2014
    Excerpt: Scientists from Indiana University are part of a consortium that has described the transcriptome of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster in unprecedented detail, identifying thousands of new genes, transcripts and proteins.,,,
    The paper shows that the Drosophila genome is far more complex than previously suspected and suggests that the same will be true of the genomes of other higher organisms.,,,
    http://news.indiana.edu/releas.....ered.shtml

    The vein patterns in fruit fly wings never vary by “more than the width of a single cell” – Sept. 18, 2014
    Excerpt: Gregor and his colleagues used computer analysis and superimposition to measure and compare wing vein patterns in fruit flies. Even when grown at different temperatures, genetically similar flies had as little variation between two flies’ wings as between the left and right wings of a single fly. And genetically less-similar flies’ wings differed by no more than one cell’s width, suggesting exquisitely precise developmental control over vein patterns. “At every single step, we are at the precision of one half to one cell, so no [additional] error-reducing mechanisms [are] necessary,” says Gregor.
    If the data hold, it would point to “a remarkable amount of communication between the two sides of the body,” he says. It would mean development is really incredibly precise.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ngle-cell/

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    Fruit fly with the wings of beauty – July 2012
    Excerpt: But a closer examination of the transparent wings of Goniurellia tridens reveals a piece of evolutionary(?) art. Each wing carries a precisely detailed image of an ant-like insect, complete with six legs, two antennae, a head, thorax and tapered abdomen.
    http://www.thenational.ae/news.....-of-beauty

    TEDx Video: Flight of the Fruit Fly – October 8, 2013
    Excerpt: “Dickinson is a very intense guy himself, and gives a remarkable discussion of what makes the engineering that goes into fruit fly flight so amazing.” (4:50 minute mark of video lists several fascinating high tech ‘accessories’ of the fruit fly, such as a gyroscope)
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....77641.html

    Image of the Day: Fruit Fly Eye – February 2014
    “The bristles between the ommatidia of the Drosophila compound eye are believed to protect the eye’s surface.”
    http://classic.the-scientist.c.....t-Fly-Eye/

    “The brain of a small fruit fly uses energy in the micro-watts for complex flight control and visual information processing to find and fly to food. I don’t think a supercomputer could yet simulate what the fruit fly brain does even while using megawatts of energy. The difference of over ten orders of magnitude and the level of energy used is an indication of just how incredible biological systems are.
    Professor Keiichi Namba, Osaka University
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....48#t=1645s

    Fig wasp and Fig fruit – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfkiYfrStrU

    The story of fig tree pollination is a testimony to Intelligent Design. Since the flowers of a fig tree are inside the fruit, they need the fig wasp to do the pollinating. The female wasp tunnels into the urnlike fruit of one kind of fig through a small hole in the top to lay her eggs in the flowers. The wingless male wasp hatch first and then mates with the female while she is still incubating in her flower. The male soon dies inside the fruit, and never leaves the inside of the fruit. The winged female wasps hatch. As the female wasps leave the fruit through the same tiny opening in the fruit, they pick up pollen that they carry to a second kind of fig. This is the one that will produce seeds for new trees and delicious fruit.

    Evolution vs. The Honey Bee – an Architectural Marvel – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rfbxqucz-s

    Verse and Music:

    Psalms 104:24
    O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions.

    Words – Hawk Nelson
    http://myktis.com/songs/words/

  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    Evolution vs. The Honey Bee – an Architectural Marvel – 4:00 minute mark – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=k0U-xASyM2g#t=240

  17. 17
    News says:

    Enkidu at 8: The ant mating strategy isn’t especially convoluted; it seems to involve a lot of strategy that cannot be attributed to the known intelligence of the life form. It certainly goes well beyond quorum sensing.

    The article seems to attributed the strategy to mental agency, using a common rhetorical practice in science news writing whereby selfish-gene type calculations are written about as if they involved mental agency.

    But then whose mental agency? How exactly would a natural force substitute for such complex mental agency? Dawkins claimed natural selection could do this, but what are the probabilities?

    The best he could do was to storytelling, as in The Blind Watchmaker. We need probabilities for natural selection doing this, not claims that it happened, therefore natural selection did it.

    Unless someone thinks the ants are so smart …

  18. 18
    Enkidu says:

    News at 17 “The article seems to attributed the strategy to mental agency, using a common rhetorical practice in science news writing whereby selfish-gene type calculations are written about as if they involved mental agency.

    News I wouldn’t put too much stock in the cover article writer who as you noticed tended to anthropomorphize the ants’ behavior.

    A link to the actual paper was given in the article

    Inter-genomic sexual conflict drives antagonistic coevolution in harvester ants

    It’s paywalled but the abstract only speaks of co-evolved sexual strategies, not any intelligent planning.

    Abstract: The reproductive interests of males and females are not always aligned, leading to sexual conflict over parental investment, rate of reproduction and mate choice. Traits that increase the genetic interests of one sex often occur at the expense of the other, selecting for counter-adaptations leading to antagonistic coevolution. Reproductive conflict is not limited to intraspecific interactions; interspecific hybridization can produce pronounced sexual conflict between males and females of different species, but it is unclear whether such conflict can drive sexually antagonistic coevolution between reproductively isolated genomes. We tested for hybridization-driven sexually antagonistic adaptations in queens and males of the socially hybridogenetic ‘J’ lineages of Pogonomyrmex harvester ants, whose mating system promotes hybridization in queens but selects against it in males. We conducted no-choice mating assays to compare patterns of mating behaviour and sperm transfer between inter- and intra-lineage pairings. There was no evidence for mate discrimination on the basis of pair type, and the total quantity of sperm transferred did not differ between intra- and inter-lineage pairs; however, further dissection of the sperm transfer process into distinct mechanistic components revealed significant, and opposing, cryptic manipulation of copulatory investment by both sexes. Males of both lineages increased their rate of sperm transfer to high-fitness intra-lineage mates, with a stronger response in the rarer lineage for whom mating mistakes are the most likely. By contrast, the total duration of copulation for intra-lineage mating pairs was significantly shorter than for inter-lineage crosses, suggesting that queens respond to prevent excessive sperm loading by prematurely terminating copulation. These findings demonstrate that sexual conflict can lead to antagonistic coevolution in both intra-genomic and inter-genomic contexts. Indeed, the resolution of sexual conflict may be a key determinant of the long-term evolutionary potential of host-dependent reproductive strategies, counteracting the inherent instabilities arising from such systems.

    It’s an ongoing problem to have untrained cover writers reporting on technical scientific subjects and without realizing it bollix up the actual work.

  19. 19

    That ant mating strategy is certainly convoluted! Can anyone offer a hypothesis from the Intelligent Design perspective of why designing a system to behave like that would make sense?

    The operational definition for hypothesis is now in the US being taught as “An idea you can test.”

    Here are two replies at the NCSE blog where I mention the current definition and where it comes from:

    http://ncse.com/blog/2014/09/s.....1572918759

    http://ncse.com/blog/2014/10/i.....1642364967

    Even though the word “convoluted” later needs to be operationally defined and an experiment will need to be developed to test whether true or false your comment started off with the hypothesis you were looking for “That ant mating strategy is certainly convoluted!”

    I think that you are looking for an explanation for how something works, a “theory”. And in this case you are asking for one that is specifically for how ant convolution works, whatever that is. In my opinion ants would find human sexual behavior to be equally convoluted, then you have to find a way to argue the matter with them before such a speciest claim can be ethically used in science.

  20. 20
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    I don’t see why anything needs to be doing any calculations here. Again, quorum sensing doesn’t require bacterial cells to calculate.

    Let’s pretend that people are just being loose with language.

    Quorum is not to be taken literally.

    Sense is not to be taken literally.

    Calculate is not to be taken literally.

    What it means to “sense” a “quorum” should not be taken literally.

    Cells neither calculate nor compute. Not literally anyways.

    Or if they do, they do not calculate or compute quorums.

  21. 21

    Yet new data pouring out of adjacent fields are starting to undermine this narrow stance. An alternative vision of evolution is beginning to crystallize, in which the processes by which organisms grow and develop are recognized as causes of evolution.

    Nyuk nyuk nyuk…

  22. 22

    And for your Sunday enjoyment is this recent (2012) video that was just brought to my attention. By 5:01 Terrence is talking about “causality” and “living things” then into systems related theory, which certainly did not come from Darwinian theory:

    Terrence Deacon: Incomplete Nature, How Mind Emerged from Matter – Sane Society
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvFE1Au3S8U

  23. 23
    wd400 says:

    I’m sorry News, but you really have no idea what you are talking about here.

    Here’s the short summary.

    1) Queen ants in this species do use “off-lineage” sperm to make workers. Male ants do limit the amount of sperm they transfer in off-lineage matings.
    2) The evolutionary explanation for this (roughly that females chemically detect the “bad” pairing and store the sperm in a way that won’t incur the fitness costs. Males have adapted to this strategy by limiting the sperm they pass on) requires no intellegence on the behalf of the ants. They just need to detect chemicals that identify the lineage from which their mates orignate (a well documented phenomenon)
    3) Though the evolutionary explanation doesn’t require intelligence on the behalf on ants, alternative explanations for this behaviour have to provide some means by which this (1) is happening nad how it came about.
    4) Far from being untestable, the evolutionary framework gives us a way to go ahead and do more science. What’s the fitness cost of hybrid-mating? Why don’t pre-copulatory measures prevent the “off-lineage” matings? How is the post-copulatory signal processed. How does the density of off-lineages males in mating swarms influence the behaviour.

    In contrast, all ID seems to have is uniformed sneers.

  24. 24

    2) The evolutionary explanation for this (roughly that females chemically detect the “bad” pairing and store the sperm in a way that won’t incur the fitness costs. Males have adapted to this strategy by limiting the sperm they pass on) requires no intellegence on the behalf of the ants. They just need to detect chemicals that identify the lineage from which their mates orignate (a well documented phenomenon)

    Number two assumes ants have no mechanism (genetic, cell or brain) able to self-learn (hence intelligent) how to “detect chemicals that identify the lineage from which their mates orignate”. This argument is scientifically demolishable. Bombs away!!!

  25. 25
    wd400 says:

    What?

  26. 26

    You never studied the Theory of Intelligent Design that I defend?

  27. 27

    Or in other words wd400 clicking on my name takes you to the webpage for the theory. The link for pdf format is:

    https://sites.google.com/site/theoryofid/home/TheoryOfIntelligentDesign.pdf

    Your explanation in number two leaves out so much detail it led to a conclusion that proved false when tested against what is now known about how intelligence works, which I explain in this Theory of Intelligent Design.

  28. 28
    Mung says:

    It doesn’t take a quorum to sense a quorum.

    But that doesn’t mean a quorum can’t be sensed.

    But what does it even mean to sense a quorum?

    But really, who cares. The presence of a quorum is not something that is computed.

    At least not by bacteria.

    Ever.

  29. 29
    Mung says:

    wd400. mia. again.

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