Natures wonders: ant nest building (Introduction)

by dhw, Wednesday, January 20, 2016, 13:52 (1310 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: Pheromones play a role in guiding ants as they build their nests:
David's comment: The use of pheromones indicates automaticity. The ants are programmed to the same thing over and over. We are back to the usual debate. Did the original ant planners do this on their own or were they guided?

The use of pheromones indicates communication. Like every other organism, ants use whatever means of communication are available to them. Different kinds of ants build different kinds of nests, and even if their nests follow a certain pattern, they still vary individually: “This chemical signal controls their building activity locally and determines the shape of the nest. Its breakdown over time and due to environmental conditions also enables the ants to adapt the shape of their nests.” (My bold) I would argue that the pheromone is not part of a computer programme, but an instrument integral to their autonomous, cooperative, ant-designed nest-building: “They add a pheromone to their material, which stimulates the other ants to build on the same spot, leading to the formation of regularly spaced pillars.”

I know you hate to think of ants having any sort of mind, and you love the idea of God preprogramming or personally guiding each species of ant to build a special nest so that it can balance nature, but I would suggest that ants worked it out all by themselves. And whenever they come up against problems, they work out the solutions all by themselves, rather than relying on God's intervention or a computer programme he devised 3.8 billion years ago to cover every eventuality. The same, of course, applies to the weaverbird (under “Animal minds”):

dhw: We have always agreed on the design issue. Where we disagree is on your insistence that only God and humans can design things, though “could have helped” suggests a slight softening in your approach! “No, no, not on the left,” said God to the weaverbird. “Put it on the right, or you'll upset the balance of nature."

DAVID: Planned designs require a mind. There is purpose. Weaver birds must have tried this and that over eons of time to achieve their current nest. Hunt and peck is not likely.

Yes, these designs require a mind, and yes there is a purpose. But why do you assume that ants and weaverbirds do NOT have minds, and are incapable of fulfilling their own purposes without your God's intervention? “Large organisms chauvinism”, as Shapiro would say.

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