Second part: Li'l Joe in Response to Interview of Dr. Mark Moffett by Dr.Michael Shermer
Other than having a common animal ancestor in Cambrian oceans and being historically evolved terrestrial species, ants and humans have no common history.
Moffett and Sherman do not address the evolved differences between social behavior of humans and inherited eusociality of ants reinforced by natural selection. Moffett's reference to an ant colony as an ant "society" has no scientific explanatory power. There is nothing difficult or profound about the category of society as society. A society is comprised of a group of mutually dependent social individuals. Moffett could just as easily call a school of fish a society, or flock of geese a society, or herd of cattle a society or better yet the social behavior of baboon troops and chimpanzees, a baboon society and a society of chimpanzees.
Long ago in the pioneering "Origin of Species" Darwin dealt both with instinctive behavior in social insects, e.g. honey bee communities, and "gregarious" mammals -- what today is referred to as eusocial species and prosocial behavior. Moffett hasn't made any new discoveries concerning behavior of species. Rather, he merely asserts that homo sapiens are inherently racist. He hasn't provided any empirical evidence in explaining racism, xenophobia, nationalism and war as having a basis in human genetics. His anecdotal fallacy about babies at one month old being ethnic bigots who already know categories of race and language distinctions, and have an innate hostility to ethnicity or language different than of his/her mother. He claims one month old babies having not being taught these prejudices, have innate mental categories of understanding and instinctively inherit bigoted human social behavior. He posits that homo sapiens are born racists, ethno-jingoists and xenophobic nationalists and thus race bigotry and ethnic conflict are components of human nature.
Robert Audrey and Desmond Morris before Moffett compared human societies wars against one another due to human nature to defend one's territory ("territorial imperative" ). Territoriality was argued to be innate to predatory species. Human males were predatory (hunters) territorial as innate and selects animals that fit this ideology category to serve as cases in point. Moffett selects the violent behavior of and therefore human nature is territorial. These wild speculations were made prior to advanced studies in DNA genome mapping, so their use of behavior of predatory and patrilineal species to make their point is excusable. But not the ideologies which were used in academia and popular culture to justify wars ostensibly in "national defense".
Morris chose hunting animals defending their home base territory but selected the behavior of mammalian male predators. Moffet selected ants for comparison. Presumably it is because Moffett is an entomologist specialising in social behavior of ants selected to compare humans to ants rather than mammals. Certain ant species go to war on one another. Territorial battles between ants of different colonies or different species neither can explain nor can justify imperialist wars. Comparison of violent behavior of ants to human wars have no more a direct causal connection than the hunting behavior of eagles comparing it to wild dogs: any more than the scavenging behavior of buzzards explain Australopithecine or homo erectus scavenging behavior using tools. Wars between kingdoms, empires, polis, nation-states are driven by economic objectives and not because of any so-called innate causal "territorial imperative".
"To be radical is to get to the root of the matter. But, the roots of humanity is humanity itself. Marxian materialist conception of history argue that archeological "Relics of bygone instruments of labour possess the same importance for the investigation of extinct economic forms of society, as do fossil bones for the determination of extinct species of animals. It is not the articles made, but how they are made, and by what instruments, that enables us to distinguish different economic epochs." (Karl Marx Capital Volume I Part 3 chapter 7). Paleontologists Louis and Mary Leakey and their son Richard Leakey proved the proximity of artifact tools to fossil sites are useful for determining the economic and social behavior of the long dead hominin species. Tools are shaped for specific purposes and one can infer what they were used to achieve, infer whether they were gatherer-scavengers, fishing camps, hunter-gatherers, horticulturalists. &c.
Assuming (for the moment) Moffett is doing serious science and really believed human and ant violence can explain each others violent behavior by comparison based speculation. Of course all life forms of plants and animals in the oceans and on land all share a common evolutionary heritage. Species adapted best to habitats and ecosystems survived and reproduced successful offspring and subsequent years of environmental changes and mass extinctions again and again. Those hundreds of millions of years were ecologically characterised by species of predators and species preyed upon. "Just as in Nature animals prey on one another so in society classes do the same" (Diderot Rameau's Nephew).
Insects are essential (an important food source for many amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) to the food web. Economic activity is the procurement or producing means of production and rules of distribution. Hominin economic behavior is historical. There were and/or are different hominin species and modes of tool making and procurement of means of subsistence based on bipedalism, opposable thumb and ability to grasp objects and make tools, stereoscopic colour vision and these modes of producing tools change along with speciation evolving an increasing cranial capacity. Homo erectus introduced permanent bipedalism.This enabled freedom of upper limbs to use the hands to make stone tools by means of percussion flaking traditions. Hand axes can be found all over the planet. The hominins were able to travel on the ground in savannahs in search of means of subsistence. Australopithecines also used tools immediately picked up, shaped for procurement and discarded (similar to making and using objects as means of procurement as done by our chimpanzee cousins today). There is no evidence of chimpanzee making tools shaped for the purpose of making other tools. Neither is there any evidence of any species of ants making hand axes. Tool making traditions progressed along side speciation.
Moffett knows the scientific method. Were he serious in investigating and explaining ant and hominin relations he would have discussed the corresponding million years of technological changes causing changes of social behavior. Beginning with Paleolithic economies characteristic of successive chronospecies of hominins that lived by tools in gathering and scavenging behavior and changes in this behavior following the use of fire in cooking plants and animals.
How this enabled nomadic hunting and gathering economies resulted in a sexual division of labour. How this economic division of labour changed social relations because of the changes economic relations of procurement by women gatherers and mothers and procurement of animal flesh by men as hunters. Using hunting spears as community's protectors. How Mesolithic more predetermined pressure flaking and composite tools, bows and arrows displaced Paleolithic percussion flaking and its tools. Meanwhile women as gatherers became knowledgeable of medicines as gathers also had a corresponding relational relation to insects as well as roots, nut, berries.
How accumulated knowledge of animal behaviour of hunters changes with herding, and pastoralism together with the advance from Mesolithic tool traditions to Neolithic tool making used in horticulture. How animal husbandry enabled men permanently working nearer home. How did these huge changes affect social relations of men and women and parents and children. The domestication of plants and animals and the composite hoe enabled sedentary modes of production and consumption, agriculture and the rise of permanent village residency.
How did changes in human behavior change in relation to Nature resulting from successive changes in modes of production economies of the copper age, bronze age and iron age? How did social relations and relations of humans with Nature change because agriculture and animal husbandry resulting in surpluses engendered exchanges of surpluses and how did the relation of man in Nature change by the introduction of metals such as copper, silver and gold coins become valuables when used as money as medium of exchange and means of payment resulted in private property and classes of haves and have nots?
How did human nature change in relation to Nature when slaves were captured or purchased by men with property and money or owned by the state to work fields or dig in copper, silver, and gold mines? How was human social behavior changed when wealthy land owners became kings and land owning armed protectors became a military caste of aristocrats?
Economics is an analysis of life forms struggle for existence.. whether solitary individuals or eusocial and or prosocial species constitute economic behavior. Moreover Moffett's ahistorical method of analysis and explanation of human behavior in relations to Nature and the species feeding on it and predators on prey is independent of modes of production and appropriation. What Moffett does is not only not science. What he does is reverse anthropomorphism by assertion that human behavior parallel ant behavior. In actuality human social behaviour is of social individuals determined by socialisation and ant behavior is instinctive. The behavior of the queen of England and UK cannot be explained by the behavior of the queen ant. To call the breeding or mother ant a queen is anthropomorphic and fallacious. Ant colonies consist of millions of female worker ants - a colony are sisters are of a single mom. The millions of citisens of the United Kingdom are not all female workers and not children of queen Elizabeth.
Dr. Mark Moffett - The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall (SCIENCE SALON # 62)
LabourPartyPraxis discussion - subscribe