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EmpressPixie's avatar

Do you think this points to some inherent truth about slavery?

Asked by EmpressPixie (14721points) April 1st, 2009

BoingBoing linked to this article today about ant slavery.

In short, there is a species of ants that make slaving raids on other colonies. They then raise their slaves and make them work in their colony. In the new colony, some of the slave-ants have started killing the slaver species’ pupae.

Do you think this points to some inherent truth about slavery? Am I simply imposing my own morality into the story? Or is this purely a matter of survival for the ants?

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13 Answers

Qingu's avatar

Humans and ants are both highly social organisms, so I think it just points to some broader evolutionary advantage inherent in that form of biological organization.

Ants also domesticate livestock (aphids) and “farm” fungus for food. They have specialized jobs, such as warriors and office clerks (there are ants that are in charge of organizing and storing crap that other ants bring into the colony).

It is important to note—not that you would ever posit this, EP—that just because evolution selects for something, it doesn’t mean that something is moral. Just pointing that out for all those libertarians and Republicans out there who think natural selection is a moral ideal for running an economy.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Well, it clearly looks like evolution was selecting for slavery with these guys, but now in their victims it is kind of selecting for murderous rebellion, so considering the way it flip flops, I wouldn’t trust it for a second!

fireside's avatar

I thought the part about the birds was interesting too.
Cuckoos seem to be trying to get other birds to raise their young which are killed by other birds like the wren when they are found to not be of the same breed.

It is hard for me to draw a direct correlation between these findings and the larger issue of human slavery, or immigration perhaps. But it does seem to indicate biological forces at work behind the basic issue.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

Oppression breeds violence No matter the species it seems.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

I think it’s a social evolutionary realization. Obviously if morality is in enough lacking, slavery is the easiest way without advanced technology, to produce certain goods. We as humans have evolved to the point where we are aware of what our actions do to others, but a species such as ants does not. It’s very interesting that these ants have evolved to that realization though.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@ABoyNamedBoobs03 We as humans my know our actions have effects on others, but that doesn’t say much for some humans who know better and suppress people anyway. At least the ants have an excuse. They are ants.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

oh yes, I’m not saying humans are perfect, quite far from it. I’m just saying from an evolutionary standpoint it’s remarkably interesting to see that humans are not the only species that is capable of degrading a foreign entity for their own benefit.

VS's avatar

I have no answer for this question but wonder why it only has “bad answer” available next to all the answers and why EmpressPixie has a “bad question” next to the question???

VS's avatar

nevermind – I see that now! Ya got me!!

bea2345's avatar

This is evolution in action.

bea2345's avatar

Perhaps morality is but a way of expressing the idea that the community as a whole survives because of shared ideas, concepts, wants, habits, what have you. We don’t know what the consciousness of the ant is like, but it is obvious that the slaves have no loyalty to the foreign nest and their alienation manifests itself when the eggs pupate. We can’t tell if the ant has any sense that it is helping its relatives survive but it is interesting that behaviour should be proven to have an evolutionary consequence.

bea2345's avatar

The referenced article in the question has moved here.

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