Roger Scruton on altruism

I’ve just started reading philosopher Roger Scruton’s new book The Soul of the World, in which he defends the transcendent against the scientific conception of reality. Chapter 3 contains an interesting but wrong-headed argument to the effect that evolutionary explanations of human altruism are superfluous, because altruism can be explained perfectly well in moral terms. It’s particularly interesting in light of our discussions on the Critique of Naturalism thread, so I thought I’d share it:

An organism acts altruistically, they tell us, if it benefits another organism at a cost to itself. The concept applies equally to the soldier ant that marches into the flames that threaten the anthill, and to the officer who throws himself onto the live grenade that threatens his platoon. The concept of altruism, so understood, cannot explain, or even recognize, the distinction between those two cases. Yet surely there is all the difference in the world between the ant that marches instinctively toward the flames, unable either to understand what it is doing or to fear the results of it, and the officer who consciously lays down his life for his troops.

If Kant is right, a rational being has a motive to obey the moral law, regardless of genetic advantage. This motive would arise, even if the normal result of following it were that which the Greeks observed with awe at Thermopylae, or the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Maldon. In such instances an entire community is observed to embrace death, in full consciousness of what it is doing, because death is the honorable option. Even if you don’t think Kant’s account of this is the right one, the fact is that this motive is universally observed in human beings, and is entirely different from that of the soldier ant, in being founded on a consciousness of the predicament, of the cost of doing right, and of the call to renounce life for the sake of others who depend on you or to whom your life is owed.

To put it in another way, on the approach of the evolutionary psychologists, the conduct of the Spartans at Thermopylae is overdetermined. The “dominant reproductive strategy” explanation and the “honorable sacrifice” explanation are both sufficient to account for this conduct. So which is the real explanation? Or is the “honorable sacrifice” explanation just a story that we tell ourselves, in order to pin medals on the chest of the ruined “survival machine” that died in obedience to its genes?

But suppose that the moral explanation is genuine and sufficient. It would follow that the genetic explanation is trivial. If rational beings are motivated to behave in this way, regardless of any genetic strategy, then that is sufficient to explain the fact that they do behave in this way. And being disposed to behave in this way is an adaptation — for all this means is that people who were disposed by nature to behave in any other way would by now have died out, regardless of the reasons they might have had for behaving as they did.

…it illustrates the way in which evolutionary explanations reduce to triviality, when the thing to be explained contains its own principles of persuasion.

There are lots of interesting and intertwined errors here. Dissect away!

289 thoughts on “Roger Scruton on altruism

  1. Alan Fox: Neil said something that made sense, though perhaps it was a bit ad hominem (Sorry Neil) and maybe we should be making allowances for Keith’s behaviour.

    No need for an apology. Yes, I agree that it was borderline with respect to the site rules.

    And yes, I think we should be making allowances.

    ETA: I’ll add an afterthought. I disagree with WJM on almost everything. However, I do think he has done well in how he has handled arguments with keiths.

  2. petrushka:

    I will only say that in my experience, keiths is hyper-literal and refuses to consider the intended meaning of statements.

    Do you have any evidence of that? Or is this merely a belief that “works for you”, with no supporting evidence required, as William’s beliefs do for him?

    Neil:

    Yes, that’s about how I see it. And it is pretty much what I said in in an earlier comment.

    And like petrushka, you have failed to provide any evidence for your claim.

    If it is so obvious that I am “hyper-literal”, there must be lots of examples you can point to, right? Where are they?

    My prediction: You’ll have a hard time finding evidence for your claim, but you will find cases where I pointed out your errors and you didn’t like it one bit.

    Perhaps it is more comforting to believe that someone else is “hyper-literal” than it is to admit that you made a mistake.

  3. keiths:
    petrushka:
    Do you have any evidence of that?Or is this merely a belief that “works for you”, with no supporting evidence required, as William’s beliefs do for him?

    Neil:

    And like petrushka, you have failed to provide any evidence for your claim.
    If it is so obvious that I am “hyper-literal”, there must be lots of examples you can point to, right?Where are they?
    My prediction:You’ll have a hard time finding evidence for your claim, but you will find cases where I pointed out your errors and you didn’t like it one bit.
    Perhaps it is more comforting to believe that someone else is “hyper-literal” than it is to admit that you made a mistake.

    My evidence is that a fairly large number of people who basically agree with you on matters of science have asked you to change your approach to posting.

  4. Neil Rickert: I’ll add an afterthought. I disagree with WJM on almost everything. However, I do think he has done well in how he has handled arguments with keiths.

    I agree. I disagree with almost everything William says, but I wish everyone could emulate his style of arguing.

  5. petrushka,

    My evidence is that a fairly large number of people who basically agree with you on matters of science have asked you to change your approach to posting.

    Okay, then we have two competing hypotheses:

    Yours:
    Keith is “hyper-literal” and refuses to consider the intended meaning of statements.

    Mine:
    You’ll have a hard time finding evidence for your claim, but you will find cases where I pointed out your errors and you didn’t like it one bit.

    Perhaps it is more comforting to believe that someone else is “hyper-literal” than it is to admit that you made a mistake.

    How to adjudicate between these two hypotheses? Let’s turn to the evidence. All of my comments are preserved here, so if it is true that I am “hyper-literal”, it should be easy for you to find examples of that.

    Go to it.

  6. keiths: but you will find cases where I pointed out your errors and you didn’t like it one bit.

    On another thread I asked you several times to paraphrase my position, and you never attempted to paraphrase my position. Of course I don’t like being wrong, but you never understood my position. You still don’t.

  7. keiths: Okay, then we have two competing hypotheses:

    Yours:
    Keith is “hyper-literal” and refuses to consider the intended meaning of statements.

    Mine:
    You’ll have a hard time finding evidence for your claim, but you will find cases where I pointed out your errors and you didn’t like it one bit.

    My choice is to leave that to those reading this site to individually decide for themselves.

  8. Neil,

    My choice is to leave that to those reading this site to individually decide for themselves.

    That’s convenient. You’re willing to make an accusation, but when asked to take responsibility for your claim and provide evidence for it, you suddenly become shy.

    Unlike you, I am willing to back up my claims. If anyone asks, I can provide links to instances in which you reacted quite childishly and petulantly when I pointed out your errors.

  9. Fine. Then go back to the previous thread and see if you can paraphrase my position. Back up your claim.

  10. Imagine how much better TSZ would be if commenters would pause before clicking ‘Post Comment’ and ask themselves, “Am I willing to take responsibility for what I just typed?”

  11. petrushka,

    I agree. I disagree with almost everything William says, but I wish everyone could emulate his style of arguing.

    You have a very short memory:

    petrushka, on May 22nd:

    I think William, from the beginning of his participation here, has depended rather heavily on his first person testimony to discredit mainstream science.

    I think that is not playing fair. Anyone can win an argument if allowed to make any claim and not be challenged. The board rules require us to assume good faith, but there are limits to what can be accepted in good faith.

    petrushka to William, May 23rd:

    That is why I call it an abuse of the rules, because any criticism of your ideas is a criticism of you. But that’s the way you have defined things.

    And:

    I have ignored nearly all of William’s posts, except where he has made rather egregious factual errors.

    I can ignore what I consider pointless discussions of absolute morality, but I hit the edge with the post on spoon bending.

    That is a claim that the world is flat and is 6000 years old. It’s not philosophy or theology. It isn’t even personal. It’s just stupid.

    But William tried to insulate it from criticism by claiming he has personally participated in spoon bending.

    You “wish everyone could emulate his style of arguing”? Really?

  12. petrushka,

    On another thread I asked you several times to paraphrase my position, and you never attempted to paraphrase my position.

    I remember that thread.

    Your synopsis is misleading, and a longer response is forthcoming, but first let me ask the obvious question:

    How would that be evidence that “keiths is hyper-literal and refuses to consider the intended meaning of statements”?

  13. petrushka, now:

    I prefer William’s style to that of most of his ID compatriots. And to some of mine.

    I can agree with that, but it’s a far cry from what you wrote a couple of hours ago:

    I disagree with almost everything William says, but I wish everyone could emulate his style of arguing.

  14. William has what I consider to be a vacuous position. I don’t think much of his ideas, but he defends them with considerable grace.

    Yes, I would like everyone to defend their ideas without attacking people who oppose them.

  15. petrushka,

    Fine. Then go back to the previous thread and see if you can paraphrase my position. Back up your claim.

    What specific claim are you asking me to back up?

  16. keiths: You’re willing to make an accusation, but when asked to take responsibility for your claim and provide evidence for it, you suddenly become shy.

    I provided evidence HERE.

    What I am not willing to do, is go through those posts line by line, and point out the problems. You didn’t get it when engaged in those discussions. You are unlikely to get it now.

    If you really want a very specifific example, then I’ll provide one. You gave a quote from Gibson, which you claimed refuted my position. My response was to say that the quote did not seem relevant. You replied:

    ‘Saccadic movement’ is unrelated to ‘saccades’?

    That was it. You found a syntactic string match. That sure looks like literalism. As best I can judge, you completely failed to comprehend what Gibson was actually saying.

  17. petrushka at AtBC:

    My complaint regarding Keiths is that chatting with him is no damn fun.

    Well, if that’s your complaint, then why not say that instead of making accusations that you can’t back up, like “keiths is hyper-literal and refuses to consider the intended meaning of statements”?

    And if you think that chatting with me is no fun, then stop. Take responsibility for your behavior.

    Defending a position does not have to be cutthroat.

    Exactly! If you make a mistake, and someone points it out, then just admit it and move on. It’s far less painful than you think. Or if you think that they are mistaken, then explain why. You’d be amazed at how smoothly these discussions would go if everyone would simply take responsibility — both for their correct claims and for their mistakes.

    The problem arises when people let their egos override their better judgment and, in order to save face, start defending the indefensible. The other thread you mentioned is a good example of that. I pointed out that two of your statements were contradictory and asked you to clarify, and your response was:

    What would satisfy you, keiths? a blowjob, maybe? Kiss your ass?

    And:

    I resent being asked to grovel.

    If you think that acknowledging a mistake amounts to “groveling” or ass-kissing, then no wonder you fight so hard to avoid it. You might want to take your own advice:

    Defending a position does not have to be cutthroat.

  18. This thread is also a good example. Alan resurrected the discussion after nearly a week because he still wants to defend himself against the claim that he had made a mistake. I think it’s getting repetitious and boring, but he does have a right to defend himself, and since I was the one who pointed out his mistake, I am taking responsibility for backing up my claim.

    Yet the position Alan is defending is a ridiculous one: he denies that the self-sacrificing behavior of soldier ants has a genetic explanation. Surely he must recognize his mistake by now, but he is fighting unbelievably hard to avoid admitting it.

    Why? It was just a mistake. He misunderstood ant biology. It’s not the end of the world.

  19. Neil,

    What I am not willing to do, is go through those posts line by line, and point out the problems.

    Of course not, because then the burden would be on you to find evidence for your claim. You obviously prefer not to take responsibility for the accusations you make.

    If you really want a very specifific example, then I’ll provide one. You gave a quote from Gibson, which you claimed refuted my position. My response was to say that the quote did not seem relevant. You replied:

    ‘Saccadic movement’ is unrelated to ‘saccades’?

    That was it. You found a syntactic string match. That sure looks like literalism. As best I can judge, you completely failed to comprehend what Gibson was actually saying.

    It wasn’t a “syntactic string match”. The meanings are the same. Saccades are saccadic movements. Here’s the definition:

    sac·cade
    səˈkäd,sa-/
    noun technical
    a rapid movement of the eye between fixation points.

    Seriously, Neil? That is your best example of my supposed ‘hyper-literalism’?

  20. Alan,

    Attempting to communicate with you seems fruitless…

    You are the one who keeps asking me what your mistakes are. I keep explaining them to you. If you ask the question, why do you refuse to acknowledge the answer?

    …and so I can see a couple of alternatives.

    1.We agree to disagree. (Though I still have no idea what this mistake is that has you posting increasingly strident comments.)

    I even went so far as to number them for you this time, and you still claim that I haven’t told you what they are. As for agreeing to disagree, I’m all for it. I think this is boring and repetitious, and anyone who cares to check can see that you did make the four mistakes that I have attributed to you. They’re just mistakes. This is not a crisis. No one is shocked that you misunderstood ant biology.

    2.We ask for other readers to venture an opinion on whether I’ve “made a mistake” on the germ line in ant populations.

    As I said, the comments are all preserved. Anyone who actually cares can take a look at them and weigh in.

  21. keiths: It wasn’t a “syntactic string match”. The meanings are the same. Saccades are saccadic movements.

    That’s still literalistic.

    And it still looks as if you failed to comprehend what Gibson was actually saying.

  22. Neil,

    That’s still literalistic.

    When Gibson mentioned “saccadic movements”, you actually think he was talking about something other than saccades?

    And it still looks as if you failed to comprehend what Gibson was actually saying.

    I think you’re wrong, but you’re welcome to make your case. I would suggest doing it on the original thread.

  23. keiths: Anyone who actually cares can take a look at them and weigh in.

    I truly wish someone would!

    I believe it is this that Keiths alleges is mistaken:

    Sterile worker and soldier castes are not the carriers of the genome. The queen is. So loss of sterile caste members is of no consequence, genetically.

    The genes in worker and soldier castes are not passed on. Only the genes in the eggs of the queen go on. The variation occurs in the meiosis and shuffling etc that produce the germ-line passed on in the eggs that develop into daughter queens. The worker and soldier castes are very important element of the phenotype.

    Please someone explain my mistake if there is one or say if you think I am broadly correct in the biology. Third party input would be really appreciated.

  24. keiths: No, Alan. I’ve been very clear about what I think your mistakes are.

    You’ve been far from clear, believe me. Please let’s hear from a third party. I hope Professor Felsenstein could weigh in.

  25. Alan Fox: Please someone explain my mistake if there is one or say if you think I am broadly correct in the biology. Third party input would be really appreciated.

    I’m not a biologist. But I have thought you were correct all along.

    To be clear, I am not saying that keiths has the biology wrong. Rather, I think he has seriously misunderstood what you have been saying.

  26. Neil Rickert,

    Thanks, Neil. I think ants are fascinating, especially the pheromone signalling system that keeps the ur-organism functioning as effectively a single entity.The fact that total ant biomass is around the same as human biomass is also pretty amazing.

  27. keiths:
    Alan,

    I think that comment is pretty clear, but if you are confused by it, why not ask questions about it?

    I think we are at an impasse. The confusion does not lie with the biology as far as I can see. As I have said all along, I’m happy to concede my share in the mis-communication for the sake of peace.

  28. Alan,

    It wasn’t a miscommunication.

    I stated that the behavior of soldier ants requires a genetic explanation, and you disagreed.

    I think you’re wrong about that, and I can’t even imagine what sort of a non-genetic explanation you have in mind.

    I wrote, incredulously:

    I have no idea what non-genetic explanation Alan has in mind. Cultural? Older ants teaching their younger siblings to be good workers and soldiers?

    And if it wasn’t a mistake, then why did you withdraw your statement a week later?

    You misunderstood the biology, Alan. That’s all. Why are you making such a big deal out of this?

  29. Not quite sure why this has become the deal it has, but the sterile castes are closely analogous to the cells of a body, though with the significant distinction that somatic cells form lineages, up to a point. But the colony arguably forms a ‘superorganism’.
    Most organismal characters are agreed to have a genetic basis in those terms, and the selection via phenotype exerts a differential influence on genes in the pool via the resultant effect on germ line copies.

    It doesn’t seem that either party is in fundamental disagreement on this.

  30. Female ants inherit one set of genes from their mother, one from their father. Male ants are produced from an unfertilized egg and only have half a complement of genes (haploid). Consequently, female workers share up to 75% (assuming monandry) of their genes. They can have greater success by *not* reproducing (where their offspring would only have 50% of their genes), but by helping their sisters.

    The relationship between female ants is determined by the habits of the queen, in particular, how many mates she takes. In colonies where the queen has only one mate, females are more closely related, and tend to be more dominant going so far as to manipulate sex ratios.

    Sundström, Chapuisat & Keller, Conditional Manipulation of Sex Ratios by Ant Workers: A Test of Kin Selection Theory, Science 1996.

    And even beyond immediate kin.

    Helantera, et al., Unicolonial ants: where do they come from, what are they and where are they going?, Trends in Ecology and Evolution 2009.

    Ronald Reagan, Alien Invasion Hypothesis, 1987.

  31. Also, worker ants have all the genes required for reproduction, and will sometimes cheat by producing eggs. They are usually caught, though.

    Smith, Hölldobler, & Liebig, Hydrocarbon signals explain the pattern of worker and egg policing in the ant Aphaenogaster cockerelli, Journal of Chemical Ecology 2008.

    Allan Miller: Not quite sure why this has become the deal it has, but the sterile castes are closely analogous to the cells of a body, though with the significant distinction that somatic cells form lineages, up to a point.

    It’s a good first order approximation. One difference is that cells of a body share 100% of the genes, and even then, sometimes they start to reproduce uncontrollably.

  32. Alan Fox: The genes in worker and soldier castes are not passed on.

    This is where the misunderstanding is: they are, in a sense: otherwise there would be no selection for certain types of worker-behaviour. Of course the physical copies present in the workers themselves are not copied into offspring. But their copies present in queens are. This is why we say that worker-genes are propagated through their queens.

    Yes: if variation occurs when a queen produces a particular worker, even if this variation is beneficial, it will not be passed on. But: if the queen already has the variation, and the worker-behaviour is influenced by it, and if the variation in worker-behaviour is beneficial to the queen, then that is where selection focuses.

    The point is that it’s impossible to make a clear distinction between worker-genes and queen-genes where it concerns selection. Except of course in the case I described, where a single variant worker is produced.

  33. Alan:

    The genes in worker and soldier castes are not passed on.

    Gralgrathor:

    This is where the misunderstanding is: they are, in a sense: otherwise there would be no selection for certain types of worker-behaviour. Of course the physical copies present in the workers themselves are not copied into offspring. But their copies present in queens are. This is why we say that worker-genes are propagated through their queens.

    Exactly. Alan’s mistake was to think that if the soldier genes aren’t copied into offspring, that means that the soldiers’ behavior doesn’t have a genetic explanation.

    Here’s how I explained it to him a few days ago:

    Imagine two queens A and B who are identical except for a couple of mutations. Queen A has a mutation that has no effect on her own behavior, but causes her soldier ant offspring to run around aimlessly in circles when the colony is attacked. Queen B has a mutation that also has no effect on her own behavior, but causes her soldier ants to be 5% more effective than nonmutants in defending the colony against attacks. Assume that the mutations have no other effects.

    If you come back in ten years, which mutation will have prevailed? Will there be more new colonies with queen A’s mutation or with queen B’s mutation? The answer should be obvious: queen B’s mutation will be more successful.

    It should also be obvious why. As I put it earlier:

    …there is feedback from the behavior of the sterile castes to the reproductive success of the queen.

  34. From another earlier comment:

    Indeed, animal altruism is striking evidence in favor of Dawkins’ selfish gene hypothesis. The genes that cause a soldier ant to fight and die for the colony are of no benefit to that soldier ant herself, but they do benefit the queen, and those same genes are carried by the queen (or by the sperm she has stored).

    The genes get themselves into the next generation via the queen, at the expense of the soldier ants who also carry them. Altruistic individuals, selfish genes.

  35. The really bizarre thing about all of this is that Alan keeps asking me what his mistakes were, I keep answering him, and he keeps ignoring me.

    From this earlier comment:

    Alan:

    You link doesn’t elucidate what you think my mistake was.Try just starting a sentence with “Your mistake was…” and go from there.

    Sure it does, but I’ll honor your request anyway. This is getting repetitious, though.

    One mistake was to deny that the self-sacrificing behavior of soldier ants has a genetic explanation. Another was the faulty reason you gave for the denial:

    keiths, paraphrasing Scruton:

    The ants aren’t reasoning about their sacrifice, so their behavior requires a genetic explanation.

    Alan:

    Well, no. Sterile worker and soldier castes are not the carriers of the genome. The queen is. So loss of sterile caste members is of no consequence, genetically.

    Then you incorrectly denied that there was feedback from the behavior of the soldier ants to the reproductive success of the queen:

    keiths:

    The sterile caste members aren’t transmitters of the genome, but they most certainly are carriers. This is important, because they get their altruistic behavior from their genes. So yes, altruism in ants has a genetic explanation.

    Alan:

    There’s no feed-back. All the genes do in a sterile caste worker is define the phenotype of that worker. It’s somatic. The only thing that can affect the alleles of a population of ants is differential survival of queens.

    And since you asked, there was also another mistake:

    Alan:

    When Scruton can make facile analogies between soldier castes in ants and how some soldiers behave in extreme warfare conditions, one does wonder if a couple of biology seminars might prove useful.

    As I pointed out, Scruton was not making a “facile analogy” between ants and humans. He was doing exactly the opposite, so your criticism was unfounded.

    Your own comments show that you made some mistakes, Alan. That’s all. No big deal.

  36. For some reason, Alan posted this on the ‘conscious rocks’ thread:

    Joe Felsenstein,

    Off-topic but I hope you can help me out Joe.

    Keiths and I have had a little misunderstanding over the germ-line/soma distinction with regard to eusocial insects, namely ants. Keith insists I am mistaken about this. As a person whose opinion I greatly respect, I wonder if you might just have a few moments to confirm whether I am indeed mistaken on the issue.

    Here and on

    Joe replied:

    Alan Fox and keiths:

    I don’t have time to read all the comments on that thread, and it is OT here. Why doesn’t someone over there pose a question to me and I will see it there and try to answer it there? And please no questions like “Reading all of these comments, do you think my position is right?”

  37. Joe,

    I’m sorry that Alan is bothering you about this, because the issue is quite simple and doesn’t require the expertise of a professional biologist to resolve.

    I claimed that the self-sacrificing behavior of soldier ants requires a genetic explanation, and Alan disagreed.

    That’s the gist of the whole dispute, believe it or not. Here is a summary.

  38. Zachriel,

    Me

    sterile castes are closely analogous to the cells of a body, though with the significant distinction that somatic cells form lineages, up to a point.

    Zachriel

    It’s a good first order approximation. One difference is that cells of a body share 100% of the genes

    I think the most important parameter governing ‘body altruism’ is the chance for a given gene of being in a gamete. For a gene in any diploid body cell (including germ line cells), it’s 50%. 100% relatedness with no ‘bottleneck’ would tend against cohesive behaviour, as for example in the complete independence of clonal cells. If you get the same payoff for reproducing yourself as you do from helping a copy, there is a weaker rationale for sacrificing direct reproduction, blocking the path to differentiated reproductive mechanisms. But when the choice is between clonal reproduction and going via the gamete, there is a different dynamic in operation.

    Haplodiploidy provides a means of generating an equivalent system at a higher level, although it actually appears to be insufficient as a causal explanation on its own, given the lack of close correlation between eusociality and haplodiploidy. Sex ratio determination and queen monogamy may also play a part. Body cells derived from a zygote are inevitably ‘monogamous’ in origin, and this may be a more significant factor in the capacity for co-operative behaviour in colonies, with haplodiploidy a frequent derived state rather than a necessary precursor.

  39. Regarding the calls for me to comment, and the statements that my commenting is not necessary, let me just make a simple statement, which may or may not be of use:

    Soldier ants or soldier termites do not behave as they do because they inherit the behavior (let alone the morphology) culturally. Their actions and morphology are phenotypes that are coded by genes, expressed in the context of the environment. However that is not to say that their genes differ from those of their worker sibs. It is fairly clear that they do not differ in any particular way. They are thought to be random members of the pool of sibs. The chemical signals that lead them to become soldiers are not well understood, but it is clear that they differ in morphology and behavior as a result of those signals, starting from the same genotypes as their worker sibs.

    I’m not quite sure whether this is responsive to the discussion here, but that’s about all I can think of to say, given that I have not yet eaten breakfast.

  40. I predict another round of people talking past each other.

    For whatever it’s worth — probably nothing — I will repeat my own analysis of the evolution of ant behavior.

    The behavior of the sterile castes is selected in the same way as the behavior of heart muscles or finger muscles. To the extent it is adaptive behavior refined by natural selection, the hive or heap is the unit selected. The whole colony is the organism. Sterile individuals contribute to the reproductive success of the colony in the same way that specialized cells contribute to the reproductive success of a body.

    It makes no sense to describe sterile individuals as altruistic, because they cannot pass on any unique genes. If they should, by some chance, have a unique mutation that makes then unusually likely to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, they cannot pass it on.

  41. petrushka,

    It makes no sense to describe sterile individuals as altruistic, because they cannot pass on any unique genes.

    Altruism is defined as behavior that benefits others at a cost to the individual. There is no requirement that the individual be able to “pass on any unique genes.”

    If they should, by some chance, have a unique mutation that makes then unusually likely to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, they cannot pass it on.

    I’m not sure why you keep emphasizing “unique” mutations in sterile individuals. The important mutations are the ones that affect queens and drones and get passed down to many of their offspring.

    Hence my Queen A versus Queen B example.

  42. Joe Felsenstein,

    Appreciate your taking the time to comment, Joe. Hope you managed to get a good breakfast. In the light of what Joe, Zachriel, Allan have said, I am convinced I’m not misunderstanding ant biology and this drawn out exchange of comments (I couldn’t call it a dialogue) with Keith is just a failure to communicate

  43. Alan,

    It’s time to take responsibility for your mistakes.

    Joe, Allan, Zachriel, Gralgrathor and I are all telling you that the behavior of the sterile castes has a genetic explanation. Are you going to continue to deny that?

    Even you recognized your error at one point, which is why you withdrew your statement!

    This is not a failure to communicate. It is a failure to take responsibility for what you wrote.

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