but is it science · Darwin · Evolution

Darwin’s Problem with Ants

Darwin’s Claims

Worker ants of various castes and two large queens
Leaf Cutter Ants – Worker ants of various castes and two large queens

Darwin thought cells were simple bags of gel.  He knew nothing of DNA or any other cellular structures.  He believed that inheritance was through “Gemmules” that each cell shed and that traveled to the gametes (sperm and egg).  Since each cell “voted” it was called pangenesis. He believed that the life experiences of the parents were passed on to their offspring in this way. He believed evolutionary incremental changes occurred by passing these life experiences on to subsequent generations.

Darwin’s Dilemma

Colony insects were a problem for Darwin.  If life experiences were passed on, how does a queen ant, who has never experienced foraging for food, pass on the behavior of the worker ants who hunt for food and bring it back to the colony?

His theory of evolution taught that use and disuse along with adaptation to environmental changes experienced by parents were passed on and were responsible for the changes seen between species by gradual changes over time, coupled with natural selection aka survival of the fittest.  How is this any different from J-B Lamarck’s theory of acquired characteristics, which was discredited as having no foundation?  Did acceptance for Darwin’s theory and not Lamarck’s have more to do with politics and marketing than science?

Modern Evolutionary Biologists’ Dilemma

Obviously, modern evolutionary biologists found pangenesis and inheritance of acquired traits embarrassing, so, in the early 20th century they changed the theory to include genetics with an emphasis on natural selection and called it Neo-Darwinism or the Modern Synthesis. Later, they included DNA.  Although Darwin is still revered as if he had everything right, this form of Evolutionary theory is grossly different from the original Darwinian theory except for the assumption of natural selection and unlimited gradual changes producing new species over time.

 

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