Freedom: Expanded Book 1—The New Biology
Part 8:3 Elaborating the sexually reproducing individual
As stated, while sexually reproducing individuals cannot normally be integrated, the sexually reproducing individual itself could be elaborated, made bigger, which, as will now be explained, is how single celled organisms developed into multicellular organisms, and how multicellular colonial ants and bees integrated into their fully cooperative colonies. Struggling to find a way to develop greater order of matter by integrating sexually reproducing individuals, it was as if Negative Entropy (or ‘God’) decided, ‘Well, what I’ll do is develop greater order of matter within each genetically reproducing individual, making it bigger.’
As was also mentioned, in these ‘elaborated sexually reproducing individuals’, the cells of the multicellular body, or the individual ants and bees in their fully integrated colonies, are no longer sexually reproducing individuals themselves, but part of a larger sexually reproducing individual which is the body, or, in the case of ants and bees, the colony.
The biological mechanism for elaborating the sexually reproducing individual involved the member cells, or the multicellular bees/ants, leaving the task of sexual reproduction to another part of the whole that specialises in reproduction. In the case of the integration of single-celled organisms, the green algae known as Volvox provides an example of an organism in transition from the single-celled to the multicellular state, as this quote describes: ‘Volvox is…a small, green sphere…composed of thousands of flagellates embedded in the surface of a jelly ball…Volvox is a colony of unicellular animals rather than a many-celled animal, because even the simplest many-celled animals have considerably more differentiation between cells than appears among the cells of Volvox. The colony swims about, rolling over and over from the action of the flagella; but, remarkably enough, the same end of the sphere is always directed forward…Its behaviour can be explained only by supposing that the activities of the numerous flagellates are subordinated to the activity of the colony as a whole. If the flagella of each member of the colony were to beat without reference to the other members, the sphere would never get anywhere. In such subordination of the individual cells of a colony to the good of the colony as a whole we see the beginnings of individuality as it exists in the higher animals, where each animal behaves as a single individual, although composed of millions of cells…The co-ordination of numerous components into an individual is usually followed by the specialisation of different individuals for different duties. Only the slightest degree of specialisation is seen in the Volvox colony; the flagellates of the back part of the colony are capable of reproduction, while the front members never reproduce but have larger eyespots and serve primarily in directing the course of the colony’ (Animals without Backbones, R. Buchsbaum, 1938, p.50 of 401).
The marine invertebrates known as siphonophores, which include the Portuguese man-of-war, live in colonies composed of ‘zooids’—individual animals that are not fully independent; indeed, their reliance upon, and integration with, each other is so strong that the colony attains the character of one large organism. In fact, most of the zooids are so specialised that they lack the ability to survive on their own. Thus siphonophorae, like Volvox, exist at the boundary between colonial and complex multicellular organisms.
We can imagine the path to the creation of Volvox and siphonophores began with cloning, the asexual reproduction of identical offspring where competition between the clones is pointless and unnecessary since each individual is genetically the same and therefore division of labour and cooperation can develop and exist between the clones. One concern with cloning is loss of variability—for example, if one colony kept reproducing asexually it could become so big it monopolised the available resources of food, space and territory, so that other colonies couldn’t survive, leading to a lack of variability in the species. We can imagine that eventually a limited, functional size would be arrived at, which presumably is the size at which Volvox and siphonophores operate. Obviously to maintain variability it would also be beneficial for sexual reproduction to occur from time to time, as it does amongst both Volvox and siphonophores.
In the case of bees (ants also employ a similar chemical retardant), the queen bee feeds all of her offspring that she intends to be workers a ‘royal jelly’ that causes sterility. To ensure the reproduction of their genes these sterile offspring then have to support the queen because she carries their genes. (It should be mentioned that saying the queen ‘intends’ and the offspring ‘have to’ is obviously personifying the genetic process. The queen and the offspring are obviously not conscious thinking organisms, deciding they ‘intend’ and ‘have to’ do something or other as we humans do, however, such anthropomorphism is simply a useful way of describing what in effect occurs. For example, the way genetics actually causes offspring to ‘have to’ support the queen is that out of the many different mutational varieties of offspring that appear over time only those that happen to have a genetic make-up that inclines them to support the queen will tend to reproduce, naturally selecting that particular behaviour for all subsequent generations and eventually the whole species.)
Elaborating the sexually reproducing individual allows the members of the elaborated individual to develop the ability to at least behave unconditionally selflessly, which, as has been explained, is fundamental for the fully cooperative integration of members into a new whole to develop. The reason our body works so well is because each part has sublimated its needs to the greater good of the whole body; each part behaves unconditionally selflessly. Our skin is constantly growing and dying to protect our body. The leaves that fall in autumn do so to ensure the tree survives through winter. Bees and ants readily sacrifice themselves for their colony; for example, when a bee stings to protect its hive, its innards are attached to the sting that is left in its victim, so when it stings it dies. The skin, leaves and bees/ants have behaved unconditionally selflessly—they have, in effect, considered the welfare of the greater good above their own welfare.
Significantly, however, our body’s skin, the tree’s leaves and the bees/ants have only behaved unconditionally selflessly because their selflessness is not actually unconditional selflessness, it is not true altruism. This is because the self-sacrificing skin, leaves and bees/ants are all indirectly selfishly ensuring their own genetic existence will be maintained by supporting the body, tree, or bee/ant colony that carries the genes for their existence and so reproduces them when it reproduces itself as a whole. Genetically they are selflessly fostering the body/ tree/ colony to selfishly ensure their own genetic reproduction. Their apparently unconditionally selfless behaviour is not actually unconditional and thus altruistic, but rather a subtle form of selfishness. As explained earlier, such reciprocity can develop genetically because it doesn’t compromise the chances of the sexually reproducing individual reproducing its genes. (As pointed out in Part 4:12, the dishonest biological theory of Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology was truthful to the extent that it did recognise this fact that the selfless behaviour of social ants and bees is due to reciprocity—where the theory was dishonest was in its application of ‘kin selection’ to explain all social behaviour, even our own unconditionally selfless, universally benevolent, fully altruistic moral instincts.)
It now needs to be explained that large animals couldn’t employ this device of elaborating the sexually reproducing individual to develop a fully cooperative, integrated association or whole of their members because for them it involves too great a loss of the variability that all species need to be able to adapt to their environment. For example, if a female buffalo happened to be born with a particular mutation that caused her to produce a chemical in her milk that retarded the sexual maturation of her offspring such that her offspring then had to have selected mutations that inclined them to protect her to ensure their genes are successfully reproduced by her, and this became a common practice amongst buffalos with every queen buffalo having, say, nine protector sacrificial buffalos, then the genetic variety of a population of 1,000 buffalos would be reduced to just 100, a drastic loss of variability. In the case of bees/ants, they are so small in relation to their environment that they can afford to have many fully integrated colonies in their environment without any significant loss of variability within their species.
The following two photographs illustrate the point. While there are millions of termites in the termite mounds, in terms of the genetic variety present in the territory shown, these mounds do, in fact, represent a similar number of sexually reproducing individuals to the number of sexually reproducing individual buffalos shown in a corresponding area in the second photograph.
Photograph by Jeremy Griffith © Fedmex Pty Ltd 2010
Photograph by Jeremy Griffith © Fedmex Pty Ltd 2010
Quite a number of species that are much larger than ants and bees are attempting to create the integrated society of members by temporarily elaborating the sexually reproducing individual. Many bird species, such as the Australian Kookaburra, delay their sexual maturation for a few years after they fledge, during which time they selflessly help raise their parents’ subsequent offspring. Wolves, African wild dogs and meerkats do the same thing. However, what they have obviously found is that to delay their sexual maturation permanently leads to too great a loss of variability in their species.
Underground-living colonial naked mole rats form fully integrated colonies of up to 300 members comprising one queen who uses hormones to inhibit the sexual maturation of nearly all the others who then act as ‘workers’ and ‘soldiers’. A few ‘sexual disperser caste’ are allowed to reach sexual maturity and these periodically escape their natal burrow to access other colonies and, in doing so, help maintain the genetic variety of the mole rat species. Significantly, like colonial ants and bees, and the dozen or so other varieties of multicellular organisms that have been able to permanently elaborate the sexually reproducing individual, mole rats are relatively small, typically individuals are only 8 to 10 centimetres (3 to 4 inches) long.
What has been explained here is very significant for humans because it means that, as large animals, we could not have employed the integrating device of elaborating the sexually reproducing individual to create the pre-conscious and pre-human-condition-afflicted, fully cooperative, completely integrated, ‘Golden’, ‘Garden of Eden’-like state that our distant ancestors lived in. Further, during that fully integrated, idyllic past our instinctive orientation was not to reciprocity’s subtle form of selfishness that the parts of multicellular organisms and bee/ant colonies practice, as the theory of Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology claims, but to being truly altruistic, genuinely unconditionally selflessly orientated towards all of life. Thus, even if we could have employed the device of elaborating the sexually reproducing individual it would not even begin to account for our unconditionally selfless, moral soul. I italicised ‘all of life’ because while ant and bee colonies have members who are dedicated to supporting each other, each colony is, in fact, engaged in fierce competition with other colonies. Worker ants and bees are not interested in behaving selflessly towards all of life, which, contrary to what the theory of Eusociality claims, our moral self is interested in. Our ability to love unconditionally didn’t arise from an ability to war successfully!
The question therefore remains: how did we humans manage to develop our absolutely wonderful and astonishing unconditionally selfless, genuinely altruistic, all-loving moral instinctive orientation to the world? How did we humans become unconditionally selflessly behaved such that we had become a fully integrated association of sexually reproducing individuals—indeed, a fully integrated species? Yes, elaborating the sexually reproducing individual does allow greater order of matter to be developed but it doesn’t achieve the next level of integration, which is the coming together or integration of sexually reproducing individual members of a species to form the Specie Individual or whole, which is what our ape ancestors managed to achieve. As was mentioned at the end of Part 8:2, and as will be fully explained shortly in Part 8:4B, the reason I said that ‘normally’ it is not possible to integrate sexually reproducing individuals is because Negative Entropy or ‘God’ did find one way to integrate sexually reproducing members of a species to form the Specie Individual, which was through the nurturing of offspring, which is the device our human ape ancestors employed to become fully integrated, the instinctive memory of which is our unconditionally selfless, genuinely altruistic, all-loving moral instinctive self or soul.
Before explaining how humans acquired our unconditionally selfless, moral instincts, this summarising point needs to be made about the stages of integration between multicellular members of a species to form the fully integrated larger whole of the Specie Individual. As has been emphasised, all species are trying to become integrated, but the amount of integration they have been able to develop varies according to their circumstances. In particular it depends on how much selfless, cooperative behaviour they can develop before they reach the integration limit where they have to establish dominance hierarchy—and beyond that situation, on whether they can temporarily or fully elaborate the reproductive individual—and beyond that situation, on whether they can develop love-indoctrination. Many species have been able to develop a degree of selfless cooperation or socialness through developing some reciprocal selflessness (which is ultimately selfish behaviour and thus can be developed by natural selection); African buffalos, for example, form semi-cooperative, ‘social’ herds as the herd provides individuals, in particular newborn calves, with physical protection against predators. Grazing animals in general form semi-cooperative, ‘social’ herds because, for one thing, if you are a grazing animal and have to have your head down feeding most of the time and you are in a herd it is likely that at least one member will have their head up and see an approaching predator and give a signal to the others of the threat. These are examples of reciprocal selflessness because while on occasion a member happens to be the selfless buffalo that most directly confronts the predator, or the grazing animal that draws attention to itself by giving the alarm call, on average each individual herd member benefits more than they risk from others making the defence or giving the alarm. It has already been explained how temporarily or permanently elaborating the reproductive individual enables cooperation to develop. What is significant is that under the limitation of the gene-based, natural selection process, while a little integration can be developed through occasional acts of reciprocal selflessness (such as occurs in buffalo herds), and somewhat more integration can be developed through temporarily elaborating the sexually reproducing individual (such as occurs in wolf packs), and continuous and thus full integration can be developed through permanently elaborating the sexually reproducing individual (as occurs in ant colonies), the continuous and thus full integration of sexually reproducing individuals to form the Species Individual can only occur through love-indoctrination (as is occurring in bonobos and occurred in our ape ancestors).