Year: 2020

How Insulin Helped Create Ant Societies

Ants, wasps, bees and other social insects live in highly organized “eusocial” colonies where throngs of females forgo reproduction — usually viewed as the cornerstone of evolutionary fitness — to serve the needs of a few egg-laying queens and their offspring. How they got that way has been hard to explaindespite more than 150 years of biologists’ efforts. Many researchers have thought the answer would come down to a complex suite of genetic changes that evolved in species-specific ways over a long time. But new results suggest that a surprisingly simple hormonal mechanism — one that can be found throughout the animal kingdom — may have been enough to set eusociality in motion. Last month, a team of researchers led by Daniel Kronauer, an evolutionary biologist at the Rockefeller University in New York, published a paper in Sciencethat many experts are saying provides one of the most detailed molecular stories to date in the study of eusocial behavior. The scientists found that division of reproductive labor in ants arose when an ancient insulin signaling pathway, typically involved in maintaining …

skeptic society Divisions of Islamophobia

Divisions of Islamophobia

A false dichotomy is a basic type of informal logical fallacy, consisting in framing an issue as if there were only two choices available, while in fact a range of nuanced positions may be on offer upon more careful reflection. There are nonetheless plenty of instances were they do identify truly bad reasoning.Another one is arguably represented by the never ending “debate” about Islamophobia. It is easy to find stark examples of people defending what appear to be two irreconcilable positions about how to view Islam in a post-9/11 world. For the sake of discussion, I will bypass pundits and other pseudo-intellectuals, and use instead two comedians as representative of the contrasting positions: Broadly speaking, I don’t think religions in general are particularly good ideas. In my mind they originate from a combination of false presuppositions (that there are higher beings of a supernatural kind) and a power grab by individuals (i.e., religious leaders) who sometimes unconsciously (and sometimes not) end up exploiting the fears and hopes of the people that they are supposed to …