On this ID the Future, Animal Algorithms author Eric Cassell explores an algorithm in the brains of harvester ants that adjusts their foraging strategy based on how available food is in their environment, thereby guiding the harvester ants toward more efficient foraging. Cassell builds off a March 2022 article in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface to explain how the algorithm in the ant’s tiny brain involves a sophisticated feedback control mechanism that includes both positive and negative feedback systems. As he further notes in the episode and in an article at Evolution News, a mathematical model of the harvester ants’ foraging behavior by Stanford University scientists confirms the control algorithm is largely optimized. Cassell’s recent book, Animal Algorithms, shows how the harvester ant algorithm is but one example of many behavior algorithms found in ants and other social insects. In the book, and more briefly in this podcast episode, Cassell explains why he sees intelligent design as a better explanation than any blind evolutionary process for the origin of these algorithms.
On today’s ID the Future, radio host Hank Hanegraaff continues his conversation with Animal Algorithms author Eric Cassell. Here they look at more insects with strikingly sophisticated innate behavior, suggesting intricate algorithms encoded into their brains from birth, all of which cannot be effectively explained by reference to Darwinian evolution. Cassell and Hanegraaff touch on wasp martial arts; termite altruism and termite architectural skills, including a cooling system that has inspired a human design; interdependent social caste systems that enhance fitness; and spiderweb architecture and the extraordinary properties of spider silk, including the different kinds of silk and the spider’s ability to employ different types precisely tailored for different needs. Cassell looks at evolutionary explanations for these innate abilities that appeal to the ideas of convergent evolution and selection pressure, and he shows why these don’t get us very far. He suggests the path forward is to set aside the dogmatic insistence on restricting ourselves to only naturalistic explanations and instead to consider the possibility of intelligent design. Hanegraaff and Cassell wrap up their discussion by taking on some common objections against the theory of intelligent design. The interview is presented here by permission of Hank Hanegraaff. Find the original at Hank Unplugged. Pick up your copy of Cassell’s book here.
On this ID the Future radio host Hank Hanegraaff interviews Animal Algorithms author Eric Cassell about insects and other small-brained animals with innate behaviors of astonishing sophistication — desert ants, leafcutter ants, honey bees, spiders, monarch butterflies, and many more. These appear to be hard-wired from birth with complex algorithms coded into their neural networks, and some of the algorithms seem to involve complex mathematics. Also mysterious: many of these innate abilities are do or die. So how could they have blindly evolved one small Darwinian step at a time? Also, how would genetic mutations generate the ability to make navigational calculations (as in the case of some birds) that for humans require spherical geometry? Listen in to learn more about this and other wonders of the animal world. Pick up your copy of Cassell’s book here. (The interview is presented here by permission of Hank Hanegraaff.)