Do Ants Know They Are Building A Nest?

Michael Blaber


Do ants know they are building a nest? This might seem like a silly question the ant's brain is so tiny it's unlikely they are "aware" of anything. Certainly, they don't know why they do what they do it's just their "evolutionary programming". But the question is a fair question as regards potentially complex "programmed" activities outside the awareness of the entities involved.

Is it possible humans are building something they are completely unaware of? The "something" they may (or may not) be building, by reference to the ant nest, is an aspect of their evolutionary programming; a product of group effort, and not apparent or obvious at the level of daily awareness.

Evolution may have a direction. A goal. Pursued and built by living systems (themselves the product of evolutionary forces that transformed simple chemical processes into ever increasingly complex reactions and assemblies). Everything evolves. Suns evolve, rocks evolve. That suns evolve is commonly accepted. Fusion in the core converts hydrogen to heavier elements. That rocks evolve is a bit of a strange statement. However, on Earth the earliest environment (certainly at the time of the moon's formation) was largely devoid of any atmosphere or significant water. Early rocks were not chemically altered by water or oxygen. Initially, they were altered by reaction with water, later (after life formed and photosynthesis produced oxygen in the atmosphere) new minerals appeared that were oxidized forms of earlier minerals.

It could be argued that there is a common theme of concentration, synthesis, and dispersion in the natural processes of the universe. Initial collapse of hydrogen clouds resulted in the formation of stars. This was followed by nucleosynthesis (production of heavier elements), then in their death, certain stars explode and distribute these heavier elements. In deep ocean vents minerals and water are brought together, react to produce new compounds, and are subsequently distributed in the Earth's oceans. In evaporative ponds, and in clouds and lightening, similar events occur. These minerals, water, and chemical building blocks are similarly "unaware" of the evolutionary events they are participating in but they are producing the critical "building blocks" for life.

Are humans aware of everything as regards the consequence of their existence? Is it possible that our activities, as mundane as they may seem, belie a deeper activity inexorably leading to something that (at the moment) we are completely unaware of, or can't comprehend (like the ant and its nest) but something driven on by the evolutionary programming that lies at the very heart of the universe?