The (Sad) Fable of Humanity

Adorno’s humanism is radical both in its stubborn desire to retain the human coupled with its willingness to concede the end of the fable of humanity.[1]

There was once a small tribe of primates…  

“Archaeology is demolishing a sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.”[2]

“Prenons les choses d’un peu plus loin… Le capitalisme est la forme contemporaine du néolithique, et son asservissement des techniques par la concurrence, le profit, et la concentration du Capital, ne fait que porter à leur comble les inégalités monstrueuses, les absurdités sociales, les massacres guerriers et les idéologies délétères… Le capitalisme n’est que la phase ultime des restrictions que la forme néolithique des sociétés impose à la vie humaine..”[3]

Logos Journal - Sad Tale of Humanity

At one point in prehistory, from the scarcely structured small clans to which human – just like nonhuman – primates had for hundred thousands years remained confined, a new phenomenon gradually arose: a series of great entities comprising organized masses. Compare the pre-agricultural times of the Paleolithic scene with the post-Neolithic landscape. On the one side, small, flexible groups of individuals – and, before them, going back and back in time, innumerable kinds of wandering micro-communities of hominid ancestors. On the other, starting from some initial, sedentary farming communities, steady and centralized social structures, aimed at internal persistence and at external growth.

Of course, the world of our Paleolithic ancestors was no paradise.[4] Palaeolithic stone tools are hundreds of thousands of years old, and weapons like the spear-thrower, the bow or the javelin were expressly designed to massacre as many wild animals as possible. As for the treatment of our human ancestry – leaving aside the mysterious fate of the Neanderthal tribe – in spite of defenses of an allegedly unique human capacity for restraining belligerence,[5] the most plausible conclusion about the origins of coalitionary intergroup aggression points to the view that, as territorial enlargement enhances fitness correlated with access to resources, humans, like chimpanzees,have an evolved tendency to form coalitions to kill members of neighbouring groups. Accordingly, a form of simple warfare consisting mostly in raiding and feuding can be plausibly imputed to small-scale, non-segmented societies.[6]

Still, Neolithic social structures produced an unprecedented level of harshness.  For the first time, our species experienced the outbreak of that complex warfare in which organized combatants fight lethal battles,[7] the rise of rigid intrahuman hierarchies, and the abduction and denaturalization of previously free-living nonhumans. Excavations at the settlement of Jericho, flourishing about 8,000 BC in the Fertile Crescent, reveal imposing walls and large moats that point both to a military context and to the presumably forced work of many humans, while the contemporary strata are rich in remains of freshly subdued animals.[8] Burial grounds at the early Neolithic sites of Mishmar Haemeq and Beisamoun near the Jordan valley, offering evidence for the use of arrowheads as weapons, detailedly testify, together with other archaeological finds like burnt houses or fortifications, to the existence of warfare;[9] and slavery can be identified in Neolithic multiple burials dating from 4500 to 3500 BC, where a body in a central position is accompanied by discarded corpses suggestive of the widespread custom of “accompanying the dead” by killing slaves.[10] As for the living conditions of human and nonhuman beings, the Anatolian settlement of Çatal Hüyük, flourishing around 7,000 BC, exhibits growing costs to its crammed inhabitants ranging from growth arrest to elevated disease exposure to increasing strain resulting from higher workload,[11] while the alterations concurrently induced in the newly confined meek ungulates include body size decrease, face shortening and reduction of the braincase often resulting from hormonal changes due to the stress of captivity.[12] And, from that early period on, the way was paved for the steady march of “civilization” from the already stratified societies of the “citadel cities”[13] – high mounds hosting the main buildings surrounded by walled lower towns – to the first highly hierarchical, centralized political systems of the violent city-states emerging during the 4th millennium BC.[14]

The tale of the transformation so rapidly intervening after the hominid lineage had unobtrusively inhabited the planet for hundred thousand years as hunter-gatherers tends to be poetically depicted by those belonging to “the progressivist party line,”[15] who inspiringly extoll the ability of strangers to negotiate their ways through others’ territories, and the development of trading networks as “part of what made us fully human.”[16] If, however, it is reasonable to hold with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel that “the cause reveals itself in the effect as what it is,”[17] there can be no doubt about the tragic nature of the Neolithic revolution. For the closer we come to our times, crossing the boundary between prehistory and history with the first great empires,[18] the clearer the level of oppression implied by such large human communities becomes. Not only their striking structures, from Akkadian ziggurats to Egyptian pyramids, are graphic monuments to human mass-exploitation, but we know of serfs and slaves, of massacres and torture,[19] and of societies in which a small section of the population dominates great numbers of subjected humans and an ever growing mass of vanquished members of other species, whose systematic exploitation is based on an extensive organizational apparatus. large archives and a centralized administration.[20]

The Metamorphosis

Looking farther, I was surprised to find that the chips were covered with such combatants, that it was not a duellum, but a bellum, a war between two races of ants, the red always pitted against the black…. The legions of these Myrmidons covered all the hills and vales in my wood-yard, and the ground was already strewn with the dead and dying, both red and black. It was the only battle which I have ever witnessed … I was myself excited somewhat even as if they had been men. The more you think of it, the less the difference.[21]

What was the essential event taking place? As for what was behind it, the combination of factors which archaeologists, anthropologists and historians tentatively consider, including changes in climate, advances in technology, population pressure or the advent of private property, with the complement of imaginative ideas such as the ‘oasis,’ the ‘natural habitat’ or the ‘marginal zone’ hypotheses, point to a somewhat contingent, circumstantial clue. [22] Other authors, mainly scientists, claim instead that the event was prepared by a phase in which Paleolithic tribes were proto-farmers cultivating small plots of plants as a back-up to their hunting-gathering activities, or by the slow shaping of resource-catchment areas through forms of niche construction, or by a gradual association with disturbance-adapted animals and plant species, also known as “camp-followers,”[23] Be it as it may, it is undeniable that at a certain juncture over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, starting from about 12,000 BC, there arose a critical point – a moment when, dialectically speaking, quantity changed into quality.[24] And it is to the systemic pictures coming from sociobiology and ecological economics, which stress the onset of an evolutionarily advanced level of colonial existence and the emergence of a farming economic superorganism fostering an ultrasocial transformation that one must turn in order to fully grasp the the enormity of the break with the past – a break in which the capacity to communicate and the capacity to actively produce food combined to create an explosive mix.[25]

In his famous poem Metamorphoses, the Latin author Ovid, among the many other stories of changes of form, recounts the metamorphosis of the Myrmidons, a tribe of ants which Zeus turns into humans in order to repopulate the deserted island of Aegina with a people who retains “the well-known customs of the days before their transformation,” for “patiently they toil; they store the profits of their labor… [and] they’ll follow you to any war.” With the Neolithic revolution one has the clear feeling of assisting to the inverse phenomenon: a tribe of humans turned into ants – that is, social insects.

Consider the main formal characteristics of insect societies:[26] division of labour; specialization (some individuals perform some tasks with greater frequency than do other individuals); homeostasis (colonies regulate their internal conditions); plasticity and resiliency (colonies can change the numbers of workers engaged in different tasks in response to changing environments); and mass action responses. Consider, then, additional substantial aspects: complex building; cultivation of crops (e.g. fungi), husbandry of other animals (e.g. aphids, coccids and treehoppers) implying the use of their secretions as an alimentary source and sometimes their slaughtering to obtain proteinic food, processing of food into long-term stores,[27] slave-raiding and warfare, and even kamikaze activities.[28] Finally, it is known that insects can resist subjugation, in the form of physical aggression against adult slave-makers, attempts to reproduce in the slave-maker’s colony, and slave emancipation.[29] Does all this sound familiar?

A structural, and not merely anecdotal, parallel between “cultured humans” and the tiny-brained ants, bees and termites[30] cannot be theoretically welcome, as it seems to directly materialize the terror of “inhumanity” that haunts the philosophers’ narratives, planting at the very place where there should have been human signature mark “a wholly other story, … the story of something wholly other than ‘Man (sic).’[31] Yet, given that insect societies precede human societies by millions of years, and that in hominid evolutionary history great communities are absolutely recent, it is undeniable that human beings are a species of primates which has undergone a process of “insectization”.[32]

And, as the expansive sedentary human societies gradually grew in size and complexity, the extremely refined tactile, chemical, acoustic and visual communication systems coordinating insect societies found a counterpart in the flexibility and productivity of verbal language. Actually, the centrality of information transfer to the life of the new farming superorganism is shown by the fact that the first fixation of verbal signs in an external form through writing – the Mesopotamian cuneiform of the fourth millennium BC. – emerged in response to the practical accounting need “to keep track of the goods produced and moved within the early state.” [33] And if behind the invention of writing was the urge to centralize the control of human and nonhuman beings and of natural elements, Claude Lévi-Strauss’s observation that the phenomenon with which writing has always been concomitant is the integration of large numbers of humans into a community and “their grading into castes or classes,”[34] once coupled with the consideration of the administrative denaturalization of animals reaching its apex in the ontological distortion induced by factory farms, cannot but evoke those patterns of intraspecific and interspecific macroparasitism[35] a glaring example of which is offered by ant societies, where members of distinct castes are so morphologically differentiated that workers can be three times smaller than soldiers,[36] and where brood from other species, after being robbed by “dulotic” individuals, can be trained to learn the odour of the slave-making nest and accept it as their own.[37]

Even the ferocious all-out wars between “colonies” which, unknown in most animal species,[38] offer a peculiar, striking parallel between social insects and Homo sapiens, are the poisoned gift of the integration of myriad individuals into a coordinated economic superorganism.[39] For, as the power of human communication kept growing in the centuries, and the capital accumulated in farming spilled into other sectors with a reorganization of production generating in the arc of history industrial capitalism,[40] verbal language, technologically potentiated by new transmission systems such as printing, phone and radio, made it possible to mobilize ever growing masses of conditioned individuals in the competition for productive resources (remember Ovid: “they’ll follow you to any war”). Thus. if thirty million ants can give up their lives in defense of their supercolony with front lines extending for miles, a global clash can deprive seventy-five million humans of their lives through armed conflict, lethal discrimination and abuse, contemporarily causing the death of millions of nonhumans through forced conscription, mass “culls” and starvation.[41]

Is there a Moral to this Fable?

And what did this “new” species achieve after the metamorphosis? Certainly not “full humanity,” but rather what, in their different sensory modality, social insects communities have achieved: a spectacular ecological success.[42]Given that the adoption of farming, with its communicatively mediated capacity to produce one’s own food, on the part of ants and humans is a case of convergent evolution,[43] and since no secondary reversals to the ancestral life style are known in ants, it is plausible to hold that such a transition is irreversible in humans too.[44] Indeed, after the inception of what Herbert Marcuse depicted as the “managed mass society,”[45] experiencing through television, mobile phone and the web the return in style of the archaic, mesmerizing medium of the image, the “Family of Man [sic]” – as humanity wanted to narrate itself after the planetary bloodshed[46] – closed the loop of our efficient simian substitutes for ant communication, coming to encompass billions of people and de facto realizing a global ultrasocial system plagued by internecine violence..

And, apart from the suffering, injustice and endless conflicts it causes, ultrasociality’s spectacular success entails other costs. On the one hand, social intelligence can increase while individual intelligence declines – as it has been noted, it is a categorical mistake to conflate the collective accomplishments of “civilization” with the  intelligence of the average human, “as in we formulated the theory of relativity, or we put a man on the moon.”[47]  In ultrasocial ant societies, compared to non-ultrasocial ants, individuals have less flexibility, a more limited repertoire of tasks and apparently a loss of individual intelligence.[48] In the case of humans, at the structural level, the loss of individual autonomy first led to a relaxation in selection pressures on cranial capacity coincident with the rise of organized villages and city-states,[49] and then, in the long run, affected individuals who, born into classes or castes determining their life trajectories, were designated to more narrowly defined roles in the material reproduction of larger and ever more complex societies[50](remember Ovid: “patiently they toil”…). And, at the superstructural level, after the explosion of communication tools prompted by the economic basis provided by farming, the human brain gradually came to play “a mere supporting role to cognitive systems primarily located in materials outside the body – books, computers, paintings, digital stores of data and so forth.”[51]

On the other hand, ultrasociality leads to ecosystem domination and disfigurement. And if ants alter ecosystems through “monocultures” produced by poisoning all vegetation except their host plants,[52] by desiccating grasslands through the herding of sap-sucking bugs,[53] by creating gigantic colonies with tens of millions of workers,[54] or even by producing waste sites emitting copious amounts of greenhouse gas,[55] just parallel, though writ large, is our impact on the planet’s biophysical systems – an impact that Sir Francis Bacon would presumably characterize as contributing to an “enlarging of the bounds of human empire.”[56] For, in what is now  paradoxically narrated as the “anthropocene,” one witnesses the triumph of the insectized form of the human, whose monocultures degrade the soil and reduce biodiversity, whose herding of enslaved nonhumans destroys forests and ecosystems, whose megacities keep mushrooming absorbing tens of millions of individuals and swallowing atmosphere and territory,[57] and whose assorted forms of waste destabilize the climate generating greenhouse gases and air and water pollutants.

Two leading researchers on the adventure of ultrasociality conclude their reconstruction stating: “We do not suggest that humans have become ants in a colony…” Indeed, in the face of the above picture, and considering the blind and unstoppable Moloch now governing our lives, one may sensibly defend this suggestion. And, if so, the fable of a glorious ascent of Homo sapiens from “animality” to “civilization” [58] which was supposed substantiate the human claim to superiority – read dominion – over all nonhumans, has no happy ending.

But what about the narrators? For it seems that in the ant world there are no critics of the system. Isn’t this a relevant difference? Assuredly so. But it is presumably only a question of time. Insect societies had tens of millions of years of natural selection to address many of the challenges that ultrasociality presents, especially at the level of compliance. On the other hand, the ultrasocial metamorphosis of our hominid species is so recent – human “civilization” began about 15,000 years ago, which in a 365-day history of the Earth corresponds to two minutes before midnight on the last day of the year[59] – that it cannot avoid showing elements of instability. Such an instability is clearly diagnosed by one of the greatest storytellers of our time, Sigmund Freud, who observes that while the social insects strove for thousands of years before they arrived at their State institutions, at the distribution of functions and at the restrictions on the individual, a desire for freedom springing from the remains of original personalities still untamed by civilization, and directed against civilization altogether, still makes itself felt in human communities.[60] This discontent caused by the “replacement of the power of the individual by the power of the community”[61] may arguably be seen as the fruit of a primate’s revulsion for life in a colony. For apes are tendentially individualists,[62] and small groups are their natural social habitat – indeed, it seems that effective group size is limited by the maximum number of individuals with whom members can maintain social relationships by personal contact, and that for humans this maximum number is somewhere around 150–200 individuals.[63] No wonder then that among a species of accultured, linguistic beings, the desire for freedom, as well as an apish “inequity aversion,”[64] might produce not only the moments of social and political struggle that mark our history, but also the powerful intellectual reactions embodied by the critical minds among the narrators. However, given the pass of progress not only of ingrained, but also of emergent, elements of human ultrasociality – think only of the possible impact of Artificial Intelligence – such reactions are much probably only the last rays of the twilight.


[1] Mann, David Jene, ‘Flying Solo: The Charms of the Radio Body’, in Debra Rae Cohen, Michael Coyle, and Jane Lewty, eds, Broadcasting Modernism, Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2009.

[2] Jared Diamond, “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,” Discover Magazine, May 1987, p. 64.

[3] Alain Badiou, “Le capitalisme, seul responsable de l’exploitation destructrice de la nature,“  Le Monde, 26 juillet 2018, at Le capitalisme, seul responsable  de l’exploitation destructrice de la nature » (

[4] For an emphatic valorization of such a world see instead James Robert Schultz, “Animal-Rights Primitivism: A Vital Needs Argument Against Modern Technology,” Between the Species, vol. 26, issue 1, 2023, where it is argued that “humans should abandon modern technology and take up something like hunter-gatherer technology” as the least harmful kind of technology.

[5] See Raymond C. Kelly, “The evolution of lethal intergroup violence,” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, Oct 25, 2005, 102(43), pp. 15294–15298, also at Inaugural Article: The evolution of lethal intergroup violence – PMC (, or Jonathan Haas and Matthew Piscitelli, “The Prehistory of Warfare: Misled by Ethnography,” in Douglas P. Fry, ed., War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

[6] See for a synthesis Richard W. Wrangham and Luke Glowacki, “Intergroup Aggression in Chimpanzees and War in Nomadic Hunter-Gatherers: Evaluating the Chimpanzee Model,” Human Nature, 23, 2012, pp. 5-29, also at Intergroup aggression in chimpanzees and war in nomadic hunter-gatherers: evaluating the chimpanzee model – PubMed (, and Larry Arnhart, “The MPS in the Galapagos (11): Wrangham on the Evolution of War,” July 24, 2013, at Darwinian Conservatism by Larry Arnhart: The MPS in the Galapagos (11): Wrangham on the Evolution of War.

[7] The notion of “complex warfare,” as contrasted to simple warfare, comes from Glowacki and Wrangham. See Luke Glowacki and Richard W. Wrangham, “The Role of Rewards in Motivating Participation in Simple Warfare,” Human Nature, 24 (4), 2013, pp. 444–460, also at glowacki_wrangham_2013_role_of_rewards_in_motivating_participation_in_simple_warfare.pdf (

[8] Hamdan Taha, “Archeological Excavations in Jericho, 1995-2010,” at  Archeological Excavations in Jericho, 1995-2010 | Hamdan Taha –;

[9] Another relevant site is Mureybet in the Middle Euphrates region. See Omry Barzilai and Hila May, “Weapons or Hunting Tools? Evaluating the Role of Big Arrowheads of the Neolithic Levant,” in Yoshihiro Nishiaki, Osamu Maeda and Makoto Arimura, eds, Tracking the Neolithic in the Near East: Lithic Perspectives on Its Origins, Development and Dispersals, Leiden: Sidestone Press, 2022, pp. 49-58.

[10] Alain Testart, Christian Jeunesse, Luc Baray and Bruno Boulestin, “Slavery, 6000 years ago,” (unpublished translation of «Les esclaves des tombes néolithiques », appeared in Pour la Science 396, 2010, pp. 74-80), at

[11] See e.g. Clark Spencer Larsen, Christopher J. Knüsel, Scott D. Haddow, and Bonnie Glencross “Bioarchaeology of Neolithic Çatalhöyük reveals fundamental transitions in health, mobility, and lifestyle in early farmers,“ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 116, Issue 26, pp. 12615-12623, at Bioarchaeology of Neolithic Çatalhöyük reveals fundamental transitions in health, mobility, and lifestyle in early farmers | PNAS

[12] Jean-Denis Vigne, “The origins of animal domestication and husbandry: A major change in the history of humanity and the biosphere,” Comptes Rendus Biologies, vol. 334, issue 3, March 2011, pp. 171-181, also at The origins of animal domestication and husbandry: A major change in the history of humanity and the biosphere – ScienceDirect

[13] The fascinating  term “citadel city” was coined by A. Leo Oppenheim in Ancient Mesopotamia: portrait of a dead civilisation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1964. Oppenheim also evoked the concept of oligarchy.

[14] See Augusta McMahon, Arkadiusz Sołtysiak and Jill Weber, “ Late Chalcolithic mass graves at Tell Brak, Syria, and violent conflict during the growth of early city-states,” Journal of Field Archaeology , vol. 36, issue 3, 2011, also at Late Chalcolithic mass graves at Tell Brak, Syria, and violent conflict during the growth of early city-states: Journal of Field Archaeology: Vol 36, No 3 (

[15] Jared Diamond, “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,” cit., p. 65.

[16] Philip Kitcher, “Ethics and Evolution: How to Get Here from There,” in Frans de Waal, Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved, Stephen Macedo and Josiah Ober, eds, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006, pp. 136 ff.

[17] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Science of Logic, Abingdon: Routledge, 2014, p. 579.

[18] Among them Akkad, Babylonia, Assyria and Egypt. See Roger Matthews, The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: Theories and Approaches , Routledge 2003, p. II.

[19] Though, due to existence of written sources, such phenomena are easier to detect in early historical times – consider e.g. the annihilation of the tribe of Ya’ilanum in Mesopotamia in 1781 BCE,  attested by clay tablets with Akkadian inscriptions [see Jordi Vidal, “’Kill them all!’ Some Remarks on the Annihilation of the Ya’ilanum Tribe (1781 B.C.E.)]”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 133, No. 4, 2013, pp. 683-689, at “Kill them all!” Some Remarks on the Annihilation of the Ya’ilanum Tribe (1781 B.C.E.) on JSTOR], there exist as well clear Neolithic cases such as the site of a mass grave in Schöneck-Kilianstädten, near Frankfurt, around 5207-4849 BC, which contains the remains of several individuals violently killed by blunt force and arrow injuries and where a specific violence-related pattern can be identified in the intentional and systematic breaking of lower limbs. See  Christian Meyer, Christian Lohr, Detlef Gronenborn, and Kurt W. Alt, “The massacre mass grave of Schöneck-Kilianstädten reveals new insights into collective violence in Early Neolithic Central Europe,” August 17, 2015, at The massacre mass grave of Schöneck-Kilianstädten reveals new insights into collective violence in Early Neolithic Central Europe | PNAS

[20] See Jacob L. Dahl, “Animal Husbandry In Susa during the Proto-Elamite Period,” Studi micenei ed egeo-anatolici 47, 2005, pp. 106, 119, also at Dahl_Animal-Husbandry-in-Susa-during-the-Proto-Elamite-period.pdf ( In northern Mesopotamia, the period between 5200 and 3800 BC offers evidence for a steady intensification of animal primary and secondary exploitation – on one side an intensive husbandry system in which e.g. piglets born in spring were slaughtered in autumn or winter, and on the other the utilization for wool and also for traction, as suggested by the number of pathological lesions on the animals’ distal limbs. See Max Price, Michael Fisher et Gil Stein, “Animal Production and Secondary Products in the Fifth Millennium BC in northern Mesopotamia. New Data from Tell Surezha (Iraqi Kurdistan)” Paléorient 47, 2, 2021, also at Animal Production and Secondary Products in the Fifth Millennium BC in northern Mesopotamia (

[21] Henry David Thoreau, “The Battle of the Ants” (Chapter 12 of Walden or Life In The Woods, New York: Dover Publications, 1995).

[22] For an overview, see Jacob L. Weisdorf, “From Foraging To Farming: Explaining The Neolithic Revolution,” Journal of Economic Surveys, vol. 19, issue 4 pp. 561-586, also at From Foraging To Farming: Explaining The Neolithic Revolution – Weisdorf – 2005 – Journal of Economic Surveys – Wiley Online Library. For the focus on private property see e.g. Samuel Bowles and Jung-Kyoo Choi, “The Neolithic Agricultural Revolution and the Origins of Private Property,” Journal of Political Economy 127, 5, 2019, also at The Neolithic Agricultural Revolution and the Origins of Private Property | Journal of Political Economy: Vol 127, No 5 (

[23] See Colin Tudge, Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998;  Bruce D. Smith, “A Cultural Niche Construction Theory of Initial Domestication,” Biological Theory 6 (3), 2011, pp 260–271. By the way, scientists often describe agriculture in the broad sense as a form of symbiosis – a technical term that nicely conceals the suffering imposed on conscious, sentient symbionts.

[24] “… we have seen that the alterations of being in general are not only the transition of one magnitude into another, but a transition from quality into quantity and vice versa, a becoming−other which is an interruption of gradualness and the production of something qualitatively different from the reality which preceded it.”  See Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Science of Logic, cit., p. 370.

[25] See Edward O. Wilson and Bert Hölldobler, “Eusociality: Origin and consequences,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102, 2005, pp. 13367–13371, also at Eusociality: Origin and consequences | PNAS; and Lisi Krall, “The economic superorganism in the complexity of evolution,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 23, January 2023, at The economic superorganism in the complexity of evolution | Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences ( Though most relevant literature employs the term ‘agriculture,’ I prefer to use ‘farming’ because of its clearer reference to both growing crops and raising animals.

[26] See e.g.  George F. Oster and Edward O. Wilson, Caste and ecology in the social insects, Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1978, and Robert E. Page and Sandra D. Mitchell, “Self Organization and Adaptation in Insect Societies”, PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 2, 1990, pp. 289-298.

[27] Bert Hölldobler and Edward O.Wilson. The Ants, Harvard, Ma: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 1990, pp. 202, 527 and passim.

[28] See e.g. Diane W. Davidson, Kamariah A. Salim, Johan Billen, “Histology of structures used in territorial combat by Borneo’s ‘exploding ants’,Acta Zoologica, vol. 93, issue 4, 2012, p. 487-491, also at Histology of structures used in territorial combat by Borneo’s ‘exploding ants’ – Davidson – 2012 – Acta Zoologica – Wiley Online Library

[29] Wojciech Czechowski  and Ewa Godzinska, “Enslaved ants: Not as helpless as they were thought to be,” Insectes Sociaux 62, 2015, pp. 9–22, also at (PDF) Enslaved ants: not as helpless as they were thought to be ( I do not to comment here on the ethics of the involved research.

[30] In this context, we are mainly focusing on ant studies.

[31] The phrase comes from Simon Glendinning , “The End of the World Designed with Men in Mind,” Jan 7, 2013, at The End of the World Designed with Men in Mind (

[32] Actually, “insectization,” is a pregnant but not fully accurate term, as of course most social insects too have been “insectized” by evolutionarily entering into a complex stage of colonial existence: there were, and still are, solitary ants, wasps and bees – though there are no solitary termites. See Paola Cavalieri, “A Critical Notice on a Book on Primates and Philosophers,” Electronic Book Review, 24 oct. 2007, at A Critical Notice on a Book on Primates and Philosophers › electronic book review.

[33] See Massimo Maiocchi, “Writing in Early Mesopotamia The Historical Interplay of Technology, Cognition, and Environment,“ in Allan C. Love and William C. Wimsatt, eds, Beyond the Meme: Development and Structure in Cultural Evolution, Minneapolis, Mn: University of Minnesota Press  2019, p. 406, also at WRITING IN EARLY MESOPOTAMIA: The Historical Interplay of Technology, Cognition, and Environment from Beyond the Meme: Development and Structure in Cultural Evolution on JSTOR. Moreover, according to some influential, albeit not undisputed, authors, writing traces its beginnings to clay tokens appeared in the ancient Near East as part of more archaic accounting systems created to record “goods such as livestock [sic] and grain produced in the early farming communities.” See e.g. Denise Schmandt–Besserat, “From Accounting to Writing,” In Bennett A. Rafoth and Donald L.Rubin, eds, The Social Construction of Written Communication, Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Co., chapt 5, pp. 119-130, also at From Accounting to Writing | Denise Schmandt-Besserat ( Indeed, according to Schmandt–Besserat, the evolution of the token system was tied to the development of political power, since accounting was key to the control of real goods, and “the more precise the accounting system, the more powerful institutions became.” See Denise Schmandt–Besserat, Before Writing. Volume I. From Counting to Cuneiform, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992, p. 197.

[34] Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976, p. 393.

[35] For the notion of human macroparasitism see William Hardy McNeill, Plagues and People, New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1998, pp. 25 ff.

[36] Indeed. alleged current genetic experiments even seem to tentatively follow in the ant steps. See Elsa Kania and Wilson VornDick, “China’s Military Biotech Frontier: CRISPR, Military-Civil Fusion, and the New Revolution in Military Affairs,” October 8, 2019, at China’s Military Biotech Frontier: CRISPR, Military-Civil Fusion, and the New Revolution in Military Affairs – Jamestown, where one can read apropos of the recent gene-editing technique called CRISPR [Clustered Regularly Inter-Spaced Short Palindromic Repeats]: ”While the potential leveraging of CRISPR to increase human capabilities on the future battlefield remains only a hypothetical possibility at the present, there are indications that Chinese military researchers are starting to explore its potential… A doctoral dissertation titled ‘Evaluation and Research on Human Performance Enhancement Technology,’ published in 2016, envisions CRISPR as one of three primary ‘human performance enhancement technologies’ that can be utilized to boost personnel combat effectiveness.”

[37] See e.g. Tobias Pamminger, “Slave ants and their masters are locked in a deadly relationship,” The Conversation, Feb. 11, 2015, at  Slave ants and their masters are locked in a deadly relationship (

[38] Marc Bekoff, “Are Nonhuman Animals More Moral Than Human Animals?”, Psychology Today, Jan. 13, 2010, at Are Nonhuman Animals More Moral Than Human Animals? Yes They Are | Psychology Today

[39] Mark W. Moffett,  “When It Comes to Waging War, Ants and Humans Have a Lot in Common.” May 14, 2019, at

[40] See John Gowdy and Lisi Krall, “The ultrasocial origin of the Anthropocene,” Ecological Economics,

vol. 95, Nov. 2013, pp. 137-147, at The ultrasocial origin of the Anthropocene – ScienceDirect

[41] See e.g. Janice Cox, “How animals are harmed by armed conflicts and military activities.” Conflict and Environment Observatory, March 18, 2021, at How animals are harmed by armed conflicts and military activities – CEOBS, or Maria Kyhle, “The Animal Casualties of WW2,” Time Ghost, May 21, 2021, at THE ANIMAL CASUALTIES OF WW2 – (

[42] See Edward O. Wilson and Bert Hölldobler,. “Eusociality: Origin and consequences,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2005, 102, pp. 13367–13371, Eusociality: Origin and consequences | PNAS .

[43] See the impressive analysis of this phenomenon in Ted R. Schultz, “The Convergent Evolution of Agriculture in Humans and Fungus-Farming Ants.” In The Convergent Evolution of Agriculture in Humans and Insects, Cambridge, Ma: The MIT Press. 2022, pp. 281–313, also at Ted Schultz – Schultz_2022_Chapter_14.pdf (

[44] For these considerations and for some of the following arguments see John Malcolm Gowdy and Lisi Krall, “Disengaging from the ultrasocial economy: The challenge of directing evolutionary change,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 39, June 2016, with the attendant bibliography, also at (PDF) Disengaging from the ultrasocial economy: The challenge of directing evolutionary change (

[45] Herbert Marcuse, “The Question Of Revolution,” New Left Review, 1/45, Sept/Oct 1967, at Herbert Marcuse, The Question of Revolution, NLR I/45, September–October 1967 (

[46] “The Family of Man” is the title of an exhibition presented from January 24 to May 8, 1955, at the New York MoMA and organized by photographer Edward Steichen, which brought together hundreds of images by photographers working around the world as “a forthright declaration of global solidarity in the decade following World War II.” See The Family of Man | MoMA

[47] John Malcolm Gowdy and Lisi Krall, “Disengaging from the ultrasocial economy,” cit., p. 13.

[48] Carl Anderson and Dan McShea, “Individual versus social complexity, with particular reference to ant colonies;” Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 76, 2001, pp. 211–37.

[49] See Drew H. Bailey, and David C., Geary, “Hominid brain evolution: Testing climatic, ecological, and social competition models,” Human Nature 20, 2009, p. 77.

[50] See John Malcolm Gowdy and Lisi Krall, “Disengaging from the ultrasocial economy,” cit., p. 3.

[51] Stephen Mithen, “Did farming arise from a misapplication of social intelligence?”,  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. 362, 2007, pp. 705–18, also at Did farming arise from a misapplication of social intelligence? – PMC (

[52] “Ants, not evil spirits, create devil’s gardens in the Amazon rainforest,” Sept 21, 2005, at Ants, not evil spirits, create devil’s gardens in the Amazon rainforest, study finds (

[53] See Invasion Watch: “Tawny Crazy Ant,” at Invasion-Watch_Tawny-crazy-ant.pdf (;  Sue, “Ant-Aphid Mutualism – ant farming?”, October 5, 2016, at ant-aphid mutualism | Back Yard Biology (

[54] Edward O. Wilson and Bert Hölldobler, “Eusociality: Origin and consequences,” PNAS, Sept 20, 2005, vol. 102 no. 38, at Eusociality: Origin and consequences | PNAS.

[55] George Dvorsky, “Industrial Waste From Ants Emits Potent Greenhouse,” January 2, 2019, at Industrial Waste From Ants Emits Potent Greenhouse Gas (; Fiona M. Soper, Benjamin W. Sullivan, Brooke B. Osborne, Alanna N. Shaw, Laurent Philippot and Cory C. Cleveland, “Leaf-cutter ants engineer large nitrous oxide hot spots in tropical forests,” 2 January 2019, at Leaf-cutter ants engineer large nitrous oxide hot spots in tropical forests | Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (

[56] The Works of Francis Bacon, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2011, vol.3, p. 156. Latin text: “terminorum imperii humani prolatio ad omne possible”). See Nova Atlantis per Franciscum Baconum, Baronem de Verulamio, apud Joannem à Waesberge, 1643, digitized 15 Sep 2021, p. 74, at

[57] See for all this Wayne Gabardi, The Next Social Contract. Animals, the Anthropocene, and Biopolitics, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2017.

[58] Civilization from civis, probably deriving from a root *kei- (“to settle”) which in Sanskrit qeva means ‘dear’, not in close connection with the residence, but with the coexistence of a community type. See Émile Benveniste, Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes, Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1969, 334 ff.

[59] See e.g. Gary Griggs, “Perspectives on Disaster,” Our Ocean Backyard, Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 11, 2018, at Gary Griggs, Our Ocean Backyard: Perspectives on disaster – Santa Cruz Sentinel

[60] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, pp. 113, 72 ff.

[61] Ibid., p. 49.

[62] The chimpanzee has even been described as ”a rugged individualist.” See Henry W. Nissen, “Individuality in the Behavior of Chimpanzees,” American Anthropologist, vol. 58, no. 3, 1956, pp. 407-413.

[63] See Robin Dunbar, “Coevolution of neocortical size, group size and language in humans,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 (6), 1993, p. 687, at Co-evolution of neocortex size, group size and language in humans (

[64] See Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009, pp. 111 ff.


Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

Logos Journal - Scalia Myths

Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

Logos Journal - Scalia Myths