Saturday, July 30, 2022

Bees are Aesthetic and Cooperative

Bees go well out of their way to disguise the inherent hideousness of insectoid physiognomy. 

They are also productive. They pollinate flowers and make excessive amounts of delicious and medicinal honey. 

According to materialist Darwinism, this makes no sense. Why would flowers care what bees look like? They have no eyes. Other bees have eyes, but it's clear other insects don't mind how ugly their conspecifics are. If every housefly dropped dead tomorrow, nobody would miss them.

Maybe it happened by chance. Except, butterflies. Moths and butterflies have the same kind of relation as wasps and bees. The ugly one is a pest.

Butterflies are pollinators, like bees. Some eat pests, like aphids. Moths eat your clothes, or form a lunch buffet for the parasite bird, the cuckoo. Even within moths, the prettier ones are more useful, such as silk moths. A few moths are pollinators too, such as the finely outfitted oleander hawk moth. Butterflies pollinate edible plants instead of inedible ones, however. 

Pretty things are good for both the economy and the ecology. Ugly things generally aren't - or rather, pests end up being ugly, it seems. By process of elimination, it's clear the causation runs from pest-behaviour to appearance.

Don't forget rafflesia is an arch-parasite and deliberately makes itself look and smell like a dead body.

It's also super weird that wasps with a more vicious face, by human standards, are more vicious in temperament. It makes sense for a social animal like humans to evolve to recognize signs of aggression in other humans, and for aggressive folk to have more aggressive expressions. It makes no sense that this aesthetic to transfer 1:1 over to asocial insects. 

Yellowjackets don't sit around having a beer and complimenting each other on their sadism. It would make perfect sense for them to look vicious for our benefit, except the part where that makes no sense. At least, no sense in a Darwinian framework.


Darwin was of course correct. Natural selection is so true it's transcendentally true - if you move beyond physics, it doesn't stop being true. It is not, however, the entire story. Rather obviously incomplete, if you spend even a few minutes looking. 

P.S. From high up, American cities look like a grey death-fungus spawning from the sodden swampy environment of river forks.

1 comment:

JBPGuy said...

> It would make perfect sense for them to look vicious for our benefit, except the part where that makes no sense.

The yellowjacket physical form is one that's maximally efficient for viciousness/ aggression. Quick attacks, etc.

Bees are slower/ more robust than wasps. They're optimised for a different behaviour.

I think you have it reversed.

We recognise the purpose of specific aesthetics since there are physical limitations.

>Pretty things are good for both the economy and the ecology.
Or we recognise things that are good for ecology and consider them pretty.
Our subjective interpretation of the aesthetic is based on its functionality.

You know a big old stone building is going to last 400 years and so its pretty (based on your experience looking at ancient stone structures)

A soviet style concrete block building will fall apart soon, you know it since you've seen pictures of their fast decay. Therefore it's ugly.

Things that are brand new with divisive aesthetics become beautiful if they improve the economy and ecology, ugly if otherwise.

I think wind turbines are ugly because they eat bees. Their aesthetic horrifies me now.