Together as a Team Together as a Team
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Drawing: Joanna Grochocka
Dreams and Visions

Together as a Team

Is Brotherhood in Our DNA?
Tomasz Wiśniewski
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time 28 minutes

For a long time, humans have been opting for permanent communities, with all their inherent pros and cons, instead of brief alliances. Scholars still wonder who came up with this idea, when, and why. 

According to the pioneering sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, insects are so different from us in terms of anatomy and physiology that they seem to be from an alien planet. Their evolutionary path diverged from ours six hundred million years ago, yet aspects of their existence are perfectly familiar. African termites unite in large, organized communities, inhabit common territory, and cooperate. They are divided into castes, with workers capable of building five-meter mounds, and others engaged in agriculture. In special chambers, using vegetable matter, they raise fungi on which their life depends. Their nests are not built at random, and they form a complex network of chambers and galleries. The termites communicate with one another at various stages of construction, implementing each phase precisely. If they come across an unfinished section, they will work to complete it, according to plan. 

All the insects and their body heat ought to cause overheating and a shortage of air in the nest, but termite mounds are built to eliminate this risk. According to Wilson, the construction acts somewhat like our air conditioners, ensuring that the queen and king’s chamber is kept at an even temperature, with a constant CO2 level (rarely deviating more than 0.1 percent). 

From the outset, sociobiology has been criticized for various reasons, such as its tendency to anthropomorphize the non-human world. A fair complaint: we should always consider if we are judging incomprehensible phenomena by our own standards. But there are striking similarities between animals’ lives and our own. To its credit, sociobiology has raised awareness that communal living, based on rules and common goals, is not unique to humanity. For example, wolf packs, flocks of birds, and swarms of locusts are communities akin to ours: organized groups of individuals of the same species who cooperate and communicate. 

Wilson believes that, in some ways, insects are superior to us. Our society is much worse at showing traits such as altruism or the ability to sacrifice

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A Celebration of the Feast A Celebration of the Feast
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Jan Steen, "The Merry Family", 1668, Rijksmuseum (public domain)
Experiences

A Celebration of the Feast

Łukasz Modelski

Throughout history, shared meals and sacred celebrations have been integral to our social fabric. They are part of what makes us human, providing a timeless link to that which is sacred. 

In 2008, the initial findings of archaeological research in the Galilean cave of Hilazon Tachtit, which had begun three years prior, were published by Dr. Natalie Munro in the esteemed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The highlight was the discovery of a “shaman’s grave”: the burial of a relatively short, ill woman who had died around the age of forty-five. In this and later publications, Dr. Munro—an archaeozoologist and anthropologist—employed ethnological methodologies which garnered significant media attention. The grave, dating back to roughly 10,000 BCE, is linked to the Middle Stone Age Natufian culture, which spanned from about 12,000 to 7,500 BCE in the Middle East. This culture is particularly intriguing for researchers as it provides evidence of the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from nomadism to settled living, all within a confined geographical area.

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