Certified charlatan William Dembski of the ironically named Discovery Institute decided to step into the study of ants (which I learned is called "myrmecology") with this peculiar statement:
Well, a blogging myrmecologist named Alex Wild caught wind of this, and responded to it on his blog. As usual, Alex exposes Dembski's argument as a simple case of an argument from ignorance:Colonies of ants, when they make tracks from one colony to another minimize path-length and thereby also solve the Steiner Problem (see “Ants Build Cheapest Network“). So what does this mean in evolutionary terms?
In ID terms, there’s no problem — ants were designed with various capacities, and this either happens to be one of them or is one acquired through other programmed/designed capacities. On Darwinian evolutionary grounds, however, one would have to say something like the following: ants are the result of a Darwinian evolutionary process that programmed the ants with, presumably, a genetic algorithm that enables them, when put in separate colonies, to trace out paths that resolve the Steiner Problem. In other words, evolution, by some weird self-similarity, embedded an evolutionary program into the neurophysiology of the ants that enables them to solve the Steiner problem (which, presumably, gives these ants a selective advantage).
Ants find the shortest route because of three simple facts:And there you have it. Intelligent Design is not a science. It just seeks to fill in purported gaps in evolutionary knowledge with unfalsifiable statements about a mystical "designer".
When two points (say, two nests, or a nest and a food source) need to be connected, ants may start out tracing several winding pheromone paths among them. As ants zing back and forth down trails, pheromone levels build up. Long trails take more time to travel, so long-trail ants makes fewer overall circuits, more pheromone dissipates between passes, and the trails end up poorly marked. Short trails enable ants to make more trips, less time elapses between passes, so these trails end up marked more strongly. The shortest trail emerges.
- Ants follow pheromone trails
- Pheromone trails degrade over time
- Short paths take less time to traverse