Posted by martinknox
Brush Turkey [/caption
How much of human life should be assigned to individuality, and how much to society?
This was J S Mill’s question in his book On Liberty, published in 1859, the same year as Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species.Today, 160 years later, surviving human societies vary in individuality and sociality. For example, in the USA individualism is reputedly preeminent, whereas in China collectivism is more prominent.
Individual and collective orientations are not mutually exclusive. Many societies draw on both in different amounts. Emergence of societies by legislation and government often relates to both sides, as if there is a choice.
Human models of pure individualism and pure sociality are lacking. In nature, Australian brush turkeys are individualistic, whereas honey bees are social. Human societies vary, having characteristics whose position can be considered along a continuum between these two.
Honey bees live collectively, with a single female reproductive, the queen, a few male drones and a mass of sexually inactive workers. Tasks of commencing, populating, feeding and defending the colony are performed by individuals of various castes. An individual’s caste is determined by special foods, feeding and education. Lives of honey bees are lived within certain social structures without much tolerance for experimentation and deviation. The survival of the individual depends on the survival of the colony, in overcoming disease, weather, famine and attack.
Brush turkeys, by contrast, survive mostly alone. Chicks emerge from the nest without parental guidance or protection. They live freely without social structure and can experiment in mate attraction, new territories and different diets. Mature males build large nest mounds where a female comes to leave her eggs for incubation, under his instinctive supervision. The only social structures concern reproduction.
Unlike honey bees, we humans allow reproduction by workers. In most human societies, mating, home building and education of the young are able to be freely pursued by individuals within their economic constraints. Like honey bees, humans have designated roles in society with duties to perform. In some societies, humans have participative decision making to appoint authorities to conduct public welfare. In honey bees, the queen may communicate requirements. In brush turkeys there are no communal concerns.
Comparing honey bees with brush turkeys does not distinguish which animal species is better off. Australian society has facets of both a hive and turkeydom. Comparison is difficult, especially between the USA and China. For social control more like honey bees’, is control over human reproduction necessary?