Treadmill

Written by Anthony Douglas on 11 August 2018.

Ant MillI confess I’ve never looked upon a treadmill with any enthusiasm; it’s always seemed like a necessary efficiency to me. But it does have a significant advantage: you can always get off and stop walking.

Army ants are completely blind, and navigate by scent. Chiefly, they’re actually following the pheromones of other army ants. And sometimes, this is a recipe for disaster.

If a column of army ants accidentally crosses its own tracks, then the lead ants will follow their own scent, and march in a circle known as an ant mill. They will march, on and on, until the whole column of ants dies of exhaustion. Their instinct is to follow the safe path that’s been taken before, and with every circuit, the pheromone trail gets stronger, and the endless walk appears safer than ever.

Ants  are, of course, incredibly social creatures. They cooperate intensively, and by necessity trust the whole colony to perform every required deed. Their strength individually is tiny, but when they work in concert they can achieve incredible feats.

They’re like us, actually. Our cooperative society has learned much and worked well for the good of humanity. But are we any good at spotting when we’ve trapped ourselves in a viciously circular argument? I can think of a few places where I know our society is digging deep ruts without any real grounds for taking a particular path.

Fortunately, our God can open blind eyes.

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