…are at it again:

The twilight zone:
ambient light levels trigger activity in primitive ants

What’s unfortunate about this title is that the judgement “primitive” has nothing to do with the research. It is unnecessary. The study is about how one species of ant uses ambient light levels to trigger foraging.  It’s a nicely done bit of work.  But whether or not these ants are “primitive” has zilch to do with the science.

Back in the day, western anthropologists would study Primitive Culture. Such terms are no longer used in that field, and for good reason. It’s not just that labeling other humans as “savages” and “primitives” is offensive.  It’s that these laden terms carry more baggage than information. “Primitive” leads us to assume we know things about the subject that were not, in fact, ever quantitatively measured or tested. In doing so we unknowingly substitute prejudice for knowledge.

In this sense, many myrmecologists remain stuck in the Victorian mindset, viewing ant societies through a thick glass of presumption. “Primitive” serves no objective function here- all I learn from its inclusion in the title is that the authors don’t fully grasp the evolutionary process.