Cooperation and Solidarity Among Animals
So far in this book, we have dealt with animals' compassionate behavior and selfless devotion for their offspring. But these qualities are not observed only between parents and their offspring. Many animals in nature show great solidarity with one another, and sometimes it is even possible to see such behavior between different species. In particular, herd animals and those living as part of a colony have many advantages.
Evolutionists' claim that animals are engaged in a great struggle for survival, and must compete with one another in order to survive, is disproved by the lives of herd animals. Except during mating season, animals mostly do not compete but take advantage of solidarity, cooperation, devotion and guarding each other's interest.
In reality, evolutionists are aware of this obvious reality, but choose to try and find ways of integrating it into their theory. To take one example, the renowned evolutionist Peter Kropotkin has found many examples of cooperation between animals in research that he conducted in eastern Siberia and Manchuria. Kropotkin has even written a book about this, in which he says the following about the solidarity between animals:
The first thing which strikes us as soon as we begin studying the struggle for existence under both its aspects—direct and metaphorical—is the abundance of facts of mutual aid, not only for rearing progeny, as recognized by most evolutionists, but also for the safety of the individual, and for providing it with the necessary food. With many large divisions of the animal kingdom mutual aid is the rule. Mutual aid is met with even amidst the lowest animals.111
Even though Kropotkin is an evolutionist, he contradicts evolutionary theory's basic claim, in the face of the clear evidence he observed. As we will see in the next few pages, solidarity and cooperation between animals, even between species, is essential for their safety and even nourishment. Order and balance in nature is clear evidence for God's flawless creation. Those who are astonished to witness the intelligent behavior of animals in nature can't help but feel admiration. One such person is the famous scientist Kenneth Walker. An expert in physiology and medicine, he relates what he observed during a safari in east Africa:
I remember being very much impressed by many instances of the cooperation between animals which I witnessed when shooting in East Africa many years ago. On the Athi plains were large flocks of different varieties of antelopes and herds of zebras that collaborated in posting sentries to give alarm at the first approach of any danger. I had no desire to shoot a zebra, but often it was impossible to get within range of the antelope without some zebra sentry discovering me and making my presence known to the antelopes. Giraffes and elephants were also frequently found in company and apparently for a very good reason. The elephants had enormous ears and excellent hearing but poor eye-sight, whilst the giraffes were like sentries posted on watch-towers. When they combined their capacities it was almost impossible to get near them without being heard or seen. A still stranger combination was formed by the rhinosceros and the rhinosceros-birds which sat in a row on its back preying on the ticks and other parasites with which its skin was infested. These birds were always on the alert and generally discovered my presence long before their short-sighted host knew of it. With shrill cries and vigorous pecks they stirred the rhinoceros into action and away the great beast swung with the birds precariously clinging to its back like outside passengers on a madly careering coach.112
Walker's observations form only a small part of the many examples of devotion and cooperation. Everyone can observe similar behavior in the animals in his environment. But more important is to reflect on these astonishing behaviors.
Creatures Warning One Another of Dangers
One great advantage of living in a community is the increased safety it provides, since any individual sensing danger can warn the others, instead of quietly stealing away. Each species has its own warning call. For instance, hares and some species of deer raise their tails to warn other animals when they sense danger. Some gazelles, on the other hand, make a strange hopping display for the same purpose.113
When they spot danger, many small birds give an alarm call. Species like the blackbird, great tit and chaffinch will make a high-pitched noise at a narrow frequency range. It's not possible for humans to detect the direction of this call—important for any flock of birds, because any one bird risks drawing attention to itself by making this noise.114 But the danger of this happening in this case is very limited.114
An insect that lives as part of a colony will alert the others if it becomes aware of danger. But the alarm scent (pheromone) it emits is also perceived by the enemy. Therefore, whatever insect raises the alarm, also risks its life.115
Prairie dogs live in large communities comprising as many as a thousand animals. Their network of burrows is like an underground village, each burrow housing approximately 30 of them. Each animal in the group recognizes every other member. Some are always on the lookout, standing upright on their hind legs atop the little hills of excavated earth near the entrance of their burrows. If one of the sentries detects a predator, it makes a series of whistling sounds, echoed by the other animals on the lookout. That then sounds the alarm.116
It's thought-provoking that animals warn each other out of their devotion, but it's more important to notice that they can all understand each other. A hare, for example, gives a warning signal by raising its tail, and all other nearby hares then take the necessary measures. They will leave the area if they must, and if they have to hide, they'll do that too. But if hares know to run when they see this signal, they must have agreed it beforehand by communicating about it. How else could they put it into practice all at once? To any rational human being, this proposition is obviously unacceptable. We must therefore acknowledge that these animals, having been created by the one Creator, all act according to His directives.
The other example cited earlier was the birds that stand on the backs of rhinos, who understand these birds' warning cry and respond accordingly. These intelligent behaviors cannot be ignored. It's evidently impossible for an animal to figure out that it should warn the others of possible danger—and for them to understand its signal and respond accordingly. For these intelligent, rational behaviors there is only one possible explanation: All their abilities and behavior have been taught to them! God teaches these animals their behaviors and makes them put it into practice. God, the Most Compassionate and the Most Merciful, creates everything, protects and sustains everything.
Animals Defending Themselves as One
Not only warning each other of dangers, animals living in communities also defend themselves against dangers en masse. For instance, small birds swarm around or "mob" predatory birds like hawks or owls that venture into their territory. By making a special clicking sound, they also call other birds into the area. The aggressive behavior these small birds display is usually enough to drive off predatory birds.117
A flock of birds flying together provides protection for each individual. Starlings fly in flocks with wide spaces in between. But when they see a hawk, they quickly close the gaps, making it nearly impossible for the hawk to dive into the flock. If it did, it would likely injure its wings and no longer be able to hunt.118
When their herd comes under attack, mammals too act as one body. When zebras run from predators, they position their young in the middle of the herd. During her observations in east Africa, English scientist Jane Goodall saw three zebras, separated from the rest of their herd, being surrounded by wild dogs. Other members of the herd, realizing that three of their own were in danger, returned to attack the predators with their hooves and teeth, and drove them away to save the three zebras.119
Generally, when a herd of zebras comes under attack, the herd's leader runs to the rear, while the females and foals run up front. The stallion runs in zigzags, kicks out with his hind legs. He's even been observed to it turns the battle around and chase the attacker.120
Dolphins too swim in shoals and defend themselves as a group against sharks, their greatest enemies. If the shark comes dangerously close to their young, two adult dolphins will split off from the others and draw the shark towards themselves. With the shark's attention diverted, the other dolphins will quickly surround it and begin to deal blows to its gills until it drowns.121
In an even more interesting behavior, families of dolphins will usually swim with shoals of tuna and feed with them. For this reason, tuna fishermen will follow dolphins for a good place to cast their nets. Sometimes dolphins get caught in the nets meant for tuna. Since dolphins are air-breathing mammals, they panic when caught in the net, suffer shock, and begin sinking to the bottom. Because of their devotion, other members of the dolphin family immediately come to its aid. They all follow the dolphin down, trying to push it back up. Sadly, as they cannot breathe, often they drown too.
This is not an isolated instance affecting just one dolphin family. All dolphins show the same devotion under similar circumstances.122
If a female grey whale is injured, one or more males will come to her aid. They keep the female on the surface in order to let her breathe and protect her from killer whales.123
Instead of running when attacked, musk oxen will form a defensive circle. All members of the herd move slowly backwards, never turning their backs on the predators until all have taken up their positions in the circle. Their calves will be in the center of the circle, hiding under their mother's long fur. The males will keep the calves in the middle providing them with total protection. Occasionally, one bull will charge the predators before again withdrawing to his position in the circle.124
Very interesting examples of cooperation are also seen in hunting. American white pelicans, for instance, always hunt in teams. Locating a suitable bay, they form a semi-circle facing the land, plunging in the water periodically and driving the fish ahead of them. When the right time comes, they close the circle and catch all the fish inside it.125In narrow streams or canals, they will even form two groups. At night, all withdraw to their resting places. No one ever sees them fight over their patch in the bay or over the spot they sleep on.
Reflect on the fact that animals in these close communities watch out for one another and act as one body. As we said at the beginning, these animals are not intelligent human beings, but zebras, insects, and dolphins.
Surely, no intelligent person can say that these animals cooperate by their own free will. The conclusion any rational person will draw is this: Everything in nature is the work of an infinitely knowledgeable and powerful Creator. God has made all living things, including man, animals, insects, plants—everything that is alive, and everything that is not. He possesses infinite power, compassion, mercy, intelligence, knowledge and wisdom. Then we should reflect upon the following verses of the Qur'an:
All praise belongs to God, the Lord of the heavens and the Lord of the Earth, Lord of all the worlds. All greatness belongs to Him in the heavens and earth. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. (Qur'an, 45: 36-37)
Lord of the heavens and the Earth and everything between them, the Almighty, the Endlessly Forgiving. (Qur'an, 38: 66)
African Birds that Watch Out for One Another
Flocks of African birds are in great harmony with one another, and many examples illustrate their cooperation. Their staple food is fruit found on the trees they visit. Feeding of the fruit at the tips of the branches is difficult, because that is where most fruit grow, and only the birds that happen to perch nearby can feed easily. All other birds face hunger, being either too far from the fruit or there won't be enough for them all.
But not so! Birds land on a fruit tree in flocks, lining up along the branches as if they'd agreed to do so beforehand. Whatever bird is closest to the fruits picks them and passes them along. This way, the fruit travels down along the branch to the birds at the other end. Considering that these creatures lack reason and intelligence, it would be only reasonable for the bird nearest the fruit to keep it all, thereby disrupting the disciplined feeding order. But instead of feeding themselves first, members of the flock apply a most practical method of distributing the fruit among them all. None of the birds lined up on the branch do anything that would disrupt this amazing precision. By itself, however, this cooperation isn't sufficient to feed all members of the flock in one sitting, as the fruit of one tree is not enough. Therefore even if the birds pass the fruits beak to beak some of them would have to go hungry. To overcome this problem, they land on trees in a different order each time, so that those that did not get any fruit last time, will be the first to get some this time.126
Animal Cooperation During Birth
Mammals especially are exposed to great dangers during birth, when both mother and her baby become easy prey for predators. However, when a pregnant animal is ready to give birth, another animal of the herd is commonly present. For instance, the female antelope when she is ready for birth, withdraws to a place in the bushes, and another female from the herd goes with her to assist.
Dolphins are another species well known for their cooperation during parturition. As soon as they are born, baby dolphins need to surface in order to breathe. For this reason, the female dolphin pushes her baby up towards the surface. Just before birth, the mother's movements slow down. This is why there are two other females present during birth for assistance. The assistants swim on either side of her to protect her if need be, since she might not have enough energy to deal with any potential danger. They guard her especially against sharks, as the blood that flows during birth might attract them to the area.
For the first two weeks, the dolphin mother will not leave her baby's side. Soon after birth, the infant dolphin begins to swim and gradually begins to stray further and further. But the mother, still weak from giving birth, cannot keep up with the agility of her young one. Her assistants help provide the protection the baby needs.127
Another mammal that gets—and gives—assistance during labor is the elephant. One of the other females in the herd always assists a pregnant elephant when she gives birth. The mother hides skillfully in the bush and together with her assistant, protects the newborn and cares for it for many years to come. When the female has her young with her, she is considerably more on guard and aggressive.128
How do elephants and these other animals communicate with one another? How can the female assistant know the time of birth, and that the pregnant one needs her help. No animal has either the intelligence or the awareness to grasp all this just by itself. Elephants everywhere on earth help each other out in this way. This is true for dolphins and all other animals as well, proving that they are all created by the same Creator and they all are under His control.
Creatures that Look After One Another's Offspring
Mammals usually form strong family bonds. A typical wolf pack consists of one male and female, their newly born pups, maybe one or two of their previous season's offspring, and often the aunts and uncles of the newborns. All adult members defend the offspring. Sometimes one female of the pack stays behind in the den through the night to "pup-sit" the young. In this way the mother can hunt and feed with the rest of the pack.
African hunting dogs live in similar packs of approximately ten members. Males and females share the responsibility of protecting and feeding their offspring. They even compete to care for them. When the pups are ten weeks old, they start to go hunting with the pack. After they bring down prey, adults will form a circle around it to keep hyenas at bay, and the young are the first to feed.129
In baboon families, the dominant male usually helps the sick or injured. Adult baboons will adopt orphaned young animals. They let the orphans accompany them and stay with them at night. When the family is on the move and one of the mothers has a young one she cannot carry on her back, she will hold it with one arm. Because the young animals tend to tire quickly, the mother will soon be lagging behind, because she needs to stop frequently to let the young baboon rest. The dominant male notices this and returns to them, walking by their side and stopping when they do.130
Even after jackals stop weaning, usually they stay on with their mothers to help look after the younger pups. They bring back food for the young, keep danger away from their den, and thus help them survive.131
Jackals are hardly the only animals who care for their siblings. The moorhen's and window swallow's young from the first nest will help rearing the newborn hatchlings in the second.
That animals will share in the responsibility of looking after the young of others is more evidence against the claims of evolutionists. As we stated before, evolutionists believe that animals cooperate only for the purpose of continuing their lineage to the next generation and that therefore, behaviors that appear to be acts of selfless devotion are actually driven by selfish genes. As we've seen in this chapter, however, animals help not only those carrying their genes, but also those in need who do not. In other words, the evolutionists' "selfish gene" theory, cited earlier, has no scientific value. Anyhow, it is not possible for animals devoid of reason to be concerned about transferring their genes to the later generations. To claim that animals are programmed to carry such ambitions is to acknowledge the existence of a mind and foresight responsible for such programming.
The characteristics of every animal encountered in nature clearly prove the existence of a superior Creator, who is God, the most compassionate and the most merciful.
Devotion in Colonies
Ants, termites and bees live in groups based on discipline, obedience, solidarity, devotion and sharing work. From the moment they emerge from the pupae until their death, these tiny insects concentrate all their efforts into protecting the colony and feeding larvae, with total disregard for their own welfare. They share their food with one another, clean their environment and even die for one another.
Each member of the colony knows exactly what to do and does it faultlessly. Their top priority is the welfare of the larvae and their fellow insects. One never observes any selfish behavior in bees, ants and termites, which is why these colonies live in a faultless order and are so successful.
On termites' highly successful lives, based on cooperation, Peter Kropotkin says the following:
Their [The ants' and termites'] wonderful nests, their buildings, superior in relative size to those of man; their paved roads and overground vaulted galleries; their spacious halls and granaries; their corn-fields, harvesting and "malting" of grain; their rational methods of nursing their eggs and larvae . . . and, finally, their courage, pluck, and superior intelligence—all these are the natural outcome of the mutual aid which they practise at every stage of their busy and laborious lives.132
This next section will deal with examples of devotion and cooperation observed in ant colonies and beehives.
Selfless Devotion in Ant Colonies
1. One striking aspects of colony life is that all ants share food. If two ants from the same colony meet, one hungry and the other with a belly full of digested or semi-digested food, the hungry ant will ask the other one to share some. This kind of request is never turned down. Ants also feed their larvae from the food in their stomachs and often, end up keeping less for themselves than what they offer to others.133
2. In ant colonies, there is perfect sharing of tasks, and each ant fulfills its responsibility with great devotion. The responsibility of the "soldier ant" is to guard the entrance to the nest. It will admit only ants belonging to its colony and refuse entrance to all others. The heads of these guard ants serve as a living "gate" to the nest. They guard the entrance all day and never leaving it unattended.134 In the case of an attack, these ants form the first line of defense.
3. Along with sharing food, ants will also share, with as many other ants they can, information about the location of food sources. In their behavior, there is no sign of selfish struggle. The ant who discovers a new source of food eats her fill and then returns to the nest, leaving behind a chemical trail on the way by touching her lower abdomen to the ground at regular intervals. Also, she goes around the nest three to six times, speedily communicating the news to the other ants and on returning to the source of food, is accompanied by many others.
4. Medium-sized workers in a colony of leaf-cutting ants spend their whole day transporting leaves. During this time, they are exposed and highly vulnerable to attacks, especially from a species of fly that deposits its eggs onto the ants' heads. The maggots hatching from these eggs will feed on the ant's head and decapitate it by eating into its brain. When carrying leaves, worker ants are defenseless against these flies, but other ants will fight back for them. Smaller ants from the same colony take up positions on the leaves being carried back to the nest and fight off these predatory flies.135
5. Some ants feed on the highly sugary digestive wastes of aphids, which is why they are known as honey ants. They carry this sugary substance they extract from the aphids to their nest, where they store it using a very original method. A few of the worker ants serve as living storage tanks. Ants returning to their nest regurgitate the food into their mouths, and those ants store it in their lower abdomens, which can inflate to the size of blueberries.136 Each chamber contains between 25 to 30 of them, each dangling from the ceiling, where she remains immobile. Should one of them fall to the ground, the other ants will return her to her original position.
These living storage tanks can hold up to eight times the original mass of the ant. During winters or droughts, hungry ants visit them to feed. The hungry insect puts her mouth into the mouth of the "storage" ant which, by contracting the muscles around her lower abdomen, delivers a drop of nectar to the visitor. These ants couldn't possibly have developed such a method of storing food on their own. Those that serve as living honey jars clearly demonstrate their selfless devotion, by remaining suspended upside down from the ceiling, carrying eight times their own body weight, expecting nothing in return. Patiently they help to feed other ants of the colony, one by one. Clearly, these ants' system and the physical capabilities that make it possible couldn't be the results of chance. In each generation of honey ants, a few take it upon themselves to serve in this way, which proves that all of them act on the inspiration of their Lord God.
6. One method that ants use to defend their colony is to commit suicide. They can deliver their kamikaze attacks against an enemy in a variety of ways. One of the most interesting examples is provided by a species living in the rainforests of Malaysia. This ant has a venom gland stretching from its jaw towards the back of its body. If confronted by an enemy, the ant contracts its abdominal muscles so forcefully that the gland and surrounding tissues burst, spraying the enemy with its poison before it dies.137
7. In order to reproduce, male and female ants must be very dedicated. Soon after their mating flight, the winged male ants expire. The female looks for a suitable place to build her nest and when she finds one, will enter it and break off her wings. Then she seals off the entrance and remains inside without food for weeks, even months, all alone. Later she will lay her first eggs as a queen ant. The only things she will have eaten in all this time are her own wings. The very first larvae that emerge she feeds with her saliva. This is a period of great devotion for the queen ant, in beginning a new colony.
8. If their nest is attacked and occupied, the ants move to protect their brood at any cost. The soldier ants move to the area under attack to fight the invaders, while workers rush to the nursery chambers, evacuating the larvae and young ants between their jaws. They carry them outside the nest and hide them somewhere safe until the attack has been fought off.138 It would be expected for a creature like the ant to be concerned only with itself, seeking a place to hide. But the worker ants, soldiers and those guarding the entrance aren't concerned about their own lives and will die for one another if necessary.
This is selfless devotion at the highest level, and all ants have been behaving in this way for millions of years.
Thus far, we have related astonishing behavior in the animal kingdom, but still need to point out that the creatures acting in these surprising ways are tiny ants. These insects are no importance to those who are used to seeing them every day. But when we observe them carefully, we see the intelligence inherent in their behavior is too significant to be ignored. With their little brains that cannot be seen by the naked eye, consisting of so few nerve cells, they perform intelligent actions that wouldn't be expected of them. For millions of years, they have been obeying their Creator God's orders in great discipline and without fail. They have surrendered to Him and move only by His will. All beings submit to God like the ants. As the Qur'an says:
Is it other than the religion of God that you desire, when everything in the heavens and earth, willingly or unwillingly, submits to Him and to Him you will be returned? (Qur'an, 3: 83)
Altruism in the Beehive
A similar display of harmony and solidarity can be observed in hives. The devotion of worker bees is especially reminiscent of ants. Both species work tirelessly until they die—for the sake of the queen and for the larvae which are not theirs.
A beehive's population consists of the queen, the drone males responsible for fertilizing the queen and the hundreds if not thousands of worker bees. All work is performed by the workers: building the combs, cleaning and defending the hive, feeding the queen and the drones, caring for the larvae, building and preparing the brooding chambers according to the type of bee (worker, queen, drone) that will develop inside, cleaning the hive and regulating its humidity and temperature, feeding the larvae according their specific needs (nectar, honey and pollen), and collecting nectar, pollen, water and resins.
We can list the phases of a worker bee's life and its devotional behavior as follows:
1. A worker's lifespan is between four and six weeks. Once it emerges from the pupal stage, it works for approximately three weeks inside the hive. Its first job is to nurse the developing larvae. The worker lives off the pollen and honey from the feed store, but feeds most of it to the larvae. It regurgitates some of the food it has eaten, mixes it with substances drawn from glands inside its head, and feeds this mixture to the larvae.
How does a creature which has just emerged from the pupa know its job? Why do all bees comply without objection? The bee ought to emerge from the pupa and seek to continue its own life without showing any signs of conscious devotion. But not so: The bee fulfills its nursing duties in a highly disciplined, responsible manner.
2. When the bee is approximately twelve days old, its wax glands develop and it begins to restore and build the hexagonal comb structures in which larvae develop and honey is stored.
3. Between the age of twelve days and three weeks, the worker receives the pollen and nectar brought back to the hive by the other bees, converts it into honey and stores it. It also cleans the hive, removing from it dead bees and other waste.
4. When it has reached the age of three weeks, it's old enough to gather the nectar, pollen, water and resins needed in the hive. These mature workers leave the hive to look for flowers and nectar. Obtaining food is a tiring process: After only two to three weeks, a worker bee will die of exhaustion.139 However, a point hard to explain is that each bee produces far more honey than it requires for its own needs. It is impossible for evolutionists to explain why an unthinking creature, supposedly in a struggle for its own survival, should persist in this hard work without ever giving up.
Here we confront another sign of God. As stated before, God reveals in Sura 16 that He commands the bee to make honey. This is why bees display devotion to such a degree: They are obeying their Lord's order. What man needs to do is revealed in the continuation of the verse:
… There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect. (Qur'an, 16: 69)
5. Before worker bees set out to find food, they have another important obligation to fulfill: guard duty.
In each hive, there are bees guarding the entrance. Their duty is to fight off intruders trying to enter the hive. Every creature that does not have the hive's resident scent is considered an enemy of the hive's larvae and bees.
If an outsider appears at the hive's entrance, the guard bees respond mercilessly and sting the intruder. Their venom contains a fast-dispersing odor perceived by other bees as an alarm call, and they all rush to the entrance, ready for battle.
If a bee stings the enemy, she will inject as much venom as possible, giving off a stronger odor. The stronger the odor, the fiercer her mates become.140
Of course, defending the hive means usually suicide. The sting of a bee is barbed like the porcupine's quill and in most cases, cannot be extracted once it has been inserted. When the bee tries to fly away after the sting, its lower abdomen tears away. But the part that comes off contains the poison gland and the nerves controlling them. Even though the bee herself dies from this injury, the gland that she left behind continues to pump poison into the wound of the victim.141 And so, the rest of the colony benefits from her sacrifice.
How can we explain a tiny creature working tirelessly for others from the moment it is born, caring for and even risking its life for them? All bees and ants have been doing this for millions of years, wherever they lived on Earth. Obviously these creatures, in their short but dedicated lives, act according to the will of God, their Creator.
[Hud said,] "I have put my trust in God, my Lord and your Lord. There is no creature He does not hold by the forelock. My Lord is on a Straight Path." (Qur'an, 11: 56)