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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration
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Showing 1-10 of 39 reviews(5 star). See all 51 reviews
on January 13, 2006
When the authors of this book wrote their Pulitzer Prize winning book The Ants a few years before this one, between them they had dedicated almost 75 years to the study of ants. That tome is weighty in every respect, and a little formidable. This book was written a few years later to distill the categorical information of the former into more accessible and digestible form.

The book addresses the following issues : Why study ants? How are ants organized? How do they communicate? How do they cooperate? What influence do they have on their environment. The answer to the first question is: We study ants because they are highly successful organisms - by some measures more successful than humans. And because they offer a compelling model of society. Parallels between ant and human society are many and may be described in ways that transcend qualities of the individual organisms. And we can do experiments on ant societies that are impossible to do with human ones.

In reading this book, Jared Diamond's Guns, Steel, Germs, and then Montesquieu's Constitution I was struck by a common idea. The ants that live in resource rich locations such as the African jungles have evolved large-scale highly centralized, highly specialized societies. They have many specialized castes. Diamond notes the same of human societies. Ants living in the Australian Outback find the location resource-poor and there is little specialization and almost no social heirarchy. Diamond found the same of Australian Aborigines. Montesquieu, in Constitution observes that when material wealth rises above moderate levels and becomes concentrated in one class, republics fail and turn to more centralized forms - as happened in Rome. He observes "Monarchy is more frequently found in fruitful countries and a republican government in those which are not so. This is sometimes a sufficient compensation for the inconveniences they suffer by the sterility of the land." This leads us to ask whether loss of liberty is an inevitable social consequence of material plentitude.

In studying ants we may not learn whether specialization can exist alongside liberty, but we certainly can learn that specialization depends upon resource plentitude. And it is quite surprising that this is such a fixed rule of society until we think about the fundamental requirements of a society's individuals. Then it begins to take the form of a universal law.

This is by no means a political book. It makes for quite entertaining and lively reading. The pages are sprinkled with illuminating diagrams and illustrations. The language is clear and readable. It clearly makes the case that societies have behaviors that occur almost independent of the qualities of their individuals - apart from their tendency to form societies. The study of ants is unique in its ability to give us a clear and objective view of the dynamics of societies. It is almost impossible to study ants and not come away with a deeper understanding of human society. For this reason the book is recommended for all readers regardless of their interest in the individual ant, or biology in general, or ant society per se.
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on July 20, 2017
After reading this book, you will never view evolution and man's place on this planet in the same light. The ants are incredible.
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on July 23, 2017
Excellent as a resource and general reading. Again, Holdobler and Wilson are supreme.
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on September 7, 2016
Awesome book. First chapters more about the history of myrmecology which personally I wan's that into the topic but the remainder of the book has read like a good novel.
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on December 18, 2017
An inspiring reading with deep revelation on the evolving and infinitely complex of biological eco-system.

Ronald Chiu / Taipei, Taiwan
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on June 18, 2011
Bought it for my son. Did a quick flip through. Great Pics, Great Text! Can't wait until he is done with it, so I can read it!
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on March 15, 2017
great book!
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on August 14, 2012
This was a gift for a friend so I haven't read it, but I am told it's a good read. I looked through the table of contents and it seems very thorough. There is also a chunk of the book that is all pictures, which are great closeups of ants and some drawings.
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on November 23, 1998
I've always been fascinated with ants. The different behaviors exhibited by various species is incredible. Why watch something artificial like the movie "Antz" (actually, I went to see it and it is pretty good) when the real thing is more interesting? Ant societies so much resemble human societies except they don't think about what they are doing (although maybe the part about "thinking" is not a differentiating factor in some cases).
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on February 10, 2014
This book has so much you can learn from and if you are interested in ants and knowing more about them, this is the book for you.
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