The idea of ​​social plastic: bees stimulate science and spirit

Photo: Georg Eiermann, Unsplash

Whether you see nature inspired by God or just the logical result of evolution, concern for the environment today connects large parts of society. Especially the fate of bees and their outstanding importance for the natural balance mobilize many fellow citizens today.

(and with). Anyone interested in the life of bees must not miss the classic from the 1920s. Karl von Frisch became famous for his publications on the honey bee. At the center of his work was the study of sensory perception and the way these animals communicate with each other. In 1973, together with Konrad Lorenz, he received the Nobel Prize for his achievements. The work “from the life of bees” is a scientific work which, according to the author, resists the temptation to fantastically embellish the poetry of reality. To this day, his descriptions are a source of inspiration for various schools of thought far beyond the professional world.

The book is written in a way that lay people can understand and is proof that innovation and new ways of thinking and seeing are not always possible thanks to advanced technologies. While today’s technology enables the use of programmable robotic bees, Frisch’s team used carpenter bees in their experiments and manually tagged live test objects. The scientific procedure followed Goethe’s maxim that knowledge gained through the senses is prior to technical abstraction. The reader will not be able to escape the fascination with these observations and will admire the division of labor in nature and the teamwork in the bee colony.

It’s amazing that flowers are basically honey producers while animals act as collectors. “It’s a nice interaction, and the more wonderful that neither side knows what they are doing” – the scientist marvels. Since we as humans benefit from this facility of nature, we appreciate the more the work of bees. Frisch describes the energy behind it as follows: “Because no human being would be patient enough to collect tiny droplets of nectar from flowers. The amount a bee brings home from a foraging flight is not large; her honey stomach is not much bigger than the head of a pin and she would have to inflate it with flowers and empty it again about 60 times to fill a thimble.

It is important to study the orientation ability of bees. Karl von Frisch found that they could determine the desired cardinal direction in three ways: the sun, the blue sky’s polarization pattern, and the Earth’s magnetic field. “Because their eyes recognize polarized light and the direction of its vibration. For them, the blue of the sky, which is uniform to us, is littered with local features, vibrational patterns of polarization. “

The bee has an internal clock with various synchronization or timing mechanisms. If he knows the direction of a feeding site from an early morning excursion, he can determine its location in the afternoon from the position of the sun as well as the exact time that this source provides food. Experts were amazed at the scientist’s thesis that bees also communicate with each other through certain dances and exchange the results of their trips with each other.

The fact that animals ‘talk’ to each other in a symbolic and real way has sparked a wide debate as to whether such intelligence can be compared with human capabilities. A debate has begun as to whether it is possible to observe bees and nature objectively at all. How to avoid the trap of anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism?

Once again, the question arose as to whether man is the center of temporal reality and whether he projects his human qualities onto animals, gods, and the forces of nature. Karl von Frisch’s position remained rather open: “Although no human eye has seen, naturalists believe that highly organized animals have emerged from lower forms throughout the history of the Earth.” He himself admitted the difficulties, the bees’ remarkable abilities themselves to explain the theory of evolution.

Whether you see nature inspired by God or just the logical result of evolution, concern for the environment today connects large parts of society. Especially the fate of bees and their outstanding importance for the natural balance mobilize many fellow citizens today. The danger is obvious: without bees, yields of up to three-quarters of the crop would drop sharply – or they would have to be pollinated in a different and artificial way.

The commitment to this question is remarkable. July 17 marked the third anniversary of the Bavarian national parliament’s adoption of the “Save the Bees!” Biodiversity initiative. The initiative has been supported by over 1.7 million citizens, fully aware that the global extinction of bees has a huge impact on our environment and on us humans. The causes of this catastrophe are clearly named. These include monocultures, pesticides and environmental toxins, climate change, pathogens, and the destruction of habitats and food sources. It is uncertain whether saving the animals will actually be successful.

From time immemorial, the world of bees has been the subject of various, not only political, attempts at interpretation. Aristotle has already tried to make a comparison: “Like a bee, an ant, a beaver, humans are by nature already state-producing animals.” The idea of ​​a community based on the division of labor and community spirit fascinates political thinkers to this day. In modern times, the artist Joseph Beuys tried to incorporate the bee metaphor into his world of ideas. The exhibition at the Schloss Moyland Museum, which is open until September, is devoted to this topic.

In his theory of art, Beuys attributed different meanings to bees: he saw them as designers who generate heat and thus produce wax (a form of crystalline honeycomb) and honey (an amorphous form). These materials play an important role in Beuys’ plastic theory. He considered collaborative, collaborative work in a bee family to be exemplary both for the individual and for society (social sculpture). For him, bees and their products, honey and wax, represent warmth, transformation, plastic, social and healing processes. “This concept of warmth is also related to the notion of brotherhood and mutual cooperation, which is why the socialists took the bee as a symbol, because that’s what happens in the hive, an absolute desire to put aside and do something for others. Explains Beuys.

Joseph Beuys dealt with this topic from the late 1940’s. He found important suggestions in the writings of Karl von Frisch. One of the artist’s most famous works is the still-working honey pump. As a work of art, he installed a total of 173 meters of hoses and pipes in the museum during documenta 6 in Kassel in 1977. The combination of art, nature and technology was spectacular. Two engines pumped a mixture of honey and water from the ground floor into the glass dome of the building. The artist invited the delighted audience to discussions, seminars and workshops. He linked not only the circular idea and the depiction of holistic semantic contexts, symbolized by its pump, not only with social issues, but also with the economy (capital) and politics.

Of course, the symbolism of the bee world and possible interpretations are also known to Muslims. The basic idea behind the Muslim community corresponds to the idea of ​​aggregating the positive qualities of people for the general benefit. The amazing abilities of animals stem from divine inspiration and intuition. In Sura an-Nahl (the bees) we read: “And your Lord inspired the bee:“ Take the houses in the mountains, in the trees, and on the trellises that they make. Then eat of all the fruits and walk in the ways of your Lord, which are smooth (to you). ‘ From their entrails, a drink of various colors flows, in which there is healing for people. Indeed, there is a sign in this for the thinking people.

Ibn Adjiba’s explanations extensively enumerate the vast implications of this healthy relationship between bees and humans. It’s not just about healing in the medical sense. The call for reflection today involves linking scientific knowledge and new attempts at interpretation to the context of the Muslim social model. As a result, it may become clearer why the energy flow is stagnant, the division of labor and the exploitation of possible synergies between Muslim communities often seem to be interrupted.

One thing is certain, the bee phenomenon is no coincidence one of the great parables of our time. Karl von Frisch knew that science had never solved the whole mystery. In a 1967 quatrain titled Resignation, he points to this barrier: “People who are thirsty for knowledge / reflect and research their whole life / just to realize, without giving up: / They don’t really understand anything.”

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