Chimps are Smarter and Faster Than You at Some Tasks, Therefore God Exists?

Natural selection has given chimps a phenomenal short term memory. Japanese researchers have found that if you flash the average chimpanzee a screen of numbers in different locations up to nine, then cause the screen to disappear, the chimp can reconstruct the location of the numbers in numerical order. One especially quick chimp can remember the order and location of 19 numbers!

This skill is related to living in trees (identifying and locating the position of different fruits and branches in trees). It may also be useful in identifying and sizing up a pack of rival chimps (fight or flight). In any event, only savants can perform the trick among humans. Neither you nor I could ever hope to outperform a chimp on this particular test of intelligence.

__________

One thing impressive here is the certainty with which chimps respond to this test. There are no conflicted Hamlets here. If they could talk, they’d respond to three consecutive screens this way:

It’s that pattern, it’s that one, it’s that one.

They’d say it that fast. Why? Because they don’t doubt their intuition for a second. They don’t think about it. They don’t fret. They just know the right answer.  If they had speech, they wouldn’t have to talk about it or reason with others about it. We might say that chimps have a special mental organ that humans don’t have, a sensus numericatis (a numerical ordering and location sense).

Which raises the issue of religion. John Calvin claimed that Christians have a special organ that is damaged or cannot be found in the damned: a sensus divinitatis (a divine sense; a divine detection device). The way the chimps know the order and position of numbers is the way Christians like Calvin know God: they have a pattern detector. The sheep know the Shepherd’s voice. They recognize His face. He calls them by their name.

The difference of course is that there is publicly verifiable evidence for the chimp’s unique numerical ordering sense while Christians like Calvin show no evidence whatsoever they really detect anything that the rest of us don’t.

Below is Richard Dawkins pointing to another pattern all humans ought to be able to recognize immediately: the pattern of branching lineages and common descent that we can readily see when comparing genomes. If chimps are adept at moving through the branches of physical trees, we are adept at identifying the branchings of the evolutionary tree. Call it our sensus evolutionitatis.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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13 Responses to Chimps are Smarter and Faster Than You at Some Tasks, Therefore God Exists?

  1. I find it refreshing, even new, to see people talking about life this way. Thanks.

  2. “Chimps are Smarter and Faster Than You at Some Tasks, Therefore God Exists?”

    No it’s more, “therefore evolution is BS.” There’s no denying that if evolution were true, then it’s humans that need a better memory to adapt to their complex modern day environment–not chimps that have only to worry about remembering what piece of grub is edible or not and which predators to avoid. And memory does not make one smarter, by the way–it makes him or her a more efficient machine.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      You deny that we are cousins to chimps and bonobos? Really? How old do you imagine the earth to be, and how long do you reckon humans have been here? If you accept the standard scientific narrative, every human living today is descended from a common father who lived in Africa just 60,000-90,000 or so years ago. That’s a fact based on evidence gleaned from the human genome project. All living humans also share a common mother who lived in Africa 140,000 years ago (“mitochondrial Eve”). That too is a fact based in rigorously acquired and vetted evidence. You don’t suppose that African man and woman had evolutionary lineages going back still deeper in time, that they just appeared out of nowhere by two separate acts of special creation?

      As to the chimps, living in trees certainly would generate different evolutionary pressures on the brain than living out of the trees on savannas. It’s hardly surprising that our cousins would have different mental capacities and talents from our own (yet still be related to us).

      –Santi

    • proximity1 says:

      Whether average human memory skills are better or worse than those of chimpanzees, our (human) traits have evolved since the the divergence between the lines of the ancestors of Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes and our traits are continuing to evolve. Chimpanzees’ traits have not ceased to evolve either since the divergence from a common ancestor.

      But not all evolution is “positive” for all actual or potential environments. That means simply that modern humans can have evolved in ways that make us less adapted for survival in a primative environment (assuming that we’d have to rely on only what the natural environment offers us in resources)–most of us–are now better able to survive in the village, town or the city than we are in the jungle or any primative natural environment on earth. If you doubt this, then I invite you to trek off into the jungle with nothing but the clothes on your back–which, before long, you’ll wear out–and your supposedly superior intellect (by whatever measure you care to apply) and stay there without any modern convenience and see how well you fare. Even if you had company–which, to survive, humans need in any environment–you’d be hard-pressed to live much longer than the first occasion of a serious injury or illness. Do you wear eye-glasses? Better hope you don’t lose or break them!

      Most healthy chimpanzees have excellent eyesight because they’ve had to rely on it without the prosthetic aids people enjoy–and vision-impaired chimpanzees need help from members of their local community or they’ll be at greater risk to injury and death due to predators and accidents.

      Our stark unfitness for the jungle–compared to any animals, human or non-human who’ve continued to dwell there uninterrupted since prehistoric times–is a feature of and a proof of our continued evolution as a collection of animal lines of descent.

      Memory skills are only one trait. Survival entails the successful capacity to meet an environment’s conditions–taking advantage of the opportunities offered and avoiding the hazards present. In their natural environment, chimpanzees, as they are found in nature, are far better adapted to their environments than are we contemporary “civilized” humans to those same environments.

      • “Memory skills are only one trait. Survival entails the successful capacity to meet an environment’s conditions–taking advantage of the opportunities offered and avoiding the hazards present. In their natural environment, chimpanzees, as they are found in nature, are far better adapted to their environments than are we contemporary “civilized” humans to those same environments.”

        I agree. Maybe it never occurred to you, but could it be possible that we are poorly adapted to a “primitive” environment because we were created for uniquely human civilization? That we never “evolved” and therefore could be created with skin that is vulnerable to environments that require a lot o tree climbing in for survival? Chimps and other apes were created perfectly for their environments. Humans were created perfectly for theirs. Some humans prefer a “wild” life and choose to live in the woods, forests, or the jungles. But it’s clear from what you’ve just noticed that humans are poorly designed for a life of living in the wild–proof positive that we never came from the wild to begin with. This is why we have our brains designed the way they were–so that we do not have to depend on living in the harsh, wilderness for survival–unless we want to.

        It’s doubtful that you will see very many myopic chimps in the wild–you only see this in modern settings where people rely on deficient processed foods for their sustenance and on glasses (which weakens the eye muscles over time). Place chimps in our modern setting and give them our modern human foods and, yes, you will see a lot of more myopic, obese, chimps with heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis. (But as weakened as these chimps are, they will still be able to rip your face apart.) Place us in the wild and, no matter how long we wait and wish for it, we will never be able to be as strong and as powerful as a chimp, gorilla, or a grizzly bear. That’s because we were designed with the right specifications suited to our lifestyles and environments. Human acquired deficiencies, on the other hand, cannot be blamed on design nor on “evolution”–that’s just an unfortunate byproduct of human ingenuity.

  3. Debilis says:

    I’d say that synapticcohesion is right to say that it is an argument for creationism, not theism (though too many don’t seem to understand the difference).

    But I’d disagree with synapticcohesion that it is a good argument. It doesn’t strike me as having any value in the discussion.

  4. proximity1 says:

    re: “synapticcohesion says:
    February 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm
    “I agree. Maybe it never occurred to you, but could it be possible that we are poorly adapted to a “primitive” environment because we were created for uniquely human civilization? That we never “evolved” and therefore could be created with skin that is vulnerable to environments that require a lot o tree climbing in for survival? Chimps and other apes were created perfectly for their environments. Humans were created perfectly for theirs. Some humans prefer a “wild” life and choose to live in the woods, forests, or the jungles. But it’s clear from what you’ve just noticed that humans are poorly designed for a life of living in the wild–proof positive that we never came from the wild to begin with. This is why we have our brains designed the way they were–so that we do not have to depend on living in the harsh, wilderness for survival–unless we want to.”

    You’re putting me on here, right? Just having some “fun”?, pulling my leg? Or, should I take this comment of yours as seriously representing your opinions on the matter?

    We (humans) were designed (how long ago?) perfectly and we’ve remained as we were “designed” ever since?–for the urban conditions of the present-day? And, yet, even so, since (or if) some people “prefer” living in the “wild”, despite our and their prefect design– expressly for urban living–those others who prefer to, if they “want to,”–though this isn’t in keeping with our design, such people are free to live in a manner contrary to their perfectly designed physique and live in harsh primitive conditions if they “want to” ?

    You’d agree, I suppose, that technology has evolved since humans first appeared, wouldn’t you? And, of course, living styles, habits, customs–those have evolved, too, haven’t they? After all, today, unlike in the past, when horse-power was by far the most common means of personal and group transport over land, relatively few people depend entirely on horses for their main means of daily transportation, right? So, modes of work, transportation, styles of dress, customs of cooking, of lodging, arrangements for political and economic rule–all these have changed dramatically over the time since people first appeared on the scene–perfectly designed for their “uniquely human civilization”. But, physically, we’re haven’t budged since the dawn of creation–is that it? And, other plant and animal life? Has it, too, in your view, remained static–because they, likle people and “Chimps and other apes were created perfectly for their environments” ? If so, then all the flora and fauna present in the world has always been present and unchanged?— just as it is in its form today? True?

    Or, have some plant and animal kinds that once lived on Earth since become extinct. (Hint: dinosaurs) If dinosaurs were also designed perfectly for their environment(s), then why aren’t they still here just as they once lived? Did their kind become extinct? If so, how were they perfectly suited (designed) for the environment(s) in which they then lived?

    Speaking of pefect design, there are few if any viruses which can rival the exquisitely robust characteristics of the Human Immuno-virus (HIV). It has the capacity to target human cells, physically invade them, and then assume characteristics of the host cell so that our own (pefectly designed) immune systems fail to recognize the HIV infected cells as pathenogenic–that is, as deadly threats to other healthy cells–which the HIV cells then proceed to target and corrupt, in turn. When the Human Immuno-virus is confronted with chemicals–drugs–which threaten its existence and its ability to thrive and spread, the HIVirus mutates–in a matter of just hours, days, or weeks, and, in a newly-evolved type, it defeats the formerly effective drug treatment and the disease proceeds to infect more of the body’s cells, until it weakens and ultimately destroys the body’s immune system–leaving it open to disease which is usually treatable but, under the circumstances, is or can eventually become fatal.

    If life doesn’t and can’t evolve, then of course, none of that is or could be possible. HIV, just as we are, is static–never evolving, the same today as it was when it was created with the rest of the Earth’s plant and animal life in the original acts of creation; in that case, HIV could never develop resistance to drug treatment— nor could any other plant or animal, including viruses or bacteria– –is that your view of it? So, it’s just impossible that mosquitoes are today resistant to pesticides that once used to nearly erradicate them, right?

    And, if we’re perfectly designed for our present-day living conditions, why don’t we come pre-equipped with pockets for change, our i-Pods, the Smart Phone, and our credit cards?

    I can understand why viruses, bacteria, and most plants and animals don’t have pockets but how did our perfect designer fail to provide us with such an essential characteristic of modern life?

  5. “I can understand why viruses, bacteria, and most plants and animals don’t have pockets but how did our perfect designer fail to provide us with such an essential characteristic of modern life?”

    We are perfectly designed to be able to create our own “supplements” to our natural environment to suit our needs. Therefore having us equipped with pockets is unnecessary as we have the ingenuity to create our own. And by human environments, I don’t mean necessarily a technologically advanced one, but one where we are able to build whatever we need to acquire the essentials in life. We may not have been designed with powerful teeth and hands that can break open a coconut with ease as a chimpanzee can, but we were designed to have the ability to make to proper use of other things in the environment as tools to break open those coconuts–without having to use brute force. We may be ill-suited for living in trees and caves, but we are designed to have the know-how to create homes and shelters for ourselves.

    If we truly “evolved,” Then why don’t humans “still” living in the forest and jungles have the power of their gorilla and chimpanzee “cousins?” They would obviously still require the powerful musculature of their ape brothers in order to access the food that their need without having to build tedious tools to do the job. They would “still” need their fur to keep their warm as they never used the modern day conveniences such as a well-insulated home and heating systems. I’ll tell you why: it’s because they never evolved from ape-like ancestors in the first place. They never had the powerful muscles that chimps and gorillas have. They never had the powerful jaws and sharp teeth. They never had bodies covered in fur. Humans were placed on this earth will all the knowledge that they need in order to survive–knowledge that is unique only to human beings. And because they were built this way, they did not need the biologically advantageous physical features that animals require for their own survival.

  6. proximity1 says:

    re: “We are perfectly designed to be able to create our own “supplements” to our natural environment to suit our needs. Therefore having us equipped with pockets is unnecessary as we have the ingenuity to create our own. And by human environments, I don’t mean necessarily a technologically advanced one, but one where we are able to build whatever we need to acquire the essentials in life.”

    Yeah, I figured you’d offer something like that lame rationalization.

    You’re funny. As I see it, you’re either playing at Devil’s Advocate here, in which case these rationalizations of yours are just part of your phony schtick; or, on the other hand, you’re in fact just as ignorant of facts, just as dishonest in your manner of argumentation, and ,just as self-deceived as your comments make you appear to be. In either case, you’re a bore and boor; you neither know much of anything about the facts of either social or natural history, of biology or a host of other fields of knowledge nor are you apparently interested in finding out about and correcting with valid facts the world of ignorance which seems to be what you have instead of informed knowledge.

    Your argumentation here is deeply dishonest and that dishonesty starts with your own self-deception. You don’t see what to others is obvious?: your patent nonsensein word-games?, Even if you are able to fool yourself, I don’t think you’re fooling many of the thread’s other readers–for whom your word-play is, as you said of the human-chimpanzee common ancestry, “ridiculous.”

    re:

    ‘ If we truly “evolved,” Then why don’t humans “still” living in the forest and jungles have the power of their gorilla and chimpanzee “cousins?” ‘

    Those primitive human societies which did remain from perhistoric times to modern times–including our own, in certain cases (Pirahã tribe; pronounced “peed-ah-nah”; see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirah%C3%A3_people ) have retained their superior (compared to most modern “civilized” urban-dwelling people) strengths–though they aren’t and never were the physical equals of chimpanzees or great apes whose strengths are based on their continued practices of tree climbing.

    If you showed a minimal degree what a respectable debater has in intellectual integrity, you might be interesting to engage further in a discussion here. Since it seems you’re intent on dishonestly playing word-games and dodging cogent a facts and reason which refute your absurd assertions, you aren’t interesting to engage further.

    • “Those primitive human societies which did remain from perhistoric (sic) times to modern times–including our own, in certain cases (Pirahã tribe; pronounced “peed-ah-nah”; see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirah%C3%A3_people ) have retained their superior (compared to most modern “civilized” urban-dwelling people) strengths–though they aren’t and never were the physical equals of chimpanzees or great apes whose strengths are based on their continued practices of tree climbing.”

      My point exactly. They do not display the strength of any of are supposed “ape cousins.” And anyone with half a brain could realize that a people who have to live a labor-intensive life for their very survival are going to be “superior” in strength to the typical city-dweller depending on modern conveniences and living a comparatively sedentary life.

      “You’re funny. As I see it, you’re either playing at Devil’s Advocate here…”

      Ironic, coming from the evolutionist.

      “If you showed a minimal degree what a respectable debater has in intellectual integrity, you might be interesting to engage further in a discussion here. Since it seems you’re intent on dishonestly playing word-games and dodging cogent a facts and reason which refute your absurd assertions, you aren’t interesting to engage further.”

      The typical evolutionist/atheist ad hominens. *yawn*

      Yes if I am so boring, please do not trouble yourself to argue with me–it is fruitless and you only make a fool out of yourself. But thanks for following my other work, btw–it seems that you are a fan.

  7. proximity1 says:

    Research Article:

    Parallel Evolutionary Dynamics of Adaptive Diversification in Escherichia coli
    by Matthew D. Herron and Michael Doebeli

    link : http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001490

    Citation: Herron MD, Doebeli M (2013) Parallel Evolutionary Dynamics of Adaptive Diversification in Escherichia coli. PLoS Biol 11(2): e1001490. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001490

    Copyright: © 2013 Herron, Doebeli. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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