Psychologists say observations of chimpanzee and orangutan behavior in zoos support the primates’ evolutionary relationship to people.
Do chimps in zoos have the same personality types as people? Or do humans project their own perceptions onto ape behavior? Psychologists using surveys collected from observers around the world say they have proven ape personalities really have evolved like their human cousins. “All too human? Chimpanzee and orangutan personalities are not anthropomorphic projections”1 declares their study, published in the journal Animal Behavior. Dr. Alexander Weiss, the lead author, asserts the results are a natural consequence of the primate evolutionary relationships with humans.
“[Chimpanzees] have the same social problems that we do, they want to make friends and find mates and sort of gain position within their society,” says co-author Mark Adams. Dr. Weiss says chimpanzee personalities are “highly similar” to humans in that they can be described scientifically in five categories: “neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.”
Because orangutan personality can only be accurately rated in three of these categories—extroversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness—chimps can be considered more similar to humans than orangutans. And, he says, the number of “shared personality dimensions are best explained by our genetic similarities.”
“Humans and chimps share a common ancestor about 4 to 6 million years ago,” Weiss says. The orangutans are supposed to have diverged from the primate evolutionary tree 15 million years ago, however, which explains, Weiss says, “why chimpanzees and humans are more similar in personality than orangutans and humans.”
Humans tend to anthropomorphize animal behavior. As psychology professor Clive Wynne of Florida explains, “Human beings have a very natural tendency to project human agency into almost anything that moves. It’s very deeply ingrained into our ways of trying to understand the world around us.”
This research team actually did this study to test the degree of observer bias that influences human assessment of animal personality. “There’s sort of a fear that human observers and ‘raters’ are projecting their own ideas about personality on to these animals,” says co-author Mark Adams. This study was designed to rate the “raters” of great ape behavior.
To do this, the team asked 230 people visiting zoos in the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan to rate chimps and orangutans on 40 to 50 personality traits using a seven point scale. Then, statistical analysis was used, researchers say, to eliminate observer bias. “What we found,” Adams says, “is that controlling for these differences among observers made no difference, which suggests that the observers are not projecting their own ideas about personality onto the animals.” Weiss says this study “vindicates both the view that chimpanzees have personalities and perhaps the more controversial statement that their personalities are quite similar to those of humans.”
Since human perception of personality influenced the design of the questionnaire, it might be fair to say that the 230 people filling out the surveys tend to see things the way humans do. It is unlikely that any observer actually knows what the apes were thinking, though we might puzzle over how the apes would design a questionnaire to rate their human observers.
Of more significance, however, than amusing musing about how much humans anthropomorphize anything that moves is the fact that this study is being offered in support of the evolutionary relationships between primates and humans.
Evolutionists claim genetic similarities between primates and humans are the results of common ancestry. Biblical creationists—and even intelligent design proponents of other persuasions—understand genetic similarities as the natural result of having a common Designer. Furthermore, much circular reasoning and bias are built even into the claims of genetic similarity. God’s own Word tells us that He made Adam and Eve in His own image on the sixth day of Creation week, the same day He made land animals.
Our Creator has made it clear therefore that there is no evolutionary relationship between apes and humans. To consider the human surveys of animal behavior in any setting—much less the unnatural setting of zoos—evidence in support of an evolutionary tree of unverifiable past events while rejecting the eyewitness account provided by the Creator of the universe seems to represent the height of elevating man’s fallible opinions over the Word of the infallible omniscient God. Using such anthropomorphic games to continue justifying the replacement of the Creator by evolution represents a denial of truth that every person—according to God’s Word (Romans 1:18)—knows in his heart. Scripture teaches in Romans 1:18–20 and Romans 2:14–16 that every person understands he is morally accountable to his Creator no matter how much he suppresses that truth.
Creationist doctor’s understanding of science and ethics called into question
Controversy erupted at Emory University when 494 disgruntled faculty, students, and alumni signed a letter complaining about the university’s selection of Dr. Ben Carson as commencement speaker. Why wouldn’t they want the Emory Community to be inspired by the world-renowned Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon who made history as the first doctor to successfully separate conjoined twins attached at the back of the head? Because, they feel, Dr. Carson doesn’t really “understand science.”
Dr. Carson is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a noted philanthropist, the director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, co-director of the Craniofacial Center there, and a professor of neurology, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics.
But Dr. Carson is also a creationist who has publicly spoken against evolution. Speaking at a National Science Teachers convention, Dr. Carson said, “Evolution and creationism both require faith. It’s just a matter of where you choose to place that faith.”
The letter of complaint misrepresented Dr. Carson, saying he “equates the acceptance of evolution with a lack of ethics and morality.” However, what Dr. Carson had actually said in his published interview with the Adventist Review was the following:
By believing we are the products of random acts, we eliminate morality and the basis of ethical behavior. For if there is no such thing as moral authority, you can do anything you want. You make everything relative, and there’s no reason for any of our higher values.
The letter of complaint further derided Dr. Carson for “not seeing a difference between science, which is predictive and falsifiable, and religious belief systems, which by their very nature cannot be falsified. This is especially troubling since his great achievements in medicine allow him to be viewed as someone who ‘understands science.’”
The complaint asserts that Dr. Carson is “incorrect” in his denial of the “overwhelming” evidence for evolution. It goes on to say, “Our understanding of the evolutionary process has advanced our ability to develop animal models for disease, our ability to combat the spread of infectious disease and, in point of fact, the work of Dr. Carson himself is based on scientific advances fostered by an understanding of evolution.” The complaint concludes by saying, “Dismissing evolution disregards the importance of science and critical thinking to society.”
This writer is personally amazed that anyone could question Dr. Ben Carson’s understanding of science or morality, much less suggest that Dr. Carson disregards the importance of science and critical thinking to society. His medical achievements demonstrate the contrary. He understands the differences between experimental and origins science. He understands the way a person’s starting assumptions determine the way he views scientific data about unobservable untestable events long past. For instance, in the area of craniofacial surgery, Dr. Carson’s understanding of embryological developmental errors that produce birth defects is not hampered by his “refusal” to believe embryologic development recapitulates an evolutionary past. He understands human anatomy and development and therefore has been able to develop innovative ways to ameliorate human suffering.
Furthermore, Dr. Carson has spoken clearly and logically about the importance of an absolute source of morality beyond man’s opinions. He certainly does not deny that non-believers can be ethical people, but he articulates the fact that they lack a logical basis for their ethics. In response to the attack, Dr. Carson told the Emory University newspaper the following:
It would have been extremely courteous if they had asked me whether it was true that I said people who are evolutionist are unethical, which I never did. Those of us who believe in God and derive our sense of right and wrong and ethics from God’s word really have no difficulty whatsoever defining where our ethics come from. People who believe in survival of the fittest might have more difficulty deriving where their ethics come from. A lot of evolutionists are very ethical people.
While Dr. Carson was not dis-invited, Emory president James Wagner has assured the faculty that he will henceforth mandate background checks on potential recipients of honorary degrees “lest,” as one website noted, “another Darwin doubter or other undesirable escape detection.”2
During Dr. Carson’s stirring address he pointed out the danger of political correctness, saying that it “threatens the prosperity and the vitality of our nation.”2 In the wake of so much discussion about limiting academic freedom in schools and this nonsense in which a man like Dr. Ben Carson could be accused of not understanding science and morality, it is worth noting Dr. Carson’s warning:
There was a time in the history of the world when there was great intolerance for anybody who thought differently than the mainstream. It was called the Dark Ages.2
It has become common for many evolutionists to imply that no real scientist could believe in biblical creation and that modern medicine is the byproduct of evolutionary thinking. And with this episode it appears that even those creation scientists who have most distinguished themselves are to be marginalized, ignored, insulted, misrepresented, and viewed as a threat to societal progress. Let us hope that the American people will heed Dr. Carson’s warning.
Jurassic squid’s ink is chemically identical to melanin in modern cuttlefish.
Ink recovered from two giant squid fossils found near Bristol in England has resisted degradation despite the passage of years. One fossilized ink sac was even intact. Most organic material degrades over the years, and this is the first successful effort to subject ancient melanin to direct chemical analysis.
Melanin is a pigment found in many kinds of organisms—bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. There are several different kinds of melanin distinguished by the molecular structure. Melanin-containing granules have been identified in other fossils but can be mistaken for fossilized bacteria. The actual chemical analysis achieved by this team is therefore an important achievement. An international team of scientists led by University of Virginia chemistry professor John Simon analyzed the ink recovered from the fossils using a variety of techniques. Their conclusions appear in the May 21 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The melanin proved to be the eumelanin type, identified by the amino acids present and their arrangement. Further analysis showed the ink is chemically identical with the ink found in the living cuttlefish Sepia officinalis. (Both squid and cuttlefish are cephalopods, said by people who eat them to taste the same.)
“Though the other organic components of the squid we studied are long gone, we’ve discovered … the melanin has remained in a condition that could be studied in exquisite detail,” Simon says. “Out of all of the organic pigments in living systems, melanin has the highest odds of being found in the fossil record. … We had to use innovative methods from chemistry, biology and physics to isolate the melanin from the inorganic material.” He says this combination of techniques should be applicable for recovering organic material from other fossils providing “ways of identifying organic components in fossils that might have been missed using standard methods.”
“As we look back and think about what we know about life before our time, it’s mostly through skeletal info,” Simon explains. Preserved soft tissue, however, offers “a whole new window into species that are extinct and their relationships to modern-day [organisms].”4
The results show, Simon says, “that the pigmentation in this class of animals has not evolved in 160 million years. The whole machinery apparently has been locked in time and passed down through succeeding generations of squid. It’s a very optimized system for this animal and has been optimized for a long time.” He adds, “The ‘aha moment’ for me was when we looked at the techniques for chemical bonding and we couldn’t find anything that distinguished the pigment in the fossil from the pigment in a modern-day cuttlefish, which suggests the pigment hasn’t changed in 160 million years. When I think about other evolutionary transitions that just amazes me.”5
So can organic materials really persist for millions of years? A few years ago the discovery of intact red blood cells from dinosaur bone and subsequent recovery of keratin and collagen from other ancient fossils has certainly raised that question. While the chemical analysis of this ink and other organics recovered from fossils is a matter that can be subjected to repeatable direct scientific testing, the assignment of age is indirect and dependent on various unverifiable assumptions.
There is nothing about these organic molecules that suggests any particular date or age.
Most of the prolific fossil-bearing portion of the geologic column (the so-called Phanerozoic), including the Jurassic section where these squid were found, can be explained by Flood geology. Therefore, we can say based on biblical history that the melanin in this squid’s ink has survived chemically intact for over 4,300 years. Not millions, but impressive nevertheless.
Evolutionists believe this ink evolved to its optimal state long ago, though they have no evidence that this ink evolved from some “primitive” ink (whatever that may mean). Since evolution depends on the accumulation of countless mutations through deep time, it is always a little surprising from an evolutionary point of view to find a substance that remained impervious to any changes at all for those many millions of years. From a biblical point of view we understand this ink to be a substance designed by God and unchanged for merely a few thousand years.
Smithsonian’s account of tectonic history is significantly short-sighted.
The June 2012 issue of Smithsonian magazine reports six seismologists are on trial for manslaughter due to their failure to predict a deadly 2009 earthquake in the Apennine Mountains. Journalist Richard Conniff reports a couple of ironic aspects of the case:
The charge is remarkable partly because it assumes that scientists can now see not merely beneath the surface of the earth, but also into the future. What’s even more extraordinary, though, is that the prosecutors based their case on a scientific insight that was, not long ago, the object of open ridicule.
Conniff goes on to recount the saga of German scientist Alfred Wegener’s 1912 proposal that the earth’s continents were once “massed together in a single supercontinent and then gradually drifted apart.” Wegener’s ideas elicited international scorn. What the article fails to mention, however, is that half a century before Wegener developed his ideas, creationist Antonio Snider-Pellegrini published his proposal that continental sprint produced the earth’s present geography.
Antonio Snider-Pellegrini published Le Création et ses Mystères Devoilés (The Creation and Its Mysteries Unveiled) in Paris in 1859. It went largely unnoticed. Perhaps the bulk of the scientific community that year was preoccupied with Darwin’s new book.
Snider-Pellegrini based his idea on Genesis 1:9–10, which suggests that God created the earth’s original dry land as one large supercontinent. Like Wegener, Snider-Pellegrini noticed the earth’s continents seem to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. But Wegener’s proposal was greeted with international ridicule, partly because he failed to offer “a credible mechanism powerful enough to move continents.” Snider-Pellegrini, on the other hand, recognized the global Flood described in the historical account of Genesis 6–8 could provide the power to remodel the earth’s crust.
The Bible does not specifically describe plate tectonics, but the initiation of the global Flood was associated with a major tectonic event. According to Genesis 7:11, “
on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up.” Snider-Pellegrini surmised that the breakup of the supercontinent was followed by the rapid horizontal shifting of the plates of the earth’s crust into the configuration we see today.
The idea of plate tectonics didn’t get off the ground until the 1960s. Modern technological methods uncovered several phenomena inexplicable by old ideas of a stable crust. Maps of seafloor topography revealed trenches, mid-ocean rifts, and undersea volcanoes. The record of many chaotic reversals in earth’s magnetic field was found recorded in deep-sea volcanic rock. And modern seismographs showed most earthquakes originate at boundaries between plates, suggesting the plates move relative to each other.
Secular scientists are generally committed to the uniformitarian assumption that geological processes on earth have always proceeded at current rates. They extrapolate from today’s rate of continental drift (around 4 inches per year) to support the idea of an earth billions of years old. But their models of slow-and-gradual subduction of the seafloor into the mantle fail to explain a number of geological observations.
A catastrophic plate tectonics model, developed by well-known creation geophysicist John Baumgardner, is based on the Flood geology model. In this sophisticated multi-variable computer model, simultaneous cracks in the crust in the pre-Flood ocean basins and at the edges of the pre-Flood supercontinent triggered a domino effect of rapid seafloor spreading, subduction and tectonic movements. Once the great forces triggered by the initiation of the Flood had remodeled the earth’s surface, the tectonic effects soon slowed to the rates we see today.
The catastrophic plate tectonics model explains those findings which were left unexplained by the slow-and-gradual model. For instance, a collision between continents travelling at today’s speeds measured in inches per year would barely amount to a fender bender. Baumgardner’s model, however, based on Flood geology, calculates continental speeds in feet per second, quite sufficient to push up huge mountain ranges like the Himalayas. The catastrophic plate tectonics model also explains how layers of sediment laden with marine fossils came to be deposited all over the earth. The chaotic patterns in the record of earth’s magnetic field reversals also make sense in light of this biblically based model. (See Can Catastrophic Plate Tectonics Explain Flood Geology? and Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History to learn more.)
Baumgardner’s 3-D supercomputer code for modeling of the activity in the earth’s mantle, which takes into account what is known about the way mantle rock can deform over time, is used by secular scientists worldwide to model plate tectonics. This model demonstrates the feasibility of rapid tectonic movements as originally suggested in 1859 by Antonio Snider-Pellegrini. Of course, Snider-Pellegrini lacked seismographs, computers, and maps of the ocean floors. Nevertheless, he was able to use the scientific and geographic knowledge of his day to deduce a model of the earth’s history based on biblical history. Baumgardner’s valuable model of catastrophic plate tectonics is the legacy of Snider-Pellegrini’s biblical model.
The Smithsonian article also notes the seismologists are being held legally liable for their inability to peer into the future. The case will certainly explore the predictive expectations of modern seismology. In essence, the scientists are being held responsible for their interpretative predictions of observable seismographic data. The subsequent patterns of earthquakes can prove such predictions right or wrong.
By comparison, origins science involves scientific interpretations of observable data in an effort to peer into the past. Only eyewitness accounts of past events, however, can determine the accuracy of scientific conclusions concerning origins. Those past events cannot be subjected to empirical scientific tests. God’s eyewitness account of earth’s origin is found in the Bible. Biblical history concerning Creation and the Flood are not at variance with the observable facts of science, only with the interpretations made by those who reject the history in God’s Word.
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