Remarkable studies are revealing heretofore unknown characteristics and abilities of monkeys and apes. But can we gain a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our own abilities and natures by studying our anthropoid "cousins"? Where do the answers really lie in biology or in religion
SINCE ITS release in 1968, the science-fiction film Planet of the Apes has enjoyed world wide acclaim. Based on La Pianete des singes by the noted French author Pierre Boulle, the I film poses an intriguing scientific hypothesis that has captured the imaginations of millions of moviegoers. The film's action takes place on a planet called Soror, in the Betelgeuse star system. Soror is a planet virtually identical with our Earth - but with one important exception. On Soror as the story goes - evolution has favored the simian (ape) species instead of humans. On this bizarre world, it is the men who are naked, savage and speechless. The apes, on the other hand, are clothed, civilized and articulate. This civilization of apes is divided into three "races" chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. The chimpanzees are the great thinkers and intellectuals; the gorillas the organizers, directors, hunters and laborers; the orangutans the scientists. Humans generally live in the wild, behaving as brute beasts. A few have been captured and placed in zoos for the amusement of visiting ape children. Humans are also used extensively by the apes for scientific experimentation in research laboratories.
More than a decade has passed since Planet of the Apes was first screened. In that decade, remarkable studies have been carried out that have placed a whole new light on the film's hypothesis initially considered simply an intriguing, though absurd, proposition. Today, some scientists are beginning to seriously question whether the film's plot is really as absurd as initially thought! Studies with nonhuman primates monkeys and apes are demonstrating remarkable and heretofore unrealized potentials in many of those animals. Included is their ability to actually converse with humans using sign language! Moreover, these primates, upon close scrutiny, have been found to exhibit types of behavior previously thought to be uniquely human. Accepted scientific concepts of animal and human nature have been severely shaken! What are the implications of these studies? Do they, as many scientists claim, bolster the case for evolution? Are we seeing in behaviors of apes the rudimentary beginnings from which man's abilities and nature arose? These are the important questions, with vast implications for both science and religion!
The Amazing Koko
Consider the case of Koko, the world's first known "talking" gorilla. Koko, who resides in a trailer home on the Stanford University campus, made world headlines just a few years ago. The October, 1978, National Geographic magazine featured Koko in an article entitled "Conversations with a Gorilla." The cover photo for that issue a self-portrait taken with a 35-mm. camera was made by Koko herself! Koko, of course, cannot actually speak. "She has tried to speak, but just can't do it," says her trainer, primate researcher Francine Patterson. "The vocal tract has a very different structure from that of a human. All she can do is grunt or give a high-pitched squeak." In a different study with a chimpanzee, the chimp had learned to utter only four simple words after six years of effort! How, then, does Koko do her "conversing"? It is accomplished by means of the well-known American Sign Language, or Ameslan, employed widely by the deaf. Koko began studying it in mid-1972. By the time of the National Geographic report in 1978, 7-year-old Koko had acquired a working vocabulary of some 375 hand signals! Koko also understands hundreds of spoken commands. And in addition to the use of sign language, she has learned to communicate verbally by operating the keyboard of a computerized voice synthesizer!
It is important to understand exactly what is occurring when Koko "converses" using hand signals. It is well known that a parrot can be taught to repeat many different words and phrases by means of constant repetition. A parrot, however, merely imitates the sounds produced by its human trainer. It may be taught to say, for example, "You're under arrest!" But it has no comprehension whatsoever of the meaning of those words. Koko, by contrast, uses hand signals with a full comprehension, of their meaning. She does not simply mimic the hand and arm movements of her trainer. She uses them with understanding. It is much more than simply a conditioned reflex. For example: Upon seeing a horse with a bit in its mouth, Koko signs, "Horse sad." When asked why the horse is sad, Koko signs, "Teeth." She is fully aware of what she is "saying," and responds spontaneously to new situations without coaching. Drawing upon her supply of hundreds of signals, Koko volunteers comments, answers questions and engages in sometimes lengthy conversations. She displays a significantly higher level of performance than that of a parrot or of other animals that can be trained to perform various tricks without understanding them. Koko's vocabulary includes words such as airplane. lollipop. friend. stethoscope. belly button. flower and window. She also understands and uses such abstracts as curious. boring. stupid. love; bad. good. happy. sad. funny. understand and imagine. In fact, Koko's IQ has been measured at between 85 and 95 just below the average for a preschool human child! Moreover, Koko is capable of describing new objects by using imaginative combinations of signs already in her vocabulary. When shown a photograph of a zebra, for example, Koko signed, "white tiger." A mask became an "eye slot." A long-nosed Pinocchio doll became an "elephant baby." In a similar test, the famous female chimpanzee Washoe the first chimp to learn human sign language in the late 1960ssigned "water bird" to describe a swan.
Koko Lies, Argues
In addition to language ability, primate researchers have been intrigued to observe in apes many unmistakably "human" attributes. These include lying, accepting bribes, arguing, destroying property, trading insults and even back-seat driving! After Michael (a younger male gorilla) joined Koko in her mobile home, Koko began using him as a convenient scapegoat. "Who broke the toilet?" asked researcher Patterson of the guilty Koko. "Michael toilet," was Koko's reply. In another instance, Koko blamed one of the researchers for breaking the kitchen sink. Such behavior, according to one expert, is not a learned response, but rather "the natural outcome of the workings of a mind that can predict what will happen in the future" that is, a mind that can understand simple cause and effect. When in a spiteful mood, Koko addresses researcher Patterson and her colleagues with various insults such as "dirty toilet" and "nut" not unlike many of the vulgar epithets used by humans. Interestingly, Koko knows when she is misbehaving. She occasionally describes herself as "stubborn."
One writer has observed that Koko exhibits "a personality that seems to break the barriers between human and animal." In this vein, some scientists have suggested that by studying the behavior of apes, they might come to better understand how human nature and human abilities arose. As Professor Kenneth Bock notes in his book Human Nature and History: "There is a long history of efforts to learn about humans by comparing them with animals, and again today students of animal social behavior urge their colleagues in the study of human social behavior to join in what is represented as a common enterprise." Such an approach, of course, is the natural outgrowth of a widespread acceptance within the scientific community of the theory of evolution. The notion is that today's ape may in some 'ways resemble man's forebears or "prehistoric ancestors." Contrary to the popular conception" evolutionists do not claim that man descended from the apes. They contend, instead, that man and ape are two separate branches that evolved in different directions from a common ancestor believed to have lived many millions of years ago. Dr. Bronowski, author of The Ascent of Man. thus refers to "our cousins. the monkeys and the apes." Modern biology declares we have much to learn about ourselves and our natures from a study of our ape "cousins." But this, as we shall see, is not where the answers lie! This approach rooted in the theory of evolution is totally unsound! Studying nonhuman primates will teach us about nonhuman primates but not about ourselves! In the second century A.D., the Greek physician Galen sought to study the body of man by dissecting the bodies of Old World monkeys. (The ancient Greeks and Romans frowned upon the dissection of human cadavers.) As a result, Galen mistakenly attributed many anatomical features of apes and monkeys to humans. His writings were thus riddled with error. Later physicians were to discover that the best study of man is man himself. Studying human nature and culture by analyzing the lesser creatures is fraught with similar pitfalls!
Consider the respective capabilities of ape and man. Apes, as witnessed in the case of Koko, are certainly not devoid of the power of reason and of a degree of intelligence. The feats they are capable of, with human guidance. are nothing short of remarkable. Even apart from human training, apes exhibit extraordinary abilities. Noted primate researcher Baroness Jane Van LawickGoodall, for example, has observed the art of toolmaking among chimpanzees in the wild! Yet, while an ape is an intelligent animal, it is not an intellectual one. It is not, to use the dictionary definition, "chiefly guided by the intellect rather than by emotion or experience" nor "given to study, reflection and speculation." Instinct is the primary governing principle of the ape. Even when given an opportunity to develop its potentials, an ape remains primitive. In its animal state, it is severely limited. No ape will ever become a teacher, doctor, scientist, lawyer or philosopher. It is the human that teaches the ape. not the other way around! Man, on the other hand, is endowed with a mind inspired by incredible intelligence. The human mind is radically different from the apes, differing not only in degree but in potential. It towers far above, capable of a supremely higher level of performance, immeasurably more sophisticated. Man's mind is qualitatively far superior. far out of proportion to the relatively small difference in size and weight between the brains of humans and apes. Man's mind is unique in all creation! In addition, man alone has the use of a highly sophisticated verbal language. "The habitual use of articulate language is, however, peculiar to man," Charles Darwin admitted. He also wrote of man's "almost infinitely larger power of associating together the most diversified sounds and ideas...." His attempts to explain this fact in terms of evolution are feeble at best. Humans also have a cultural history, exhibiting material progress. And man records that history. Apes, by contrast, are wanting in all these respects. They remain as they were first created. True intellect is embodied in the human species. In man's eyes is found a spark of understanding encountered nowhere else in all creation!
How are we to explain this bridgeless gap, this immeasurable chasm separating human mind from animal brain? To what can we attribute the vast difference in output and potential? It cannot be explained by evolution! That theory riddled with innumerable flaws in logic and wide gaps in evidence is wholly inadequate! (See "Scientists in Quandary About Darwin" in the February, 1981, Plain Truth. U.S. edition.) In fact, because evolutionists cannot explain these vast differences in terms of evolution, they have had to delude themselves into believing those differences do not exist! The human mind cannot be explained solely in physical terms. The level of human thought can in no way be explained simply as a function of the physical human brain some three pounds of organic matter. Charles Darwin's observations regarding the comparative mental faculties of man and ape are significant: "Man bears in his bodily structure clear traces of his descent from some lower form; but it may be urged that, as man differs so greatly in his mental power from all other animals, there must be some error in this conclusion. No doubt the difference in this respect is enormous, even if we compare the mind of one of the lowest savages... with that of the most highly organized ape. The difference would, no doubt, still remain immense, even if one of the higher apes [such as Koko editor] had been improved or civilized...." Evolutionists while admitting the relative insignificance in difference between the physical brains of man and ape face the apparent problem of "enormous" and "immense" differences in their mental powers. The implications of this disparity were not lost on Darwin. He realized that if he were to admit of a fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties, evolution could not be true! Why? Because as Thomas Huxley later showed this difference would be unexplainable in mere physical terms, such as brain size and structure! So what did the early evolutionists do about this? How did they overcome this potentially fatal blow to their theory? They declared, in effect, that what man had taken for granted for thousands of years was simply not true! In Darwin's own words: "There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties." An incredible statement, that! Rather than abandon their theory, they deluded themselves into believing the absurd! Evolutionists refuse to face this unassailable fact! There is only one possible explanation for the great disparity between animal brain and human mind: There must be a nonphysical component in human brain that does not exist in animal brain a supernatural essence imparting the power of intellect to the human brain! No other explanation is adequate!
Revealed in Bible
It is not logic alone that supports this conclusion. The Bible the revealed word of the Creator God provides the ultimate testimony. Man is not simply a biological mechanism, an intellect powered solely by the laws of chemistry and biology. "There is a spirit in man, declares Job 32:8; "and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." I Corinthians 2:11 speaks of this same nonphysical element, this "spirit in man." It is what enables man to comprehend in a way that is uniquely human the world around him. This spirit in man is not the mythical "immortal soul." It has no consciousness apart from the human brain. It is a spirit essence imparting to man an intellectual dimension. Without it, man would be little more than a brute beast. (Notice, in Daniel 4:33-34, the behavior of King Nebuchadnezzar after God removed his understanding from him.) This spirit in man has not been given to the animals. It is unique to man in all creation! Genesis 1:25 reveals that "God made the beast of the earth after his kind [or species], and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind...... But when it came to the creation of man, God said: "Let us make man after our image, after our likeness..." (verse 26). Man was made in the very image of God after the God kind! Man is not a mere animal! Man was given dominion over the animals.
Origin of Human Nature
Finally, what about "human nature"? Did it evolve over millions of years? Does the behavior of apes and monkeys reflect the primal "human nature" of "primitive ancestors"? As man did not evolve, neither did human nature. The origin of human nature, as that of man himself, is revealed in the Bible. Having succumbed to the temptation of Satan, the first human beings experienced a change in their mental outlook. "And the eyes of both of them were opened," the Bible records (Genesis 3:7). The spirit of rebellion had entered their minds. Human nature in its evil spiritual phase of vanity, jealousy, lust, greed, envy, competition, strife, rebellion against authority, resentment and hate came from Satan. Everything that God had made "was very good" (Genesis 1 :31). What we call "human nature" is actually Satan's nature! Satan the "prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2) literally broadcasts his attitude throughout the entire earth. It is this spirit or attitude of Satan "that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (same verse). In the soon-coming millennial rule of Jesus Christ on earth, Satan will be bound and imprisoned "that he should deceive the nations no more" (Revelation 20:2-3). At that time with Satan's evil influence restrained the evil attributes of human nature will no longer hold sway over man. Moreover, all mankind will then have access, to the Spirit of God, the divine nature. Even in this present age, God offers to those who will accept it his Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). The Holy Spirit adds to the human mind a godly, spiritual dimension and enables man to develop righteous character. God's Holy Spirit joins with the spirit in man, witnessing that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16). Animals have no ability to develop holy and godly character. The potential of qualifying for immortality as a member of the very family of God is reserved for mankind alone!
Koko Speaks Out!
Anciently, the apostle Paul cautioned Christians to avoid "profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called" (I Timothy 6:20). This advice is more timely today than ever before. Those scientists who have abandoned a knowledge of God and the Bible are aptly described by Paul in the book of Romans: "[They] became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21-22). And further: "Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind [or, a mind void of judgment]..." (Romans 1:28). Nowhere is this lack of judgment more evident than in their seeming inability to discern ape from human. Even Koko the "talking" gorilla' shows more discernment. A reporter once asked researcher Francine Patterson about Koko as a person. Ms. Patterson turned to Koko. and asked, "Are you animal or person?" Koko's instant response: "Fine animal gorilla."