No doubt everyone has heard the story about humans descending from ape-like creatures. We are shown modern chimpanzees as proof of this ‘fact’. Over the years we have been told (erroneously) that our DNA is a 96-98% match to chimps and that they have an amazing ability to learn sign language and to use sticks as tools to fish for termites and ants, so they must be our close relatives. Yet when compared to other animals how much do chimpanzees really stand apart from the rest of nature’s creatures with their intellect? Yes, some chimps use tools i.e. sticks to catch termites and ants in their mounds and larger sticks sharpened with their teeth into spears to kill bushbabies. While this is a great example of learned tool use in nature, it’s not necessarily a great argument for chimpanzees being separate from other animals in their level of intelligence.
Consider this: gorillas also eat termites but rather than use sticks to catch them a few at a time, they just break down the termite nest and eat them by the handful. Anteaters similarly rip the nests apart and use their tongues like spoons to catch their meal. Now, which method is more intelligent? If you consider efficiency with catching termites, the chimp’s method is actually inferior. While their technique is learned, chimps after many years don’t show any indication of learning beyond this method. If chimpanzees were to consider how effective their method was and change or develop it, that perhaps would be a sign of intelligence that would set them apart from other apes. Also, an overlooked detail when it comes to chimps spearing bushbabies is that their rate of success is actually very low. According to one study, only 4.5% of attempted spearings ended with a catch. It may be a little bit more work for chimps to physically chase down their meals and kill them by hand but they are far more successful that way. This is a big problem for the assumption that tool development is a progressive step on the evolutionary timeline. If the more effective method of hunting were by hand rather than by using tools, then natural selection would select against an ancient ape-like hominid that was attempting to develop more advanced tools.
Moreover, if we were to compare chimpanzee intelligence and tool use to other mammals on our planet we would find that not only do many other mammals use tools but also there are some other mammals that are arguably smarter than chimps. Take elephants for instance, with a smaller brain to body ratio than chimps, elephants use their trunks to manipulate sticks as tools for scratching themselves and fly swatting, they have even been observed stripping leaves off of branches to create new designs for swatting. They are also known to drag sticks along the ground making sketches and have been taught to paint abstract art at zoos in Thailand. Yet no one would suggest elephants are close to humans on the evolutionary tree. Dolphins too are very intelligent creatures. They recognize themselves in mirrors and can learn sign language and understand differences in word position in sentences. Another surprising animal is fish. For years we have assumed that fish have only a few seconds of memory (and while it’s not an example of tool use) studies are finding that this is not the case; in fact, fish appear to a have a memory to match that of chimps.
Consider the birds of the air, the New Caledonian crow, which is famous for crafting materials into tools for hunting food can also upgrade those previous designs and copy each other. On this, New Scientist reported, “Even chimpanzees do not make these step-by-step improvements to their tools.”  Parrots are known to be able to mimic a huge array of sounds including speech but there is research to suggest that they do more than copy our language. They have demonstrated the intelligence of about a five-year-old person by being able to correctly answer simple questions about shapes, numbers, and colors. In fact, the list of intelligent animals (with or without tool use) seems endless once you begin to look; woodpecker finches, Egyptian vultures, shrikes, orangutans, and capuchin monkeys all demonstrate themselves to be able to use tools. And even pigs have done just as well as some chimpanzees in experiments. Please don’t misunderstand my meaning, I’m not suggesting that chimps lack intelligence – they are incredibly smart. God designed them that way, but He also designed the rest of creation with the intelligence it requires to live as well, indeed chimpanzees seem to be less the exception in nature and more the rule.
Social media is filled with photos and videos of animals getting creative and surprising us with more brains than bronze. My question to you is are you surprised? Should we not expect a designed creation to have personality and intelligence, what would the purpose have been for God to create dumb animals with no personality? Since the evolutionary dogma has permeated our society so thoroughly, Christians can be guilty of making assumptions that are based on evolutionary thinking rather than the Word of God. If God created animals complete as he intended them to be in their habitat during the creation week then perhaps we should stop underestimating them and rather enjoy them for what they are, not as our relatives but as our companions, in this journey we call life. Praise God for His wonderful creation!
Rachel McDonald | May 10, 2017
 Choi, C.Q., Chimps make spears and hunt bushbabies. 22 February 2007.
 Ref 3.
 Sodera, One Small Speck to Man, pp.485.
 New Scientist, 15 March 2003, p. 15.
 Veness, K., Parrots “as intelligent” as young children, ABC News Online, 21 July 2006.
 Ref 6. pp. 490