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Creation  Volume 37Issue 3 Cover

Creation 37(3):40–41
July 2015

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Artistic Ape Anecdotes


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Chimps ‘natural killers’ after all

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©iStockphoto/kristang killer-chimp

Since evolutionists claim chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, it’s not surprising that they would look at chimp behaviour for clues to that of humans. So when the evidence started to come in that the common chimp (Pan troglodytes) routinely engaged in warfare and killing of its own kind, some were obviously tempted to see in it an explanation for aspects of human sin.

Intriguingly, though, a more common evolutionist response has been to deny that chimps naturally do these things. When chimps were repeatedly reported to be killing their fellows, it was said to be due to human interference with their natural habitat.

Several factors likely drive this for evolution-believers. One may be a simple reluctance to think that we have an inherited propensity for evil. The idea that mankind is ‘inherently good’, which defies real-world experience, is a persistent theme in denying humanity’s need for a Saviour. For evolutionists concerned with social harmony, there is also a fear that if we are seen to have ‘killer apes’ in our ancestry, we might give up trying to modify our behaviour.

Along with all this is a longstanding current of human thought that not so much denies human evil, as denies that nature is fallen, as Genesis 3 tells us. In this way of thinking, nature is romanticized; the ‘natural’ world is all ‘good’, and only humans mess it up.

This is evident in the ‘deep green’ movement, with its overtones of nature worship. Its adherents often romanticize ‘peaceful’ animals like dolphins, and find it hard to accept the evidence that these, too, engage in killing and torture of their own kind.1 Applied to human society, such thinking is epitomized by the ‘noble savage’ concept of the French Romantic philosopher Rousseau (1712–1778), which still resonates with many. He idealized ‘primitive’ human societies, closer to nature, as unspoilt and harmonious; in this view, modern civilization is allegedly to blame for human problems and conflicts.2

Now a substantial research project, published as a letter in Nature, seems to have discredited such romantic views about why chimps kill others.3 The study, by an international community of over 30 scientists, “gathers data from some 426 combined years of observation, across 18 different chimp communities.”4 It finds that human activity, such as feeding chimps or destroying their habitats, had “little effect on the number of killings”—a total of 152 all up.5 The kill rate, similar to that in hunter-gatherer societies, goes “up and down as a simple consequence of competition for scarce resources.”

Since the Bible indicates that both humans and nature are fallen (Genesis 3), it shouldn’t surprise us to find that chimps kill other chimps, or that dolphins do nasty things to other dolphins.

In a commentary accompanying the Nature paper, Prof. Joan Silk of the University of Arizona seems concerned that her fellow evolution-believers might take the ‘killer chimp’ findings to justify human violence. She says in anticipatory rebuttal, “We have the ability to shape and alter our behaviour in ways that they [chimps] can’t.” Exactly. Which is why, despite our inbuilt Adamic propensity to sin, we are accountable to our Creator for our wrongdoing.

Related Articles

Further Reading

References and notes

  1. See The Sciences, September/October 1995, p. 47, also creation.com/focus-181. Return to text.
  2. A modern blend of ‘mother earth worship’ and ‘noble savage’ thinking has led to the myth that hunter-gatherer cultures are highly attuned to ‘looking after nature’. The evidence indicates, rather, that lower technology levels mean there is simply less capacity to inflict large-scale damage on the environment. Return to text.
  3. Wilson, M., et al, Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts, Nature 513(7518):414–417, 18 September 2014 | doi:10.1038/nature13727. Return to text.
  4. Webb, J., Murder ‘comes naturally’ to chimpanzees, BBC News (Science & Environment), bbc.co.uk, 18 September 2014. Quotes hereafter are from this. Return to text.
  5. Bonobos or pygmy chimps, long known to be more peaceful, have far lower ‘kill rates’—one for 92 observer-years over four communities. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Geoff E., Australia, 15 May 2015

I would suspect that if this becomes mainstream sociobiological knowledge, that most evolutionary biologists will remark something like 'well it's not surprising that chimps and other primates exhibit primitive violent behavior since humans are evolving to become more civilized.' Or something to that effect. I actually find it surprising that this is not a logical prediction. The article well covers many of the underlying reasons why evolutionists would be reluctant to admit that animals are 'peaceful' creatures, even though it makes no sense really.

There is something vastly contradictory about a theory that predicts that humans are 'evolving' to be more civilized, yet many of its proponents (particularly with the help of new age philosophies) fantasize about primitive 'simpler' biological utopias.

It's also a good reminder of the dangers of a theory than can explain any observation.

P.T., Australia, 5 May 2015

Thanks Carl and CMI for again equipping us to challenge our culture's blinkered mindset on this and many other issues.

As my understanding of God's word has grown over the decades, greatly helped by CMI articles, books etc, I've been more able to clearly, boldly & logically refute the habitual wrong thinking of many Bible dis-believers. If only they would actually READ the bible and seek to understand it!

Its fantastic the volume of information you provide us with so we can present the truth clearly and respectfully even to those who revile us and our Lord!

Thank you - to CMI for faithfully seeking to disseminate the real truth, and to our God for enabling you all to discern and impart it.

Melvyne C., United Kingdom, 4 May 2015

Another fine thought provoking article. Quoted is Prof Joan Silk who said, "We have the ability to shape our behaviour in ways they [chimps] cannot."

The ironey is, by evolution theory, chimps totally shaped humans! If God built us on animals, free in the widest sense, and original sin entered an animal evolved human, we can do nothing but sin. And salvation by Christ useless.

What a degrading, diabolical theory Darwin's is. Pouring acid on scripture, the most destructive and diabolical idea to infest the Christian movement and the world. Both of which are now furtile ground for the 'true' Antichrist.

sean H., Australia, 4 May 2015

I saw a doco on chimps and they have a fairly ordered society. But they are far from the peaceful herbivores people think they are.

One segment showed an organised hunting down of a group of small monkeys; they killed them by literally bashing them to death on the tree trunks, then ate them.

Another segment showed a group of young 'rebels' that decided to break away from the main group to form their own. They were later hunted down by the main group and all of them killed.

Truly was an eye opener into the lives of these apes.

P. C., France, 3 May 2015

Please explain "the ‘deep green’ movement". I have no idea what this is.

Don Batten responds

This would be the fanatical 'green' movement. The rest of the paragraph explains what is meant.

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