Goats can read human faces!


Dr Alan McElligott

Startling evidence for the Bible’s account of history comes from an unlikely source. A new study conducted out of the University of London suggests that goats are capable of reading human facial expressions and prefer to interact with ‘happy’ humans.1

The study was conducted by showing the goats two different images: one of a smiling human face, and the other of an angry face. They showed a tendency to move directly toward the ‘happy’ image, while avoiding the ‘angry’ one. Clearly this test is not an absolute proof, but together with the fact that goats were already known to be capable of reading human body language, we now have strong evidence that animals far removed from humans (speaking from an evolutionary perspective) are somehow capable of interacting in surprisingly complex ways with us.

The leader of the research, Dr. Alan McElligott, said, “The study has important implications for how we interact with livestock and other species, because the abilities of animals to perceive human emotions might be widespread and not just limited to pets.”1

This is a very strange phenomenon from a Darwinian point of view as goats only began to be domesticated roughly 11,000 (evolutionary) years ago.2 Given that the ability to interpret emotions depends on complex neurological functions, why would goats (who have no ability to make facial expressions themselves, and whose faces bear no resemblance to human faces) somehow have the ability to accurately read human expressions? It is very hard to imagine how this obscure ability could have any substantial selective advantage for domestic goats; it is even harder to explain if it developed prior to goats’ domestication, since then the goats would have had minimal contact with humans. Furthermore, how could such a complex trait have come about via random mutations in only 11,000 years? This does not seem to fit well with the evolutionary picture.

From a biblical perspective, however, these results are not particularly surprising or unexpected. Since God created animals like goats right alongside humans from the very beginning, and for the purpose of interacting with humans, it would not be surprising that they would have the innate ability to understand, at least on some basic level, the meaning of human facial expressions.

Published: 20 September 2018

References and notes

  1. No kidding! Goats prefer to interact with humans who look happy, irishnews.com, 29 August 2018. Return to text.
  2. Pereira, F. and Amorim, A. (2010). Origin and Spread of Goat Pastoralism. In eLS, (Ed.). doi:10.1002/9780470015902.a0022864 Return to text.

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