”I had to speak to a bunch of humans instead” lamented science writer Gail Vines who wanted to talk to chimpanzees whilst gathering information for an article on chimp intelligence for New Scientist, 14 Oct, 2000, p39. One of the humans she spoke to was Daniel Povinelli who has researched learning in both chimps and humans. Although TV documentaries constantly bombard us with images of chimps doing clever things in the wild and in learning labs, Povinelli found it takes hundreds of trials to train a chimp to learn things a human toddler would understand straight away.
Editorial Comment: Povinelli’s study reminds us that although chimps are high achievers compared to many animal learners, there is a vast gulf between them and human beings. No chimp learning lab will ever be able to employ the chimps to answer the phone or talk to science journalists about the lab’s research programme. Speech is part of the inbuilt image of God (Genesis 1:26) that makes humans intrinsically different to all animals.
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