Simian Sign Language

on May 5, 2007

BBC NEWS: “Ape gestures ‘show human links’

Simian use of gestures is the latest evidence of evolution—at least, that’s the impression given by a BBC NEWS article (and others) this week that describes research into how bonobos and chimpanzees gesticulate as a form of communication.

A team of researchers from Yerkes Primate Center at Atlanta’s Emory University, reporting in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describe various gestures apes use to express desires between one another. For instance, “[a] male chimpanzee may beg for food from another chimpanzee by gesturing with an extended arm and open hand.” The article also outlines other meanings of the same gesture.

"The scientists found the apes used gestures more flexibly than the way they used facial and vocal expressions."

How does this relate to human evolution? The BBC explains:

The scientists found the apes used gestures more flexibly than the way they used facial and vocal expressions.

They say the findings support the theory that human language developed through the use of hand gestures.

The research team also noted that apes gesture using their right hands, which are controlled by the brain’s left hemisphere—the same hemisphere housing the language control center. This, of course, is treated by evolutionists as further support of the ape-gestures–human-speech connection.

The problem with using these findings to “support” evolution, however, is that one must already accept the evolutionary hypothesis to accept that ape gestures are the foundation of human language. For an evolutionist—who already believes common ancestry explains the similar morphology and mildly similar behaviors between apes and humans—such further similarities are merely “more evidence” of our connection. For a creationist—who accepts that similarities in physical features, behavior, or intelligence are the result of common design—apes’ gesturing abilities are merely further evidence of common design. Specifically, this behavior was merely chosen by the Designer for apes to exhibit, just as He bestowed language on the first man.

For a creationist apes’ gesturing abilities are merely further evidence of common design.

Ultimately, comparisons of similar ape and human behavior support the evolutionary hypothesis no more than similarities in high-end and low-end car models support the idea that one evolved out of the other. Common design explains both scenarios.

(One last note: a similar article last week applied evolutionary theory to canine behavioral intelligence. Rather than convince us of evolution, the article merely gives another example of the relative intelligence many creatures have been given.)

Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us.

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