Chimps Help Each Other Too

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Chimps, especially mothers and their offspring, help each other. While that makes them “more similar to humans than previously thought,” does it mean we’re all just apes?

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A National Geographic News video profiles a Japanese study in which six mother/offspring pairs of chimpanzees (i.e., twelve total) helped one another obtain juice “without having been trained to do so.” In a PLoS One paper, the researchers claim the experiment shows evidence of human-like altruism in the apes.

The animals in the study were trained to use sticks in order to reach straws out of reach, then to use the straws to drink juice. The researchers did not train the chimps to share sticks or straws with one another. Yet fifty-nine percent of the time, one chimp passed a stick or straw to another; that figure increased to seventy-five percent if a chimp appeared to ask for the stick or straw.

“Although chimpanzees and humans are almost the same animals if you look at the composition of DNA, we normally think that humans create higher social systems by helping each other,” said Tokyo University ethologist Toshikazu Hasegawa. He continued, “So, we normally think there is a wide gap between humans and chimps. But the result of this experience filled the gap between two species. The results showed that chimps also have humanity in their behavior.”

“Humanity in their behavior”? “Almost the same animals”? Such comments remind us of the evolutionary approach of the researchers, for whom altruism (especially “true” altruism, which cannot be reduced to self-interest in any way) is a puzzle (for atheistic evolutionists in particular). But altruism is no puzzle if we recognize that the Creator is also Lawgiver, and that creatures may act selflessly as well as selfishly. (Additionally, this study’s conclusion seems suspect given that half of the apes were in related pairs. “Altruism” toward a parent or child is quite different from altruism toward a stranger.)

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