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New-found Missing Evolutionary Link
New-found Missing Evolutionary Link

New-found Missing Evolutionary Link

In “Study: Belligerent chimp proves animals make plans” (AP; Mon Mar 9, 3:45 pm ET), Mr Malin Rising says:
STOCKHOLM – A canny chimpanzee who calmly collected a stash of rocks and then hurled them at zoo visitors in fits of rage has confirmed that apes can plan ahead just like humans, a Swedish study said Monday. Santino the chimpanzee’s anti-social behavior stunned both visitors and keepers at the Furuvik Zoo but fascinated researchers because it was so carefully prepared. According to a report in the journal Current Biology, the 31-year-old alpha male started building his weapons cache in the morning before the zoo opened, collecting rocks and knocking out disks from concrete boulders inside his enclosure. He waited until around midday before he unleashed a “hailstorm” of rocks against visitors, the study said. “These observations convincingly show that our fellow apes do consider the future in a very complex way,” said the author of the report, Lund University Ph.D. student Mathias Osvath. “It implies that they have a highly developed consciousness, including lifelike mental simulations of potential events.” … The observations confirmed the result of a staged laboratory experiment reported in 2006 by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. In that case orangutans and bonobos were able to figure out which tool would work in an effort to retrieve grapes, and were able to remember to bring that tool along hours later. “Every time you can combine experimental and observational data and you get a consistent result, that is very powerful,” said an author of the 2006 study, Joseph Call. “This is an important observation.”
But “can plan ahead just like humans???”  That phrase could be quite an overstatement, or it could be a very loose use of “just like.” Precision of language would have helped here. The journalist should have written “similar to humans” or “can form primitive plans and so tie apes to us in evolution more closely,” instead of leaving open the possibility that apes can enter 30-year contracts or are on a moral plane with humans. I find it interesting that neither the writer nor the editor caught that. Or perhaps they did, but didn’t find it important. Update (9:36 PM): My thinking makes this story spark the wonder of how a volitional, rational consciousness developed and evolved from the consciousness of apes and humanoids. I find it interesting that the ape can plan into the future to some extent. I’d wonder what the ape’s extent is and how complex he could plan. The ability to plan into the future is certainly, I think, something that could develop into volition. But the ape’s simple planning would, in terms of evolution, seem to develop out of a more basic impulse control, which other animals have, such as dogs, who also work in groups, i.e., who can also engage in some elementary “team work.” We can use dogs for hunting, and have them bring back a bird, even though the dog might really want to eat it. Impulse control seems to be a basic form of control of consciousness in so far as it is a control of emotion/feelings. Update (8-23-09, 9:20 PM):  If the link to In “Study: Belligerent chimp proves animals make plans” does not work, read the study on USA Today or look in Google’s archives for a working link.

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