Evolution’s Narrow View

Young chimpanzees from Jane Goodall sanctuary of Tchimpounga (Congo Brazzaville)

Young chimpanzees from Jane Goodall sanctuary of Tchimpounga (Congo Brazzaville)

Some years ago I watched part of a PBS program hosted by Alan Alda. (Yes, the Alan Alda of Mash fame.) The program, Scientific American Frontiers, had some really interesting material, but all from an evolutionary point of view. So, too, the show to which I’m referring.

This one discussed researcher Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees, in particular some of her groundbreaking observations. Chimps can and do use tools. They have minimal rational thought, not just imitative behavior. They form “nation” groups with differing traits from one another. They exhibit emotions and even prejudice or at least aggressive behavior toward outsiders—chimp groups that have broken from the main body. They operate under a set of “moral” rules, with inappropriate behavior corrected by the leader or group.

All these observations are on film, and much of the program showed footage that gave evidence of these findings.

Honestly, I find it fascinating. But here’s the key assertion. According to Alda and his research team, this look at chimps is a look at Mankind’s earliest development.

Some might find this a natural conclusion: chimps do simple cognitive reasoning; man as a more developed creature does advanced cognitive reasoning. One leads naturally to the other, thus offering further evidence that the latter came from the former.

I find this conclusion to be based on narrow thinking. Rather than looking at the facts and asking, How can this be? these scientists look at the evidence and say, Then it must be this way.

As I see it, their thinking is along this line of reasoning: a pine tree bears pine cones which aren’t edible; an apple tree bears apples—an edible fruit—and is therefore more advanced. Consequently, pine trees must be the primitive fore bearers of apple trees.

On the surface that looks rather silly, but the logic follows the same lines as the idea that chimps are the fore bearers of humans.

The point of division is that evolutionary theory apparently only accounts for evolutionary cross-species changes in biological life, not in botanical life.

Admittedly, I am ignorant of a lot of evolutionary theory, so I could be wrong—possibly evolutionary scientists extend the theory to the botanical but for some reason based on their science, do not see pine trees as the forerunner to apple trees.

Nevertheless, my point remains, which is this: evolutionary theorists are narrow in their thinking. They see a set of observations and draw conclusions based on only one possibility—that similarities in species indicate a common source that underwent evolutionary changes, giving us life as we know it today.

The fact is, there is another possibility that fits the data just as well—or better. The observed similarities in species exist because the same Creator made both chimps and Man.

In fiction we talk about an author’s voice—a kind of signature woven into novels through word choice and sentence structure and characters and theme and genre and style and mood. Those familiar with an author can often pick out which lines are his simply because they know his work so well.

Why would it be a stretch to believe that Creator God, who said He created Man in His image, nevertheless showed something of His personality in the rest of the creatures He made?

An artist paints according to his style. A sculptor, an architect, a wood craftsman … all those who create, stamp what they make with their own identity. Why not God?

Seems to me, theorists that don’t at least consider this question are narrow in their thinking.

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Photo credit: Delphine Bruyere

This post, with some minor editorial changes, first appeared here in November 2009).