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Astonishing conclusion: Chimpanzees can’t speak because they don’t have the mental status

Pan troglodytes & Pan paniscus.jpg
common chimpanzee and bonobo/Chandres William H. Calvin, CC

Can you believe a typical science site coming to a conclusion that is so evidence-based?

We all know that parrots can talk. Some people may have even seen elephants, seals, or whales mimicking speech sounds. So why can’t our closest primate relatives speak like us? Our new research suggests they have the right vocal anatomy but not the brainpower to use it.

We also found that apes have particularly large cortical association areas, as well as a bigger hypoglossal nucleus than other primates. The hypoglossal nucleus is associated with the cranial nerve that controls the muscles of the tongue. This suggests that our closest primate relatives may have finer and more voluntary control over their tongues than other primate species. Jacob Dunn, “Why Can’t Apes Talk?” at Sapiens

If there were any sense in which apes could talk we would have heard from them a long time ago. It will be easier to deal wisely and kindly with them if we start with reality-based thinking.

Here’s the open access paper. But Dunn had better be careful. Constantly invoking Darwin—as he does in the article—may not, by itself, protect him from people who think that the main problem is that human intelligence tests are unfair to apes.

We may as well hope to get through to a lonely pensioner who is convinced that her terrier has thoughts and emotions like those of a human. She can’t see that she is making the mutt miserable, as well as herself.

See also: Intelligence tests are unfair to apes?


Are apes entering the Stone Age?


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