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Stand by for apes entering the Stone Age

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In the pop science media.

bonobo/Itay Roffman

From Evolution News & Views:

As we saw with tool use, many claims [about ape behaviour] are phrased essentially as predictions that the primates are in the process of developing a culture like that of humans, rather than behaving as they have, largely unnoticed, for tens of millennia. For example, we were told earlier this year that “Apes may be closer to speaking than many scientists think. Koko, the gorilla who has lived with humans for forty years can “control her larynx enough to produce a controlled grunting sound.” While Koko is a very accomplished gorilla, she doesn’t seem to be progressing toward human speech, and it is unclear why she would need to.

Similarly, we are told that bonobo infant noise points to the origin of human language and can challenge “how we think about the evolution of communication and potentially move the dividing line between humans and other apes.” Really? Despite having done nothing similar for bonobos in all this time? We also hear that monkeys recognize the basic structure of language, but they do not go on to but develop a language either.

In any event, when primate researchers say that bonobo infant noise challenges “how we think about the evolution of communication and potentially move the dividing line between humans and other apes,” who are the “we” who are challenged? They themselves seem quite convinced that there is no significant dividing line, no matter what the state of the evidence.

And their position cannot easily be assailed. They can go on looking for evidence indefinitely, and the developments in ape consciousness that would prove them right would, if they ever occur, be millennia in the future.

Meanwhile, subsequent research did not support one claim that chimps learn other troupes’ “languages.”More.

Lots of people have to want to believe this stuff. Otherwise, it would be challenged more.

Question: Couldn’t we care about apes, humane treatment of apes, and their conservation without all the “just like us” nonsense? Do current stats show that the nonsense is really helping numbers?:

Gorilla and chimpanzee populations in Central Africa continue to decline due to poaching, habitat loss and disease. National parks and reserves in six range countries protect only 21 percent of western lowland gorillas and central chimpanzees, according to a new report.

See also: What can we hope to learn about animal minds?

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