Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our closest living cousins, the chimpanzee apes, have a better short term memory than human apes.

Chimpanzees demonstrate their superior short term memory in this YouTube video.

It's really amazing to watch. The humans don't even come close.

Why do chimpanzee apes have a better short term memory than human apes?

Natural selection selects for advantages that keep a creature alive. Advantages accumulate and spread throughout a population.

But what happens when an evolved trait no longer becomes necessary? For example when one lineage of fishes winds up in a cave in total darkness. Then seeing becomes useless. If a mutation makes eyesight worse, that fish still survives because it can't see anyway. Since better eyesight is not selected for by natural selection, mutations that make eyesight worse accumulate, and eventually this lineage of fish becomes completely blind.

Perhaps our ancient pre-human ancestors needed a strong short term memory to survive, and so this advantage was selected for. Our ancient ape ancestors who had a better memory were more likely to survive long enough to reproduce and their genes were passed on to the next generation.

But then something happened that made an excellent short term memory less important. According to this BBC News article a scientist said "These studies tell us that elaborate short-term memory skills may have had a much more salient function in early humans than is present in modern humans, perhaps due to our increasing reliance on language-based memory skills."

Our increasing reliance on language-based memory skills meant that a superior short-term memory became less necessary and so this advantage was not selected for, just like better eyesight was not selected for a lineage of fish that lived in completely dark caves.

Some more information from the same BBC News article:

The shortest time duration, 210 milliseconds, did not leave enough time for the subjects to explore the screen by eye movement - something we do all the time when we read.

This is evidence, the researchers believe, that young chimps have a photographic memory which allows them to memorise a complex scene or pattern at a glance. This is sometimes present in human children but declines with age, they say.

"Young chimpanzees have a better memory than human adults," Dr Matsuzawa told BBC News.

"We are still underestimating the intellectual capability of chimpanzees, our evolutionary neighbours."

Dr Lisa Parr, who works with chimps at the Yerkes Primate Center at Emory University in Atlanta, US, described the research as "ground-breaking".

She said the importance of these primates for understanding the skills necessary for the evolution of modern humans was unparalleled.

"They are our closest living relatives and thus are in a unique position to inform us about our evolutionary heritage," said Dr Parr.

How are you Christian creationists doing? Are you keeping up with this? Do you better understand why everyone laughs at you when you deny our evolutionary relationship with the chimpanzee apes? Ready to join the 21st century yet? I didn't think so.

Another better video about the same thing:

Man Vs Chimp - memory test


  1. Hi. Hope you don't mind me passing you this link of a documentary titled "Did Darwin Kill God?"

    I am completely aware that you probably don't want to hear this perspective, but am still holding on to the hope that you will be open enough to just spare an hour to watch these clips :)

    I won't bore you or waste time by trying to convince you - especially because the docu encapsulates how I feel much better than I could probably phrase it myself! :)

    Hope this comment finds you in the best of spirits.

  2. Oh, and I forgot to mention - I'm from Malaysia which is a Muslim-dominant country & I practice my faith as a minority that is "tolerated" at best. Nothing about my faith has been an easy walk but it still rings truer to me than my bouts of "atheism" ever have.

  3. Melissa, I appreciate the videos. You are on topic and you have contributed something important to this blog, unlike most Christians who only know how to complain.

    There's 6 videos, about one hour of it. I watched the first one and I will watch the rest of it later today.

    What I didn't get from the first video (maybe it's on the other videos) is where do Christians who accept evolution stick their god of the gaps. In other words what do they invoke god's magic wand for? If they don't invoke that magic wand for anything, then they believe in a magical god who never had any magic tricks to perform (except of course the disgusting parlor trick called the Resurrection). Worthless gods are gods that don't exist.

    If Christians do invoke their god of the gaps for something, then they are against scientific progress. Real scientists call gaps in human knowledge "research opportunities". Christians call these gaps hiding places for their god's magic wand. The difference is obvious. Who contributes the most to human progress, the hard working scientists or the lazy Christians who give up and invoke the easy and worthless answer "god did it".

    Darwin killed the god hypothesis because he (and thousands of biologists who came after him) showed that god fairies were not necessary for something as complicated as the development of millions of species. If life can so easily develop without supernatural magic, what is the point of invoking magic for anything else?

    I assume you're from Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan. Please stop by anytime.

    Melissa's YouTube video, the 1st of 6 videos that make the claim that evolutionary biology does not make magic god fairies obsolete.

  4. Melissa, I copied and pasted this sentence from the YouTube video website:

    He believes that the clash between Darwin and God has been hijacked by extremists - fundamentalist believers who reject evolution on one side, and fundamentalist atheists on the other.

    It's not correct to call normal people, also known as atheists, "extremists" because there's nothing extreme about being normal.

    Also, it's not correct to use the religious word "fundamentalist" as an adjective for atheists. Atheists are not religious. They are normal. It's totally wrong to use religious words when writing about them. It's insulting to do that, and the person who wrote it most certainly intended it to be an insult.

  5. Also, that "clash" is over with. Science won. God lost. Ask any biologist. Virtually all them are normal, also known as atheists.


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