“Whose Tools Are These?”

Capuchin Monkey
That is the title of an article in the January 2017 issue of Scientific American (pages 11-12) by Kate Wong. The article deals with the discovery that wild capuchin monkeys in Brazil’s Serra da Capivara National Park have been observed banging rocks together to break them and thus isolating conchoidal fractured chips and flakes which could then be used as cutting tools. When researchers study the flakes and chips, they find that they look very much like the flakes and chips found in caves and shelters where early humans are thought to have lived. However, part of the reason that humans were assumed to have been in those locations was the finding of tools similar to the capuchin monkey flakes.

There are some interesting points connected with all of this. One obvious point is that you cannot define what is human and what is not human by whether they fashioned tools or not, and that has been a method used by scientists studying this question. We have known that some birds and chimps use objects found in the wild to secure food. Chimps use sticks to get ants by pushing the sticks into an ant hill and eating the ants that cling to the sticks. Birds have been observed dropping objects on eggs to crack them open to eat the contents. Making a tool is another issue, but once again this does not seem to be a good indicator of whether or not a specimen was human.

The Bible describes humans as being created in God’s image. This doesn’t involve tool use at all but has to do with human capacity for creative activity, worship, and feeling guilt, sympathy, or self-sacrificing love. That definition is superior to any physical criteria, but it is hard to use in studying a fossil in most cases. –John N. Clayton © 2017

Lessons on Design from Frogs and Toads

Tungara Frog
One of the children’s books that we have in our children’s series is on Frogs and Toads. Re-reading that little book written at a child’s level motivated me to look into some of the unusual things about these amphibians. Of the 7,537 species of amphibians, 6,631 are frogs and toads. One thing some creationists have not considered is that if you interpret “kinds” in the Bible to refer to species, you have many problems explaining how you get 6,631 species of frogs on Noah’s ark. The point is that the Old Testament Hebrew word “min” (translated “kinds” in most translations of the Bible) is not the same as the English word “species.” “Kind” has a much broader meaning. We find the same concept of “kinds” in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 15:39 the writer tells us that there are four kinds of flesh, the flesh of men, of beasts, of fishes, and of birds. We would suggest that changes due to environmental pressures have caused frogs to speciate to enable them to adapt to their individual environments. Frogs living in trees don’t need the same equipment functioning in the same way as frogs in a pond, in a sand dune, or in a cold place. This factual evolution is seen in most animals, but very clearly in the frogs. We still have much to learn about this. Toads and frogs have an organ called a “Bidder’s organ.” The purpose of this organ is unknown. It is present in all toads in early development but only in the males in adulthood.

Some frog behaviors are amazing. The Tungara frog which is common in South and Central America is a good example. During the mating season, the female releases a protein which the male collects on his feet. When he has collected a sufficient amount, he begins kicking his feet vigorously producing a foam into which the eggs are placed to grow into tadpoles. Other frogs produce a similar foam, but by completely different methods. Studies are being done to see how the frog acquires this ability, but it is pretty obvious that it isn’t acquired in stages. The genome may tell us whether it is built into the frog’s DNA or whether it is a learned behavior, but it appears that it is genetic in nature. To program a code takes intelligence and purpose, and chance explanations are difficult to justify, even in such a simple organism as a frog. Data from Discover magazine, July/August 2016, page 74.                                –John N. Clayton © 2017