For years, evolutionists believed that only humans and primates used gestures to communicate to each other. However, a new study on ravens smashes down that evolutionary barrier.
When you think of gestures, do you only think of using your hands and nothing else? What about a nod of the head to one side or the other? What about animals that don’t have hands? Would you even consider them as being able to communicate using gestures?
I’m not speaking of training a dog or bird to use gestures, rather, I’m speaking of gestures that they naturally use in the wild.
Evolutionary biologists believe that gestures evolved from our earliest primate ancestors and that it is an important part in the development of our communication skills and speech. Supposedly, it takes a certain level of intelligence to evolve the ability to use gestures to communicate and after all, what other group of animals besides the one that gave rise to mankind could possibly attain such a level of intelligence?
Simone Pika, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany recently published results of a study she conducted on ravens that surprised her with the results. She found that ravens use their bills and wings to gesture to objects when with other ravens.
According to Pika, this is the first known example of an animal other than a human or primate to use gestures in a natural environment without first being taught them by humans. Coupled with other traits known of ravens, the researchers with Pika have concluded that ravens are extremely intelligent and very resourceful. In her report, Pika stated:
Most exciting is how a species, which does not represent the prototype of a ‘gesturer’ because it has wings instead of hands, a strong beak and can fly, makes use of very sophisticated nonvocal signals… Gesture studies have too long focused on communicative skills of primates only. The mystery of the origins of human language, however, can only be solved if we look at the bigger picture and also consider the complexity of the communication systems of other animal groups.
However I would contend that other animals use gestures in the wild that evidently, most evolutionary biologists fail to recognize.
I’ve watched a doe gesture to her fawn with her front hoof to either move away or to look in a particular spot for food. She will also gesture with her tail if danger is approaching.
When I was doing my undergraduate study at Arizona State University, I studied a herd of desert bighorn sheep. I’ve seen the ewes make similar gestures to the lambs as I witnessed the deer do. The rams used a variety of gestures including lip curls, raising the head up in the air, tilting their horns to one side and shaking them back and forth. It didn’t take me long to decipher the meanings of these and other gestures the bighorns used.
I also recall watching a program on one of the science or learning channels that showed dolphin parents using gestures of their heads and flippers. In one instance the adult would gesture using both head nods and flippers to direct a young dolphin on where to look in the ocean bottom for fish and crabs that were hiding just beneath the layer of silt. The dolphins were teaching their young how to hunt and find food for themselves.
If you study any social animal you will eventually pick up on what kinds of communication they use, and many of them use some form of gesturing in their communication with each other. And that does not surprise me that God designed many different animals with the ability to communicate with each another in a variety of ways. It’s only when one has their vision impaired by their evolutionary thinking that they fail to see and observe all of the marvels our Creator God designed into the world around us.
Choi, Charles, Ravens Use ‘Hand’ Gestures to Communicate, Live Science, Nov. 29, 2011.
This presentation was given live to some 2000 people, many of them students, at South Africa’s renowned university town of Stellenbosch. Afterwards, 30 university students came forward to publicly profess faith in Christ. It’s clear that in this age of science and technology, we need to deal with the evolution issue head-on, from an unashamedly biblical standpoint.