An interesting fact about animals is their ability to use tools. Years ago, people thought that only humans used tools, but recent studies have shown animal tool use. However, the word “tool” means different things to different people.
Webster defines a tool as “an instrument used to accomplish a given task.” By that definition, we can find examples of animal tool use. We have reported on some of them before. For example, HERE and HERE.
Science News reported that polar bears sometimes kill walrus by bashing them with chunks of stone or ice. People have observed birds cracking nuts by dropping them from high altitudes onto rocks. Elephants use tree trunks for a variety of purposes, and crows use sticks to pry off the lids of bottles. Chimpanzees use conchoidally fractured chert or flint to cut open a fruit. Those of us who have bird feeders have seen squirrels use a tree branch to access a feeder. Recently, researchers in Israel taught fish how to drive a “car.”
There is a difference between a tool and a machine. According to the dictionary, a machine is “an assembly of interconnected components arranged to transmit or modify force in order to perform useful work.” A broader question here is whether intelligence is needed to fashion a machine? If that is the case, intelligent animals should be making machines, and mentally challenged humans would not be able to do so.
This discussion of animal tool use gets into difficulties because the anatomical parts of all animals are simple machines. Limbs are levers, and teeth are wedges. The design of all animals includes the equipment to secure food and shelter. Building into animals the ability to use objects in their environment to survive is another example of God’s design in the natural world.
Studies indicate incredible wisdom and planning in the creation of animal life. However, what sets humans apart from all other animals is not tools, machines, or intelligence. Instead, our spiritual nature is what makes humans different.
The ability of humans to create art, express ourselves in music, conceive of self, worship, and be taught to think set humans apart. To have an agape type of love that is not sexual and does not promote survival makes us human. The mentally challenged among us possess these abilities because all of us are created in the image of God. Animal tool use is far removed from possessing God’s image.
— John N. Clayton © 2022
Reference: Science News, July 29, 2021.