Tools and Intelligence

Tools and Intelligence
We tend to equate the use of tools and intelligence, but do they necessarily go together? Many kinds of animals use twigs, stones, or other objects as tools to gather food, to groom or defend themselves, or sometimes just to play. We are very familiar with how dogs can be taught to play with a ball or stick. Intelligent animals such as primates, mammals, and birds use or even create tools from materials around them.

Sometimes animals learn tool-use by watching other animals or humans. At other times tool-use seems to be instinctive. An internet search for “animals using tools” brings up many interesting videos. Ever since animal researcher Jane Goodall discovered chimpanzees using leaves and twigs as tools to obtain food in 1960, some people have suggested that tool-use is proof that humans are not unique from other animals—we have just evolved greater intelligence.

But the question is, “Does it take intelligence to use tools?” The short answer is “No.” Decorator crabs camouflage themselves with objects and plants, and they may pick up a sea anemone and use it to sweep across the sea floor picking up food. The assassin bug takes material from a termite’s nest to camouflage itself while waiting to grab a termite emerging from the nest. It then kills the termite and uses it as bait to coax other termites out of the nest. The larva of the green lacewing camouflages itself with objects such as sand grains to hide from and capture aphids.

Crabs, assassin bugs, and insect larvae have no “thinking” brain. They are not capable of being taught or learning by observation. How can they use objects as tools? In some cases, if the first of their kind could not use these tools, the species would have become extinct. We suggest that the Creator has “programmed” these unintelligent animals with the instincts they need to survive.

So as we consider tools and intelligence, we see unintelligent creatures using tools by instinct, and more intelligent creatures learning to use tools. Obviously, no animals can create and use the highly sophisticated tools that humans have, including computers, robots, and cars. But it’s the spiritual nature of humans that makes us different, and not our tools. Only humans worship God because He created us in His image.
–Roland Earnst © 2018