Swedish Chimp Throws Rocks at Zoo Visitors, Prompting a Good Question - Evolution News & Views

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Swedish Chimp Throws Rocks at Zoo Visitors, Prompting a Good Question

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A chimp in a Swedish zoo, possessed by a dominant type of personality, seeks to impress other chimps or maybe just have some scampish fun by throwing rocks at human visitors standing outside his enclosure. His name is Santino and he gets a writeup in PLoS ONE by researchers Mathias Osvath and Elin Karvonen.

Notably, the mischievous Santino employs advanced planning, arranging a pile of hay, hiding rocks under it, acting all cool and nonchalant and unthreatening. When a human Swede approaches whose look the chimp doesn't like for whatever reason, then out come the rocks and -- pow! Right in the kisser.

It doesn't seem anyone has actually been injured, but observing how the highly intelligent Santino springs his trap by anticipating future moves by human visitors prompted Osvath to ask an interesting question (in an article at Discovery News):

Osvath...believes that the phenomenon taps into "one of the hardest questions in science: how matter (in this case the brain) can appear to be influenced by something that does not exist (the future). This is far from trivial."
But of course the key thing about the future isn't that it does not exist -- or anyway not yet. That makes it sound like the Tooth Fairy. The enigma posed by Santino's behavior is the same one that comes up in discussions of intelligent design. Critics ask how designs are instantiated in nature if the source of intelligence and agency resides outside nature and maybe outside physical reality entirely. They say: Show us the mechanism that would permit this. If you can't show us, then it can't happen.

ID is agnostic on whether the designer is transcendent, but it's certainly a possibility. Every time Santino throws a rock at some Swedish zoo-goer he shows something that is, as Osvath puts it, decidedly non-trivial. Even though we don't know how something outside the world, without a physical reality, could influence something physical in the world, it obviously happens.

Photo credit: Tomas Persson.