Do chimps believe in God?

Brother Paul “Bilal” WIlliams called my attention to a science article in the “Independent”,  reporting the recent discovery of Chimpanzees in West Africa which have been throwing rocks against trees and throwing them into gaps inside, leading to piles of rocks. Those rocks do not appear to be for any functional purpose — this could be  the first evidence of chimpanzees shows rudiments of religion performing a kind of sacred ritual a devotion to God.

Here’s the video of the behavior:

While sceptics may resort to other likely explanations, Laura Kehoe and other researchers who observed the chimps behaviour and published a piece written around the findings believe this may be evidence of “Sacred” rituals performed by chimps. She and her colleagues wrote in the abstract:

We found four populations in West Africa where chimpanzees habitually bang and throw rocks against trees, or toss them into tree cavities, resulting in conspicuous stone accumulations at these sites. This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees. The ritualized behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites.

(H. S. Kühl et al. 2016. Chimpanzee accumulative stone-throwing. Nature Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 22219 (2016), doi:10.1038/srep22219)

Perhaps to muslims this should not come as a surprise, in the holy Qur’an it is mentioned:

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالطَّيْرُ صَافَّاتٍ ۖ كُلٌّ قَدْ عَلِمَ صَلَاتَهُ وَتَسْبِيحَهُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ

Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whomever is within the heavens and the earth and [by] the birds with wings spread [in flight]? Each [of them] has known his [means of] prayer and exalting [Him], and Allah is Knowing of what they do. [Q 24:41]
Thus we are told, every living things regardless of intelligence are or have been known to pray to Allah exalting Him. While we do not know how this is possible as the details is not yet a matter human comprehension but this discovery which suggest that the chimps, which, according to genome research, share almost 100% genetic makeup with human, have innate inclination to worship God, a  fitra, is perhaps a positive evidence. .
Allahu ‘Alim


Categories: Science

Tags: , ,

15 replies

  1. Hmm monkeys throwing rocks against a tree. Interesting, not sure why they did not suggest the monkeys had learned a game and were playing it.

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  2. If you read the scientific article I linked above, according to the scientists, this observations leads to two contrasting hypotheses:

    (1) sort of modification of the male chimpanzee display, since the action bears a close resemblance to hand and feet “drumming” …

    (2) these rock accumulation sites may be a more symbolic context, a deliberate ritual driven by a “motivation”, the same way marking territorial boundaries and pathways with cairns which has been an important practice of many historical human societies. For example, stone accumulation shrines at ‘sacred’ trees are well described for indigenous West African peoples.

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  3. Do chimps believe in God? – No
    Not on the evidence in the paper referred to.
    http://www.nature.com/articles/srep22219

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    • Of course that is a scientific paper not a religious paper, the words are more carefully chosen.

      According to the paper :

      “…chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing and the subsequent aggregation of tools at particular trees shares two important features with human ritual practices: the strong association to a particular location or site with a collection of artefacts over time, and ritualized behaviour patterns 30,31. Although there is no overarching, agreed-upon definition of ritual30, similarities between ritualized animal behaviour and the repeated, stereotyped behaviours commonly observed during human rituals have already been proposed by anthropologists31 and ethologists32 as having a common origin,..”

      In simple words scientists have suggested that these monkey do not merely “playing” but they practices some sort of ritual just like human.

      The word “ritual” mean “the prescribed order of performing religious services”. Religious means Having or showing belief in and reverence for God or a deity.

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  4. Eric,
    It is notoriously difficult (perhaps impossible) to attribute to non humans the states of mind that we humans associate with language. Indeed it is difficult (perhaps impossible) to fully understand other cultures than ones own. A language is associated with a form of life – practices and experiences that go with particular culture or species. We cannot share the practices and experiences of non humans so we cannot apply our words we use to their forms of life.
    I believe that you have made a logical error due to the multiple meanings of the word “ritual”.
    The paper says “there is no overarching, agreed-upon definition of ritual”
    My dictionary (Collins) has 6 meanings.
    Meaning #1 is “the prescribed or established form of a religious or other ceremony”
    Meaning #3 is “stereotyped activity of behaviour”
    The paper draws attention to the similarity between the chimps behaviour and meaning #3. In your final paragraph you link meaning #3 with meaning #1 – these meanings are distinct so you have read more into the paper than the text warrants.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andy, look I am not the one who wrote the report and I dont think I add anything more into what the report suggest that there is a possibility that the monkeys display a sort of ritual in the context of religious meaning.

      We found four populations in West Africa where chimpanzees habitually bang and throw rocks against trees, or toss them into tree cavities, resulting in conspicuous stone accumulations at these sites. This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees. The ritualized behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites.

      I doubt it if there are in fact ancient ritual sites whose purpose was solely as a “stereotyped activity of behaviour” overwhelming  if not all ancient ritual sites were built for  some sort of religious purpose. And I dont think these scientist are not aware of this implication or even dismissed it altogether when they wrote that.

      Here also another snip from the report which does linking this ritual to something being “sacred”:

      In fact, marking territorial boundaries and pathways with cairns has been an important practice of many historical human societies1. For example, stone accumulation shrines at ‘sacred’ trees are well described for indigenous West African peoples4. Superficially, these cairns appear very similar to what has been described here for chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing sites, thus it would be interesting to explore whether there are any parallels between chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing and human cairn building, especially in regions of West Africa where the local environment is similar.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Evidence? – easy for the die-hard trin.

    Truly amazing the chimps must believe in a triune God, they don`t simply throw, they bang or hurl or toss.

    One throwing in three distinct ways.

    Clear proof for the trinity, see?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. No, they are clearly stoning the devil.

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  7. Andy Andy they do it in different places. Go and learn about Islam

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  8. Sorry B!
    I have my homework assignment!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Burhanuddin1 lacks equanimity, that’s why I didn’t reply to him in the other thread. Even Muslim guy Fiaz called him out in one of the threads. He is not alone, that’s why people like me don’t comment.

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  10. Eric,
    In your first quote the authors are a bit vague about ” archaeological stone assemblages “. I took that to mean evidence dating from periods prior to the Middle Palaeolithic where there are other indicators of proto religious behaviour (e.g. burials). So I think they are pointing to the possibility of these chimpanzee assemblages throwing some light on the behaviour of early hominids prior to the Neanderthals.
    In your second quote the key word is “superficially”, followed by the usual scientists’ appeal for more research.
    Anyway – it’s a fascinating area of study and no doubt more will emerge as we continue to study non human primates in the wild (assuming we don’t exterminate them all first).

    (And unrelated to this thread – thanks to Paul for hosting this blog. You do have a knack for kicking off good discussions and it pains me to see the uncivil tone of some contributors).

    Liked by 3 people

  11. My comment is also off the topic of this post, sorry for that.

    Brother Burhanuddin do not stop commenting, I find your comments are interesting to read. You may not know me because I mostly read the comments and hardly write one.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Burhanuddin1,

    In the absence of your comments, I presume that you are offended by my remarks. It’s hard to be on the receiving end, isn’t it? Nevertheless, I don’t want you to stop commenting because of me (Christian). We turn the other cheek, but had to tell people once what they are doing is wrong before offering them the other cheek. Take my remarks as constructive criticism. Selah! I notice you and Paul are quite close always liking each other comments, and I as a Christian don’t want Paul to lose his friend.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Respect, I am truly honored by your personal attention.
    But I am sorry to tell you that your presumption is wrong.
    I mean right. I mean sort of right and sort of wrong?
    I mean right and wrong at the same time.
    You really cannot understand unless you got the spirit.

    It’s a mystery.

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