May 26, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Another Crow Species Impresses Scientists with Tool-Making Skills

Who would have thought that crows rival chimpanzees in intelligence?  Members of the corvid group, which includes crows and ravens, are amazing researchers with their ability to make tools.
    Previous studies with New Caledonian crows (08/09/2002, 10/07/2007, 02/23/2007) impressed researchers with the birds’ abilities to fashion simple tools out of available materials to reach food.  Now, experiments with common rooks show the same degree of intelligence.  A report on the BBC News includes three video clips where you can watch birds in the lab cleverly figure out how to get inaccessible food by selecting rocks or fashioning a hook out of wire to pull the food out of a tube.  They invoke a skill called metatool use – using two tools in succession to obtain a result.  They also showed the mental flexibility to use alternative tools to achieve the same goal.
    The report says scientists were surprised at the results, because rooks do not seem to need this intelligence to survive.  Christopher Bird said, “We’ve seen this kind of tool use in New Caledonian crows, but the interesting thing about the rooks is that they do not use tools in the wild.”  A question arose why tool-use intelligence evolved in these birds.  The BBC article said, “the finding that rooks can use tools now raises questions about how this special ability might have come about.”  Dr. Nathan Emery [Queen Mary, U of London] asked, “Because they don’t use tools in the wild, the question is why should they have evolved the ability to use tools in the lab and understand the properties of those objects as tools?  Is this a form of general intelligence that has been co-opted for tool use?”
    Science Daily offered a similar idea: “These findings suggest that rooks’ ability to use tools and represent the tools’ useful properties may be a by-product of a sophisticated form of physical intelligence, rather than tool use having evolved as an adaptive specialisation, such as has been proposed for the tool using abilities of New Caledonian crows.”  Are they suggesting a new mechanism for evolution?  How could natural selection, which only acts on the present need, create a general ability for what might be needed in the future?  It also raises the question why other animals in similar ecological niches did not evolve the ability.

Maybe it didn’t evolve.  Darwinists are addicted to after-the-fact storytelling.  They cannot provide any factual sequence of lucky mutations that turns a skull full of mush into a problem-solving computer.  Think of how many simultaneous evolutionary mistakes would be involved in tool use: adaptations to the eyes, the beak, the feet, and the brain computer.
    Evolutionary theory was completely unnecessary for this science project.  For scientists to make up a story out of thin air after the fact that selection pressures caused this ability to evolve is a non-explanation.  It turns the word “evolve” into a miracle word that plugs leaks in understanding with silly putty.  When the yellow silly putty of natural selection doesn’t fool enough people, they try the pink silly putty of co-option.
    Evolutionary explanations are little different than shamanism.  The witch doctor explains to his tribe that the reason it rained is because the gods are angry, or happy, or whatever line is needed to keep the natives supporting the Witch Doctor Academy.  Let’s move our support to IDU (Intelligent Design University), where there is respect for natural law – in this case, that life begets life, and intelligence begets intelligence.
    Two rooks walked into the Crow Bar for some geek talk over lunch.  One said, “I found an iPhone but can’t figure out a way to text my friends.”  The other twittered back, “I use a bent piece of wire.  The only trouble is, we only know one word – caw – and iPhones are so dumb, they don’t allow you to put vocal expression into the message.”  The other replied, “And that makes all the difference in our language.  Oh well, I suppose I can drop it from the top of a building to crack a nut.”  “That’s a pretty heavy object to lift,” the other said, sipping some Old Crow.  “Beak careful.”  In the background, the jukebox droned on,
    You drop sixteen stones, and what do you get?
    Another few grubs and a crappy tool set.
    So labby don’t you film me, ’cause I can’t go,
    I owe my soul to the Darwinist show.

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Categories: Amazing Facts, Birds

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