October 22, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

Bee Brain Shows Design Matters Over Size

Honeybees can be trained to grasp conceptual relationships, new experiments show, demonstrating that it’s not just brain size that governs ability.

Bee philosophy:  A series of clever experiments by French scientists (see PhysOrg) has shown that honeybees have a skill thought unique to primates: conceptual relationships.  When presented with varying patterns in mazes with rewards, they appear to understand left/right, up/down, and same/different concepts.   This was a big surprise to evolutionists:

Scientists Aurore Avarguès-Weber and Martin Giurfa, both from the University of Toulouse and CNRS in Toulouse, France, have analyzed the implications of the honeybee’s ability to understand conceptual relationships, and have published a paper on the subject in a recent issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

One thing that should be clear from this analysis is that, although it is always a matter of debate what is unique to humans and what to animals, these results show at least something that is not,” Giurfa told Phys.org. “While the capacity of conceptual elaboration has been considered (and is still considered) a higher-order capacity proper from primates and other ‘highly-evolved’ animals (the quotes are ironic in this case), the fact that a 950,000-neuron [honeybee] brain can achieve this kind of task shows that the frontier does not reside there.

“The quotes are ironic in this case” indeed.  This throws a monkey wrench into the notion of “highly-evolved” animals.  The authors tried to understand this ability in evolutionary terms, since clearly, in their view, insects diverged from vertebrates as far back as the Cambrian explosion (i.e., most of animal evolutionary history), but left off with more questions than answers.  The bee brain is also wired differently.  It has no prefrontal cortex, as found in humans.

The obvious question would be then, what brings as advantage a 100-billion-neuron [human] brain? Obviously several advantages can be cited: language, for instance. Consciousness, whose existence is a matter of debate and of investigation in animals. And the idea that human brains have perhaps replicated redundant and modifiable modules to solve problems that small brains solve with single microcircuits at a smaller scale.”

This explanation, however, begs the question of evolutionary “advantage” due to blind, unguided processes of natural selection. Just because “advantages can be cited,” it is a non-sequitur to assert that evolution brought them about.

One of the most important implications of the study concerns paleoanthropology (the study of human evolution), which leans heavily on brain capacity as a proxy for evolutionary progress (see 10/18/13 entry).  For instance, based on the honeybee study, the smaller brain case of so-called Homo erectus may not be a fair measure of brain power:

One of the most interesting implications of this research is that it challenges the assumption that large, complex brains (like ours) are superior to small brains when it comes to higher-order tasks such as understanding conceptual relationships. This raises some questions, such as whether the nature of these relationships as understood by honeybees is truly the same as to what humans understand, and whether conceptual relationships should be considered higher-order concepts or lower-order concepts. The researchers suggest that there may not be as great a division between large and small brains as we tend to assume.

Studies continue on mental powers of apes.  New Scientist relied on Darwin’s suggestion that language evolved from ape screeches (“a song”) as the article describes it:

Darwin suggested we sang our way to modern language, gradually moving from vocal flourishes designed to attract mates to primitive vocal communication that eventually developed into speech.

This amounts to a just-so story, since there is a huge gap between the most advanced ape screech and a Shakespeare play.  Whether vocalizations or hand gestures led to language has been debated ever since “Darwin suggested” one story over the other.  Science Daily reported that chimps appear to sound alarm calls with the intent to warn others in the clan of dangers.  That’s not particularly helpful for human evolution, though, since crows do that.  Neither of the articles discussed chimpanzee mathematics or skill with abstract concepts.

Kid math:  Speaking of human brains, another set of experiments shows that infants have some mathematical ability as early as six months.  Live Science reported on work at Duke University that shows “Math Ability Starts in Infancy” according to the headline.  Shown patterns of dots on screens, infants stare longer at ones that have the same number of dots, indicating a preliminary ability to perceive number.  Science Now concurs that “Babies are born with some math skills.”  Infant gaze with the patterns appears to be a predictor of math ability three years later.

Experiments usually surprise evolutionists, but not creationists.  That’s because evolutionists have their minds already made up that humans evolved gradually from lower forms of life that were too primitive to do what humans do.  Well, the honeybee puts them to shame on two levels: a common ability designed on a physically different substrate, and an ability manifested at a vastly smaller scale of size. What are they going to call this?  Will they dredge up their rescue device of “convergent evolution”?

Nothing in the other stories requires believing in evolution.  Our Creator designed the bodies, brains, and abilities of each creature for its function in the ecosystem, and for His glory.  The crowns of His creation, human beings, possess unique bodies and brains far removed from anything else in the living world.  In the physical biosphere, only humans use abstract concepts and language.  Only humans create true structured music, utilizing harmonic principles.  Only humans have souls that can ponder their origin and destiny.  Only humans pray.  Only humans are sinners in need of redemption.  Only humans can understand John 3:16.  Only humans were the object of Christ’s sacrificial love, as shown by His death on the cross to save them from their due punishment for rebellion.  Only humans will be resurrected.  Only redeemed humans will reign with Christ in heaven for eternity.  Whatever other marvels of creation exist in this world and the next, they show His omniscience, power, and creativity – but only the redeemed can understand and thank their Maker for His intelligent design, wisdom, and love.

If you are an evolutionist, you hate this kind of talk.  Well, then, look at the best your Darwinian friends can do to explain human life when asked direct questions for evidence.  Tell us if you prefer the ethics and destiny they preach.  Tell us if they have better reasons to believe what they believe.  Watch this half-hour video.


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