October 29, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Hot Chimps! No Evolution Here

What does a new study about savanna chimpanzees say about evolution?
Anything the evolutionists want it to say.


Some chimps like it hot. Some like it not. That pretty much sums it up for the science. But out of this fact, some evolutionists have wasted their time by revisiting an old, discredited hypothesis that makes no sense. It hasn’t made sense since Darwin himself suggested it: the idea that climate drove apes out of the trees and out onto savannas where they learned to walk upright, grow big brains and invent rocket science. The only fact for these storytellers is: some chimps like it hot, some like it not. Both forest chimps and savanna chimps live happily in Africa and are not wishing to evolve the ability to hold philosophy classes. If they ever got there, the chimp professors would likely be more astute than the humans who keep perpetuating this Great Savanna Myth.

[Note: savanna and savannah are equivalent spellings; both are used in the sources of this story. Europeans tend to add the h.]

Savannah chimpanzees, a model for the understanding of human evolution (University of Barcelona). The suspects in this logic violation were Adriana Hernández, psychologist at the University of Barcelona, who is also co-director of research at the Jane Goodall Institute in Spain, and Stacy Lindshield from Purdue. Various other primatologists and anthropologists got their names listed as co-authors in the paper in Evolutionary Anthropology, “Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in savanna landscapes,” 20 September 2021, https://doi.org/10.1002/evan.21924, but their individual contributions are not listed. It might have been wiser for them not to have associated themselves with this fact-free, logic-free disgrace. The press release says:

“The study on savannah chimpanzees and what we call the landscape savannah effect have important implications for reconstructing the behaviour of the first hominis [sic] who lived in similar habitats and therefore, it helps us to better understand our own evolution”, notes Adriana Hernández, who co-led the study, published in the journal Evolutionary Anthropology, together with Stacy Lindshield, from the University of Purdue (United States).

To clarify, there is nothing wrong with studying chimpanzees in the wild and observing their habits. The error lies in assuming that such observations “help us to better understand our own evolution.”

The journal paper, which uses the e-word evolution and its derivatives almost 20 times, is notable for its sky-high perhapsimaybecouldness index and admissions of ignorance. Here is a partial measure of that ignorance:

  • Do they know what a savanna is? No. “We …  acknowledge that there are limitations to applying dichotomous labels (e.g., either savanna or forest) to highly complex landscapes that fall along a continuum of land-cover types.”
  • Do they know how environments cause behavioral changes in chimps? No.Additional research is needed to understand the relationships between food availability and behavioral adaptations (e.g., foraging tool use) that hypothetically maximize or balance nutrient and energy intakes through opportunistic food encounters and/or minimize nutritional or energetic shortfalls during periods of food scarcity.”
  • Do they know that savannas are harder for chimps to live in than forests? No. “there has been an increased awareness that savanna landscapes are not universally more harsh and extreme than more forested areas. For example, environmental pressures such as food and water scarcity may also occur in more forested areas and savannas can be periodically plentiful. Therefore, we recommend that future studies use caution while making generalizations about savanna landscapes.” This fact undermines their whole hypothesis that savannas put selection pressure on chimps to become humans.
  • Do they understand human ancestry? No. “This does not suggest that chimpanzees are present-day equivalents of early hominins (e.g., Ardipithecus ramidus, Australopithecus anamensis) and we recognize that there are some limitations to using chimpanzees as models for hominin evolution.” (For more on Ardi, read this article by Casey Luskin at Evolution News. For more on A. anamensis, read this article by Günter Bechly at Evolution News).
  • Do they know how these alleged ape-like ancestors behaved? No. “Understanding the selection pressures that shaped human evolution starts with an examination of hominin fossils. Despite a robust hominin fossil record that dates back to the late Miocene and an archeological one to the early Pliocene in East Africa, little is known about the behavioral adaptations of early hominins as they transitioned from a relatively more arboreal lifestyle and wet climate to terrestrial and dry conditions.”
  • Do they know how evolution works? No. “Recent advances in evolutionary theory, such as the extended evolutionary synthesis, lead us to the conclusion that processes underlying savanna landscape effect patterns will be complex and numerous.” They also fail to recognize the Lamarckism in their supposition that animals adapt to environmental conditions, like the giraffe stretching its neck to reach the treetops. Lamarck went out of style with Darwin (although Darwin found Lamarckism useful in later editions of the Origin).

We could go on. What do they know? They can observe that there are populations of chimpanzees that live in forests, and smaller populations that live in savannas. They can observe the latter using sticks to dig for water, getting water from livestock ponds, and resting more in the heat of the day than their forest counterparts. What does that have to do with evolution? Nothing! All animals are well adapted to their environments. Otherwise they wouldn’t be alive. Well, duh.

Here is a key logical point: If savannas put such a strong selection pressure on apes that they drove humans to become rocket scientists, why are chimpanzees getting along just fine in savannas today? Why isn’t the same selection pressure working on them to make them more fit than their forest counterparts, to help them walk upright or grow bigger brains? Contrariwise, if the savanna is harsh, why isn’t selection pressure pushing the savanna chimps back into the forest where life is easier? What is this “selection pressure” anyway?

Selection Pressure: A False Force

“Selection pressure” is a nebulous term. What are its units? How is it measured? Has anybody invented a Select-o-Meter? No; it is an after-the-fact notion that if some organism looks well adapted, there must have been some nebulous pressure to make them want to evolve that way. This mythical notion is no different than spiritism: ‘the spirits of the forest whispered to the chimps, telling them that climate change would kill the trees soon and they must resort to the savannas to survive.’ Maybe it was an unobserved supernova, like Colin Barras imagined (17 Oct 2020). Maybe it was the arrival of swimming holes, enticing them to evolve into aquatic apes (23 April 2020).

The question of what makes savanna chimpanzees different from conspecifics in more forested landscapes has captured the interest of researchers and broader society because of their comparative significance to human origins. The savanna landscape effect is a predicted driver of several adaptations in early hominins, such as bipedality, brain expansion, and cumulative culture (seasonality hypothesis, savanna hypothesis). As demonstrated here, the continued use of chimpanzee models has great potential to advance key topics in human origins research, such as positional and locomotion behavior and thermal tolerance.


Other logical blunders and philosophical violations can be seen in this paper and press release:

Appeal to futureware. They don’t have any answers, but “future studies” could find them. “In the future, inter-specific comparative research will be instructive to adaptive scenarios for the savanna landscape effect.” What? That was the purpose of their own paper! Come back when you have data to support your “scenarios.”

Mixed motives. “We conclude by discussing the significance of research on savanna chimpanzees to modeling the evolution of early hominin traits and informing conservation programs for these endangered apes.” So which is it? Is the purpose for the study about evolution, or about conservation? Helping protect chimpanzee habitat is a noble aim, but it has nothing to do with evolution. Adding a noble purpose to a vacuous scenario serves as a distraction, making the evolutionary purpose look better. They also add a third purpose: “In the future, savanna chimpanzees will likely endure more extreme conditions, providing insights into the limits of their climate tolerance. In this sense, they are positioned at the frontier of climate change scenarios and may act as sentinels for the species.” Yes, the study will give the politicians assembled in Glasgow this week a new climate change slogan: “Save the Chimps!”

Unwarranted conclusions.  Observations of chimpanzee behavior in savannas have nothing to do with how humans supposedly evolved from ape-like ancestors. Savanna chimps survive very well today and are not being pushed toward human behaviors or traits.

Repetition of falsehoods. The press release repeats a lie: “Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are our closest living relatives, since they share 98.7% of their DNA with humans and have a common ancestor that lived between 4.5 and 6 million years ago.” (See Jeffrey Tomkins respond to this lie at ICR.org).

Bluffing. One should ignore the erudite words and get to the gist of their argument. Jargonwocky is no substitute for substance and logical rigor.

The only scientific conclusion supported by this paper and press release is more confirmation that Darwinism offers job security for storytellers (25 June 2014).

The Darwin in the tale
The Darwin in the tale
Hi, Ho, scenario
The Darwin in the tale.

Can we please get this long-running clown show off the stage and start the science lecture?


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