Scientists at Harvard University have successfully taught a monkey to understand the theory of evolution.
According to a new paper published today in Nature, a team of primatologists used basic sign language and symbols to teach an orangutan named “Pongo Pete” that humans and other primates shared a common ancestor.
The two-year experiment began by teaching Pete the difference between the evidence-based reasoning of science and non-evidence based reasoning. It concluded two months ago when Pete finally confirmed he understood that both he and his human friends had evolved through natural selection.
“Our goal was to prove that even a monkey can understand evolution,” says Dr. Ronald Artest, the lead researcher on the project. “The idea came to us when one of my undergraduate students said she believed God created the Earth, humans and all other life on this planet simultaneously around 10,000 years ago.
“I thought to myself, ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard. I bet even Pongo Pete is capable of understanding the idiocy of that comment!’ And sure enough, it seems that with a lot of hard work and patience, you can teach monkeys things you can’t teach Creationists.”
The theory of evolution states that all life on Earth evolved through a slow, gradual process of natural selection from a common ancestor that lived around 3.8 billion years ago. A theory only in the scientific sense of the word, evolution is seen as established fact by the vast majority of scientists.
Nevertheless a recent Pew Center poll found that 33 percent of Americans do not believe in evolution at all, while another 26 percent believe God was behind the process. Only 32 percent believe in the scientific fact of evolution by natural selection.
Most of the opposition comes from white evangelical protestants, a whopping 64 percent of whom completely reject the idea evolution. There is also a 10 point gender gap, with women more likely to believe in science than men.
Denialism has been growing over time, as 54 percent of Republicans said they believed in evolution in 2009 and only 43 percent said the same in 2013.
When told that a large percentage of humans still have not accepted the reality of evolution, Pongo Pete reportedly responded by pointing to the symbol for “stupid.”