I’ve recently read a book called The Parrot’s Lament and Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity. It is full of intriguing anecdotes of Orangutan escapes, Orca orneriness, and big cats (but no octopus stories, in case you wanted to know). The author, Eugene Linden, is careful to explain how the stories cannot scientifically prove animal intelligence. He points out what he sees as indications of intelligence (tool use, evident communication, deception, etc.) but goes on to point out other possible explanations for behaviors.
The idea that animals could be intelligent or communicate is extremely controversial in the scientific world. Part of the issue is being able to prove the why of what animals do, but a huge part of it is fear. Scientists have defined the difference between animals and humans as intelligence. If animals are intelligent, too, what makes us different from the animals?
As a creationist, I don’t have to worry about this. The Bible says what makes us set apart: mankind is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). While it is true that intelligence is a partial reflection of the Lord, it is not our defining difference. There are so many aspects of being made in the image of God: communication, love, creativity, music, emotions…but the most important side is the eternal. We are made to be eternal. Even when our bodies die, we are assured that it is not permanent. We will be resurrected some day, some to eternal life in glory, and some to eternal destruction in the lake of fire (John 5:29, Rev. 20).
Now there’s another side of being made in God’s image: our moral side, and the responsibility to choose right. Since we all fail, it is well that we are also given the ability to have a relationship with God. It is people God calls to humble themselves and turn from evil. It is people God has to remind to believe Him. Animals don’t seem to have that problem (Psalm 104:21, 26-27). There are times when they come under God’s judgment. Sometimes it is for killing people (Gen. 9:5-6, Ex. 21:28), but mostly it is an extension of man’s punishment for disobedience. Someday they will be relieved of that, too (Rom.8:20-22).
In the meantime, God’s wisdom and care and might are displayed all over the animal kingdom. I can admire the reflection of His faithfulness in the fidelity of swans with their mates without worrying about whether the birds are intentional in it or not. I can raise my eyebrows at abandoned cuckoo chicks destroying the eggs of their foster parents without fearing God abandoning me. I can gape at blue headed wrasse being able to change from female to male without doubting the gender God made me. I can laugh in delight at the clever antics of chimpanzees without fearing that I’m nothing more than an animal. Regardless of how smart God may or may not have made the animals, I can rest in the fact that He made me just the way I am, and I am in His image.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and that my soul knows right well. Praise the Lord!