Comparing chimp and human intelligence: overlap or apples and oranges

Really? Please provide some evidence.

While quantification of intelligence (even in humans, much less other animals!) is notoriously difficult, the average chimpanzee is perfectly capable of thriving in its environment, successfully interacting socially with its peers, adapting to changing circumstances, and even communicating with another species to a limited extent. Compare this to the most extreme examples of intellectual disability in humans and I think my statement has a strong foundation.

Besides, I thought we didn’t need to provide evidence in this thread, right? Because… well, you know.


One is required to present evidence. It just appears to be optional that this evidence have any relationship to reality. 71% can be 80%. The human proteome can consist of 400,000 proteins. We only understand 1.5% of the genome. War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength.


It’s particularly difficult to do a direct comparison when chimps don’t really speak. Of course, there are some people who don’t either, and seem perfectly content with just flinging their poo in disapproval. I think it’s important to also note that this does not make them non-human, or in any way justify mistreatment or diminish their value as human individuals. Among other things because I also don’t think animals are somehow deserving or acceptable targets for mistreatment. Severely cognitively impaired people still deserve the best care and respect we can give each other, regardless of how their cognitive capacities compare to our closest primate cousins.

That sounds like a hypothesis, and one that is misleadingly construed. Comparing (based on preconceptions) an average chimps to outlier humans is apples to oranges. Also it’s a prejudiced assessment, as humans with severe mental disabilities usually have far more linguistic capability that even the smartest of the great apes, but the implication is that this is not the case.

That’s fine to have such a hypothesis I suppose, but we shouldn’t take it as finding of science, or even a fair summary of our understanding.

No, it’s humans to chimps. By definition it’s a comparison of two non-identical things(and what “preconceptions” are you talking about?). Why is it misleadingly construed?

If you’re capable of saying that, in your own mere opinion, humans are vastly more cognitively capable than chimps so much so that there’s some supposed vast gulf between them, then how is that a more legitimate or less misleadingly construed mere hypothesis, than to argue against it?

This is not about how usually people with severe mental disabilities are capable of linguistics, but the overlap at the extremes regardless of the frequency found at those extremes. No predjudice needs ender the picture here.


Comparing an average in one group to an extreme in another is usually bad, unless your goal is to demonstrate the range of one group is continuous with the average of the other. As that is exactly what I was asked to do, I think it is reasonable.

I’ll assume you mean ‘non-human great apes’.

First, whether or not this is true depends on where one demarcates ‘severe’. As I said ‘most extreme’, and since those at the extreme end of intellectual disability are fully non-communicative, I think my point stands as I typed it.

Second, you are placing far too high a premium on language as the sole marker for intelligence, which is highly biased and unlikely to be representative of intelligence more generally.

Third, those humans at the extreme end of disability are likely to have received life-long intensive support in language development far beyond what almost any non-human ape would receive, which further biases an already biased metric.

Approached from a slightly different angle, do you disagree with either of the following:

  1. Average chimpanzees thrive in their environment (including complex behaviors requiring various forms of intelligence).
  2. Those at the extreme range of human intelligence (IQ<20) require continuous care and show little capacity for general function.

Because if not I don’t see a way of avoiding the conclusion that, given any reasonable (that is, not human-centered) standard of intelligence, the average of chimpanzee intelligence is contained within the range of human intelligence.

I agree that more work needs to be done to determine precisely where in that range chimpanzees are, and where their extremes might reach. This is unfortunately both an extremely difficult question to answer for reasons I’ve already described and an ethically troubling one for reasons that should be obvious given their level of sapience.

And again, I believe all of my comments to have been better substantiated than those I was responding to, so it is possible the wrong participant is being asked to provide evidence.


IQ values are intended to lie on a normal statistical distribution, with the mean being exactly 100 and the tails being symmetrical with a standard deviation of 15.

For a population of 7 billion, that gives ~14 who are 6 standard deviations from the mean, and have an IQ if above 190 or less than 10; and ~2 who are 6.66 standard deviations from the mean and have an IQ outside the range 0-200. So somewhere there is a person with a negative IQ.*

Chimps and gorillas are usually considered to have an IQ somewhere between 40 and 70, which is within the human range by definition.

(I learnt this after some ignorant YEC made a jibe about not thinking it was possible for anyone to have a -ve IQ. Since he was consistently wrong about everything, I checked - and found he was wrong about this too.)

*Nominations on a postcard to …


Chimp vs Human! | Memory Test

Ayumu the chimpanzee has made headlines around the world for his ability to beat humans on memory tests, in both speed and accuracy. Does Ayumu’s ability force us to reconsider our assumptions about human superiority to other primates?


In a human context, taking the numbers at face value and assuming that IQ is even a useful metric in the first place, that would put the average non-human great ape in the ‘mild to moderate’ range of intellectual disability. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were actually closer to us than that suggests, but our treatment of communication as the pinnacle of intelligence biases our evaluations of them.


Intended is a good word to use, because you would need to provide evidence that the distribution is symmetric and Gaussian all the way to 5 or 6 standard deviations. Gathering such evidence in a sound and ethical fashion would be extremely difficult.

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I’m absolutely certain that the distribution of intelligence levels is not symmetric and Gaussian - but it doesn’t matter, because IQ values are assigned based on intelligence, not derived directly from it.

Much like the indices 1,2,3,4,5,6 have a different distribution to the values 11.3, 12.7, 39.0, 66.2, 111.1, 453.2 but can still be assigned to them.