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Biochemist: Why Only Humans Could Learn To Use Fire

Many animals display intelligence but controlling fire requires other advantages as well

Biochemist Michael Denton contends, in an excerpt from Chapter 11 in his The Miracle of Man (2022), that humans were designed to use fire. Here is some of his evidence that “only a special type of unique being very close to our own biological design could have taken the first and vital step to technological enlightenment, fire-making”:

From first principles, a creature capable of creating and controlling fire must be an aerobic terrestrial air-breathing species, living in an atmosphere enriched in oxygen, supportive of both respiration and combustion. This fire-maker must have something like human intelligence to accomplish the task, and while it is true that other species — e.g., dolphins, parrots, seals, apes, and ravens — possess intelligence and remarkable problem-solving abilities, as far as is known, no other organism comes close to the intelligence of humans.

The species in question also needs to be mobile and possess high acuity vision in order to be able to create and master fire, and follow the subsequent route via metallurgy to an advanced technology.

Being a social species possessed of language would also have been essential for the peripheral tasks associated with the regular making and controlling of fire among small tribal groups, including the hewing and collecting of the necessary wooden fuels to initiate and sustain the fire. While many other species are social, none possesses a communication system remotely as competent as human language for transmitting information, including abstract concepts.

Michael Denton, “Man, with His Special Place in Nature, Was Designed to Use Fire” at Evolution News (May 24, 2022)

In addition to being terrestrial, air breathing, sighted, mobile, intelligent, social, and possessed of language, a fire-maker also needs the right anatomy. And in keeping with the anthropocentric claim, only humankind of all the creatures on Earth is properly endowed with the right build to make and control fire. Neither a giraffe, nor an elephant, nor a parrot, nor a cat, nor a chimp nor any other terrestrial organism has the right anatomy to master fire, none apart from humans.

Michael Denton, “Man, with His Special Place in Nature, Was Designed to Use Fire” at Evolution News (May 24, 2022)

Not even chimps? Well no, he says, because…

Only the great apes, our cousins, come close. Yet the hand of the chimp and gorilla, although possessing a partially opposable thumb, is far less adapted to fine motor movement and control than is the human hand with its fully opposable thumb. Although some chimps exhibit a remarkable manual dexterity for certain tasks, none can match the manual dexterity of the human hand. And this is obvious on watching chimps at a “tea party” at the zoo. A dining task we hardly think about proves comically challenging for them due to their limited manual dexterity.

Michael Denton, “Man, with His Special Place in Nature, Was Designed to Use Fire” at Evolution News (May 24, 2022)

Also, he notes, only humans are fully bipedal. If we needed our hands for knuckle-walking, they would likely be much less capable of manipulating fine tools and might not even try to:

Knuckle-walking:

You can read the rest of the excerpt here.


You may also wish to read: Yes, the human brain is the most complex thing in the universe. But that’s not even the most remarkable thing about our brains. Our complex brains mirror the universe — 27 orders of magnitude bigger — yet some humans function with only half a brain or split brains.


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Biochemist: Why Only Humans Could Learn To Use Fire