Rare Baboon Species Smarter, More Evolved Than Humans

By Loris Wooly

A team of European scientists has demonstrated that a rare and little-known species of baboon is more intelligent and more advanced from an evolutionary standpoint than human beings.

The baboon species (Homo sapiens plus), native to northeast Africa and the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, performed better than people on a series of tests measuring cognitive ability, emotional maturity, moral imagination, political sophistication, and environmental appreciation.

“It’s humbling to track and study a primate that in most ways is superior to me and my research assistants,” said Gloria Kipunji, director of field biology at London College and an expert in comparative zoology. “But we came out looking better than a lot of other people. For example, in our tests we compared the baboons to a group of 22 million randomly selected American adults, and the baboons outperformed the Americans by substantial margins in all seven categories.”

In one test, measuring self-discipline and socialization, 14 baboons and 14 Americans were gathered in a large room and each given a smartphone and a bag of M&M’s. The participants were told they could eat the M&M’s if, in the next 30 seconds, they neither sent nor answered any text messages. After receiving these instructions, the baboons sat quietly while the Americans tore open the M&M’s with their teeth and texted friends to come and get free candy.

In a test measuring political aptitude, 16 baboons on a grassy knoll were asked to choose a leader from a slate of five candidates; while 16 Americans on an adjacent grassy knoll did the same thing. After deliberating for two days, the baboons chose a humane, thoughtful and intelligent leader. They selected a candidate who was well-read in history, literature, and philosophy; who was somewhat literate in science and so was capable of sifting evidence, analyzing facts and understanding arguments; who was also wise, honest and incorruptible, dedicated above all to the long-term health and integrity of the species and the planet that all life depends on.

After deliberating for three days, the Americans chose Lindsey Graham.