Home » Intelligent Design, language, Mind » Human evolution: Evolution of language is mind, not biology, linguist writes

Human evolution: Evolution of language is mind, not biology, linguist writes

Noel Rude

Recently, we noted a scholarly attack on Quentin Atkinson and colleagues’ study of the origin of language. Atkinson claimed that language must have originated in southwest Africa because the languages spoken there have many sounds that supposedly dropped out of language the further away one got from the original.

His thesis is that language develops according to the same pattern as described by the theory of allopatric speciation in biology (later descendants have a smaller gene pool from which natural selection can select adaptations). Which assumes, in turn that the development of language proceeds according to natural laws that bypass conscious human preferences and adjustment to circumstances. Indeed, a companion study’s findings were said to support the view that the role of the innate human mind is “hugely oversold.”

Michael Cysouw and colleagues have dismissed it all as full of “suboptimal data, biased methodology, and unjustified assumptions.” The most notable unjustified assumption was the basic one, that languages became simplified the further one moved from southwest Africa. Responding to “Evolution of language study the controversy in science,” linguist Noel Rude – whose specialty is Northwest Native American languages – writes,

Khoisan languages of southern Africa really do have far and away the most complex sound systems on earth–lexical tones, clicks, everything. Those ingressive clicks, in fact, are found only in South Africa. To hear some of these sounds you might go to http://www.africanlanguages.org/khoesan.html and see if you can access any of Peter Ladefoged’s sound files hosted at the UCLA Phonetics Lab.

(For audio files of clicks, go here.)

So what does that mean? Quentin Atkinson’s theory was that small groups on the move fanning out from the original “Sprachbund” would tend not to evolve complex sound systems whereas the stay-at-homes would. The most far flung languages–the Polynesian–have the simplest of all sound systems–those of aboriginal Australia also qualify as simple. However, the native languages here in the Pacific Northwest (USA and British Columbia) may have the second most complex sound systems and they also are very far from South Africa. It was an interesting hypothesis but hardly provable on its own.

Comparative studies are a fairly exact science when dealing with dialect splits only a few thousand years old (the split between Greek and Sanskrit, for example) but become quite controversial beyond that. Then there is historical syntax. My old mentor T. Givón once proposed that Proto-World might have had a verb final (final in the clause) syntax and later Murray Gell-Mann and Merritt Ruhlen take up the theory.

The Proto-World theory seems to suggest that languages cannot just be invented, but that isn’t clear. Esperanto was invented using roots from a number of languages, but the same feat could have been done with words created from whole cloth (it just wouldn’t have been as easy for speakers of European languages to learn.)

Tolkien, himself a linguist, did it for his trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and for some people it caught on. Some words entered everyday English (“hobbit,” “orc”) through his work. When diminutive Flores man was found, the first skeleton was called the “hobbit lady” – and good luck to the person trying to trace that right back to Proto-World (complete with evolutionary psychology’s just-so explanations).

Something, perhaps, can be traced back to Proto-World, but the popularity, the instant recognition of the term “hobbit” owes everything to specific stuff that happened post-2000. Hence the folly of attempts at reconstruction in the absence of history.

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14 Responses to Human evolution: Evolution of language is mind, not biology, linguist writes

  1. If I understand the controversy, it’s not about vocabulary, which we can consciously create and do so, but about the grammatical structure of a language. Are all grammatical structures of human languages generated by an innate universal grammar, or do they develop independently of whatever innate linguistic structure that we might have.

  2. Hence the folly of attempts at reconstruction in the absence of history.

    Well, that’s a young-earth creationist sentiment if ever I heard one. “Never mind how much well-tested science says the Earth is old or that humans evolved from apelike ancestors, we can’t trust any inference from physical evidence about history ever, all we can trust is written documents, but only our written documents, not the written documents of other cultures and religions.”

  3. Nick states;

    or that humans evolved from apelike ancestors,

    And exactly how well tested is that historical idea Nick???

    The fossil record certainly isn’t as conducive to gradual neo-Darwinian evolution, human or otherwise, as neo-Darwinists have portrayed it to be:

    Here are some quotes by leading paleontologists on the true state of the fossil record:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/15dxL40Ff6kI2o6hs8SAbfNiGj1hEOE1QHhf1hQmT2Yg/edit

    Icon Of Evolution – Ape To Man – The Ultimate Deception – video
    http://vimeo.com/19080087

    “Fossil evidence of human evolutionary history is fragmentary and open to various interpretations. Fossil evidence of chimpanzee evolution is absent altogether”. Evolutionist Henry Gee, Nature 2001

    “We have all seen the canonical parade of apes, each one becoming more human. We know that, as a depiction of evolution, this line-up is tosh (i.e. nonsense). Yet we cling to it. Ideas of what human evolution ought to have been like still colour our debates.”
    Henry Gee, editor of Nature (478, 6 October 2011, page 34, doi:10.1038/478034a),

    The Ape To Man Drawings – Another Blatant Deception of Evolution – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4236845

    When we consider the remote past, before the origin of the actual species Homo sapiens, we are faced with a fragmentary and disconnected fossil record. Despite the excited and optimistic claims that have been made by some paleontologists, no fossil hominid species can be established as our direct ancestor.
    Richard Lewontin – Harvard Zoologist

    Evolution of the Genus Homo – Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences – Tattersall, Schwartz, May 2009
    Excerpt: “Definition of the genus Homo is almost as fraught as the definition of Homo sapiens. We look at the evidence for “early Homo,” finding little morphological basis for extending our genus to any of the 2.5–1.6-myr-old fossil forms assigned to “early Homo” or Homo habilis/rudolfensis.”
    http://arjournals.annualreview.....208.100202

    Man is indeed as unique, as different from all other animals, as had been traditionally claimed by theologians and philosophers. Evolutionist Ernst Mayr

    “Something extraordinary, if totally fortuitous, happened with the birth of our species….Homo sapiens is as distinctive an entity as exists on the face of the Earth, and should be dignified as such instead of being adulterated with every reasonably large-brained hominid fossil that happened to come along.”
    Anthropologist Ian Tattersall
    (curator at the American Museum of Natural History)

    etc.. etc.. etc..

    Moreover Nick, multiple lines of recent genetic evidence turns out to be very conducive to Theism and to be very antagonistic towards Atheism,,,

    Human Evolution? – The Compelling Genetic Evidence For Adam and Eve – Dr. Fazale Rana
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4284482/

    Peer-Reviewed Paper in Medical Journal Challenges Evolutionary Science and Inaccurate Evolution-Education – Casey Luskin – January, 2012
    Excerpt: DNA homology between ape and man has been reported to be 96% when considering only the current protein-mapping sequences, which represent only 2% of the total genome. However, the actual similarity of the DNA is approximately 70% to 75% when considering the full genome, including the previously presumed “junk DNA,” which has now been demonstrated to code for supporting elements in transcription or expression. The 25% difference represents almost 35 million single nucleotide changes and 5 million insertions or deletions.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....55221.html

    etc.. etc.. etc..

    Nick, here is another fairly recent ‘evolution friendly’ article that found the differences in the protein coding genes of the Y chromosome between chimps and Humans to ‘differ radically’:

    Recent Genetic Research Shows Chimps More Distant From Humans,,, – Jan. 2010
    Excerpt: A Nature paper from January, 2010 titled, “Chimpanzee and human Y chromosomes are remarkably divergent in structure and gene content,” found that Y chromosomes in humans and chimps “differ radically in sequence structure and gene content,” showing “extraordinary divergence” where “wholesale renovation is the paramount theme.”,,, “Even more striking than the gene loss is the rearrangement of large portions of the chromosome. More than 30% of the chimp Y chromosome lacks an alignable counterpart on the human Y chromosome, and vice versa,,,”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....shows.html

    A False Trichotomy
    Excerpt: The common chimp (Pan troglodytes) and human Y chromosomes are “horrendously different from each other”, says David Page,,, “It looks like there’s been a dramatic renovation or reinvention of the Y chromosome in the chimpanzee and human lineages.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....richotomy/

    And Nick, as far as present day evidence is concerned, and besides the fact that the modern synthesis of neo-Darwinism is in fact DEAD!, scientists cannot even demonstrate that the Darwinian mechanism can fix a single unambiguously beneficial mutation in a multicellular creature:

    Experimental Evolution in Fruit Flies (35 years of trying to force fruit flies to evolve in the laboratory fails, spectacularly) – October 2010
    Excerpt: “Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles.,,, “This research really upends the dominant paradigm about how species evolve,” said ecology and evolutionary biology professor Anthony Long, the primary investigator.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....ruit_flies

    etc.. etc.. etc..

    Go figure Nick!!! The evidence you claimed as ‘well tested’ for human evolution simply does not exist save for in your, and other neo-Darwinists, fertile, and wrong, imaginations!!!

  4. Can we please get a reference or references to this alleged “well-tested science” that demonstrates humans evolved from ape-like ancestors?

    Preferrably something from developmental biology or genetics that we can link to the transformations required.

  5. So similarities in skulls means we share a common ancestor and in no way can those similarities be due to convergent evolution nor a common design?

    But anyway I take your “response” to mean that we do NOT have any evidence from developmental biology nor genetics that we can link to the transformations required.

    So what it all boils down to is “well-tested science” = “It looks like we share a common ancestor with chimps”.

    Saying “evolutiondidit” is one thing Nick, sooner or later, people are going to want to know how. IOW your one big knock against ID is your own position’s downfall- that and you have to assume what it is you are trying to test.

  6. Nick isn’t TalkOrigin the site where Casey Luskin just recently disassembled their oft quoted ‘speciation’ FAQ, and revealed TalkOrigin as nothing more than a vacuous propaganda site?

    i.e. Here is a detailed refutation, by Casey Luskin, to TalkOrigins oft quoted, but severely misleading, site on the claimed evidence for observed macro-evolutionary events (speciation);

    Specious Speciation: The Myth of Observed Large-Scale Evolutionary Change – Casey Luskin – January 2012
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....55281.html

    Talk Origins Full of Claims but Short on Real Evidence – Casey Luskin – podcast – February 2012
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....8_59-08_00

    Here is part 2 of the podcast

    Talk Origins Speciation FAQ, pt. 2: Lack of Evidence for Big Claims – Casey Luskin – February 2012
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....9_41-08_00

    Moreover the ‘literature bluffing’ by neo-Darwinists is not limited to claims of observed speciation. In fact In the Dover trial, a theatrical ‘literature bluff’ was used at one point to decvieve people into thinking the Darwinists had any evidence:

    “A Masterful Feat of Courtroom Deception”: Immunologist Donald Ewert on Dover Trial – audio
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....1_03-08_00

    In this following podcast, Casey Luskin interviews microbiologist and immunologist Donald Ewert about his previous work as associate editor for the journal Development and Comparitive Immunology, where he realized that the papers published were comparative studies that had nothing to do with evolution at all.

    What Does Evolution Have to Do With Immunology? Not Much – April 2011
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....9_03-07_00

    The deception, (literature bluff), from neo-Darwinists at Dover, did not stop with immunology. It extended to every claimed example of the origin of functional genetic information;

    The NCSE, Judge Jones, and Bluffs About the Origin of New Functional Genetic Information – Casey Luskin – March 2010
    http://www.discovery.org/a/14251

  7. Language is just organized sounds to allow human thoughts to be expressed.
    animals probably could speak but they are not intelligent enough.
    Parrots can mimic us and so why not speak?
    Apes i think also have the tools etc

    The very primitive peoples of the world do not have inferior languages but rather they came from the general languages and simply atrophied.
    So they just use sounds in a more primitive way.
    They are extreme hics but not originally.

    People don’t actually have words but only segregated sound combinations .
    Then these combinations having an end are called words.

    We are made in the image and are ourselves mini gods in our thinking.
    Then we are put into a machine of the natural world called a body.
    So we can only makes sounds and simply make combinations of them and memorize then and agree on them.
    Then babel came and disagreement.

  8. Luskin’s refutation of TalkOrigins’ speciation article(s) was one of the more thorough intellectual beatdowns I’ve seen in quite a while. If these debates were judged like boxing matches, it’d be a first round knockout victory of Luskin.

    Highly recommended reading. Thanks for linking it, BA77.

  9. Nick as Joe made clear, regardless of the fossil record, which I hold evolutionists have severely misrepresented, your assertion that Humans evolved from Chimps must be bore out on a mechanistic level. i.e. You must clearly demonstrate, scientifically, that blind material processes can achieve what you adamantly claim. But the plain fact is that you have ZERO evidence that neo-Darwinian processes can generate even trivial levels of functional information, much less the massive amounts of highly integrated functional information that are needed to explain what you wish, a-priori, to be true;

    “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain – Michael Behe – December 2010
    Excerpt: In its most recent issue The Quarterly Review of Biology has published a review by myself of laboratory evolution experiments of microbes going back four decades.,,, The gist of the paper is that so far the overwhelming number of adaptive (that is, helpful) mutations seen in laboratory evolution experiments are either loss or modification of function. Of course we had already known that the great majority of mutations that have a visible effect on an organism are deleterious. Now, surprisingly, it seems that even the great majority of helpful mutations degrade the genome to a greater or lesser extent.,,, I dub it “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain.(that is a net ‘fitness gain’ within a ‘stressed’ environment i.e. remove the stress from the environment and the parent strain is always more ‘fit’)
    http://behe.uncommondescent.co.....evolution/

    Where’s the substantiating evidence for neo-Darwinism?
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1q-PBeQELzT4pkgxB2ZOxGxwv6ynOixfzqzsFlCJ9jrw/edit

    Now Nick, if you were truly fair, and really concerned with finding the truth in this matter, should I not readily expect you to admit to such a glaring poverty of foundational evidence for your preferred Darwinian scenario?,,, expect integrity instead of finding you fighting tooth and nail to conceal such damning evidence against your preferred case??? It simply does not follow for you to refuse to address your primary problem! i.e. functional information!, In fact Nick, if you were to honestly search the matter out, instead of playing deceptive games, you would find the information problem is acutely profound for neo-Darwinism! You see Nick it is found, quite contrary to neo-Darwinian thought, that ‘material particles’ reduce to transcendent information in quantum teleportation experiments, thus neo-Darwinism, since it is based on materialism, i.e. based on the presupposition that the transcendent information found in life simply ‘emerges’ from a material basis, cannot be the true explanation for where that transcendent information came from in life in the first place. i.e. it is not possible, not even in principle, for the ’cause’ of transcendent information to ‘emerge’ from a ‘material’ basis; Clearly, a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause must be supplied which is not within the materialistic neo-Darwinian framework to supply;

    Falsification Of Neo-Darwinism by Quantum Entanglement/Information
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1p8AQgqFqiRQwyaF8t1_CKTPQ9duN8FHU9-pV4oBDOVs/edit?hl=en_US

    This is not a trivial matter in the least, Nick, as far as the science itself is concerned. ,,, But you chose not to address this foundational evidence, which you have seen before, forthrightly, but instead have chosen to rely on the fossil record to try to make your case. But just how trustworthy is the fossil record that you have put such a ill founded hope in??? It turns out that the fossil record is not trustworthy at all! In this following video the neo-Darwinist in the video was so convinced that his preconception for neo-Darwinism was right that he actually took a power saw to a femur bone in Lucy (actually a cast of the bone) to make the bone look how he presupposed it ‘should’ look.

    Lucy – The Powersaw Incident – a humorous video showing how biased evolutionists can be with the evidence
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4032597

    Nick this following study revealed how Dr. Leakey’s preconceived Darwinian bias influenced him to produce a fraudulent fossil that mislead many scholars for years:

    “Dr. Leakey produced a biased reconstruction (of 1470/ Homo Rudolfensis) based on erroneous preconceived expectations of early human appearance that violated principles of craniofacial development,” Dr. Timothy Bromage
    http://www.geneticarchaeology......lieved.asp

    The following sites are sadly comical for revealing just how badly personal prejudice colors Darwinian interpretation of fossils in the field of paleoanthropology:

    Paleoanthropology
    Dr. Pilbeam also wrote the following regarding the theory of evolution and paleoanthropology :
    “I am also aware of the fact that, at least in my own subject of paleoanthropology, “theory” – heavily influenced by implicit ideas almost always dominates “data”. ….Ideas that are totally unrelated to actual fossils have dominated theory building, which in turn strongly influence the way fossils are interpreted”
    http://conservapedia.com/Evolu.....thropology

    Paleoanthropology
    Excerpt: In regards to the pictures of the supposed ancestors of man featured in science journals and the news media Boyce Rensberger wrote in the journal Science the following regarding their highly speculative nature:
    “Unfortunately, the vast majority of artist’s conceptions are based more on imagination than on evidence. But a handful of expert natural-history artists begin with the fossil bones of a hominid and work from there…. Much of the reconstruction, however, is guesswork. Bones say nothing about the fleshy parts of the nose, lips, or ears. Artists must create something between an ape and a human being; the older the specimen is said to be, the more apelike they make it…. Hairiness is a matter of pure conjecture.”
    http://conservapedia.com/Evolu.....thropology

    “We have all seen the canonical parade of apes, each one becoming more human. We know that, as a depiction of evolution, this line-up is tosh (i.e. nonsense). Yet we cling to it. Ideas of what human evolution ought to have been like still colour our debates.”
    Henry Gee, editor of Nature (478, 6 October 2011, page 34, doi:10.1038/478034a),

    The Truth About Human Origins:
    Excerpt: “It is practically impossible to determine which “family tree” (for human evolution) one should accept. Richard Leakey (of the famed fossil hunting family from Africa) has proposed one. His late mother, Mary Leakey, proposed another. Donald Johanson, former president of the Institute of Human Origins in Berkeley, California, has proposed yet another. And as late as 2001, Meave Leakey (Richard’s wife) has proposed still another.,,”
    http://books.google.com/books?.....8;lpg=PT28

    New findings raise questions about who evolved from whom
    Excerpt: The old theory was that the first and oldest species in our family tree, Homo habilis, evolved into Homo erectus, which then became us, Homo sapiens. But those two earlier species lived side-by-side about 1.5 million years ago in parts of Kenya for at least half a million years,,, The two species lived near each other, but probably didn’t interact with each other, each having their own “ecological niche,” Spoor said. Homo habilis was likely more vegetarian and Homo erectus ate some meat, he said. Like chimps and apes, “they’d just avoid each other, they don’t feel comfortable in each other’s company,” he said.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20178936/

    “But what is the basis for the human evolution thesis put forward by evolutionists? It is the existence of plenty of fossils on which evolutionists are able to build imaginary interpretations. Throughout history, more than 6,000 species of ape have lived, and most of them have become extinct. Today, only 120 species live on the earth. These 6,000 or so species of ape, most of which are extinct, constitute a rich resource for the evolutionists to build imaginary interpretations with.”

    A 2004 book by leading evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr stated that “The earliest fossils of Homo, Homo rudolfensis and Homo erectus, are separated from Australopithecus (Lucy) by a large, unbridged gap. How can we explain this seeming saltation? Not having any fossils that can serve as missing links, we have to fall back on the time-honored method of historical science, the construction of a historical narrative.”
    Misrepresentations of the Evidence for Human Evolutionary Origins:

    Thus Nick, you can insist to the contrary if you want, but the plain fact is that you have nothing but mush backing up your claims! Myself, I would be deeply ashamed if I had such blind adherence to such a bankrupt hypothesis as you seem to have!

  10. Robert @ 8: I’m willing to bet that you are not a linguist. I’m not either, but I’ve read enough to know that there’s at least one school of thought among linguists that would say that human languages are the output of an innate human structure involving various rules about how to form a language. I’m not sure how much of this idea is accepted among linguists. I’m pretty sure that no linguist thinks that there are any “primitive” languages.

  11. Bilbo I.
    i’m not a linguist.
    I don’t think they do think there are primitive languages or at least its not acceptable to say so because of the racial stuff.
    There is indeed no inferior but there is atrophy from primitive segregated people just as in nOrth america the backwards folks twist English into almost another language like in Tom Sawyer or something.

    There is no need ti invoke innate structures.
    They just miss the point that people are very intelligent , including children, with very complex thoughts from the start.
    There could not be a time where we only grunted.
    Quickly did sound combinations become agreed upon.
    I say this was in Eden and the in babel there was a sudden unnatural disagreement.
    Evolutionary thought corrupts understanding what language is.
    In fact its just what writing is.
    Sounds = agreed meaning=language and written symbols = for agreed sounds.
    Thats all it is.

  12. Robert – it would surely be better if you studied linguistics (and/or neurology) before stating confidently what language is or isn’t.

    It’s the 50th anniverary of John Glenn’s space flight, but I well remember a couple of years before that a filing clerk at my father’s office saying, with authority, “You can take it from me they’ll never get a man into space.”

    As my father said to him, “Why on earth should anyone take it from you?”

  13. What if the clerk said before the beatles break up there will be a man on the moon!!

    Ideas should be weighed on their evidence and reasoning and not on authority.
    Whats wrong with my explanation of language?
    I think i’m right but i’m open to criticism and want to be right.

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