Andrew Ferguson reviews Wolfe’s Kingdom of Speech at Commentary
|October 21, 2016||Posted by News under language|
When The Kingdom of Speech, Tom Wolfe’s new book-length essay, was published in late summer, it received generally respectful reviews in the popular press, fitting for the Grand Old Man of Letters that Wolfe, through no fault of his own, has become.
This time around the notable exception was found in a ferociously negative review in the Washington Post. The reviewer was Jerry Coyne, a biologist from the University of Chicago and a volunteer border cop who patrols the perimeter where science and popular culture meet, making sure that scientists are accorded the proper deference. The Kingdom of Speech is deeply transgressive in this way. Wolfe makes sport of scientific pretensions generally and neo-Darwinian pretensions specifically, and Coyne, a neo-Darwinist to the soles of his Birkenstocks, isn’t going to let a mere journalist, or even a Grand Old Man of Letters, get away with it. And so: … More.
Tom Wolfe has committed the unforgivable sin, in The Kingdom of Speech, of diminishing Darwin. The cocktail set hasn’t quite sobered up enough yet to discover that he has, but vengeance is doubtless coming.
It tells us everything about the current state of affairs in evolutionary biology that diminishing Darwin is an unforgivable sin.
Any person whose accomplishments are correctly estimated can be diminished without a huge uproar. It’s the fakes that can’t.
For example. it’s possible to say that some of Shakespeare’s plays, doubtless written to pay the taxes and tolls, are forgettable. But it would be cruel to say that about Eliza Wanhope’s strenuous but childish effort for her creative writing class.
So, ultimate, in the age of rethinking evolution, where in the spectrum is Darwin?
See also: New Scientist: A balanced take on Tom Wolfe’s Kingdom of Speech
Oh dear, someone isn’t happy with Tom Wolfe’s Kingdom of Speech. A new dark age? Just because Wolfe skewers Chomsky’s pretensions and those of the Darwinians? My, my, we are getting very fragile already.
Can we talk? Language as the business end of consciousness
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