Oh My Darwin! (Back to May/December)

Charles Brown CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Tue Nov 30 09:23:09 PST 1999

>>> Rakesh Bhandari <bhandari at phoenix.princeton.edu> 11/30/99 11:50AM
Pinker turns to something called genetic learning theory to show how language evolved as an adaptation. Maynard Smith seems to accept the argument as does Douglas Dennett. Somone who has actually studied linguistics tell me that Pinker is a faker. But I don't know the basis for his criticism.


Charles: Again, aren't all of biologists' hypotheses about the adaptive advantages of ALL traits of ALL species speculative ?

Anyway , the adaptive advantage of language is pretty obvious , no ? If we are sitting around the campfire at night, and you are able to tell me that you saw a pack of predators down by the river today, and so I don't go down by the river tomorrow and don't get ate, then there is potential adaptive advantage in that , no ? Or if we are hunting in a group and we use a complicated ambush and surround technique to get our prey, which technique would be impossible to execute without being taught it theoretically first through language, there is advantage , no ?

The specific language we use is passed on extrasomatically, not genetically. But this cultural institution has adaptive advantages. The proof that language is at least in part not genetic is the different languages around the world. No child is born able to speak a specific language, must be taught it. Children with the whole range of human genetic makeups can learn any particular language.


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