S/O Human thought and language acquisition


(Christy Hemphill) #41

I didn’t say that. I said a deaf person is born human with human cognitive capabilities. If the actual use of language (not just the cognitive capability to acquire language) is what makes you human, you are de-humanizing some humans. I have a problem with that, based on philosophical commitments, not “the dogma that humanity is equivalent to species.”

It is only the complexity of our language that differentiates us from animal communication. For example, we don’t understand how complex whale and dolphin communication is, because we don’t understand it.

Did you see the article posted on the BioLogos Facebook page today?

One of the major complaints of those who study animal semiotics and communication is that we look at other species communication and say “it isn’t like ours, so it’s not language.” Or we hone in on ways animals are like us. Human language does have some characteristics that make it distinctive from other species communication. But it is a fact that we generally evaluate all other species against the way we do things and the functions our species uses language for, we don’t and can’t objectively evaluate other species’ communication for all it accomplishes or its full complexity, because we aren’t part of their communities and can’t fully discern all that is going on.


(Christy Hemphill) #42

What do you do with the fact that some other primates have learned to communicate with human language to a degree comparable to a child or a cognitively impaired human. Ever hear of Kanzi?


(Shawn T Murphy) #43

Dear Steven,
I have describe one of the many cases that Caroline treated in her long, successful career. Yes, she was called in after the doctors had given up, because to them the child was a lost cause. None of their “scientific” treatments had the desired effect.

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. – [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle]

Steven you also seem to be underestimating the power of the mind over the body. Have you ever studied Robert Hoffmann’s Negative Love Syndrome work? The physiological requirement of love for a child is undeniable. Without love, the child will die. So, the child’s primal brain satisfies its need by creating often illogical scenarios. For example, if the child receives only abuse from its parent, then the child’s primal brain will recognize abuse as love to satisfy its survival need. Overcoming this childhood programming as an adult is very difficult.


(Mark D.) #44

Wouldn’t methodological naturalism favor that very assumption? In any science doing research to understand aspects of humanity, looking to confirm humanity’s special status with God would seem to be the equivalent of looking at cosmology or evolution for confirmation of Genesis.


(Dominik Kowalski) #45

I don´t think I agree, since psychological issues are in many cases not tracable to the neuronal or genetical level. So I think it is rather a rejection of reductionism, which I don´t see as necessarily belonging to the methodological naturalism in those subjects.


(Mark D.) #46

I agree with what you say. I certainly don’t think our psychology is reducible to the firing of neurons. But I still think that some neutral line of inquiry offers a better chance of finding out what we can than one that looks to confirm an existing assumption.


(Mitchell W McKain) #47

You seem to be equating language with communication, and it is not just a matter of complexity. There is not only the use of abstractions but also encoding ability of language which rivals (and surpasses) DNA in it’s unlimited potential to transmit information. This is what enables language to be the substrate in the self-organization we call the human mind which has all the characteristics of a living organism in its own right to rival that of biological life. But seeing as how it is not limited to the rule of no inheritance of acquired characteristics, its evolution proceeds much faster.

I would love it if the cetaceans rivaled us in intelligence and had something like language as we had considerable hope for all while I was growing up. But this isn’t panning out. In some ways what they do have is rather remarkable but the evidence isn’t supporting the idea this is language and there are reasons to believe their intelligence is not as high as we first supposed either. Apparently the cetaceans are able to communicate some of their sonar data with each other. It would be like an ability to send pictures of what we see to another person directly. Though now that I think about it we can do that to some degree indirectly with descriptive language. Thus it is largely about their need for a way of locating herd members in a 3d space. Furthermore, it seems that some of their brain to body mass ratio is due to the difficulty of breathing while they sleep in the water.

Yes, this has always been of considerable concern in science fiction as we contemplate encountering aliens. But it is demonstrable that it is not just a matter of being different because they do not even begin to rival us in the acquisition and communication of information. Because of this, the biggest changes in their way of life tends to come from us.

I believe I already answered that with my comment on pigs. To the degree that they can use language to communicate with us, they ARE human. If they can communicate comparable to a handicapped child then they should be treated as a handicapped child. The point is that I do not support any magical differentiation by inventing “souls” comparable to Carl Sagan’s dragon in the garage to distinguish human beings from animals. I will go with what is actually demonstrable.

Like other science fiction writers, the encounter with another sentient species is the sort of thing I think and dream about all the time. And I am not one who favors the idea of aliens who come all that way just kill us or take away what we have. The difficulties of the vast distances do not really support this idea. Far more believable are ideas of voracious alien life which simply consume everything in their path without the slightest intelligence whatsoever.


(Christy Hemphill) #48

No, I’m not. Language has a recognized definition and it does not apply to any known form of animal communication, although primates have learned to communicate with humans using human language. If you reread what I wrote, I never used the word language in reference to animal communication. I was comparing human communication, language being one aspect of human communication, to animal communication, an interesting field of research that is not fully understood. Linguistics is my field, Mitchell. You could give me a tiny bit of credit that I have mastered basic terms. :wink:

What research or theory are you basing the contention that language is the substrate of self-organization of the human mind? This would be highly contested by much of the recent research in cognitive linguistics.

I don’t understand what this means. There are certainly analogies between language evolution and biological evolution, but the mechanisms of change are fundamentally different.


(Mitchell W McKain) #49

Of course.

None. I am certainly not, nor ever have been a scientist in the area of psychology, sociology, biology or linguistics. I was in physics. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own ideas in the philosophical and theological discussion involving these issues.

So? And it is more than just analogy. It is really the same basic phenomenon of self-organization, learning and adaptation regardless of being in a different medium. The result is this very apparent duality of mind and body with a different set of needs, desires and inheritance (by which what has been learned is passed to the next generation). The basic similarities were enough for Dawkins to coin the terms “meme” and “memetic” to describe this similarity between the changes in biological world and the changes in the world of human thought. It is more than enough reason to leave behind both the naivety of the Descartian dualism and reactionary brain monism to propose the effective dualism of these two different types of life-organization. Again though… there is no pretense to science here… only philosophy and theology.


(Christy Hemphill) #51

Um. As you like to say, “Incorrect.”
The fact that language changes based on social pressures not environmental ones, that it is interdependent with human cultural constructs, and that it is transmitted socially not through reproduction makes language transmission and change fundamentally different phenomena than genetically based changes in populations.

I’m just saying that your philosophy is based on outdated premises about how language and thought are related.


(Mitchell W McKain) #52

I made no comment whatsoever with regards to the evolutionary change of language itself. But I also disagree that there is any line between social and environmental influences in evolutionary changes in biology – though you could say that is where we see some blindness in outdated evolutionary dogma that focuses exclusively on the evolution of the individual as if Daniel Boone was the end of the evolution of man. There is also communal evolution where the protection of the individual by the community essentially changes the effective environment to the community – and thus social pressures take the place of the environmental ones, but this does not alter the basic mechanism of evolution itself.

You are no doubt correct, but I also see evidence that your responses are also based on some outdated premises in different areas. That tends to be somewhat inevitable, and in such difference lies the value of dialogue.


(Jay Johnson) #53

I recall you correcting me on a similar point a few years ago…

Here is my short description of the interplay, with a neat graphic to illustrate:

The origins of language involved the interaction of three processes: biological evolution, socio-ecological evolution, and cultural evolution. Socio-ecological evolution best explains why humans speak. Ecological pressures such as climate change and foraging demands encouraged better forms of communication, and more complex social structures grew to cope with these pressures. Biological evolution explains how the bodily and neural architecture necessary for language originated, and cultural evolution explains how specific language subsystems, such as tense aspects and syntax, emerged and spread in a population. As linguist Luc Steels explains, “Increased social and ecological complexity promotes brain complexity and is enabled by increased linguistic capabilities. Linguistic complexity pushes biological complexity upwards and thrives on social and ecological complexity. So, we get a self-reinforcing spiral process in which different levels of evolution interact.”

Evolution%20of%20language


(system) #54

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