The Kingdom of Speech From Dwight Garner at New York Times on Tom Wolfe’s The Kingdom of Speech:
Mr. Wolfe, now 85, shows no sign of mellowing. His new book, “The Kingdom of Speech,” is his boldest bit of dueling yet. It’s a whooping, joy-filled and hyperbolic raid on, of all things, the theory of evolution, which he finds to be less scientific certainty than “a messy guess – baggy, boggy, soggy and leaking all over the place,” to put it in the words he inserts into the mouths of past genetic theorists.
Scientists will be likely to shrug at Mr. Wolfe’s lucid if overexcited synthesis of other people’s ideas and respond this way: We’ll get there, in terms of sussing out speech, through the combined use of anatomy and physiology and biochemistry. The structures that support language don’t fossilize, so evidence is simply harder to come by. This is not something we will lose sleep over, no matter how much you pogo and spit in the Sid Vicious manner.More.
= In short, all is well. We will find a material explanation for immaterial things. Not only that, we will find 1000 explanations, each with the same credibility as the last. We will sideline anyone who questions the value of this direction. Life goes on.
No one familiar with the scene thinks this honeymoon with Wolfe will last. It’s more like this: The intelligentsia may even realize that Wolfe does mean to put Darwin alongside Andy Warhol as a cultural artifact (and isn’t just having a lark). But if they savaged him just now, directly over this book, they would only be attracting attention to its thesis and demonstrating fear. No, later they’ll turn on him like a rattlesnake grabbed by the tail. Chances are, on a pretext of something else.
The cultural (not science) influence of Darwinism is so powerful that many scholars have waited until the end of their lives to admit it’s a crock. But by that time, they are reaching beyond the media airheads, fourth-rate union-protected science teachers, and the enforcers of correctness.
Even the Royal Society can’t really hold an honest meeting on Darwinism’s shortcomings in accounting for evolution, it turns out, though the shortcomings are acknowledged.
This won’t end well. It’s one thing to embrace a wrong theory unknowingly but to back away from discussing acknowledged shortcomings is a sort of intellectual terminus.
See also: This time, Jerry Coyne is mad at NPR Weren’t hard enough on Tom Wolfe, author of The Kingdom of Speech
Chronicle Higher Ed review of Wolfe’s Kingdom of Speech: Prediction: Wolfe has damaged his reputation by blaspheming secular icons that are beyond reproach (Darwin, Chomsky) and thus will be remembered only among those who love facts and ideas.
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