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New York Times on “What a tease!” Wolfe’s Kingdom of Speech

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Kingdom of Speech.jpgThe 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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2 Replies to “New York Times on “What a tease!” Wolfe’s Kingdom of Speech

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    of related note:

    Tom Wolfe on Language and Evolution – Michael Egnor – August 31, 2016
    Excerpt: Language is a beautiful example of the exercise of the immaterial human intellect. Wolfe raises the question about evolution of human language, and of course, while the brain structures necessary for human language may have “evolved” in some sense, our language ability itself, because it is an immaterial power, cannot evolve, but must be created.
    It is in Chomsky’s refusal to follow his own reasoning to that conclusion — that language is a created human ability — that he falls short. Yet his theory of universal grammar and recursion and of the necessity of language for thought are profound insights.
    It remains for us to follow the logic Chomsky has opened to us, and to acknowledge that our language abilities are created immaterial powers of the human soul.

    “Nothing in evolution can account for the soul of man. The difference between man and the other animals is unbridgeable. Mathematics is alone sufficient to prove in man the possession of a faculty unexistent in other creatures. Then you have music and the artistic faculty. No, the soul was a separate creation.”
    Alfred Russel Wallace – An interview by Harold Begbie printed on page four of The Daily Chronicle (London) issues of 3 November and 4 November 1910.

    “Either mathematics is too big for the human mind, or the human mind is more than a machine.”
    Kurt Gödel As quoted in Topoi : The Categorial Analysis of Logic (1979) by Robert Goldblatt, p. 13

    “The mechanical brain does not secrete thought “as the liver does bile,” as the earlier materialists claimed, nor does it put it out in the form of energy, as the muscle puts out its activity. Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day. “
    Norbert Weiner – MIT Mathematician – (Cybernetics, 2nd edition, p.132)

    “One of the things I do in my classes, to get this idea across to students, is I hold up two computer disks. One is loaded with software, and the other one is blank. And I ask them, ‘what is the difference in mass between these two computer disks, as a result of the difference in the information content that they posses’? And of course the answer is, ‘Zero! None! There is no difference as a result of the information. And that’s because information is a mass-less quantity. Now, if information is not a material entity, then how can any materialistic explanation account for its origin? How can any material cause explain it’s origin?
    And this is the real and fundamental problem that the presence of information in biology has posed. It creates a fundamental challenge to the materialistic, evolutionary scenarios because information is a different kind of entity that matter and energy cannot produce.
    In the nineteenth century we thought that there were two fundamental entities in science; matter, and energy. At the beginning of the twenty first century, we now recognize that there’s a third fundamental entity; and its ‘information’. It’s not reducible to matter. It’s not reducible to energy. But it’s still a very important thing that is real; we buy it, we sell it, we send it down wires.
    Now, what do we make of the fact, that information is present at the very root of all biological function? In biology, we have matter, we have energy, but we also have this third, very important entity; information. I think the biology of the information age, poses a fundamental challenge to any materialistic approach to the origin of life.”
    -Dr. Stephen C. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin-of-life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences.

    Intelligent design: Why can’t biological information originate through a materialistic process? – Stephen Meyer – video

    Recognising Top-Down Causation – George Ellis
    Excerpt: page 5: A:
    Causal Efficacy of Non Physical entities:
    Both the program and the data are non-physical entities, indeed so is all software. A program is not a physical thing you can point to, but by Definition 2 it certainly exists. You can point to a CD or flashdrive where it is stored, but that is not the thing in itself: it is a medium in which it is stored.
    The program itself is an abstract entity, shaped by abstract logic. Is the software “nothing but” its realisation through a specific set of stored electronic states in the computer memory banks? No it is not because it is the precise pattern in those states that matters: a higher level relation that is not apparent at the scale of the electrons themselves. It’s a relational thing (and if you get the relations between the symbols wrong, so you have a syntax error, it will all come to a grinding halt). This abstract nature of software is realised in the concept of virtual machines, which occur at every level in the computer hierarchy except the bottom one [17]. But this tower of virtual machines causes physical effects in the real world, for example when a computer controls a robot in an assembly line to create physical artefacts.
    Excerpt page 7: The assumption that causation is bottom up only is wrong in biology, in computers, and even in many cases in physics,,,,
    The mind is not a physical entity, but it certainly is causally effective: proof is the existence of the computer on which you are reading this text. It could not exist if it had not been designed and manufactured according to someone’s plans, thereby proving the causal efficacy of thoughts, which like computer programs and data are not physical entities.

    The following video and articles are very suggestive as to providing almost tangible proof for God ‘speaking’ reality into existence:

    Evan Grant: Making sound visible through cymatics – video

    Phonons are just lattice vibrations, but we imagine them as particles that carry this vibrational energy in a similar manner to photons i.e. they are discrete and quantized.,,  The allowed frequencies of propagation wave are split into an upper branch known as the optical branch, and a lower branch called the acoustical branch.

    Why do phonons and photons have such similar names? – July 22, 2013
    “Phonons” were named in analogy to “photons”.  The prefix “photo-” means “light”, and “phono-” means “sound”.  The suffix “-on” means “particle”.  That one isn’t Latin, but it is pretty standard.  Photons are the smallest possible excited states of the electromagnetic field and are the smallest unit of light, while phonons are the smallest possible excited states of the mechanical system made up of atoms in a crystal and are the smallest possible unit of sound.

  2. 2
    economicfreedom says:

    >”…our language ability itself, because it is an immaterial power, cannot evolve, but must be created.”

    I’m an admirer of Tom Wolfe’s but I disagree with that assertion. As philologists and writers of the past (e.g., Max Muller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Anatole France, et al.) have pointed out, languages, both western and eastern, show at least one common, startling similarity suggesting a kind of non-material evolution: i.e., words that presently signify an inner, mental state or action used to refer to an outer, physical state or action — or (as Owen Barfield has pointed out) the same word in the distant past referred to *both* an outer state *and* an inner state, suggesting that the highly focused, subjective experience of “self-consciousness” we experience today was diffuse in the past, and that the history of language and meaning are most clearly explained by what Barfield calls an “evolution of consciousness”; from “mere” consciousness, precipitating to a sharply defined experience of “waking self-consciousness”; and that this evolution is apparent in a careful study of the history of the meaning of words.

    As far as a non-material, mental event like language is concerned, there might be a third alternative to the binary choice between “materialistic evolution” and “created whole and handed down to us”; and that is, humans *participate* in their own evolution of consciousness by means of consciously altering existing meanings of words. Barfield puts it this way: Man…

    “…has had to wrestle his subjectivity out of the world of his experience by polarizing that world gradually into a duality.”

    Language was the primary tool for creating this experience of a duality; a self “inside the head”, and complementary to that, a material world “outside the head.”

    For more on Barfield’s thoughts on language, mind, and evolution of consciousness, see: “Speaker’s Meaning”; “Poetic Diction”; and “Saving the Appearances — A Study in Idolatry”. For some historical context, see Emerson’s essay, “Nature”; specifically, the section on language:

    “Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. *Right* means *straight*; *wrong* means *twisted*. *Spirit* primarily means *wind*; *transgression*, the *crossing of a line*; *supercilious*, the *raising of the eyebrow*. We say the heart to express emotion, the head to denote thought; and thought and emotion are words borrowed from sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature.”

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