Intelligent Design language

Michael Egnor: How Noam Chomsky showed that humans are exceptional

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The retouched photo of Noam Chomsky is courtesy Wugapodes (CC BY 4.0). The photo of B.F. Skinner circa 1950 is courtesy Silly Rabbit (CC BY 3.0)

Whether or not that was his intention:

The behaviorist view was orthodoxy, until Chomsky exploded it. Writing as a graduate student in the mid-1950s, Chomsky observed that there are aspects of language acquisition that do not fit this paradigm. Language has semantics and syntax. While meanings of words (semantics) does seem to be acquired by a system of trial and reward, syntax (grammar and word order) does not arise this way.

Unlike the abundant evidence for trial and error acquisition of semantics in infancy (a baby in an English-speaking family learns to say “cat” when pointing at the house pet), there is not the slightest evidence for “trial and error” syntax acquisition in infancy. Very young children use correct grammar (syntax) from the very beginning of language development. This intrinsic knowledge of grammar happens for all languages, without exception. Babies are born knowing syntax and the syntax they know is common to all languages—what Chomsky called Universal Grammar. Chomsky pointed out that these structures cannot be learned by children by trial and error. Aside from the utter lack of evidence for a process of trial and error in studies of infant language, Chomsky observed that an infant could not really have the experience needed to explain syntax acquisition that way. Even young children inherently know and use grammar rules. They construct and understand sentences of such consistency, intricacy, and complexity that it is clear that they could not have acquired this knowledge merely through incidental daily experience with language.

Chomsky’s insight that language is an in-born “organ” unique to humans is of obvious relevance to our understanding of why humans are exceptional.

Michael Egnor, “Why linguist Noam Chomsky is a great scientist of our era” at Mind Matters News

Also by Michael Egnor on language:

The real reason why only human beings speak. Language is a tool for abstract thinking—a necessary tool for abstraction—and humans are the only animals who think abstractly.

and

How is human language different from animal signals? What do we need from language that we cannot get from signals alone?

3 Replies to “Michael Egnor: How Noam Chomsky showed that humans are exceptional

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related note, besides humans having an in-built capacity for syntax, language itself, because of syntax, also shows no sign that it gradually evolved from some ‘proto-language’:

    New paper suggests speech developed in a now-familiar form – March 31, 2015
    Excerpt: “The hierarchical complexity found in present-day language is likely to have been present in human language since its emergence,” says Shigeru Miyagawa, Professor of Linguistics,,,
    “Since we can find syntax within words, there is no reason to consider them as ‘linguistic fossils’ of a prior, presyntax stage,” Miyagawa adds.,,,
    Nobrega and Miyagawa write that a single word can be “internally complex, often as complex as an entire phrase,” making it less likely that words we use today are descended from a presyntax mode of speech.,,,
    “Hierarchical structure is present not only in single words, but also in compounds, which, contrary to the claims of some, are not the structureless fossilized form of a prior stage,” Miyagawa says.
    In their paper, Nobrega and Miyagawa hold that the same analysis applies to words in Romance languages that have been described elsewhere as remnants of formless proto-languages.,,,
    Miyagawa’s integration hypothesis is connected intellectually to the work of other MIT scholars, such as Noam Chomsky, who have contended that human languages are universally connected and derive from our capacity for using syntax.,,,
    http://phys.org/news/2015-03-p.....iliar.html

    The Illusionist – Daniel Dennett’s latest book marks five decades of majestic failure to explain consciousness. – 2017
    Excerpt: “So, for Dennett, language must have arisen out of social practices of communication, rooted in basic animal gestures and sounds in an initially accidental association with features of the environment. Only afterward could these elements have become words, spreading and combining and developing into complex structures of reference. There must then, he assumes, have been “proto-languages” that have since died away, liminal systems of communication filling up the interval between animal vocalizations and human semiotic and syntactic capacities.
    Unfortunately, this simply cannot be. There is no trace in nature even of primitive languages, let alone proto-languages; all languages possess a full hierarchy of grammatical constraints and powers. And this is not merely an argument from absence, like the missing fossils of all those dragons or unicorns that must have once existed. It is logically impossible even to reverse-engineer anything that would qualify as a proto-language. Every attempt to do so will turn out secretly to rely on the syntactic and semiotic functions of fully developed human language.”,,,
    – David Bentley Hart
    https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-illusionist

    As Chomsky noted in 2019, “The human language faculty is a species-specific property, with no known group differences and little variation. There are no significant analogues or homologues to the human language faculty in other species.”

    The Siege of Paris – Robert Berwick & Noam Chomsky – March 2019
    Excerpt: Linguists told themselves many stories about the evolution of language, and so did evolutionary biologists; but stories, as Richard Lewontin rightly notes, are not hypotheses, a term that should be “reserved for assertions that can be tested.”4
    The human language faculty is a species-specific property, with no known group differences and little variation. There are no significant analogues or homologues to the human language faculty in other species.5,,,
    How far back does language go? There is no evidence of significant symbolic activity before the appearance of anatomically modern humans 200 thousand years ago (kya).22,,,
    There is no evidence that great apes, however sophisticated, have any of the crucial distinguishing features of language and ample evidence that they do not.48 Claims made in favor of their semantic powers, we might observe, are wrong. Recent research reveals that the semantic properties of even the simplest words are radically different from anything in animal symbolic systems.49,,,
    Why only us?,,, We were not, of course, the first to ask them. We echo in modern terms the Cartesian philosophers Antoine Arnauld and Claude Lancelot, seventeenth-century authors of the Port-Royal Grammar, for whom language with its infinite combinatorial capacity wrought from a finite inventory of sounds was uniquely human and the very foundation of thought. It is subtle enough to express all that we can conceive, down to the innermost and “diverse movements of our souls.”
    https://inference-review.com/article/the-siege-of-paris
    Robert Berwick is a Professor in the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems at MIT.
    Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at MIT.

    This same ‘irreducibly complex’ syntax that is found for human language and that refuses to be reduced to evolutionary explanations. is also found in the ‘grammar’ of the genetic code.

    In fact, “The ‘grammar’ of the human genetic code is more complex than that of even the most intricately constructed spoken languages in the world.”

    Complex grammar of the genomic language – November 9, 2015
    Excerpt: The ‘grammar’ of the human genetic code is more complex than that of even the most intricately constructed spoken languages in the world. The findings explain why the human genome is so difficult to decipher –,,,
    ,,, in their recent study in Nature, the Taipale team examines the binding preferences of pairs of transcription factors, and systematically maps the compound DNA words they bind to.
    Their analysis reveals that the grammar of the genetic code is much more complex than that of even the most complex human languages. Instead of simply joining two words together by deleting a space, the individual words that are joined together in compound DNA words are altered, leading to a large number of completely new words.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....140252.htm

    Such findings should give Darwinists nightmares.

    Moreover, Dr. Chomsky is hardly alone. A who’s who list of leading experts in this area of language research joined Chomsky in 2014 and stated that they have “essentially no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and representations evolved.,,,”

    Leading Evolutionary Scientists Admit We Have No Evolutionary Explanation of Human Language – December 19, 2014
    Excerpt: Understanding the evolution of language requires evidence regarding origins and processes that led to change. In the last 40 years, there has been an explosion of research on this problem as well as a sense that considerable progress has been made. We argue instead that the richness of ideas is accompanied by a poverty of evidence, with essentially no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and representations evolved.,,,
    (Marc Hauser, Charles Yang, Robert Berwick, Ian Tattersall, Michael J. Ryan, Jeffrey Watumull, Noam Chomsky and Richard C. Lewontin, “The mystery of language evolution,” Frontiers in Psychology, Vol 5:401 (May 7, 2014).)
    Casey Luskin added: “It’s difficult to imagine much stronger words from a more prestigious collection of experts.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....92141.html

    The late best selling author Tom Wolfe was so taken aback by this honest confession from leading Darwinists that he wrote a book on the subject “The Kingdom of Speech”. Here is a general outline of his main argument in his book;

    “Speech is 95 percent plus of what lifts man above animal! Physically, man is a sad case. His teeth, including his incisors, which he calls eyeteeth, are baby-size and can barely penetrate the skin of a too-green apple. His claws can’t do anything but scratch him where he itches. His stringy-ligament body makes him a weakling compared to all the animals his size. Animals his size? In hand-to-paw, hand-to-claw, or hand-to-incisor combat, any animal his size would have him for lunch. Yet man owns or controls them all, every animal that exists, thanks to his superpower: speech.”
    —Tom Wolfe, in the introduction to his book, The Kingdom of Speech

    In other words, that humans should become ‘masters of the planet’ due to his unique ability to communicate information is completely contrary to the ‘survival of the fittest’ thinking that undergirds Darwinian thought.

    Although humans are fairly defenseless creatures in the wild compared to other creatures, such as lions, bears, sharks, etc.., nonetheless, humans have, completely contrary to Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ thinking, managed to become masters of the planet, not by brute force, but simply by our unique ability to communicate information and also to, specifically, infuse information into material substrates in order to create, i.e. intelligently design, objects that are extremely useful for our defense, basic survival in procuring food, furtherance of our knowledge, and also for our pleasure.

    What is more interesting still about the fact that humans have a unique ability to understand and create information, and have come to dominate the world through the ‘top-down’ infusion of information into material substrates, is the fact that, due to advances in science, we now know that both the universe and life itself are ‘information theoretic’ in their foundational basis.

    “The most fundamental definition of reality is not matter or energy, but information–and it is the processing of information that lies at the root of all physical, biological, economic, and social phenomena.”
    Vlatko Vedral – Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, and CQT (Centre for Quantum Technologies) at the National University of Singapore, and a Fellow of Wolfson College – a recognized leader in the field of quantum mechanics.

    It is hard to imagine a more convincing proof that we are ‘made in the image of God’, than finding both the universe and life itself are ‘information theoretic’ in their foundational basis, and that we, of all the creatures on earth, uniquely possess an ability to understand and create information, and have come to ‘master the planet’, not by the red in tooth and claw ‘brute force’ of Darwinian evolution, but precisely because of our ability to infuse information into material substrates.

    I guess a more convincing proof that we are made in the image of God could be if God Himself became a man, defeated death on a cross, and then rose from the dead to prove that He was God.
    And that happens to be precisely the proof claimed within Christianity.

    Shroud of Turin: From discovery of Photographic Negative, to 3D Information, to Quantum Hologram – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-TL4QOCiis

    The evidence for the Shroud’s authenticity keeps growing. (Timeline of facts) – November 08, 2019
    What Is the Shroud of Turin? Facts & History Everyone Should Know – Myra Adams and Russ Breault
    https://www.christianity.com/wiki/jesus-christ/what-is-the-shroud-of-turin.html

    Verses:

    Genesis 1:26
    And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

    John 1:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men.

  2. 2

    “The most fundamental definition of reality is not matter or energy, but information–and it is the processing of information that lies at the root of all physical, biological, economic, and social phenomena.”

    Do I even have to say it?

  3. 3
    Belfast says:

    Couldn’t disagree more.
    From Tom Wolfe “Kingdom of speech“
    In May of 2014, Chomsky, Tattersall, Berwick the data cruncher, Marc Hauser of the 2002 Recursion Three, plus four other eminenti—making eight in all— published a historic ten-thousand-word revelation entitled “The Mystery of Language Evolution.” Historic it was, but not in any triumphant sense. In fact, there had never been a scholarly paper quite like it. Here you had a delegation of some of the biggest names in the study of language, above all, Chomsky, running up a white flag of abject defeat and surrender … after forty straight years of failure. “In the last 40 years,” this eight-man jeremiad began— as we first heard on the opening pages of this book—“there has been an explosion of research on this problem as well as a sense that considerable progress has been made. We argue instead that the richness of ideas is accompanied by a poverty of evidence, with essentially no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and representations evolved.”
    No explanation how it EVOLVED. That it evolved was stlll the assumption.

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