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Michael Egnor: The Real Reason Why Only Human Beings Speak

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Dr. Egnor explains, “Language is a tool for abstract thinking—a necessary tool for abstraction—and humans are the only animals who think abstractly”:

In his discussion of why only humans have language, science writer Tom Siegfried gets a lot right, but he misses the crucial reason. … Siegfried is right that many non-human animals have the physiological apparatus needed to form words. Yet they have no language. They can make and respond to signs—gestures, grunts and the like. A dog, for example, can respond appropriately to simple words directed at him (“Sit!” “Fetch!”). But all animal communication is symbols, that is, signals that point directly to an object. In this case, the object is a simple expected action the animal is to perform immediately.

What animals cannot do is communicate using abstractions. They cannot use designators,—words employed abstractly as language. For example, a dog can be trained, by reward and punishment, to stay when told, “Stay!” He associates the sound “s-t-a-y” with a behavior and performs the behavior. But he doesn’t know what you mean when you say “Let’s stay a bit longer on the beach,” “He extended his stay in Peru,” or “The judge issued a stay of the eviction order.” Animals can only think concretely. More.

Michael Egnor is a neurosurgeon, professor of Neurological Surgery and Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Neurological Surgery, Stonybrook School of Medicine

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See also: Why speech is unique to humans

4 Replies to “Michael Egnor: The Real Reason Why Only Human Beings Speak

  1. 1
    vmahuna says:

    Well, I don’t know about YOUR dog, but MY dog understands what “Do you want to go look in the MAILBOX?” means. He KNOWS it means, “we’re gonna walk all the way to the end of the driveway and smell all dog pee on that post thingie’. He also understands the more general question, “Outside?”, which he answers in a bouncing off the walls, overgrown puppy kinda way. And of course dogs are the only animals that will look where you POINT, having learned that the finger itself is NOT the important piece of information. And from their side, they learn how to do Puppy Eyes, which is not the head-hanging of submission nor the barkly “Yup, yup, yup. Get that dinner bowl down here NOW!”

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    From the “Why Speech Is Unique To Humans” thread:

    Much like the unchanging rules for mathematics are not reducible to any possible materialistic explanation but must necessarily exist in a transcendent immaterial Platonic Realm, these unchanging rules for grammar and/or syntax must also necessarily exist in a transcendent immaterial Platonic Realm:,,,

    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
    https://uncommondescent.com/evolution/why-speech-is-unique-to-humans/#comment-673483

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Of semi-related note: Most everyone is familiar with the beginning of Genesis where God spoke light into existence:

    Genesis 1:1-3
    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

    “‘Let There Be Light’ should actually be translated ‘Be Light!’. In other words, it was not a request.”
    Danny Ben-Gigi – Hebrew Essentials

    And as would be a priorily expected on Theistic presuppositions, photons and phonons are found to have a very deep connection:

    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.
    http://www.askamathematician.c.....lar-names/

    Similarities between photons and phonons
    * Both are Bosons, meaning that arbitrarily many can exist in the same quantum state
    * Both have wave-particle duality, behaving like a wave in some contexts and a particle in others. For example, the existence of lattice waves in a crystalline solid is derived by solving a wave equation, but when these lattice waves collide with each other and with other particles (e.g. electrons) they behave like particles.
    https://www.quora.com/What-are-phonons-Are-they-related-with-photons-And-how-do-they-transmit-heat

    Photons and Phonons
    Excerpt: You see, the primary Planck-Law (E=hf) is metaphysical and independent on the inertia distribution of the solid states.,,,
    Both, photon and phonon carry massequivalent energy m=E/c2=hf/c2.
    The matter-light interaction so is rendered electromagnetically noninertial for the photon and becomes acoustically inertial for the phonons; both however subject to Bose-Einstein stochastic wave mechanics incorporative the Planck-Law.,,
    Where, how and why does E=hf correctly and experimentally verifiably describe the quantum mechanics of energy propagation?,,,
    – per TonyB

    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. 
    https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_is_the_difference_between_an_optical_and_an_acoustic_phonon

    In fact, engineers have now made sound with a high enough frequency to bend light on a computer chip.

    Engineers make sound (with high enough frequency) to bend light on a computer chip – Nov 26, 2014
    Excerpt: “Our breakthrough is to integrate optical circuits in the same layer of material with acoustic devices in order to attain extreme strong interaction between light and sound waves,”,,
    The researchers used the state-of-the-art nanofabrication technology to make arrays of electrodes with a width of only 100 nanometers (0.00001 centimeters) to excite sound waves at an unprecedented high frequency that is higher than 10 GHz, the frequency used for satellite communications.
    “What’s remarkable is that at this high frequency, the wavelength of the sound is even shorter than the wavelength of light. This is achieved for the first time on a chip,”,,
    They are investigating the interaction between single photons (the fundamental quantum unit of light) and single phonons (the fundamental quantum unit of sound). The researcher plan to use sound waves as the information carriers for quantum computing.
    http://phys.org/news/2014-11-loud-chip.html

    Of related note:

    Evan Grant: Making sound visible through cymatics – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsjV1gjBMbQ

    As well, besides a deep connection with energy, sound is also now found to have a very deep, ‘non local’, connection with life itself:

    (“Delocalized” Quantum) Sound-like bubbles whizzing around in DNA essential to life – Jun 1, 2016
    Excerpt: new research in the UK has detected sound-like bubbles in DNA that is essential to life and which will change the fundamental understanding of biochemical reactions inside a cell.
    The research,,, describes how double-stranded DNA splits using delocalized sound waves that are the hallmark of quantum effects.,,,
    Dedicated enzymes responsible for making new proteins read the code by splitting the double strand in order to access the information.
    One of the big outstanding questions of biology has been how these enzymes find the initial hole or “bubble” in the double strand to start reading the code.,,,
    researcher Gopakumar Ramakrishnan said: “It had been proposed by theoreticians that such DNA bubbles might behave like sound waves, bouncing around in DNA like echoes in a cathedral. However, the current paradigm in biology is that such sound-like dynamics are irrelevant to biological function, as interaction of a biomolecule with the surrounding water will almost certainly destroy any of these effects.”,,,
    Researchers in the Ultrafast Chemical Physics group carried out experiments with a laser that produces femtosecond laser pulses about a trillion times shorter than a camera flash.
    This allowed them to succeed in the detection of sound-like bubbles in DNA. They could show that these bubbles whiz around like bullets in a shooting gallery even in an environment very similar to that which can be found in a living cell.
    Thomas Harwood said, a researcher said: “The sound waves in DNA are not your ordinary sound waves. They have a frequency of a few terahertz or a billion times higher than a human or a dog can hear!”
    Professor Klaas Wynne, leader of the research team and Chair in Chemical Physics at the University of Glasgow, said, “The terahertz sound-like bubbles we have seen alter our fundamental understanding of biochemical reactions. There were earlier suggestions for a role of delocalized quantum phenomena in light harvesting, magneto reception, and olfaction.”
    The new results now imply a much more general role for sound-like delocalized phenomena in biomolecular processes.
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.....539817.cms

    Symphony of Life, Revealed: New Imaging Technique Captures Vibrations of Proteins, Tiny Motions Critical to Human Life – Jan. 16, 2014
    Excerpt: To observe the protein vibrations, Markelz’ team relied on an interesting characteristic of proteins: The fact that they vibrate at the same frequency as the light they absorb.
    This is analogous to the way wine glasses tremble and shatter when a singer hits exactly the right note. Markelz explained: Wine glasses vibrate because they are absorbing the energy of sound waves, and the shape of a glass determines what pitches of sound it can absorb. Similarly, proteins with different structures will absorb and vibrate in response to light of different frequencies.
    So, to study vibrations in lysozyme, Markelz and her colleagues exposed a sample to light of different frequencies and polarizations, and measured the types of light the protein absorbed.
    This technique, , allowed the team to identify which sections of the protein vibrated under normal biological conditions. The researchers were also able to see that the vibrations endured over time, challenging existing assumptions.
    “If you tap on a bell, it rings for some time, and with a sound that is specific to the bell. This is how the proteins behave,” Markelz said. “Many scientists have previously thought a protein is more like a wet sponge than a bell: If you tap on a wet sponge, you don’t get any sustained sound.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....084838.htm

    The Real Bioinformatics Revolution – Proteins and Nucleic Acids ‘Singing’ to One Another?
    Excerpt: the molecules send out specific frequencies of electromagnetic waves which not only enable them to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ each other, as both photon and phonon modes exist for electromagnetic waves, but also to influence each other at a distance and become ineluctably drawn to each other if vibrating out of phase (in a complementary way).,,, More than 1,000 proteins from over 30 functional groups have been analysed. Remarkably, the results showed that proteins with the same biological function share a single frequency peak while there is no significant peak in common for proteins with different functions; furthermore the characteristic peak frequency differs for different biological functions.,,, The same results were obtained when regulatory DNA sequences were analysed.
    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/TheRea.....lution.php

    Verse:

    Matthew 24:35
    Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

  4. 4
    ET says:

    Can someone please help me out here:

    Animals have material souls, without an immaterial aspect. It is the nature of, and the differences between, animal and human souls that provide animals with symbolic communication and grace man with language.

    What is a “material soul”?

    I also think that Dr. Egnor would be well suited for a field trip, like Thoreau. Go rent a cabin in the woods near a lake and streams. Go out each and every day, observe, take notes and pictures.

    Other animals are not the rubes some humans mistake them to be.

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