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Scientific American: Chomsky largely overturned

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From Paul Ibbotson and Michael Tomasello at Scientific American:

The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique human ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance. More.

It’s hard not to see this in relation to Tom Wolfe’s recent The Kingdom of Speech, where he sends up Chomsky along with Darwin.

See also: Tom Wolfe on how speech let humans rule planet

and

Jerry Coyne doesn’t like Tom Wolfe making fun of the Darwin legend

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9 Replies to “Scientific American: Chomsky largely overturned

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Here is a gem of a reference I picked up from Wolfe’s book (pg 70):

    Sociobiology: The Art of Story Telling – Stephen Jay Gould – 1978 – New Scientist
    Excerpt: Rudyard Kipling asked how the leopard got its spots, the rhino its wrinkled skin. He called his answers “Just So stories”. When evolutionists study individual adaptations, when they try to explain form and behaviour by reconstructing history and assessing current utility, they also tell just so stories – and the agent is natural selection.
    Virtuosity in invention replaces testability as the criterion for acceptance.
    https://books.google.com/books?id=tRj7EyRFVqYC&pg=PA530

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Methinks that they, like Chomsky, because of their shared materialistic philosophy, are not fully grasping the importance of language in the hierarchy of reality. In the article they stated:

    Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory of Language Learning – September 7, 2016
    Excerpt: More important, this theory proposes that language recruits brain systems that may not have evolved specifically for that purpose and so is a different idea to Chomsky’s single-gene mutation for recursion.
    http://www.scientificamerican......-learning/

    Basically they, like Chomsky, are looking for a materialistic explanation for language. And because they are looking for a materialistic explanation for language then they too will fail to find a satisfactory materialistic explanation for language!

    Indeed, it is as if materialists don’t have the first clue what their chosen atheistic philosophy actually entails. i.e. If materialism is true, then words can’t have any true meaning. Alex Rosenberg, an atheist who is far more consistent in following the implications of his materialism than most atheists are, demonstrates as much in his book entitled “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality”. In a debate, Dr. Craig called Dr. Rosenberg on the inconsistency of ‘naturalistic’ logic. (as if logic itself could even be grounded in materialism in the first place)

    2.) The argument from meaning
    1. If naturalism is true, no sentence has any meaning. (Rosenberg’s own claim)
    2. Premise (1) has meaning.
    3. Therefore naturalism is not true.

    3.) The argument from truth
    1. If naturalism is true, there are no true sentences (Rosenberg’s own claim).
    2. Premise (1) is true.
    3. Therefore naturalism is not true.
    Is Metaphysical Naturalism Viable? – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzS_CQnmoLQ

    In the following article, Dr. Egnor nails the reason why all materialistic explanations proffered for human language will ultimately fail.

    Tom Wolfe on Language and Evolution – Michael Egnor – August 31, 2016
    Excerpt: Our language “organ” is an immaterial ability. As I have argued previously, human language is an abstract mapping of designators (words) to objects such as particular things and universal concepts. Abstract thought is inherently immaterial, because abstraction entails universal concepts, which cannot be particular things and thus cannot be in or part of the brain. Normal function of the brain is necessary for abstract thought, but the brain is not sufficient for abstract thought. Abstraction — exercise of intellect and will — is an immaterial power of human beings. Language is an immaterial human ability.,,,
    Immaterial thought, because it cannot by its nature be caused by particular matter, requires a system of designators (words) for its exercise. The universal grammar that structures our thoughts and language is the correspondence between our language and metaphysical reality, which our immaterial language organ is designed to allow us to contemplate.
    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.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....03105.html

    And whereas atheistic materialism cannot even begin to explain the immaterial ability of human language, Theism has a very different view of language. Indeed, Theism holds that God created through speech:

    Genesis 1
    3 And God said, Let,,,
    6 And God said, Let,,,
    9 And God said, Let,,,
    14 And God said, Let,,,
    20 And God said, Let,,,
    24 And God said, Let,,,
    26 And God said, Let,,,

    And the Theist actually has some fairly strong evidence suggesting that sound and material reality are connected at a very deep fundamental level

    “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
    – Nikola Tesla

    Amazing Resonance Experiment! – video (varying geometric patterns correlate to changing frequencies)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvJAgrUBF4w

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

    Sound waves precisely position nanowires – June 19. 2013
    Excerpt: The smaller components become, the more difficult it is to create patterns in an economical and reproducible way, according to an interdisciplinary team of Penn State researchers who, using sound waves, can place nanowires in repeatable patterns for potential use in a variety of sensors, optoelectronics and nanoscale circuits.
    http://phys.org/news/2013-06-p.....wires.html

    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

    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

    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/

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    And unlike the now falsified materialistic presupposition of material particles randomly bumping into each other in order to achieve communication in the cell, (Bruce Alberts, Carl Zimmer), there is now found to be a very sophisticated phonon/photon method of communication in the cells of our bodies

    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

    (“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

    And while it is a popular saying, when we are growing up, to say, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’, the fact of the matter is that negative words are found to have pronounced negative effects and positive words are found to have pronounced positive effects:

    “A study done by Positive Psychology further elaborates on the effects of using positive words. A group of adults aged 35-54 were given a nightly task of writing down three things that went well for them that day, including an explanation of why. The following three months showed their degrees of happiness continued to rise, and their feelings of depression continued to decline. By focusing and reflecting on positive ideas and emotions, we can improve our overall well-being and increase functionality of our brain.”
    http://thespiritscience.net/20.....our-brain/

    The Healing Power of Positive Words By Linda Wasmer Andrews – Jun 08, 2012
    Excerpt: When researchers analyzed the autobiographies of famous deceased psychologists, they found that those who used lots of active positive words (such as lively, enthusiastic, happy) tended to outlive their other colleagues.
    Within this category of words, the biggest boost came from humor-related terms (such as laugh, funny, giggle), which were associated with living six years longer, on average. In contrast, passive positive words (such as peaceful, calm, relaxed) and negative words (such as worried, angry, lonely) didn’t affect longevity.
    http://health.yahoo.net/expert.....tive-words

    The Scary Power of Negative Words
    Excerpt: Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto performed some of the most fascinating experiments on the effect that words have on energy in the 1990’s. When frozen, water that’s free from all impurities will form beautiful ice crystals that look exactly like snowflakes under a microscope. Water that’s polluted, or has additives like fluoride, will freeze without forming crystals. In his experiments, Emoto poured pure water into vials labeled with negative phrases like “I hate you” or “fear.” After 24 hours, the water was frozen, and no longer crystallized under the microscope: It yielded gray, misshapen clumps instead of beautiful lace-like crystals. In contrast, Emoto placed labels that said things like “I Love You,” or “Peace” on vials of polluted water, and after 24 hours, they produced gleaming, perfectly hexagonal crystals. Emoto’s experiments proved that energy generated by positive or negative words can actually change the physical structure of an object.
    http://goop.com/the-scary-power-of-negative-words/

    That words can have such a pronounced effect on reality, and on us personally, should not really be all that surprising since words, besides carrying vibrational energy, also carry information. And as Dr. Egnor alluded to in his article, information is immaterial. And it this immaterial information that lies at the very foundation of physical reality and also lies at the very foundation of life itself:

    “it from bit” Every “it”— every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely—even if in some contexts indirectly—from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits. “It from bit” symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has a bottom—a very deep bottom, in most instances, an immaterial source and explanation, that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment—evoked responses, in short all matter and all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe.”
    – Princeton University physicist John Wheeler (1911–2008) (Wheeler, John A. (1990), “Information, physics, quantum: The search for links”, in W. Zurek, Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information (Redwood City, California: Addison-Wesley))

    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?
    Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.”
    Anton Zeilinger – a leading expert in quantum mechanics:
    http://www.metanexus.net/archi.....linger.pdf

    48:24 mark: “It is operationally impossible to separate Reality and Information”
    49:45 mark: “In the Beginning was the Word” John 1:1
    Prof Anton Zeilinger speaks on quantum physics. at UCT – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3ZPWW5NOrw

    “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.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover information, besides being foundational to physical reality is also found to be foundational to biological life.

    Information Enigma (Where did the information in life come from?) – – Stephen Meyer – Doug Axe – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA-FcnLsF1g

    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

    It is hard to imagine a more convincing proof that we are made ‘in the image of God’, than finding that 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’ precisely because of our ability infuse immaterial information into material substrates.
    I guess a more convincing evidence 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.
    But who has ever heard of such overwhelming evidence as that?

    Shroud of Turin: From discovery of Photographic Negative, to 3D Information, to Quantum Hologram – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/1119619634717635/?pnref=story

    Verses and Music:

    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.

    Words (Official Music Video) – Hawk Nelson
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bf_H7Lwl0FI

    Of supplemental note: At the 17:45 minute mark of the following Near Death Experience documentary, the Life Review portion of the Near Death Experience is highlighted, with several testimonies relating how every word, deed, and action, of a person’s life (all the ‘information’ of a person’s life) is gone over in the presence of God:

    Near Death Experience Documentary – commonalities of the experience – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2958DDp4WM

    Verse:

    Matthew 12:36-37
    “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    of note: as to my citing of Masaru Emoto’s work on ice crystals, I cannot find anywhere where his results were replicated and thus I can not personally stand behind his results. But I do still stand behind the claim for positive and negative words having pronounced effects on us personally since that particular line of evidence is corroborated by many different lines of evidence.

  6. 6
    Origenes says:

    Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.

    A cursory look combined with some simple logic informs us that “the ability to classify the world into categories … and to understand the relations among things” precedes the use of language. If that “finding” overturns Chomsky’s theory, then one cannot help but wondering why on Earth it “dominated linguistics for almost half a century”.

  7. 7
    ppolish says:

    How long until a SciAm article titled “Dawkins largely overturned”? I mean come on – a bit overdue? A bit.

    Blind unguided purposeless Watchmaker. Who believes that crud anymore? Ooops a Rolex. Seriously?

  8. 8
    polistra says:

    The important point here is that linguists are DOING REAL SCIENCE. Unlike most paid “scientists”, they are testing theories and QUICKLY ABANDONING the theories that don’t work. They’re not waiting for Kuhnian attrition.

    Even Chomsky is acting like a scientist, willingly revising his old theories and offering new ones. This behavior is ABSOLUTELY UNIQUE among academics.

  9. 9
    timothya says:

    Bornagain77:
    “of note: as to my citing of Masaru Emoto’s work on ice crystals, I cannot find anywhere where his results were replicated and thus I can not personally stand behind his results. But I do still stand behind the claim for positive and negative words having pronounced effects on us personally since that particular line of evidence is corroborated by many different lines of evidence.”
    Just out of interest, are you making an equivalence between yourself and a pool of water?

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