In connection with Michael Flannery’s revised and updated Intelligent Evolution: How Alfred Russel Wallace’s World of Life Challenged Darwinism, we are asked to consider human language as one example of the challenge:
In 2016 the late great journalist, novelist, and social commentator Tom Wolfe wrote The Kingdom of Speech and exposed Darwin’s unsolved riddle, or one of them anyway: namely, how did humans by means of natural selection alone develop language and sophisticated verbal communication? The answer: we didn’t. It was a product inherent in us, what Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin’s partner and challenger, said it was all along, an intrinsic part of human exceptionalism.
Until recently this fact about speech simply couldn’t be confirmed, at least until 2008 when Daniel L. Everett published his findings working with the Amazonian Pirahã people. What the Pirahã taught us is that people invented language. Evolution — whether by natural selection, kin selection, or some other selection — didn’t produce it. Darwin couldn’t explain human speech because he refused to find it in unique human capacities.
For Wolfe, this unique acquisition of speech by humans is telling. Just compare apes and humans at their greatest level playing field — at rest. While apes lay in crudely constructed leaf mats in the forest, people sleep on hi-tech mattresses surrounded by even higher-tech contrivances of modern convenience. Why the difference. It’s grunts versus speech. Wolfe exclaims, “Speech! To say that animals evolved into man is like saying that Carrera marble evolved into Michelangelo’s David. Speech is what man pays homage to in every moment he can imagine.”Evolution News, “Only Wallace’s “Intelligent Evolution” Can Explain the Kingdoms of Speech and Faith” at Evolution News and Science Today
Indeed. There is a whole history of people telling themselves that apes think and talk like people. Often the results are tragic for the apes.
See, for example:
But, in the end, did the chimpanzee really talk? A recent article in the Smithsonian Magazine sheds light on the motivations behind the need to see bonobos as something like an oppressed people, rather than apes in need of protection.
Can animal minds rival humans under the right circumstances? Are we just not being fair to animals, as some researchers think? Including apes as co-authors on a primatology research paper created quite a stir—among humans. The apes didn’t care.
Researchers: Apes are just like us! And we’re not doing the right things to make them start behaving that way…
Dolphinese: The idea that animals think as we do dies hard. But first it can lead us down strange paths.