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Primatologist Frans de Waal on human language

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At Aeon:

I consider humans the only linguistic species. We honestly have no evidence for symbolic communication, equally rich and multifunctional as ours, outside our species.

But we do have something evidence for something:  the summer silly season. See, for example: Orangutan copies human speech? Must be BBC. Must be summer.

The fascinating thing about today’s naturalist science is the way so many key claims are either unfalsifiable (multiverse) or obvious hype (orangutan, above)—or they assume, without any particular basis, a path of history (apes are entering the Stone Age) or geography (galaxies out there teem with life).

I (O’Leary for news) volunteer as a writing instructor. “Might be true” is a standard for fiction. An important standard. It distinguishes good fiction from potboilers. The flow of behaviour around the events sounds like something that could happen in life.

That said, the standard of “might be true” should distinguish a thoughtful sci-fi novel from data from the Large Hadron Collider.

Many today seem to need to blur the distinction.

See also: Saving us from a plague of Boltzmann brains

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One Reply to “Primatologist Frans de Waal on human language

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    The thread isn’t really about language but I would like to bring up again that primates can speak as well as us in mechanics. They just have no intelligence or anything to say.
    All they have to say is easily said by a few sounds and combinations of sounds.
    Its our thinking that is complex and rich and not our language.
    our language is almost dumb sounds in a row.
    We don’t have language but rather a intelligence that uses its memory to articulate thoughts by sounds.
    We are not the only creature with language but rather we have the same mechanism as all creatures for communicating but we are so much smarter.
    No genetics for language. No hope of talking monkeys.
    They are too dumb.

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