A De Novo Adam's Language?


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #21

The naming of the animals could also been seen as an invitation to create a language with God.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #22

I have seen those population studies most back project from today backwards. I think they are grossly undercounting of worldwide homo genus total population from 1.5 million years ago to say 40000 years ago. During this timeframe life was short. Very few living to successfully reproduce. Low population growth rate until the dawn of architecture at roughly 10000 years ago. So worldwide population of all genus Homo similar to animal population. Tens of millions. Lots of babies not many surviving. Short lives, shorter gestational periods, many pregnancies per female. Much shorter generations - 16 yrs. So 60,000 generations from erectus to us.

Note that founding populations are not the only populations alive at the time. For a given genetic diversity in the human genome there is at least a factor of ten or even a hundred of genetic diversity that didn’t make it through to today or even 10kya. Look at ancient genomes, they have a lot of genetic diversity not present in anyone’s genome today.

From homo erectus to homo sapiens, there are a lot of missing species and huge worldwide populations that are not reflected at all in today’s human genome or even in ancient genomes.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #23

Group hunting and planning for hunt is evidence of language in the entire genus Homo. Use of fire to cook meat for over a million years is another. Can’t imagine a group of humans sitting around fire not talking

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #24

This book discusses proof of language in entire genus homo from 1 MYA to present.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #25

Language proceeds culture/society. Can’t have God without culture/society.

I bet Neanderthals had names for the animals they tracked and hunted that were far different than what Adam named them. They drew pictures of them in caves.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #26

Then God must have taught homo erectus language1 MYA because it has been around that long. It is the complexity of our language that makes us human and separates us from other animals. Abstraction requires a more complex brain. To sustain a complex brain requires digesting enough calories that only cooked meats and plants can achieve. Brains and language evolved with controlled use of fire.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #27

From How Languages Began:

Human languages are dramatically different from the communication systems of other animals, but the cognitive and cultural steps to get beyond the “language threshold” were smaller than many seem to think. The evidence shows that there was no sudden leap to uniquely human features of language, but that our predecessor species in the genus Homo and earlier, perhaps among the Australopithecines, slowly by surely progressed until humans achieved language. This slow march taken by early hominins resulted eventually in a yawning evolutionary chasm between human language and other animal communication. Eventually, Homo species developed social complexity, culture and physiological and neurological advantages over all other creatures. Human language thus begins humbly, as a communication system among early hominids not unlike the communication systems of many other animals.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #28

Maybe Homo Naledi had language?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #29

It is a very interesting question, but it also seems to be an open question. For obvious reasons. The evidence is rare about this in the past, we have not observed any “intermediate” levels of language between apes and humans (and the gap is huge), and there are multiple theories of language (which predict different things). I do agree that there is strong opinions on this, but this is an open question.

We do not know how difficult it is, or how small or how many steps there are to get to the “language threshold”. We also do not know where that threshold is. We just do not know.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) split this topic #30

5 posts were merged into an existing topic: Unhelpful Comments and Bickering

(George) #31


How does making Adam from dust or clay spell out a “Father/Son” relationship?

Some denominations of Christianity try to kill two birds with one stone by making the human aspect of Jesus a reincarnation of Adam. The Mormons are happy with this idea.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #32

Definitely not an orthodox theological position. Does not seem consistent with creedal Christianity.

(George) #33


This is the most groundless assertion I’ve seen you write. your analysis is almost incoherent:

Aunty’s Point [a] @swamidass writes about the difficulty in knowing when and where the “language threshold” would be.

Aunty’s [b] per paraphrasing Aunty: that is why referring to changes in language as Evolution is openly questionable.

Point [a] has zero connection to [b]. [a] discusses language as a genetically supported hominid behavior, while [b] is a statement about discussing how a language (say Latin) can Evolve into several different romance languages.

Aunty’s Point [c] " . . . it may also be that more time of concern is needed to be given to the side that
cautions … ‘stop trying to make an analogy to biology’

To this, I would point out: Analogies ultimately break down. Analogies illustrate ideas, rather than prove them.

Aunty’s Point [d] when the topic [that] is non-biological would be a suitable and credible position to take.

The final point [d] is true, and has nothing to do with any of the other points.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #38

Very well said.

(Vincent Torley) #39

Hi Patrick,

I should tell you that Daniel Everett’s views on language are highly controversial. Google “Everett Piraha” and you’ll see what I mean. It isn’t just his views on recursion: that’s an academic dispute. No. He claims that there’s a tribe in the Amazon whose language is so limited that they have no ways of talking about events in the distant past (e.g. long ago, when Jesus existed), and no way of even grasping (let alone discussing) numbers greater than two.

Everett’s claim that Homo erectus and the Neanderthals used language rests largely on his dogmatic claim that Homo floresiensis, with its chimp-sized brain, must have been capable of building boats, in order to reach the island of Flores. And if he could, surely bigger-brained hominids could too. Such a feat requires language. However, there are numerous scientific papers and reports in which the possibility of Homo floresiensis reaching the island of Flores by accidental rafting, in the aftermath of a tsunami (quite frequent in that region) is openly canvassed - see for instance here, here, here and here.

The controlled use of fire is only known to go back 400,000 years. (We don’t know if South African Homo erectus living 1,000,000 years ago was capable of the controlled use of fire.) The fact that cooking is necessary for a large brain capable of abstraction does not mean that cooking is a sufficient condition for abstraction.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #40

It think it was more like 1.8 MYA with Homo Habilis. Even some discussions of Australopithecus using fire.
I also don’t think that cooking was sufficient condition for abstraction. But cooking allowed a big brain to emerge. Perhaps you don’t need a big brain for abstraction as Homo Naledi is small brained and seems to be behaviorly similar to the bigger brain Homo Habilis (Erectus).

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #41

I think is a fair point to say we are far from consensus in science in determining when and how language arose. There is a great deal of legitimate debate, and reasonable scientists disagree with each other.

(George) #42

For readers who wonder how to interpret this statement, this is one way @swamidass can signal the relevance of a topic to the central mission: proposing and refining scenarios that accommodate two schools of thought:

a. Christians who believe there is too much evidence for an Old Earth and Evolution to ignore, and
b. Christians who believe there is too much Biblical investment in the special creation of Adam and Eve to ignore.

There is a tendency for some to load onto this double-pontooned craft of human creation all the exciting speculations that might touch on either school: the development of language, the limits of genetic cloning, the role of neanderthals, etc. etc.

But as the analogy attempts to make clear, a double-pontooned craft has basic limits in its carrying capacity. And to find a receptive audience for this kind of “vehicle”, often the task will be to reduce the scope of the controversies to just what is necessary for the craft to make passage in ever shifting tides.

As each new idea is picked up, like a gorgeous chunk of raw cut crystal or marble, the questions to answer are:

  1. what “problem” does this beautiful thing solve?
  2. is that “problem” a genuine part of the two-pontoon scenario? and
  3. does this answer to the problem cause more controversy and disputation than it resolves?

@swamidass, if you want me to “chop” or “edit” any of this, let me know. I just keep writing down my thoughts as I go along… but it is you who must weigh these and other factors in the balance!

(George) #43

How much is too much for a little two-pontoon boat ?

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #44

Yes, very much agree. But consensus is that language may go back a very long time. And crosses into more than just our species.

In the beginning was the Word. John 1:1

No, it wasn’t. Dan Everett in How Language Began.