Thursday, July 7, 2016

About Time, part four: The evolution of Language – Science versus the Bible

In previous columns in this series, we’ve looked at the clashes between the creation account and the Big Bang, between the Exodus account and biblical skeptics, and the biblical record of the Israelites’ history versus the historical records of those nations around them. No discussion about the claims of the Bible versus the claims of science and history would be complete without looking at human speech.

The Bible says:
  • Adam and Eve could speak. They could understand spoken instructions from God. They also had the ability to coin new words and create poetry. (Genesis 2: 19-24) For the next 2,000 years, the entire human race “spoke the same language and used the same words.” (Genesis 11:1) Most Bible scholars agree that the phrase “same language” refers to grammatical structure and “same words” refers to vocabulary. (These two concepts will turn out to be important later on in this discussion.) When a significant portion of mankind began cooperating in a project in direct defiance of God, He tweaked the language centers of the brains of the rebels such that they were suddenly unable to communicate with each other.
Evolutionary scientists say that:
  • Homo sapiens (us) evolved about 200,000 years ago. (Don’t even get me started on how little proof there is of that.) Human speech evolved about 30,000 years ago. What started out as grunts and gestures gradually evolved into a simple language, which grew into the plethora of complicated languages that exist today.
Unfortunately, their theory is absolutely contradicted not only by common sense but by their own facts:
  1. There is zero evidence that early languages were simpler. In fact, the opposite is true. Languages consistently move from complex to easier the longer the language is in use. Don’t believe it? Try this: Explain the difference between “thee,” “ye,” “thine” and “thou.” Shakespeare knew exactly when to use each.Joseph Smith, not so much. (Read about Smith's "ye, thou, thine" mistakes here.) Me and thee, probably not at all. Why? Because English has gotten less complex. Latin, Greek, and biblical Hebrew were all more complex than their modern-day counterparts.
  2. There are roughly 7,000 languages on earth today, but many are related: “No” in English is “no” in Spanish, “non” in French, “nein” in German, “nao” in Portuguese. These are all part of a language “family.” On the other side of the world, however, “no” in Chinese is “bu”; “blao” in Thai, “bao” in Laotian. Linguists believe there are somewhere between 30 and 130 language ‘families,’ depending on which linguist is counting. However, tracing these 130 – or even 30 - back to a single language has proven impossible. Why, it’s almost as if homo sapiens ‘evolved’ 30 (or 130) different languages simultaneously! An absurd theory. That list of language ‘families’ does, however, comport quite well with the 50 or so language groups outlined in Genesis chapter 10.
  3. “Researchers' mapping different vocal regions in the [human] brain…found an additional region, representing the voice box (the larynx), which is not present in non-human primates.” Well, perhaps that was the ‘evolutionary leap’ that lifted homo sapiens above apes? No. It is a complex structure of millions of neurons, not a simple evolutionary hiccup. The same reference says: “Merely stimulating one spot in the brain cannot produce speech sounds. Rather, speech requires the concerted activity of many different neurons.
  4. And if we were to believe the scientific theory that the modern brain evolved 200,000 years ago but speech only 30,000 years ago, can you imagine the frustration of homo sapiens running around for 170,000 years, unable to express their complex thoughts! (Don't forget, sapiens means "wise.")
  5. What about ape sign language, though? Couldn’t human speech have evolved from that? Linguists working with apes have succeeded in teaching some of them as many as 400 signs. But no, that bears no relationship to speech. Apes in the wild do not sign. They do not even use descriptive gestures. “Gestures have a human basis,” says researcher Gabriela Appel.
  6. So, if apes signing isn’t rudimentary language, what is it? According to scientists Terrace, Petitto, Sanders, and Bever, “Though apes and chimps can learn vocabulary, they cannot combine them to create new meanings, which is a hallmark of human language.”
Think back to that Genesis account. God changed:
  • The vocabulary stored in the memories of certain people, and
  • their sentence structure, i.e., grammar.
Anyone involved in a translation project will tell you how complicated a job it is, because there is no simple word-for-word correlation between languages. In English, for example, we raise “pigs” but eat “pork;” you raise your voice to tell a story but not to tell time.
The “pigs” versus “pork” thing is just vocabulary, and that’s complex enough. But understanding “raise” and “tell” in that previous sentence requires some complicated decoding.
Most sentences contain a subject, a verb, and an object. ‘Bill (subject) goes (verb) to the store (object).’ Brain researchers have determined that the reasoning part of everyone’s brain works in exactly the same manner regardless of language. Here’s how they figured that out:
In one study, ten each of native English, Mandarin, Spanish and Turkish speakers were shown a short video of a woman twisting a knob, then asked to describe the action using only gestures. All, no matter what language they spoke, produced a pantomime in the same order - subject, object, verb (woman knob twists), called by linguists SOV.
When asked to speak their description, each used the word order appropriate for their own language - SVO for the English and Mandarin speakers (woman twists knob), VSO for Spanish, (twists the woman the knob) etc. While the test hasn’t been recorded in every language, it has been repeated enough for researchers to state confidently that your brain works in SOV order.
Given that, how does an evolutionary linguist explain languages appearing in which the grammar runs counter to human's natural brain order?
What about “universal gestures”? Do these show proof of an ancient, universal language? As we’ve already seen, apes in the wild have no gestures – not even nodding for “yes” or head-shaking for “no”. If you’ve seen a chimp doing that it’s because he learned it from a human. And, it turns out, such gestures aren’t even universal among humans. In Bulgaria and Albania, shaking your head from side to side indicates “yes,” and moving your chin up and down means “no.” How did that 'evolve'?
Another example: If I asked you to gesture as you say “yesterday,” you might point over your shoulder. Conversely, you would say your future is “ahead” of you and your gestures would match – pointing forward. And most of mankind would understand you.
But the Aymara people of South America say that your past is ‘in front of you.’ They might gesture in front of their feet to indicate “yesterday,” and toss a thumb over their shoulder for “tomorrow.”
How is it possible that their concept of future and past “evolved” in a way so diametrically opposed to most other languages?
I was disappointed to find – after weeks of research for this column – that I could not definitively trace the evolution of language back to the post-flood miraculous confusion of languages related in the Bible. However, I was heartened to discover that language scientists have even less evidence for their theory. Human speech is an amazing gift, and an extremely complex and poorly understood field.
As usual, evolutionists are biting the hand that fed them – using their God-given ability to put sentences together to say there is no God.
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