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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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Comments

Jerry Moore

Thanks for this presentation! Good luck with your book!
JM

Dfried

This was delightful, but I have always thought of the "ban" on discussion of the origins of language more as a "self-denying ordinance," and as such very sensible. Part of the "science instinct" is an instinct for finding the fruitful question--i.e., one that we might make a reasonable start on answering with the means at hand. The age of amateur scientists and scientific amateurs--roughly before 1860 or so--was naturally prone to tackle ultimate questions several steps beyond those that could usefully be asked. The recognition that this was still true with respect to the origins of language is part of the maturing process of the age. I think of George Eliot's "Middlemarch," which takes place in 1829-30. The egregious Dr. Causaubon is trying to write "The Golden Bough" 70 years too early. The heroic medical researcher Lydgate, however, is trying to figure out the single chemical nature of undifferentiated protoplasm--just before the discovery of the cell. In other words, as Eliot very quietly points out, he's barking up the wrong tree in a way uncannily similar to Casaubon's, for all that his training is more up-to-date.

Looked at this way, the "ban" disappeared at the moment when we finally had enough evolutionary biology,genetics, neurobiology and anthropology to begin to say something useful about the problem. As an amateur of the subject, though, I have to say that I often feel that we're still a generation too early. The good stuff is still coming. Maybe language does fossilize!

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