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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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I still don't understand how joint attention makes evolutionary sense for language, and this is particularly highlighted in your post. You now have two things that are very special about humans - language and the ability to share 'imagined fields of attention.'Could the same evolutionary leap have given rise to them both?

If you're sticking with an adaptionist model, we're gonna need a story for (i) why our 'joint attention faculty' got so articulated as to provide us with imagined attention fields and (ii) how having syntax is essential to sharing these imagined fields with one another.


The basic proposition is this:

1) While communication/information theory excellently describes the actions of DNA, RNA, and many plants and animals, it does not well describe language.

2) Ergo, language is not a too for communication in the mechanical sense of the term.

3) Language as a tool for sharing a field of attention looks like a strong alternative.

As for the other items, stay tuned.


The capacity for joint attention appears in human infants at the same time as their protolanguage begins - about 9mths, suggesting an evolutionary link between the two. Before this the child and carers can share emotions, but joint attention and protolanguage enable sharing of (rudimentary) meanings about things in the world.

Joint attention together with protolanguage have obvious advantages for teaching learnt behaviours to the young - that other species lack. They may be the foundations for rudimentary cultural learning that produced technologies such as the million year 'hand axe' tradition.

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