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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

« How Different Are Ape Brains From Ours? | Main | From Protolanguage to True Language »



I was equally underwhelmed by Bickerton's book. I really can't understand how he can claim that the communicative capacities of other great apes are an insufficient platform for language evolution without mentioning any of the important work done by Tomasello and others.

I was also quite baffled by his handwaving confounding of language and (compositional) thought. This even more so given that he mentions Penn et al.'s Relational Reinterpretation-Paper int the Behavioral and Brain Sciences but fails to adress any of their arguments or any of the arguments for a Language of Thought, for that matter.


"Third, Bickerton explicitly rejects the notion that language has been the target of natural selection."

Note 1:
Bickerton merely says that it is not possible to find a convincing answer to the question "Language evolved, so language had to be selected for. Well then, what selected for it?"

The problem is that language is a very highly developed feature and before you can have language you must first have more primitive components that eventually combine to make language. Rather than asking about what selected for the full-blown language that we use every day (and whose development left few, if any, traces in the fossil record), start at an earlier time and instead ask the question "What might be the precursors of language? What changes could have been selected for that produced the precursors of language in our ancestors?"

Note 2:
If the FOXP2 gene is responsible for language then where is my talking finch, gorilla, and ferret? Would perhaps language somehow not provide an advantage to those animals as it does to us humans?

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