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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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Camelo Castillo

I couldn’t agree more. Symbolic language must have an evolutionary history and natural selection is the only route, other than God, to emergent form and structure. After reviewing a laundry list of origin of language theories from various language theorists (including Hurford and Bickerton) in Morton Christiansen’s and Simon Kirby’s book, Language Evolution, I made the following observation:
“... there is a dearth of historical comparative analysis in these theories. To interpret brain evolution, scientists take endocranial casts and then apply a process of comparative anatomy. Endocranial casts allow them to deduce how a specific brain was organized by how its surface shaped the inside of the skull. Comparative anatomy allows them to deduce how brains changed in relation to those brains that came before and after them. The first method establishes how brains are structured and the second establishes how brains structures transformed over history. Together they create a complementary, dynamic, multilevel understanding of the trajectory of brain evolution.
The overwhelming majority of these language origin theories use a carefully contextualized theoretical framework that deduces language origins from either the structure of language itself (linguistics) or from the structure of the brain (neuroscience). By far and away the conclusions drawn in these theories are void of any serious consideration of language within a comparative history of systems. Language seems to be considered totally and wholly unrelated to the historical development of the communicative-cooperative-reproductive systems that form its evolutionary substrate. It’s like language has no historical context. Maybe Eve made language from God’s rib?
This last fault is hard to explain other than in the context of an age-old human misconception, that we are unique. The only reason not to look for related transformations in the history of universal transformations is the presumption that nothing with any language-like features ever happened before. This is rather like only considering one endocranial cast to determine how brains are organized. No attempt is made to develop a context within which the trajectory of transformation makes sense. Language origin theories suffer from shortsightedness. A lot of evidence from the proximal sources of psychology, neurology, anthropology and linguistics has been gathered. The results of these investigations are crucial to the solution. However, even more crucial is the overall context of language emergence. This context is the history of emergent systems, particularly the history of how life here on Earth has selected for communicative mediums (e.g. ‘languages’) that enable emergent cooperative unities that reproductively persist, thereby growing new spectrums of interaction from which new cooperative unities can be sampled and maintained. Over the last four billion years many cooperative reproductive codes, or ‘languages,’ have evolved to reproduce new cooperative unities: autocatalysis, binary fission, mitosis, and meiosis. Each of these aforementioned ‘languages’ radically altered the face of the Earth in its time. None are considered here.” (Castillo, in press)
If we want to understand language we cannot ignore evolution. As Theodosius Dobzansky famously said: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

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