It’s Better than Not Having It: Evolution in a Nutshell

lulzWhen asked why humans have language, I heard a professor state that “Language evolved because it was beneficial to human flourishing. It was better to have language than to not have language.” This kind of ad hoc reasoning forms the basis of all so-called Natural Selection explanations proffered by secular academics, and indicates the great decline in contemporary thought. Consider, for a moment, if you, the reader, asked me why I have eyes, and I responded by saying: “Because it’s better than not having eyes.” Could you take me seriously? Sure, you might agree that it is better to have eyes than to not have eyes, but why would you say such a thing? Because you have eyes and could not envision yourself living without eyes. But if you did not have eyes, would you be at such a great disadvantage? After all, are there not animals whose vision is significantly worse than our own, who nonetheless function very well in their own natural environments? This is the problem for the evolutionist: If we have only experienced life with eyes, is it even possible to judge that life without eyes would be worse? What if prior to having eyes our lives were better? The canned answer from evolutionists is basically this: “It is better to have x than not have x, and this is because if we did not have x it would not be as good as having x.”

See the problem?

The evolutionist’s response is not only circular, but assumes knowledge of what life would be like for a creature to not have some property x, despite the fact the only available examples of ~x creatures are those which have become ~x by accident, being wounded, or being born that way (i.e. disadvantageous genetic mutations, deformities, etc). It is reasonable to suppose that for a creature which is supposed to have x not having x would contribute to his not having a very good chance of survival, but this is, to be frank, a concession. For this amounts to saying that creatures who are supposed to have x but do not are unable to function in the way they are supposed to function. The category error should not be brushed away lightly. The evolutionist is equating the experiences of an ~x creature in our own time with an ~x creature of another time. This is a category error (present ~x & past ~x). Additionally, the evolutionist is equating the unnatural ~x creature with the natural ~x creature. This, too, is a category error. While there is superficial resemblance between the unnatural/present day ~x creature and the natural/past ~x creature, in other words, the resemblances cannot be grounds for asserting that the advantages and disadvantages of one are equivalent to those of the other.

Consider, furthermore, that the addition and/or subtraction of properties for any purpose is a telos. Even under an evolutionary paradigm, therefore, the creature’s life and life changes are teleological. Teleology, however, is mind-dependent. Whose mind is it, then, which determined the specific end for which all things supposedly came into being? The question cannot be simply shrugged off by the evolutionist. For if creatures evolve in order to do y, then creatures evolve for a purpose. Why this purpose rather than another?

The evolutionist can offer no answers to these basic questions. More often than not, such questions are entirely ignored or are identified as pointless speculative endeavors. Hardly the stuff of rigorous methodology and academic seriousness, if you ask me.

-h.

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8 thoughts on “It’s Better than Not Having It: Evolution in a Nutshell

    • Hiram says:

      Not really sure how serious you are being, drunken. However, here’s a short response.

      1. Dolphins mediate information via semiotic codes, yes. However, this does not prove that either (a.)they are doing so intentionally or (b.)they are aware of what they are doing. Intentionality and self-consciousness, however, are central to understanding language.

      Dolphins, and other animals, insects, and plants may be the carriers of information, but they do not “have a language.”

      How would you respond to John Searle’s Chinese Room Experiment? With drunken sarcasm? I haven’t heard one logically coherent and/or viable response to the objection he raises in that thought experiment to the idea that computers are self-aware simply because they can manipulate syntax correctly (when created to do so!). And that same objection applies to the animal world. An animal’s manipulation of syntax is not an indication that it is semantically self-aware.

      2. According to The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies:

      “Language is defined as a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols, including the rules for combining the components of such sounds and/or symbols. There is a difference between communication and language. All animals can communicate in some form or manner, but only humans are known to have a language which has the following characteristics: communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.

      Dolphins communicate mainly by means of sounds. These sounds include whistles, and also so-called pulsed sounds, which are often described as squawks, barks, rasps, etc. But dolphins also use breaching (jumping and falling back into the water with a loud splash) and pectoral fin (or flipper) and tail (or fluke) slaps (hitting the flipper or fluke on the water surface), as well as body posturing, jaw popping and touch as other means of communication.

      In regards to language, several studies have demonstrated that dolphins can understand a structured language like ours. Some studies also indicate that dolphin vocalizations are complex enough to support some form of language. However, to date it has not been demonstrated yet that they indeed use a language for communication among themselves, nor has it been demonstrated that they can understand our form of verbal language.”

      (http://www.imms.org/dolphinfaq.php#q23)

      Maybe you are the one who skipped classes?

      Hell, even the Wikipedia article on Cetascean Intelligence states that “there is little evidence for dolphin language,”

      3. Nevertheless, the answer to your question is: Yes, dolphins worship the Triune God of the Bible.

      Praise the Lord from the earth,
      you great sea creatures and all deeps (Ps 148:7)

      Let heaven and earth praise him,
      the seas and everything that moves in them. (Ps 69:34)

      Everything was created to give God glory. However, only man was given language and, via the use of that linguistic capability, dominion over the other creatures on the earth.

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  1. Frank says:

    Oh. But I am serious, though you make the wee bit mistake of confusing a name with a property – I may call myself drunkenscientist however that doesn’t make me drunk (now, or at the time of the comment), or not serious. Let’s take it from the top and work our way down:
    – If you’re to quote somebody and say that is scientific, do try to quote actual scientists and not texts on non-profit organizations websites.
    – This http://scitation.aip.org/content/asa/journal/jasa/116/4/10.1121/1.4784986 here and this http://scitation.aip.org/content/asa/journal/jasa/136/4/10.1121/1.4893906 study shows the opposite of what you’re saying. They do have a language, they use vocal learning and more importantly they modify their vocalizations based on different social groups. Some species even have dialects. You use the words “mediate information” and “semiotic codes” but really, I don’t think those mean what you think they mean. Would you call the sign language deaf people use, a language? Because according to you, it’s not, it’s just symbols. Some species of monkeys use different alarm calls for different types of predators – if they warn of snakes, those warned look down, if warned of eagle they look up and run for cover – so using a specific alarm call is both intentional and for those warned surprisingly aware of its meaning – how is this not called a language? And I used wikipedia to find this, also.
    – No, we can’t have this conversation logically if we don’t use the same definitions for language and I don’t happen to agree on the IMMS definition. According to Wikipedia, language is defined as a system of acquiring and using forms of communication. That our human system is an open one doesn’t mean other closed ones can’t be classified as such. We can and will make up words – should that define what language is? Do we use the fact that our language evolves as a way to prove evolution is wrong? “Languages express meaning by relating a sign form to a meaning, or its content. Sign forms must be something that can be perceived, for example, in sounds(!), images, or gestures, and then related to a specific meaning by social convention”.
    – Animals have a rudimentary (as in simple) communication system. To define language as communication that only humans have (because we can write or make up words) is not something I can agree to for reasons of adaptability. Every social animal uses some form of communication, and some (like the first examples) even learn how to use others. Just because somebody can’t read or write doesn’t mean he can’t use language to convey meaning.
    – Regarding the Chinese Room experiment – now that is circular reasoning in this here context. He disproves this claim: “The appropriately programmed computer with the right inputs and outputs would thereby have a mind in exactly the same sense human beings have minds.” So we then say what? That dolphins, who live in a completely different environment than us, do not have a mind exactly in the same sense human beings have minds? We prove what? This argument works for defining and working with conciousness, in regard to humans. Do we define a living organism as a thing with legs or arms? Are dolphins alive then, or is it an error in defining what’s alive or not?
    This little argument between us may come, unfortunately, from me. We apparently do not use the same definitions for language, I misunderstood that. But unfortunately my definitions are quite similar (if not the same as) to those used by evolutionists (which I think it’s true, also, so I may be biased) you quoted. When is a tomato yellow? When it’s still green. See, if you use only colors (as in symbols) without conveying meaning, in this context, it makes no sense. If you use analogy (which some animals use, for social interactions and predator alarms, and so on) of color for a measure of ripeness it makes perfect sense. So a dolphin would chirp to warn others of sharks. This is language, albeit simple and adapted to the environment. It conveys meaning using sounds and those hearing the sounds can understand it therefore the language used is intentional. In short, I don’t define “language” as something expressed only by beings with vocal cords or ears. Language could be something cephalopods use – flashing colors, for one. The part of us not understanding it doesn’t mean we can’t observe it.
    Your quote from Wikipedia is incomplete and selective to support your claims, I might add. Here’s the full one: “While there is little evidence for dolphin language, experiments have shown that they can learn human sign language. Akeakamai, a bottlenose dolphin, was able to understand both individual words and basic sentences like “touch the frisbee with your tail and then jump over it” (Herman, Richards, & Wolz 1984). Dolphins have also exhibited the ability to understand the significance of the ordering of each set of tasks in one sentence.” Does it not seem like a language definition or teaching issue to you too?
    Anyways, it’s been nice chatting with you. You can safely delete this comment, I won’t complain. See? I’m assuming you don’t want a dialogue. Same thing with languages. That’s why I prefer not to assume, especially at the “dominion over” part. Please, stop puting words in God’s mouth.

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    • Hiram says:

      Frank, I didn’t think you were really drunk. I shortened your name to “drunken.” Your initial response was so brief that I didn’t know what to make of it. That’s why I didn’t know if you were being serious or not.

      That being said.

      You’re right. I didn’t quote peer reviewed studies on the matter. I also did quote just a portion of the Wikipedia article because I thought the remainder of the quote didn’t conflict with my point. Another action taken for brevity’s sake.

      Regarding your further comments.

      1. The Chinese Room experiment was mentioned in order to draw attention to the fact that while we may observe certain phenomena in dolphins, respecting their use of vocal “learning” and their ability to “modify their vocalizations based on different social groups,” this doesn’t indicate that what dolphins do and experience is identical, in essence, to what we do and experience when we learn a language, use a language in particular social contexts, and make modifications to a language.

      This is why I used the word “mediate” and not “communicate.” I can see a dolphin transmitting information via semiotic codes, but I cannot see a dolphin communicating with other dolphins or humans. I can, likewise, see another dolphin receiving the transmitted information, but I cannot see the dolphin’s reception of that information as a communication. There is no way to prove that what is occurring between a transmitter-dolphin and a receiver dolphin is actual communication, a lingual exchange. So I used the broader terms: mediate, semiotic codes, etc.

      Limiting myself to observation, I can’t identify what animals do with sounds, bodily motions, and so on with language. Sure, there may be a prima facie similarity there, but that does not justify taking the next step in asserting that animals “have language.”

      2. Searle’s CRE is applicable to the problem of other minds, not just whether or not appropriately programmed computers have minds like ours. This is why it applies in the context of our present discussion. Do animals have language? Well, in the very broadest sense of the term “have,” then yes they “have” language. But in the more restricted sense involving consciousness/intentionality and semantic self-awareness? The question can’t be answered by observation, for observation would only show a similitude between human language and dolphin information mediation.

      So I am justified in saying that animals don’t have language, because language is a human phenomenon. Yes, sign language is a kind of language. But sign language is recognized as such by those who use it – viz. humans.

      3. I have no intention of deleting your comments, Frank :)

      -h.

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  2. drunkenscientist says:

    Exactly. “But sign language is recognized as such by those who use it – viz. humans.”
    The fact we can’t “see” dolphins communicating with other dolphins doesn’t mean they can’t. To somebody who doesn’t speak a Khoisan family of language, it’d be the same way. Or, if we didn’t think about it, howHowever, we can identify symbols in both primates and cephalopods. If we arbitrarily restrict the language defining criteria, it proves nothing.
    Even more, google a bit about Akeakamai again. That dolphin was able to understand both individual words and basic sentences like “touch the frisbee with your tail and then jump over it” – actual quote. He was learning. There are countless other examples, including those of crows showing remarcable adaptation and learning abilities. Ergo in this I have to recognize my own limitations – the fact I can’t understand or pinpoint specific communications is sort of resembling a color blind person watching a squid (there are those) using color pattern flashing, I am probably simply not equiped to deal with it. In fact, in evolution, adaptability to the environment is a given.

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    • Hiram says:

      If you have no way of knowing (a.)the animal has intentional states and (b.)the nature of his intentional states when refining his use of symbolic, syntactic, and semantic content, then upon what basis can you claim that he is learning?

      I can’t ignore this question.

      On a side note, I’m confused by evolutionists who, on the one hand, assert that there is an appearance of design in the cosmos but yet, on the other hand, base their conclusions regarding animal consciousness and language use on human analogy.

      Seems to be a pretty obvious double standard at play.

      -h.

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  3. drunkenscientist says:

    Evening. To answer quickly, we can’t reach either consensus or valid debational rules if we can’t have the basis straightened out. We don’t agree on definitions. I say learning is the act of aquiring new information, of changing existing information. You sir wish to restrict this definition by adding a human only component – consciousness. Is the act of mechanical learning really learning then? Can we learn a few pages of chemical molecular formulas, for instance, if we have no ideea what that means? I’ve said it before, I don’t agree to defining things arbitrarily (life is a thing with hands, or thumbs, for instance).
    http://www.sfs.uni-tuebingen.de/~gjaeger/lehre/ws0910/evolution/conwaychristansen01.pdf
    Second thing, the issue of “appearance” is false. “It appears” is a profoundly subjective assertion – to whom? To humans it may appear like it was designed, the same way a pyrite crystal may appear – it can have perfect edges, cubical, almost like somebody polished it that way. But nobody has. Same thing if, for instance, see the image of Jesus apear on my toast – I seem to see it, but others might not. So no, can’t agree with that.
    Third – evolutionists do not base their conclusions on human analogy because it’s a different field. Philosophers might. Linguists might. Evolutionists might make educated (or not) guesses about conciousness and language, but it means nothing – it’s not their area of expertise. Even more, “evolutionist” to you means somebody who believes (again, it’s a subjective matter) in the theory of evolution. But to me, the theory of evolution is the field for biologists and related areas, not for say a physicist or architect. I can be wrong here, yes. But unless I start studying all those areas, all I can have are educated (or not) guesses. You can’t use conciousness describing evolution, that one developed later. An perhaps, as you say, only in humans.

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