Can Evolution Explain the Origin of Language?
All the above happened - according to evolutionists - without plan, direction or design. Add to the list "origin of language". In spite of the lack of a coherent theory to explain any of this, evolutionists still cling to the merit-less theory of evolution.
While it's no revelation that evolutionists and creationists don't agree on much, there is one thing they do agree on: that the primary attribute that sets humans apart from animals is the ability to communicate via language. In fact the one phrase that both groups tend to use to describe this biological truth is that language is a "uniquely human" trait - not shared by any other animal (or plant for that matter.)
Though it may not be readily apparent,
this statement shows clearly that evolution cannot have originated
language or humans use of it. For the remainder of this article we will
look at why this is so by examining the origin of language from the
perspective of citizens of the information age, those who are cognizant
of the fact that information systems - are just that - systems - not
stand alone pieces - that are by nature complex and designed. If you use
a mobile phone or connect to a web site with a computing device, you are
using a complex system of multiple pieces of hardware and software that
are designed to work together. It is not the kind of system that can
come together by chance or evolutionary processes. Likewise for the
system that comprises humans' ability to speak and use language.
Making the Golden Droid speak
Part of the fun of science fiction is imagining what might be once science and technology catches up to the dream. In Star Wars ( the first one released subtitled "A New Hope") we're introduced to the talkative comic relief golden droid C3PO who describes his role as "human-cyborg relations" as he acquaints himself with Luke Skywalker. Later, in Episode 6 Return of the Jedi we learn that he is "...fluent in over six million forms of communication..." We're only interested in the first one - its origin. In Episode 1 we learn that young Anakin Skywalker has begun assembling 3PO. What would it require to give the droid abilities comparable to the capabilities of humans? We first have to understand how the process of communication via language works in humans.
An overview of the communication process will suffice to show the complexities of language that a designer must account for - and will reveal why undirected random processes could never account for the origin of language because as you'll see, we will run into these four problems that evolution cannot account for:
1. The Origin of the coded system
The Communication Process
Consider what must happen to communicate an idea from the communicator to a receiver:
Communicator Process: (Starting
Point) Mind > Thought > ENCODE thought > Muscle Activation >
Detectable Air disturbance (Signal)
Receiver Process: Detectable Air disturbance (Signal) > Ear Activation > Intelligent filter > Decode Signal > Thought > Mind (Ending Point)
Let's walk through the process step by step. For ease of reference I'll refer to the Communicator as "C" and the Receiver as "R". (If it makes it easier for you, you can think of C as in C3pO and R as in R2D2.)
The mind: Originator of thought
Now C decides to share that thought. We don't have telepathic capabilities, there is no direct transference of thought, so in order to transfer the thought, C must encode the thought in a system of symbols that can sent as a signal (humans use sound as the signal) then the signal is decoded by R. The system of symbols is called "language." And here we run into our first problem: the origin of language. What is the origin of this shared set of symbols called language?
The Nature of Language - and dead ends regarding origins
To understand the unsolvable-by-evolution nature of this problem, let's make a few observations about language. Language is a method of communication that uses a shared set of predefined symbols that function as a code. You'll immediately recognize that symbols and codes by their very nature require an intelligence to create them. Already I've introduced a short code: "C" for Communicator and "R" for the receiver. So the first question that arises is how can undirected, un-designed, random processes generate a system of shared symbols that function as a code . Second how do the multiple members of the target group learn the code simultaneously so the language can be used? Language, if not shared by C and R is useless.
Further, the components of language - words - by their very definition, have meaning, and are used with a purpose according to a plan. But evolution is a process with no meaning, no purpose, no plans. How can such an undirected, meaningless process create the embodiment of its antithesis - language consisting of words with meaning to be used to achieve a purpose? Evolutionists have struggled to answer that question but all their suggestions fail miserably to explain the creation of a language. Briefly here are some of the dead end alley suggestions offered by evolutionists:
Language cannot have "evolved"
There are other theories for the origin of language, but they are equally without merit. But before returning to the communication process let's lay the whole matter of languages evolving to rest.
Any theory of the origin of language that relies on language evolving is dead on arrival because evidence shows that when language evolves, it gets simpler, not more complex. In other words, the development of language moves in the opposite direction that evolutionists need it to move. Consider:
In short, languages started out complex, and the only "evolution" that took place was the evolution to a simpler form. Not the other way around as required by evolution. Prof Simon Kirby of the Centre for Language Evolution, University of Edinburgh, demonstrates how messages become shorter and simpler through the game of "broken telephone". The game starts with a message that is passed from individual to individual privately a number of times. Then the final message, as recounted by the last person, is compared to the original message. In one trial, starting with the sentence "The survival of certain words in the struggle for existence is natural selection" after being passed through about 30 people became "longer existence is not longer existence." Though the meaning has changed, and in fact has become nonsense, that is not the important part. The import thing to notice, as Simon argues is that "... the sentence has become shorter and easier to learn." This simplification of language has been demonstrated through this and other experiments. Language does not evolve in complexity. It evolves in simplicity. Thus if there is no language to begin with, the process of evolution will not take a sound and turn it into language.
Encoding the Thought
Already we see evolutionists have no answer to problem 1 - the origin of language. But let's continue on and reconsider C and his thought - depicted by the picture above. How would you describe it? A flying reptile over the oceans? A pterosaur over blue waters? A pteranodon in flight searching for fish over a large body of water? All these are attempts to encode the above picture into language. Consider young Anakin, trying to give C3PO the ability to talk - to do this same type of encoding. How would he do it? How do we give any computer new abilities? It's not by magic and it's not by the un-designed processes available to evolution; it's by design. We program devices with new coded information which we call "software"; and depending on the requirements of the software, the device might also require an upgrade in the hardware. Anakin might have called the hardware/software combination installed in C3PO to encode thought to speech a cipher-box - since it is tasked with encoding information.
There is an analogous structure in the humans. A piece of biological hardware performing the tasks of a cipher-box. It's a part of the left frontal cortex, and is also tasked with encoding thoughts into speech. It's called Broca's area. We know it's associated with the production of speech because "while patients with damage to Broca’s area can understand language, they are generally unable to produce proper speech..." Just as Anakin would need to build a cipher-box into 3PO to allow speech, - a device which could only be the product of design; likewise the biological hardware (the brain) and software (the brain's built in abilities to use language) could only come about by design.
Invoking the Muscles
He likens the movement of the muscles that produce speech to a "ballet of movement." Like any ballet, such a ballet does not just randomly happen. Aside from the obvious skill and training needed, the brain has specialized circuitry making such movement (and thus speech) possible. This circuitry is used to control "sequencing, for timing, for generating... for the production of fluid and articulate speech" says one researcher.
Most modern cars rely on precisely designed electronic ignition which allows them to run smoothly and efficiently. What are the chances that if you were to remove that circuitry and replace it with something generated by random chance, it would run at all, much less smoothly? Zero. Likewise the chance of random evolutionary processes producing such specialized circuits is zero.
Reversing The Process - Receiving the message
Having activated the muscles that produce sound waves that can be detected, the Receiver (R) must now reverse the process to understand the message.
Starting with the ears (a marvel of complexity within themselves), the ears must be able to distinguish between raw sounds and the sounds of language. Once again we find there is biological hardware built into the brain that does precisely that. On an episode of Brain Games they described the area and demonstrated its power by first playing a clip of distorted speech (which was unintelligible) - then the undistorted version - and finally the same distorted version again - which was suddenly understandable. They explained it as follows:
We saw there was an equivalent of a cipher-box. Now we see there is also the equivalent of a decipher-box.
Decoding the Sounds
Without getting into the power of Wernicke's area I simply draw your attention to the fact that the brain has specialized biological hardware used to decode raw sounds into discernible language parts. In 1876, Carl Wernicke discovered that "Damage to Wernicke’s area results in a loss of the ability to understand language. Thus, patients can continue to speak, but the words are put together in such a way that they make no sense." So this biological hardware is involved not only in the comprehension of sound, but also in the comprehension of language. Another key part to a complex system for which evolution has no explanation of origins.
Once the sounds are recognized as words the brain of the receiver (R) can now use language to derive meaning. Helping in that quest is another specialized part of the brain. Biomedical Engineer Sri Sarma of Johns Hopkins University explains:
So here we see yet another specialized biological hardware component integrated into the brain, added to help derive meaning during the complex process of communication via language.
Reconstructing the thought
Whether the thought evoked in R matches the original thought in C depends on many factors. How was the thought encoded? (was it described as "a flying reptile over the oceans?" Or " a pteranodon in flight searching for fish over a large body of water?") These would probably evoke different mind pictures in different people. And as Sri Sarma reminds us "Language isn't just words. Pitch, tone and inflection all work together to create meaning. Scientists call it prosody." The study of meaning is a different field of study which takes us beyond the focus of this article, which is the origin of Language. But having examined some of the complexities involved in communicating via Language we can close with some clear observations.
1. The Origin of the coded system
known as "language"
Without such specialized biology, communication via language is impossible. Evolutionists have offered no feasible explanation of how evolutionary processes could have developed such specialized biological hardware which brain researcher Todd Preuss of the Yekes National Primate Research Center likened to a "very sophisticated bit of computer circuitry."
3. The Origin of the ability of
non-material thoughts to somehow interact with the physical hardware of
the brain and body parts with the result of communication via language.
Likewise in humans. Before we can
transmit a thought that has been encoded in a language, we need
specialized biological hardware powered by built in software
that the brain interacts with to produce the signal - which in the case
of humans - is spoken words. We've looked at one such biological
mechanism - Wernicke's Area. Evolutionists have no explanation of how
either the components or the entire complex, interactive system
developed using the blind, purposeless processes of evolution.
Evolutionists would have you believe blind, purposeless, meaningless processes created both the individual components and the entire system - the intricate, complex, purposeful, meaning-filled system that allows communication via language. If evolutionary processes were capable of that, we would expect to find C3POs and R2D2s emerging from random errors in the automobile manufacturing process. But we don't, and we won't. Just as it's clearly evident that C3PO's ability to speak was given to him by a designer, likewise it is clearly evident that the ability for humans to speak was given to them by their creator.
There is an obvious solution to the origin of language and the ability to communicate using language - but materialists don't want to hear it. Nevertheless the truth is, the first man Adam was able to speak from the day he was created, and we know he was highly intelligent because he was able name all the creatures in existence (Gen 2.19-20) - giving names in some cases that pointed to attributes of the creature.
Language, like man, was created by God, it did not evolve. And like the unalienable rights written about in the American declaration of independence, man was endowed by his creator not only with certain unalienable rights, but also with the gift of language and the ability to use it. Like those who deny God's creation of the universe, those who deny God's creation of language and man's ability to use it are without excuse. (Rom 1:20).
Duane Caldwell | posted 8/24 /2016
1. Researchers Mark Mescher,
and Consuelo De Moraes among others suggest even plants communicate with
Harrub, Bert Thompson and Dave Miller, The origin of language and
communication Creation Ministries International, TJ 17(3) 2003 (PDF)
Lieberman, P., Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution,
the late sixteenth century a Spanish doctor, Juan Huarte, wrote a study
of human intelligence, stating that its best evidence is language
Clark, V.P., Eschholz, P.A. and Rosa, A.F. (Eds.), Language:
Bert Thompson and Dave Miller, The origin of language and
communication, Creation Ministries International, TJ 17(3) 2003
20. In the case of human creations like
androids, it would be multiple designers, not a single designer. The production of such intricate hardware
and software is always a team effort.