Monday, August 09, 2010

Linguistics and Darwinism

Some have wondered whether Noam Chomsky was a friend to Darwinism. A friend in linguistics kindly writes,
Chomsky made many anti-Darwinian comments, as in his "Language and Mind," and his critique of B. F. Skinner's "Verbal Behavior" made quite an impact. Chomsky also collaborated with Marcel-Paul Sch├╝tzenberger who I believe was anti-Darwinian. But he's distanced himself from ID-his anti-ID screed was noted.

[ ... ]

Chomsky started out positive, as with his demand for explicitness and his model of transformational grammar, but his regime was dictatorial, he would take ideas and rename them never acknowledging their source, and so eventually he fell out of favor in linguistics. In linguistic circles it is said that his prestige issued from his radical politics whereas outside the field one hears that his authority flows from his greatness in linguistics. I recommend Levine and Postal's "A Corrupted Linguistics" in the "Anti-Chomsky Reader" ed. by Collier and Horowitz.

Nevertheless ID writers can still use Chomsky's insight-they can comb his writings for anti-Darwin gems-even if they call it "quote mining". Chomsky knew early on that one could not do linguistics unless he conceded our free will and repudiated Skinner's stimulus-response behaviorism.
Confronting today's trendy Darwinist tax mooches, Chomsky may have felt he had to bow down and worship Darwin. I have run into many examples of the kind myself.

In any event, I discovered for myself that there is an enormous difference between words and concepts, a difference large enough to sink materialist theories of the mind. How?

Recently, I was helping rehab a very elderly person, and discovered that he always more or less knew things, even though - because his short term memory was damaged due to various health problems - he did not know the words for them. Family members visited him, and helped him re-establish key short term memories.

My major concern now is the people who may be dumped off, unvisited, in the Old Folks. How many of their problems are due to unalleviable brain disorders, as opposed to simple neglect?

If you leave a person alone, except for indifferent paid staff, with no interesting experiences or activities, many restrictions, and confusing floor plans - even a genius might suffer a loss of cognition.

Thanks to linguist Noel Rude for putting me on to this.