Blog Rating

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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I really like the "urge" component and can definitely relate. It seems we have this innate need to relay everything we experience as if the person on the other end really cares. I mean, just look at how mundanely trivial most of our talk is ...not to mention how predictable:
"Hi how are you?"
"I'm good, and you?"
"Good, thanks."

How many times a day do you engage in this dialogue? Does it ever change? Not often - most people give the same responses and yet it just seems to naturally flow everytime we bump into someone. I wonder what purpose it ultimately serves and why it became such a drive for us?

On a seemingly unrelated note, I was discussing the topic of war with my dad and we were noticing how, for the most part, war is always over land and resources. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wars seemed to really take off when we gradually became more sedentary and found 'our' land to be 'valuable'. This became even moreso with the first big civilizations such as Mayans, Incans, and especially the Greeks and Romans among others. And along with these wars and mass expansions came advanced technology, especially through language (whether it be spoken, written, or mathematical). Everyone has heard the relation that agriculture eventually led to specialization which allowed free time for some individuals to essentially just sit and think and maybe this is part of the underlying advancement of language.

Going back 40,000 years or whenever you want to ballpark the development of "culture" and "language", according to current archaeology (unless I'm behind in my figures), we were still foragers so my ideas tend to fall apart a bit - but only if we think of my points as relating strictly to sedentism. As I mentioned, wars also were fought as a means of expansion. Whether or not our ancestors fought wars is unlikely aside from minor small-scale disputes between tiny groups, but these groups were expanding to new areas. Perhaps then it this travelling expansion that gave rise to language. Perhaps on the trek, people sat around the camp and got bored and started to develop some urge to tell Frank the Caveman about the cool bird he'd seen earlier in the day while he was off on his own hunting a rabbit. Call this superficial, but is it really? I argue with my Infant Development professor quite a bit by using silly examples like this but are they really that far off? We aren't some mystical species and our lives are spent doing real and literal activities like wandering, hunting, and sitting around 'thinking'. Is it such a stretch to say that this very basic 'culture' that these ancestors had would involve day-to-day events that began to be stimulatory when talked about between group members? After all, this is exactly what we do today and we aren't all that different from our early homo sapiens. As a matter of fact, on the chain of evolution, 100,000 years is pretty insignificant.

So in sum here, I really do like this "urge" hypothesis as all animals are driven by urges and we are definitely an indulgent species if ever there were one. We spend almost our entire lives indulging. Perhaps language is just another means of this ...

On a completely unrelated note, in your paragraph regarding relating language and thought. I've often debated this with myself and others and I do agree with you that they are separate, but I find my arguments are weak against my opponents. Saying that deaf people have thought without language can be countered that deaf people often *do* learn a language such as ASL. Deaf people even say that they "think in words" just as most non-deaf people do. Even thinking "visually" as Einstein does does not entail a lack of language=thought. It could just mean that Einstein preferred to see a vision and then think about it but this thinking could still be done in a linguistic form - maybe mathematical, maybe in words by him talking about his theory to himself. I still do think it is quite bold to say language and thought go hand-in-hand and are the same, as some claim, but I can't seem to convince even myself of this via a strong argument. Any ideas?

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