[Marxism] Re: human origins

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Mon Aug 8 22:44:16 MDT 2005

Nick Halliday wrote:
> CB:
> >>Care to elaborate>>
> No.
> >>.The 'arbitrary' aspects of language are adaptive. Symboling allows
> messages to cross generations. This has adaptive advantages at human orgins>>
> So are all forms of successful communication, including imitating the
> roar of an approaching lion so we all know to flee. I sometimes wonder
> if you aren't exaggerating just how much adaptively useful information
> is making it across all those generations.

Human evolution had probably essentially ceased for some 10s of
thousands of years before the invention of language. Those features of
the brain and anatomy which made language possible were almost certainly
spandrels -- i.e. they piggy-backed on other traits and were not
themselves adaptive. Homo sapiens (us -- modern humans) has been around
100,000+ years; language may have been _much_ more recent. Language was
undoubtedly essential for warmaking, for serious destruction of the
environment, for slavery, for the development of sophisticated forms of
torture. The species obviously had flourished without language. Only our
descendants a hundred thousand years or more from now, if there are any
descendants, can judge whether language as such was a "darwinian
advantage." The tentative evidence is the opposite; that language makes
possible the suicide of the species.


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