Way back over eight years ago now, on 26th January 2004, I wrote this article in talk.origins, free.christians and alt.fan.uncle-davey which kicked off no little furore, and got me labelled by Aaron Clausen, a talk.origins regular, as a “science-fiction writer” and “the most dangerous and mischievous kind of Creationist“. He called my account “nothing more than a piece of fiction. It’s like good science fiction, it weaves fact and fiction together in such a way as the improbable seems no more surprising than the probable.” He also wrote on 2nd February 2004 “To my mind, Davey, you are the most mischievous and dangerous kind of Creationist. … You even know the holes in the knowledge of the study of language, and you can use the terminology to great effect. People … seeing your essay, would likely fall for it hook, line and sinker. Because it mixes fact and myth so very well, you give it an air of plausibility.” That was in amongst admitting that he didn’t know any better answer to the origin of language families, and when I asked him what he would tell his kids on the subject if they asked him whether there was a polygenesis of language families or linguistic monogenesis, (this being the sort of thing they ask at the breakfast table in American skeptics’ households) he said he would tell them “we don’t know“.
It seems like even no explanation at all is better for these “knowledge-thirsty” evolutionists than the Bible’s one, if and whenever the Bible invokes supernatural intervention by God, as at Babel. And their counter to the perfectly reasonable claim, (straight out of atheist Conan Doyle, by the way) that if you cannot disprove a theory it must be true, is that that’s the ‘goddidit’ argument, also known as the “God of the gaps” argument. They think that by giving silly, mocking designations to the perfectly logical and consistent lines of thought that Christians have, they have somehow effectively dealt with them. Either that or they make out that the questions which we raise are invalid in some way. In all they do they are like lawyers who, having trouble with the evidence, use odd points of law to attack the procedure, so that justice and fairness and true rationale flee out of the window, pursued by the harrying hounds of unscrupulous rhetoric.
Obviously, I’m not out to deceive anybody or produce fiction or stir up mischief as Aaron Clausen claimed, but I really think that if someone knows the facts about where we are in the reconstruction of earlier languages, and doesn’t have a world view that excludes a priori the chance for God to work directly on the human mind, en masse, they will say that the explanation I gave, based on the Babel account of scripture, is just as valid an account of how we got to today’s languages as any other. Only prejudice against the possibility of such action by God is a reason not to acknowledge that I have offered a workable and valid theory, and one that reflects observable fact more clearly than such theories as would dovetail well with evolutionary views of the origin of man.
Anyway, the person who got me started is ‘Sloggoth’ and he/she is in the quotes.
Some of the following is quoted from the time, and some has been added since to improve the communication of the ideas.
Well, Uncle Davey, you’ve confused a lurker pretty well here. If you would be so kind as to clarify:
When you speak of linguistic evolution do you mean:
1) The evolution of the *capacity for language* in humans? Biological evolution must indeed be able to explain this.
2) What everyone else means, i.e. change in language, such as that which produced French and Spanish from Latin? There is no reason why a theory which deals with genetic change should address a purely cultural phenomenon, beyond explaining how it is biologically possible in the first place.
3) If one cannot trace linguistic evolution beyond the known families, (which probably arose at some time in the past that could very loosely fit the Babel account), then the Babel account is thereby not contradicted?
The way I see it is that what happened at Babel everyone received their own language. Even husbands and wives could not talk and little kids could not communicate with their parents. This meant that in order to have an established family language, families needed to isolate themselves, and then they would all learn the language of the mother of that family, as mothers are and always have been the main one to teach the little children language. The men therefore would also have needed to take their wive’s grammar and syntax, but the wife would in return take a lot of the lexicon from her husband, and in the process already the family language would become at once grammatically simpler but also lexically richer than the Babel exit languages each member spoke. We have the expression ‘mother tongue’ in almost every language but Welsh, which is like the exception that proves the rule, exactly from this time, which was only one generation in the history of man.
That’s right. There was only one generation from Babel in which individual languages became family languages. The majority of the languages that came out from Babel would have gone into disremembrance when that person dies. In some cases the vocabulary will have been loaned into the family language, and in most cases the phonetics will have influenced to some degree the family language. People who had no families and no successors therefore had their individual languages vanish probably without trace.
You see, this was the mechanism that would have driven people out of Babel into their own place, so that they could quietly re- establish a common language with those who meant most to them, their family, without linguistic interference from all the others who would come babbling over the horizon, preventing their children from achieving any linguistic competence.
Within a further forty years, that one language per family (already maybe only one fifth of the number actually made at Babel) was similar conflating and merging into tribal languages. The basic model would then be the family language of the most dominant family in the tribe. This process took longer than the family language process, as the new languages were being learned as foreign languages by all in the tribe but the dominant family. These dominant families are the ancestors of the aristocratic families that grew up later in almost every culture.
The tribal languages would have taken over from the family languages so that by about four hundred years after Babel the single family language was as redundant and extinct as the single person language had been forty years after the Babel event. But each of these tribal languages would have been a selection of grammars, phonologies and lexical materials that came out of the Babel event. We are told in scripture that God confused the language, which may suggest that he took things which were already in the Adamic language and mixed them up. However, my personal belief is that none of the exit languages had all of the material that was in the Adamic language. When given directly to Adam by God, this language was a perfect thought vehicle for the man that He had made, and to be able to be taught and used by future generations. In Isaiah 65v20 as well as in the early Genesis chapters we see indications that the original plan for the length of human childhood was 100 years, setting up for a lifetime of up to 1000 years. Up to the Flood we see nobody doing any “begetting” until they are over one hundred, that’s for sure. The language given by God originally would have been a rich language taking the full measure of 100 years to acquire from parents and enabling thought and worship on a level unparalleled by people living today. Because there were relatively few of them and the Flood was such a huge cataclysm, we cannot see any indications of the achievements they had made with this linguistic tool, but they must have been amazing.
Once we arrive at post-Flood times and you see in scripture the lives of post-Flood generations going down to below what would have counted as infant mortality before the Flood, people maturing already in the second decade of their lives and then expected to have finished their educations (one of the reasons why there is this conundrum that we barely use a fraction of our brains’ synaptic capabilities – they are still the same size as those brains were which held Adamic, but now our childhoods are too short to learn it properly anyway) so the Adamic language was probably already deteriorating – probably people started to use a debased, pidgin version of the old language at Babel, although as a Community they may still have possessed the totality of it.
So the size of the confounded languages were probably much smaller – it’s reasonable to suggest about 20% of the complexity and richness of the original Adamic language. Each individual language probably held a unique mix and match combination of about 20% of what was in Adamic, but shifted and confused so that Adamic could not be put back together again.
And of such languages, getting back to the story, tribal languages emerge within up to 400 years and we come to the rise of the supertribal language.
Some of these early tribal languages exist until today. Basque is a good example. It isn’t visibly related to other languages around it, it has simply been there, carried in a small tribe in enveloped in the Pyrenees, for thousands of years.
Other tribes conflated again into the supertribe, and the supertribe is where we find the original languages at the heads of the family trees that we can easily recognise. The Aryan supertribe spoke a language whose name we don’t know, but we know it must have existed and we call it Proto-Indo-European. They themsleves could have called it Yaspriyakis, Blurbnurb or something like that, or just “Smith’s Tongue”, for all we know. It was a supertribe, and as with all supertribes, it fell apart, with people who spoke it leaving
and mingling with the languages of the substrate where they went, which were generally tribal, not supertribal peoples, and could not compete with them.
So we have a tendency for common grammatical elements to be seen, but a lot of different lexical stock from the borrowings. Even the supertribe itself had not been stable long when the emigrations started; some thought the word for ‘a hundred’ should be ‘kentum’ and others thought it should be ‘sati’. About all they could really agree on was the words for beech trees, snow, and about twenty other matters.
So the supertribal language was the turning point. From Babel to the supertribal period, maybe a hundred thousand languages got down to maybe ten thousand. After that time the supertribal languages started to have multiple descendents, and even some descendents had multiple descendents themselves, so that they replaced the exit languages being spoken by peoples like the
pre-Celtic cultures of Ireland, and then many of those languages, like Irish Celtic, themselves became forced into a minor role or often made extinct altogether, like Cornish, by more vigorous languages of their distant cousins, such as English.
In sum, if we have had six thousand years since Babel, one of those thousand has seen the rise of the linguistic supertribe, and the other five thousand has seen mainly supertribal languages disintegrating into the language families we know today (and others which have gone extinct with no trace). In some parts of the world smaller languages, even ones that have resulted from supertribal disintegration, have started to grow again into supertribal languages, so the whole ebb and flow described here is something which didn’t necessarily happen just once in that length of history.
Incidently, even broader groups than Nostratic have been proposed, including attempts to reconstruct words of Proto-World. Unfortunately the only one I recall at the moment is rather indelicate.
There’s every chance that we can guess at a word that was in the vocabulary of somebody who walked out of Babel, maybe in a sound-shifted or abbreviated form. After all, all the material in every tribal or supertribal language came from someone or other’s Babel exit language. It’s not common for languages to invent words, so even ‘shit’ has good cognates in Greek. If we say that ‘skata’ is closer to the Babel exit languages, because we can tell it didn’t go through the Germanic sound shifts which we know all about thanks to the Brothers Grimm, then we can assert with a good probability of truth that some rather powerful man or his wife, with a penchant for talking about his or her bodily functions, received the ancestor word for ‘skata/shit’ in his or her personal language at Babel. It is very interesting how reluctant mankind is to introduce linguistuc material out of nothing. Almost everything is a loanword or a calque or an omatopoeia, or a contraction of other words. Even on the internet existing language was massaged to create the terms we are now using worldwide over the last 25 years. Very little by way of truly random words have been used. Even the search engine “Google”‘ links from “go ogle” and “Facebook” comes from two very basic monosyllablic English words.
Anyway, this account, which has no shortage of fantasy in it as I am more than aware, and make no apology for in the face of the fantasy required to make a dinosaur drawing complete with colours and habits from a couple of bones, this being the sort of trick on which most people’s understanding of evolution seems to base, is consistent nevertheless with both on the one hand the observable fact that we cannot get back any further than PIE or PFU, and find further common ancestors, obviates the absurd and counter-intuitive notion that language systems fairly equal in complexity could have evolved in the human race at different times and places, but without the organs of speech of the races then changing so that an infant could not acquire a perfect accent in a non related system, and where we do not see easier grammars compounding into harder grammars, but rather the reverse, and one the other hand it is consistent with what scripture says about language origins.
And so, in conclusion, evolutionary science is at odds with what is known of philology, and the Bible is not.
By the way, in the rest of the original talk.origins discussion, it became apparent that the evolutionists have nothing to offer but rhetoric, and try to divert the uncomfortable topic onto archaeology, where they attempted to argue from negatives assuming that Babel hinges on the archaeological work of Babylon, when there is no reason at all to expect to find any traces of Babel and its tower. However large it was, it was doubtless less in terms of mass of fabric than the Berlin Wall was, and people recycled that in the space of a few months, let alone a few thousand years. If anything has changed, and any evolutionist has something to offer which is new, please go ahead and make your comments.
I remind evolutionists reading this article of their right of immediate and public reply on the bulletin board of this site, which as I said earlier is not edited or moderated except for things that are illegal and for spam.
I hope Christians are encouraged by all this not to believe that science has all the answers, it doesn’t. But as we see evolutionists, especially those who are only using the evolutionary fallacy as their charter for atheism or apostasy, will fill in the gaps between real science and their world view and then try to convince us that this philosophical putty of theirs is good science too.
(DJJ, based on material added to the old site usenetposts.com 29/4/04, original debate from Jan-Feb 2004, now with 25% added material)
- Babel…. (maddmedic.wordpress.com)
- The Bigger Picture (kenyanvoice.wordpress.com)
- God’s Mass Deportation Policy (vridar.wordpress.com)
- Creationist: Science Begins with the Bible, Not the Facts (patheos.com)
- Ruse: creationism the fault of Gnu Atheists who don’t study enough (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
One of my strange habits is that I don’t tend to walk around with the book I’m reading – I would be more likely to go somewhere with my goldlist book and my podcast player – but I do read a lot. I obviously read a lot on-screen, as does everyone in the internet, but this reading is a bit like the finger buffets where people are bringing you little bits of food all the time, and for people like me who need to control their intake it’s a nightmare, as you soon lose count. Whereas on the other hand sitting down to a plate meal where you can see what there is, that’s a bit like reading books. And I do a lot of that as well. Books … and plate meals also, as you can readily imagine.
Instead of taking the book with me, though, I have different books all parked in different places. I have one in one toilet, one in another toilet, one in the car to read when waiting for my wife to go into some shop, some at the Prague flat, some at the office, etc. Right now at my Prague flat I am reading the third book of Mr Germy Claxon, who is gradually becoming in the third book a bit boring and repetitive, which is something I’ll obviously have to watch out for if I intend to do any amount of writing. And also I’m reading Professor Richard Dawkins’ latest offering, “The Greatest Show on Earth”.
Some people may rub their hands in glee at the idea of a creationist finally reading Dawkins and getting some sense put in his head. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve read a good deal of the “best” evolutionists’ literature, including Dennett, Dawkins, Darwin himself, and the talk.origins FAQ finger buffet, to the degree that it is becoming, a bit like Germy Claxon himself, a bit predictable and repetitive.
Dawkins claims that in his new book (by the way he even gives this as his ‘raison d’etre’ for the book, like anybody ever needed an excuse to make a load of money) that he would put together the proof for evolution and finally put to bed the idea that there is any scientific doubt about it.
OK, so I started reading it in the hope that he will be successful. If he could prove it, it would change my worldview radically, of course, but I like to think I’m not so stupid as to go against something which is proven by what I understand to be scientific empiricism. Colour me disappointed then, but not in the least surprised, as I advance through the pages of this sizeable tome, to be confronted with, instead of any proof (and remember just one objective proof-in-total will do) a very long argument based more on rhetoric than on objective logic, which he calls “a softening up” procedure. He describes once again the ideas of evolutionists intertwining them with observations from Nature, some of them very well observed and well written, but all of which have more than one way of interpreting them, and he ignores the interpretations that a Creationist might give and links them in instead to his developing argument. This is a fine, readable work of interpreting a bunch of Natural History observations so that they fit one framework. It still doesn’t contain one single proof. If it did, it wouldn’t need to be so long and involved. Effectively, like so much other popular science literature, it is an exercise in making you think that they know things about how we got here which remain their faith-based mere conjecture.
Let’s face it, recently we had the 200th Anniversary of Darwin’s opus “On The Origin Of Species”, which led the press to dredge up such interesting facts on the incomplete success of evolutionist ideas as that most people on Earth still believe in some form of Creator, and where are the ideas of Creationism held most strongly? In the world’s most advanced country and most powerful economy, the United States. This is not a result of people being sheltered in Bedouin huts from the progress of science – this is a result of “science falsely so-called”, as the scripture identifies certain thinking, being unable to furnish adequate proofs to convince even the more sophisticated populations that it is anything more than an alternative system built on as much faith and wishful thinking in the final analysis as our religious one is.
And it has always been my view that in the end it depends on what you wish to believe. If you wish to believe that there isn’t a God, if you wish there were no God, then naturally you will allow yourself to be persuaded by these long books which in the end all go around in circles and prove nothing. If you wish to believe there is a God, then you can read anything that the humanist press have got to throw at you and you’ll find it quite faith-confirmatory to see that the thing the atheists believe has unanswered questions that you could drive a truck through.
Let’s be clear – people who think that they can “prove” evolution are as misguided as people who think they can “prove” creationism, so-called creation scientists, who are, basically, Christians and Muslims who need some kind of empirical prop when they ought to know better. God patently hasn’t ordered this world so that either side can find true proofs of their convictions. He has clearly ordered this world to give you the possibility to believe what you choose, even in the face of a convincing alternative. In so many areas we have a problem with freedom of will. We want to be good but the flesh stops us, we want to do this and do that but we have to contend with the world, the flesh and the devil, but at least in one area we should, every one of us, consider ourselves free, and that is to select whether we choose to believe in God as Creator and Redeemer, or some faceless algorithm that sees no sins and offers no redemption. You make that choice in your heart and mind, regardless of whether you are “good enough” to believe it. Forget about that. All God wants is for you to choose to believe Him, the main recurrent theme of the Bible, and especially the Gospels. He is perfectly able to do the rest, and did do it, on Calvary.
In some cases Richard Dawkins argues very well for things which I as a Creationist believe in and he actually strengthened my arguments, rather than destroyed it. So much for the Evolutionists thinking that we only don’t believe their guff because we won’t read it, we want to be sheltered from it, and we do read it, we are too stupid to understand it. He shows, for example, in an early part of the book how fast selection can lead to speciation, and it turns out this is a good deal quicker than science has in the past believed. The origin of the silver fox is a great illustration drawn by Dawkins for this point. This is a great argument in favour of my view that an awful lot of speciation has indeed taken place since the Flood, only without additional genes being added – these speciations have basically been attenuations of the genetic variation that was intrinsic to created animals in the first place. This is why we have many more species today, despite extinctions, than could possibly have fitted into the Ark, and yet the Ark account given in the first Book of Moses is, in my view, authoritative history.
If both systems, creationism and evolution, in the end boil down to what you believe, and not proof, then of the two I prefer the one which predicts a world in which you need to take things on faith, namely the Christian model, rather than the one which anticipates that we will find answers to everything by science, which is the so-called “rationalist” model which favours evolution. What we actually see, ie, that neither side knows the answer and can only believe, is consistent with much Christian philosophy, but undermines the premises of rationalism entirely, which is based on the idea that we only accept empirical proof, making the presumption that things which we are to accept and understand are susceptible to such empirical proof. Religious texts tell us straight that they are not susceptible, and that, in the words of Christ, we may not “put the Lord our God to the test”. Empiricism is entirely about testing, by its very definition. Therefore Christ dismisses empiricism, which should embolden any Christian to question the rationalists’ approach to science, in which they seem to promise that sight proofs will be forthcoming. Christ made this world, and He did not make a world that was going to answer empiricists’ questions. He made a world in which every single scientific discovery actually raises more questions that it answers: questions whose answers we will fully know in the promised resurrected eternity.
There is too much bluff and show in “the Greatest Show on Earth”. In fact, that’s pretty much a summary of what it is. It certainly contains fascinating facts, beautiful writing, great photography and images, but in the end it is true that Evolutionism is the greatest show on earth. It is a show, and not reality. So thank you for admitting it.
Rounding off for aesthetics’ (please note – not “atheistics”) sake with the same analogy I came in on, I will say that Dawkin’s book is a large plate of tasty food, but it is comfort food. It is not a balanced diet. You need protein, carbohydrates, fats, roughage, vitamins, minerals and water all in balance. To get a proper world view you need to use your faculties, you faculties for both rational an logical thought and onference from objective observation on the one hand, and your capacity for faith in what is revealed that you cannot have proven, on the other. That is a balance that Dawkins seems to have lost. I’m not getting my mental five-a-day from his latest book, just a re-hash of the same old arguments claiming to be what they’re not. It is a plate of philosophical bubble and squeak, with the odd reheated bit of sausage turning up in it – but a far cry from the greatest meal on Earth. There’s another Book that lays claim to that, and it tells us far more about the Origin than modern science can.