Friday, March 10, 2006

Archive of the Day

From The Undiscovered Mind by John Horgan:
(Noam) Chomsky noted that we utter words one at a time, in a linear fashion. But we could conceivably have acquired the ability to emit one set of sounds from the mouth and another from the nose. The ability to utter two separate sequences of noises through both the mouth and nose would provide us with a "much more complex and rich communication. We wouldn't be bound by temporal linearity." If humans had developed such a capacity, Chomsky said, evolutionary psychologists would no doubt have "explained" it as a product of natural selection. Actually, Darwinian theory neither prohibits nor demands language, nor does it constrain how the language capacity should be designed. "It doesn't predict anything!" Chomsky exclaimed.

Chomsky called evolutionary psychology a "philosophy of mind with a little bit of science thrown in." If anything, evolutionary theory can explain not too little but too much. "You find that people cooperate, you say, 'Yeah, that contributes to their genes' perpetuating.' You find that they fight, you say, 'Sure, that's obvious, because it means that their genes perpetuate and not somebody else's.' In fact, just about anything you find, you can make up some story for it."


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