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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2003


Evolutionary Catch-22's
One of the major problems I've always seen with the course of evolution is the evolution of information-carrying mechanisms. The most obvious of these are nucleic acids and language, both of which are required for the two greatest material developments in world history--life and civilization--and both of which the Bible ascribes to the special creation of God. As for how exactly this special creation was carried out, I am not convinced anyway, but the strictly material explanations for them (which still, in my mind, requires a God to start it all in a manner by which those two things, among others, can come about) have always struck me as decidedly incomplete.

They both have the problem with an immense cCatch-22. How can life exist without nucleic acids, but how can nucleic acids exist without life? The explanation for this is that before any life existed, there was RNA World, and lots of RNA was just floating around replicating itself, and then cells and ribosomes and whatnot developed around that RNA. Like I said--seems incomplete to me, and overly theoretical.

Tonight on PBS's Big Ideas, I saw theoretical biologistMartin Nowak discussing the evolution of language, and the explanation there seemed even more unconvincing, for a specific reason.

According to Nowak, there was a point in the evolution of humans that required the larynx to be lowered quite a bit--this made choking more possible, but also made more vowel sounds possible. This is a nerd's dream theory--we gave up physical constitution for something mental! Go humanity! This is all well and good, and I suppose a history can be thought up so that having more vowel sounds came in more handy evolutionarily than not choking (actually, it might make a marvelous story), but, as Nowak detailed earlier in the interview, each language uses only 50 or so phonyms out of the total 1,000. Now, this is great for a planet with 6,000 languages, but why this would have mattered to an emergent Homo sapiens, playing Revenge of the Nerds with the non-choking jocks two caves over, I don't know. I'm very nearly certain that 50 plus phonemes can be pulled off even with an upper larynx. The only reason to have the lower larynx is to enable multiple languages--which wouldn't seem to be that helpful to anyone but God, really.

Perhaps there's a more detailed explanation out there, but it seems difficult to explain how the brain functions that enable language could even be bothered to evolve before language existed to a point that it could be incredibly useful to a hunting and gathering group of hominids, giving it so much of an advantage over another group that the other ones all died off. And for that to happen, wouldn't they need the brain functions already?
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