Language, Creation and the Inner Man
by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.
Probably the most important physical ability distinguishing man from apes and other animals is his remarkable capacity of language. The ability to communicate with others of his own kind in abstract, symbolic speech is unique to man, and the evolutionist has never been able to bridge the tremendous gulf between this ability and the grunts and barks and chatterings of animals.
Some researchers have, of course, made extravagant claims as to the potentiality of teaching chimpanzees to speak, for example, or have developed highly imaginative speculations as to how animal noises may have evolved into human languages. Such notions are, however, not based on real scientific observation or evidence.
Man's brain is quite different from that of chimpanzees, especially in that portion which controls speech, Isaac Asimov notes this:
"Once speech is possible, human beings can communicate thoughts and receive them; they can consult, teach, pool information … Once speech was developed then, the evolution of intelligence proceeded rapidly. The chimpanzee lacks Broca's convolution, but it may have the germs of communication, which could develop rapidly if it ever evolved that part of the brain."1
Unfortunately, one does not acquire a brain capable of abstract thought and intelligent speech (even if "Broca’s convolution" is really all the brain needs to do this) merely by allowing "evolution" to create one because it might be helpful. Two top authorities on supposed human evolution, David Pilbeam and Stephen Gould, anthropologist at Yale and geologist at Harvard, respectively, have pointed out that man's brain shape is not a mere scaled-up replica of the ape’s, but is qualitatively distinct in critical ways.
"Homo sapiens provides the outstanding exception to this trend among primates, for we have evolved a relatively large brain and small face, in opposition to functional expectations at our size … Australopithecus africanus has a rounded braincase because it is a relatively small animal; Homo sapiens displays this feature because we have evolved a large brain and circumvented the expectations of negative allometry. The resemblance is fortuitous; it offers no evidence of genetic similarity."2
Though creationists do not share the credulous faith of the evolutionists that man's unique brain has simply "evolved," they do concur with the inference that this uniqueness has placed an unbridgeable gap between man and any of the higher animals.
Evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson has admitted that there is little possibility of tracing an evolutionary connection between animals and men as far as language is concerned.
"Human language is absolutely distinct from any system of communication in other animals ... It is still possible, but it is unlikely, that we will ever know just when and how our ancestors began to speak."3
Since Simpson is a biologist and paleontologist, rather than a linguistics scientist, certain of the younger speculative linguists may feel that he was speaking out of his field and that it may yet be possible to trace such an evolutionary origin of human language. However, most modern linguistic specialists today acknowledge Dr. Noam Chomsky, Professor of Linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to be the "world’s foremost linguist" (a term recently applied to him by Dr. John Oller, Chairman of the University of New Mexico Department of Linguistics, while discussing this subject with the writer), and Dr. Chomsky says:
"Human language appears to be a unique phenomenon, without significant analogue in the animal world."4
As to whether the gap between animal noises and human language was ever bridged by evolution, Dr. Chomsky states:
"There is no reason to suppose that the ‘gaps’ are bridgeable. There is no more of a basis for assuming an evolutionary development of ‘higher’ from ‘lower’ stages, in this case, than there is for assuming an evolutionary development from breathing to walking."5
In other words there is no comparison at all!
The Underlying Unity of Human Language
Chomsky and many other modern linguists have found, not only that there is no connection between animal sounds and human speech, but also that there is a deep commonality between the basic thought patterns of all men, regardless of how diverse their individual languages may be. That is, there is a fundamental connection between all human languages, but no connection at all between human language and animal "language."
In an important recent study, Dr. Gunther S. Stent (Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of California in Berkeley), has drawn the further inference from Chomsky's studies that man has a certain fundamental being which is incapable of being reached by scientific analysis.
"Chomsky holds that the grammar of a language is a system of transformational rules that determines a certain pairing of sound and meaning. It consists of a syntactic component. a semantic component, and a phonological component. The surface structure contains the information relevant to the phonological component, whereas the deep structure contains the information relevant to the semantic component, and the syntactic competent pairs surface and deep structures."6
Chomsky and his associates have developed what they call structural linguistics, with its concepts of the "deep" structure and the "surface" structure. The latter involves the ordinary phenomena of different languages and their translation one into the other. The mere fact that people are able to learn other languages is itself evidence of the uniqueness and fundamental unity of the human race. No such possibility exists as between man and animals.
The "deep structure" is the basic self-conscious thought structure of the man himself, and his intuitive formulation of discrete thoughts and chains of reasoning. The vocal sounds which he uses to transmit his thoughts to others may vary widely from tribe to tribe, but the fundamental thought-system is there and is universal among mankind.
"The semantic component has remained invariant and is, therefore, the ‘universal’ aspect of the universal grammar, which all natural languages embody. And this presumed constancy through time of the universal grammar cannot be attributable to any cause other than an innate, hereditary aspect of the mind. Hence, the general aim of structural linguistics is to discover this universal grammar."7
Presumably, if this "universal grammar" could ever be ascertained, it would supply the key to man’s original language -- perhaps even its phonology and syntactical structure, as well as its semantic content.
The Unique Origin of Man
Evolutionists, as well as creationists, have in recent years come to believe in the monophyletic origin of all the tribes and races of mankind. Most of the earlier evolutionists, however, believed in man’s polyphyletic origin, thinking that each of the major "races" had evolved independently from a different hominid line. This idea, of course, easily leads to racism, the belief that one race is innately superior to another race. That is, if each race has a long, independent evolutionary history, slowly developing its distinctive character by the lengthy process of random mutation and natural selection, then it is all but certain that there has been a differential rate of evolution as between the different races, with some evolving to higher levels than others. That such racist beliefs were held by all nineteenth-century evolutionist scientists (Darwin and Huxley included) has been thoroughly documented.8
Modern evolutionists, however, repudiate racism, which has become sociologically unpopular in the twentieth century. They now agree (with the Bible) that "God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26). Although they are now in practically complete agreement that all present groups of men came originally from one single population of ancestral men, they are currently in complete disarray as to exactly what that lineage may have been. The Australopithecines and the Homo erectus group of supposed hominids are no longer considered man's progenitors, since fossils of true man have been found which are dated earlier than any of these.
"Theorists of human evolution, who may not yet have fully assessed the impact of Leakey’s 1972 discovery, now face an even knottier problem. If members of the human genus flourished as long as four million years ago, then the time when the genus first branched from its ancestral primate stem would necessarily be even earlier. As Taieb and Johanson assert, ‘All previous theories of the origin of the lineage which leads to modern man must now be totally revised.’"9
Maurice Tieg, of the French National Center for Scientific Research, and D. Carl Johanson, of Case Western Reserve University, have thus with their discoveries of three fossil human jaws in Ethiopia) demonstrated that man is "older" than his supposed "ancestors." Creationists do not accept the date of four million years as the age of these jaws, of course, but merely note that the "relative" stratigraphic date has to be "older" than the stratigraphic date of Pithecanthropus, Zinjanthropus, Australopithecus, etc., as accepted by evolutionists.
Not only do these discoveries indicate that man's unique bodily structure has (so far as actual fossil evidence goes) always been distinct from that of apes, but also that he has always had his unique capacity of communication.
"There is even the possibility, Johanson says, that he had ‘some kind of social cooperation and some sort of communication system.’"10
Back to the very beginning of human existence, therefore, in so far as it can be elucidated by archaeological excavation and anthropological analysis, man has always been man, culturally and linguistically as well as physically and mentally.
The Origin of the Different Languages
Consider this ancestral human population, whenever and however it first appeared -- whether several million years ago, newly arrived by an unknown evolutionary process from unknown evolutionary ancestors, or else several thousand years ago, representing the descendants of the handful of survivors of the great Flood. In either case, they must have constituted an originally coherent body of true men, all with the same language and culture.
The question is, how did the different languages ever develop? If the "semantic component" of language, as Chomsky puts it, is still the same for all men, how did the "phonologic component" ever become so diverse and variegated? Gradual changes are understandable (as in the gradual accretion of Latin words, Greek words, Germanic words, etc. to produce the modern English language), but how could such vastly different linguistic systems as the Indo-European languages, the agglutinative languages of the Africans, and the tonal languages of the Mongols ever develop from a single ancestral language?
Furthermore, the more ancient languages seem to be the more complex languages, as do the languages of the more apparently "primitive" tribes living today.
"Even the peoples with least complex cultures have highly sophisticated languages, with complex grammar and large vocabularies, capable of naming and discussing anything that occurs in the sphere occupied by their speakers. The oldest language that can reasonably be reconstructed is already modern, sophisticated, complete from an evolutionary point of view."11
Not only so, but the history of any given language, rather than representing an increasingly complex structure as the structure of its users supposedly evolved into higher levels of complexity, seems instead to record an inevitable decline in complexity.
"The evolution of language, at least within the historical period, is a story of progressive simplification."12
It seems necessary to assume either of two alternatives in order to explain these strange linguistic phenomena:
(1) An original population of men, at least 100,000 years ago and possibly up to four million years ago, with a highly complex language and culture. This original population (its origin completely unknown and apparently inexplicable on evolutionary grounds) somehow broke up into a number of separate populations, each then developing independently of the others for such a very long time that its extreme peculiarities of linguistic phonology and syntax could emerge as a deteriorative remnant of the ancestral language.
(2) An original population of men several thousand years ago (as dated not only by the Bible but also from the known beginnings of civilization in Sumeria, Egypt and other ancient nations). This population once used the postulated complex common ancestral language, but somehow broke up into the assumed smaller populations. However, this break-up was not a slow evolutionary process over hundreds of thousands of years, but rather was accomplished in some kind of traumatic separation, accomplished essentially instantaneously by a sudden transmutation of the one phonology into a number of distinctively and uniquely different phonologies.
The Dilemma of the Evolutionary Linguist
Note that neither of these alternatives is amenable to an evolutionary interpretation, since neither accounts for the original ancestral complex language and since both involve a subsequent deterioration (rather than evolution) of language complexity. The former, however, is favored by evolutionists because the great time spans involved seem more suitable to a uniformitarian philosophy, and because the latter clearly involves catastrophic, even supernaturalistic, intervention in human history.
The long-time span interpretation, however, necessarily involves the evolution model once again in its racist connotations. For how are populations going to be separated long enough to develop such drastically different languages without also developing drastically different physical features and mental abilities? As long as they were together, or even close enough associated to be in communication with each other (and such association would surely be to their mutual advantage), they would retain an essentially common language, would intermarry, and thus retain common physical and mental characteristics as well.
Yet the languages and cultures and physical features are, indeed, quite different, and have been since the dawn of recorded history! A genetics professor at Stanford says:
"When we look at the main divisions of mankind, we find many differences that are visible to the unaided eye ... It is highly likely that all these differences are determined genetically, but they are not determined in any simple way. For example, where skin color is concerned there are at least four gene differences that contribute to variations in pigmentation."13
If such an apparently simple and obvious difference as skin color is determined in such a complex fashion, and if all such gene factors have developed originally by mutation (as evolutionists believe), then a very long period of racial segregation must have been necessary.
"The simplest interpretation of these conclusions today would envision a relatively small group starting to spread not long after modern man appeared. With the spreading, groups became separated and isolated. Racial differentiation followed. Fifty thousand years or so is a short time in evolutionary terms, and this may help to explain why genetically speaking, human races show relatively small differences."14
Furthermore, if obvious differences such as skin color and facial morphology can arise by mutation and selection in 50,000 years, then surely subtle differences in mental abilities could also arise in such a time, and these would have considerably more selection value for survival than would skin pigmentation. The inferences for racism are again very obvious.
As a matter of fact, as creationists have repeatedly pointed out, there is no empirical evidence of mutations at confer any kind of "beneficial" effect in the natural environment upon either the individuals or populations that experience them. The various physical changes (skin color, etc.) can be much more easily explained as created genetic factors that were latent in the human genetic system ever since the creation but which could become openly expressed only in a small population being forced to reproduce by inbreeding after segregation from its ancestral population.
If the initial population were somehow forced to break up into small reproductively isolated populations, only a relatively small number of generations would be required to allow distinctive physical characteristics (all representing created genetic factors already present, though latent, in the larger population) to become manifest and fixed in different combinations in the different tribal clans. The enforced segregation would most expeditiously be arranged by the postulated sudden transmutation of the ancestral phonology (spoken language) into a number of uniquely different phonologies. No other traumatic changes would be necessary, as the physical changes would easily and quickly develop genetically from the linguistic segregation.
Furthermore, no basic change in human nature would be involved. All would still "think" in the same way and would still be, distinctively, men. The "deep structure" of human consciousness and communicative ability would be unaffected even by a traumatic change in the "surface structure." Dr. Stent makes a fascinating comment in this connection.
"Hence it is merely the phonological component that has become greatly differentiated during the course of human history, or at least since the construction of the Tower of Babel." (emphasis ours)
The Creationist Answer
Whether or not Dr. Stent believes in the confusion of tongues at Babel as a real event of history, it is at least symbolic to him of the fact that there must have at one time been some such division, and that no normal evolutionary development could accomplish it. To the creationist, of course, Babel is not only symbolic but actual. The supernatural confusion of phonologies, with its resultant tribal dispersions throughout the world and its logical genetic consequences in the rapid emergence of distinctive tribal (not "racial" -- the Bible knows nothing of the racial categories of evolutionary biology) characteristics, fits all the known facts of philology, ethnology and archaeology beautifully.
Furthermore, man's universal semantic consciousness is at once an attestation of his uniqueness in the living world and of the inability of naturalistic science to comprehend this deep inner nature of man. Dr. Stent himself has recognized this:
"No matter how deeply we probe into the visual pathway, in the end we need to posit an ‘inner man’ who transforms the visual image into a precept. And as far as linguistic is concerned, the analysis of language appears to be heading for the same conceptual impasse as does the analysis of vision."16
Chomsky and the other structural linguists have found it necessary to postulate a "deep structure" of self-consciousness, but they do not know where this comes from nor how it functions. Materialistic science can explain much with its chemical and physical equations, but it founders when it reaches the domain of "soul" and "spirit." Stent continues in this vein:
"That is to say, for man the concept of ‘meaning’ can be fathomed only in relation to the self, which is both ultimate source and ultimate destination of semantic signals. But the concept of the self ... cannot be given an explicit definition. Instead, the meaning of ‘self’ is intuitively obvious. It is another Kantian transcendental concept, one which we bring a prior to man just as we bring the concepts of space, time and causality to nature."17
The concept of "self" may be intuitively obvious, but its cause is not so obvious, at least to an evolutionist. Its reality is found to be necessary, even by naturalistic science, but as an "effect," it requires an adequate "cause," and no naturalistic cause is available to explain it. A supernatural Creator is required!
All of which leads to the conclusion that the ultimate purpose of language is not merely for communication between man and man, but even more for communication between man and his Maker. God speaks to man through His Word and man responds in praise and prayer to God.
1 Isaac Asimov, "Chimps Tell Us About Evolution," Science Digest, November, 1974, p. 89.
2 David Pilbeam and Stephen Jay Gould, "Size and Scaling in Human Evolution," Science, Vol. 186, December 6, 1974, pp. 899, 900.
3 George Gaylord Simpson, "The Biological Nature of Man." Science, Vol. 152, April 22, 1966, pp. 476, 477.
4 Noam Chomsky, Language and Mind, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Inc., New York, 1972, p. 67.
5 Ibid., p. 68.
6 Gunther S. Stent, "Limits to the Scientific Understanding of Man," Science, Vol. 187, March 21, 1975, p. 1054.
7 Ibid., p. 68.
8 John S. Haller, Jr., Outcasts from Evolution, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1971, 228 pp.
9 Scientific American, Volume 231, December, 1974, p. 64, ( news items).
10 "Ethiopia Yields Oldest Human Fossils,"Science News, Vol. 106, November 2, 1974, p. 276.
11 George Gaylord Simpson, op. cit., p. 477.
12 Albert C. Baugh, A History of the English Language, Appleton-Century-Crafts, Inc., New York, 1957, p 10.
13 L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, "The Genetics of Human Populations," Scientific America, Vol. 231, September, 1974, p. 85.
14 Ibid., p. 89. From what has been noted, however, it is obvious that even the author's 50,000 year estimate is much too small in the evolutionary framework. Even this, however, would surely involve significant racist connotations.
15 Gunther S. Stent, op. cit., p. 1054.
16 Ibid., p. 1057.
* Dr. Henry M. Morris (1918-2006) was Founder and President Emeritus of ICR.
Cite this article: Morris, H. 1975. Language, Creation, and the Inner Man. Acts & Facts. 4 (8).