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Creation Science and the Evolution of Languages - The Genesis Miracle, or the lack thereof

Hausarbeit 2012 35 Seiten

Literaturwissenschaft - Allgemeines

Leseprobe

Contents

1 Introduction

2 The Tower of Babel
2.1 Henry Morris and Scientific Creationism

3 The Evolution of Languages and its Connection to Biology
3.1 Evolution
3.2 Gradualism
3.3 Speciation
3.4 Common Ancestry
3.5 Natural Selection and Nonselective Mechanisms

4 The Evolution of Language and the Origin of Babbling
4.1 Gestures, Genes, and Generations

5 Evolution or God? The Nonneccessity of Improbability

6 An Afterthought

References

1 Introduction

For many people, the Holy Bible is one of the most important books ever written. It is a source of spiritual guidance and comforts them in times of trouble. But it also plays an important cultural role. Biblical stories, myths, allusions, and metaphors surround us in our everyday life. To know the Bible means to know an important cultural artifact. In literary studies, for instance, one cannot surmount a profound knowledge of the Bible, for it has an impact on many pieces of literature. To understand myriads of Shakespearean allusions demands that the Bible be known. Works like East of Eden or Milton’s Paradise Lost lose all of their magnitude and beauty without at least some knowledge of the holy scripture. And even our language is subject to the influence of biblical references. The saying of the ”camel through the eye of the needle”, for example, has its roots in the Bible. Likewise, the story of Noah in the book of Genesis explains the olive branch as a symbol of peace.

But the Bible not only comprises stories and myths, metaphors and allusions, and is used as a piece of literature itself. For many people is the literal, inerrant word of the creator of the universe—the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh. Although the academic realm of hermeneutics is actively challenging the view of biblical literalists, Christian fundamentalists in the United States take biblical stories, narratives of ancient peoples, as historical facts. They argue that the Bible is the only tue account of how the universe came into existence. For them, Genesis is not a collection of ancient myths, but the history of our creation.

Creationists are a growing group among Christians in the United States of America. They are successful on their way to gain a considerable amount of power and influence among the electorate—politically as well as culturally. Despite myriad theological and scientific counterarguments, creationists lay siege to our contemporary, secular society by trying to superimpose a biblical world view upon society. Even more so, they are equally engaged in discrediting secular science, for it does not corroborate

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Figure 1: The Creation Museum

creationism, but stands in direct opposition to fundamentalist beliefs. However strong an opposition scientific knowledge might be, creationists have successfully erected a paradigm within society that supports their literalist assumptions by means of supposed scientific research. This paradigm is known as creation science.

Creation science is the notion that biblical incidents—such as the six-day creation— can be verified by scientific inquiry. Creation science argues, for example, that fossils are the result of the Great Flood, rather than the effect of millions of years of natural forces acting upon our planet. The support for scientific creationism should not be underestimated. Scientific knowledge and education in general are decreasing at the moment, while religious conservatism and biblical literalism are on its brink of public presence.

One of the leading religious organizations in the United States that radically pro- motes the idea of scientific creationism is Answers in Genesis (AiG). AiG spent mil- lions of dollars to erect a center for scientific creationism in Petersburg, Kentucky (see Fig.: 1).

The visitor’s brochure tells people that THE CREATION MUSEUM PRESENTS A ’WALK THROUGH HISTORY.’ DESIGNED BY A FORMER UNIVERSAL STUDIOS EX- HIBIT DIRECTOR, THIS STATE-OF-THE-ART 70,000 SQUARE FOOT MUSEUM BRINGS THE PAGES OF THE BIBLE TO LIFE.1

In creation science, everything is subject to the premise of scientific inquiry, and the Bible is promoted as the only book one needs to know to know it all. And so, Christian fundamentalists, creation scientists, and the interested layperson are given a justification for strengthening their faith in God and the Bible by means of scientific support. But if creation science were true, if God were infallible in revealing the truth about our planet, it would stand the test of critical inquiry.

2 The Tower of Babel

For creationists, the only reliable source of knowledge that is not influenced by secular science is the Bible—the inerrant word of the artificer of the universe. As a conse- quence, creationists are actively fighting the theory of evolution as the most important process accounting for life on earth. For the true account can only be found in the holy scripture of Christian faith. In sum, not evolution, but God did it. Similarly, creation- ists reject the idea of natural processes that can be held accountable for the diversity of languages. That is, not only science, but also linguistic theory is directly challenged by creationism. And while biological evidence in favor of the theory of evolution is overwhelming, little is mentioned about linguistic theory in public discourse. But as it is an integral part of the mindset supported by biblical literalists, let us take a look at linguistic theory and the creation of languages.

Everybody is well aware of the many languages of the world. And many people have studied at least one second language in their lifetime. But how did all of these different languages arise in the first place? Linguistic theory argues that all languages have evolved gradually, by slow, sequential processes. In short: languages evolve by observable changes. Paleolinguists do the best they can to trace back human languages to common sources to chart the lineages of their development.

We shall look into the evolution of languages and supporting evidence presently. But first let us consider how creationists should regard the picture of the origin of languages. The answer can be given right away: they should reject it in the same way they reject the origin of species, namely by means of an evolutionary process over a (very) long period of time. Because in Genesis we not only find the story of Yahweh’s creation of the heavens and the earth—and with it all plants, animals, and humans—, but also the creation of different languages of the world: the story of the erection of the Tower of Babel. If we look a the story told in Genesis, we will find that the differences between the languages of the world are due to divine intervention. From the Bible we learn that after the flood, ”the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech”.2. And Noah’s sons can be held responsible for God’s decision to split one language into many. Genesis tells the story as follows:

And it came to pass, as they [Noah’s sons] journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:2-9, KJV)

Although liberal and progressive Christians regard Genesis as a collection of ancient stories and myths, as literature put together by ancient peoples, a literal reading of the text is held by many believers in the United States. They believe that after God’s intervention in Babel, people spread all over the world, and henceforth began to spread different languages around the globe. The creation museum in Kentucky depicts the abandoning of Babel with a huge, vivid graphic illustration (Fig. 2). As the information

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: The Spread of Languages

on the displays says, ’ At Babel, God created numerous languages. Over the time, these languages changed into the thousands of different languages we have today. Yet modern languages still follow patterns of the original languages at Babel ’ (Fig 3).

The rejection of linguistic theory about the origin of languages and the explanation for language variety is an important part of the ethos of Christian creationism and therefore of importance. Not only because it is yet another creation myth taken as

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 3: Different Languages Created at Babel

factual evidence, and thus provides us with an exemplar of creationist thinking and rhetoric. But because of its close analogy to the biological case of the origin of species. To understand evolution means to understand linguistic theory.

2.1 Henry Morris and Scientific Creationism

Although linguistic creationism is scarcely mentioned in public debates, the creation museum in Kentucky clearly demonstrates that rejecting linguistic theory is part of the creationist mindset.

Despite the fact that linguistic theory does not find its way into the public on a regular basis, at least some creationists explicitly reject linguistic theory in public dis- course, and therefore undermine basic linguistic knowledge. One of the most eminent creationists in this respect is Henry Morris. Although Morris died in 2006, he still has a significant impact on Christian fundamentalism. Not only was he a renowned creationist par excellence in general, but also known for his resolute rejection of the assumption that languages are the product of evolution. To understand the processes of language change and variety, so his argument goes, one has to understand the Bible, and take into account the supernatural powers of the God of the Old Testament. In his standard reference for creationism, Scientific Creationism, he argues that [t]here really seems no way to explain the different languages except in terms of the special creative purpose of the Creator. Evolution has no explanation either for language in general or the languages in particular.

Exactly when or how the Creator transformed the primeval language of the original human population into distinctive languages of different tribes and nations . . . can perhaps be determined by a close study of the records of prehistory. But this is not a problem susceptible to scientific evaluation.3

He is very precise in his notion of the origin of language in the first place, and linguistic diversity when he says that ”evolution has no explanation either for language in general or the languages in particular.” Accordingly, not evolution but ”a close study of the records of prehistory” is to be focused on to find an explanation for the differences of languages; which he does in his work The Biblical Basis of Modern Science:

As far as the great proliferation of different languages among men is con- cerned, the biblical account is likewise the only satisfactory explanation. If all men came from one ancestral population, as most evolutionary an- thropologists believe today, they originally spoke the same language. As long as they lived together, or continued to communicate with one another, it would have been impossible for the wide differences in human language to have evolved.4 (emphasis added)

In his line of argument, he continues by arguing that ”the miraculous confusion of tongues at Babel does provide the only meaningful explanation for the phenomenon of human languages.”5 Further, he claims that ...there is good reason to accept the biblical record of the confusion of tongues at Babel as the true account of the origin of the different major language groups of the world. Evolutionists certainly have no better an- swer, and the only reason why modern scientists tend to reject it is because it was miraculous. To say that it would have been impossible, however, is not only to deny God’s omnipotence but also to assert that scientists know much more about the nature of language than they do.6

[...]


1 This excerpt is taken from the actual visitor’s brochure that I was given in Kentucky.

2 Genesis 11:1, KJV

3 Morris, 1985: 185.

4 Morris, 1984: 429.

5 Morris, 1984: 431.

6 Morris, 1984: 432

Details

Seiten
35
Jahr
2012
ISBN (eBook)
9783656259671
ISBN (Buch)
9783656259978
Dateigröße
948 KB
Sprache
Deutsch
Katalognummer
v199173
Institution / Hochschule
Universität Bielefeld
Note
Schlagworte
Religion Anglistik Englisch Fundamentalismus Fundamentalism Genesis Christianity Christentum Linguistik Linguistics Kreationismus Creationism Schöpfung

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Titel: Creation Science and the Evolution of Languages - The Genesis Miracle, or the lack thereof