A new argument against evolution

This from the Hebrides News:

If, as evolutionists claim, all of mankind evolved from the same primitive life-source, then how did we end up with 7,000 different languages? The Bible teaches in Genesis 11: 7-,9 that God created all the different languages at Babel…

If mankind had advanced through a so-called evolutionary process, then there should still be developing languages today. However, the stark fact is mankind’s languages are vanishing from civilization at an alarming rate – thus proving that evolution is a lie. And if evolution were true, then the process by which mankind has obtained 7,000 languages would be continuing today. Has the evolutionary process ceased? According to the Bible it never happened in the first place.

The Earth, of course, is 6,000 years old. As for purported evidence to the contrary,

Such Biblical claims seem absurd to evolutionists, who have convinced themselves that the earth is billions of years old. Ironically, they have absolutely no evidence of such longevity. Evolutionists have sought out dishonest scientists, who distort the facts, use faulty testing methods, and make erroneous assumptions (unethically stating such assumptions as if they were facts). Yes, evolution is at best only a theory…

This is not parody. The author, one Donald J. Morrison, is an Inverness-based mission worker for the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), which split from the insufficiently rigorous Free Church of Scotland in January 2000. I have not been able to find out more about his qualifications or activities.

If this is not enough to convince you of the errors of evolutionism, you will find more of Morrison’s arguments expounded here by my friend the Sensuous Curmudgeon, whose superficial flippancy conceals careful documentation and analysis of creationist arguments (for a list of topics, see the right-hand column of his site).

As for the evolution of languages, and the descent of most European and Indian languages from a common ancestor, this was first clearly formulated by Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn in the 17th century, and used by both Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin as an analogy for the evolution of species.

IndoEuropeanTree

Partial tree of Indo-European languages. Branches are in order of first attestation. Languages in red are extinct. White labels indicate categories / un-attested proto-languages. Via Wikipedia. Multiple authors, first version by Mandrak. Gnu license. Click twice to enlarge

h/t Robert Canning

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on June 23, 2018, in Charles Darwin, Evolution, Religion, Scotland and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. I’m constantly astonished at just how astoundingly stupid creationists can be.

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  2. Reblogged this on Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin and commented:
    Not quite a new argument. It has been around for decades as I found on an Evangelical Alliance conference in the 1990s.

    Some were aghast I thought it was totally wrong

    But such is the nuttiness of Creationists – or – how they misread the Bible

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  3. This is possibly the most amazing non sequitur I’ve seen:

    “If, as evolutionists claim, all of mankind evolved from the same primitive life-source, then how did we end up with 7,000 different languages?”

    If, as genealogists claim, I came from German people on my mother’s side, then how did I end up with so many socks in my sock drawer?

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  4. These people need to be put away in the same box as the flat-earthers. I’m surprised that you even bothered to address their childish arguments.

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  5. The Bible does not say “God created all the different languages”. It says He “confused the language (singular)”. We have a similar problem today when YECs demonstrate how confused they are when interpreting the Bible. We (evolutionary creationist in my case) read the same Bible but understand it quite differently.

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  6. Reham Kcirtap

    Derp derp

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  7. My first reaction to the Rev’s article was that Scotland’s Social Services system was failing its citizens.

    But then I realised that the Rev is not universally regarded as a loon, particularly by his fellow clerics. A colleague at New Valley wrote to the Hebrides News in support of the Rev and said of evolution that it “requires blind faith in unverifiable assertions“.

    Was there ever a better example of the pot calling the kettle black?

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  8. The Tartan Taliban are bonkers. Morrison is the worst of them. Unsurprised to learn that Hebrides News still gives the crazy cleric from Inverness room to spout his nonsense. Nuts!

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  9. Without intending any sleights in any direction, I would have thought humanity speaking less rather than more different languages over time was a sign of progress rather than ‘decline’.

    And English reigns supreme (no I’m not some Brexiteer though I am somewhat excited by developments at the World Cup). Even the Americans speak English – sort of.

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  10. What Genesis 11:7 records as happening certainly sounds like magic. Did what came out of the peoples’ mouths suddenly become ‘garbled’ (yet it was real, new, languages apparently) or was the problem of comprehension simply in the ears of the hearers? Maybe both? The chapter does not explicitly mention new languages (and if the one ‘old’ language was Hebrew it still exists). The chapter says the Lord confused their language, and scattered the people.

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  11. I now see that Mike has made the same point (and Michael implied it?)

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  12. Many of these extremists look to find an argument in anything and are persistently arguing about why evolution is not taking place today.
    Languages are constantly evolving , anyone who tries to read Chaucer in old English will soon find that out and if we go further back it is unreadable. School boys often hate archaic Shakespeare but they revel in the host of mobile phone English terms used all the time on the internet. When does a language morph into another ? is rather like the question Gwen does a species change into another and we certainly have intermediate language fossils. Of course language changes at lightening speed compared to physical evolution but this I suspect is due to the exponential speed of human progress. Christian doctrine also changes with time as any perusal of the denominations will make clear. There is an old Biblical Story about a Man who built his house upon a rock and it stood the test of time, but the truth is nothing stands the test of time.
    Recently we have the doctrine of Christian Transhumanism which essentially says that the escape from death preached by Jesus Christ will be fulfilled by science as we learn that old age is a disease and can be prevented.

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  13. Shawn W. Nippard

    The realities & ongoing discoveries of evolution is coming from the very earth & universe that you religious folk say your deity created. Go figure. The numerous bi pedal hominin species discovered are proof of human evolution. Creationists can’t prove their rediculous creation story so they instead try & disprove the fact & theory of evolution. It’s comical.

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  14. There are developing languages today and we can see how they have developed since writing was discovered. Latin developed into Spanish and Italian, English developed from the time of the King James Bible to now and all languages are still developing and changing. The print and other media have changed the process but it is still happening.

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  15. Michael Heap drew my attention to this material, and I’d like comment in my role as a ‘skeptical linguist’. I’d be happy to engage in discussion.

    Morrison especially invokes linguistic evidence in this connection. For example, he states: ‘There are no ‘primitive’ languages. All languages have a system of sounds, words, and sentences that can adequately communicate the content of culture; so no language is degenerate in that sense’. He regards this as ‘undeniable evidence of a divine Creator’.

    Now it is true that the specifically linguistic evidence for evolution is not as decisive as the biological evidence; and this particular comment is substantially correct. Mainstream linguists would suggest that the lack of diversity observed in these respects arises because of the short time-depth of human language by comparison with most emerging biological features (probably less than 200,000 years) and the ephemeral nature of spoken language, which results in a biologically negligible time-depth of 5,000 years for the earliest actually attested linguistic data (this is the date of the earliest known writing). However, there is some evidence of linguistic evolution even within this brief period, involving the structures of pidgin languages, differences in general levels of complexity (useful or unnecessarily complicating) between ‘genetically’ related and otherwise similar languages, the recent emergence of certain types of grammatical structure not found, in any language, in the oldest records; etc.

    So even here Morrison is on shaky ground. And his other points are still weaker. For instance, he states: ‘If mankind had advanced through a so-called evolutionary process, then there should still be developing languages today. However, the stark fact is mankind’s languages are vanishing from civilization at an alarming rate – thus proving that evolution is a lie. And if evolution were true, then the process by which mankind has obtained 7,000 languages would be continuing today. Has the evolutionary process ceased?’ This is altogether confused. Languages change constantly, and entire new languages are in fact developing all the time. For instance, Hinglish, a language resulting from contact between Hindi and English, has recently emerged and is now actually being taught (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-43292287).

    If Morrison means that on an evolutionary account of the origins of language we should observe PRIMITIVE languages coming into being today, the obvious rejoinder is that the presumed ‘primitive’ ancestors of language have long been superseded/replaced (by the more effective languages with which we are familiar), and the conditions which long ago allowed them to develop and flourish no longer obtain.

    It is true that many languages are, in contrast, dying out, or indeed have already died out. But this is because of hostile non-linguistic factors (globalisation, etc.) and has nothing to do with linguistic evolution or with any other core-linguistic factors.

    Brateman refers here to the Indo-European language ‘family’ and its reconstructed common ancestor language, Proto-Indo-European. Darwin and other C19 evolutionists did see this model of linguistic change, which was still novel in their own time, as analogous to evolutionary biological diversification; and so it is, in a very general sense. But the specific notion of Proto-Indo-European (like that of any other particular ‘family-ancestor’ language) is irrelevant in this context; it is in no way associated with the creationist idea that all human languages stem from one divinely-created ancestor (initially by means of sudden diversification at Babel). It is not in fact known whether or not all human languages stem from one ancestor; but whether there was one ancestor or multiple ancestors they were spoken much earlier than Proto-Indo-European, which was the ancestor only of one of the many known language ‘families’. And a single common ancestor, if such existed, need not necessarily have been divinely created.

    Furthermore, the changes which lead to the diversification within language ‘families’ in historical times are for the most part not closely analogous to biological evolution. The specifics of linguistic behaviour/thought are acquired rather than genetically inherited; and most linguistic changes, even the most ‘successful’, are not especially adaptive (the main exceptions are some obviously adaptive vocabulary changes). In contrast, genuine (slow) linguistic evolution involves the development of language as a phenomenon – not these short-term specific changes and instances of diversification which we observe in particular languages.

    For a philosophically-informed discussion of these matters, see Robert Pennock’s 1999 book Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. This book constitutes an invaluable rebuttal of the new creationism (‘intelligent design theory’) as it stood at that time. As the title suggests, Pennock exemplifies and discusses the failings of creationism (and the successes of evolutionary theory) chiefly in the context of language change, an area of study which is less ‘charged’ than biological evolution but (despite the above-mentioned differences between linguistics and biology) is still centrally relevant to the issues at hand. My review of Pennock’s book appeared in The Skeptic (Australia) 20:1 (2000), pp 54-57, and a short version is on Amazon.com.

    Mark Newbrook

    Liked by 1 person

    • Obviously (I hope) I regard Morrison’s argument as devoid of merit, but interesting as an example of a particular kind of reasoning. I haven’t come across Pennock’s Tower of Babel, although I have dipped into the companion compilation, Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics.

      You will not be surprised to learn that I regard Intelligent Design as also devoid of merit for many reasons, the chief of which are that it ignores all the evidence for common descent of living things by mutation and selection, and that design is not even an explanation unless accompanied by a convincing account of how the design is actualised.

      I think there are deep similarities between the ways that languages evolve (change over time), and how species evolve, and that these may be the inevitable results of the imperfect copying of large amounts of information. As to the details of how analogous language evolution really is to biological evolution, and in what ways they differ, that is, as you indicate, her massive topic in itself.

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      • marknewbrook

        Thanks, Paul I’m glad my comments are of interest and I think we very largely agree on all this. Although I strive to avoid ‘scientism’, I’m VERY much in support of science as an enterprise. And while linguists do emphasise the differences between linguistic change in historical times and biological evolution over a much longer term, there certainly are similarities in terms of, e.g., imperfect copying of info, as you suggest. More on request. Keep in touch! Cheers! Mark

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      • Very happy to have a linguist in the audience. And I’ve ordered a copy of Pennock’s book

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      • marknewbrook

        Good stuff, Paul! I’m now taking a break, out in the sunshine, at the rugby league (Barrow vs Halifax). Talk as we go. Always glad to comment on anything within my remit! Cheers. Mark PS My fave ‘hard’ science is astronomy

        Regards Mark Newbrook

        >

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    • @marknewbrook I knew instinctively that Morrison was a loon but not that there might have been some prior exposition on this subject. I was interested to see a Letter to the Editor of the Hebrides Times from at least one of his clerical ‘brothers’ who disagreed with his claims about ‘linguistics and evolution’ (though they seemed to agree on most of his other YEC claims).

      But your interesting comments are most thoughtful for this particular babe in the woods of language development. Thank you (and to Paul also for providing a venue to reflect on the Rev’s peculiar perspective on life).

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  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fHy9UfC5U4&feature=youtu.be ‘The origin of languages.’
    But the Bible doesn’t say God created new languages (or ‘divided’ languages as David Rives suggests) during this incident. Genesis 11: 7 and 9 could imply that (the ‘one’) language was utterly destroyed and that all verbal communication became impossible for a time. The implication being that new languages gradually ‘evolved’ afterwards within the dispersing groups of people. (And what about Genesis 10 verses 5, 20 and 31?)
    PS He tries to make Babel explain culture and genetics as well as language. and invokes that ‘ice age’ that Genesis 8:22 effectively rules out.

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    • I have come across Rives before. He makes Morrison seem sane by comparison, while the link between what the Bible says and what the creationists say the Bible says becomes more and more tenuous

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