Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Languages and Genes: Can They Be Built Up through Random Change and Natural Selection?

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Languages and Genes: Can They Be Built Up through Random Change and Natural Selection?

Article excerpt

He has also set eternity [world without end] in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11; New International Version)

Can natural selection operating on random arrangements of material building blocks (i.e., subatomic particles, atoms, molecules, and larger collections and structures of matter), produce the genomes of all living things, the human language capacity, and all of the world's 6000 plus natural languages? There are two polar views on this question that are widely held by practicing scientists. At one extreme there is the neo-Darwinian claim that chance aided by natural selection can arrange dynamic information systems as they are now. At the other end there is the view that a transcendent Intelligence not limited by matter, space, and time is required. Here an argument is presented from logico-mathematical proofs developed in theoretical semiotics to show unequivocally that the known symbol systems seen in genomes and in human languages cannot be produced by chance arrangements of any kind of material building blocks. The argument is general. It applies to all possible symbol systems, though the emphasis here is o n the genetic system evidently underlying all living organisms and the human language capacity, which is manifested in the multitude of natural languages.

INTRODUCING CRUCIAL DISTINCTIONS

The argument to be presented refutes the proposition that symbol systems can be built up by chance from random arrangements of material particles (or any other objects, in the most logically general sense of the term "object") over a period of, say, 15 to 20 billion years as required by neo-Darwinian theory. The relevant logico-mathematical demonstration hinges on the distinctness of three kinds of sign systems: icons, indices, and symbols. It has already been shown, incidentally, that all possible sign systems can be built up from various combinations of these three types of sign systems (cf. Peirce, 1897). Hence, the argument to be presented is not one against constructive evolutionary processes, nor against chance per se as powerful mechanisms of change and risk. The argument centers on the kinds of signs known as symbols. It shows that the conventional aspects of symbols, their critical defining trait, cannot be built up out of icons or indices in any conceivable combination or multitude. The central demo nstration has the power of a logico-mathematical proof - which in its turn is grounded in a whole family of related proofs generated by the strictest form of mathematical logic.

To comprehend the argument, it is necessary to understand the foundational difference between icons, indices, and symbols, and it is essential to apply a fully mathematicized (stricly necessary) variety of logic. In the next few paragraphs these critical elements will be introduced -- icons, indices, and symbols along with the logico-mathematical basis for the argument. It is important throughout the entire presentation to keep in mind that the term "object" (or "thing") is always used in its most general sense - to mean any material thing, particle, grain, or clump of matter, any substance, gas, or relation between such things or substances, or any relation between relations between such things to any conceivable degree of complexity. This definition of the term "object" bears no weight in the argument, but it is useful to enable comprehension of the method of reasoning. In fact, all the definitions in this section can be, and have elsewhere been built up by strictly necessary logico-mathematical reasoning ( cf. published writings of C. S. Peirce [1839-1914] in Hartshorne & Weiss, 1931-35; see also Burks, 1957-58; Fisch et al., 1982-present; Houser, 1986; Ketner, 1992; Nagel, 1959; and more recently Oller, 1993, 1996a, 1996b; Oller & Giardetti, 1999). Although the definitions do not sustain the argument, they are useful to enable its comprehension; therefore, only the essential elements are discussed. …

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