by Rob Lundberg
Could complex speech and abstract thinking have evolved by blind chance? Many years ago, this was a question I had and now pose, in conversations with atheists who believe that macroevolution is “fact.” This post is going to investigate the question of complex speech and abstract thinking and show that these characteristics come by way of design and not by random blind chance processes, known as evolution.
How many of us liked our English courses and in particular grammar? This might sound a little sadistic, but when I took my Greek courses in seminary, I learned to love grammar. That is not to say that I was already pretty good with it in high school. But think of it and consider our capacity to learn a language and use language in order to communicate thoughts in an orderly fashion with the one you are speaking to.
You and I possess thousands of words and grammatical tools from which we can put together those linguistic units and form meaningful statements. How do we, and if you are an atheist, account for that? Is human language ability only an elaborate system of animal cries — a short step beyond a chimp’s and gorilla’s ability to communicate? Are human beings just animals with better vocal systems? Or are we creatures made in the image of God who reflect His traits which include the ability to think and to use language to communicate? Are language and abstract thinking a product of random blind chance processes? Or are these characteristics brought about by an Intelligent Creator?
The Research Screams Design! As the research in the field of genetics comes forth with the finding of mitochondrial Eve and other discoveries, the neo-Darwinists’ philosophy kicks against the goads. Most of the research in the field of language tries to show that human language is merely an extension of animals’ abilities. To be more specific here, the studies address the question of whether or not apes can acquire human language systems. Even though apes can indeed develop a fairly large vocabulary using symbols which correspond to real situations, the overall answer seems to be a loud “NO!” Apes, chimps and other primates cannot engage in human linguistic behaviors such as abstract thinking skills, which is a distinguishing mark of human language and a characteristic of true rationality and intelligence.
What does this all mean? What this all means is that apes and other primates cannot think through hypothetical scenarios or reflect upon what might have been or what happen. For example, a primate cannot ponder and respond to an abstract possibility such as a scenario like: “If I were to drop a drinking glass on the floor it would shatter; so I won’t drop it.”
At the same time, there also no convincing evidence that they can independently, without human coaching, formulate and ask real questions – questions that does not merely express a desire. If we were to compare that to a child who learns at a very young age what a question is, and, and without prompting, asks them often.
So, what is the difference? Up to this point I think there is a vast difference between human reasoning skills from those of the world of primates, who Richard Dawkins and others claim are our first cousins. Let’s sum it up here.
Unlike apes and other primates, humans have an infinitely expandable vocabulary. Human children acquire a rich vocabulary that is so flexible that they can create and combine word for almost anything.
If you are a parent, and remember when your child first started speaking. The first words might have been “Mommy,” “Daddy,” “kitty,” “doggie,” “pizza” . . . Then came the subject/verb construction in their communication from a simple noun or name. From there it went from subject / verb like “I want” to a subject / verb / direct object small constructed sentence, i.e., “I want ice cream.”
Without digressing here, if we were to look at the primate world, apes achieve only about 80 per cent accuracy using signs, whereas children rarely misapply a sign or symbol to a situation. According to one prominent liguist, claiming that any pre-humans first primitive cry was the initial step toward language is like saying that the first animal to climb a tree took the first initial step in exploring outer space.” That, my friends is quite a stretch!
Verbal behavior of trained apes fails to demonstrate that human language is only are more developed form of animals’ abilities. A human being’s capacity for abstract thought and reflection is unique. And if it did not evolve from the primal cries of animals into complex statements with vocabulary and grammar, where did it come from? How does the order in language and abstract thoughts come about?
That said, the way that we form thoughts, have the capability for having an immense vocabulary, and they way that humans come to form sentences starting with a noun or proper name identifier; and then attach a verb and a direct object. This shows even more evidence that there is design in language.
If there is a design there must be a Designer. So I guess abstract speech and language was implanted in and thus reflects the image of a rational, and relational God who is revealed in the opening words of John’s gospel (1:1), where he writes, “In the beginning was the Word.”
 John W. Oiler, Jr. and John L. Omdahl, “Origin of Human Language Capacity: In Whose Image?” in J. P. Moreland, ed. The Creation Hypothesis, 265.