Yesterday afternoon my wife and I were picking some tomatoes in our back yard. Earlier in the summer, to our great surprise, around five different tomato plants started growing in our back yard! We have adopted them as our own and are now enjoying the fruit of someone’s labor (Although it must be said that Caroline has done quite a bit of work to nurture these plants!)!
A couple of weeks ago I was having a discussion with a friend (you know who you are!) about various “macro” subjects: Bible, culture, politics (and how they all intertwine). As our discussion progressed (and regressed) we came to a point where my friend said “that’s just your opinion.” and then expected that our conversation to be over.
One of the books I am currently reading is James Jordan’s Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World. The book is fascinating and illuminating and serves as a sort of corrective to us moderns who too often approach the world, first, from a modernistic standpoint, and second, with a Biblical one. Jordan aims to prove how this can never work and instead encourages his readers to adopt a thoroughly Biblical view of the world and to no longer try to squeeze the Bible through our modern strainers of scientism.
This semester I am doing a directed study on the writings of Walker Percy. He was a 20th C. American Southern Novelist who also published a large number of non-fiction works. Percy is most well known for his novel The Moviegoer but is also known for his non-fiction essays on the subject of language. Percy was always intrigued by the phenomenon of language and wondered why there was so little serious study of the subject. Percy believed that, for the most part, scientists who studied language refused to seriously look at the topic. It is important to note the difference between communication and language. Percy saw that language was the unique characteristic that sat man apart from other beasts who could merely communicate. However he saw that all scientists wanted to do was prove that language was not unique to man. He states:
Scientist are more interested in teaching apes to talk than finding out why people talk. It is one of the peculiarities of the age that scientists are more interested in spending millions of dollars and man-hours trying to teach chimps to use language in order to prove that language is not a unique property of man than in studying the property itself. Scientists tend to be dogmatic about the nature of man. Again they remind me of the Scholastics battling with Galileo. Scholastics spent thousands of man-hours inside their heads trying to prove that Jupiter couldn’t have moons and that the earth was at the center of the universe. To suggest otherwise offended their sense of the order of things. Galileo pointed to his telescope: Why don’t you take a look? Today we have plenty of Scholastics of language. What we need is a Galileo who is willing to take a look at it.
Walker Percy is right. To ascribe to the reality that language truly is a unique characteristic of man would upset most secular humanist’s order of things. To see that language is unique to man is to force one to change their concept of man. To truly look at a theory of language is to look at a theory of man. The next time someone tells you that man is just like all the other animals ask them to account for the peculiarity and uniqueness of language.
Until Next Time,