The Bible and Linguistics
By Ron Buxton In In Remembrance On July 27, 2014
As a science, linguistics is defined as “the study of human speech including the units, nature, structure, and modification of language” (m-w.com). Scientists have been studying the origin of human language and the diversity of human languages for centuries. Evolutionists have to admit that they have found no explanation for how man, in his supposed evolution from animals, acquired speech and how the many diverse languages supposedly evolved. Among the higher animals, from which evolutionists claim man has evolved, there exists nothing comparable to man’s ability of thought speech.
The Origin of Speech
The Bible affirms human speech resulted from divine creation. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion of the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). This record accounts for man’s unique ability to think and communicate in abstract, symbolic, intelligible speech. Man being created in God’s image (the God who speaks), would require that there be a means of communication between God and man, and also between man and man. From the very beginning we see God speaking to man, man speaking to God and man speaking to other men: “Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden…and I hid myself…’ And the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’” (Genesis 3:9-10,13). “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ So the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth?… Have not I, the Lord?’” (Exodus 4:10-11).
Adam was created with the unique ability to converse with his Creator and with his wife, and he was instructed to examine and then name all the animals (Genesis 2:18-20). As Adam evaluated each of the animal’s distinctive characteristics, he recognized that none of them were equipped to be “a helper comparable to him.” One obvious difference: the entire animal kingdom’s inability to speak.
Evolutionists and the Origin of Speech
One of the most important steps that would change an ordinary animal into a human being, the ability to speak, cannot be explained by evolutionists. Evolutionist George G. Simpson (June 1902 – October 1984), who was one of the most influential paleontologists of the twentieth century, admitted: “Human language is absolutely distinct from any system of communication in other animals. That is made most clear by comparison with other animal utterances, which most nearly resemble human speech and are most often called “speech.” Non-human vocables are, in effect, interjections. They reflect the individual’s physical or, more frequently, emotional state. They do not, as true language does, name, discuss, abstract, or symbolize.” (Article titled: “The Biological Nature of Man,” Science 152; 1966).
Linguistic scientists have been studying the nature of the chattering of monkeys and apes, attempting to gain some clue as to how these noises may have evolved into human language. One of the leading workers in this field has concluded: “The more that is known about it, the less these systems seem to help in the understanding of human language.” (J.B. Lancaster in ´The Origin of Man,” New York Wenner-Gren Foundation, 1965). For recent reference, James Hurford, an evolutionary anthropologist, is the author of several books on linguistics and evolutionary linguistics. He is General Editor of Oxford Studies in the Evolution of Language, and a member of the Research Unit in Language Evolution and Computation at the University of Edinburgh where he is an emeritus professor. He also has helped to organize a series of International Conferences on the Evolution of Language. Hurford, along with other modern-day linguists, argue that the origin of language is probably an insoluble problem.
From whatever direction the origin of language is studied, from an evolutionary perspective, there is simply no satisfactory evidence or theory to explain it. The concept that man was originally created as man, after the likeness of God and unique from all animals, with the unique ability for personal communication with His Creator and other men, fits all the facts man knows about human language.
The Origin of Different Languages
In careful examination of the great many different languages among men, again the Biblical account is the only satisfactory explanation. Evolutionists cannot explain the origin of human speech, let alone the source of the many different languages. The Bible records a divine judgment upon early man, and the record provides the explanation for the variety of languages in the world. Originally, after the great Flood, “the whole earth had one language and one speech” (Genesis 11:1). But men disobeyed God’s command to scatter and “fill the earth” (1:28), preferring to remain together. “And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’” (11:4). God’s judgment on this great rebellion is recorded next: “And the Lord said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language…now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth…Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth…” (11:6-9). Seventy families are listed in Genesis 10; this is the number of families that were involved in this scattering. “These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood” (10:32).
In God’s judgment, the most effective way to halt this rebellion against His will and enforce His command to fill the earth was to confound the people’s languages. If people could not communicate with each other, they could hardly cooperate with each other. Communication is extremely important for understanding and harmony, and language is the most basic element in communication.
It is instructive to note that traditions similar to the biblical Babel record exist in many ancient nations and even in primitive tribes. Many nations in their historical literature, and many tribes, have a tradition of a same language until the languages were confused as a judgment by the gods. Thus there is extra-biblical evidence to accept the Bible’s 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 answer and the only reason why modern scientists tend to reject it is because it was miraculous.
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