OT: language origin and creationism

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Wed Mar 31 21:32:34 UTC 2010

I believe students were created to keep professors on their toes with ever new challenges. I see one has come through again. :)
If this were my student I would first focus on the concept of "best source."  Have the creationist ideas in the article of the three authors been evaluated in any reputable scholarly linguistic journal?  If all linguists in reputable linguistic programs regard creationism in language as belonging to religious belief rather than scholarship, how can the article be advanced as "the best source"?  
I would then ask the student as to whether the English language she uses is the product of creationism or evolution? Isn't modern English different from the English of Beowulf or Shakespeare?  Have not changes occurrred?  Have not changes occurred in other languages?  I.e., is not change an integral part of the nature of language?
Btw, what fields do the three authors have their doctorates in?  
Gerald Cohen
P.S. If the student is insistent on presenting her ideas in class, I would permit her to do so and then engage in a discussion as to why they're not convincing.  I assume she considers that the language of Adam and Eve was Hebrew, and she'd be hard pressed to find any historical linguists agreeing with her.  
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Original message from Amy West, Wed 3/31/2010 2:54 PM

I have to say that I was utterly gobsmacked/stunned by this one. I'm
used to dealing with students coming up with white supremacist
sources in my Vikings class now. But we're using "language" as our
theme in my Academic Writing class, so I wasn't expecting creationist
material to be showing up.

As a preliminary step to their research papers, I have students
presenting their "best" source in class. One student -- and I didn't
catch this problem soon enough because she didn't submit a proposal
-- wants to write about the origin of language in her 5-7 page paper,
and wants to present this as her "best source":

The True.Origin Archive
Exposing the Myth of Evolution


  From the abstract:

"The following paper examines the true origin of speech and language,
and the anatomical and physiological requirements.  The evidence
conclusively implies that humans were created with the unique ability
to employ speech for communication."

I was just stunned. This thing has the "look" of scholarship: 3
authors with PhDs, has an abstract, notes and sources, etc. But it
wasn't published in a scholarly journal or by a scholarly press.

She wrote about this source in her annotated bibliography and all she
said was that it quotes from the Bible a lot. Nothing, nothing about
the obvious bias and agenda. She said "it has valid biological
information." (The annotated bib. was just turned in Monday; she just
sent me this link yesterday.)

I'd like to hear from more experienced teachers either off-list (or
on if it's deemed relevant) how you'd handle this. Tell her "no"
because it's not scholarly/not appropriate for the topic? Let her
present it and discuss the problems in front of the class?

---Amy West

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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