OT: language origin and creationism

Herb Stahlke hfwstahlke at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 1 02:12:01 UTC 2010

Much of the discussion in this thread assumes that a fundamentalist
shares with us basic assumptions about evidence and truth.  The claims
in the article and the claims the student would like to make are based
on faith.  In this frame of reference (I slipped and typed <v> for
<f>), the details of Genesis 1 are fact.  Anything that disagrees with
them is folly.  Any methodology that leads anywhere but to the
historical and scientific truth of Genesis 1 is not based on faith and
therefore is misguided.  At this stage there generally isn't much
common ground to build on.  Some students do end up rejecting the
fundamentalism they've grown up with, but it usually comes as a result
of questions raised by a lot of courses and a lot of bull sessions.

I've told such students that I don't require that they believe what
they learn and read in my class, but I hold them responsible for it on


On Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 5:32 PM, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at mst.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at MST.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: OT: language origin and creationism
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I believe students were created to keep professors on their toes with =
> ever new challenges. I see one has come through again. :)
> =20
> 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"? =20
> =20
> 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?
> =20
> Btw, what fields do the three authors have their doctorates in? =20
> =20
> 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. =20
> =20
> =20
> *    *    *   *
> =20
> =20
> 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
> http://www.trueorigin.org/language01.asp
>  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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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