ADS-L Digest - 30 Mar 2010 to 31 Mar 2010 (#2010-91)

Amy West medievalist at W-STS.COM
Thu Apr 1 13:16:15 UTC 2010

Many, many thanks to everyone's advise both on list and off.

>Date:    Wed, 31 Mar 2010 19:01:30 -0400
>From:    Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject: Re: OT: language origin and creationism
>This could turn into a wonderful learning experience for everyone concerned.
>And you know what that means.

Oh boy.

>Perhaps the student is not especially wedded to creationism. Perhaps she
>selected the source because, after all, it does claim to be "true."  Maybe
>she thinks there's nothing  controversial involved.  (A long shot, but I've
>had similar experiences with students - though not, admittedly, involving

This is entirely possible. I very much believe that to be the case
with the students in the Vikings class who have submitted white
supremacist sources: lack of thought, just grabbing one of the first
things that Google turns up. You'd think that titles like "History of
the White Race" would be a dead giveaway, but, these are freshmen. .
. .

>I followed up on Jerry's question on what fields the authors hold doctorates
>in (see foot of the website).  One is a microbiologist (surprised?), one is
>a neurobiologist (surprised?) and one holds degrees in "speech and Bible."
>Their degrees were all awarded by well-known and reputable universities
>None is a linguist, but linguists galore have written on the topic. Thus the
>source is obviously not a very good one, regardless of the authors'
>The issue of creationism need not come up. If, however, your student is
>consciously trying to score points for biblical fundamentalism there's not
>much you can do in a half-hour conference to get her thinking about other
>possibilities.  I'd emphasize the incontestable inadequacy of the source,
>and explain how conjectural the whole question of linguistic origin really
>is anyway. For the authors to claim that creationism is "the true"
>explanation for the origin of language advertises a sad readiness to ignore
>the very real limits of the evidence. (That would be the case no matter what
>their position might be.)

Yes: the problem is the very obvious bias/agenda and the student's
ignoring it. And that would be a problem regardless of which way it
slanted. It's simply not appropriate for the topic, and doesn't meet
the standards of "good quality " sources that I've been discussing
throughout the course.

---Amy West

The American Dialect Society -

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