Language and consciencous

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This topic contains 22 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  PopeBeanie 3 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #2567

    Gerard Wood
    Participant

    I’ve been lurking on Think Atheist for a couple of years and I have not seen a discussion about this.
    If we as humans had no language would we be any better or different than any other animal?

    #2568

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Welcome, Gerard!

    I think it would vary depending on kind and amount of language, and the species’ social interactions. Even birds have “language”, and I believe even dogs have a consciousness and rudimentary understanding of body language, at least. Body language is built into almost every animal… even insects (plus the pheromones).

    Human language has been around perhaps 10s of (if not 100) thousand years. And millions of years before that we evolved basic communications and social interaction. Some primates have learned sign language, and have been able to make up sentences that describe a current feeling they’re having, or something they’re watching. But they had to be trained by humans to sign it, first.

    First imagine everything we can communicate with each other about, and then imagine most of that not possible without learning from interactions with each other, books, and so on.

    #2569

    .
    Participant

    Other animals do have their own communication (language)..

    Who says we’ve necessarily evolved any “better”…that is a matter of opinion

    #2570

    Gerard Wood
    Participant

    Thanks PopeBeanie. I’ve enjoyed many of your posts. I think that you agree with me that animals cannot envision the concepts that words enable us to. I just think that if we didn’t know certain words, we would not be even able to think of the concepts that they represent. For example – If someone had told you to Google something in 1970. Would you have been able to make sense of it at all? This seems to show that our language is evolving and because we have words that trigger concepts in different ways, we are thinking differently. Is that a little like a computer system that is programming itself?

    #2572

    Gerard Wood
    Participant

    Hi Belle Rose. I’ve enjoyed your posts also. I admire the way that you could examine your beliefs and change yourself.
    I like the idea that says that evolving is not better. It makes so that things change and become what they are. Without all these words that make up our language, how would we even be able to think about anything.

    #2573

    .
    Participant

    Hi Belle Rose. I’ve enjoyed your posts also. I admire the way that you could examine your beliefs and change yourself.

    Wow. I’m humbled and amazed that you’ve been, ahem, “watching” all this time. I only blushed slightly there for a minute….

    I watch a lot of documentaries about animals. The more I learn, the more I become convinced that humans are not as smart as we think we are compared to other species. I’m not even convinced that we could truly be considered the top of the food chain. I really think our infrastructure and the civilizations we have built have sheltered us from really truly seeing how vulnerable we are, not only to the elements, but towards one another. I do not necessarily think we are the smartest or the best in comparison. The attitude of speciesism is rooted in religion I think – the idea that a creator bestowed upon us the responsibility of protecting life on earth. It is just non-sensical.

    I am also a student of linguistics. I got my bachelor’s degree in Spanish and was headed towards a Master’s in Spanish at the University of New Mexico before my life fell apart right in front of me. I had the priveledge in my undergrad work to work under a professor who opened my eyes to language in a fascinating way. I have never been the same since.

    I’ve recently gotten the urge to start writing in a serious way again. I suddenly realized that the person who I TRULY am, when you peel back the layers of confusion and chaos, I am a writer. I also believe the language is beautiful. But language is not what defines the strength of a species by any means. I do not believe that language is something that only homo sapiens have developed. I also do not believe that it makes us any more or less vulnerable than any other species on earth.

    I agree that my view could easily be refuted if taken at face value, but it ultimately depends on what you think is important. If you think that inventions are important, then yes, we are ahead of other species in that regard. But we as a species have lost something that I think is not only very precious, but also vital for our very survival. Our own inventions have torn us away from our interconnectedness with nature, and our vulnerability to it. We now think we are somehow invincible because we live within 4 walls and a roof. All it takes is one or two small things to go awry – like yesterday when our electricity suddenly and without warning went out. Suddenly everyone in my apartment complex became vulnerable. How sheltered and oblivious we are to the true extent of our own weaknesses.

    #2574

    Unseen
    Participant

    If we as humans had no language would we be any better or different than any other animal?

    If you can imagine a human like that, what do you imagine his reply would be?

    #2575

    Gerard Wood
    Participant

    I agree with what you are saying. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow but we like to think that we have some control. I also think that animals can think to some degree. I lived on a beach in Nova Scotia for about five months with nothing to do. I fed the birds and watched their interactions. Crows seemed to be the most intelligent of them all. They seemed to have a society in which each member was assigned a different role. I could recognize the dominant ones and they seemed to be controlling the flock. They displayed a wild sort of cooperation where the dominant members had some control but every bird was still trying to get the most in every situation. Their vocalizations indicated quite complex communications.

    #2576

    Gerard Wood
    Participant

    @unseen – Just a grunt or maybe a middle finger? I can’t see any way other than body language. I imagine that body size might make a difference. I really don’t know. I have seen animals react and size doesn’t seem to matter. How could one communicate any concept without language?

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by  Gerard Wood.
    #2578

    Gerard Wood
    Participant

    Thanks for the friend invite Belle Rose. I consider it an honor. I think you are an intelligent, capable person and I hope you persevere and get some luck to accomplish your goals.

    #2579

    .
    Participant

    Thanks @lostintime yes I need all the luck in the world, I may have to start praying for a miracle. Praise God for the tower of babel, I can speak!! LOL!!!

    Seriously, I think our language is what evolves our culture, and in turn helps to create our oral tradition and our gods…our language might be indirectly (in that regard) what brings us to extinction.

    I do believe our extinction will come by our own doing.

    How sad.

    #2580

    Gerard Wood
    Participant

    That may be. I like to think of the earth as an egg with human beings as cells of an organism that is growing. If we are lucky we will be able to hatch into the universe after we have consumed our resources and fouled our environment. If we’re not we will die. Like the chicken that doesn’t develop properly. The universe will care even less about the human race than we care about the chick that doesn’t make it.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by  Gerard Wood.
    #2583

    Simon Mathews
    Participant

    Language is only one of the faculties in which we have a greater capacity than animals. Of course other animals communicate but no other species has the richness and nuance that we are capable of (as far as we know).

    One of the other important ways in which we differ from animals is our frontal cortex. Whilst our hind and mid-brains are still fairly similar to our close cousins (with the notable exception of the motor cortex as we have more dextrous digits) our frontal cortex is much larger and more complex than that of any other animal.

    The frontal cortex is thought to be the seat of abstract thinking, planning, strategy, etc. It is also the area of the brain that allows us to inhibit our “animal” instincts (for example to go on a hunger strike on principle). People with damage to the frontal lobes become disinhibited and seem to completely change personality becoming more “animal-like”. They tend to live more in the now and have trouble with abstract and organisational thinking.

    It’s interesting that you brought up the point about language allowing us to conceptualise. This is known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and arguments rage about its veracity. An even more interesting research area is around the idea that language controls our perception not just our thoughts.

    The Russian language has two colour terms for blue (siniy for dark-blue and goluboy for light-blue). Studies have shown that it is easier for Russian native speakers to be able to perceive a difference in two very similar shades that fall around this boundary. For English speakers, for example, this boundary doesn’t appear to be so perceptually relevant.

    An even stranger example is the Himba tribe in Namibia (source). They only have four colour words (zuzu stands for dark shades of blue, red, green and purple; vapa is white and some shades of yellow; buru is some shades of green and blue; and dambu is some other shades of green, red and brown). The Himba have more trouble distinguishing the colour boundaries English speakers use such as the difference between a very bluey-green and a very greeny-blue.

    In summary, I think it is more than language that sets us apart from other species. Of course this does not make us “better” than them. My capacity for strategical thought and nuanced language will not help me out-run a cheetah or win a tug-of-war against an elephant.

    #2584

    Unseen
    Participant

    @unseen – Just a grunt or maybe a middle finger? I can’t see any way other than body language. I imagine that body size might make a difference. I really don’t know. I have seen animals react and size doesn’t seem to matter. How could one communicate any concept without language?

    If you’re communicating anything, then by some definition there is at least a primitive language. Thus, even insects can have a language, as when bees communicate information through a “dance.” They can tell fellow bees where to find an untapped pollen resource by specifying direction and distance and perhaps even more, such as what sort of flower to be looking for. Bees appear to be able to convey much more information than even creatures considerably higher on the evolutionary scale than insects. How much information can newts, horses, even dogs convey to each other. I suspect bees trump them all.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by  Unseen.
    #2587

    Unseen
    Participant

    The Russian language has two colour terms for blue (siniy for dark-blue and goluboy for light-blue). Studies have shown that it is easier for Russian native speakers to be able to perceive a difference in two very similar shades that fall around this boundary. For English speakers, for example, this boundary doesn’t appear to be so perceptually relevant.

    How are these two words different from “light blue” and “dark blue”? Also, if there are two words, then I would think it would make determining which word to use in borderline cases more confusing than easier.

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