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March 01, 2005

Carl on Language II

Carl Zimmer has posted his follow up on language & evolution. No big surprise, the question is the answer in the end. Though I find Chomsky et al.'s model parsimonious, I have a hunch that it simply explains too little. On the other hand, Pinker et al. might be constructing a rather baroque adaptive cathedral (no spandrels though!), but at least their model offers great opportunies for falsification or confirmation. There are many, perhaps rightly, who dislike the fact that Pinker has a rather outsize reputation because of his public intellectual status, but in the end his ideas will either be stand or fall outside the penumbra of his reputation. This process will occur outside of psycholinguistics as well, in the Synaptic Self Joseph Ledoux explains that nativists favor a "selection" as opposed to an "instruction" model of synaptic connectional structural development. This is a prediction based on a model, and all of Pinker's public intellectual status will not shield him if his paradigm is found wanting.

Posted by razib at 10:33 AM