This is a swell narrative. But science? Wolfe points out that Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould remarked that these and other stories throughout Darwin’s work “required a feat of fiction writing” and aren’t scientifically rigorous. Wolfe longs for a more complex explanation of the origins of language than Darwin offers, and he finds it in the work of linguist Daniel L. Everett, who based his field work on studying obscure human languages and concluded that evolution can’t perfectly explain the origin of language.

“Language, like human reasoning itself, emerges at the nexus of our biological endowment and our environmental existence.”

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