Mitsuharu Hade (mitsu) Fri 25 Jun 99 20:25
<scribbled by mitsu Fri 25 Jun 99 20:29>
Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Fri 25 Jun 99 20:30
Regarding Washoe, I think that is correct. They are able to create fairly complicated compound-modifier constructs (i.e., adjectives, or even clever inventions of words, like "DRINK FRUIT" for watermelon), but this sort of nested tree structure I believe eludes them either completely or nearly so. I agree that the question of a specialized hardwired structure for language is indeed an orthogonal issue. However, I tend to think that what we have in humans is not a detailed heavily specialized structure, but rather just a slight augmentation or specialization of an area which already exists in other animals. For example, apes and chimps have a brain structure which is similar to our Broca's and Wernicke's areas, but they do not use them for language (at least not human-style language). What I tend to think is that these areas are "almost" good enough to serve the purpose, and the difference between those areas and the corresponding areas in the human brain are relatively small. As an example of what I am getting at, consider an artificial neural network that was trained to conjugate verbs by being shown examples. Though the network was fairly general-purpose and clearly quite different from any natural network, it turns out it followed the same learning pattern that human children exhibit; that is to say, it made similar mistakes in the same order. What's interesting about this is what it suggests about the computational structure of the problem: one did not have to have an ultra- specialized network for it to exhibit the same behavior as a human child, even though it is obvious that the two systems (child and ANN) are vastly different. This suggests that there is something about the problem itself which happens to have certain characteristics that manifest themselves in a similar way just by virtue of the nature of the problem itself and the problem-solving mechanisms (natural and artificial neural networks). This of course is not proof of anything; I merely present it as an interesting case which might be relevant here. The point is that the mere fact that human languages tend to have the same deep structure across the planet does not to my mind prove in the least that this deep structure is somehow hard- wired in any detailed sense; it just means that the human brain seems to solve the problem of language generation in a similar way, which could be in some sense for computational reasons rather than because language is somehow encoded into our DNA. That is to say, we have the ability to make these recursive trees, and that may be just a matter of computational power, rather than a lot of hard-coded language structure per se. The deep structure may simply be a side effect of the architecture of our brains and the problem of language, juxtaposed; it may well be that slightly more evolved chimps that could handle nested tree syntax would also generate similar deep structure to their language as well; in fact, that would be my expectation. This is all, of course, merely my personal opinion, my intuition as it were. If I were to advance this as a serious hypothesis naturally I would do a lot more research first. I am merely spouting my personal feelings on the subject here.
Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Fri 25 Jun 99 20:42
(I don't doubt that once the facility for human-style language arose, it became a strong evolutionary pressure, and thus language facility became more and more pronounced. I simply doubt how much detailed structure is in some sense hard-wired. I don't doubt that we have some specialized language facility in *some* sense.)
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Sat 26 Jun 99 03:26
The thing is, we know that's what they can do in human-invented sign language; we don't know what they do in their own. I certainly wouldn't want my abilities in English judged by my knowledge of German. wg
flying jenny (jenslobodin) Sat 26 Jun 99 23:30
good point, Wendy
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Sun 11 Jul 99 16:55
Hey, Andrew! Where did the paleolithic graphic go? Is it coming back? Did the Skeptic get you angry email? wg
Andrew Brown (andrewb) Mon 12 Jul 99 07:25
I decided it was putting people off.
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Mon 12 Jul 99 07:53
I *liked* it... and I didn't save a copy. baaaaaaaaaaaaaah. wg
Andrew Brown (andrewb) Tue 13 Jul 99 00:53
There is a genuine paleolithic picture added to the site, though. It only seems to show up in IE: look at the background to the translation of the Harry Martinsson poem.
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Tue 13 Jul 99 03:05
Would I be using IE? I do think the front page needs a little something if you're not going to bring back the graphic, though. wg
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Thu 12 Aug 99 06:07
Today's Guardian reports that the Kansas Board of Education has voted to ban the teaching of evolution on the grounds that it is "not a valid scientific principle." The article goes on to say that they intend to rewrite the science curriculum to allow a literal interpretation of Genesis; it will be permissible to teach that evolution takes place within species but not that one evolves out of another. wg
gazorninblat (dwaite) Thu 12 Aug 99 07:48
Yeah.. Heil Right....
Andrew Brown (andrewb) Thu 12 Aug 99 08:58
The swing vote was cast by a man who has gronw, according to hius local paper, a 173.5 lb watermelon. No wonder he doesn't want to belive in the transmutation of species.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 12 Aug 99 09:49
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Thu 12 Aug 99 13:22
Wonderful the stuff you can find on the Web these days. wg
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 12 Aug 99 13:30
I wonder how much the infighting in the scientific community has played into this anti-evolution popular sentiment.
Andrew Brown (andrewb) Fri 13 Aug 99 03:26
Very little, I would imagine. No one wrote about it (at least among evolutionists) until I did and I still haven't got an American publisher. Since creationists only matter in the USA I think they probably still feel attacked by a monolithic conspiracy (not only scientists, but Hollywood, pointy-head liberals, etc etc)
(my|pi)thical (satyr) Fri 13 Aug 99 09:48
I spent twelve years attending school in a rural Kansas district (#361) and two years at Kansas State University, and I think I can safely say without fear of knowledgable equivocation, HOW THE HECK DID THIS HAPPEN? This isn't representative of the Kansas that I knew. Granted, it's been 26 years since I moved away, but, at least at that time, Kansas wasn't anything like that clueless. I suspect stealth school board candidacies...
Andrew Brown (andrewb) Fri 13 Aug 99 10:55
Certainly the swing vote with watermelons (his name is Harold Voth) was pinned by the newspapers as being a compromise man until the last moment. What exactly is a schol board, by the way, and what does it do?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 13 Aug 99 11:41
A school board is a group of people who have been elected by the local population to oversee the doings of any particular public school district. Most school boards are unpaid volunteers, though I think some of the larger districts pay their board members. The school board generally has a role in determining certain aspects of the school district's curriculum (taking into account the curriculum requirements set by the state, too); it can hire and fire the school district's superintendent (a person who heads the hierarchy of the whole group of people employed in the school district) and the other members of the district's cabinet.
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Fri 13 Aug 99 12:07
Kind of like a school governor, Andrew,. but elected. AIUI. wg
(my|pi)thical (satyr) Fri 13 Aug 99 18:34
And, unless those elections are combined with general elections, they're notoriously poor for turnout, making it a relatively simple matter for an interest group to stack the board.
David Gans (tnf) Sat 14 Aug 99 08:12
I read in the paper today that the school board is extraordinarily powerful in Kansas - like a fourth branch of government. Not sure how that works. But the legislature would have to introduce an amendment to the state constitution to reduce the Board's power, and they don't convene again until January??
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Sat 14 Aug 99 08:24
Sounds more like the that'd be the State Board of Education, not the local school boards for each school district.
Daphne Merkin's spanking piece (chuck) Sat 14 Aug 99 10:25
Today's SFChron has an article saying that the governor and some legislators are putting together a plan for the legislature to call a referendum to eliminate the state board of education over this mess. There is no initiative process in Kansas for amendments to the state constitution. The legislature is not scheduled to meet again until January.
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