Tom Wolfe’s Reflections on Language

E.J. Spode in 3:AM Magazine:

One of the greatest scientists of our lifetime has embarked upon a fascinating research program. The program is exploring a property of human nature – the language faculty – and he is attempting to show how a half-century of research by thousands of linguists from around the world can be grounded in low-level mathematical and biophysical properties of our world. And whether that program is successful or not, it is a vision of remarkable beauty – the recursive patterns of our languages and their variety and complexity could be understood perhaps as well as we now understand the spiral patterns in the nautilus shell or the recursive patterns of the snowflake.

He came to us with that gift. He did not ask us to believe him, nor did he insist that we engage in that project ourselves. He simply told us what his project was and invited us to join him. And all we as a culture could do in our upscale magazines and newspapers and blogs was shit all over the man and clog the conversation with an endless stream of transparent gibberish from obvious charlatans. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Tom Wolfe’s most recent book – The Kingdom of Speech – is nothing if not iconoclastic. And the icons he has chosen to smash are impressive: Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky! I have no problem with smashing icons, but this effort is an embarrassment for Wolfe, for his publisher, and, because of its largely positive reception, for our broader culture. It is a literary Sharknado of error and self-satisfaction, with borderline racism and anti-Semitism mixed in. It careens between being hilariously bad and tragically bad. It is irredeemable.

Let’s start with the part of the book about Darwin. Darwin may be one of your scientific heroes and you may even consider him to be one of the great geniuses of the 19th Century. Well, wake up sheeple, because Tom Wolfe has got a story to tell you.

More here.