Chomsky and the evolution of language

Noam Chomsky recently appeared on the Skeptically Speaking podcast to discuss the evolution of language. This got me thinking about the relationship, or lack thereof, between 'scepticism', 'new atheism' and radical politics which will follow in another blog post.

Skeptically Speaking's Desiree Schell had Chomsky on to discuss language evolution He outlines Universal Grammar and briefly responds to some challenges, contending that criticisms of his ideas often come from misunderstandings. Chomsky outlines his reluctance to engage in 'just-so' storytelling:

Mutual aid and the foraging mode of thought: Re-reading Kropotkin on the Khoisan - Alan Barnard

This paper utilizes Kropotkin's notion of ‘mutual aid’ and examines specifically Kropotkin's ideas on ‘mutual aid among savages’ and his comments on Khoisan Bushman social organization in light of later ethnographic findings.

Peter Kropotkin's work offers an insight into the workings of pre-state as well as state societies. This paper utilizes Kropotkin's notion of ‘mutual aid’ and argues for a consideration of mode of thought (rather than mode of production), both in the analysis of certain kinds of stateless societies and in the analysis of differences between societies of differing levels of complexity.

Primitive communism and women's role in its emergence

Bushman Rock Art

How did human evolution give rise to a species whose very survival is based on mutual confidence and solidarity? More particularly, what was woman’s role in this process?

This is a review of Christophe Darmangeat's recent book, 'Primitive Communism is Not What it Was'.

Woman's Role in the Emergence of Human Culture (part 1)

On human nature

Arguments I see time and time again against left-wing politics include “human nature will get in the way” or “it ignores human nature”. Recently I’ve even seen this argument trotted out by people on the left, that any future system must “take human nature into account”. It’s fairly clear what is meant here without asking too many questions. Human beings are selfish. Human beings only work in their own self-interest and that this is natural. But I believe this to be wrong. This blog post will hopefully explain why.

I wrote this about a year ago following a conversation on Twitter. I'm reposting it here largely to get some more input on whether/how this analysis is right or wrong, so comments are welcome.


'How Noam Chomsky’s World Works', by David Hawkes

How Noam Chomsky’s World Works

Noam Chomsky's political writings are extremely useful for any understanding of the crimes of US imperialism. But his scientific work, whose political implications Chomsky denies, have been coming under increasing criticism from the left.

Recently an academic Marxist author managed to get an interesting critique of Chomsky into The Times Literary Supplement. It raises some interesting concerns.


Engels was Right: Early Human Kinship was Matrilineal

Mother and baby, Hadza tribe, Tanzania

The earliest human institution was not the nuclear family. The latest research now indicates that it was the communistic, female-centred clan.

Engels argued this in 1884. After a century of establishment denial, including complicity by 'Marxists', it now turns out that he was right after all.

by Chris Knight

In 2008, the Royal Anthropological Institute published a scholarly volume entitled Early Human Kinship.[1] It stemmed from a 2005 workshop held in Gregynog, Wales, as part of the prestigious British Academy Centenary Project ‘From Lucy to Language: The Archaeology of the Human Brain’.

Science reading group: 'Ever Since Darwin'

Kickstarting a discussion on Stephen Jay Gould's first popular book form the late 70s, Ever Since Darwin.

A few people had expressed interest in discussing Stephen Jay Gould's book, Ever Since Darwin, as part of a science discussion/reading group. The book was Gould's first collection of essays from his monthly Natural History column.
A few general points first, then some specific ones about the first four essays that comprise the first chapter/section.

Gould's writing style

Noam Chomsky: Politics or Science?

Noam Chomsky

For over fifty years, Noam Chomsky has been exposing the crimes of the United States military across the world. Less well known is the fact that throughout this time, he was working in an electronics laboratory funded primarily by that same military. This article investigates the paradox, arguing that the Pentagon’s institutional support for Chomsky’s scientific work explains the special passion driving his political stance.

Noam Chomsky: Politics or Science?

Chris Knight

Kropotkin and the scientific community in England in the 1870s and 80s

A short post on a small act of solidarity from a Nature editor in the 1870s.

An act of solidarity
I hadn't come across this little bit of anarcho history before, but it's in Kropotkin's Memoirs Of A Revolutionist and Dugatkin's The Prince of Evolution. It refers to a small act of solidarity from a journal editor in England in the 1870s, and a not-so supportive act from a leading English biologist a few years later.