Update: Still No Evolutionary Explanation for Human Language

by David Klinghoffer

Back in 2014 we reported, “Leading Evolutionary Scientists Admit We Have No Evolutionary Explanation of Human Language.” Despite excited claims to the contrary, it was clear that a “miracle mutation” to the gene FOXP2 was not responsible for the emergence of the uniquely human ability to use language.

But what about FOXP2 — a gene that seems to be connected to language, where humans have a couple of unique amino acid differences compared to nonhuman primates? In The Language of God, Francis Collins presented FOXP2 as something of a miracle mutation that could have caused human language to develop (see pp. 139-141). Time Magazine once claimed that our two amino acid differences in this gene could have caused “the emergence of all aspects of human speech, from a baby’s first words to a Robin Williams monologue.”

Sorry, we said, “we aren’t even sure exactly how FOXP2 affects language.” The Evolution News article cited research in the journal Frontiers in Psychology that poured cold water on the claims of Dr. Collins, Time Magazine, et al.

More Cold Water

It’s good to be right, as well as several years ahead of the curve. Now here’s the headline from yesterday in Nature, citing new research reported in the journal Cell, “Diverse genome study upends understanding of how language evolved.” Subhead: “Research casts doubt on the idea that the FOXP2gene — linked to language evolution — is special to modern humans.”

Just as we said…

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Update: Still No Evolutionary Explanation for Human Language