Looking at Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language” (Part 1 of 5)

0001 Chris Sinha, writing from Hunan University, publishes another article on human evolution.  The journal is Interaction Studies (volume 19(2), 2018, pages 239-255).  The complete title is “Praxis, Symbol and Language: Developmental, Ecological and Linguistic Issues”.

The title of Razie Mah’s commentary is Comments on Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language”. The commentary is found at the smashwords website under the series: Buttressing the Human Niche.  Other vendors also sell the e-commentary.

0002 This blog complements the commentary.

0003 Sinha’s article covers from the start of the Homo genus, around two million years ago, to the speciation of Homo sapiens, around two-hundred thousand years ago. That is a lot of territory.

Several issues intertwine.  One is individual development (devo).  Another is a transition in natural selection (evo) from ecology-driven adaptations (eco) to adaptations driven by social interactions (socio).

0004 Sinha loves terminology.  He searches for a EcoEvoDevoSocio framework.


Looking at Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language” (Part 2 of 5)

0005 What about Sinha’s EcoEvoDevoSocio framework?

0006 The outer terms, “eco” and “socio”, signify a broad arc of human evolution.

Adaptation by a line of apes starts with ecological adaptations.  For example, bipedalism is evolutionarily ancient.

However, the fact that bipedalism frees the hands for communicative gestures creates new opportunities.  A truly human niche appears.  One hominin can intentionally gesture to another.  The other hominin can interpret that gesture.

0007 The frontpiece of the title captures Sinha’s EcoSocio vision.  The praxis (or habits) of intentional manual-brachial gestures for communication proceeds from signaling to functional representation.

Functional representation metaphorically runs around the symbol, defined as a sign-relation whose sign-object depends on conventions, habits, laws and so forth.  The more that intentional manual-brachial gestures act as words, the more symbolic they become.

In this way, hominins become symbol-ready and capable of engaging in language.


Looking at Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language” (Part 3 of 5)

0008 Allow me to further elaborate Sinha’s EcoEvoDevoSocio framework.

In the prior blog, the Eco-Socio bookends touch base with the title frontpiece of praxis, symbol and language.

0009 This implies that the EvoDevo inner coupling expresses the title endpiece of developmental, ecological and linguistic issues.

0010 Evo associates to phylogeny.  Phylogenesis consists of adaptations into a niche.  The human niche changes from one where ecology is the primary source of signification to one where symbol-ready hominins are the primary sources of signification.  

Devo associates to ontogeny.  Ontogenesis consists of alterations in DNA, genes, genotypes and phenotypes that permit the drastic shift in the primary source of signification.

0011 Sinha cleverly encapsulates the inner drama of phylogenic and ontogenic changes over evolutionary time(EvoDevo) within the outward motion from an ecology-centered Umwelt to a socially-centered Lebenswelt (Eco-Socio).


Looking at Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language” (Part 4 of 5)

0012 Sinha’s EcoEvoDevoSocio framework associates to all the terms in the title of Chris Sinha’s Essay.

0013 Eco-Socio are bookends describing the long arc of time from the emergence of the Homo genus to the appearance of Homo sapiens.  At the start, signification primarily comes from the ecology.  At the end, significations primarily come from social interactions.

0014 EvoDevo are the twin tomes of phylogenesis and ontogenesis, bringing me to the truth-bearing fiction within Sinha’s narrative.

What is this fiction?

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

0015 Biologists have debunked this slogan, as fact.  But, it lives on as fiction.


It must be true, even though it is factually incorrect.

0016 How else can one draw a thread through these two terms: language and the human brain?

Language goes with phylogenesis.  As discussed in the masterwork, The Human Niche, plus its attendant commentaries, the biological capacity for language evolves in the milieu of hand talk.  Hand talk develops phylogenetically, from signaling, to functional representation, to symbolic communication, then to fully linguistic.  The adaptation of language occurs within the evolution of hand talk.

The human brain goes with ontogenesis.  The capacity to read ecological significations expands to reading intentional manual-brachial gestures.  Intentional gestures retain their semiotic qualities as icons and indexes as they become more conventional, habitual, lawful and so on.  They become more and more like symbols. The neural substrate in the hominin brain finds a way to process symbols.

0017 Ecological significations are icons and indexes.

Intentional manual-brachial gestures are perceived as icons and indexes, even though they increasingly operate as symbols.

0018 So, instead of the slogan, “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”, we can adopt the saying, “ontogeny intersects phylogeny”.

A traffic intersection belongs to both roads. So does the intersection of ontogeny and phylogeny.


Looking at Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language” (Part 5 of 5)

0019 Chris Sinha’s essay is a contribution to a huge, obviously well-funded, academic project, led by Prof. Michael A. Arbib, of the University of California at San Diego.  An outline is presented in the same issue of Interaction Studies(19:1-2 (2018) 370-389).  The title is “The Comparative Neuroprimatology 2018 (CNP-2018) Road Map for Research on How the Brain Got Language“.

0020 The project’s slogan is a little humorous.

It’s like How the Birds Got Flight.

Does anatomy tell the tale?

To me, comparing the neural structure of the great apes, including models of our hominin ancestors, tells the ontogenesis side of the story.

0021 What about the phylogenesis side of the story?

The story of how the brain got language cannot be restricted to DNA, genes, genotypes, phenotypes and body development.  Phylogenesis cannot be ignored.  In this regard, Chris Sinha’s essay is crucial.  

The intersection of ontogeny and phylogeny re-capitulates the intersection between body development and natural history appearing in Speculations on Thomism and Evolution.

Chris Sinha adds weight to the natural history side, covering environment, ecology, niche, adaptation and natural selection.

0022 To this end, I suggest that the seventeen authors on this magnificent quest consider Razie Mah’s Comments on Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language”.  The contribution may be unexpected.  Nevertheless, it is properly attired.


Looking at Jeff Hardin’s Essay (2019) “Biology and Theological Anthropology” (Part 1 of 15)

0001 Is the current scientific consensus on human origins at odds with core theological doctrines at the heart of the evangelical faith?

You bet it is.

0002 Well, is this a blessing in disguise?

It may well be.

How so?

0003 When science clashes with key theological doctrines, such as Augustine’s doctrine of original sin, Christians may need to strive for better theological essentials.

0004 Does the same apply to science?

Can I say, “When the theological doctrine of original sin pushes back against our current consensus on the evolutionary sciences, researchers may need to search for better scientific essentials.”?

0005 On December 11, 2019, Jeff Hardin, member of the Department of Integrative Biology at UW-Madison, publishes his essay, Biology and Theological Anthropology: Friend or Foe?, on the Biologos website.

In the introduction, he joins British neuroscientist, Donald McKay, in asking (more or less), “Does God give us Darwin, Mendel and Rawlinson in order to achieve a less improper interpretation of His Word?”

0006 At the same time, one cannot ignore a reflection.

Does God give us the Bible in order to achieve a less improper interpretation of human natural history, genetics and Near Eastern Literature?

0007 Jeff Hardin, unlike most writers on this confounding topic, does not hide the question in the mirror.

Weirdly, he invites it.


Looking at Jeff Hardin’s Essay (2019) “Biology and Theological Anthropology” (Part 2 of 15)

0008 In order to appreciate how science and metaphysics mirror one another, I turn to Comments on Jacques Maritain’s Book (1935) Natural Philosophy (available at the smashwords website under the Empirio-schematic series).

Science is successfully born at the start of the modern age, with the formulation of the Positivist’s judgment.

What is a judgment?

A judgment is a relation between ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be’.  When the elements are assigned to Peirce’s categories, the judgment becomes actionable.  Actionable judgments unfold into category-based nested forms.

0009 Here is a diagram of the Positivist’s judgment.

0010 The positivist intellect, the relation, insists on a rule: No metaphysics.  Surely, this is one reason why scientific inquiry into human evolution grates against theological anthropology.  

What ought to be is an empirio-schematic judgment.

Disciplinary language (relation) brings observations and measurements (what is) into relation with mathematical and mechanical models (what ought to be).

0011 What is what is?

What is has the structure of Peirce’s secondness.  The category of secondness is the realm of actuality.  Secondness consists of two contiguous real elements.

Here, the two real elements, a noumenon and its phenomena, belong to firstness, the realm of potential.  The noumenonthe thing itself, has the potential of capturing the attention of the positivist intellect.  Its phenomena, observable and measurable facets of the thing, have the potential of activating an empirio-schematic judgment.

The contiguity is most curious.  I place the contiguity in brackets.  A noumenon [cannot be objectified as] its phenomena.


Looking at Jeff Hardin’s Essay (2019) “Biology and Theological Anthropology” (Part 3 of 15)

0012 Centuries ago, the scholastic hylomorphe, matter [substantiates] form, occupies the slot of what is for a rational intellect.  

The positivist rule dissolves this hylomorphe and precipitates another dyad, a noumenon [cannot be objectified as] its phenomena.

The noumenon is the thing itself.

Phenomena are observable and measurable facets of the noumenon.

The original hylomorphe gets shuffled into the noumenon.


The positivist intellect has a rule.

0013 Here is a picture.

0014 I ask, “What is it to be a human being?”

Obviously, the relevant answer points to the noumenon.

So, I should look to metaphysics.

0015 But, the positivist intellect says, “No metaphysics is allowed.”

Scientists are only interested in the observable and measurable facets of matter [substantiates] form, as well as of body [substantiates] soul.  They are not concerned about the noumenon.  Their observations may be mechanically modeled.  Their measurements may be mathematically construed.  Their models rely on the lingo of specialized disciplines.

Scientists engage in empirio-schematic judgments, the what ought to be of the Positivist’s judgment.

0016 Okay, if this makes sense, then the dyad, expressing what is for the Positivist judgment, provides a way to appreciate the mirroring of the question raised by Jeff Hardin.


Looking at Jeff Hardin’s Essay (2019) “Biology and Theological Anthropology” (Part 4 of 15)

0017 The distinction between a noumenon and its phenomena is valuable because it allows scientists to study phenomena, while ignoring the metaphysics associated with their noumenon.

So, while many inquirers ask noumenal questions, “Where did we humans come from?  What went wrong? What is the cure?”, the scientific answers are based on clues concerning what would be the observable and measurable facets of hominin evolution as witnessed by a disinterested observer

0018 Here is an association between modern versions of theological & biological anthropology and what is for the Positivist’s judgment.

0019 What do scientists look for?

Evolutionary scientists look for clues.  Then, they analyze those clues with specific models built by empirical scientists and geneticists.  The clues turn into observable and measurable features of the evolutionary record that may be then analyzed according to models proposed by biologists and natural historians.  The result is a narrative of hominin evolution.

The evolutionary record is a product of scientific inquiry.  It is expressed as a narrative.

0020 This conclusion is implicit in Hardin’s treatment of human natural history.  He presents a narrative.

What does this imply?

Human evolutionary sciences are forensic sciences.  They rely on theories by the empirical and natural sciences.  They are devoted to producing a narrative describing what happened, in accordance with the positivist rule.

0021 The empirical sciences have it easy.  They assume that the subject of inquiry is real, because they encounter the things themselves.

Empiricists know that the thing itself cannot be reduced to its observable and measurable facets.

0022 The forensic scientists have a more difficult time.  They assume that the subject of inquiry ought to be real, but the thing itself is no longer present.  They must construct a narrative about what the subject of inquiry must have been, as if it could be observed by a disinterested observer.  Clues are studied in order to ascertain the phenomena that would have been observed.  Then, these forensic-built phenomena are subject to an empirio-schematic judgment.

Hardin addresses this construction in a section on science and human origins.

0023 The rational mind must wonder, “Is human evolution nothing more than a narrative that scientists build from phenomena rigorously constructed from various clues?”

If that is true, then the noumenon of human evolution can be objectified by its phenomena, violating the structure of the Positivist’s what is.

0024 Is this rather disorienting?

Obviously, we cannot appreciate human evolution as a noumenon, because the thing itself is no longer present for direct examination.

So, the evolutionary sciences formulate what the phenomena of human evolution must be.

They end up providing a narrative.

Yet, this scientific narrative cannot give us an appreciation of what it is to be an evolved human, even though our sense of what is it to be human evolved.

0025 Even worse, what if humans evolved to pay attention to noumena?

Such a proposal explains why classicists and believers come up with hylomorphic descriptions of things and people in the first place.

Such a proposal accounts for why a narrative is relevant.

Narratives are stories about thing themselves.


Looking at Jeff Hardin’s Essay (2019) “Biology and Theological Anthropology” (Part 5 of 15)

0026 The unsettling end to the prior blog shows where Jeff Hardin’s discussion can go.

Hardin poses one question.  A second question mirrors the first.  The transit from one question to the other turns everything backwards.  One question reflects phenomena onto their noumenon.  The other reflects a noumenon onto its phenomena.

Scientists study phenomena.  Their data makes sleepiness great.

Humans pay attention to noumena.  Our attentiveness is likely innate.

0027 We want to hear a narrative about the thing itself.  Forget about the empirio-schematic judgments about its phenomena.

Evolution, as a forensic science, offers a data-driven narrative.  But, it’s really a projection of models onto the thing itself.  So, the story from phenomena inherently violates the dyad of what is in the Positivist’s judgment.

So, it will never satisfy.  It will never offer me a way to appreciate who I am.

0028 I am a tarnished image of God.

The Bible offers a narrative, which many call “special revelation”.  Special revelation captures our attention.  Reading the words bring us into awareness of the thing itself.

0029 Hardin offers the following picture.

Hardin argues that the narratives of the evolutionary sciences provide constraints on interpretations of what it is to be human from Genesis.

0030 The following is a particularly important application.

0031 In the next blog, I will look at the same argument in the mirror within the heart of Hardin’s essay.