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

0079 Jeff Harden follows his appeal with summaries of faithful Christian approaches to human origins.  These approaches include models of existential recapitulation, of protohistory, of representative ancient ancestors, of recently, elected representatives and of genealogies, as opposed to genetics.

None of these are adequate.

0080 Why?

They do not fit the fairy tales about Adam and Eve.

0076 In this look at Hardin’s article, another option appears.  It appears as a mirror image of his opening question.  It asks, “Why doesn’t evolutionary science recognize a twist in human evolution?”

The answer wonders, “Why is our current Lebenswelt not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in?

The hypothesis of the first singularity is a scientific mechanism that works as an adjunct to theological formulations.

Indeed, we come to a new age of understanding, which the late John Deely, calls “The Age of Triadic Relations”.

0077 Here is a picture of three masterworks and their corresponding periods in human evolution.

0078 My thanks to Jeff Hardin, Chair, Biologos Board of Directors, for his mind-opening essay.


Looking at Jeff Hardin’s Essay (2019) “Biology and Theological Anthropology” (Part 14 of 15)

0074 Jeff Hardin calls for theological interpretation of the Bible and scientific inquiry into human evolution to move in tandem.

In doing so, he unknowingly struggles with the Positivist judgment and offers us a post-Positivist alternative.

Here is a picture.

0075 If Hardin’s appeal prevails, then the metaphysics of the Bible offers a noumenon that supports phenomena studied in the human sciences.

Clearly, phenomena alone are insufficient to reveal our particular noumenon.  How can changes in settlement patterns, innovation, and all the other little clues to the potentiation of unconstrained social complexity, produce a revelation that humanity is a recent creation by the divine?

Once the thing itself is intimated by the written origin stories of the ancient Near East, particularly the Biblical stories in Genesis, the human imagination may find a path to the hypothesis of the first singularity.

The noumenonthe thing itself, is necessary in order for there to be phenomena, observable and measurable facets.  Yet, the noumenon cannot be objectified by its phenomena.

For centuries, empirical scientists ignore the noumenon and treat it as an impediment to their struggle for scientific results.  That attitude continues to pervade the modern disciplines of anthropology, psychology and sociology.  But, it cannot hold.

0076 Why?

Humans innately recognize noumena as sources of signification.

Our lineage adapts into the niche of triadic relations, which includes signs, mediations, judgments and category-based nested forms.

0077 Then, our Lebenswelt changes.  We forget who we were.  We fashion fairy tales of who we are.  These fairy tales include public mythologies of the ancient Near East, written in cuneiform on clay tablets that are preserved in burnt ruins of long forgotten capitals.  These public mythologies agree with the stories of Adam and Eve in the Bible.  Humans are recently manufactured by the spiritual realm.

Here is a noumenon that cannot be objectified by its phenomena.

Yet, phenomena exist only because of their noumenon.

The noumenon and its phenomena both point to a recent prehistoric change from the Lebenswelt that we evolved in to our current Lebenswelt.

0078 The rule of the positivist intellect cannot contain the human sciences.

Theology and the human sciences must move in tandem.


Looking at Jeff Hardin’s Essay (2019) “Biology and Theological Anthropology” (Part 13 of 15)

0070 Our current Lebenswelt is filled with word games.

The same types of word games are recorded in the Bible.

The Bible offers a testimony to the formation, deformation and reformation of the word, “covenant”.

0071 Where, in modern inquiry into psyche and organization, do we see the word, “covenant”?

Is the term, “social contract”, the same?

Oh, the term, “social contract”, is not religious.

The term, “covenant”, sounds more religious.

What is a word game?

0072 A Course on How To Define the Word “Religion”, available at the smashwords website, concerns our current Lebenswelt.

The modern disciplines of psychology and sociology claim to be “not religious”.

Indeed, they purport to scientifically investigate religion, even though they are religions.

Say what?

It all depends on how one defines the word, “religion”.

0073 A Course on How To Define the Word “Religion” offers category-based tools for appreciating the nature of our current Lebenswelt.  The term, “religion”, is grounded in the potential of meaning, presence and message.  Meaning involves social construction.  Presence requires a three-tiered model of our differentiated world.  Message entails an actuality filled with unresolvable contradictions.

This course fleshes out a scientific anthropology that moves with theological anthropology, without violating what is in the Positivist’s judgment.


Looking at Jeff Hardin’s Essay (2019) “Biology and Theological Anthropology” (Part 12 of 15)

0063 What about the disciplines of modern psychology and sociology?

Do they labor as word-smiths, hammering out the spoken words that will address the tsunami of concupiscence-related disorders that currently plague modern society, or do they construct spoken words that thwart an evangelical’s desire to hear a sermon on Original Sin?

After all, lectures on concupiscence are not justified in a Zeitgeist where concupiscence is labeled “natural”.

0064 Surely, secular experts justify various features of our current Zeitgeist… er… regime, just like they previously (and maybe still do) labored to account for various flavors of mercantilism, various strains of fascism, and various manifestations of communism.

These ideologies all build on foundations of spoken wordsspecialized disciplinary languages fashioned by academically certified agents.

0065 Spoken words can (somehow) create the artifacts that validate spoken words.

The best way to make that happen is with sovereign power.

Spoken words can generate the righteousness underlying an organizational objective that will allow me (and my fellow travelers) to demand sovereign action.  Then, the state implements my organizational objective, thereby validating the righteousness that my spoken words advocated.

Try to get around that.

0066 An example?

May I call the current regime: “big government (il)liberalism”?

Some would call it, “the administrative state”.

Big government (il)liberalism is the latest sovereign solution to the nasty consequences of an enlightened disposition, declaring, “Concupiscence is okay, because it is natural.”

“Tolerance” is key.

Big government experts must be tolerant in order to better manage the citizen’s natural proclivities.

0067 So, the word, “liberal” has been perverted from a focus on freedom and responsibility to a fixation on nonjudgment.

The prefix, (il), celebrates this inversion, because managing citizens is the negation of serving them.

0068 Isn’t that what the word, “government”, ought to mean?

If the citizens are going to do what’s natural, then someone must clean up the mess.  What does that mean?  Someone must control the citizens, in order to ameliorate the mess that they would produce, if left to their own natures.

Er… not someone, something.  Something big.

0069 In a world where government is omnipresent, the message comes across loud and clear.

Look at your television and listen to the talking heads.

We are here to justify your concupiscence.

We are here to manage the consequences.

Please comply with current directives.


Looking at Jeff Hardin’s Essay (2019) “Biology and Theological Anthropology” (Part 11 of 15)

0059 Our current world is fallen, yet civilization constantly rises from the ashes of prior self-destructions.

The Bible depicts a cycle of formation, deformation, and reformation.

A new approach to the psychological and the social sciences ought to move in tandem with Biblical interpretation.

0060 Some evolutionary psychologists already stumble in this direction.

For example, today, people are fat, lazy and addicted to sugar.

Is the problem that our ancestors adapt to a world filled with fat-burning, strenuous and sugar-demanding activities?

No, with the benefits of civilization, the pressure is off.  We can afford to slow down, take rests and eat desserts.  The problem is our current Lebenswelt.

0061 When anyone asks me what I’m doing, I say, “I’m working.”

But, I’m really eating candy.

Yes, I project meaning, presence and message into the word, “work”.

And, my projection is paying off.

My own spoken words create an artifact that justifies my sloth, plus a little extra.

Fat, that is.

0062 Spoken words stimulate the production of artifacts that appear to validate the meaning, presence and message of spoken words.

Doesn’t that sound scientific?

The motif is so versatile.

Augustine proposes that the disorder caused by Adam’s rebellion resides in our privy parts.

Surely, he is on track.

What better incentive to manipulate meaning, presence and message, than to generate artifacts in the service of one’s privy parts?

The current Zeitgeist says, “It’s only natural.”

Augustine’s concept of concupiscence sounds like an orientation that postmoderns want to speak about… er… manage.