Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > How Biologists Lost Sight of the Meaning of Life > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

The origin of language?

Meaning is a fundamental given of the world we live in. If there is anything in the evolutionary literature purporting to explain the origin of speech that does not already assume a capacity for speech, I would like to know about it. As Barfield has succinctly fingered the matter: asking about the origin of language is like asking about the origin of origin (Barfield 1965a, p. 123). We can speak only because we were first spoken. And before we were spoken, the single cell was spoken, bearing in all the narrative details of its molecular adeptness and harmony the reverberating imprint, the resonance, of the speaking through which it lives.

Meaning never arises from the non-meaningful. The question we should ask ourselves is not whether meaning can arise from what is not meaningful, but whether “not meaningful” makes any sense at all. Which, of course, is to ask whether “meaninglessness” has any meaning. That’s the kind of absurd territory we lose ourselves in when we ask for an informative and truthful science without meaning.

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