language virus

Every writer needs a hobby. When he isn’t writing bleak, bloody fiction or exploring the primal violence at the heart of the American experience, Cormac McCarthy likes to unwind with a little theoretical scientific research. Who doesn’t? His work at the Santa Fe Institute has led him to write a new treatise on the nature of the unconscious and the emergence of human language: “The sort of isolation that gave us tall and short and light and dark and other variations in our species was no protection against the advance of language.  It crossed mountains and oceans as if they weren’t there.  Did it meet some need?  No.  The other five thousand plus mammals among us do fine without it. But useful?  Oh yes.  We might further point out that when it arrived it had no place to go.  The brain was not expecting it and had made no plans for its arrival.  It simply invaded those areas of the brain that were the least dedicated.  I suggested once in conversation at the Santa Fe Institute that language had acted very much like a parasitic invasion … The difference between the history of a virus and that of language is that the virus has arrived by way of Darwinian selection and language has not. The virus comes nicely machined. Offer it up. Turn it slightly. Push it in. Click. Nice fit.”
VIA

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