Evolution’s irony: The Kingdom of Speech

The Kingdom of Speech, by Tom Wolfe, is a fun tour of the folly of evolution. While Wolf himself is an atheist, he is a vocal critic of the atheistic materialism that grips the Western world. He traces much of this materialistic swagger to the arrogance of modern evolutionary science, which he critiques in The Kingdom of Speech.

The problem with evolution, Wolfe notes, is that it overplays its hand. It tries to be too much. It tries to explain everything, and in so doing it ends up explaining nothing. Wolfe writes, “Darwin had fallen into the trap of cosmogonism, the compulsion to find the ever-elusive Theory of Everything, an idea or narrative that reveals everything in the world to be part of a single and suddenly clear pattern.”

Because no evidence for such a theory exists, evolutionists grasp at straws for the faintest semblance of corroborative affirmation, as seen by Darwin often employing his dog as a stand-in for actual research (as in, “If my dog were left on an island…” or “even my dog has figured out how to…”). All of evolutionary theory is ripe for the mocking, and Wolfe is up to the task.

There are five standard tests for a scientific hypothesis, and evolution can hardly meet the easiest (observation) much less any of the others, such as recording or replicating. Despite this, evolutionary theory bred Nazism, and soon led to something Wolfe calls “worse than the great wars: the total eclipse of all values.”  

But the most obvious example of evolutionary failure concerns what Wolfe calls the kingdom of speech. Evolution cannot even begin to find any evidence whatsoever of how/why people speak. The evolutionist can “explain man’s opposable thumb, upright stature, and huge cranium” but can’t find “one shred of solid evidence that human speech has evolved.”

Darwin himself was aware of this problem—one of the many he set his dog to solving (Wolfe calls this the “bow-wow” theory of speech). Darwin’s failure is the most obvious hole in evolution, and one that evolutionary researchers have tried to plug ever since.

This is why Wolfe saves his sharpest words for Noam Chomsky.  Chomsky had risen to prominence in just about every area of liberal arts—psychology, biology, anthropology; I was a sociology major, a world where Chomsky was practically deified. But Chomsky is most well-known for his supposed theories about how speech developed.


Wolfe won’t stand for it. He pokes holes up and down Chomsky’s findings, mocks his “research,” and compares most of his theories to Darwin’s use of his dog.

Wolfe uses an S.I.L. (Summer Institute of Linguistics) missionary and Moody Bible Institute graduate named Daniel Everett to demolish Chomsky. This is a particular irony because Wolfe notes that by the early twenty-first century “the vast majority of people who thought themselves as intellectuals were atheists,” while “believers were regarded as something slightly worse than hapless fools.”

Everett does what Chomsky would never dare to do—namely leave the classroom, go to a remote and unreached tribe, and actually do field research (Wolfe suggests that Chomsky liked air-conditioning and honorariums more than mosquitoes and research). What Everett finds is that Chomsky’s theories don’t hold up. In fact, despite being embraced as facts by the entire evolutionary community, they are easily disproven.

As a result almost a century of work in evolutionary sciences has been wasted. The problem is that if you have a theory that is not supported by evidence or research, then others can advance it without evidence or research. Eventually someone will actually do the leg work and see that the evolutionary emperor has no clothes–or in this case, no speech. That this was done by a Moody grad is just salt in the wounds of the scientific world which was, Wolfe notes, “so deep-steeped in the Theory that anyone casting doubt upon it obviously had the mentality of a Flat Earther or a Methodist.”

The bottom line for Wolfe: while evolution might explain some things, it certainly can’t explain language:

“Speech, language, is something that existed quite apart from Evolution. It has nothing whatsoever to do with it. Man, man unaided, created language. It’s an artifact, every bit as much as a light-bulb or a Buick.”

In other words, man was made with language. How he got there, Wolfe doesn’t know—and the evolutionist most certainly doesn’t either—but the Christian does. It is no mere turn of phrase that God spoke the universe into existence. We were made by speech, with speech, and for speech, so it is a delicious irony that speech remains the most glaring hole in evolutionary theory.

If you are looking for a fun book to read, one that mocks evolution, Darwin, Chomsky and those who follow in their footsteps, then read The Kingdom of Speech. It is light-hearted, but a good reminder to Christians that there are even atheists out there who remain unconvinced by evolutionary theory.

Reader’s warnings: the book contains two F-bombs, one Mexican prostitute, and a handful of Methodists.

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