This book takes the pole position for Best Book I’ve Read This Year.
What’s it about? Well, it’s a brief overview of the history of linguistics, and an explanation of how the existence human speech exposes a major gap in Darwin’s theory of evolution, a gap that causes Darwinists no end of consternation.
Sounds like gripping page-turner, right? Actually, it is.
Tom Wolfe brings every player in the drama yearning, striving, sweating, straining, and puking to life. Those that have been dead for 150 years and those that are still researching and publishing today. All the turning points in the ongoing argument (and make no mistake: it is an argument–the term “settled science” is an oxymoron) feel almost concurrent; as if the opposing sides are grappling in a Darwinian cage match right in front of you.
And it’s a fight that everybody involved takes very personally. The thing I enjoyed the most about Wolfe’s presentation is that he makes a point of demonstrating that the personalities of the contestants play a big role in a debate that is supposedly all about objective science. Theories get more play not necessarily because they’re better theories, but because the person propounding them is more popular or more well connected.
Wolfe punches through all the faculty-club pretension to the core issue: Darwin’s theory of evolution, while presented as the all-explaining uber-theory of everything, actually has some big honking holes in it. An entertaining read that offers an uncommon perspective, The Kingdom of Speech gets two opposable thumbs up from me.