What separates humans from animals, Deacon writes, is our capacity for symbolic representation. Animals can easily learn to link a sound with an object or an effect with a cause. But symbolic thinking assumes the ability to associate things that might only rarely have a physical correlation; think of the word "unicorn," for instance, or the idea of the future. Language is only the outward expression of this symbolic ability, which lays the foundation for everything from human laughter to our compulsive search for meaning.
The final section of The Symbolic Species posits that human brains and human language have coevolved over millions of years, leading Deacon to the remarkable conclusion that many modern human traits were actually caused by ideas. Deacon's background in biological anthropology and neuroscience makes him a reliable companion through this complicated multidisciplinary turf. Rigorously researched and argued in dense but lively prose, The Symbolic Species is that rare animal, a book of serious science that's accessible to layman and scientist alike. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I found this theory, and his justification of it, interesting enough to warrant the book on its own.
Deacon brilliantly unweaves the mysteries of the evolution of the human mind and of the strange entity of language and symbolic reference.
So my advice is that people who are interested in language should read Deacon's book, but recognize the limitations of his perspective.
Okay --- spin around until you throw up. That's the best way to describe this mess. Reading this creation of Deacon's will make you dizzy and nauseated at the same time. Read morePublished 17 months ago by BullDog
Thank you Terrence, for taking the time to research and figure out all the profound results you so clearly layout in this book. Read morePublished 18 months ago by ElmerMiller
Another big name comes to the front in NCC. THEORY: DEACON. There is true substance in this volume; plenty to sink your teeth into. Read morePublished on March 20, 2012 by barryb
I have been studying this book for a long time and I got myself familiarized with 'Deacon boosters' and 'Deacon skeptics' as well. Read morePublished on February 15, 2012 by U. Parlar
I gave up on p. 310 because reading this book was just too much of a challenge; yet I have read several books about the functioning of the brain and about evolution, by... Read morePublished on February 17, 2011 by algo41
If you're looking for a simple book to read, you should keep looking. Deacon's book, like "Guns, Germs, and Steel", starts with a disarmingly simple question (here, "Why don't... Read morePublished on September 26, 2009 by Geoffrey Emmer
Could have been a better book with a clearer vision and better writing.
The author could not decide on his audience. Read more
One of the most entertaining things about Deacon's book is the cultural references he uses to explain how human language evolved along with the human brain. Read morePublished on February 15, 2008 by Found Highways