- Paperback: 300 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books; Original edition (May 22, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 161614579X
- ISBN-13: 978-1616145798
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,914,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Language of Life: How Communication Drives Human Evolution Paperback – May 22, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"Charles Darwin lives on in James Lull and Eduardo Neiva’s lively book. . . . Their clear, direct, and personable narratives explain how transmissions surrounding senders and receivers become signs and symbols as humans evolve through the ‘great chain of communication.’ . . . A fascinating, wide-ranging tour de force."
-Kevin G. Barnhurst, PhD, professor, Department of Communication, University of Illinois–Chicago
"In this profoundly original work, Lull and Neiva introduce a new way of seeing both communication and evolution. . . . Their innovative exploration of how communication contributes to the evolutionary progress of organisms and culture provides a rallying cry for all who build on the brilliant tradition of nineteenth-century evolutionists in realizing the power of the past and the promise of the future."
-Michael Real, professor, School of Communication and Culture, Royal Roads University, Victoria, British Columbia
"Lull and Neiva have written a book of grand theory, in the best sense of that term. The Language of Life ranges effortlessly across a wide and varied disciplinary terrain. The authors make bold conceptual leaps, and they chart new paths for future scholarship. They argue their case with impressive intellectual agility in lucid and elegant prose."
-Paul Messaris, Lev Kuleshov Professor of Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
"The authors combine vivid descriptions of contemporary phenomena . . . with time-tested evolutionary principles to fashion a most powerful argument. One of the most original, compelling, and entertaining books I’ve read in years."
-Toshie Takahashi, PhD, associate professor, School of Culture, Media and Society, Waseda University, Japan
"The Language of Life demonstrates . . . [a] vast knowledge of human culture from biology to philos-ophy. The authors unify these separate perspectives into a unique understanding of life—one that articulates the complex sequences of events in human evolution. This book is written with subtlety, sensibility, and intelligence. . . . This work is both powerful and valuable."
-Jean-Richard Bodon, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Mass Communication, Sam Houston State University
"Written in a clear, playful, and engaging style, The Language of Life presents ideas that have been virtually ignored in the humanities, social sciences, and biology. . . . A must read."
-Monica Rector, professor, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
About the Author
James Lull (San Jose, CA) is a distinguished international authority on the impact of mass media, communications technology, and popular culture. He has published twelve books, as well as dozens of journalarticles, chapters, and essays, and has lectured throughout the world on the interplay between communication and culture. He has also appeared as a commentator on CNN, CNN Headline News, the BBC, NPR, and other media outlets, and he has written essays for the Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and others. He is professor emeritus of communication studies at San Jose State University. Eduardo Neiva (Birmingham, AL) is a leading authority on how visual images influence culture. He is the author of two books in English on communication, culture, and images, and many books in Portuguese. He was a Fulbright research scholar at Indiana University. He is professor of communication studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
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Top customer reviews
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Lull and Neiva's main argument is that "communication drives biological and cultural change." They base their thesis on Darwin's theory--not exactly on a contemporary Social Scientist! These researchers explain their ideas in such a clear way, that they build a very elegant piece of work.
The narrative is dynamic and far from being boring. The examples, evidences, and theoretical resources are expansive and diverse. It is definitely a very serious scientific research piece--though the writing is not conventional at all.
I have worked on "The Language of Life" as a text book for both undergraduate and graduate students at international universities. My students have just loved it. The book has instilled some many new ideas in them.
I highly recommend it!
It really pisses me off to read a book by authors with more education than I have, who don't take the care and time to build up a case for their thesis, and who appear to be too lazy to assimilate the proper background material before they make their case. This book is a mish-mash of shallow thinking that goes nowhere.
Way too much of The Language of Life is taken up in attacking religion. Been there, done that. The author's are basically preaching to the converted - the scientifically literate reader. The critique of religion, which forms a major part of about three chapters in the book, is over the top and superfluous. And it also betrays a shallowness on the part of the authors that is troubling. If you are an evolutionist you should have respect for religion. We've evolved to be religious so there must be a good reason. Of course the authors mention group selection, as does Wilson, who does it in far more detail, as a reason for the evolution of religion, but we're barely scratching the surface here.
The chapter on the communication of culture is downright silly. Unfortunately the authors, James Lull, and Eduardo Neiva, are both enamored by Richard Dawkins famous theory of "memes" The idea that ideas somehow replicate themselves. Can we give this idea the eternal retirement it so richly deserves? Memes are meant to explain how ideas spread by using the analogy of the gene. There a kind of anthropomorphocizing of little things -imagining that they have a self and a self-interest, and that they somehow lead humans to replicate them all over the place. This is really a cute, but useless explanation of the spread of ideas which contributes nothing to furthering our understanding. For a more powerful and thoughtful analysis of these matters read any of the works of John Searle.
I picked out this book in my quest to understand how language came about, but I got a whole lot more out of it. I realised Language is not simply words, but everthing, every cell and organism communicates to survive.How our DNA. genes, play a role in how we behave, and how culture (behaviour) in turn affects our DNA.
And how our every action; from love for a child to altruism, is biological, natural and that unlike what most religions will have you believe, you are inherently "good", because good is necessary for survival.
Most consoling I found were these words: "Each one of us carries something of every other living thing as part of our biological make-up...." in that nothing really ends / dies, our genes are passed on, we live in our children and in theirs.
This is an easy to read and simple to follow book. There is no complicated scientific detail that ordinary people may not understand or become bored with.That you can identify with the situations and then be able to understand why it is so, just makes it amazing.
I believe it should be incorporated into high school curriculum and a must read for every human being who realises the importance of understanding who we are and why we are the way we are.