I have been reading about recent studies on the origins of language, The First Word by Christine Kenneally. She tells about many empirically undecidable narratives, but there is clearly no consensus. There is not even evidence that the current technically enhanced use of human language has any evolutionary survival value. We use language for fun and profit, but those concepts do not correlate with biological fitness.
From an evolutionary perspective the survival value of even culturally selected human information is not obvious. Our symbol-based technological culture has given humans power over natural forces that can cure disease, increase lifespan, counter the effects of genetic deficiencies, and unleash weapons of mass destruction. None of these achievements look good from an evolutionary perspective. Even most literature appears to be popular more for its entertainment value than for survival value. Language and its technologies allow local human values to replace natural selection.
5000 years has seen enormous cultural changes largely the result of language, but this is only a moment in evolutionary time, and natural selection operates over indefinitely longer time scales, and it will ultimately decide survival or extinction. We are still entirely dependent on the genetic language to construct the neural architecture that allows natural and artificial languages.
E. O. Wilson claims that for this reason the genes hold culture on a leash. He says the leash is very long, but inevitably values will be constrained in accordance with their effects on the human gene pool. But Dennett argues to the contrary that by allowing language, “genes provide not a leash but a launching pad, from which you can get almost anywhere, by one devious route or another.” I recommend reading Dennett’s paper at Edge.com, http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dennett/dennett_p1.html;
also, Lanier’s response to Dennett: http://www.edge.org/discourse/evolutionofculture.html, which in my opinion is more of an amendment that does not alter Dennett’s basic argument.
The media, the Internet and cell phones have certainly altered our culture, especially among the young, but I find it hard to find any evidence that survival of the species has been enhanced. Many teachers are convinced that their students’ learning is being subverted by communication overload. Clearly, the most primitive uses of communication for hunting and fighting has survival value, but Ira has not convinced me that religion is more than wishful thinking.
Obviously, there is much more to say on the subject. For discussion, I would suggest there is an optimum level of language usage. Speech should not be entirely free. There should be a cost. What are your views?