Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tower of Improvised Sign Language

I just thought of something, I'll have to quickly look some stuff up, let's see, New Revised Standard Version Bible...

"Noah Pleases God"... not what I'm looking for. In any way.

OK, here we are... Tower of Babel. Genesis, Chapter 11, verses 1 to 9.

"Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as they migrated from the east*, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth."** 5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built.+ 6 And the LORD said, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 "Come++, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech." 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the earth, and they left off the building of the city. 9 Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth, and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the earth."

Now. Forget the absurdity of an omnipotent being getting worried about people building with bricks and tar. This story is absurd, and anyone who's ever had to speak to someone who speaks a different language will know why: confusing languages doesn't do a thing. Maybe you can't describe the subtle beauty of a flower, but you can certainly point out where you want the next load of bricks dumped. You can direct people to shelter from the wind or whatever God's using to scatter them. He'd have had to scatter them an awful lot for them to not meet up again before they forgot the whole "one city building a tower together" phase of their history. I mean, no matter what your language is, that's the kind of thing you remember, and tell your grandkids about. And you don't go to war with people you used to live peacefully with for no reason... and they'd remember the tower, too.

This is an element of creationism I haven't seen targeted yet: they also expect intelligently designed languages, but linguistics tells us modern languages evolved from just a few root languages. Common descent works for words, too.

*Or migrated eastward... wait, the translation can say one thing, or its exact opposite? I'll have to do a post on that at some point...
**Because the unavoidable consequence of not building a brick-and-tar skyscraper is everyone running off in different directions.
+Obviously this isn't the omniscient god of the rest of the bible, and the giants mentioned earlier in Genesis were union labour.
++What's with all the coming? Onan isn't due to be born for millenia yet.

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