The of his friends, Darwinists and through the

The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe is a journey through the history
of language. A gripping story which begins on a volcanic island off the Malay
Archipelago with Alfred Wallace and journeys through Charles Darwin’s many
articles, into the Amazon with ‘Dan’ Everett to make a stop at the desk of Noam
Chomsky. Wolfe begins his whimsical narrative by retelling the story of how
Alfred Wallace’s manuscript on ‘the evolution of the species through natural
selection’ (Wolfe, 2016) was handed to
Charles Darwin. After receiving the manuscript Darwin was surprised at how
Wallace had ‘scooped up’ his entire life’s work because he himself had been
working on ‘transmutation’ of plants and animals. He was fairly convinced that
men evolved from apes and that the creator was a ‘single undifferentiated cell’
which led to everything else in the world. The only thing that puzzled him was
human’s use of language because he could not find any evidence that human
speech evolved from animals. Upon receiving Wallace’s manuscript, even though
shocked and upset that someone else had figured out what he knew but was too
afraid to publish, he did what a gentleman would do and passed it along to the
distinguished Dr. Charles Lyell.

When Wallace found out that his paper along with a
similar paper by Darwin has been published he was surprised at finding out that
Darwin had the same idea but let it go because he realised he did not stand a
chance against the ‘British Gentlemen’. By the time Wallace knew about the
publication Darwin had already been writing and working on a book for three
months which the world will come to know as The Origin of Species. Receiving
mixed reviews the Theory of Evolution divided the part of society that believed
man was created by God from those who believed man is an animal that has
evolved. Although the theory gained popularity in Germany, Italy, Spain and the
US, it failed to impress the French. Darwin became famous through the support
of his friends, Darwinists and through the controversy created by his harshest
critics. Wallace voiced his support for Darwin and his humility in acknowledging
Darwin as ‘the discoverer of natural selection’ led to Darwin feeling even guiltier
than he did before and he continually praised Wallace and his contributions to
the field. The unknown Wallace became popular ‘lit up by indirect light’ (Wolfe, 2016). Wallace’s seven
hundred articles and twenty two books where he popularized the theory of
natural selection earned him honours and medals beyond his expectations.
Wallace published ‘The Limits of Natural Selection as Applied to Man’ where he
declared that there is a ‘cardinal distinction between man and animal’ (Wolfe, 2016). It was the human
brain, ‘the abstract thought’, without which man could not have enjoyed the
pleasures of art and music, could not conceive numbers, would not have a conscience
therefore no moral codes. According to Wallace ‘a superior intelligence’ was
required for the ‘ever-advancing man’ (Wolfe, 2016). Wallace attributed
the power of speech, which was unique to human beings, to supernatural powers.
It was language that made man different from animal.

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