Doubtfully proven hypothesis: Holocaust vs. Revisionism, Creationism vs. Evolution, and Indo-European vs. Latin & Greek?

About the Proto-Indo-European language, one could say that a “proven hypothesis” is a fact. It’s not a certainty and it never will be until we invent time machines, but it’s a well-supported and widely accepted theory. With this kind of theory, it’s not a question of proven or unproven, because you can’t ever prove it. As far as the PIE reconstruction goes, there are a lot of competing reconstructions, and we’ll never know which one is right, although certain features can be established with a high level of confidence.

After reading what some pretentious guys from textkit.com had to say in their forum about our revival project, I decided to talk with my uncle about Indo-European; he was the Dean of a Spanish University, and is an expert philologist in Classical languages (i.e. Latin and Greek) – he has translated Latin authors and all that stuff, and was recently in the US to translate an author (Catulo?) from some original texts that an important eastern University had bought from a European library.

Who could be more open to the idea of a reconstructed Indo-European language than him? I just mentioned the word “Indo-European” and he said: “what, that! an invention, nothing more. So, hm…, you have English ‘father’, Latin ‘pater’, and… ehh…then you have Indo-European ‘pater’ or what? pfff what a language” and so on. He said more or less what other Spanish famous linguists are saying about our project: Francisco Villar (Latin professor at Salamanca, author of “Lenguas y pueblos indoeuropeos”) and José Antonio Pascual (member of the Royal Spanish Academy, RAE).

Let’s examine other similar sentences:

– “I think we have sufficiently talked about this matter and these Holocaust events need to be further investigated by independent and impartial parties”. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran. Holocaust denial.

– “Certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection (‘Darwinism’)”. Discovery Institute Think Tank. Creationism (Evolution denial)

– “The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. … We are living in an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals as a result of the carbon dioxide increase. Our children will enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life than that with which we now are blessed. This is a wonderful and unexpected gift from the Industrial Revolution.” Oregon Institute, in opposition to the Kyoto protocol. Climate change denial.

Such ‘denials’ usually refer to disinformation campaigns promoted and funded by groups with an interest in misrepresenting the scientific consensus on different issues, particularly groups with ties to a group with opposing ideas. Denialism is thus the rejection of views that are strongly supported by scientific or historical evidence by governments, business groups, interest groups or individuals who seek to influence policy processes and outcomes.

I guess the interest of some Americans (and Europeans too) in denying the existence of PIE, and thus the possibility of reconstructing and using it as a modern language, is about simple fear (or rough hate) of the idea of Europe becoming united as a single country, what is called Euroscepticism in Great Britain. Latin and Greek linguistic experts fans, probably don’t want to see their beloved classical languages somehow ‘reduced’ to simple dialects of an older (thus, more important for them?) language, after having dedicated all their lifes to the study of what seemed the only ancient European languages.

Anyway, trying to be as neutral as possible, I think the only solution here – when we want to remain within scientific limits – is to answer a simple question: who has the Onus Probandi (Burden of proof)? After more than 200 years of Indo-European studies, I think that to be a University Dean, a member of the Royal Spanish Academy or a professor at Salamanca doesn’t allow anyone to simply say “Indo-European is an invention” and “let’s use Latin as Europe’s lingua franca“.

If Modern Indo-European is or is not a good approach to the reconstruction(s) of the Proto-Indo-European language, and if Europe needs it, or if Europeans wish or will be able to adopt it as Europe’s national language, that’s another question. But that the Indo-European language existed and that it has been reconstructed with a high level of confidence, that’s undeniable, unless we enter in the non-scientific field of personal opinions.

A well-known Spanish saying is “opinions are like asses: everyone has one”; I just don’t have the time nor the patience necessary to look at every ass out there.

2 thoughts on “Doubtfully proven hypothesis: Holocaust vs. Revisionism, Creationism vs. Evolution, and Indo-European vs. Latin & Greek?

  1. I like the idea of comparing various denialisms (holocaust denial, evolution denial, global warming denial, and now indo-european denial). It just shows that there are always ignorant, misguided people who don’t want to accept the standard view of how the world works.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.