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Stephen Webb on Adam, Edward O. Wilson, and The Encyclopedia

Yesterday’s On the Square in First Things is sorta Percyesque in its treatment of the human faculty for naming, with a different emphasis on the specifically scientific nature of the endeavor in our time.

Collecting, naming, and organizing things—anything, from banana labels to dachshund paperweights—seems to be built into human nature. At least, that’s what the Bible tells us. The first task God gave Adam was the naming of the animals. God “brought them to Adam to see what he would call them” and “the man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field” (Gen. 2:19–20). No matter how you imagine this scene, its meaning seems clear enough. The gift of language is what separates us from other species. We can name them, but they cannot name us.

And I may as well bring Dylan into the mix, because I can.

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