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We Got Your Letters: Listeners Puzzled By Tom Wolfe's Words On Evolution


My interview last week with Tom Wolfe sure struck a nerve. "The Kingdom Of Speech" is the first nonfiction book in 16 years by the author of "The Right Stuff" and "The Bonfire Of The Vanities," a writer who's previously taken on modern art and Wall Street.

This time, it's Charles Darwin. Tom Wolfe is an atheist and not a creationist. But he says in this book that he doesn't believe human evolution, as propounded by Darwin, explains the development of speech, which he calls the attribute of attributes.


TOM WOLFE: And I think it's misleading to say that human beings evolved from animals. I mean, actually, nobody knows whether they did or not.

SIMON: I'm surprised our inbox survived the onslaught. A listener named Paul Personne wrote (reading) I have read and enjoyed many of Tom Wolfe's books. But his past accomplishment is no reason that we should be subjected to his thoroughly ridiculous ideas about some sort of separate origin for humans that is scientifically several steps behind intelligent design.

Another listener, David Frye, writes (reading) listening to your interview with Tom Wolfe - I had to laugh. It was the equivalent of interviewing an expert on evolutionary biology who never reads novels to get his opinions about how novelists can write better stories.

And this from Susan Wernimont (reading) Tom Wolfe is not a scientist. He is wholly unqualified to talk about speech, evolution or the biological distinctions between humans and animals. This interview was a disappointment.

We enjoy hearing from you, though. You can reach us at npr.org - click on the contact tab - or WEEKEND EDITION's Facebook page. Or you can reach me directly on Twitter - @nprscottsimon - all one word. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.