First, Chomsky has recently been interviewed by the NYT about the Everett/Wolfe junk we have spent far too much time on (Thx to Chomsky for the quote). Here he is asked about Everett's work.
You have mentioned one paragraph that Wolfe got right in his book...what was in that paragraph? Was it an explanation of your work? Why do you think we're seeing this resurgence of analysis? You must get fairly tired of defending your work?!
It was a paragraph in which he quoted my explanation to him of why his crucial example, the Amazonian language Piraha, is completely irrelevant to his conclusions and claims. The reason is quite simple. Whether the alleged facts about the language are correct or not (apparently not), they are about the language, not the faculty of language, while the general principles he thinks are being challenged have to do with the faculty of language, explicitly and unambiguously, including the work he cites, and speakers of this language share the common human faculty of language, of course, as illustrated by their fluency in Portuguese. So his entire article and book are irrelevant to his claims. To take an analogy, if some tribe were found in which everyone wears a black patch over one eye, it would have no bearing on the study of binocular vision in the human visual system. The problems in this work extend far beyond the total irrelevance of his examples to his claims, but I won’t elaborate here.I’ve been defending the legitimacy of this work, extensively and in print, for 60 years. In earlier years the discussion were with serious philosophers, linguists, cognitive scientists. I’m sorry to see that the resurgence you mention does not begin to approximate that level, one reason why unlike earlier years, I don’t bother to respond unless asked.
Here is a second review online of Wolfe's book brought to my attention by Peter Ludlow. It is very amusing. I especially like the last paragraph for it identifies the real scandal in all of this.
I’m not worried about Chomsky, however, no more than I’m worried about Darwin’s position in future histories of science. Chomsky’s position too will be just fine. I do worry about how we will look in those histories, however. Because from where I sit the rampant anti-intellectual responses and the failures to distinguish nonsense from solid science in the attacks on Chomsky’s work look more like harbingers of a new dark age, one that rejects thoughtful scientific probes into human nature and levels charges of a new kind of apostasy– the apostasy of using one’s mind instead of gut instinct. And I suspect that, from the perspective of future intellectual historians, Chomsky’s ability to produce this last great piece of work against the backdrop of our new dark age will make his achievements seem all the more impressive.The shoddiness of our high brow press is the real scandal, and it is one that deserves much more serious attention.