Here’s the problem. The people positing this notion of phonemic differentiation and proliferation are not linguists. Non-linguists who “delve” into linguistics often have some problems with basic concepts. A friend of mine just yesterday mentioned this article and began discussing it when I had to stop him. He had completely misunderstood what a phoneme is.
That’s pretty basic. We don’t know who these biologists are and how they came to understand how languages grow and change. There’s nothing wrong with applying the findings of one field to another but that’s usually done in tandem with people so there are experts in both fields working on the issue.
One of the saddest examples of people disastrously straying above their pay grade was the infamous Bell Curve episode. A psychologist and a political scientist were apparently mugged by a Black guy and decided to prove Blacks are inferior. Naturally they embedded that quaint notion in a well-written and well-researched book that became the darling of Conservatives (why do people keep insisting Conservatives are not racists?). Everyone (except outraged scientists) ignored the massive amounts of fascinating information the two scholars collected and focused on their “finding” that Blacks just weren’t spending education dollars on b/c their brains just weren’t wired for it.
To be fair, they also attributed higher IQ to Asians over Caucasians and, inexplicably, decided Jews are a race and said they beat everybody out. My guess is that if the Africans flooding into our country over the last 20 years were tested with the same b.s. IQ tests, THEY would outrank everyone. Ironic, heh?
Having read linguistics for over 50 years now and only scratched the surface, I would really wait until some bona fide linguists took a look at this. It may be a breakthrough and it may just be another cold fusion story.