From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Why does the Human article use the third person? Aren't we humans?
A: The third person ("Humans are..." or "They are..." as opposed to "We are...") is simply the conventional mode of writing for Wikipedia and other reference works. We realize this may cause some phrases in Human to sound quite strange — "a majority of humans professes some variety of religious or spiritual belief" sounds almost like it was written by space aliens. However, the occasional strangeness this approach may lead to is still preferable to the alternative of inconsistency.
If we were to use "we" in the Human article, it would mean sometimes switching strangely between persons as we narrow our topic of discussion. For example, even if an editor were female, she would be forced to write things like "We humans, and especially those females...." Whenever a subgroup of humanity became the article's focus, we would need to switch to the third person; a sentence about humans would use "we", but a sentence about adults, Asians, engineers, or heterosexuals would need to use "they". It is far simpler to just consistently use the third person in all contexts, even if this doesn't always seem completely natural.
A related issue is the fact that, as a general rule, Wikipedia prefers to avoid self-references. In addition to being human, all editors on this site happen to be English speakers — yet we treat our article on the English language the same way we treat every other language article, in order to avoid bias and inconsistency. Likewise, we treat Wikipedia the same as other websites and reference tools. Analogously, we ought to aspire to treat Human in much the same way that we treat every other species article. Ideally, we should make exceptions of Human only where objective, verifiable facts demand that we make exceptions (e.g., in employing a lengthy culture section). This is the simplest and easiest way to avoid bias and to prevent editorial disputes: When in doubt, follow the rest of Wikipedia's lead.
Another method some editors use to help maintain a neutral point of view is to imagine being an extraterrestrial writing about a strange species called "human". How would your perspective be different?

Q: Aren't humans supposed to be purely herbivorous/frugivorous despite our modern omnivorous habits? Aren't we jungle apes albeit highly intelligent and largely furless jungle apes? Most jungle apes eat no meat or very little.
A: No, we really are natural omnivores. Contrary to popular belief, we humans did not evolve in jungles. We actually evolved on open grasslands where fruit-bearing trees are nowhere near as plentiful as in the jungle, where most of our surviving close relatives evolved. Evolving in such a place, we would have always (for as long as we've been humans rather than Australopithecines and other even earlier fossilized genera) had to supplement our diet with meat in addition to plant material. We evolved also eating plant-derived foods to be sure; the Savannah (grassland) has some trees with edible fruit although comparatively few and far between, and grain-bearing grasses are far more plentiful there than any tree. (Some evidence suggests that the first bread and beer were made from these tropical grains long before recorded history.) Even so, the grassland being much less fruit-rich than the jungle caused us to evolve as true metabolic omnivores, not pure herbivores/frugivores. See the Archived Debates on this subtopic for source documents.
Former featured article Human is a former featured article. Please see the links under Article milestones below for its original nomination page (for older articles, check the nomination archive) and why it was removed.

Human: Origins of civilization[edit]

This article states "Ancient Greece was the seminal civilization that laid the foundations of Western culture, being the birthplace of Western philosophy, democracy, major scientific and mathematical advances, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, as well as Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy.[51"

It was quite a shock to read this patently untrue and biased sentence in Wikipedia.

It is certainly broadly known that scientific and mathematical advances originated in the civilizations of Africa, not in Greece. Why does this sentence talk only about "Western civilization?" What is that? Civilized societies in Africa and likely in the Americas pre-dated those of Europe, as well as governmental structures (by the way, define "democracy"--how does it relate to the early tribal societies of Africans and Native Americans, which were certainly based on structures relating to the people as a whole, not to artificial constructs like "democracy."). The sentence at the beginning of this commentary is nothing but a VERY NON-SCIENTIFIC, European oriented hodge podge including such non-related items as the Olympic Games, Western literature, etc. And what is the definition of WESTERN?

This part of the discussion does not stand up to Wikipedia's usually more scientific and non-biased articles. Additionally, most of the illustrations depicting modern humans show European types, which represent a minority of the world's population. I don't have the time to include citations here as this is not my normal calling, but I would suggest that your editors take a look at the broadly biased and unscientific reflections in the sentence at the beginning of this commentary and completely revise it to include the contributions of African and Native American societies from both North and South America. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:46, 9 November 2014 (UTC)

I agree. I don't specialize but I will report this to other editors. Gug01 (talk) 00:50, 24 January 2015 (UTC) Gug 01

There is a part in here which states "They began to exhibit evidence of behavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago, and migrated in successive waves to occupy". There were Australian Aboriginal remains that have been dated back to more than 60,000 years ago. Obviously this sentence is false. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:19, 17 March 2015 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 26 February 2015[edit]

I would like to change 1 object in the article, I think doing so would make the world a better place.

EditorGuy2 (talk) 23:14, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

You have not specified the changes you are seeking. Please specify in the format "please change x to y". Due to vandalism, this article is semi-protected so that only confirmed users can edit it. Dwpaul Talk 23:17, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

Include bonobos along with chimpanzees in the mention of human's closest (genus Pan) relatives[edit]

Please change "The closest living relatives of humans are chimpanzees (genus Pan) and gorillas (genus Gorilla)." to "The closest living relatives of humans are chimpanzees and bonobos (genus Pan) and gorillas (genus Gorilla)."

Bonobos could also be included in the sentences immediately following, as well.

According to the Bonobo article, the current research places bonobos and chimpanzees as equally close relatives to humans, although there is evidence that the common ancestor to all three was probably more bonobo-like than chimpanzee-like or human-like. Bonobos are certainly closer relatives to humans than are gorillas.

The ignoring of bonobos is a common practice when human relatives are discussed. This contributes to their being less well-known, which impacts conservation efforts for a severely endangered important species. Wikipedia should not encourage this practice. (talk) 12:41, 18 March 2015 (UTC)

Often Chimpanzee is used as the genus name for Pan including both P. troglodytes and P. paniscus. That is the usage in the sentence you suggest to change. If we add P. paniscus then we would also have to add the species of Gorilla. No need to complicate it further in that particular sentence/·maunus · snunɐɯ· 13:51, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
Ok, you're right, we aren't speaking about particular species but particular genera. But what describes Pan (genus) more precisely, "chimpanzees" or "chimpanzees and bonobos"? We're saying that Homo is closest to Pan, not per se "Chimpanzees", right? Chrisrus (talk) 14:04, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
I think saying "Chimpanzees (genus Pan)" is pretty specifically showing that the word Chimpanzee in this case is meant to refer to the genus and not the species.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 16:44, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
@Chrisrus: There are two species of chimpanzee: the common chimpanzee (also known as the robust chimpanzee) and the bonobo (also known as the gracile chimpanzee). All bonobos are chimpanzees, but not all chimpanzees are bonobos. Leaving the sentence as it is is correct. - UtherSRG (talk) 18:09, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
A lack of understanding of those facts is not the problem. The discussion is about whether it's better to call the genus Pan "the chimpanzees" or "the chimpanzees and bonobos". Now that nowadays experts are also using the term "chimpanzee" in contrast with "bonobo", speaking for example as they do about "chimpanzees and bonobos", as if a bonobo were not also a chimpanzee. It is legitimate to think of a bonobo as a kind of chimpanzee or as something close to but not a chimpanzee. For example, if an expert says "That's not a chimpanzee, that's a bonobo", it means "that's not a P. troglodytes, it's a P. paniscus. Therefore, since the name of P. paniscus has been changed from "pigmy chimpanzee" to "bonobo", the world "chimpanzee" has become ambiguous, sometimes referring to all of the genus Pan, and sometimes, as when they speak of "chimpanzees and bonobos", to specifically the common chimpanzee. Therefore, there are at least two legitimate aposotives for the noun phrase "the genus Pan": "Chimpanzees" or "chimpanzees and bonobos". The latter choice of the two as it's less ambiguous as to whether it means just the common chimpanzee, which is as you know incorrect, or both the common chimpanzee and the bonobo at the same time, which is as you know correct. Chrisrus (talk) 04:00, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
In part, we're talking about the difference between descriptivism and proscriptivism; language has indeed been shifting to be more ambiguous in the use of the term "chimpanzee", and at the same time trying to compensate by saying "chimpanzees and bonobos" instead of "common chimpanzees and bonobos". Should we only follow this pattern in our language use (descriptivism), should we be stricter in our language use (proscriptivism), or should we find some spot between where we note these shifts in language but are also a force that helps bring that language to a better place? I think we should choose to be that force. I think we should be a subtle thorn in the side of those who both make false dichotomies and those who overly lump things together. I think we should strive to be the best at our language use so that others will want to also strive to be better.
So when an expert says, "That's not a chimpanzee, that's a bonobo," the expert is using sloppy language, and he likely knows it. If we quote directly, we quote directly. But if we're writing our own description of what he means, we can say "X is not a common chimpanzee, it's a bonobo." The name of P. paniscus hasn't changed - it's had many names for quite a long time, be it "pygmy chimpanzee", or "gracile chimpanzee", or "bonobo". What's shifted is which of those names has primacy, and what the political ramifications of that shift are. Frans de Waal was and continues to be a significant driving force in the language shift, because of the work he'd done with bonobos in zoos. This work set the bonobos apart from common chimps. However, there has been other work with wild bonobos that show they are much more like common chimps in their behaviors in the wild, the implication of which is that what separates common chimps from bonobos most is our language.
Back a bit more on topic, if we're describing the genus alone, saying "common chimpanzees and bonobos" is good. When we're describing it in the context of other genera, all of which are described in a minimal fashion that doesn't list out all of the species in the genera, then "chimpanzees" is the better description. Bonobos are still chimpanzees, they are just a different species of chimpanzee just like the western gorilla is a species of gorilla. The only difference is that "wester gorilla" has "gorilla" in it, but "bonobo" doesn't have "chimpanzee" in it. Is so very much wish that whomever termed it the "bonobo" had instead termed it the "bonobo chimpanzee"; we'd never have any of these confusions and disagreements or sloppy uses of language. - UtherSRG (talk) 14:40, 19 March 2015 (UTC)

Wikipedia shouldn't sometimes use "chimpanzees" to mean "chimpanzees and bonobos" and other times use it to mean "common chimpanzees." The term "chimpanzee" isn't either properly used or commonly understood to apply to two different species with very different behaviors. It would be better to talk about "members of the genus Pan" to refer to both, and "the chimpanzee" or "the bonobo" to refer to specific species. Why avoid the term "bonobo" in this sentence when many people (including Wikipedia Yeoman Editor Francis Hannaway) have stated their belief the further research will show that Pan paniscus is actually a closer human relative than Pan troglodytes? Ask a primatologist about the proper terminology... (talk) 20:04, 18 March 2015 (UTC)

I'll repeat... There are two species of chimpanzee: the common chimpanzee (also known as the robust chimpanzee) and the bonobo (also known as the gracile chimpanzee). All bonobos are chimpanzees, but not all chimpanzees are bonobos. If we modify the sentence to include "bonobo", then we should also modify it to include all of the gorilla species. There isn't only one gorilla species, and there isn't only one chimpanzee species. We have listed the relationships at the genus level. It would be odd to mix and match both genus and species names in that sentence. Either we should only list genus-level information, as we've done, or we should list only species-level information. The latter is more awkward. Better is what we have and to have the conversation about terminology, which is done well at chimpanzee.
As for saying that the bonobo is closer to humans than the common chimp - that would be very incorrect. The most recent common chimp / bonobo ancester is a descendant of the most recent chimp / human ancester; both chimp species are equally closely related to humans. The two Pan species split apart about a million years ago; Pan split from the Homo line between 4 and 13 million years ago.
You are correct, though - Wikipedia should minimize the use of "chimpanzee" for both the genus and the species. However, that is how the word is used. When easily done, it should be noted how the word is used. In the sentence in question, we've done that by indicating we're talking about the genus. - UtherSRG (talk) 20:41, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
You are correct about when the splitting of the lines occurred. But if P. troglodytes has diverged more from the original Pan line than P. paniscus has, then P. paniscus is closer genetically to the the common ancestor of both the Pan and Australopithecus/Homo lines - which would make P. paniscus closer to us genetically. More research will determine if this is true.
I don't have a problem with the use of "gorilla" to refer to all species in the Gorilla genus. I don't consider those species to be vastly different in behavior or social structure. But maybe I just don't know enough about gorillas. I'm willing to listen if someone argues that the term "gorilla" should no longer be used to refer to more than one species.
Studying the differences between P. troglodytes and P. paniscus, though, is very important to understanding the behaviors of the human species - since we can see human similarities to both. The consensus among experts in the field these days is that there is so much difference between them that the very well-known name "chimpanzee" would be confusing if it were to continue to be applied to both species.
Saying "chimpanzees (genus Pan)" was intended to make the "two species" meaning unambiguous. But it doesn't work. To the lay reader who knows little about bonobios, it still could (indeed would) read as meaning "chimpanzees in the genus Pan." (talk) 21:42, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
(My apologies for formatting your reply - this makes it easier to tell who is writing what.) It is extremely highly unlikely that P. paniscus and P. troglodytes have evolved at vastly different rates; that's not how evolutionary drift works, nor is that how we measure evolutionary distances anyway. And if anything, P. paniscus, with its smaller home range, would have a greater competition pressure, leading to a higher rate of change relative to P. troglodytes. This would mean it would be futher from the original Pan line. This is contrary to your thesis that seems to be derived from "bonobos act more like humans in some ways, so they must be more like us genetically, so they must be closer to the original Pan line." This is poor reasoning; it ignores the possibility of parallel evolution, for one, and it over emphasizes the similarities of social behavior of humans and bonobos, which is not borne out in studying wild bonobos, only zoo-raised bonobos.
We do not need to spell it out every time. It's spelled out clearly at chimpanzee, common chimpanzee, and bonobo. It's spelled out in other places where the main topic is closer to the subject of Pan. This place is not the right place to discuss it. - UtherSRG (talk) 15:03, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

There's a huge debate going on about that topic based on genetic similarity Dunkleosteus77 (talk) 23:08, 9 April 2015 (UTC)

Some geneticists believe that chimps and bonobos should be placed in the genus Homonidae as apposed to Pan, but officially they aren't hominids Dunkleosteus77 (talk) 23:07, 9 April 2015 (UTC)

Homo is the genus. Hominidae is the family - UtherSRG (talk) 13:37, 10 April 2015 (UTC)
Well they are already in Hominidae and are Hominids, I think they ("some geneticists") meant they should be placed in genus Homo. Editor abcdef (talk) 00:21, 11 April 2015 (UTC)

There is an RFC that may affect this page[edit]

There is an RFC that may affect this page at WikiProject Tree of Life. The topic is Confusion over taxonomy of subtribe Panina and taxon homininae (are chimps hominins)?

Please feel free to comment there. SPACKlick (talk) 16:41, 20 March 2015 (UTC)