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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.


I see User:Signedzzz removed the image, despite the note in the code that says "The choice of image has been discussed at length. Please don't change it without first obtaining consensus." Given the wacky debate over this image, stretching over half a decade, this is probably reasonable, so I'm reverting the change. —MillingMachine (talk) 16:07, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

I saw the note. I removed it, I did not change it. The situation is analogous to the pictures at African American, Jews etc. After years of pointless debate, it was finally realised that there was no good reason to have a "lead picture" anyway. zzz (talk) 16:09, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
No it is not analogous, since this is not a gallery and there is wide consensus that the current picture is adequate. Dont remove the note.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 18:19, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
I removed the picture. It's not an identical situation: it is analogous. zzz (talk) 09:16, 10 February 2016 (UTC)


Hey all,

This sentence needs revising:

"Humans are one of the relatively few species to have sufficient self-awareness to recognize themselves in a mirror."

The citation given is not about self-awareness at all; it's a psychologist's essay about narcissism. No mention that I can see of the comparison of humans to other animals nor the recognition of the self in mirrors. Either we need a new citation for this factoid, or we need to delete the sentence.

As far as I know (I'm a philosopher, Jim, not a doctor!) humans are the only species to recognize themselves in a mirror. But I don't have any citation for it. Perhaps someone else does? Or a citation for the evidence that at least one other animal can recognize itself in the mirror?


CircularReason (talk) 14:45, 28 March 2016 (UTC)

@CircularReason: I put a better citation in.[1] It specifically mentions only humans, chimps and orangutans can recognize themselves in a mirror. Richard-of-Earth (talk) 08:11, 29 March 2016 (UTC)

@Richard-of-Earth: I'll check it out; cheers, mate!

Several other species including corvids and primates and even octopuses have been reported to pass the mirror test for selfawareness.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 01:32, 1 April 2016 (UTC)


  1. ^ P. Rochat (30 October 1995). The Self in Infancy: Theory and Research. Elsevier. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-08-054263-8. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 

Merger proposal[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
The result of this discussion was no consensus. MartinZ02 (talk) 17:57, 27 May 2016 (UTC)

The two articles are about the same species. MartinZ02 (talk) 14:49, 23 April 2016 (UTC)

I think this misses something... --Stephan Schulz (talk) 15:04, 23 April 2016 (UTC)
I want Anatomically modern human Homo sapiens to be merged with this article (I forgot to mention it above). MartinZ02 (talk) 15:28, 23 April 2016 (UTC)

Oppose. Not all humans are homo sapiens. See genus homo. Dimadick (talk) 09:46, 28 April 2016 (UTC)

But this article is about humans. MartinZ02 (talk) 15:09, 28 April 2016 (UTC)
If this article isn't making it perfectly clear that there is a smooth transition between such referents as Behaviourally modern humans and anatomically modern humans to other species of the Homo genus that are human in some ways and not in others, and on to other more basal hominids which probably aren't very human comparatively, well, then, this article needs fixing so that that will be abundantly clear. It is as legitimate to, in some contexts, use a stricter definition as it is in others to use a broader one.
Let this article be as clear about this as possible. Chrisrus (talk) 00:14, 29 April 2016 (UTC)
This article is called 'Human' and in the very first sentence equates that term with the species Homo sapiens, not with the genus Homo. So it really does look there is a case to answer that this (or Homo sapiens) is a wp:FORK, and one of them should become a redirect. [IMO, human should redirect to Homo, not Homo Sapiens, but that is another debate].
I support the proposal. --John Maynard Friedman (talk) 21:47, 29 April 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose both proposed merges. The word human is not synonymous with Homo sapiens, its meaning is both wider (including the full cultural and philosophical aspects of what it means to be human) and narrower than "Homo sapiens" (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis for example is not prototypically "human"). We clearly need articles on both topics.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:55, 2 May 2016 (UTC)
There is already an article on what it means to be human. Neanderthals are not always classified as a subspecies of homo sapiens [1][2]. MartinZ02 (talk) 16:03, 14 May 2016 (UTC)
  • Strong Oppose. Us humans (here us talking) are part of the subspecies homo sapiens sapiens. The articles should not be merged and the lead of Human should be rewritten to:
Modern humans are the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens of the species Homo sapiens and are the only extant members of Hominina clade (or human clade), a branch of the taxonomical tribe Hominini belonging to the family of great apes.
With "a see the disambiguation" at the top of the page for any other uses of the word human, such other (now extinct) subspecies of homo sapiens like Homo sapiens idaltu and the other species in the genus Homo as mentioned by Dimadick. Regarding the Behavioral modernity article I think it either should be changed to:
Behavioral modernity is a suite of behavioral and cognitive traits that distinguishes current Homo sapiens sapiens from anatomically modern humans from the same subspecies, other homos, hominins, and other primates. Or better it should be simply merged into Human evolution (origins of society and culture). The latter of which seems preferable given that the reason d'etre for the article given here [3] is tenuous at best. This distinction can easily be made in several article sections. The same goes for Anatomically modern human which ought to be merged into Human evolution or moved to Human evolution (modern anatomy). So in my opinion Anatomically modern human and Behavioral modernity are the real offending pages here.
In any case all articles should obviously accurately reflect this image [4]. In short I think it is wrong to do a major overhaul in merging Homo sapiens and Human.
There is already an article on Homo sapiens sapiens: Anatomically modern human. Currently, there are two articles on Homo sapiens, Homo sapiens and Human. According to several sources, the common name to for homo sapiens is human [5][6][7][8][9][10], but the word may also be used to refer to any member of the genus Homo [11][12][13][14]. Taking this into consideration, the I think best solution would probably be to: merge Homo sapiens with Human, merge Homo with Human, or make Human into a redirect to Human (disambiguation). MartinZ02 (talk) 16:03, 14 May 2016 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

"Culture" is now "Behavior"?[edit]

Back in July 2015 (almost a year ago), 22merlin changed the title of the Culture section to "Behavior", with the edit summary being only "standardisation". I could not find anything in the Talk archives regarding a relevant discussion. Can anyone explain the rationale behind this change? MarqFJA87 (talk) 19:54, 17 May 2016 (UTC)

I'm not sure. Is it a better or worse summary of the contents of that section? It does standardize with the rest of Wikipedia, because most articles about species have such a section. Human behavior might be a result of instinct or an inborn tenancy to do something given certain factors, or it might be a feature of human culture. Maybe "Behavior" is better because it doesn't try to claim that these things are purely cultural and not the nature of the beast. Chrisrus (talk) 01:35, 18 May 2016 (UTC)
Well, that is a good point, though it runs into the problem that giving it that title "Behavior" while also keeping "Psychology" as a separate section is confusing (unless the latter title means something other than what I'm thinking), which is only worsened by the fact that Human behavior -- one of the three articles listed as "Main article" for said section -- is in serious need of refinement and implies that psychology-based behavior is only one subset of the totality of "human behavior". MarqFJA87 (talk) 02:33, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
Yeah, that's a tough one. Maybe we should stop and figure this out for a second. This is a species article that is supposed to conform to the others, but it also encompasses the intellectual history and current state of thought about the referent, so it includes history and psychology and a philosophy and so on and so there are conflicts with the standard terminology at points.
That wasn't very helpful so maybe we could just ask at this point what a Venn diagram of the semantic areas of the two referents would look like?
I mean, culture is bigger than behavior because it includes not just what people do but also what they think, which is psychology.
So behavior + psychology = culture? Chrisrus (talk) 16:39, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
First, you forgot to sign your post. I've done that for you this time just so people don't get confused when I add my response.
Second, while culture can be seen as the result of behavior and psychology intersecting each other, AFAIK it does not include all of either one. MarqFJA87 (talk) 15:41, 11 June 2016 (UTC)

New merger proposal[edit]

I propose that Human be merged into Human (disambiguation) due to the several meanings of the word "human". If these articles are merged, most of the content in this article (and its level-1 vital article status) should probably be moved to Homo sapiens or Homo sapiens sapiens. MartinZ02 (talk) 18:05, 27 May 2016 (UTC)

I'm confused. What precisely are you proposing to merge into the disambiguation page? A disambiguation page must follow WP:DAB and WP:MOSDAB guidelines. So how would the lengthy prose in this article be merged into the bulletted list format of a disambiguation page. olderwiser 18:31, 27 May 2016 (UTC)
The prose will be moved to Homo sapiens or Homo sapiens sapiens. Human will become a redirect to Human (disambiguation). MartinZ02 (talk) 18:48, 27 May 2016 (UTC)
In that case, if I understand you, the merger is incorrectly proposed. There is nothing to merge to the disambiguation page. I think you want to merge (or perhaps more accurately to split) the contents of human to Homo sapiens or Homo sapiens sapiens. If there is consensus for that, then the disambiguation page should be moved to human. olderwiser 19:14, 27 May 2016 (UTC)
Oppose - The only other pages for human are mainly works of art. Human meaning homo sapien is by far the most common usage. Jonpatterns (talk) 08:19, 29 May 2016 (UTC)
Then, why do we have two different articles about Humans and Homo sapiens, and why couldn't the proposal to merge them reach a consensus? MartinZ02 (talk) 12:55, 30 May 2016 (UTC)
Oppose. This proposal is contrary to WP article naming conventions, and for good reason. From the relevant policy:

Wikipedia does not necessarily use the subject's "official" name as an article title; it generally prefers to use the name that is most frequently used to refer to the subject in English-language reliable sources.
[e.g.] Guinea pig (not: Cavia porcellus)

Splitting the article in two would result in everlasting confusion over what goes where, and lots of stuff would likely end up in both new articles. Meanwhile, all the poor souls who type in "Human" with the expectation of finding an article will instead be confronted with a crossroads and no meaningful guidance for which road to take. The net effect is to make WP content less accessible and more confusing—the opposite of what we're after. Besides, plenty of excellent articles incorporate the several meanings of their titles, taking a holistic approach to their topics. In general, I think that has worked well here. Rivertorch's Evil Twin (talk) 04:54, 30 May 2016 (UTC)
This proposal is not contrary to WP article naming conventions. From the relevant guideline:

When what is the most common name in English, or the veracity of that most common name, is so disputed in reliable sources that it cannot be neutrally ascertained, prefer the common name most used (orthography aside) by international zoological nomenclature authorities over regional ones. When there is no common name or no consensus can be reached on the most common name, or if it isn't clear what taxon the common name refers to ..., use the scientific name:

  • Eulimella torquata was first described in 2011, and has no common name.
  • Drosophila melanogaster has no common name other than "fruit fly", which it shares with other species.
  • Fish in Sciaenidae are in some cases known as "drums", but drum is used for the musical instrument.

MartinZ02 (talk) 12:55, 30 May 2016 (UTC)

Hmm, yes. Among other things, you're quoting a guideline, whereas I quoted a policy. (Rock, paper, scissors!) In any event, Homo sapiens sapiens, unlike Eulimella torquata, does have a common name. Rivertorch's Evil Twin (talk) 23:08, 30 May 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose No need to merge, this is clearly the primary topic. This merging madness is pure silliness, an encyclopedia that does not have an article on humans that covers the basic topics of human anatomy, history, culture and existence is a worthless encyclopedia.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 01:16, 31 May 2016 (UTC)
  • Strong Oppose This article is titled humans. If someone wants to see anatomically modern humans, they will type in anatomically modern humans. For 99% of people this redirect would just be a nuisance. --Monochrome_Monitor 02:42, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
  • The article says it's about Homo sapiens, and it seems reasonable to consider this is the primary topic for "Human". However that does make it a duplicate of Homo sapiens, which should be merged into this one. Of course "human" is also used to refer to Homo, but that's handled by the disambiguation header. An option would be to rename this article to "Modern human" and redirect both "Human" and "Homo sapiens" to that. Horatio (talk) 01:37, 26 June 2016 (UTC)
  • I suppose then it would be confused with Anatomically modern human, but that's already the case. Renaming this article to "Homo sapiens", redirecting Human to it, and merging in the existing Homo sapiens, would clarify everything. An article entitled "Human", which is unclear about whether it's refering to Homo sapiens or anatomically modern humans, is just confusing. Horatio (talk) 01:45, 26 June 2016 (UTC)