The subject of this article is controversial and content may be in dispute. When updating the article, be bold, but not reckless. Feel free to try to improve the article, but don't take it personally if your changes are reversed; instead, come here to the talk page to discuss them. Please supply full citations when adding information, and consider tagging or removing unsourced information.
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.
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.
This article is written in American English, which has its own spelling conventions (color, labor, traveled), and some terms that are used in it may be different or absent from other varieties of English. According to the relevant style guide, this should not be changed without broad consensus.
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Ellen Airhart (2018-03-10). "How Wikipedia Portrayed Humanity in a Single Photo". Wired. Retrieved 2018-03-11. ...the editors of the “human” entry on Wikipedia were having such a hard time in 2003. The crowdsourced encyclopedia, in theory, offers a solution to the problem of representation; no single writer has control over the way in which a subject is presented. But still: They had to choose a single image to lead the entry. And whatever photo they went with would inevitably leave out most of the diversity and cultural nuance that makes humanity beautiful and interesting. (details)
I just removed two (more or less equivalent) statements: Evidence, based on exhaustive DNA barcode studies, suggest that current human biology emerged between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago and, from their beginnings, is largely unchanged genetically. and Evidence, based on exhaustive DNA barcode studies, suggest that current human biology emerged between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago and, from their beginnings, is largely unchanged genetically. The statements were sourced by phys.org and biorxiv. Neither source backs up the claim made in the article. This is unsurprising since the study in question focusses on one gene in the mitochondrial dna and would therefore not support any such claim. Moreover, since we know at least some evolution occurred (variety in skin-colors and lactose tolerance, for example), the statement seems to contradict reality. I cordially invite Drbogdan to comment. Kleuske (talk) 16:04, 28 May 2018 (UTC)
@Kleuske: Thank you *very much* for your comments - seemed my edits (1; 2) (including my edit in the "Animal" article => Evidence, based on exhaustive DNA barcode studies, suggest that about 90% of current animal life, including humans, emerged between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago and, from their beginnings, are largely unchanged genetically.) were ok and were consistent with the cited references - however - after a closer look, you may be correct - nonetheless - comments from other editors are welcome of course - in any case - Enjoy! :) Drbogdan (talk) 16:26, 28 May 2018 (UTC)
There's currently an attempt to insert the phrase "are the dominant species on Earth" into the very beginning of the lede, which I would strenuously object to - that is a highly subjective statement that would require all manner of relativization and context, and it is certainly not undisputed (the argument has been made for various ants, Euphausia krill, a couple types of algae, and a virus, for starters). I'm noting this here to underline that consensus is requested for this kind of change to a high-profile article. Firebrace, "take it or leave it" won't cut it. Discuss and generate consensus. --Elmidae (talk · contribs) 16:53, 21 July 2018 (UTC)
OK, I'll bite: 'dominant' is not another word for 'most abundant' as you seem to think. Per WP:LEAD, "the notability of the article's subject is usually established in the first few sentences". I would say humans are most notable for being the dominant species on Earth. Currently, the word 'species' is first mentioned in paragraph three of the lead, and that is in the context of humans destroying the planet. (How are we managing to do that if we're not the dominant species?) Firebrace (talk) 17:03, 21 July 2018 (UTC)
I agree that "dominance" here does not translate to "greatest biomass", but to influence on the global biosphere. And in that very context the case can be made for a rather larger variety of organisms than you seem to think. E.g., messing substantially with one or two green algae species would lower global oxygen levels more rapidly than anything humans could do to the atmosphere. A few years of zero krill recruitment would damage the Southern ocean ecosystem to the point of a global marine extinction event. And so on. - The point is, this is not an easy or uncontroversial label to slap on humans w/o some extended discussion and sourcing in the text, which is why it has no business just being dropped into the lede (of a Vital Article with 5k daily page views, no less). --Elmidae (talk · contribs) 17:42, 21 July 2018 (UTC)
'Messed with' by whom – elephants? So krill are a contender for dominant species because its absence (rather than presence) has the potential to cause a hypothetical extinction event. Is this real or am I hallucinating? And 5k is nothing; some articles on my watchlist have 20k+ daily page views. Yours is the worst kind of anti-change gate-keeping behaviour that hinders Wikipedia instead of helping it. Firebrace (talk) 18:44, 21 July 2018 (UTC)
You may be hallucinating about your mandate to substantially and unilaterally change the lede of a vital article without discussion, by inserting a "summary" of something that is not discussed in the text. Let's wait for some more input, shall we. --Elmidae (talk · contribs) 18:51, 21 July 2018 (UTC)
You have no mandate to prevent change for the sake of preventing it by clutching at straws like this. Let's see WP:RS for krill being the dominant species on Earth. What are your reliable sources for "dominant species on the Earth" being a controversial label of humanity. I'm not interested in this change-blocking whataboutery or your personal views on the topic, because you're not a reliable source. Firebrace (talk) 22:10, 21 July 2018 (UTC)
What do the sources say? We have one source for Humans being the dominant species, but are there other sources that disagree? Also, having only one source for such a bold statement in a vital article is not enough. While I do lean on having that statement in the article (as Humans do have the greatest influence on the biosphere, when we consider intentional actions), I think it's better to have a discussion first, and also find more sources. Full disclosure: I'm a member of the species described in the article. =) byteflushTalk 22:07, 21 July 2018 (UTC)
It's clear that "dominant" has many definitions. No matter what one source says ( and what others don't say), it's simply not encyclopaedic to use such an ambiguous word in the article. We don't repeat sloppy language just because a source uses it. HiLo48 (talk) 00:28, 22 July 2018 (UTC)
@HiLo48: I fully agree with that. That's why I asked for more reliable sources before we can add it. One sloppy source is WP:FRINGE territory, so - even though I agree with the source (based on my personal definition of "dominant") - it shouldn't be added yet. =) byteflushTalk 00:38, 22 July 2018 (UTC)
Your user name has just helped me remember that "Dominant" is the brand name of a range of toilet cleaning products in my country. Perhaps that's subconsciously influencing my views here. ;-) HiLo48 (talk) 00:43, 22 July 2018 (UTC)
I really need to choose my usernames better. Well, flush it away. Please don't tell me that's their slogan. =) byteflushTalk 01:54, 22 July 2018 (UTC)
"Dominant" has no clear meaning in this context and is unhelpful. Johnuniq (talk) 00:47, 22 July 2018 (UTC)
Dominant - Whoa, source overkill. Though, I must agree that for all meaningful purposes of dominant, humans fulfill it. It's one of the most important traits of the species and as such - it should be mentioned in the lede, with accompanying text somewhere in the article body (along with most prominent sources). byteflushTalk 02:00, 22 July 2018 (UTC)
Thanks for looking up the references below, Firebrace; that's good sourcing and demonstrates that the use is widespread enough to be treated as mainstream. However, the point remains that the lede is a summary of article content and not a buzzword repository. So some of this needs to be integrated into the actual article before it can go into the lede. Presumably the end of the Habitat and population subsection, where the general topic is touched on, would be a good position. Furthermore, unless that treatment is quite extensive and so makes up a fundamental part of the article (which I doubt is the plan), it shouldn't be the very first thing in the very first sentence, because "dominant" status is not what the article is about. The way the lede is structured, it would actually be best integrated in the last paragraph. --Elmidae (talk · contribs) 06:06, 22 July 2018 (UTC)
Just a brief note to record my agreement with Elmidae. Per wp:lead, the opening paragraph should [a] provide a brief summary of the key points of the article ("tell 'em what you are going to tell 'em") and [b] the longer the article, the more stringent the test of what constitutes "key point". I doubt if anyone [apart from rats and cockroaches] disagrees that humans are the dominant species but no way does that point merit being hammered into the first sentence of the article. --John Maynard Friedman (talk) 12:46, 22 July 2018 (UTC)
"Michele Soulé (2002), a pioneer in the field of conservation biology aptly put it when he noted that human beings are certainly the dominant species but we are clearly not a keystone species, for when you remove a keystone species biodiversity itself collapses." – John Blewitt (2014). Understanding Sustainable Development. Routledge. p. 158. ISBN978-1-134-60489-0.
"One of the most ominous of recent observations is a quantitative analysis of the extent to which humans dominate earth's ecosystem: one-third to one-half of the land surface has been transformed by human activity, with both land and water supplies nearing fundamental limits." – James R. Sheats (2001). "Information Technology in Sustainable Development". In Richard C. Dorf. Technology, Humans, and Society: Toward a Sustainable World. Academic Press. p. 146. ISBN978-0-12-221090-7.
"First, humans dominate Earth's ecosystems (Groffman and Likens 1994, Botsford et al. 1997, Chapin et al. 1997, Matson et al. 1997, Noble and Dirzo 1997, Vitousek et al. 1997); therefore, humans must be integrated into models for a complete understanding of extant ecological systems." – Nancy B. Grimm; J. Grove Grove; Steward T. A. Pickett; Charles L. Redman (2000). "Integrated Approaches to Long-Term Studies of Urban Ecological Systems". BioScience. 50 (7): 571–584.
"For them it came as an absolute human imperative to explore all options for the likely evacuation by humans of the planet: "Otherwise, all this will have been for nothing." By "all this" they meant the vast epic of life on earth, with humans as the latest dominant species. Plainly they assumed that, now that we are here, human life should continue in its dominant role…" – Rosaleen Love (2001). Reefscape: Reflections on the Great Barrier Reef. Joseph Henry Press. p. 185. ISBN978-0-309-51308-1.
"As humans evolved, the size of their brains increased. This large, efficient brain and several other new traits … allowed humans to become the dominant species on this planet." – Charles K. Levy (1979). Biology, Human Perspectives. Goodyear Publishing Company. p. 30. ISBN978-0-87620-343-9.
"Homo sapiens has secured its place as the dominant species on Earth not by natural strength but by its ability to invent and make use of tools. This has enabled us to appropriate, according to Sundquist (2008), some 45 per cent of terrestrial biological net primary production (NPP) and a further 5–10 per cent of marine NPP, far more than any other species." – Hillary J. Shaw (2014). The Consuming Geographies of Food: Diet, Food Deserts and Obesity. Routledge. p. 1. ISBN978-1-136-67932-2.
"Concomitant with these structural changes, humankind has become the functionally dominant species in all the world's major ecosystems. By the end of the twentieth century, human beings, one species among millions, were already appropriating directly and indirectly up to half of net terrestrial primary productivity and 30% of net estuarine and continental shelf production (the source of 96% of the global fisheries catch) for their own use (Vitousek et al., 1986; Pauly and Christensen, 1995)." – Rodney Tolley (2003). Sustainable Transport: Planning for Walking and Cycling in Urban Environments. CRC Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN978-0-8493-1783-5.
"Humans are undoubtedly the most dominant species the Earth has ever known. In just a few thousand years we have swallowed up more than a third of the planet’s land for our cities, farmland and pastures. By some estimates, we now commandeer 40 per cent of all its productivity." – Bob Holmes (11 October 2006). "Imagine Earth without people". New Scientist. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
"In just the last 50,000 years, Homo sapiens has expanded out of Africa to become the most dominant species the Earth has ever experienced. Near-exponential population growth, global colonization, and socioeconomic development have been fueled by extracting resources from the environment and transforming them into people, goods, and services." – Joseph R. Burger; Craig D. Allen; James H. Brown; William R. Burnside; Ana D. Davidson; Trevor S. Fristoe; Marcus J. Hamilton; Norman Mercado-Silva; Jeffrey C. Nekola; Jordan G. Okie; Wenyun Zuo (2012). "The Macroecology of Sustainability". PLoS Biology. 10 (6).
"Clearly, humans have proven to be highly adaptable to both environmental and social changes. This adaptability is one of the primary traits that have allowed humans to become the dominant species on Earth." – Tim Kelley (2013). "Environmental Health Resilience". Environmental Health Insights (7): 29–31.
The use of the pronoun "they" referring to humans makes it sound like this article is not written by a human. Since a human will always have read or written this article, we should use "we" when referring to the modern Homo Sapiens. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 22.214.171.124 (talk) 03:13, 8 September 2018 (UTC)
Please read the FAQ near the top this talk page. And consider that we can't know that only humans will read this article. RivertorchFIREWATER 03:37, 10 September 2018 (UTC)
Where is consensus underlying that FAQ section? It does not point to any discussion...
There are namely two massive problems with its reasoning: 1) There is no reason why the use of "they" would mitigate bias; 2) We can be sure that only humans are reading our content. Carl Fredrik talk 23:32, 10 September 2018 (UTC)
(1) Really? I think it helps keep the article NPOV-compliant by forcing us write to about ourselves as a species, not as the namer of species. (2) That's very terracentric of you. I suspect—but can't know for sure—that only humans have read it thus far. I certainly wouldn't rule out other species reading it in the future. In any event, you're welcome to hunt though the archives. The question has come up many times, hence the FAQ. RivertorchFIREWATER 21:12, 12 September 2018 (UTC)
No need to look for aliens: this article has been read, parsed and interpreted by countless machines and algorithms already. Those are definitely not human. — JFGtalk 04:27, 13 September 2018 (UTC)
I did say species, but perhaps I should have specified sentient, carbon-based species. Or not. Seriously, if we ever send another Voyager out of the solar system, in addition to a less stylized plaque, it should have the contents of Wikipedia on it. (We might consider redacting talk pages and noticeboards, or at least ANI.) There's no telling who might read that. Even now, with wireless signals, bits and pieces of WP, presumably including this article, must be traveling through space, just ready for decoding.... RivertorchFIREWATER 13:03, 13 September 2018 (UTC)
Or we only send ANI. Don't have to worry about alien invasions after that. GMGtalk 13:04, 13 September 2018 (UTC)