Talk:Human/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3 Archive 5

Remark on A Look at Modern Human Origins reference:

Isn't there a better site available? I would like to see a site referenced which is more explicit about the various fossiles found. Not just a list, but as well a tree diagram with time info. -- HJH

Another site is I'm not sure if it meets your requirements. I think there's no general agreement at present on how to draw such a tree -- Hagedis

Thanks. The site is nicely done and contains useful information. However it is not the thing I'm looking for. -- HJH

I changed "dominant" to "among the most generalized." If anything is "dominant," I think it is bacteria, not us! But I take issue with the notion of "dominant," I suspect it is a species-centric term. Darwinian models of evolution lead away from hierarchies like "the great chain of being," which this echoes. -- SR

I agree with you, but I don't know what "most generalized" means. And I think one intent of "dominant" was "top of all food chains". Certainly we are the most powerful and advanced species by some measures, or the most intelligent. Surely that should be made clear. --Dmerrill
"most generalized" means adapted to the widest variety of environments; the relationship between the organism and its environment is a fundamental issue in Darwinian models of evolution. And as I said, Darwinian approaches (which certainly are "dominant" today!) really are anti-hierarchical. The notion of the "food chain" is itself a remnant of the 19th century Victorian myth of the "great chain of being," and really anti-ecological (since ecology is a complex interactive and dynamic system that does not lend itself to linear models (except in very very local senses). There is NO scientific basis for saying one species is more "advanced" than another -- there are always differences, but any species that survives does so because it is adapted to its niche; there are many niches in which we cannot survive (I have even heard that a cockroach can survive a nuclear explosion; maybe they are more advanced than us?) We are definitely NOT at the top of the food chain -- when we get sick (well, if it is because of a parasite, virus, or bacteria) we are being eaten. I do not think there is an objective standard by which we can say we are the "most intelligent" -- intelligence is at best a species-specific concept (when we say that another species is very intelligent, we are really saying that its intelligence approximates our own); some people have even questioned whether there is a universal criteria for intelligence WITHIN our own species (see the section on race and intelligence in race). Are we the most powerful? Perhaps -- depending on how you measure it. We certainly are destructive and have managed to kill a lot of other species off. But I suspect that we will become extinct long before all other species become extinct. In the meantime, although we have wrecked havoc with this planet, we are still pretty afraid of some of those critters "higher" up on the food chain, like the bubonic plague or even influenza. So personally, I will wait and see before asserting that we are th most powerful. -- SR

Your term "most generalized" is not self-explanatory however. And I'm not even sure that we are adapted to the widest range of environments. How about the cockroaches, or soil bacteria? Why not simply say "inhabits almost all landmasses on Earth and has modified environments extensively"? --AxelBoldt

Good points, all. I tried to npov the text with your criticism in mind. Removed "food chain" reference entirely, since as you point out it is really more of a "food cycle". We all get eaten sooner or later! --Dmerrill
I put in a definition of "generalized" -- I hope it is clear and sensible. I also appreciate Dmerrill's modifications. Personally, I do not think there is a need for "In terms of population size or diversity of species, smaller and simpler animals such as bacteria and insects dominate the Earth's species, however." -- although it certainly gives us something to think about. My point really was to question the whole validity of the word "dominant." I won't cut the sentence myself because I do not want to be too nit-picky. Personally I would rather excise the word dominant, perhaps pursue the thread in this section. But if others believe that the word belongs in the article, I think it requires some discussion. So I included a few more sentences. I worry about NPOV issues either way, and hope others can improve upon this. One good thing about my addition, I think, is that if provided an opportunity for more links, because it is in those other articles that a full discussion of "dominant" really belongs. -- SR
I think one can make a good argument that pointing out the general belief that we are dominant (and I do think it is the, ahem, dominant belief among people) gives the opportunity to discuss the less homo-centric findings of science. You can't have one without the other. I think we can still improve the way it's all worded, though. --Dmerrill
sure -- a point well-taken. Perhaps as others contribute we can eventually create a subsection within the article? -- SR
I started a section along those lines, mentioning the general belief followed by scientific viewpoints. More scientific viewpoints need to be added. Toolmaking is certainly an important one, so I added the bit I know about it. I'm not a biologist, so I can only do my best. Please correct anything wrong. --Dmerrill
I think your reorganization is GREAT -- I just put some provisional section headings in. My sense is that tool-use and language are closely related; one physical anthropologist has argued that they both express our capacity for symbolic thought, which is what distinguishes us from other animals. If I can figure out a clear way to express this without being too partisan, I will work it in. Anyway, I like your recent revision very much. -- SR

I also expanded the second half of the article to provide more detail. I also think most anthropologists agree that although hominenes diverged from australopithecines, and neanderthals diverged from modern humans, H. habilus, erectus, and sapiens all form one lineage. Also, all three species used tools, not just H. sapiens. I think this addition can be edited a bit to make it more elegant (also I need to fix some of the text) --SR

I added a few comments about the whole question of "distinguishing characteristic: it's not a question normally asked about a species. (I suspect--and left this out because I'm not sure it's NPOV) that the distinguishing characteristic of H. sapiens is that we're the only species that asks that question.)

Also, those molecular genetic numbers seem low--I've seen 2% for human/chimp difference. Anyone have a cite? Vicki Rosenzweig

I got these numbers from a physical anthropology textbook that is over ten years old. I can find the proper citation if you like, but the real point is that the figures might be out of date, given the nature of scientific research. So if anyone has anything authoriative from the last five years, put them in! SR
Another clarification I'd like to see about that figure is whether the difference is measured between the entire chromosomal sequences, or just the gene-encoding regions? Non-coding regions tend to mutate faster than coding regions, since mutations there are usually neutral. Bryan Derksen
This does need to be updated in light of recent research (c.f. New Scientist and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). I'd love to do it myself but I am so not-qualified. You'd have to reconcile it with the number given for gorillas too. -- Nate

I modified the section on physical traits with two ends in mind -- to replace the language of "distinguishing features" with "evolutionary trends," and to refine the list (e.g. adding canine reduction, making a point about brain structure). Also, I pointed out that height and weight are heavily influenced by environment and culture (which makes them pretty hard to use to "define" a species). I also cut the word "designed" (e.g. bipedal locomotion was designed to permit tool-use) as the general tenor of the article is scientific rather than creationist.

I also did some general tweaking to make the article read better. SR

Unless somebody can give me a very good reason not to, I am going to move this article to simply Human so that it conforms to our well established naming conventions on the use of English and simple titles of articles. Homo sapiens can be introduced in the first line and then used throughout if need be. --maveric149

Not sure if it's "reason not to", but Homo sapiens is a species and other species have the scientific name as the main page, right? I'd have 'human' be a redirect. -- OlofE
Other species do but that is either because it is wrong or there isn't a common name. I'm making good on my threat now. --mav
Page moved with it's complete history. --mav

The entry for "Human" is listed under Wikipedia:Requested pictures. I'd like to put the picture of a man and a woman from the Pioneer 11 spacecraft onto this page as an example of a "picture of humans," though I suspect some folks would complain because the man and the woman are...NAKED. Would there be any objections, do you think? -- Modemac 15:41 Feb 15, 2003 (UTC)

Do it. If they have a problem with it then they have big issues. I've seen far racier stuff in my anatomy textbook than the Pioneer 11 drawing. --mav
I appreciate your support. Picture now added. -- Modemac 17:22 Feb 15, 2003 (UTC)
Ironically, Sagan and the team who prepared the plaque were accused of "sending pornography into space" at the time they made it. I'm not too happy with having the picture here, though, as I would much prefer an actual photograph. The Pioneer image is also a bit problematic because, in order to represent all humans, different "racial" features have been merged together, giving an overall image that is hardly found in reality. Also, the version presented here suffers from JPEG artifacts.
Sagan et al. selected a photo of humans for the Voyager Golden Record, I have a copy in his book "Murmurs of Earth". It shows a naked man and woman holding hands and looking at each other, the woman is pregnant. NASA blocked the image, again for fears of being accused of sending porn to space, and it was replaced with a boring silhouette (probably revealing more about human nature to potential alien recipients than intended). Unfortunately my scanner is currently defective, but I will try to get it digitized ASAP. --Eloquence 17:34 Feb 15, 2003 (UTC)
Please do! Properly downsized that image could go in the table per WikiProject Tree of Life guidelines. --mav 18:02 Feb 15, 2003 (UTC)
I looked at the images of the Voyager, and unfortunately the NASA web site hosting these images says the photos are still copyrighted. This means that we can't use those images here, alas. That's one reason why I chose the Pioneer 11 image -- as far as I can tell, it's public domain. -- Modemac 17:50 Feb 15, 2003 (UTC)
Copyright shouldn't be an issue in this case because of fair use. --mav
Yeah, most of the Voyager stuff is copyrighted, however, in the case of the photo in question, no source is given in the book, unlike for most other photos, so it may well be PD. Aside from that, as Mav points out, we have taken the position that photos do not necessarily need to be in the public domain or under the FDL for us to use them, although this is a somewhat shaky tenet (fair use is an American doctrine, and possibly incompatible with the FDL). --Eloquence
"sending pornography into space"! egad! That deserves a mention on the Pioneer 11 article! -- Tarquin 18:47 Feb 15, 2003 (UTC)

Creationists are useful for something. I found out where our ultra-low figures for human-gorilla and human-chimp difference come from. According to the two figures given are probably the earliest estimates in existence -- they date back to the early 1960s - the chimp one to the famous duo Watson & Crick. They are far out of date and misleading. The creationist article does its best to distort the figures in the downwards direction, arguing that the similarity is insignificant, but I'm happy to revise the article to use the previously cited and recent estimate of 5% without equivocation. -- Tim Starling 11:11 Mar 17, 2003 (UTC)

Will the photo of the human, when uploaded and placed? have to be naked? :-s -fonzy

My Latin is weak; does anyone know the plural of homo sapiens? I fear that the way it appears on this page will further the illiterate back-formation "homo sapien". -- Mike Hardy

The plural of homo is homines (both vocative and nominative forms). --Roger 15 Aug 2003

That's true, but it's not relevant (if you'll pardon my bluntness) in this context. Species names don't have or need plurals. Every species is unique, by definition. A human is not "a Homo sapiens", but a member of the species Homo sapiens. Perhaps we need to state explicitly, for the benefit of those who might try to write *sapien, that the s at the end of sapiens does not make it a plural. I'll have a go. -- Heron

Oh, and I removed this bit:

The lived body (Maurice Merleau-Ponty) is posited as a way out of the trap of Rationalism vs. Empirism. It points outward as well as inward.

which probably belongs in an article on consciousness rather than here, and anyway needs more explanation. -- Heron (again)

"The mean height of an American adult female is 162 centimetres and the mean weight is 62 kg" < could someone change this to either a worldwide statistic, or one for each major continent? We are not a US encyclopedia -- Tarquin 18:01, 6 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I think that hte image DOES portray caucasians: The term caucasian includes arabs, indians, and basically everyone with a certain hair/bone structure. Just based on the guy's hair it is evident that the people in the drawing are most definately not of sub-saharan, aboriginal australian, or east asian origin. --Mishac 20:01, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)

bad bullet list

Under "Physical Characteristics", the list-tags aren't displaying properly under IE6---that is, the bullet marks don't display at all, and the text seems to simply be broken into short lines randomly. Though I can't imagine why this'd be (the UL and LI tags are in the generated HTML), it does make the page look funny to a lot of users. Any ideas? Grendelkhan 16:43, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)

It's the skeleton thumbnail image. I've moved it lower so that it doesn't interfere with the bullets. - UtherSRG 21:17, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)

race vs. species

"Subspecies" is not the same as "race". It's deceptive to equate the two terms. Here is one definition for "race" from my dictionary:

2 a : a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock b : a class or kind of people unified by community of interests, habits, or characteristics <the English race>

You are correct, although in other taxonomic classes, you would not be: bird subspecies are often called races. - UtherSRG 11:50, 14 Apr 2004 (UTC)


No offence, but I think that a discussion of habitats along the lines of "about 3 humans at a time live on space, of the remaining 6.3 billion Earthbound humans, blah blah" is amusing (to put it politely). I have changed it around. As a biological species, Humans are adapted to the savannah where they evolved, then colonized all continents and climates through cultural, not biological evolution. Just my 2 Euro cents. — Miguel 04:45, 2004 Apr 29 (UTC)

Stub notices?

Why are there some stub messages in the middle of this article?? 21:46, 23 May 2004 (UTC)

Well, it's a non-standard usage, but it indicates that those sections of the article are underdeveloped. Yours, Meelar 21:50, 23 May 2004 (UTC)

Page move

Neumannkun - you copy-paste moved this page to human being. First, page moves should be done with the "Move this page" option to preserve page histories. Second, the disambiguation page you replaced it had two terms - the article you moved, and a dictionary definition which should not be here -- see Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not a dictionary. Third, human is much more intuitive than human being as an article title -- Wikipedia:Naming conventions: Generally, article naming should give priority to what the majority of English speakers would most easily recognize with a reasonable minimum of ambiguity, while at the same time making linking to those articles easy and second nature.. That's why I reverted. →Raul654 01:50, May 28, 2004 (UTC)

Spiritual characteristics

IMHO, the spiritual characteristics section fails to distinguish between spiritual and supernatural. I am non-theistic but I don't deny a spiritual dimension, just the supernatural basis for it. Humans have engaged in funeral rites for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years. Whether or not there is a theistic basis for this, it is spiritual. Other mammals grieve, and some (like elephants) go to particular places to die, but no other animal has --- to our knowledge --- a universal, cross-cultural concern with death. I don't feel qualified to repair this section, though. Miguel 17:40, 7 Jul 2004 (UTC)

"Human" vs "Homo sapiens"

This article seems to be entirely about the biological "Homo sapiens". I think a little bit of disambiguation (rather than simple forwarding) would be in order:

  • is "Human" really equivalent to "Homo sapiens"? This is not a political issue, since no other "Homo" have survived, but I am not sure whether Homo neanderthalensis should really be classified as non-human
  • besides being a biological term, the word human is also used in a cultural/ethical sense: human vs. inhuman, humanism, humanitarian etc. Maybe there should at least be a paragraph addressing this (adjectival) use.
  • how about some etymology and history of the term (latin "earthling", etc.) rather than stark biology? What was the meaning of "human" in antiquity? In the middle ages? During Colonialism?

If you ask me, I would say "Homo sapiens" and "human" should be two separate articles, with a section "biology" in "human" pointing to "Homo sapiens"... Dbachmann 07:21, 12 Aug 2004 (UTC)

is Human equivalent to Homo sapiens -- Some scientists like to call everything in the Homo genus human, while for everybody else, human means Homo sapiens sapiens and nothing else. I think we should stick with the second view.
As for the article focusing on the biological side, well, go ahead and fix it. A section including a summary and link to culture might be nice. There is a lot that could be done with the article. But disambiguation is not in order. --Yath 08:22, 12 Aug 2004 (UTC)
well, it would be an encyclopedia's job to detail the different views, rather than "sticking" with one. As for "fixing" human (cultural)/human (adjective), it's a tall order I cannot pull off in a coffee-break. I maintain that there is ambiguity in the term 'human', while I won't insist that it be disambiguated here. Rather, there can be articles like human condition, human nature or similar dealing with the other aspects. The only thing I'd impose on this article would be a "this article is about your biological species, see also bla bla" header. Although this article could do with a History of the term section, showing views that predate the modern/biologist one endorsed in the rest of the article (which I also endorse, but that's because I'm a 21st century human) -- maybe starting with Plato's "non feathered bipedals" definition, progressing through christian notions of "capable of sin" and what not. But here's my original point: such a section would make sense in an article titled "Human" but not in one titled "Homo sapiens" where the subject treated is immediately clear. Dbachmann 11:38, 12 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I don't see your problem. Are human condition and human nature aspects of Homo sapiens sapiens or some less specific group of organisms? Homo neanderthalensis and other proto-humans are not included in culture (except possibly as a mention that humans are interested in their origin). We also don't know what culture the proto-humans have, and comments on what we can surmise from paleoarcheological findings belongs on the appropriate proto-human pages. Everything else are just items that should be added to this article, or summarized in this article with pointers to other articles on those subjects (philosophy, religion, etc). I'm going to add a "to do" list at the top of this talk. Feel free to add any pertinent items you feel are missing from the article. - UtherSRG 13:27, 12 Aug 2004 (UTC)