Talk:Human/Archive 3

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3 Archive 4 Archive 5 Archive 10

My 2 cents

This article does indeed focus on the biological side of the subject. I wouldn't mind a more spiritual POV added to the article. In my opinion both of these focusses deserve a place here. As for the taxobox. Humans are essentially a part of the animal kingdom, so it should have a taxobox like the other animals here om Wikipedia.

If you want more responses from me regarding this article, drop a note on my talk page. Mgm 19:16, Sep 23, 2004 (UTC)


What do you mean by "more spiritual POV added to the article"? How would you do that? How about some of the alternatives suggested above? ---Rednblu 20:32, 23 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Remember, Mgm, the Wikipedia is not suppose to have "biological" or "spiritual" POV. It is supposed to present fairly all important POV's. The article should not end up pushing any POV, but should divulge all important ones. It should expressly say some believe biological is all she wrote and others believe humans are also spiritual beings (or whatever). Tom 21:01, 23 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Notice I suggested adding all POV's to the article. I don't feel only the biological POV should be mentioned. But I'm having trouble myself defining "spiritual" in this context. Mgm 07:02, Sep 24, 2004 (UTC)


Yes. How about centering on the observable facts? Most efforts of law, philosophy, and civilization focus on methods and techniques for repressing the biological part of man in favor of a part of man that is artificial, man-made, and not biological. For example, men have a biological hunger to kill. [1] But law looks for methods and techniques to make biological man more human by caging, rehabilitating, and chilling the very real but very undesirable biological part of man. And the "spiritual" part of man is one example of the man-refined non biological part of man. How would you phrase it? ---Rednblu 17:21, 24 Sep 2004 (UTC)

But humans are social animals. Our urges to live peacefully (or not) in regulated societies and to think about our world are just as biological as our desires to eat, excrete and mate. --Heron 18:00, 24 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Wait a second. As dab was saying, I think we need to step back a bit. I think instead of "centering on the observable facts" we need to center on the observable POVs and report them. Isn't it just a matter of organizing them fairly? Tom 19:00, 24 Sep 2004 (UTC)


<<Our urges to live peacefully (or not) in regulated societies and to think about our world are just as biological as our desires to eat>>

Well said. But there is a tension between the 1) biological part and 2) what people want to be. I agree with you that the aspiration of "what people want to be" also has biological components. But as Tom says, there are other points of view. Some people would call that aspiration of "want to be"--spirituality or "rising above our evil nature." Let me give you an example.

  1. Take your and my hunger for sugar, salt, and burned fat--all biological--we inherit these hungers with our biological hardware.
  2. In tension with these biological hardware hungers are aspirations for healthy bodies--which our hungers for sugar, salt, and burned fat repeatedly threaten--given the ready access to salt, sugar, and burned fat that technology, including McDonald's marketing, provides us.
  3. And, the empirical evidence indicates that the biological hardware hungers for sugar, salt, and burned fat are so stong that a healthy human body in an urban setting is nearly impossible without tremendous personal effort and discipline to repress the biological hardware hunger--in order to get the desired result.
  4. That is, getting the desired result requires artificially repressing the spontaneous and natural urges, hungers, and desires of the biological hardware to be "human." Would you agree? ---Rednblu 19:15, 24 Sep 2004 (UTC)


I agree that we can't just let ourselves be driven by the strongest urge that we feel at any moment. Yes, we have to repress some of our urges sometimes in order to survive. However, my view is that the self-discipline we use to fight the bad urges is just as much a part of our biology as the urges themselves. I admit that self-discipline requires a kind of abstract awareness that perhaps only humans possess. This awareness is what some people call "spirituality", but I just call it "being smart". I'll be happy as long as we present both views in this article. --Heron 19:34, 24 Sep 2004 (UTC)


<<my view is that the self-discipline we use to fight the bad urges is just as much a part of our biology as the urges themselves.>>

There you see--you and I have different points-of-view. In my point-of-view, the self-discipline is not a part of the biology--just as nutrition is not a part of the biology; nutrition had to be discovered and is not part of the biology. Culture may exhibit on the components of biology, but in my view, the "culture" is not part of the biology--just as Michelangelo's David is not part of marble.

  1. But as Tom says, our job here is not to come to an agreement. Our job is to present the points-of-view--including both yours and mine, to the extent that we can find scholars and published thinkers that have expressed similar points-of-view.
  2. The major quesiton is one of ranking--is
    • Taxobox biology the first presentation in defining human or is
    • What you call "being smart" the first presentation in defining human

In my opinion, what you call "being smart" should be the first presentation--because that "being smart" is what people call the most human. ---Rednblu 21:02, 24 Sep 2004 (UTC)

But you can't have the cart before the horse. We already have an article on person in the philosophical sense. Improve the flaming article by adding to it instead of whingeing about it lacking content in certain areas. Dunc_Harris| 21:32, 24 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The problem, I think, Duncharris, is that we also have an article on human, and we can't decide how to make it NPOV. I don't think we can dodge this just by redirecting to person.

OK, Rednblu. As you say, we're not here to convince each other of our respective POVs, interesting though the discussion is. The question of how to present these views fairly is extremely difficult. We shouldn't be surprised that this article is proving to be so hard to write. Is the equivalence between "human" and "Homo sapiens" the same as that between "housefly" and "Musca domestica"? As you can guess, I would say it is, but I recognize that millions, or even billions, of people would disagree. We can redirect from one term to the other in the housefly example without causing any controversy, but in the human example, there is more at stake.

Perhaps I can accept that we need to make a special case for the species "human", just as houseflies would do if they could write about themselves. Perhaps we should have an intro that says "Humans are beings that describe themselves in a mixture of spiritual and biological terms. The spiritual explanation is <blah> and the biological explanation is <blah>." I think "Humans ... describe themselves as..." is better than "Humans are ...", because it enables us to keep a degree of objectivity. Then there could be longer sections on the two aspects. I don't care which order they go in, as long as it is made clear that neither is universally accepted as the only correct view.

Excuse me if I don't reply for a while. I have stuff to do in meatspace. --Heron 21:44, 24 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Heron, I like your proposed first sentence. This has been eluding me in my nocturnal musings, and I think you may have suggested a solution. "Humans are beings that describe themselves in..." is quite ingenious. It says a lot, but nothing that is controversial. Very deep indeed. Cows don't describe themselves at all, and chimpanzees don't describe themselves as anything other than hungry. Gods and angels, orcs and dwarves don't describe themselves in the way you describe. I think you have come up with a first sentence that actually describes humans in a non-controversial way. Tom 05:22, 26 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Thanks, Tom. I've been bold and changed the intro. Let's see what others think. --Heron 19:55, 26 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I like it too, good job! The third paragraph looks somewhat out of place now, though (Humans, being by nature introspective, inquisitive, and philosophical, have long wrestled with self-definition.), in the sense, that human self-perception is now at the beginning, then follows some biology, and then we go back to self-perception... Maybe we should alter it, or remove it. I have made a small change, so far, replacing science-fiction/fantasy with mythology (reducing 'slashdot' style). dab 11:16, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I'm glad you tackled the sci-fi reference. I didn't want to upset Tom by removing it completely, but I thought it needed toning down a bit. --Heron
btw, I have started a new section Self-Reflection further down the page. So far it is very incomplete, giving only two examples. The idea is to expand it with notable examples from other epochs/cultures (it can still be moved to a separate article, of course, should it get out of hand). Maybe (as an afterthought) the abovementioned "third paragraph" could be moved down to head this section? dab 11:20, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Para 3 does seem mostly redundant now, but I'm not sure that I would delete all of it, and I'm afraid that if I incorporate all of it into para 1 then para 1 will lose its succinctness. Your suggestion is probably the best compromise. --Heron 13:02, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

We are doing a good job of exploring ideas, and I like it when we actually edit the article. We still have a long way to go before the overall article organization reflects all major points of view fairly, but this level of effort and flux is going to eventually pay off, and someday the article will surely be NPOV. Tom 16:36, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The first sentence is all right, I think. But the second sentence is where we already begin to violate NPOV. "Spiritually, they are the only species known to practise religion and philosophy." Where we are supposed to, by NPOV, start saying 'P-ists say (or believe) P and Q-ists say Q', we jump immediately from an NPOV opening sentence into a POV description of spirituality. We have to find a way to let the POVs speak for themselves. But instead, we keep coming around to having everything described within a biological/secularist POV. The second sentence and the taxobox that presides over the whole article instead of tgh biology section are the first two examples of this currently. Tom 16:42, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Could we just remove the words spiritually, culturally and biologically from the second, third and fourth sentences? That would avoid defining these terms so early in the article. --Heron 17:50, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)
aw, that's just what I liked about your arrangement...
Tom, we don't have to put "X says" in front of every sentence ;-) I know that absolute truth can never be acheived, but if a statement is undisputed, we might as well treat it as given. Or can you think of any view that would object to "they are the only species known to practise religion and philosophy" (note that it wisely says "species", so even if you want to assume religious angels, or similar, because angels hardly qualify as a species) dab 18:40, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Right, dab. We don't have to do that. What we have to do is make our thesis and our organization reflect NPOV so that everything that is said within that NPOV framework can be said freely and without repeating words like purportedly, allegedly, etc. ad nauseum. The problem with the second sentence is that it fails to help set up an NPOV framework for the article. Note I am saying it is the framework that is failing to comply. It seems like in spite of all the discussion above, we are still trying to fit this article into one grand absolute POV, which I again believe stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the NPOV policy. The intro needs to introduce masterfully and neutrally all the major POVs (and I included fantasy only with tongue in cheek). Of course everything said in the intro must be carefully qualified so as not to give an 'official' Wikipedia orientation on any controversial point. The second sentence currently says 'Humans have culture and religion'. But from the religious (traditional?) POV, religion is not something humans have; rather it is something that defines humans. So without intending to, we have jumped immediately into the biological POV in the second sentence. And of course having the taxobox frame the entire article also jumps right into the biological POV. We need to let Tradition, Religion, and Biology speak for themselves, and not let them define one another. Tom 19:16, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Agree with dab and Tom. To illustrate Tom's point above, suppose the article said something like "Humans have physical bodies with a number of biological characteristics..." I am not proposing this as phrasing for the article, merely trying to show how that kind of sentence construct can potentially weight the article towards one POV or the other. And, I still think that the taxobox should be in a Biology section, just as any hypothetical diagram of a human's body/soul/spirit should be in a Spirituality section. Wesley 21:52, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Proposal for vote on Taxobox

I hear you. I think that in a definition of humans, when we say "humans have X", that automatically translates to "humans are defined by X", without having to repeat "necessary but not sufficient for humanity is X" like five times. But I am open to a more commital phrasing, such as "are endowed with" (too theistic maybe?), or indeed "are defined by", no problem. I am afraid this is going towards the splitting of hairs for me, but why not. It is certanly better to say "humans have bodies" than "humans are bodies", because "have" is a very powerful verb that can express circumstantial possession as well as essential constituency. I thank you for the inclusion of fantasy by the way, which in my view, in its more general guise as mythology, is on equal footing with science and religion in the human mind. Concerning the taxobox, I think we are finally at a stage where we can just vote on its position, unrelated to questions of exact phrasing of the article text. I can see the following options:
  1. keep it at the top of Human
  2. move it to the biology section (at this point the first section after the intro)
  3. cut the biology section to a summary, move the full text to a separate Homo sapiens article, and move the taxobox there, too
  4. same as above (taxobox to Homo sapiens), with more emphasis on extinct human subspecies, and the taxobox from Homo (genus) in the biology section.
I know that I seem to be the only proponent here of the idea that 'human' "really" includes all of Homo (genus), and I won't be terribly insistent on that. I can really accept all of the possibilities above. dab 08:19, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I feel that, if either option 3 or option 4 is eventually chosen, then this page needs to be nothing more than a disambiguation page pointing to different perspectives of humans. If only the biological POV is moved to a new page, then this page won't be neutral. I would prefer option 2 as a compromise if not 1. -- Sundar 12:20, Sep 28, 2004 (UTC)
well, in a way this is already the case. If you think of the articles about Religion, Language and Philosophy as sections that properly belong here, but which we only summarize and point to, arguably, the biology section should follow suit. At the moment, it is the longest paragraph. The suggestion is not to cut it down to a single link, but to make all paragraphs roughly the same length (while we still have to decide on which section titles we want, exactly). As I said, I think 1 or 2 are acceptable, but I think you objection really just amounts to a vote for them. For the voting process, to avoid to "draw votes", I suggest, we first vote on "should the full biology section be exported or not?", and in the case of "yes": "do we keep a taxobox with the biology summary?", and in the case of "no": "do we leave the box at the top, or do we move it to the section title?". We'd need to vote twice, but I think the results will be fairer.
Hrm... I was about to agree very strongly with Sundar (1 is preferable to 2, which is preferable to...), but you've cut a little bit of fire from me by editting in right before me *grins*. I do not feel the full biology section should be exported. Before religion, language* or culture existed, humans existed, for they could not exist without the biological creatures that we are, regardless of how our different cultures and religions view their relationship to our physical existence. Looking at even just the religion and language articles, religion is about twice as long as human is, and language is half the size but is only a collection of article summaries (and not only about human languages!). I think it is best to leave the taxobox where it is and simply clean up the organization of this article to be more streamlined. One last thought that I'll leave in the form of a series of questions: What is the expectation of this article's reader on what the content of the article will be? Does this expectation vary depending if the reader lands here from a WikiSearch vs linking in from another article? - UtherSRG 13:42, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
* I do acknowledge that some form of language may have been inherited from our evolutionary predessessors, and that as evolution has shaped the various proto-humans lines, our ability to use and create language has also been so shaped. However, that was proto-human language spoken by proto-humans, not human language spoken by humans. Some similar understanding exists for culture and religion which feed off of and grow from each other, just as they use and adapt language as they need. - UtherSRG 13:42, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Before religion, language or culture existed, humans existed – welcome to an eternal argument (please browse the previous discussions). You need to understand that not everybody will agree with this, and if you are determined to argue about this before voting on the taxobox, we are back at square one. I was hoping that we could just agree to vote, without settling philosophical disputes first. I think we all have our predilections on where the 'box should go, but prerequisite for the vote is just that nobody thinks either of the proposed options so unacceptable that he/she will block the change even if a majority of contributors is seen to support it. (please let's not argue whether religion or biology came first, here and now. please?) dab 14:26, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I've been away for about a month. Reading a month's worth of debate compressed to the time it takes to read will not help me. the changes in peoples viewpoints have happened over time, time which I can not regain. Regardless, my latter point remains: What are the various ways the reader is going to come upon this article, and what expectations will the reader have? I assert that most readers are going to come to this article seeking knowledge about the physical human condition. If I am correct, then the article should start from that perspective and move to other areas of the human condition in turn. For comparison, language starts by talking about human languages, then branches out into other forms of language. - UtherSRG 15:25, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Looking at the whole of article we have now, it seems to be in reasonable shape, although stubby in places. There is some good stuff here that would be lost if we made this just a disambig page. For this reason, I think it would be best just to move the taxobox (minus the Voyager pictures) to a new Hom sap article, and move most of the biological stuff to the existing article on human biology. I'm afraid this doesn't fit any of the four options above, so I'll have to call it option 5. Sorry to complicate things. --Heron 15:02, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I should say this is option 3, cut the biology section to a summary, move the full text to a separate Homo sapiens article, and move the taxobox there, too. The division between (or identity of) human biology and Homo sapiens would then not concern this article (former is a stub, and refers to biology as a science, i.e. "study of..."). But, before proceeding, we must first establish if somebody is prepared to resist such changes even against a majority. dab 15:14, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I may be such a person. I do not know if I would be able to accept options 3 or 4. - UtherSRG 15:41, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Oops. I think Rednblu started the voting process a bit early. It's pointless if the outcome is not binding. Consider, though, that the taxobox would of course be at the top of Homo sapiens, so your only point to object would really be the guideline requesting "common name rather than scientific name" to which humans could conceivably form a justifiable exception (the sheer mass of text, should we try to lump all that concerns humans in this article). dab 16:31, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Consideration for "why" the reader comes to the Human page

Keep the Taxobox at the top of Human

  • Support. This is the most likely reason a reader will be coming to this article, to find out about the physical human condition. - UtherSRG 15:45, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Correction: This is in your POV the most likely reason. It appears to me you are stuck trying to determine something that Wikipedia policy fundamentally asks us not to try to determine. Our job is to present the major POVs fairly. One way this is explained is the analogy of explaining to a space alien. But perhaps more understandable is the idea of explaining to your teenage son or daughter. Suppose he/she approached you and asked, "Dad, what is a human?" Being the conscientious Dad you are, and not wanting to lead him/her astray you might lead of by saying, "Well, Sweetheart, it depends on who you ask. Some people believe P. Some believe Q. And a few believe R." Of course he/she will then say "What do you believe, Dad?" And you will tell him/her your belief. But at Wikipedia the dialogue can't go that far. Daddy Wikipedia never answers that question. His answer is always, "Well, sweetheart, I'm still learning." I go back to the old mantra, "Have you read the NPOV doc and tutorial lately?" Tom 19:32, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I disagree with you, but only in part. Yes, it's my POV that biology is the main reason someone is likely to visit the article. I also believe that if we work at it we can determine if this POV has any factual basis. But it's not a POV about humans, its a POV about the article. It's not my POV that biology is the main facet of humanity. There is a difference. To use your Parent-Child analogy from the alien perspective, the alien parent might *first* respond, "Well, they are the dominant species on the planet and are evolved through the primate line." They might then go on as: "But more importantly, they created many different and diverse societies and had all of these different religious views and ... " etc. The "more importantly" shows that the parent was using the first part of the discussion, the biology, as an intro, as a stepping point to talk about the other points. It's also my POV that it is easier to step from a basic discussion of biology into any other facet than it is to step from any of those other aspects to the biology. Stepping either way causes some POV shift and we will not be able to avoid that, so we should pick the POV shift that works best for the article and for the readers of the article.
I appreciate these comments. I believe we are starting to agree on what the real issues are here. I am shy to be so nagging, but I still think there is a lot of slinging of the terms NPOV and POV around here by people who have not read the NPOV doc and tutorial all the way through carefully ever or at least in a very long time. This is key to Wikipedia work. It impinges on the concept of an alien and the concept of POV shift you use above. Note that alien is not mentioned, but there are enough examples given to clarify these ideas. Tom 15:33, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Also, let's talk about the difference between facts and beliefs. Facts are incontrovertable. Beliefs are formed by opinions about what the facts mean. - UtherSRG 12:50, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Again here I am forced to ask that you read the NPOV doc and tutorial regarding all human "knowledge". We can't proceed without a common set of values guidelines. Tom 15:33, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Some facts: Humans have mammalian/primate characteristics. Human DNA that is about 98% the same as chimpanzees. Humans are social. Humans have many religions. Humans have many cultures. Humans have many different beliefs about themselves and about their place in the world around them. Humans are self-aware. Humans have a high degree of intelligence. - UtherSRG 12:50, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
True. I don't think those are disputed at all. And I agree with you that they should not be turned into "beliefs". Please don't think I entertain any delusions that the task of crafting an appropriate article for the term "human" will be easy, or that I can envision it already. Tom 15:33, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Some beliefs: Humans are evolved from other (extinct) primates. Humans are spiritual beings created by God. Humans are the keepers of the planet. - UtherSRG 12:50, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Right again: Expressing my own "knowledge", humans are free-will children of God who have taken on an animal body for the purposes of God. (Other worldly things may also be spiritual, but only humans are free-will children and heirs of God.) Tom 15:33, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
We should do our best to present the facts. We should do our best to provide a reasonable selection of the facts. We should do our best to provide a reasonable selection of beliefs about the facts. - UtherSRG 12:50, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Right. And the NPOV doc and tutorial explain that we must present it all fairly and without judgement. Hmmm. Maybe a masterful split of certain parts of the article will eventually prevail. But for now I resist it. Tom 15:33, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
- UtherSRG 12:50, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I like the alien analogy because it seems to make the fewest assumptions about what is already known about the topic under consideration. The NPOV doc and the alien analogy are not in conflict with each other. I *have* read NPOV. I don't see my paragraphs above to be in contradiction with NPOV. Instead of just saying "read the NPOV docs", please help me (and others) understand your understanding of NPOV better. Explain how what I am saying is in conflict with your understanding of NPOV, or point to a specific section of the NPOV doc that you think contradicts something I've said. - UtherSRG 16:38, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Good point. But, off the top of my head, I wonder if we don't have a duty as encyclopedists to portray the actuality of the subject Human no matter why the reader came to Human. I think I would say the same thing about Magnetism or Gravitation or Evolution. What do others think? ---Rednblu 17:55, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Your summary asks how to determine this. As far as I know, there is not fully accurate way. The best is to get a "What links here" list, get a count of the number of times each of those pages is accessed, group the pages by category (biology, religion, etc), then sum up the categories' page counts. - UtherSRG

That was the neatest idea to me in your comment--that we could pattern the page after some empirical assessment of "why" the reader came to the Human page. As I thought about it, I could envision some context-assessment--like the newest ad strategy software tries to capture: What is the interest of the reader in browsing this particular string of Wikipedia pages? And as you say, the "What links here" would be a part of that analysis. It would be neat if we could do that! Then I bet we could come up with lots of newly effective ways to structure our Wikipedia pages. Neat idea. And you may be right as you explain below. Maybe we should put first what the reader mainly wants to know--and all the rest would follow in an appropriate order for communicating most effectively with the reader. ---Rednblu 19:38, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)

As for your point above, I do agree that we should present a whole picture, but the fact remains that there are so many facets, we can't put them all first. We can put up a summary of the major facets in an intro section, the go to the most likely primary facet of interest, then the next, and so on. - UtherSRG 19:03, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)

If people seemed to mostly come to this article for biological info, that is because there was mainly biological info here. Biology will remain "section 1", I think, but it will only make up for a third or a quarter of the finished article. I am "filling in" the Spirituality section, at the moment, and I'm trying to structure the "Sciences about humans" section into a section dealing with the individual and society (since that's what these sciences describe). I keep the religion/spiritual part to a minimal outline of historical developments to minimize disagreement. It is clearly not the place to outline different creeds, and only the most general impact on societal structure and self-perception should be described. dab 14:09, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Moved up here from the voting area:
And since there is genuine dispute in the world about what humans are, - Is there really? Is there genuine disupte about the basic facts, or is there a dispute about what those facts mean? For instance: Is there a dispute about the extreme similarity of chimp and human DNA, or is there a dispute about what that similarity means? Is there a dispute about our high degree of intelligence and our self-awareness, or is there a dispute about what our high degree of intelligence and our self-awareness means with regards to our beliefs about our position in the universe? - UtherSRG 15:06, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

yes. I am a scientist myself, and my thinking certainly follows the big-bang/evolution model. But there is just no way to decide on precedence of matter or spirit. (see also solipsism, idealism) or indeed our individuality vs. our identity with god (see also mysticism, synchronicity). dab 17:09, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I'm not asking about precedence here... I'm asking on what is disputed. Are there any biological (or other) basic facts that are genuinely disputed, or are only the conclusions people make based upon those facts disputed? - UtherSRG 17:39, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Neither, I think. There are simply two (to simplify) different points of view on what is important in defining a human. What is a human? There are two different answers to that, and this article needs to say so right off. All the rest is fine as far as I can see. Tom 21:03, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
the facts aren't (barring crackpots). the conclusions are very much, and thereby the interpretation (and notability) of the facts. dab 07:27, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I have an idea. Why don't we simply each write one sentence from our unadorned POV in a section called "POVs on what is a human"? Then we can distill the major POVs and make an article of it all. Tom 21:06, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
we are a bunch of random computer-literates. This article should not be a florilegium of our cherished views, but a soundly researched piece on the major facts and ideas out there (in world history). Therefore, it's nice to have people from different camps here to watch each others moves, but we need to look further for the best solution. It's best to forget you even have a POV and start researching the matter (look up other encyclopedias, for example) as if you had no previous idea of the term. dab 07:27, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
But of course. How lazy of me. On the other hand, there never before has been a Wikipedia. But you are still right. Tom - Talk 04:49, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)

What makes you say that taxonomy is POV?

the following was moved here from a discussion between Tom and Kim, it has been placed in a specific flowing order. Such a move always introduces some small discontinuities, these have been marked for completeness.

It's not like it it isn't obvious or anything. The only annoying thing is that folks use latin for some kind of reason.

Hmm, I'll use taxonomy data from swissprot.

OC   Eukaryota; Metazoa; Chordata; Craniata; Vertebrata; Euteleostomi;
OC   Mammalia; Eutheria; Primates; Catarrhini; Hominidae; Homo.

Let's just translate that for a minute:

  • Eukaryota: the more complex form of life, has (at least) a mitochondrion symbiont (per cell). Needs oxygen and uses it efficiently. (That's kind of important to know ;-) )
  • Metazoa: It's multicellular, so you might even be able to see it without a microscope. (humans are visible to the naked eye, so that's fairly obvious)
  • Chordata: Has a certain modular division of tissue, which allows for larger structures. (so humans are on the large end of the spectrum of living organisms)
  • Craniata: Has a skull.
  • Vertebrata: Has a spinal column.
  • Euteleostomi: Has bones.
  • Mammalia: Bear live young, and nurse them after birth, also has 4 limbs, maintain a constant core temperature.
  • Eutheria: young are connected to mother via a placenta until born
  • Primates: has 4 limbs with joints all towards "inside" , posses reversible thumbs, fairly high intelligence, and most can climb trees. Mixed diet. (Frugivoric with occaisional meat and lightly digestible leaf material in some cases)
  • Catarrhini : little or no tail, narrow nose.
  • Hominidae: Extremely intelligent
  • Homo: Extremely adaptive and intelligent, walks on 2 limbs, reserving the other 2 for manipulation.

So basically a quick run through taxonomy gives us a pretty comprehensive summary of what a human actually is and looks like.

Summarising some of the key points: Humans walk upright, have bones, breath oxygen, are warmblooded, nurse their young, have 2 hands and 2 feet and are somewhat intelligent. (At least relative to the average cnidaria ;-) ).

At Human, the problem with the taxobox position and current article framework is that they fail to represent all POVs fairly. There is a very large (perhaps a majority) POV that says Humans are more importantly described by non-taxonomic considerations. We are currently trying to arrive at a fair way to present all POVs in accordance with absolute and non-negotiable Wikipedia NPOV policy and the commission to represent all human "knowledge". Tom 21:34, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Very well, so, um, okay, I agree we should keep articles NPOV. Show me where the above is POV, and I'll listen most carefully. Kim Bruning

The taxobox is not problematic. And taxonomy is not problematic. Both are representative of portions of all human "knowledge" that we endeavor to present at the Wikipedia. The problem is that the article/subject/term Human means some very controversially different things to different major segments of the world. Suppose I were to take an article on "Humans" from the Dungeons and Dragons literature and present that as the Wikipedia article on Humans. What would you think? Suppose I were to take an article on Humans from a Catholic Bible Dictionary or Catechism and insert it as the Wikipedia Human article. What would you think? And at the same time, would you exclude those POVs from the Wikipedia? Tom 14:29, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Do the catechismus or the dungeons and dragons manual at some point substantially disagree on humans walking upright, having bones, breathing oxygen etc etc...? Kim Bruning 15:22, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The fantasy buffs are only playing around. But for both them and the religionists, Humans are not "just another species". For the fanatsy buffs, I suppose humans are "one of the intelligent creatures", and again this is a tongue-in-cheek comparison I make that I should best drop. For the religionists, Humans have responsibilities and destiny that are in a whole other world from the rest of the creatures. Tom 15:44, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
One POV says, "Humans are animals." Another POV says, "Humans are free-will Children of God in animal bodies." For a religionist, saying a human is a primate is like saying a the United States Constitution is a plant. Of course both statements are factual, but from very common points of view, both statements miss the main point entirely. Of course you would not be satisfied with an article that said "The US Constitution is a plant, blah, blah. On it there is ink, blah, blah. It apparently grew blah, blah, blah. Many believe that the ink stains on it have great meaning, blah, blah, blah." That would of course be ludicrous. Tom 15:44, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

You're avoiding the question though. ;-) Do these groups substantially disagree on this set of points? Kim Bruning 17:34, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The point I think that is trying to be made, is that the article states human are animals only, and classifies them in a way that some feel is inaccurate. I think it is best to state in the article that this is one theory. Another theory is what Thom alludes to. I also see the as POV and not neutral. Too many people accept too much as absolute fact, when in reality there are other POVs and other theories that should be discussed. The Human article does not allow for these other theories. Taxonomy to an unbiased reader could be the same as calling someone an imbecile - even if there is evidence for it, it is an opinion and theory - regardless of popular belief, or even actions on the part of the alleged "imbecile." -Visorstuff 19:55, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
remarks about NPOV policy
I apologize for being opaque. I thought I was acknowledging implicitly that there is no disagreement on those points, so we call them "facts" or, as our POV docs say, "knowledge". We are allowed to state undisputed "knowledge" as though it were "fact". But as I say explicitly above, our NPOV policy also requires us to present all points of view fairly. It is a "fact" that the US Constitution was written on something, but that "fact" is not even stated in the US Constitution article. The undisputed human POV says that particular fact about the Constitution is unimportant. When we get hung up on "fact", we lose sight of what our "absolute and unnegotiable" NPOV policy is all about. It is the major POVs, not the major facts, that are to be presented fairly. Of course the facts fall within the major POVs (at least we hope so) :-D. Tom 20:55, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

(the following was originally in response to Visorstuff, above) Well, you're going to have to explain where the inaccuracy lies. When taxonomists started their work, they were all christians, it's not some massive conspiracy, fortunately, *phew* :-). As demonstrated above, taxonomy reveals rather unsurprising details about humans (For instance that they breath oxygen, and they have 2 arms and 2 legs). It also reveals some less obvious stuff, sure, but that's the basics. Which part of those do you disagree with specifically? Then we'll address that. Kim Bruning 21:34, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

We need to separate any technical discussions about the taxobox (between you and UtherSRG) from the POV discussions on the article as a whole. The taxobox is fine as far as I know, and I couldn't address specific points of it if I wanted to. All I am qualified to discuss here is NPOV and the Human article. [I made some statements about NPOV above that Kim comments on below.] Tom 22:08, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

this in response to Toms remarks on NPOV policy above

I disagree with you most strongly, and I think you might want to discuss this with Jimbo (he's quite open, so that's Highly Reccomended! :-) ). As far as I'm aware, the objective is to present the "facts" as close as possible to NPOV.

We go about this as follows (as far as I'm aware :-) )

  1. The NPOV facts are those facts on which all the separate POVs have a consensus. If all of the POVs agree on a certain subset of facts, and none of them disagree on them, then that subset of facts should go to the top of the article. An article in this form is perfect.
  2. Adding POV (dangerous!)
    • If additional statements are made by different POV groups, then depending on how important they are, you might want to present them in the article as well. Be sure to attribute these statements, and don't be surprised if anyone blanket deletes them.
    • If you can't find some central consensus that all the POVs agree on, you might be forced to stick to only information from POV positions. Your article is at risk of getting VFDed
  3. More on pov
    • It Would Be Nice if you're presenting one POV to also give an opposing POV, for instance. But don't go overboard, try and stick mainly to attaining #1

Kim Bruning 21:27, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I'm ok with everything you said. I think the NPOV doc and tutorial probably have been carefully shepherded by Jimbo, and I think we all need to internalize them carefully. It sounds like you may have done so, so I will proceed on the assumption you understand the NPOV policy very well. If that is true, then I am guessing maybe you don't realize the fundamental POV fork on what is a human. This article falls in the "no central consensus" category, and we are trying our best to make it work nonetheless. I propose running a POV Poll so we can see just what are the major POVs that NPOV demands this article present fairly. I think that will help define and solve the problem. I believe strongly that the task is far from impossible, and our efforts will result in a better encyclopedia than ever could have been produced by non-wiki means. Tom 22:08, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
"No central concensus"? Really? But you said above that we are (paraphrased) 'spiritual beings in an animal body'. We all agree (hence central concensus) that we have an animal body. This body has certain characteristics. These characteristics place the body into certain classifications. It's the only common ground. - UtherSRG 12:15, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Could you also answer a question from above. Maybe you aren't fully aware of how different it would look than the current article if I wrote from my unabashed POV. Should we re-write this article from my POV so you can see just how different the POVs are? "Suppose I were to take an article on Humans from a Catholic Bible Dictionary or Catechism and insert it as the Wikipedia Human article. What would you think?" Tom 22:17, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
No problem. I think I'm having some trouble explaining though. To save some time, could you point out where the catechism disagrees with the taxonomy? Kim Bruning 22:49, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I think we are getting to the core of what we need to research. Here's what I am doing. I am running a "What is a Human" POV poll for religious editors at my talk page. That should help get a "consensus" religious POV of what a human is. Then we can analyze just how different that major POV is from the POV currently framing this article. Meanwhile, I will take my best personal guess to help move the discussion along. I honestly know nothing about the catechism, and maybe I was talking about things I know nothing about. That is why I am running the poll. Here is a definition or two from me:
    • A human is a physical incarnation of a potential heir of God in an animal body.
    • A human is a free-will child of God inhabiting an animal body by the will of a Father God for the purpose of growth toward the Father God. A human has responsibilities and potential that are unique among living things. The human body is classified among all living things as belonging to the species Homo Sapiens.

Tom - Talk 23:40, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Pending other definitions, do either of these current definitions you provided disagree with the taxonomy given for human? If so, where? Kim Bruning 23:51, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Even from my perspective of human as entirely physical and biological without a soul, the taxonomy box being at the top of the Human page misrepresents the major source of adaptation (response) in H. sapiens for the last 50,000 years. And I must say, the adaptations in H. sapiens for the last 50,000 years account for 99% of what human is--for anyone in today's globalized economy. For example, according to such scholars as Robert Boyd (anthropology) and Peter Richerson, the major source of adaptation--that is changing to provide adequate problem-solving for new situations and threats--in H. sapiens for the last 50,000 years has taken place in what they call cultural evolution which includes technology, law, traditions, and educational methodologies. And all of that cultural evolution which accounts for most of what people mean by human is missed by the taxonomy box. In my opinion, Tom's model has it right--the taxonomy box misleads in mistaking the "container" for the "contents," mistaking the hardware for the software--even from the perspective of a scientist who acknowledges that 100% of the "container" derives from the physical processes that produced the results of the taxonomy box. ---Rednblu 03:38, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I agree with you to a point, Red. The taxobox shows (primarily) the classification of the being in question. No doubt about that. It doesn't show anything else about the biology, or habitat, or habits, or preferences or culture, etc, etc. This is true not just for humans, but for all species. It's not meant to say that classification is the most important aspect. It's simply an easy and standardized reference point for taxonomic (and a little bit other) information. Yes, it's about "hardware", but it's not even about all the hardware, and this description is valid for all the species. Having it up at the top means someone wanting to find it quickly doesn't have to search down through the page, or perhaps skip this article and going off to look for another article that might have this taxobox. - UtherSRG 12:07, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
But only in man does the taxonomy miss something like 99% of the adaptation in the species. I refer to the observed adaptation among chimpanzees and bonobos; the cultural evolution of building on the last cultural adaptation is insignificant in all species other than H. sapiens. That is, for species other than H. sapiens, the significant cultural evolution consists of forgetting and individual rediscovery of some particular cultural adaptation that then other individuals in the community copy and vary. For example, nut cracking is an important cultural adaptation among chimpanzees. However, the chimpanzee community forgets how to crack nuts if there are long periods of plentiful fruits--because chimpanzee hungers prefer fruits to nuts. That is, chimpanzees like all other species other than H. sapiens lack an institutional function to preserve the bits of knowledge from the past--based on which the next cultural changes can base the new adaptations. Chimpanzees and all species other than H. sapiens have to start all over again at the bottom of cultural adaptation when all the individuals in the community forget. Only for H. sapiens is 99% of the adaptation in the "software" and the institutions. Hence, only for H. sapiens is it misleading to put the taxonomy box at the top of the page. ---Rednblu 15:45, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Does the taxonomy of the chimpanzee say that it can forget things it has learned? Does the taxonomy say anything about instinctual behavior vs learned behavior vs institutionalized knowledge for *any* species? No. It only talks about how the physical form is classified. The only thing that is common to all extant species (besides that they are extant species) is that we humans spend some of our energy classifying their physical form. We don't care about the religions or the institutions of other species because they don't exist. We do care about the transmitted cultures of various species, so we study them. It's very important to note that chimpanzees and bonobos both have culture and language, something they learn from other members of their local groups, and that when smaller groups come together in larger groups that they do share some knowledge. However, any indication of whether a species has a culture or not does not appear in the taxonomy. It's very important to note that some species do everything by instinct and don't learn anything at all, but their taxonomy doesn't indicate this at all, either. I do very much agree that our adaptation to the environment has moved from a genetic level to a cultural level. Look at some of my edits to human evolution and you'll see that I do understand this. It's a red herring when talking about taxonomy, though. - UtherSRG 16:22, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
As I read the discussion here, no one disagrees when "talking about taxonomy." However, there is considerable disagreement over the importance of the taxonomy. That is, putting the taxonomy box at the top of the Human page is biased against those scholars who argue that the cultural evolution of H. sapiens is far more important than the taxonomy data in defining "human." The taxonomy data has minor importance for "human" just as atomic structure has minor importance for "human." While it is true that "human" would not exist without either "taxonomy data" or "atomic structure," still taxonomy data and atomic structure are of minor importance for defining "human." Thus, neither the diagram of "atomic structure" nor the "taxonomy data" should be at the top of the Human page. ---Rednblu 18:10, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Minor importance you say? Okay, let's see um, Taxonomy (using extended version...) first item, Eukaryotes, ah ok, properties mumble mumble, hmm, ah! Requires oxygen. Ok, prove that this is merely a minor attribute of humans. Hold your breath for hmm, let's say a week. That's right, don't breath. This will stop your oxygen consumption. It's very unimportant , so that shouldn't be a big deal. O:-) Kim Bruning 20:31, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
OK. Sure we could play this game all day. But the beauty of Wikipedia is we don't have to. All we do is present the major POVs fairly. Sure, an ant may be spiritual too. But until there is significant lobbying to put that into the ant page, we just assume nobody cares. But with humans, trust me, plenty of us care. Tom - Talk 20:45, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Ummm, nope, that's the next encyclopedia over. We have to find a synthesis of NPOV here at wikipedia. If we can't find one and there's no way to find one, well, then we could still try to merely represent the major POVs fairly as a last resort. I think we may yet be able to find NPOV though :-) Kim Bruning 20:52, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
OK, Kim. We have a core misunderstanding here of what the NPOV policy means. I'm not sure what to do. I re-read the wp:npov document a couple of weeks ago, and I commit to re-read both it and the tutorial again before I make even one more comment here. I am doubting again whether you have actually studies those documents, or whether you have simply absorbed some atmospheric understanding of what NPOV mioght mean. This will go nowhere until we can at least agree on the absolute and non-negotiables involved here. So I am signing off until I have studied up. Tom - Talk 05:02, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Minor importance? You got it! Yes, minor importance I say compared to cultural evolution. The scholars' reasoning is like this. By action of cultural evolution, technology and culture correct for the mistakes that fixed the taxonomy of the animal, and the corrections turn H. sapiens into "human." For example, take the mistake of natural selection in making H. sapiens eukaryotic. H. sapiens simply surrounds herself with a self-contained space-suit with a breathing apparatus so that the corrected creature, consisting of H. sapiens and the surrounding insulating technology, no longer requires oxygen from outside its own total body; the newly adapted creature is no longer eukaryotic--taking the macro-view, not the micro-view. You keep insisting mistakenly on focusing on the defective animal before the adaptations that make the defective animal "human"--from this point-of-view, of course!  :)) Hence, putting the taxonomy box at the top of the Human page is biased against a whole host of scholars of what makes "human" from 1900 forward, including but not limited to Gabriel Tarde, Marshall Sahlins, and Marvin Harris. I just learned the interesting details about these guys' work and their particular slant on cultural evolution in the last couple of hours by the way, so I want to thank you, Uther, Tom, and Heron for pushing me into this whole new interest.  :)) ---Rednblu 21:36, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

How about something simpler - A human is the only known being that can reason. Some believe humans are advanced or evolved animals, classified as Homo Sapiens, while many religionists believe humans are divinely created in the image of a God or other higher being , who placed humans on Earth, but set apart from other creatures, and thus not subject to animal classification or taxonomy. -Visorstuff 00:50, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Nope, there's plenty of beings that are capable of reasoning. (see Ethology and Comparative psychology perhaps). For instance chimps, crows, and pidgeons have been shown to be capable of reasoning and problem solving. Try again? Kim Bruning 10:33, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Kim, I think we have been through this several times (the archives are getting huge). Tom is not saying there is any factual inaccuracy, and he doesn't want to censor the biological section (bless you Tom, just imagine we could have a hardcore, 7-days creationist trolling this page!). He is addressing implicit bias. Even though the biology section never states it, the material could be seen presented in a way suggesting that man is "animal, exclusively". I think we spent a lot of breath arguing something as simple as section arrangement. I think once we have substantial "religion", "individual" and "society" sections in the article, the implicit bias will be much reduced, even though biology remain the first section. People who want to enclose the taxobox in the biology section argue that it pertains to that section, and not, for example, to the "religion" section, while its position at the top suggests that it pertains to the entire article. At some point, a consensus seemed to be emerging to create a Homo Sapiens article where the taxobox would apply to the entire article, but the current vote indicates that this will not happen, at the moment. dab 07:39, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I'm asking a specific question wrt wikipedia NPOV policy, the answer to which will determine my position(s) wrt this article and how it is divided. I've provided an english translation of what's in the taxobox. Could you please point out any specific POV (which includes biased) statements in the taxobox or in the translation please? Kim Bruning 10:22, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC) (It could be that you find no POV statements at all. If so, please say!)
no. the contents of the 'box are fine, as you no doubt have suspected. the emphasis is on implicit bias, expressed by the position of the 'box in the article layout, not in its content. dab 10:32, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
If the box doesn't have a bias, I've been figuring that its location shouldn't matter, and it should simply be a case of policy where to put it. If it turns out that the location does matter (like you're stating to me), it could be an indication that somewhere something isn't quite right. (Perhaps the article contains some internal contradiction or so, or contains unchecked POV.). Hmm, right then, if others also agree with you, I guess we should at least check carefully to be sure that there isn't some problem like that. Kim Bruning 10:47, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
That's right. This article is a special case anyway, so some policies are likely to clash. The Dispute: is the article about a biological species, or is only the biology section about a biological species. For people who think humans are a biological species that somehow developed spirituality, the former applies. For people who think that humans are spiritual beings that somehow ended up inside a body, the latter applies. Personally, I would be happy to leave the 'box where it is, but I am more than happy to either: to make an article undisputedly about the species, Homo sapiens, or, to do the spiritualists a favour and agree that only the biology section is about the biological species to be able to proceed to more pressing issues. This is what we are voting on at the moment. dab 10:55, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
"Biological species" is a pleonasm. Try saying what you mean in different words? Kim Bruning 13:11, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC) (I'm not attacking you on your usage of langauge here, or trying to be pedantic or so. I do think I see which direction you're headed, but I'd like to be sure before I reply.)
not at all!. The pedantry is entirely on my side ;o) – I was trying to be explicit. If you find that annoying, I apologize, no condescension is intended. With some goodwill I am sure you will understand what I'm saying. but just s/biological species/species/ if you like, for the point at hand it doesn't matter)dab 13:29, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Hmm, that's unexpected&odd. That's what I tried first. If you do s/biological species/species/ on your statement, it looks a bit like gobbledegook. :-/ (Give it a shot! See what I mean? ). That's why you had me wondering. Terribly sorry about all this. :-( Kim Bruning 14:14, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
ok, let's try (un-indenting):

Is the article about a species, or is only the biology section about a species? For people who think that humans are a species that somehow developed spirituality, the former applies (i.e. the whole article deals with a species). For people who think that humans are spiritual beings that somehow ended up inside a body, the latter applies (i.e. only the bio section is dealing with a species). [where species means biological species]. If it still doesn't make sense, just forget what I said and let's skip to the "POV roundup" below. dab 14:35, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

This doesn't seem to make sense, because if you apply a taxonomy (general sense), everything is a member of a species, even if it's only "Unclassifiable". Kim Bruning 16:12, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

dab is doing an admirable job of arguing for the "enemy". "For people who think humans are a biological species that somehow developed spirituality, the former applies. For people who think that humans are spiritual beings that somehow ended up inside a body, the latter applies." This captures the essence of the POV problem well. Or as I sometimes ask my children, "Are we monkeys or are we children of God?" It is a fundamental divergence of definition. Yes, your taxobox is beautiful and fine, and I hope it stays. Tom - Talk 14:49, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

We're not monkeys. "Apes" would be more appropriate in the question. See monkey. *grins* - UtherSRG 15:18, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Darn, wikipedia made my comments vanish, and blanked the page too. :-/
Ok well, I was going to say, over time, people considered women, slaves and dark-skinned people to be animals too. Now we know better. Wouldn't it be wiser to ask "Aren't Apes Children of God too?". Kim Bruning 15:59, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Well, that all depends on your theology. For me, God is the interdependent web of all existence of which we (humans) are a part. This make deity both immanent and emminent, and also says that all animals are God's children, as much as we humans are. - UtherSRG 16:29, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Well, dab, looks like they opened the can of worms for you, and I am certainly not going to disagree that animals may have a greater position and destiny that we imagine. Let's leave that hanging in the air :-D Tom - Talk 18:20, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Getting back on track: dab makes an excellent point when saying "the emphasis is on implicit bias, expressed by the position of the 'box in the article layout, not in its content." The bias implied is that a biological classification (taxonomy) is an essential element of understanding human beings in a way that a taxonomy of religion experiences is not. Keep the box, just put it in the Bio section where it belongs. JHCC 19:50, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Well, with all due respect, religeous experiences are indeed less important than biological experiences. If you forget to go to church next sunday, you won't get struck by lightning and die. If you forget to breath next sunday, we won't be talking to you on monday. :-) Kim Bruning 20:34, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
We're not talking about which experience is more important, we're discussing whether a taxobox is better placed in the Introduction or the Biology section. Whether or not religious experience is more important than biological (or even if such a judgement can be made) is a value judgement and therefore irrelevant to the issue at hand: how do we present the

[above comment mutilated?]

Kim, that's all very well, but you need to realize that (a) this is POV and (b) we don't need to decide this. Many people have starved themselves voluntarily seeking unity with god. You are free to think that this is stupid, but you need to admit that they certainly wouldn't agree with your notion of 'importance'. dab 08:49, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Most definitely, dab. Is Kim utterly oblivious to my POV? I can't tell if she is ignorant of it or merely has discounted or forgotten that it exists and is important to millions of people. Kim, I will tell you flat out that I couldn't disagree more strongly. From my spiritual POV, being "right with God" is more important than breathing. All physicality hangs on spirituality. Maybe you didn't realize that the spiritual POV was so real in spiritual-oriented (believer) people. Understanding it fully may help you see why this article needed reworking. Tom - Talk 20:19, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
No matter what ones spiritual beliefs are, "no oxygen = physical death". While "not being right with God" might mean spiritual death, or it might mean a correction to ones actions needs to be taken, or it might mean that you go to hell or limbo or purgatory instead of heaven, etc. And even being "right with God" can be in conflict with itself (killing one person to save the lives of others). - UtherSRG 20:49, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Well said, Uther. My intent was to emphasize strongly that dab's point is correct. For a whole lot of people, there is a spiritual dimension that not only transcends, but actually begets the physical dimension. I don't claim this spiritual dimension doesn't also beget the whole universe. But in the article about me, a human, it is important that the mainstream facets of my POV be "represented fairly" Tom - Talk 04:47, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Thank you. Now if we can just figure out what "fairly" means..... *grins* - UtherSRG 05:00, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)

POV roundup

I think a concise summary of the various POVs is:

  1. We are physical beings having a spiritual experience
  2. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience
  3. We are just physical beings

(Please someone tell me I'm wrong if there are other POVs that aren't in some way covered by these general POV classes.)
Inherent in all three POV classes is the parenthetical "(some of whom believe in the other two POVs)". The only thing common in these is that we have a physical body, as I've said above in a reply to Tom.

Great. Tom - Talk 18:23, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

It's because of this commonality that it makes sense to keep the article's general structure (intro & taxobox, biology section, other sections) as is. I believe the most valuable work to be done in this article is balancing the sizes of the various sections by rewrites to the sections and the other articles they reference. Perhaps we can offload some of the biology section into other articles (new or existing). Perhaps we can import material from other articles to flesh out the other sections. - UtherSRG 14:22, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Ahh, but no. You went from your POVs summary to suddenly dropping the second one again. How is that you make that look so easy? :-) Tom - Talk 18:23, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Hrm. I wish I knew too. *grins* Could you point out in which part of this paragraph you think I dropped the second POV? what would you change to be more inclusive? - UtherSRG 18:55, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Full agreement. I've been busy at the other sections, but I haven't heard yet how well my proposed ToC structure is received. If we just fill in the present structure, the article will be quite long, but not unreasonably long (c.f. e.g. George W. Bush), the biology section making up for maybe 25-30%. The "religion" and "self reflection" sections could in principle go on forever, of course, and I do hope we will be able to agree on a bare minimum. Once we are there, we can begin "balanced exporting" i.e. moving material to "main articles" so that a balance between the section lengths is maintained. dab 14:31, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Agreed! - UtherSRG 15:18, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I think I agree with your summary, and mostly with how you think the article should be organized. Everyone agrees on the physical aspects, so those go upfront as being NPOV. The other positions might be lightly touched on, but should generally be placed in different articles, where appropriate. Kim Bruning 14:34, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
the third POV may even be superfluous, as even the most hardboiled secularist will acknowledge that spiritual experience, whatever that means, is being had by people, he will just chalk it up as abnormal neural activity. dab 14:48, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Perhaps, but it's there to show that there isn't a POV that says "We are just spiritual beings." - UtherSRG 15:18, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The list as it stands is flawed in that "experience" is unclear. I would suggest the following summary of PsOV:

  • "We are physical beings only, sometimes under the illusion that we have a spiritual existence."(1)
  • "We are spiritual beings only, sometimes under the illusion that we have physical existence."(2) (Sorry, UtherSRG, but this is a not-uncommon philosophical position; e.g., Christian Science and certain schools of Buddhism.)
  • "We are beings that are both physical and spiritual." (3)

The problem is that there are so many possibilites and variations. For example, the third category has a few subsets:

  • "We are physical beings enlivened by a soul/spirit/life-force/non-physical-vivifying-power/what-have-you."(4) (whether or not this is immortal or subject to resurrection is another issue)
  • "We are spiritual beings trapped in/inhabiting a physical body."(5) (often regretted by those who believe the physical/material to be inherently evil.)
  • "We are inherently a union of physical and spiritual"(6) (Again, many possibilites vis-a-vis existence of spirit before physical birth or after physical death, or even reunion after resurrection.)

Since the taxobox is, as discussed above, only a description of physical aspects of the human, that should go under the Biology section. Even those who believe that humans are a combination of physical and spiritual are divided over which (if either) is more important. JHCC 19:15, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I specifically chose "experience" so that the POV classes (these aren't POVs, but classes of POVs) would be able to cover as much ground as possible with the fewest number of classes. I've numbered your additional suggestions and auto-numbered my originals. Your (1)&(4) and (2)&(5) are more specific than my 1. and 2. Your (3)&(6) could possibly qualify as a new class, where physical and spiritual are seen as equals. - UtherSRG 12:17, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I questioned "experience" as being something not intrinsic to a being. For example, I may have a happy experience, but that may not make me a happy person. Your classification would put those who believe spiritual experiences to be real (God spoke to me) with those who believe them to be unreal (God does not exist, so those who claim that God speaks to them are deluded or insane) in the same category. JHCC 14:46, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I think in UtherSRG's first phrase of his summary above, he goes astray. "It's because of this commonality...." Whoaaaaaaa!! Screech. Stop. Commonality? What about three different POVs? As I was saying to Kim, is the Constitution of the Unites States a plant or an experiment? Yes. I agree we have common facts among us all, and we should keep it all in one article if possible. But one POV says either, "We are God(s)," or "We are children of God." And that very common POV of "what is a human" is slighted by the framework of the article. We just have to find a way to amend that. I want to say the taxobox can stay at the top, and I certainly agree it shouldn't be more than an inch or two down, but I don't think after all that keeping it at the top would be NPOV. Tom - Talk 19:22, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The commonality that we agree that we are in a physical body. Your Constitution example isn't as valid as you make it out to be. It isn't a plant, although it was produced from several plants (to make the paper) and possible from animals as well (sepia for ink). If we wanted to talk about the evolution of the document, we'd be talking about the rewrites of the words; each rewrite being created on a (reasonably) identical piece of parchment. There is no POV that states that we are purely spiritual beings, with it also saying something about the physical bodies we inhabit (even JHCC's examples to the contrary recognize that our bodies have certain characteristics). - UtherSRG 12:17, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Would it work to begin with an intro like the following (not too different from what's there now):

Points of view vary widely on whether humans are spiritual beings, physical beings, or any combination or continuum of the two.

Tom - Talk 19:39, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Hey! we have already the great "human beings are described in biological, spiritual and cultural terms". This covers all POVs discussed here, as long as it is taken to imply "differently by different people". I don't think we should stuff more than that into the lead section. There is the whole article body to make these points. Keep it simple! dab 10:54, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
the list is not "flawed" because "experience" is unclear, it is *great* precisely because of that. It is only thanks to this play of semantic fields that we can make true statements at all. "experience", like "have" can be used, and people can agree on sentences containing them, even if they have subly or radically different views on what the words really mean. If I say "I had a spiritual experience", it is an objective statement. If I say "God revealed himself to me" or "I have seen the common uncouscious" or "my neurotransmitters went berserk", it will be a controversial statement. dab 10:59, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Thanks! That was exactly the point I was making! - UtherSRG 12:17, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I think that wraps up this section. And we have a good working proposal below for a beginning. Tom - Talk 14:25, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

adjectival use

I have added a paragraph on adjectival use of human, as it's been on the todo list for some time. Please don't think I want to mess with the introduction, it can also be moved down to some paragraph, although it is customary to get this kind of word-use/dictionary stuff out of the way in the intro. Now, it seems we have a problem. I searched english literature for the plural humans. It seems that in correct english, at least up to the early 20th century, human was not a noun at all, and humans is simply incorrect. The earliest occurrence of humans I could find are in Isaac Asimov, in science fiction stories involving robots, and possibly earlier attestations in very informal use "Gosh, Molly, we humans are a puny lot" and similar. I suspect there is a split of american and british english here, but humans sounded "science-ficticious" to me all the time. This may be the "encyclopedia that slashdot built" and we should consider if we really want the article to begin with this "uneducated" plural form. I don't want to be overly pedantic, but I think that an encyclopedia article, besides factual accuracy and NPOV does also have a responsibility towards correct language. If you think it's ridiculous to avoid humans as it's widely used, I think we should at least note that it's a recent term. dab 12:08, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The use of an adjective as a noun is nothing new, although the specific usage data for each such instance vary. Consider: "I have many balls. Some of them are red balls. I like all of the reds." or: "There are many beings. Some of them are human beings. I am a human." - UtherSRG 12:21, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
true. but even in your example, "I like all of the reds" is questionable style, compared to the more proper "I like all the red ones" (as is your "I am a human" compared to "I am human"). And actual occurrences in non-SF/Fantasy-literature seems to be always in rather informal context. Can I say "There are a lot of beings. Human beings and angelic beings; I like the humans better (meaning, I like the human ones better)"? This would still require that we start the article with "Human beings" and only later take up the adjective in the plural. I don't know. "human, humans" seems to be quite established, by now, maybe it is sufficient to add a note that we don't take responsibility if someone wants to use the form in an english essay ;) dab 12:32, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
hey, here is an afterthought: if it is common usage in biology to say "humans", while the form is frowned upon in "humanistic" circles, we could use this for disambiguation, like they did for Hebrew vs. Hebrews. dab 12:55, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Hrm. Perhaps. - UtherSRG 13:08, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Taxobox isn't too detailed

Hmm, not very detailed, here's taxo info for H.sapiens (from a random Swissprot OC field :-P).

OC   Eukaryota; Metazoa; Chordata; Craniata; Vertebrata; Euteleostomi;
OC   Mammalia; Eutheria; Primates; Catarrhini; Hominidae; Homo.

Kim Bruning 12:33, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Yes? So? Your point is? And please sign your posts. - UtherSRG 12:17, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
The taxonomy data presented might be a little old. I'm not going to change it until I figure out who thought them up though, I'd like to know the reasons for going with this layout before I'd propose to change it or not. Kim Bruning 12:33, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Ah! Ok. Your comment could have gone in another direction, and I get annoyed at non-signings. Ok. I'm the guy who keeps the Taxoboxes up-to-date for Primates (or at least, I'm the guy who created Wikipedia:WikiProject Primates), and I'm a participant in the revisioning of taxoboxes in general. Our general rule of thumb is to put into the taxobox only the most pertinent info so that the box itself isn't so large that it overwhelms. So first, we start only with the basic taxon ranks (Kingdom, Phylum, etc.) and then add only those intermediary ranks that are needed to flesh out the description. In this case, adding the Homininae subfamily rank completed the listing to my satisfaction. I'm willing to add more if you think it's pertinent, but the listing as it stands can draw the reader in for a more indepth perusal. - UtherSRG 14:22, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Ah! So it's deliberate. Fair deal, won't propose changing it then. Hmm, though might be nice to have the full taxonomy stashed away someplace perhaps :-) . Kim Bruning 15:38, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)
The problem with that is the fluidity of various points between the major rankings. The full taxonomy would have to list all the "holes" and "train wrecks" for where we have either no good data or too many conflicting understandings of the data we do have. For an example, take a look at Hominoidea. - UtherSRG 16:07, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Ah - missed that bit. Thanks, UtherSRG. ClockworkTroll 02:31, 9 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Yuppers! :) - UtherSRG 02:37, 9 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Vote on the placement of the Taxobox

I propose that we define a "scratch" area for this voting--where a scratch area is an area that can be edited by anybody and can be deleted after we have tried it to minimize the residual clutter to this page. I further propose that part of this scratch area for this voting should be a rules section--a short statement of how we shall proceed with this "voting." Accordingly, I will set out an example scratch area to see what you think. And feel free to edit the unsigned paragraphs in the following "scratch area." ---Rednblu 15:23, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)


  • Note that options 1 and 2 imply that Homo sapiens remains a redirect to Human while options 3 and 4 lead to an independent article Homo sapiens.

dab 16:02, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)

  • I'm not sure we are ready to do any voting. And I am afraid voting may amount to a cheap and easy way to avoid producing a truly high quality article. I can only imagine the weak result we might have come up with if we had cut the Mormonism and Christianity NPOV effort short with a vote. We are all reasonable and intelligent people, and we should be able to produce something good with each other's input. I think we ought to take some time to address UtherSRG's remarks above before we fire off a vote. We are under no deadline, and a poor solution is hardly worth settling on. Tom 17:21, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I agree that the vote could have waited a little bit. But note that it's only about finally settling where to put the taxobox, we are not even deciding between different wordings. In my opinion, the taxobox is a red herring that was distracting us far too long from the actual challenges of this article, and I'll be content to accept any of the proposed solutions. If you like, we could extend the voting period to two weeks (or longer). I think it's not unlikely that the emerging picture of votes will help to loosen the deadlock, without forcing anyone to swallow a completely unacceptable version dab 17:28, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
We could discuss UtherSRG's remarks above while the vote continues. For example, I expect to change my votes as I learn more about the issues involved through what you and others bring to my attention. dab's suggestion above gives me a week to shift my votes around. ---Rednblu 17:34, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I like. And I agree and appreciate the comments of both of you. Very insightful. Tom 17:39, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Rules for voting on the placement of the Taxobox


Voting here shall be proportional voting, that is, everybody gets to vote "Support," "Object," or some other vote for each of the four options that dab suggested above, so everybody gets four votes. The winner of the voting shall be the option that has the Highest score of (TotalSupportVotes minus TotalObjectVotes), where TotalSupportVotes is the count of votes that mean support. These rules are guidelines. And these rules are within the "Scratch Area" which means that any participant can edit these rules freely in an attempt to reach a consensus understanding that is better Human page than any of us individually could write for Human.

Close of voting period

The voting period shall end at 24:00, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC).

Limits on editing

Within the "Scratch Area," you may change, insert, and delete freely edit any text that has not been signed. You may also freely edit any of your own votes.

What to sign

Within the "Scratch Area," please sign only your votes and your short statements of why you voted the way you did.

Long comments

Please put long comments in the section preceding this "Scratch Area."

Dismantling this "Scratch Area"

At an appointed time, the Begin and End containers of this "Scratch Area" shall be removed after a general group consensus, leaving only the

  1. final text as edited by everybody and the
  2. votes as edited and signed by the particular participant.

Alternatively, by group consensus, the entire area between the BEGIN and END containers can be deleted.

Option 1: keep it at the top of Human


  1. Support. This is the most likely reason a reader will be coming to this article, to find out about the physical human condition. - UtherSRG 15:45, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  2. Support. It'd be utterly WIERD not to. Kim Bruning 20:53, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  3. Support -- Sundar 03:27, Sep 29, 2004 (UTC)
  4. Support -- anywhere else makes it POV. user:duncharris (who can't find a tilde.)
  5. Support. Humans are part of the evolutionary chain, on top maybe, who are we to judge. But moving the taxobox shows a lack of objective self-reflection. -- Solitude 08:15, Sep 30, 2004 (UTC)
  6. Support. We should be consistent with all the articles on other animals. It's less neutral to somehow give an exception for humans. Yes, we are animals and yes, we are probably also now more than "animals" in some sense, but first we were animals before we were part of global civilization. Perhaps the conflict might resolved by splitting off another article for humanity, which covers the less purely biological issues. --Lexor|Talk 23:15, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  7. Support, for the reasons stated above. →Raul654 21:35, Oct 2, 2004 (UTC)
  8. Support, Humans are animals too, consistency of biology pages. This is a page about the human species. It discusses humans culturally, but so do other pages on animals which have cultures of their own. It's hard to say that this page is somehow not about the biological species, which is what moving the box would imply. Night Gyr 06:40, 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  9. Support. We should maintain consistency with the pages on other species. Factitious 06:09, Oct 8, 2004 (UTC)
  10. Support GuloGuloGulo 19:33, Oct 8, 2004 (UTC)
  11. Support Agree for reasons of consistency with other pages. Maastrictian 22:01, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)


  1. Object. Putting the Taxobox at the top of Human clutters the introduction and inappropriately focuses on the Biology of humans. ---Rednblu 15:28, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  2. weakly object, because the article title is Human and not Homo sapiens, it is not clear that it should focus on biology, and the taxobox is therefore not "naturally" what people will be looking for. Although I really like the friendly "Pioneer" picture next to the intro... dab 16:35, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  3. object. Ditto what dab said above. And since there is genuine dispute in the world about what humans are, putting the taxobox at the top is a violation of NPOV in that it makes one of the POVs official. Tom 17:26, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  4. object. The taxobox describes human biology etc., not humans comprehensively. It ignores their spirituality and for that matter their psychology. It is important to keep it though, and probably near the top. Wesley 16:30, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  5. object. Ditto everyone, especially Tom. JHCC 19:19, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  6. Object. Because the taxobox describes the biological classification of humans, it belongs in the Biology section, not in the introduction. —Mike 20:30, Oct 2, 2004 (UTC)


  1. Comment. – at the moment, it seems that the taxobox and the Table of Contents will have roughly the same size. This would offer an additional possibility, as it were a compromise between options 1) and 2), namely placing the taxobox side-by-side with the ToC. This would save space, and while not presenting the status of the box as on a par with the lead section, it would still place it very prominently. dab 12:01, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Option 2: move it to the biology section (at this point the first section after the intro)


  1. Support. For a balanced view, I think the Taxobox should appear on the Human page, but I think the Taxobox should not be at the top, because the Taxobox at the top makes the Biology part of human dominate the presentation too much. ---Rednblu 15:34, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  2. weak support, but only if the biology section stays as far towards the top of the article as possible. I would strongly object to moving the biology section downward. - UtherSRG 15:53, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  3. support, with reservations identical to UtherSRG's dab 16:09, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  4. support moving it to Biology section for balance; don't really care which order the sections come in, so leaving the biology section as the first one after the Intro is fine.Wesley 16:31, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  5. support The intro should be short, masterfully Ultra-NPOV, and it should present all the POV's that are expanded further down. I am not clear yet on how we might name the POV sections. Biology as a POV section name seems weird for some reason, but that secularist/biological/atheist section can be first. Tom 17:31, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  6. support this seems like an appropriate compromise position Sayeth 13:55, Sep 29, 2004 (UTC)
  7. support and keep the Biology section first, since this is what many, if not most, will be looking for. However, do keep the Pioneer image at the top. JHCC 19:26, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  8. Support. The taxobox describes the biological classification of humans and belongs in this section. —Mike 20:32, Oct 2, 2004 (UTC)
  9. Support. I more strongly agree with the first option, but this is acceptable to me as well. Maastrictian 22:02, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)


  1. Object Let's keep this consistent with other articles on species of animals. Factitious 06:14, Oct 8, 2004 (UTC)
  2. Strongly object, need to be consistent with other animals. Dunc_Harris| 12:53, 13 Oct 2004 (UTC)


  1. Seeing page structure, if we really REALLY can't get option 1, then this is the fallback 2nd choice. Kim Bruning 21:00, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  2. Ditto Kim. -- Sundar 11:12, Sep 29, 2004 (UTC)
  3. Altough I highly favour the first option, this option will do, so I vote neutral here. -- Solitude 08:18, Sep 30, 2004 (UTC)
  4. I think the best structure to minimize all the "ugly" whitespace after the introduction is to insert the toc before the first paragraph of the introduction, and float it (left or right) with the code as shown below. A <br clear=both> could be used after the introduction to keep the first section (Biology) below the toc. Along with moving the taxobox to the Biology section, the layout would be greatly improved. —Mike 20:43, Oct 2, 2004 (UTC)
<div style="float:left; margin-right:1em;">

Option 3: cut the biology section to a summary, move the full text to a separate Homo sapiens article, and move the taxobox there, too


  1. weakly support The summaries can indeed provide some "meat", and details are probably best covered in a comprehensive manner on separate pages. This would make it close to a disambiguation page, but with short summaries instead of just a list of links.


  1. Object. I think the Human page would be most useful if it provided summaries with some "meat," and I think the Taxobox is an important part of the "meat" that should be provided the reader in the Biology section of Human. ---Rednblu 15:44, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  2. Object, for the reasons given by Rednblu. Also, this breaks the Wikipedia:WikiProject Tree of Life standard where a species article should be named by the species' common name where possible and by the scientific name only when it is not possible. - UtherSRG 15:56, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  3. weakly object I think it defeats our NPOV goals to sequester the various POV's in their own closets. They need to stand in each other's light in the same article. It won't be easy, but it is the right thing. Tom 17:34, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  4. Object -- Sundar 03:33, Sep 29, 2004 (UTC)
  5. Object. This is a weak option, let's solve this issue in this article. -- Solitude 08:20, Sep 30, 2004 (UTC)
  6. object for all the reasons given above, as well as Sundar's comment below. JHCC 19:29, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  7. Strongly object. We do not have a separate page for cattle and Bos taurus. Dunc_Harris| 08:57, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  8. Object, see above. --Lexor|Talk 23:16, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  9. Object. For same reasoning on Wikipedia naming conventions as stated above by UtherSRG. —Mike 20:48, Oct 2, 2004 (UTC)
  10. Object. Agree with Duncharris Maastrictian 22:04, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)


  1. If at all this option is chosen, the current page should be nothing more than a disambiguation page, pointing to different POVs of Human. -- Sundar 03:33, Sep 29, 2004 (UTC)

Option 4: same as above (taxobox to Homo sapiens), with more emphasis on extinct human subspecies, and the taxobox from Homo (genus) in the biology section.


  1. support, already because homo *means* human, we can hardly classify them as non-human. dab 16:10, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC) – consensus seems to emerge for keeping the article in one piece. That's fine with me, I just leave my vote here for the record. dab 20:53, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)


  1. Object strongly. This option divorces the biological aspect as far as possible from the cultural aspects of humanity and equating our biology with primitive states of being. - UtherSRG 16:12, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  2. Object Weakens NPOV as Option 3 by sequestering the POVs from each other. Please remember that it is POVs we are dealing with, not merely 'aspects'. We need to discuss this further. Tom 17:37, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  3. Object strongly -- Sundar 03:35, Sep 29, 2004 (UTC)
  4. Object. Not a valid option. -- Solitude 08:22, Sep 30, 2004 (UTC)
  5. Object. I don't think this would be very good organization. —Mike 20:52, Oct 2, 2004 (UTC)
  6. Objecct. For the same reason as my objection to 3 above.


  1. Comment. I understand that a "comment" is a wasted vote in not affecting the count of votes for Option 4. In my opinion, the Homo (genus) page should be highlighted on the Human page if and only if there were substantial data on the "human" behavior of the extinct human subspecies. But I don't think there is enough behavioral data :) to justify highlighting the Homo (genus)--except as part of the Biology section. I will come back and change my votes later when I can look over the votes and reasons that everyone else makes and gives. ---Rednblu 15:55, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Poll outcome

  • Option 1 (taxobox on top) has 11 supporting and 6 objecting (score 5)
  • Option 2 (taxobox to bio section) has 9 support and 1 objecting (score 8)

(not counting 'weak' votes, the result is 6:7) While this is not an overwhelmingly clear result, it is certainly justified to move the taxobox to the bio section for the time being. Does it also warrant the removal of the NPOV-warning? dab 11:44, 13 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Duncharris, including your belated objection, the score is still 5:7. This result mirrors the long discussion of the intro, where we arrived at a careful balance of biological, spiritual and cultural terms. The taxobox is undisputed, but it is also undisputedly biological and disturbs this balance. For some reason, the option to create a Homo sapiens article entirely about human biology where the taxobox undisputedly would sit at the top didn't find favour. This poll does not exclude further discussion, and maybe we will find an even more satisfactory solution. But the provisional current version should reflect the current state of the discussion by taking into account the poll result. In my view, it is still not excluded to create a "main article" to the biology section. In this scenario, the taxobox would stay in section one of this article, and it would also appear at the top of the main article human biology or Homo Sapiens. dab 13:13, 13 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Fair enough. And I am removing NPOV dispute notice. The remaining bias problems in this article are buried deep and can be worked on without an ugly NPOV notice. Tom - Talk 17:48, 13 Oct 2004 (UTC)

A few proposed changes

Please look these over and let me know what you think. Additionally, I would suggest changing the headings of "Religion and Spirituality" to "Spirituality and Religion" and "Society" to "Culture", for a better parallel with the intro. Also, the section on "The Individual" needs to be either canned (as it is currently nothing more than a collection of links) or put in another section, either as a whole or in part.

the "individual" and "society" sections are so far only proposed ToC skeletons, giving links to some of the points that should be mentioned. I agree to "Spirituality and Religion" as this order reflects cultural evolution. I am not so sure about "Culture" for "Society": I chose "Society" consciously to include all that has to do with the interaction of one individual with other individuals. Note that "Society" does not only refer to the whole of one culture, but only to the company of a few, or even just two individuals (see Webster, c.f. "solemn troops and sweet societies", "her loved society" "he who so passionately seeks your charming society" etc.) dab 08:44, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
my thoughts about the main sections:
  • 1. biology: NPOV facts about humanity's place in the biosphere, deserves to come first
  • 2. spirituality: as it were complementary to section 1, because that's really what cannot be covered there, and provides the largest source of disagreement.
  • 3. individual: not really in opposition to (1), of course death, love, etc. could be covered biologically, but here we should address the subjective, cultured individual
  • 4. interaction of individuals: ditto, culture and society could be described as part of biology, but that's just unusual. "war" for example is not usually treated as a matter of biology (although it can be).
  • 5. humans on humans: we wrote an article on humans. here is a range of POVs form world history giving an idea how such an article could have turned out in other times and places.

dab 09:09, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Proposed introduction

[to replace current intro]

Pioneer image

Human beings are described in biological, spiritual, and cultural terms that vary according to point of view. Biologically, they are defined as Homo sapiens. Spiritually, they are considered to consist of, to possess, or to be inhabited by a spirit or soul. Culturally, they are the only species that uses language to communicate abstract ideas, produces technology beyond the level of simple hand-held implements, and develops complex cultures and societies.

Adult males are known as men and adult females as women. Human beings are commonly referred to collectively as man, mankind, humanity, or the human race and individually as humans, persons or people. Until the 20th century, human was only used adjectively ("pertaining to mankind"). Nominal use of human is short for human being, and the plural humans is not considered good style in traditional English grammar. As an adjective, human is used neutrally (as in human race) but human and especially humane may also emphasize positive aspects of human nature, and can be synonymous with benevolent (vs. inhuman; c. f. humanitarian).

Proposed to be moved to Biology

[place after "Biology" heading, before "Physical Characteristics"]

Homo sapiens
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Hominidae
Subfamily: Homininae
Genus: Homo
Species: sapiens
Binomial name
Homo sapiens
Linnaeus, 1758

Homo sapiens idaltu (extinct)
Homo sapiens sapiens

Biologically, humans are defined as hominids of the species Homo sapiens, of which the only extant subspecies is Homo sapiens sapiens. They are usually considered the only surviving species in the genus Homo. In biology, humans are usually studied as one species among others, without special distinction. The biological study of humans often extends to the psychological as well as the physical, but usually not to the spiritual or the religious.

A reference to homo sapiens needs to stay in the intro, of course. In boldface, even, homo sapiens, if Homo sapiens is to be redirected here. mention of either homo (genus) or hominids is also desirable, lest biology be under-represented... dab 09:27, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Proposed to be moved to Spirituality and Religion

[place after heading, before anything else]

Many human beings believe that there is more being human than simply the physical and biological aspects, that humans also have a spirit or a soul. In many religions, humans are typically seen as a special class of being with a transcendent purpose and destiny. In mythology, they are often contrasted with other humanoid, intelligent and cultured beings such as giants.

Thanks. JHCC 21:34, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

It's um, a nice try. I disagree with how you've split the taxobox (not good), but after that I agree with the proposal up to "human beings can be described in biological, spiritual and cultural terms", except that culture goes under biology for quite a bit. Um and males are known as men, and females are known as women, I don't disagree with that either, in fact the entire naming paragraph can stay I think. Sorry :-/ . Still, it's a good first try. :-) Kim Bruning 21:44, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Taxobox changes begin to address the POV problem. But the intro doesn't. I'll try changing it. Tom - Talk 23:33, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
You know, I gotta hand it to you, Red. I made a few little tweaks of subtle POVs and stood back and realized how hard you have worked. I think my tweaks are important, so try to keep the spirit of them, but attaboys to you. Tom - Talk 23:36, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
One other thing. I think we better stay out of trouble and keep religion and fantasy separate. If you want to mythology with religion, probably should call it religion, no? Tom - Talk 23:38, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
do you mean "treat mythology as religion"? Because I would strongly object. In my understanding, mythology is something very deep and serious, but it is not identical with religion. Religion implies adoration, and normally also a class of priests. If anything, religion could be included under mythology as a special "institutionalized" kind, but I understand that this could be taken as offensive. We therefore have to treat mythology, spirituality and religion as related but autonomous fields. dab 08:11, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • 'that vary according to point of view.' well-meaning but not too elegant... I'm a bit sick of the phrase "point of view", and it really should go without saying (it sounds like, there is disagreement among people who disagree)
  • "In many religions, humans are typically seen " – either the "many" or the "typically" needs to go...
  • I was very fond of mythology being mentioned in the intro, but I may need to let go of that :-| or can we say:
  • "Spiritually, they are described as endowed with a soul or spirit. In religion, they are defined by their relation to divine powers or beings. In mythology, they are contrasted with other humanoid races."
dab 09:50, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)


Yep. In my opinion, the conception looks good. We will tune the details. What do others think?

  • But the other taxoboxes such as chimpanzee have the picture with the taxobox. Now the picture is not a picture but a drawing, so maybe you reduce the drawing size and put a photograph with the taxobox--to look like the other taxoboxes. ---Rednblu 21:50, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  • Also remember that humans are the only beings that wear clothing. Tom - Talk 23:33, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
    • Yes. :) And from my new appreciation of how much of human adaptation truly resides in the technology with which people clad themselves to insulate themselves from natural selection, I suggest that the picture of H. sapiens at the top of the taxobox should be a man and a woman fully clothed. It would only be fitting.  :) ---Rednblu 01:45, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
there can be more than one picture (there's like a dozen pictures of the man on George W. Bush)! There could be a picture of clad humans next to the intro, and a picture of naked humans inside the box. (Rednblu, note that considering that 98% of human history we spent as hunters and gatherers, the picture should be of tribal hunters :) "Human" applies to all of this time, not just to our decade) The "body" section of "Individual" is intended to treat the "subjective" body, cloting, tattoos, etc. dab 08:11, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Take a look at the photos for chimpanzee, bonobo, and other animals for a good guide to how we might should picture a human. These animals are shown in casual, flattering poses. They are not displaying their male sex organs or female mammaries prominently. They are often not shown head to toe. As Red says, clothing is distinctive of humans. I was thinking of the following possibilities:

  • A discrete image of a single or pair of unclothed human (male or female) showing the head, face, and only a little more (think "The Thinker" vs. Michelangelo's David)
  • Images of an erect pair or family clothed in white draping robes reminiscent of ancient greece or the middle east.
  • A simple casual bust shot of Jimbo Wales.

Tom - Talk 14:37, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

  • Don't know where this should go, but: should Hinduism be classified as polytheistic? The Hinduism page seems to suggest otherwise.
while there is of course no space to go into details, I carefully tried to truthfully represent a complex subject in one sentence (and the link is there, of course, to provide more detail). Vedic religion is clearly polytheistic, and Hinduism grew out of it. Hinduism is not one particular religion, but at least as diverse as Islam+Christianity+Judaism+Manichaeism taken together. there were (are) mystic and monotheistic movements, but on the surface, Hinduism remains notoriously polytheistic. I had this example (and others) in mind when I said that Monotheism emerged independently in several cultures. The point about "no impermeable barriers in Hinduism" conveys that in Hinduism, "gods are just people, too", subject to some divine fate, maybe, and that really gives the whole thing a monotheistic flavour. But of course this cannot be elaborated here. dab 08:03, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Some Errors

Alright, Let's be less subtle in comments this time. Human beings are described in biological, spiritual, and cultural terms that vary according to point of view. Biologically, they are defined as Homo sapiens.

No. Named Homo sapiens.
defined. I might like to inlude neanderthal man. If you say, "no, just homo sapiens", that's a definition (with which I don't even fully agree). dab 10:04, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Spiritually, they are considered to consist of, to possess, or to be inhabited by a spirit or soul.

No. Some belief systems do not actually believe that.
if they don't believe in a spirit, then they don't belong under spiritually, and don't apply here. dab 10:04, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Culturally, they are the only species that uses language to communicate abstract ideas

No. But humans certainly seem to be able to communicate more abstract ideas than any other creatures, as far as we're aware at this point in time.

, produces technology beyond the level of simple hand-held implements,

Yes. I think this one passes muster.

and develops complex cultures and societies.

No. Other creatures can do either or both of these.

Kim Bruning 09:57, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

they are the only species who: *OPEN BRACKET* use language *AND* have technology *AND* develop complex culture *CLOSE BRACKET*. You are splitting hairs now, and for reasonable definitions of language and culture, all three points apply. dab 10:04, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Your open bracket to close bracket covers most primates at least, and I recall one or 2 marine mammals that might be able to pass muster for that definition, as well as several species of birds.
logical *AND*? meaning, all three must apply? pray, which bird would that be?
Bird? Parrot perhaps. Has been observed to use tools, is skilled with language, and has a form of culture. Kim Bruning 10:30, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
language presupposes syntax and the "arbitrary sign". a collection of warning and mating cries does not qualify. complex society includes social stratification (primates have that, I grant you), and probably a form of recording its history (genealogy, events). technology you granted yourself, since we demand complexity exceeding "simple hand held implements". And don't tell me that bird technology is beak-held rather than hand-held! At one point we had "humans have long wrestled with self-definition" in the intro. I liked it, for obvious reasons. dab 10:37, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
de-indenting below

It turns out to be really hard to define what's really special about humans as compared to other species. The things mentioned above aren't it. Usually the way to make such a statement NPOV is simply to leave out the word "only", as in:
"Humans are a species that uses language, has technology, and develops complex culture", basically repeating a part of what's in the taxobox in english. (This is unsurprising, because taxonomists have had a century or so to really get all the bugs out of their description ;-) Kim Bruning 10:15, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

dab said:

>language presupposes syntax and the "arbitrary sign". 

Parrots can handle that, and can even learn some human language to a limited degree (though that's harder for them, since it's not their natural mode of communiation), that's why I named them specifically.

as can computers, to some extent. neither parrots nor computers would, without human intervention. So maybe "the only species with a wish to induce imitation of its own communicative system in other species"?
Parrots are capable of some amount of (vocalised) language on their own, else the capability wouldn't be around for us humans to pick up on.
>a collection of warning and mating cries does not qualify.

Oh I don't know, Homo sapiens is known to have a rather large and sophisticated collection of warning and mating cries, which are usually culturally defined. The same goes for many bird species, by the way, though they are often as or more creative than humans in that limited specialism. :-)

come on. I didn't say we don't have mating cries. I said this is not sufficient for language. We also fart, and that doesn't prove that we don't speak.
It's certainly considered sufficient for culture, but my point was more that perhaps you were under-estimating the capabilities of non-human organisms.
it's ok, I'm talking to my dog, too.
> complex society includes 
>social stratification (primates have that, I grant you), 

According to that definition, some folks practicing certain forms of communism or practicing anarchy probably wouldn't be considered human, right?

even the most perfect communist societies would still have village idiots, and beaus that get all the girls. Communism isn't about removing human social interaction, but about preventing accumulation of capital in the hands of individuals.
That's genetic variation, which even bacteria aren't too bad at. :-)
primates have that, I grant you. society is vital, but not definitory of humanity.
>and probably a form of recording its history (genealogy, events). 

Does oral history count? Else the australian aboriginals aren't human either. (Granted, people might have thought they were subhuman for the longest time, but that's not really fair, is it?)

very much. it's the main vehicle, see language.
In that case, many different species have it.
I'm not sure I know any non-human individuals that can form an idea of events that happened before its birth. anyway, that loops into the language question.
>technology you granted yourself, 

Simple hand held implements, either found or self fashioned count as technology. (Think stone-age.)

>since we demand complexity exceeding "simple hand held implements"

You didn't mention that in the parent statement above.

look, i was representing the logical structure of the sentence: logical *AND*s, i.e. demanding the combination of the points mentioned. I didn't repeat the verbatim clauses because I credited you with enough common sense to get the point.
Fair deal, but I was cutting you some slack :-). Now you're excluding neanderthals, early homo sapiens, as well as several hunter gatherer cultures that still exist today.
> And don't tell me that bird technology is beak-held rather than hand-held!

More commonly foot held, I think, though some beak held implements do exist. (like when you snip a thorn off a bush (modification of substrate to make a tool), and use that to extend the reach of your beak)

> At one point we had "humans have long wrestled with self-definition" in the 
  intro. I liked it, for obvious reasons. 

It's certainly more NPOV.

Kim Bruning 10:58, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

+ additional replies Kim Bruning 14:26, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
we can remove the "is the only species", for all I care. I just don't like the tongue-in-cheek arguments bogging down an already complicated issue.
I apologise, I'm not deliberately being tongue in cheek. I'm trying to point out that the issue is yet more complicated than we can ever imagine, and that it's about time we head for high ground. :-)
I am well aware of the fact.
You may say it's an empty statement to define humans by language, if earlier we defined language to be precisely what is observed in humans. I say, so what!
It is clear that language, culture and spirituality are the major defining factors of humanity,
Very vague. Can't we stick with 2 arms and 2 legs and walks upright? That covers a lot of ground a lot faster. (no pun intended.)
not if we want to define ourselves in opposition with other primates.
if we want to contrast humanity with the set of remaining species, as we should, for the purpose of this article.
Not good spots to contrast.
We could find other sets of defining features for other species, so the mere fact that we come up with such a set is not POV or chauvinistic.
Original research, not encyclopedic.
hello? what about search for research? we are not the first people asking themselves that. digging into a library, we could come up with tons of references to these points.
And we certainly can't address such points in the lead section of this article.
Also, humanity is the major threat to the biosphere today, having reached a global distribution otherwise probably reserved to bacteria. It would seem a bit naive to claim that, at least today, we are "just another species" (while we may have been that in our early days, from a "biosphere" perspective)
"Humanity is a very common species"? Not really actually. Though our activity is somewhat visible from space (earth, night side). We're not beginning to compete with most bacteria species yet, so no worries there.
"*uncommon": as I say, we are the only mammals competing with bacteria in these areas. not that any of these insights are any use for our 300 byte lead paragraph, though.
dab 11:26, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Kim Bruning 14:26, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
dab 15:11, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

It is not so hard to say "humans are the only". Culturally:

  • Only humans make fire
  • Only humans put on clothing
  • Only humans (are known to) tell stories Tom - Talk 14:52, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
we should go back up to "some errors" for these questions. It is difficult to say something that includes all humans, but only humans. Some humans do not put on clothing, for example. We should ask ourselves, is it worth the bother to say something of the kind at all, in such compressed form. dab 14:58, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Perhaps, but these statements are completely true, factual, brief, and important to many. Tom - Talk 15:03, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
are you suggesting we include references to fire, clothing and storytelling in the lead? No problem, I have no objection to that, other than that it will slightly inflate it. dab 15:18, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I don't know. The intro needs to be short. I am just in doubt about all Kim's objections. Kim, why don't you just do what I did and briefly and concisely state how you would explain from the cultural point of view what humans are. All this heel digging and naysaying of dab's best efforts doesn't come across as very sincere, and I just wanted to throw some reality into the exchange. It is as plain as the nose on everybody's face, and you ought to be helping dab explain it rather than putting hedges in front of him at every turn. Tom - Talk 15:54, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

proposed introduction, 2nd iteration

  • let's divorce this from questions of taxobox and images. Here is a revised suggestion of the introductory paragraph above. It is understood that all points cut out from the current version will be moved to the corresponding sections. dab 12:03, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Human beings are described variously in biological, spiritual, and cultural terms. Biologically, they are classified as Homo sapiens, the only extant species of the genus Homo. Spiritually, they are described as endowed with spirit or soul; in religion, they are additionally defined by their relation to divine powers or beings. Culturally, they are defined by their use of language, their organisation in complex societies and their development of technology.
Adult males are known as men and adult females as women. Human beings are commonly referred to individually as persons or people and collectively as man, mankind, humanity, or the human race, while humans is used both for the collective and for individuals. In mythology, humans are contrasted with other humanoid races. Until the 20th century, human was only used adjectively ("pertaining to mankind"). Nominal use of human (plural humans) is short for human being, and is not considered good style in traditional English grammar. As an adjective, human is used neutrally (as in human race) but human and especially humane may also emphasize positive aspects of human nature, and can be synonymous with benevolent (vs. inhuman; c. f. humanitarian).

  • I realized that "culturally, they are the only species that..." is a relapse into biological terms. culturally, we are defined by culture, regardless of other species. Culture was linked twice, and for this reason I have collapsed "complex cultures and societies".
  • I re-inserted religion and genus homo. It's still reasonably short. That "homo sapiens sapiens" is the only extant subspecies can well be delegated to the bio section, imho.
  • "variously described in ...terms" is more elegant that "described in ...terms that vary according to point of view" to my ear while meaning exacly the same.
  • I snuck mythology back in, but this time under word-use, because the use of "humans" for "human race" really seems to have arisen in such contexts.
  • The "adjectival use" part seems annoyingly long, now, but I can think of no other place to stuff it...

dab 12:10, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Bah... I had a bunch of edits to the previous work that I futzed up. Good job all! Dab, I've unlink and bolded H. sapiens in your intro as per convention. - UtherSRG
Hrm... to avoid the "named" vs. "defined" debate, how about "classified". - UtherSRG 13:08, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
classified is in the 'named' dept, but it sounds ok. changed to that effect. dab 13:40, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Thank you, dab, very nice. I especially like your "all points cut moved to corresponding sections" caveat: it makes clear that the info will be covered, while still making a clear, concise introduction. I have a few suggestions:
  • Change "describe themselves variously in B, S, and C terms" to "define themselves in various B, S, and/or C terms." The first implies that people pick one description each; the second implies that any person can define themself with any or all of the terms.
"define" for "describe" is fine with me. "describe" seems more general (including, but not restricted to definitions). I'd like to avoid "and/or" for stylistic reasons. "variously in B, S and C terms" to my understanding means that various definitions make use of varying combinations of these. English "and" is not logical AND requiring that all need be present in every description. While English "or" is logical XOR, suggesting that you have to take your pick of one and only one of B, S, or C.
Logical point taken. How about "define themselves in various B, S, and C terms"? JHCC 16:15, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • Change "Spiritually, they are described as endowed, etc." to "Spiritually, many define them as endowed, etc." I know that this looks like a violation of unattributed POV, but it eliminates the implication that all people so define them. (We should also add a note in the "Spirituality and Religion" section to the effect that many do not believe humans to be endowed with souls, etc.)
Well, this hinges on the understanding of the B,S,C sentence above. the "Spiritually," is intended to mean "in descriptions/definitions making use of S", while I take it as expressed above that not all descriptions will be applicable here. Your suggestion would seem to imply that there are spiritual descriptions that do not include the concept of spirit, which is of course nonsense.
Not at all. To say that something does not posess a spirit is as much a spiritual description as to say that it does. Both are statements about that thing's spiritual state. JHCC 16:15, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • I would still keep genus Homo in the Biology section, but this is a minor point.
yeah. I just thought, if we have spirit, soul, god and religion in "S", the "B" section could well be slightly longer than "Homo Sapiens." Question of balance between the B,S and C parts.
Balance is (unfortunately) not just equal length of paragraphs. "S, S, G, & R" differentiate between different aspects of "S"; there are no other existing species of genus Homo from which we need to differentiate. Now, if you want to add something about "classified as mammals of the species "Homo Sapiens" (or whatever; I'm not a biologist), that's a different matter, because you are giving more information. JHCC 16:15, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • The "In mythology" sentence should be kept with spirituality and religion in the first paragraph or, more appropriately, moved to the Religion section lower down the page. (I would note here that not all mythologies include other humanoid races, so the unqualified statement as it stands needs some work.)
agreed. How about: Spiritually, they are described as endowed with spirit or soul; in religion, they are additionally defined by their relation to divine powers or beings, while in mythology, they are also often contrasted with other humanoid races.? Also spares us the "humans" crux in this sentence. I was eager to keep it in the intro for a chance to link to humanoid as a related concept, as I used the word-usage part for a chance to link to human nature and humanitarian. While we can't afford long-winded introduction of these, here, it's nice to have them highlighted as related topics.
This is good, with the "many define them" caveat as above. JHCC 16:15, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
That said, good work. Let's do it. JHCC 14:18, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
do let's! dab 14:46, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

sorry, here's another wee change: Since we are not claiming "they are the only species", the point that technology exceeds the level of simple hand-held implements sounds a bit silly, so I removed that. Also, I say they "develop" technology , but they are "organized in" societies, because as we have established above, social behaviour is largely inherited from a pre-human state, while technology is wholly acquired (not instinctive). If you don't believe this, it doesn't matter, because this reasoning only influences the listing order of language, society and technology. I inverted "collective" and "individual" use, since thus we are progressing from "man and woman" across "people" to humanity (rather than going from man&woman to humanity and then back to people). That's just for aesthetic considerations. humans however was claimed to be used for individuals, while in the article it is also used to refer to the collective, making the article self-contradictory. I think we have to treat "humans" as a special case that can refer to both humanity as a whole and to a group of individuals. Sorry for the belated change, I'll leave the paragraph alone, now. dab 13:49, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

The version above had an important distinction in the first sentence. This version slips back to part of the existing problem. To preserve NPOV, it needs to say "Humans are described" not "Humans describe themselves". This is a nuance, but important. Tom - Talk 14:52, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

sorry, I didn't realize your opinion on this. For me, the earlier version was a step back, because "are described as" is unattributed POV that is to be avoided. As soon as you ask, "by whom are they described in this way?" the answer will inevitably be "by human beings", which is just what we say here. dab 14:58, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
wait a second, did you just put "are described" back into the proposal? I think this should go in a further iteration, to make sure we're all arguing about the same proposal (I know I made some last minute changes to my proposal, sorry, I thought I could get away with it before anyone had looked at it) dab 15:02, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I agree with Tom. I don't think we have to worry about unattributed POV if, as dab points out, there is an implied attribution to human beings. On the other hand, saying "humans describe themselves" is tantamount to saying "ALL humans describe themselves," which we need to avoid. It should be clear from the discussion that, for example, not all humans describe themselves as having a soul. Some do, others do not. Those who do describe themselves as having a soul would most likely describe others as having souls as well, regardless of whether or not those others believe themselves to have souls. JHCC 16:15, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
nonono, the whole thing is supposed to mean: Humans are described (by themselves or not) variously in terms of B,S,C, ie. some descriptions are B, some S, some C and others in any combinatorily possible combination of the three. Ok. The B part is this. The S part is this. The C part is that. — in my understanding this makes clear that only some explanations contain elements of either B, S or C. Therefore, the paragraph does not imply at all that all descriptions resort, for example, to type S terminology. as to the "are described" vs. "describe themselves", the passiv e is only useful if you want to imply that some humans don't have a description of themselves at all, which I consider a possible but rather pathological case.... ;) dab 16:37, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

proposed introduction, 3rd iteration

  • As dab said earlier, let's divorce this from questions of taxobox and images. Here is a revised suggestion of a revised suggestion of the introductory paragraph above. It is understood that all points cut out from the current version will be moved to the corresponding sections. JHCC 17:25, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Human beings are defined variously in biological, spiritual, and cultural terms. Biologically, they are classified as Homo sapiens (Latin for thinking man), a primate species of mammal with highly developed brain function. Spiritually, many describe them as endowed with spirit or soul; in religion, they are additionally defined by their relation to divine powers or beings, while in mythology, they are also often contrasted with other humanoid races. Culturally, they are defined by their use of language, their organisation in complex societies and their development of technology.
Juvenile males are known as boys and adult males as men. Juvenile females are known as girls and adult females as women. Human beings are commonly referred to individually as persons or people and collectively as man, mankind, humanity, or the human race, while humans is used both for the collective and for individuals. Until the 20th century, human was only used adjectively ("pertaining to mankind"). Nominal use of human (plural humans) is short for human being, and is not considered good style in traditional English grammar. As an adjective, human is used neutrally (as in human race) but human and especially humane may also emphasize positive aspects of human nature, and can be synonymous with benevolent (vs. inhuman; c. f. humanitarian).

We can add a caveat to the "Spirituality and Religion" section lower on the page to the effect that many do not believe humans to be endowed with souls, etc. I hope that this addresses the balance issue, both in that section and in the intro. JHCC 17:25, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

while the "boys and girls" part may go a bit far into "wictionary" territory, this version would have my full support. If the objections I responded to above still stand, I would suggest the addition:

dab 17:35, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Good addition; let's also include Rednblu's : <<Culturally, they are defined by their institutional development of language, societies, and technology>> as well. JHCC 18:31, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

What is unique about human culture is its iterative improvement

Again, let me remind us all that we can all alter the above heading to more accurately describe our conclusions for improving the lead section of Human. That is, as always, my headings are hypotheses for testing, and certainly we should all change the working hypothesis to fit what we find.  :)))

<<Culturally, they are defined by their use of language, their organisation in complex societies and their development of technology.>>

I am looking for a little more representation of what it appears to me that Kim and Uther are "seeing." I am avoiding using the term "NPOV"--because it appears to me that in this discussion--including my own temptations to use the term "NPOV"--that term "NPOV" is used by us merely as a policy bludgeon to force some particular biased point-of-view into place on Human.

Hence, I will try a different "point-of-view" to express why I am looking for a little more representation of what it appears to me that Kim, Uther, and others are "seeing" when they insist that the only "neutral" way to start the Human page is to start with the taxonomy box.

We, all of us contributing to this discussion, have lots of "observations"--points-of-view made by scholars, teacher, and visionaries over the last 10,000 years. These "observations" include religion, atheism, taxonomy, and cultural evolution. Our job here is to construct a first order approximation to represent that whole host of "observations."

Accordingly, I am assuming that Kim, Uther, and others promoting the taxonomy box to the top of the Human page are "seeing" that at least the taxonomy box is clear while the above sentence, "Culturally, they are defined by . . . " is vague, undefined, controversial, and unrepresentative of a whole host of "observations"--points-of-view.

So I say to myself, what wording of the sentence "Culturally, they are defined by . . . " would be a first order approximation to the whole set of "observations," including the criticisms of Kim, Uther, and others that Support the taxonomy box being at the top of the Human page? My attempt at such a first order approximation is the following proposal--a proposal for a mere next-best stage in the development:

<<Culturally, they are defined by their institutional development of language, societies, and technology.>>

As an aside, it is my opinion that all of us here are experiencing important raw data for improving the whole set of NPOV documentation on Wikipedia--to make that documentation actually work as intended. We might, for example, have an on-going collection at [[/Raw data for improving Wikipedia NPOV]] of our "observations" as we work through the rest of the Human page. Putting all of that meta-discussion in a subpage would minimize the clutter to this Talk page.

It seems to me that the subject matter of the Human page goes to the very heart, challenge, urgency, and usefulness of a Neutral-point-of-view in a way that no other Wikipedia page could--because here we have to look deeply at ourselves. Hence, we have a unique opportunity for improving, not only one page, but the whole Wikipedia process. ---Rednblu 17:33, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Yummy. Your insight on the process and "where I'm sitting" is well put. Your "next best" is indeed far superior to the previous revisions - it raises simple terms like "language" and "society" to a level that can not be argued that any other species has. - UtherSRG 18:10, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Amen. Extremely well put. JHCC 18:31, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Ditto. Tom - Talk 19:39, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Your observations concerning the process are very well put. But I'm afraid I don't get at all what you are proposing here: we can all alter the above heading to more accurately describe our conclusions for improving the lead section of Human. Sorry, it simply doesn't parse for me... Nor do I understand the meaning of Culturally, they are defined by their institutional development of societies – especially if you insert the linked definition of "institution", that would mean "Culturally, they are defined by their development of societies by tenet, maxim, or organization created by a society of humans." honestly, that doesn't make an ounce of sense to me. I'll ponder again what you might mean & I'll be back tomorrow... (*confused*) dab 19:30, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I think you're relying too heavily on Wikipedia's definition of institution. (Maybe that should be edited to read "by a group of humans.") [Note: I have done so. It now links to Group (sociology), which is much better. JHCC 20:18, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)] I think Rednblu is saying that human language and culture are developed in and perpetuated by institutions (be that organized groups or cultural paradigms) in a way that is not true of non-humans. In technology, for example, I do not believe that any other animal (for lack of a better term) manufactures tools for others to use. An ape may steal or borrow a convenient twig for termite fishing, but there is no termite fishing stick industry. Humpback whales may communicate with whistles and bubbles, but there is no Whalepedia. Even in the most "primative" hunter-gatherer societies, there is a richness of song, myth, hunting lore and technology, dance, hut-building convention, survival knowledge, and kinship structure that is both passed from individual to individual and from generation to generation and has no equivalent (even if it does have a parallel) in non-human society. JHCC 20:09, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Poetry that is! I can feel it. ---Rednblu 20:16, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)


Yes. I see the problem. I'm not sure what the solution is. Maybe we can work toward a solution. Perhaps it would be clearer to the reader if we link on the noun rather than on the adjective--since the page defines the noun. Do you think the following is any better?

<<Culturally, they are defined by the development of their institutions, such as language, societies, and technology.>>

In light of what we will learn in doing the Human page, we might also want to build up the stub of the institution page to a real page. But I think that stub is a very good start--particluarly the second paragraph

Institutions can be both real and abstract. Examples of real institutions include organizations like the United Nations. Examples of abstract institutions include the institution of marriage. ---Rednblu 20:02, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I would keep "Institutional," as that means both development of an institution and development in an institution. Also, you're changing the mode of definition from "language, society, and technology" to the development of those things, which is debatable. I will edit Institution to remove the circular definition. JHCC 20:09, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I'm afraid I'll have to remove institutional for the moment. It was really snuck in without warning, and we didn't go through all these iterations for that. I think I understand slightly better what it is supposed to mean here, but I think it will need an additional sentence to make it clear. Language, society and technology are not on a par. Historically, we had society first (inherited from earlier primates, with increasing complexity), language later, and technology even later. We could conceivably add a sentence about "complexity and institution", but simply squeezing in the word really doesn't make good sense. dab 07:31, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Edited Intro

I have incorporated into the article the changes we have discussed so far, leaving the taxobox in place pending the results of voting. It is now possible to see the changes in the context of the rest of the article. I think it looks nice, but then I think that rain is wet, so who am I to judge?

Kim, I think, mentioned biological considerations in the discussion of culture. At some future point, it would be good to have some bits that point out the overlap between the defining areas: e.g., the biological aspects of culture or the cultural aspects of religion.

Thank you all. JHCC 19:07, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Very good. The intro is fine from where I sit. I think that leaves the following for full Neutrality resolution: Tom - Talk 19:43, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

  • Taxobox position Tom - Talk
  • Sections and headings that follow through on the good lead of the intro. Tom - Talk
  • ...and images (how many? what kind?). let's wait for the poll to close before we attack this, though...
  • "Spiritually, many describe them as endowed with spirit or soul" – I have an issue with this. Not because of bias: because of syntax. The sentence, as it stands, is a tautology. It should either be "Many describe them as endowed with spirit or soul", or "Spiritually, they are described as endowed with spirit or soul". The present version implies that there are spiritual descriptions that do not include soul or spirit. It also breaks the B-S-C symmetry: We might as well write "Biologically, many classify them as H. sapiens". This is not a terribly important point (and I agreed to this version above), but it may be seen as an implicit dismissal of "S" (it's the only category that gets a "many think that" qualifier!) dab 07:23, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • "institutional development of language, societies, and technology": maybe I simply don't get this, but this was not in your original proposal, and I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. "institutional development of technology" may make sense, though I am not sure. "institutional development of language" would apply to language centers at universities or similar: that's certainly not what we want to say here. Language predates institutions. And institutional development of society" is a sentence like an Escher painting. Any institution presupposes society. dab 07:23, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Your 3rd iteration had: "Culturally, they are defined by their use of language, their organisation in complex societies and their development of technology." – if you want to go from that to "Culturally, they are defined by their institutional development of language, societies, and technology.", let's discuss this as "4th iteration" first (I will object, see above). I've changed the sentence back to the "3rd" one, sorry ("use", "organisation" and "development" were carefully chosen to reflect differences in the three items). dab 07:38, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)
No problem with (for now) removing "institutional"; yes, we definitely should discuss this. I believe that we should include it (or something like it) to highlight what it is that distinguishes humans from other species, namely, that whatever the peculiarities of our biology (many, if not most, of which we share with other species), we are distinguished by our formation of institutions, and societies, cultures and by the way that our behaviour is conditioned by these instituions.
For example, it is common today to hear people refer to "the institution of marriage." The human institution of marriage has a variety across the species that is unparalled in any other species. There are three possibilites for mating behaviour in all animals: short term (only the mating act itself, possibly extending through the raising of the young from that mating), long term (same as short term, but repeated a number of times; partners may leave and take up with other partners), and mating for life (usually monogamous; if one partner dies, the other will not take a new partner). With the possible exception of the last, either polygamy or monogamy is possible with any of these; that is, one partner may be engaging in mating with either one or more than one partner at the same time. Usually, a species will exhibit one of these behaviours; exceptions are possible, but unusual. Humans, to my knowledge, are the only species that exhibit all three types on a regular basis, and (here's the kicker) which behaviour they exhibit is largely influenced by social and cultural conditioning. If the cultural paradigm is monogamous mating for life, there will be tremendous social pressure to form such a pair bond and maintain it. This pressure will extend to codes of dress, behaviour for married and unmarried men and women, economic advantages for being married, and economic disadvantages for divorce.
The challenge that we face with this article is that there is no one thing that any of us can point to and say "This is the one thing that distinguishes humans from all others." There are many things: the specifics of our biology, our sophisticated use of tools, our development and variety of language, our holding of possessions and the inheritance and trade that that can involve, our use of writing, our grasp of symbolism, our ability to conceive of a spiritual dimension to our existence, our ability to make long-term plans (sometimes even for centuries), and so on. But above all, humans are distinguished by their ability to form groups for mutual support and assistance in those activities, and that even exist for reasons other than the four "F"s: Fighting, Feeding, Fleeing, and Reproduction. We are also practically unique in our ability to adapt and move from one group to another. In the wild, if an animal is cast out of the group, it's pretty much toast. In human society, if there is another group to join, even if it is only a group of outcasts, humans have remarkable ability to change their behaviour and group loyalty in order to fit in.
It may very well be that this ability is biologically determined, it may be that it is only a cultural construct. Regardless, it is central to any discussion of what it is to be human, and we need to consider how to include it in this article. Perhaps we can include it in the culture and religion sections; personally, I think that it needs to be mentioned somewhere in the intro.
These are just a few thoughts that occurred to me over the weekend. Let me know what you all think. JHCC 14:34, 4 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Fresh, pertinent, insightful. Tom - Talk 15:46, 4 Oct 2004 (UTC)
What you say is certainly both true and important. I was not objecting to the referral to "institutions" in the intro. But I think, for clarity, it should be in a new sentence following the "society, language, technology" bit. Especially since institutions presuppose society, it will be the right place to mention this briefly. The bulk of what you say clearly belongs under the "Society" section, which is still a stub, and which you are very welcome to expand. dab 08:57, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Adding another sentence as you suggest is a good idea; I'll see what I can come up with. Thanks. JHCC 14:46, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

let's make this the "4th iteration". Somebody inserted "and a people refers to a selective group." (while earlier "people" was given as synonym to "persons"): it's true that "people" may mean both "bunch of persons" and "nation". But only the former use is of interest here, as we are not dealing with the semantics of "people", only with the semantics of "human". it goes too far to say "humans may be called people. ah, but people may also mean a special related group of humans". Before we know it, we will define ethnicity, race, nation, state, democracy and what not in the "Human" lead section.... So I suggest we go back to saying "individually, human beings are also referred to as persons or people": the selective group would not be referred to as "people" but as "a people". dab 16:12, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

proposed introduction, 4th iteration

Human beings are defined variously in biological, spiritual or cultural terms, or in combinations thereof. Biologically, they are classified as Homo sapiens (Latin for knowing man), a primate species of mammal with a highly developed brain. Spiritually, they can by defined using various concepts of spirit or soul; in religion, they are additionally defined by their relation to divine powers or beings, while in mythology, they are also often contrasted with other humanoid races. Culturally, they are defined by their use of language, their organisation in complex societies and their development of technology, and especially by their ability to form groups and institutions for mutual support and assistance in their activities.
Juvenile males are known as boys and adult males as men. Juvenile females are known as girls and adult females as women. Human beings are commonly referred to individually as persons or people and collectively as man, mankind, humanity, or the human race, while humans is used both for the collective and for individuals. Until the 20th century, human was only used adjectivally ("pertaining to mankind"). Nominal use of human (plural humans) is short for human being, and is not considered good style in traditional English grammar. As an adjective, human is used neutrally (as in human race) but human and especially humane may also emphasize positive aspects of human nature, and can be synonymous with benevolent (vs. inhuman; c. f. humanitarian).

only minor changes now, comments:

I think the intro is quite good as it stands now (well, we did ponder it long enough:) — I would like to propose adding "Anthropology is the scientific study of humankind": I just realized that we don't link prominently to the good Anthropology article, which is really quite central to all this. It's all quite condensed now, but we'd need to cut another few hundred characters to reach the 32k threshold (which we'll certainly break again if we add a few more images). Also, maybe it's ok to remain slightly in excess of 32k in this case, even if that means it won't make it to featured article. dab 09:29, 9 Oct 2004 (UTC)

  • "thinking" is not a good translation of "sapiens" (that would be "homo cogitans"), c.f. Lewis & Short: to have sense or discernment; to be sensible, discreet, prudent, wise / sensible, shrewd, knowing, discreet, or judicious. "shrewd man" or "judicious man" sounds silly, of course. We have "sapient", and maybe "sapient man" is best. But to sound less egg-headed, we can also say "wise man" or "knowing man". I prefer "knowing" because it renders the participle, while "wise" is closer to "homo sagus".
  • because we now add ", or in combinations thereof", it is now better to say "biological, spiritual or cultural terms", because the combinations formerly admitted by the "and" are now separately expressed.
  • correct me, but in my understanding, a highly developed brain is indistinguishable from a highly developed brain function, just as a highly developed liver is the same as a highly developed liver function (if it didn't function well, it would not be highly developed).
  • As I have said before, the "many define them" under "spiritually" could be seen as bias against the "spiritualist" view. I would keep "B-S-C" symmetry as far as possible, and we don't say "biologically, many define them..." after all. The "any combinations" already makes clear that not all definitions make use of "S".\
Agree. "Spiritually, they are defined using various concepts of spirit or soul, augmented in religion by their relation to divine powers or beings and often in mythology by contrast with other humanoid races. Tom - Talk 14:59, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • I like JHCC's paragraph above a lot, much of it should be included in the article as it is, including But above all, humans are distinguished by their ability to form groups for mutual support and assistance in those activities. I tried to mould this into the proposed "institution" sentence, but this part could maybe be improved still...
  • why did we drop the Homo (genus) from the intro again? I am now at least linking to it from the part of the zoological name that refers to it.
  • I didn't touch the second paragraph.

dab 11:45, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Very good. "Can be defined using various concepts" is excellent. We dropped the "Homo (genus)" as nonessential to the introduction and moved it to the biology section, where it is more relevant. Adding the link in "homo sapiens" is a good replacement. JHCC 13:44, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)
just that saying "defined" four times in a short paragraph is not the apex of stylistic accomplishment. Maybe we should go back to "Can be described using various concepts..."? dab 14:01, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Agree. ("This is slightly different from above.) "Spiritually, they are defined using various concepts of spirit or soul that in religion are understood in relation to divine powers or beings and often in mythology by contrast with other humanoid races. Tom - Talk 14:59, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Agree to the first part: "Spiritually, they are defined using various concepts of spirit or soul, that in religion are understood in relation to divine powers or beings." (the mythology part doesn't use "defined" already. dab 16:57, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)
This is fine, but we need to keep "can be defined" lest we open ourselves up to the charge of excluding the non-spiritual POV. I've edited the article, which gives the following verbs in the first paragraph: "defined," "classified," "defined," "understood," "contrasted," "defined." This may not be the stylistic apex, but it's at least an improvement. JHCC 17:25, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)
JHCC, this is an infinite loop. We are avoiding excluding the non-spiritual POV in the sentence that gives the spiritual POV????? And we are going to avoid excluding the spiritual POV in the sentence that gives the biological POV???? Please explain. Tom - Talk 16:19, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I agree with Tom here. I'm not entirely sure, do we have a misunderstanding here? This sentence is declared as dedicated to the spiritual POV ("Spiritually...."). There is nothing wrong with giving the spiritual POV after we said "and now for the spiritual POV". We do just the same with the biological and cultural ones. dab 21:16, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)
If I understand you correctly, you are saying "'Spiritually, they are defined...' is to be read 'This is the definition used when spiritual definitions are used.'" This is fine, and I don't have a problem with that. The problem is that "Spiritually, they are defined..." can equally well mean "Humans are always defined..." which, as we have seen, has POV problems. Saying "Spiritually, they are defined..." can be read as excluding the POV that there is no spirit or soul.
The answer to your question, Tom, is yes, we already do avoid excluding the spiritual in the biological section. Saying "Biologically, they are classified as homo sapiens" does not exclude the possiblility of a spiritual or cultural definition, just as saying "JHCC is classified as a human male slightly over six feet tall" does not exclude the possiblity of additionally describing my moral views or my music preferences. What if we were to replace all these ambiguous adverbs with prepositional phrases:
  • Instead of "Biologically, they are classified...", "In biology, they are classified..."
  • Instead of "Spiritually, they are defined...", "In spirituality, they are described..."
  • Instead of "Culturally, they are defined...", "In cultural anthropology, they are described..."
This makes it more clear that these descriptions and classifications are specific to their particular field and not to the exclusion of each other. It also links to the Anthro article, as dab recommends below. JHCC 14:10, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I admit, I don't see the ambiguity of the adverbs. If they are, we would need to repeat "terms", as in "in spiritual terms, ....". The point is: a biological definition is clearly a part of biology. But a spiritual definition is a definition in spiritual terms, which doesn't make it part of spirituality: spirituality just does not deal with definitions. You express awareness of this problem by saying "in cultural anthropology" rather than "in culture", while definitions are certainly even less a matter of spirituality than of culture. "in X-al terms" is the watertight way of putting it, but I would consider this a step backward, just as our introduction seemed to have reached a status of being simultaeously pretty, satisfying and undisputed. dab 15:00, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I think we are beginning to understand each other. Yes, JHCC, your point makes sense. But your proposal doesn't work too well, as dab opines. I agree with both of you. I do think the current method is nice and hits the eye well. But dabs idea would be ok, I guess. In biological terms.... In spiritual terms.... I vote we keep the method as it stands, with the suggestion I made above. ""Spiritually, they are defined using various concepts of spirit or soul that in religion are understood in relation to divine powers or beings and often in mythology by contrast with other humanoid races." Tom - Talk 15:13, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I think this is mainly about language now. I think I can reproduce JHCC's discomfort with "spiritually, they are defined as". Why don't we say "in spiritual terms, they are described...", acknowledging by using "terms" instead of the adverb that there is no such thing as a "spiritual description" (well, there is. but "spiritually, they are described with various concepts of spirit" strikes me as rather empty anyway...) Why don't we drop spirit then, and say "spiritually, they can be described using various concepts of soul"? this makes sense, as the "can be" allows for spiritual definitions that do not acknowledge a soul, and is not dismissive of the spiritual pov. dab 15:35, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Removing "spirit or" from "concepts of spirit or soul" is fine. "In spiritual terms, they are described..." is very good, much better than "In spirituality, they..." I have made the change. JHCC 18:55, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Good. As stands looks good. Please agree, dab. They can be described is, as I see it, non-parallel and biased, where the current rendition is shorter and more fair. Oh, and I don't think there is a problem removing spirit for brevity's sake. My, how this page is getting hard to wade through. I look forward to archiving! Tom - Talk 19:44, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)
well, I was avoiding repetition of "in spiritual terms" for the symmetry in "biologically, spiritually, culturally". Since we lost that symmetry anyway now, the current version is okay for me. They can be described is not biased in my view, because we only mention soul now. There may well be spiritual descriptions that make no use of a concept of soul. We cannot go into this distinction in the intro, and it is fair to mention "soul" as a very common concept of spiritual descriptions, but to say that all spiritual approaches automatically assume a soul would be much more biased than the currend "can be". Or how about the more committal "they are often" rather than "can be"? Hell, we can also assume "various concepts of soul" to include "soulless spirituality" as a limiting case and call it a day, I don't care. dab 12:19, 13 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Spirituality, Religion, Ritual

I'm not sure why we have "...many others believe that humans have a spirit or a soul, requiring a definition in religious terms. Descriptively, in every human culture Spirituality and Ritual are present in some form. These elements combine personal experience, confined to the individual and essentially peaceful, with communal experience that unites and defines a group of humans, often to the effect of aggression towards humans not belonging to the own group." This has a few issues that we should consider:

  1. It is not clear if the outward aggression is the effect of the combination of experiences or of the communal experience only.
  2. If the former case, it implies that this outward aggression is proper to groups that practice spirituality and religion in a way that it is not proper to any other group. This is obviously not the case: think of football teams and their supporters. (That's soccer to the Americans.)
  3. If the latter case, then this belongs in another section, perhaps "Society" or "Tribes, Nations, and States."
  4. I'm not sure what is meant by "Descriptively, in every human culture Spirituality and Ritual are present in some form." Does this mean that S & R are present as descriptions in every human culture or that this whole sentence is a description of the religious terms in which humans are defined?
  5. "personal experience, confined to the individual and essentially peaceful" is an inaccurate generalization. Individual spiritual and religious experiences and practices can be quite extreme in both psychological impact and self-imposed discipline. Many religions practice self-mutilation, extreme asceticism, and the deliberate seeking of halucianatory or visionary experience, none of which are "essentially peaceful."
  6. Ritual is tricky. As dab pointed out in the comment on one of his edits, Ritual is not necessarily religious. For that matter, it can also be individual (e.g., the personal rule of prayer of a Benedictine monk), or collective (e.g., the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance), or even both (e.g., the stoning of the devil during the Haj). It can serve both as an expression of individual piety and as a means of generating group cohesion.

Any thoughts? JHCC 14:46, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

  • first of all, let me say as a sort of disclaimer, that I may be growing too attached to this article, haggling over detailed wording, while many other articles are in a rough state and we can be glad if there is any relevant information at all. Maybe I should just stand back and let things happen to it.
  • the "aggression" part is supposed to refer to "wars of religion" (which I would have linked, if there had been such an article). The point is that religion has very strong bonding powers, and strongly bonded groups tend to *sometimes* behave aggressively (yes, this includes football hooliganism, which has been described as para-religious)
  • The "descriptively" may not have been a good idea. I am reacting to your "many think...many others believe". I mean to say here that ritual and spirituality as aspects of society are patently visible to the observer, whatever you hold to be their ontological status.
  • ritual is, so to speak, "proto-religious" and has its root in animal behaviour. brushing your teeth can be a ritual, something you have internalized and perform with precision even unconsciously. What I like to acheive here is simply to suggest a connection (but not identity!) of ritual, spirituality and religion, anything else would have to be treated in these articles.
  • altogether, the paragraph may indeed require revision. It would be sad simply to strike out all problematic statements, rather than attempt to find a better way of putting it. I would like to allude to both the peaceful vs. the warlike, and the personal vs. the communal aspects, but you are right of course that they don't exactly correspond. I'll try to rephrase.
  • again, your observations are very intelligent and acute, and I fully trust you to find a smart solution. If you feel a statement is completely beside the point, remove it. If a statement is merely "tricky", let's find a balanced way of putting it! dab 15:46, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)


The topics of human violence, violent ritual, and us versus them patterns, in my opinion should not appear under the Spiritual, Religion, Ritual heading. I don't think spiritual scholars of religion and ritual have said much about human violence, violent ritual, and us versus them patterns--except to acknowledge that there are "urges" or "sinful natures" and to say that they are wrong.

I suggest that we discuss the topics of human violence, ritual, and us versus them patterns under the Biology section where we have established scholars such as Richard Wrangham and Norman Dixon who have a lot to say about the data that indicates that we inherited the hungers for violence, violent ritual, and us versus them patterns from the ancestors of the chimpanzees. I would say that there is enough written on the biological origins and mechanisms of human violence, violent ritual, and us versus them patterns for a good page unto itself with a title something like Human violence (genetic origins). For example, the first chapter of the Wrangham and Peterson book on the genetic origins of human violence, violent ritual, and us versus them patterns is available online courtesy the Washington Post at this link ---Rednblu 17:13, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I think one excludes not the other. You are certainly right that human violence can and should be treated biologically (The main article for this would be human behaviour). War should still also be covered under "Society" and aggression under "Individual". The different sections represent different points-of-view (literally, objective vs. subjective etc.), so if aggression appears under "Biology", we are not forced to remove war from "Society". Violence and Religion have coincided often enough that I think the statement is justified. But I don't insist to keep a reference to war here. I would rather like to keep a reference to ritual, though, as I do believe there are deep connections of ritual and religion (even religion, of course, can be treated biologically, as can any human phenomenon. Biology cannot treat the subjective experience, though, and for good reasons, Religion is not simply a redirect to human behavior). dab 17:28, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I would say that you are both right. It seems to me that we should consider the Biology and Spirituality sections as essentially ontological, as they both present theories of the nature of human existence and behaviour, and the Culture section, as essentially institutional, as it describes human interactions as conditioning and conditioned by individual and group behaviour. So aggression can be seen biologically, as determined by brain chemistry; spiritually, as the result of a fallen human nature, or culturally, as the result of two groups competing for a scarce resource (in this context, war is just a subset of the many forms of group aggression). JHCC 18:02, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I think I am reacting mainly to, what I interpret as, a resistance on the part of the "spiritual experts."  :) Perhaps, you intend to imply that war and violence arise from religion. I disagree with that interpretation of the data, but I would be willing to go along with that formulation if the "spiritual experts" adopted it as belonging to the Spiritual and Ritual section. Does that make sense? I see little indication that the "spiritual experts" are too fond of "ritual" being in that section either. It seems to me that "ritual" also is a little too degrading to what the "spiritual experts" see in "spiritual." And from my secular view, ritual which is all secular has no relationship to the non-secular part of "spiritual." ---Rednblu 18:13, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)
In a secular view, you will see even spiritual things in a secular light, and will have even less objections against associating the two. I contest that 'ritual' has any degrading connotation, but I agree that while it is strongly correlated with religion, it has certainly many non-spiritual incidences. I imply that violence is *sometimes* incited by religion (which is hard to gainsay:), but I am far from suggesting that religion and violence have an immanent causal relation. If my statement can be seen to suggest this, by all means change it! — Ok, I think I have made my point, and I will not object if you remove reference to war/violence from this section. I beg you to keep a reference to ritual, though. dab 18:21, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Dab, your previous version of this section did seem to suggest a causal relationship, and I have moved it to a "Religion as a social factor" section of "Society." I have also put an introductory paragraph under "Society" to begin to put forward some of the "institiutional" ideas that we have been talking about.
Rednblu, I'm not sure what you mean by "spiritual expert," but I would like to point out that there are two separate issues regarding aggression (for example) as an element of the human experience. One issue is "What is the root cause of human behaviour X?" and the other is "How do we fairly describe the various explanations of human behaviour X?" However fascinating the first question may be, our task lies with the second. JHCC 19:26, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Can we resolve the core NPOV disputes before getting too intricate into these matters? I think the first intro proposed above complete with taxobox and image would be suitable, and I propose it be put into the article along with any changes you guys have agreed on since. Can we at this point just be bold, or are we still awaiting the results of the poll, or is somebody contesting the basic form of that intro? As dab says, we are getting a little too involved at this point. All believers like me really want is a framework and intro acknowledgement that we exist. Getting all the particulars exactly right can come in time. Tom - Talk 19:02, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Tom, I think that we are still waiting on the poll results for the specific position of the taxobox. I have already edited the intro; take a look at the article and tell us what you think. JHCC 19:26, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I like the article, and I like your recent edits. I think the taxobox will be moved down, and I don't feel quite right holding the article hostage (referring to the ugly NPOV dispute) over the taxobox now that we have come as far as we have. I may be tending to agree without thinking too hard, but I am really pleased with the cooperation and hard work of all, and I feel like removing the NPOV dispute as a gesture of trust that we will continue to work together. Tom - Talk 19:54, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I am adding "consisting primarily of or endowed with" to "In spiritual terms, ... endowed with a spirit...." for the following reason. If the Spiritual POV unitedly sees humans as merely "endowed with" soul (which I don't believe is true), then it would seem to follow that humans are primarily Homo Sapiens from that same POV. But I believe, and correct me if I am wrong, that there is a significant POV that says humans are only incidentally Homo Sapiens, but primarily spirit as children of God or, alternatively viewed, facets of God. Tom - Talk 20:12, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Tom, I am reverting your change, but gently and politely. I am not doing this because it was "not mainstream enough," but because it of the difficulty with speaking of one dominant "Spiritual POV." Certainly, you are right in pointing out that particular POV, but there are a lot of other PsOV that include a spiritual element, from "We are all eternal spirit, with only the illusion of a physical body" to "Our spirit is nothing more than a vague force that gives us life and vanishes forever when we die." If "endowed with" isn't sufficiently broad, let's discuss alternatives here first. JHCC 20:33, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

JHCC, I am fine with your revert, but your sensitivity is warranted. I agree with all you said, and I think we need something that better captures the spectrum including the core definitional difference POV I explained above. I suppose it is my duty to try again. So here's something (not guaranteed any good):

  • Spiritually, they are defined using various concepts of spirit or soul;

The above leaves a lot of wiggle room, while still stating clearly the POV that some "define" humans using concepts of spirit or soul. Tom - Talk 21:18, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I like the "various concepts" concept, but it brings back our old problem with "they are defined", which is much too universal. There are many (including some in this discussion: hi, guys!) who do not define humans with any concept of spirit or soul, other than saying that they have none. I would suggest a combination of the existing version with your new:
  • Spiritually, many define them using various concepts of spirit or soul;
Best of both worlds. I'll make the change so we can see how it looks. JHCC 03:22, 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)

somebody changed "many modern humans believe that they are" to "many believe that modern humans are". That's of course completely pointless. We have "modern" here because materialism only developed in modern times. Nobody believes that modern (i.e. post-1400s) humans are significantly different from pre-modern humans. dab 08:15, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Can we edit now?

re, "can we edit the article now?": The article is obviously in very different stages of completeness in its different parts. I would say that sections that have already been discussed are not fair game for spontaneous changes (primarily the intro; rather, a "4th iteration" should be proposed, first), while the stubby sections should of course be added to without remorse. The 'more recent' sections, like "Religion" and "Self-Reflection" have not been through a process of refinement comparable to the intro, and may of course be added to, as well as edited (with due justification) like any random article you come accross. This is just how I feel about the 'touchiness' level of the different parts, and of course has no 'official' status. But clearly, edits to the intro are more likely to be reverted than edits to the stubsections. — Tom, I was going to ask you how you feel about the NPOV-note at this point. But I think it's fair enough to leave it in place until after the poll (did you note my "taxobox next to ToC" suggestion?). dab 20:49, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

dab, roger on all you said. Answering your last, I did see that proposal. I don't like it, but I admit it is an incremental improvement. If the polling were looking like nobody could live with moving the taxobox into Biology, then I might say, "Well at least let's get it out of the intro." So I guess if I were a taxobox fan, and the polling were looking the way it is, that nobody is objecting to putting it in the Biology section, I would say, "Wait, can't we just move it below the intro." So I can't be too adamant about your proposal, though I though it was not really needed at this time. One good thing about it: The ToC is getting kinda long, and the taxobox would at least be something to help fill that space. That and the long TofC is beginning to hide the taxobox a little too much, 'even I can agree. Tom - Talk 21:10, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

An attaboy to all from my Dad:

I thnk the team has come a long way on
The article is a little different than you ever would have seen from Brittanica, but does it still impress you as:
  • Encyclopedic?
  • Informative?
  • Respectable?

"The article does indeed look encyclopedic, and is informative. I would say it a very good article. This subject is one that is very hard to define, let alone describe, but the team has done a great job!"

We are inching forward! Tom - Talk 22:23, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Or centimetering, for all our metric friends. I would say, the intro looks good for now, pending poll results. Let's give some attention to other sections. JHCC 03:22, 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)

sections Individual/Society

dab, a couple of questions about your new edit in the "Individual" section:

  • "Consciousness gives rise to the human faculty, or illusion, of free will." Is there a better way to word this? Perhaps we could say "perception of free will" with a note that some (both religious and not) dispute the existence of this faculty. I think you mean that some people believe that free will is an illusion, but the sentence as it stands could be read as an absolute statement that free will does not exist.
  • "The human psyche extends beyond consciousness, encompassing the total of the individual's non-physical aspects." This is only true if one does not admit the existence of the spiritual. Can this be rewritten to limit it to the observable mental and emotional aspects of the individual?

Thanks, JHCC 13:59, 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)

you are quick :) I was going to summarize that; anyway, I have "filled in" the stubby bits now. the version is by no means definitive, of course, but I wanted to get to the full length of the article, so that we now can refine and balance the material of the whole thing. Seeing the length of it, I should say we'd better aim at reduction than at addition. Maybe the whole self-reflection thing can be exported to a separate article after all. I was very quick in completing the missing sections, and no doubt there can be lots of improvements. So I think I'll just go away for a few days and see what happens to them.
  • "faculty or illusion" are supposed to express the two possibilities. maybe "capacity" is better than "faculty". If we don't have the capacity, we certainly have a convincing illusion.
  • the human psyche bit is what I copied from Psyche. I am not sure, I imagine that spiritual aspects are included in psyche if you believe in them (and not, if not). After all, psyche is Greek for soul.
Quite true, but keep in mind that the Greeks did not make the same distinction between mental and spiritual that we do. We use psyche (as in psychology) in much the same way that the Greeks used phronema, to denote the mindset, the condition of the mind. Obviously, there is a close relation between the concepts of the psyche and the soul, but lumping the two together might not be the best solution. JHCC 17:35, 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • Maybe the "Humans compared to other species" subsections can be shortened (now that much other 'humanistic' stuff has been added), and possibly moved under "self-reflection" (since it is not exclusively biological).
dab 14:44, 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Self-Reflection/Comparison to other species

  • I have moved "comparison to other species" from biology to self-reflection. This subsection reads much more like an essay than the rest of the biology stuff, and in the original "purely biological" article, it was the final paragraph. I think it fits much better into its present location, because its entire point is that these questions are "humanistic" rather than zoological. I have also slightly contracted it. The page now weighs 34k, and we should attempt to cut it down to maybe 32k maximum (this talk page is swollen to 169k again, time for another archive!)
  • is "self-reflection" even a good title for the section? the word is slightly tautological but well attested (1E5 google hits).

dab 09:22, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)