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Humans Aren't Apes

Discussion in 'Creation & Evolution' started by Notedstrangeperson, May 19, 2012.

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  1. Guy1

    Guy1 Senior Member

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    I couldn't help myself. ^_^
     
  2. MostlyLurking

    MostlyLurking Member

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    I admit to being stumped by this one because (1) twice I've been interrupted by paleontologists who assured me that humans are indeed apes, and (2) I'm certain that I've heard Richard Dawkins say that humans are apes.

    And just a little bit of searching on Google left me even more confused. But I *did* manage to discover that John Hawk's article you quoted from is considered controversial and whether or not it affirms what its the last word on humans<>apes depends on lots of fun complications. Because I'm new to ChristianForums, they won't allow me to include links yet. (That seems like a silly restriction but so it is.) But I'll see if I can get around it by means of breaking up the link and omitting the http and some other things until CF accepts the post:

    evolvingthoughts .net
    /2012/03/
    are-humans-apes-monkeys-primates-or-hominims

    Here is an example from that webpage:

    "I want to do what I would ordinarily never dare do: disagree with John Hawks. John takes Jerry Coyne to task for calling humans &#8220;apes&#8221;.


    Here's more excerpts from that same webpage article:


    --------------------------------------------------------
    John is not alone in this argument. I have had it also with my coauthor and cladoclast Malte Ebach. Like Malte, John argues:
    &#8220;Ape&#8221; is an English word. It is not a taxonomic term. English words do not need to be monophyletic. French, German, Russian, and other languages do not have to accord with English ways of splitting up animals. Taxonomy is international &#8212; everywhere, we recognize that humans are hominoids.
    But there is a flaw in this argument, which John himself alluded to before these passages, quoting Coyne:
    I believe it was William Jennings Bryan who denied during the Scopes trial that man was a mammal. That one statement laid him low, exposing his Bible-ridden ignorance for what it is. Of course we are mammals, and of course Richard [Dawkins] is an ape.

    Now the claim is that humans (Homo sapiens) are apes (Homininae), which is a group defined as the African Great Apes. In short, it is a claim that humans are a species of African Great Ape (and therefore a member of Hominoidea, which includes gibbons and orangutans, also included among these apes).


    And there&#8217;s nothing wrong with saying &#8220;humans are apes&#8221;, because, on the best construal of what those terms denote, they are.

    ----------------------------------------------------------


    I casually grabbed the excerpts above and I will freely acknowledge that the webpage could make great quote-mining fodder, in that one could easily grab the portions of the page which pointed toward one side of the argument or the other. So I only cut-and-pasted enough to illustrate that very fact.

    I know a few paleontologists so I'm going to email them to see what they say.

    It is worth mentioning that this kind of linguistic issue also comes up in Biblical text interpretations. Amateur Bible-readers may complain that "Bats are not birds!" is an alleged Bible error but those who have even a little knowledge of linguistics know that it is a silly complaint and only demonstrates the person's ignorance of translation issues. So this is not a complication unique to taxonomy arguments.

    One thing is for sure: Your thread OP brings up some interesting points.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2012
  3. MostlyLurking

    MostlyLurking Member

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    For even more fun, I see that the Wikipedia article for APE includes a fun series of taxonomy charts showing the multiple changes since the 1960's. I knew that much had changed over that half century but the charts bring that point home in a frustrating sort of way!


    And I think that this is one of the videos where Dawkins calls us apes and the article discusses the ape question:

    sandwalk.blogspot . com/2012/03/we-are-all-apes .html

    {Once again I've added spaces to get around the silly CF restriction against newcomers.}
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2012
  4. USincognito

    USincognito Do u? Supporter

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    I look at it this way. We are apes in that we are Hominids. We are monkeys in that we are Catarrhines. We are fish in that we are Sarcopterygiians. But the conflict between words used by laymen and terms used by scientists (and lay people in the know) will go on forever.

    And just because I love this page from the national zoo:
    Unique Characteristics of Primateness - National Zoo| FONZ

    eta - ML, just post noparse tags around the url and people can cut and past it to a browser window if they choose.
    [plain]url.url/url[/plain]
     
  5. NailsII

    NailsII Life-long student of biological science

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    Thanks, I'll read it when this hangover has gone.
    Head is too fuzzy to do this now, because I really think I am missing something.
    Humans are not apes but are hominins?
    Is that what the article says?

    I would argue that we are just another species of animal.
    We feel pain and emotions like other animals (including love - it is not exclusive to us) using the same neural pathways, hormones and brain structures, so there is no reason to suggest that there is any meaningful difference in the way we feel.
    We have shown that we have language skills that are untypical of the animal kingdom, and have shown great technological prowess.
    But we eat, breathe excrete and die just like all other animals.
    So if we are something more, it is only a little bit more.
    :D
     
  6. sfs

    sfs Senior Member

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    Paleontologists are not linguists, so why should you care what they think?

    The problem here is not figuring out what the right answer is, but in thinking that there is a right answer. There is no real, correct meaning to a word; there are just the variety of ways the word is actually used by speakers of the language.

    Scientifically, it's perfectly clear that humans are members of a clade that otherwise consists of apes, and there's nothing wrong with using the sentence "Humans are apes" to state that fact. It's also perfectly clear that the word "ape" is not usually construed by most competent speakers of English to include humans, and so it is also fine to state, "Humans are not apes".

    I didn't quote from Hawks's article.
     
  7. Archaeopteryx

    Archaeopteryx Wanderer

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    You have images of me? Should I be concerned? :D
     
  8. NailsII

    NailsII Life-long student of biological science

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    Only the ones without your tail feathers.....
    :blush:
     
  9. madaz

    madaz dyslexic agnostic insomniac

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    Humans ARE apes.
     
  10. USincognito

    USincognito Do u? Supporter

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    This sort of empty, pithy response is exactly the sort of stuff I'd expect from Creationists and something I decry when science advocates toss out bon mots like "every species is transitional".

    There's no time limit on the Internet. Take a few minutes to explain what you are saying in detail - as a number of us already have in this thread. "Ape" is a laymans term that lacks precise scientific value. It doesn't take much more typing to explain semantics vs. phylogenetic classifications and provide a link or two.
     
  11. MostlyLurking

    MostlyLurking Member

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    Because the issue really isn't a linguistic debate per se. It is a debate (and an emotive one at that) because it is about ORIGINS. So the scientists who work in origins fields DO MATTER in such a debate.

    If the debate was simply an argument over trivialities among linguists, I would agree with you.
     
  12. sfs

    sfs Senior Member

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    On the contrary, it is indeed a linguistic one. Did you not read the OP, or Hawks's piece? The argument he's making is entirely a linguistic one, about the acceptable uses of the word "ape".

    You're in a different debate than the one Hawks is engaging in. He has no doubt that humans and apes form a clade, but he argues that humans are not apes on linguistic grounds. His argument has zero to do with the origin of humans.

    Real linguists have more important issues to argue about. This is an argument about linguistic trivialities among nonlinguists.
     
  13. madaz

    madaz dyslexic agnostic insomniac

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    Pithy? No! Succinct? Yes!
    Humans ARE apes! Accept this fact and move on. It is not up to us to educate. This simple fact does NOT require an elaborate response. This is a simple fact that the author of this thread failed to learn at school and has decided to waste our time with it. Your reply is a waste of time, this very response to you is a waste of time!
     
  14. sfs

    sfs Senior Member

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    Could you please do the rest of us the courtesy of reading the thread before replying, or at least reading the post (the OP) you're ostensibly commenting on? Your response has nothing to do with the argument actually advanced in the first post.
     
  15. madaz

    madaz dyslexic agnostic insomniac

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    The first post is NOT an argument, its a personal opinion, an opinion that is as trivial as the title of this thread is misleading. A "play" on words. There are certain traits that distinguish an ape from other primates. Homo sapiens (and the 4 other great apes) have all these traits which include traits like our dentition includes not only vestigial canines, but incisors, cuspids, bicuspids, and distinctive molars that come to five points interrupted by a "Y" shaped crevasse. This, taken together with all of our other traits, like the dramatically increased range of motion in your shoulder, as well as a profound increase in cranial capacity and disposition toward a bipedal gait, and of course lack of tail (we have only a coccyx) which gives us a set of characteristics which ONLY apes share! There is nothing remarkable about homo sapiens belonging to the great apes. This was argued centuries ago. Its 2012 now we should be discussing more remarkable discoveries like our close genetic relationship to a fruit fly or a rat.
     
  16. USincognito

    USincognito Do u? Supporter

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    Well, clearly you've shown that sfs doesn't know what he's talking about with regard to human/chimp common ancestry.

    Even more ironically though, you've demonstrated the point I was trying to make. "Humans are apes" is an empty, Creationist worthy bon mot. But it doesn't take that much more time to type out a few more sentences explaining the evidences from morphology/DNA/etc. that explain why that assertion is true. :cool:
     
  17. AnotherAtheist

    AnotherAtheist Gimmie dat ol' time physical evidence Supporter

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    The linguistic side to the argument is based on a fallacy. "Ape", like many English words, has more than one meaning.

    The easiest way to show this is to consider the word "animal". In any sort of biological/scientific usage, humans are animals. But there are dictionary definitions that reflect the usage where it is applied only non-human animals.

    Noting that there is such a usage doesn't in any way justify the claim "humans are not animals" in the context of a discussion of evolution and evolutionary relationships.

    Exactly the same applies to "ape". Biologically, there is a clear definition, and that is that humans are apes.

    Not only are we "apes", but we're not even, in genetic/evolutionary terms, "out on a limb". We are more closely related to chimps and bonobos than we and chimps/bonobos are related to orang-utans, gorillas, and gibbons.
     
  18. Tiberius

    Tiberius Well-Known Member

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    Regardless of the words used, Humans belong in the same group of animals that includes chimps, bonobos, and gorillas. DNA evidence for this is undeniable. All the members of this group come from a single common ancestor, and no animals outside this group come from that ancestor.
     
  19. sfs

    sfs Senior Member

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    It's a shame that the phrase "Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs" has dropped out of usage. It would come in handy here.
     
  20. sfs

    sfs Senior Member

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    Thank you for addressing the actual issue in the OP. I don't think your argument works, however. The problem with your analogy is two-fold. First, "animal" does have a scientific meaning, as designating members of the animal kingdom. In contrast, "ape" does not. It is simply not the case that "biologically, there is a clear definition" of ape. The family Hominoidea has a clear definition, but why are you trying to assign that definition to the word "ape"?

    Second, the definition of "animal" that includes humans is widely known and readily accessible for almost anyone in these discussions. That's not true for the word "ape". "Ape" has historically never included humans, and in common usage (even among scientists) still does not. What's going on here is not competing definitions, but an attempt to change a definition in order to advance a point of view.

    A better analogy would be to the statement, "Humans are fish", which also comes up in discussions about evolution sometimes. That statement is not using a second definition of "fish" which includes humans; rather, it's making a biological point in language that deliberately runs counter to standard definitions. I have no problem with "Humans are apes" used the same way, but I do have a big problem with claims that these actually represent what the words "fish" and "ape" mean in English. I also have no problem with stating, in the context of evolution, that humans are neither apes nor fish.

    Pop quiz: Who wrote the following? Was he trying to obscure the facts about evolution by distinguishing apes and humans?
    "Why have not apes acquired the intellectual powers of man?"
     
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