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Thread: How is Homo Sapiens Defined?

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    How is Homo Sapiens Defined?

    What Characteristics does an individual need to be considered a H. Sapien? since races tend to differ quite much from one another and they are all labeled as Sapiens, so i was wondering what features are the basic H. Sapien?

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    Re: may sound silly but..

    My father is a taxonomist of the old school (that is, the pre-geneticist school — I'm kind of anti-geneticist like him in that regard), so I'm going to answer this from a traditional taxonomic perspective.

    Two populations are the same species if they can reproduce fertile offspring. If they cannot, then they are not. So the division between Homo sapiens (notice the final 's' is part of the name — it's not just a plural) and other species is the ability to create fertile offspring. Populations with which we can interbreed and produce fertile offspring are specimens of the species H. sapiens.

    There are some caveats I should add to this definition. One is that some creatures which are seen as different species and even different genera can reproduce fertile offspring. Certain snakes, for example, can reproduce fertile offspring from a cross-generic union.

    Furthermore, humans and chimpanzees have been shown (in very highly unpublicized studies) to be able to reproduce viable fetal offspring up to the third trimester. As far as I know, no human-chimpanzee cross has been carried to term, and no one has tested the fertility of the offspring of such a cross. It could be just like mules (the typical example of the offspring of close cross-special unions — viable but sterile). But if it would produce fertile offspring, then we would have to include chimpanzees among Homo sapiens.

    Also you should note that this is a synchronic rather than a diachronic answer. I am not a paleontologist, so all I can offer is the synchronic perspective. Unfortunately, the paleontologists have sort of stolen the family Hominides from synchronic biologists.

    To take this concept a bit further, you should know that from a synchronic taxonomical perspective, subspecies are populations within a given species that can be distinguished from one another by trained and careful observers 75% of the time, especially when the populations in question have particular geographic distrubtions. By that definition, our species has at least three or four different subspecies from the synchronic perspective alone. Unfortunately, the paleontologists want everyone to see things their way and absurdly declare the entire human race a single subspecies. If we can't be objectively scientific about our own species, then we're likely just fooling ourselves when we say we're being objectively scientific about others.

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