Talk:Human/Archive11

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The seat of consciousness

The caption below the picture of the brain reads: The human brain and the seat of consciousness, courtesy of Dr. Rhawn Joseph. I would argue that we do not know where "seat of consciousness" resides. As it stands it is presented as a fact, when it is actually, an opinion. --Zappaz 04:51, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)

What? Is this controversial? Who disputes this and where do they think consciousness originates from? That the human brain is the seat of consciousness was established quite some time ago, and considerable evidence supports this. It ranges from the crude blow to the head, rendering someone unconscious, to sedative drugs targeting specific neuroreceptors to induce decreased or lack of consciousness. In old days, the heart was the other major contender, but of course those with transplanted or artificial hearts retain their consciousness. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you. — Knowledge Seeker 06:16, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)
René Descartes thought consciousness resided in the pineal gland, which he called the "seat of the soul." [1] SlimVirgin (talk) 06:25, Apr 23, 2005 (UTC)
Hehe, yes, I do believe I recall that. And I greatly admire Mr. Descartes. However, his belief was several centuries ago, and there is no reason to believe that he would maintain the same belief given the plethora of evidence today. It is true that some of the functions of the pineal gland have not been very well elucidated. But it is a poor choice for the seat of consciousness—patients with pineal glands removed remain conscious, whereas those with damage to the brain that spares the pineal gland may lose consciousness. I do not quibble with it being the seat of the soul (although I believe that unlikely), since there is no way to test this or ascertain the presence or absence of a soul in someone. — Knowledge Seeker 06:45, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I assume the vitalists and dualists would be the main exception-takers to this statement, i.e. they'd contend that consciousness doesn't have a material seat per se at all. Alai 06:32, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Descartes was a dualist, and the problem with dualism (I can feel Mel Etitis breathing down my neck here) is how something immaterial can bring about change in the material world, and vice versa, i.e. how these two differents kinds of stuff interact. Descartes suggested that, as humans are made of these two different substances, they must meet and mingle somewhere in the body, and he picked the pineal gland as the seat of this mixing, because it sits at the center of the brain, and is the only part of the brain that isn't duplicated. He thought that physical experience causes matter to move through the nerves to the pineal gland, which vibrates, giving rise to emotion, which in turn leads to action. Of course, this doesn't solve the problem (if there is one) of how the two substances interact, but simply shifts or restates it. SlimVirgin (talk) 07:31, Apr 23, 2005 (UTC)

Well, first, Descartes didn't think that consciousness rested in the pineal gland; he speculated that the primary point of interaction between mental and physical was the gland, but he wasn't satisfied with that explanation (as his correspondence makes clear), partly for the reasons that SlimVirgin gives. Secondly, it's not clear what the problem about mind–body interaction is supposed to be. For Descartes (and others at his time) there seemd to be a problem because he accepted a crude, mechanical, push-pull sort of notion of causation, in which to say that things were causally connected was to say that they exchanged properties. If mind and body can't share any of their properties, then they can't exchange them. We, however, don't hold such a view (which is anyway faulty, because the exchange of properties is itself a causal notion). Thirdly, Descartes (together with everyone else up until around the end of the nineteenth, beginning of the twentieth century) used 'mind' and 'soul' interchangeably. It's only with the geneeral acceptance of the dogma of physicalism that religious people began to need a third category (and, as I've said before, the notion of soul or spirit as separate from mind is one that I've never understood, and for which no-one has offered any explanation, much less an acceptable or coherent one). Fourth, there's no empirical evidence either for or against dualism (though see [2]).

I agree with Zappaz concerning the caption. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:49, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for posting the link to that paper, Mel. I've started reading it and it's very interesting. I'm surprised that you find the cutline problematic, as there isn't any other organ that could give rise to it, so it could struck me as fairly innocuous. SlimVirgin (talk) 15:13, Apr 23, 2005 (UTC)
Thank you, Mel, I believe I understand. In response to the mind vs. soul issue, I would say that as medical science advanced, and it became more likely that the physical structure of the brain (neurons, neurotransmitters, ions) could give rise to the memories and thought processes of humans, people who feel that there is something more to humans than just cells and chemicals formed it as a separate concept. I should point out that in Hinduism, which I follow, the soul is not synonymous with the mind, nor has it been in recent time (as far as I know), which is why I was confused by the brain not being the seat of consciousness issue. If there is contention then perhaps we could change it. I would still wish that the text reflect that (if I understand you correctly) almost everyone does feel that consciousness is associated with the brain, either that the physical structure of the brain gives rise to it or that the mind interacts/controls the body through the brain. I personally feel that the "seat of consciousness" sufficiently espouses both views given the concision necessary for a caption; perhaps greater explanation could be given in the text? — Knowledge Seeker 04:03, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Intro revisited

The current intro is the consensus version; it stood on this page for many weeks before Sam Spade decided to be bold and put it on the page. Zappaz added a very useful sentence, I did a copy edit, and Grace Note added superhuman beings to supreme being. At it stands, it looks fairly good.

There are two areas disputed by some. FM doesn't want the first sentence: "Human beings define themselves in biological, social, and spiritual terms." I don't want that either, but I'm prepared to live with it, and others like it e.g. Wjbean above. So my suggestion is that we leave it for the sake of stability.

The second area of dispute is Ungtss's addition of: "As a result of the capacities for language, abstract reasoning, and self-reflection, humans have the ability to engage in a number of activities, including science, philosophy, religion, art, medicine, and law." There is something about this sentence that grates with me. We don't just have the ability to engage in them. We invented them in a way that perfectly reflects - that is the expression of - our capacities for language, abstract reasoning etc. So there's a tautological aspect to the sentence that adds little meaning. Everyone reading this (except perhaps for our Martian readers) knows we engage in law, medicine etc, so the sentence doesn't inform. (And the prior version that we have a unique capacity for language was false.)

I agree with Zappaz that less is more in this regard. I suggest we leave the intro as it is now, and move on to include these other areas in other sections, as Sam has suggested. There's already been far too much discussion over this intro, so please let's plump for the one most of us managed to agree on, even if we don't love it. SlimVirgin (talk) 15:18, Apr 19, 2005 (UTC)

Fascinating to me how our differing philosophies of teleology and philosophical naturalism reflect themselves in this discussion. to you, we do those things because we have those characteristics. to me, we have those characteristics so we can do those things. having realized exactly how many of my philosophical presuppositions are latent in that sentence, and thus how overtly it reflects my pov, i'll consent to its omission. Ungtss 15:31, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Thank you, Ungtss, that's gracious of you and I appreciate it. I've just noticed some dodgy English that I missed earlier which I'm going to change, and someone has added the word "soul" to the consensus intro, which I'm also going to delete because it wasn't agreed. The odd English is when we say we have a highly developed brain and resultant capacity for speech, language, abstract reasoning, and introspection, and then we add culture, society, and technology. First, these are mentioned in the next paragraph, and second, we don't have a "capacity for culture and society": it's okay but it's kind of poor writing. I just tried saving about six times and kept getting the preview page with half the article missing, so we seem to be having server problems. SlimVirgin (talk) 17:32, Apr 19, 2005 (UTC)
I also like the intro as is - I've been lurking and enjoying the convo and felt that it reflected a well thought out NPOV approach to Humans that did not ignore the fact that many do define themselves in terms of spirituality. The intro I think is brief and summarizes well the ways in which the article describes how humans define themselves. Trödel|talk 17:39, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Sam, could I ask you please not to change the intro without reaching consensus first on the talk page? As you know, this consensus version has existed for a few weeks, and now you've put it up, several editors have said they either like it or are prepared to accept it. If we keep tweaking (and especially if we increase the spiritual or religious content), that consensus is likely to break down again, and we'll be back to revert wars and endless discussion. (The reference to soul was in a previous draft-consensus suggestion but people couldn't agree on it.) There are lots of sections other than the intro that could use improvement, where probably no one would object. SlimVirgin (talk) 21:05, Apr 19, 2005 (UTC)

Thats simply not how (or why) a wiki works. Achieve concensus before reverting rather. Making proactive improvements is why I'm here, not to fill up yet another archive with rhetoric. If you'd like to edit other sections go ahead, but the edit I (and others as far as I know) felt was neccesary was in the into. Anyhow, here is the difference, lets discuss your objections. Sam Spade 21:08, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I'll say that I struggled with the proper link for "entities", and cryptid was the best I could come up with. I ment to reference Angels, demons, Djinn, deva and so forth, the belief in which is a rather extrordinary aspect of humanity. Sam Spade 21:10, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I've reverted Sam's latest reversion and instance of flouting consensus on the intro. SV reminded us above to abide by consensus, and most of us have. You may want to consider giving it a try. FeloniousMonk 21:18, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Hi Sam, it was this edit [3] that I reverted, and main thing was the issue of the soul reference. We mention spirituality already, and so the issue of souls, in one sense or another, is covered by that. The explicit soul reference was one of the bones of contention before, so my reasoning is that it's best to avoid it. However, I agree with you about not wanting to fill up another archive with rhetoric. What do you think reference to soul adds that isn't conveyed by the reference to a spiritual dimension? SlimVirgin (talk) 22:53, Apr 19, 2005 (UTC)
(continued @ User_talk:Sam_Spade#Human) Sam Spade 23:46, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Just because people have moved on to other projects as a result of your successful filibustering doesn't mean that there is a consensus. Excluding from the intro the fact that most people believe in a soul is nothing but enforcing your POV. --Goethean 21:29, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  • Exactly. The minority here does not want a vote to reveal that they are in a minority, so they evoke "consensus" as an alternative means to get their way. ---Rednblu | Talk 01:20, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)
    • Be fair. A vote will not settle the issue. They're evil anyway. Let's try to have everyone walk away satisified, even if they can't be happy. My 2c is that we absolutely should include a soul because many believe that humans are distinguished from animals primarily in having one!Grace Note 01:39, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)
      • I appreciate your gentle tone. A fair vote would settle the issue for me--and for most of the other vociferous commentators on this TalkPage--I would hypothesize. I would agree that some voting mechanisms are evil. Certainly the current "consensus" voting mechanism used to control the contents of the Human page is evil. But I would argue that proportional voting is not evil, but is rather fair. Under proportional voting, the Human page would represent "proportionately" the documented POVs of published scholars--and achieve Actual NPOV while avoiding the grotesque bias of the current Human page. ---Rednblu | Talk 03:07, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I'm glad we can talk without the throat-ripping that religious issues are all too often accompanied with. A consensus is not a voting mechanism, Rednblu, it's just a way of saying, let's try and hear all voices. I agree that all views should be covered insofar as possible and in something like the degree with which they are held. For instance, if there are people who believe that humans were dropped here by Martians, we should include that view somewhere in the article, perhaps not in great detail. I used a ridiculous view as an example because I agree with you that a distinction between man and beast is very widely made, possibly even more so than any scientific one (because many are not scientifically literate) and I do not think it's justifiable to relegate the belief that humans are humans because, for instance, God created them in His image to the same level as humans were dropped from Mars. Appealing to some notion that WP must be "scientific" will not at all do, because it is not supposed to be espousing an a priori view that scientific views are superior to any other, or necessarily any more correct (because, let's face it, and I think it's a pity, that view is itself not necessarily held by the majority of our potential readership). We have to distinguish very carefully between our views, which we feel to be correct (and which would be printed in Britannica, which took exactly the approach I'm deprecating) and others' views, which we are here reporting. Having said that, I don't know that you can survey all published views by scholars, Rednblu, for two reasons: one, there are very, very many and you can't know that you have corralled them all and two, you will make this argument into a metaargument about who is or is not a "scholar".Grace Note 03:39, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)
While agree with your point we should include that minor POVs somewhere in the article, the problem lies in distinguishing what exactly is a minor or major POV and how much of the article's real estate is devoted to a particular POV. Is relevance to be determined by the sheer number of those who hold a POV? That is what you've argue for here. That method only is useful for determining the placement and the amount real estate devoted to a particular POV. It is not useful for defining the topic, which is what we have been trying to accomplish in the intro for some time.
The only necessary and meaningful standard of evaluation for identifying the particular aspects of human for the purpose of defining the topic in the opening sentences is a strictly functional correspondence to reality. The wikipedia style guide only states that the opening paragraph should only define the topic. Hence the paragraph should be limited to characteristics of reality, not speculative POV. As I've mentioned above, the fact is that no other encyclopedia makes defining human in spiritual terms central to its article and that no one has yet provided a compelling justification for why wikipedia should be so widely outside the norm on the topic. Since it is not a common practice, and no has yet made a cogent and compelling argument as to why it should be so, my position remains that the statement is grossly misplaced in the intro but is appropriate to the Culture subsection of the article. And as I said previously also, I'm willing to reconsider my position if someone can provide even one neutral and significant encyclopedia that makes the position that 'humans are defined in spiritual terms' part of its article's intro and central to its primary definition. FeloniousMonk 05:01, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Is relevance to be determined by the sheer number of those who hold a POV? Well, yes, actually. If lots of people hold a POV it is well worth our reporting it. What other criteria are we going to use in an NPOV encyclopaedia? The strictly scientific view is, I remind you, one POV among many. Yes, the only one permitted by encycs like Britannica but we are doing something different and vastly more wonderful here.
The only necessary and meaningful standard of evaluation for identifying the particular aspects of human for the purpose of defining the topic in the opening sentences is a strictly functional correspondence to reality. I entirely agree. The reality is that human beings are defined in biological, spiritual and social terms. Let's say that.
BTW, the reason that no one has made a "compelling" argument seems to be that you are determined not to be compelled. I hope that is a wrong impression but your insistence that someone must produce a particular item of "evidence" to sway you rather suggests it.Grace Note 05:12, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I've already stated a number of times my terms for what I'd consider a compelling argument: just one neutral, objective and significant encyclopedia that makes the position that 'humans are defined in spiritual terms' part of its article's intro and central to its primary definition. Mine is a salient and reasonable criteria considering the nature of the claim it challenges,. The fact that no one has yet been able to cite even one reference goes to the validity of my point, not intractability that you try to tar me with.
"The reality is that human beings are defined in biological, spiritual and social terms. Let's say that." Do some humans define themselves is spiritual terms? Yes. Is it a fact that human beings can be defined in spiritual terms? That is not a fact, but a belief. It is a POV, and as a POV it has no place in the article's lead sentence which according to the style guide. Also, that human beings define themselves in spiritual terms is already implicit in the fact that they are defined in behavioral ("social" as you say) terms.
As far as my point being addressed here, lacking any additional support from other editors and in the face your repeated objections to accomodating it, I'll table it for now and revisit it here when the wind blows more favorably for me or the insertion of any clear biased content into the article that my point would have addressed. FeloniousMonk 06:59, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)


<<A consensus is not a voting mechanism, Rednblu, it's just a way of saying, let's try and hear all voices.>>

Ok. But it seems to me that proportional voting is an effective mechanism for actually getting a consensus that "represents all voices." Could you and I try it out between the two of us, Grace Note, to see how it would work for the Human page? In proportional voting, for example, you and I would come up with say ten variations for the first sentence of Human and then each of us would get ten votes. We would then cast our vote either Yes or No for each of the ten. We would total the score for each of the ten variations by Yes = +1 and No = -1. That is, those variations that had--with only two of us voting-- (Yes, Yes) would get a total score of +2; those variations for the first sentence of Human that had (Yes, No) would get a total score of 0; and those variations that had (No, No) would get a total score of -2. Evidently, those variations that had scores of +2 would represent a consensus between us, would they not? In proportional voting, all voices are heard. ---Rednblu | Talk 05:07, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Personally, I think we already have the right intro. I'm thinking that it has settled to the peak of a bell curve. We sort of have the mean of views here but of course some are still going to think that we should

be at one tail or the other. And Rednblu, votes are evil no matter what mechanism you use for them, because it is not the opinions of editors here that we are trying to represent but all views. Grace Note 05:12, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I for one disagree that we now have the right intro, but I'm not going to be drawn into a long debate on the matter. FeloniousMonk 07:03, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)
<<..because it is not the opinions of editors here that we are trying to represent but all views.>>

That is true. But the Human page, for example, actually is totally the opinions of editors on what should be there on the page. Is that not so? Accordingly, I would say, it is important that we should state explicitly the voting mechanism for aggregating the differing opinions of editors about what should be on the page. There is definitely--I would say--this very night a very real voting mechanism that determines what is on the current Human page. Any of my systems analysis vendors could chart out for you the system flow in that voting mechanism by correlating the edits and reversions on the Human page with the arguments and justifications in the history of this TalkPage. For example, this TalkPage records the differences of opinions--votes--and there are on this TalkPage periodic accumulations of those votes in the guise of "consensus," "accuracy," "conciseness," or NPOV to determine the winner of the periodic vote. (Allow me to acknowledge here, dear Grace Note, that you have taught me something this night about the actual Wikipedia process and about the worthwhile fixes to what is wrong with the NPOV process for the current Human page). Thank you and a gentle goodnight. ---Rednblu | Talk 08:28, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The only necessary and meaningful standard of evaluation for identifying the particular aspects of human for the purpose of defining the topic in the opening sentences is a strictly functional correspondence to reality. The wikipedia style guide only states that the opening paragraph should only define the topic. Hence the paragraph should be limited to characteristics of reality, not speculative POV. --FeloniousMonk
I couldn't help but think as I read this - There is no spoon. Spiritual aspects of humanity are very real to some - I agree with the comment below - we should describe and summarize where debate exists. Trödel|talk 17:16, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I can't find any support for this idea in the Wikipedia policy pages. On the contrary, what I find is that where there is debate, Wikipedia must describe the debate rather than resolving the debate or taking a particular side. This article has been controversial since its inception. I would like for this article to follow the official Wikipedia policies rather than merely recording the views that you consider to correspond to reality. --Goethean 16:47, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I am not longer watching this page. I continue to drop in on occasion. But I want to make it clear I see it as very obvious that the current intro is irrepresentative of all human "knowledge". The first sentence is fine as a thesis; at least it tries to be NPOV. It says "biological, social, spiritual." But the rest of the intro fails to deliver. We have (in the first para?!) "Biologically, humans are..." We have, "Behaviorally, human beings are..." But we don't have "In social terms, humans are..." or "In spiritual terms, humans are..." And what we do have in the intro for an expansion of "spirituality" (not at all what the first sentence promises) is put squarely within the framework of the biological perspective. "Their ... have given rise to attempts to explain ... in spiritual terms." That is sadly condescending to all believers, of whom there are only about 5 billion modernly. How about some fairness per policy? Tom Haws 19:37, Apr 25, 2005 (UTC)

I donno, I fought pretty hard for that 4th paragraph, and find it an acceptable compromise for the moment. Given time and new editors w new ideas, I am hopeful things will progress nicely in the direction you suggest. Sam Spade 19:43, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Well, said, Sam. My position essentially. Tom Haws 18:07, Apr 26, 2005 (UTC)
We've reached consensus Tom, so please don't try to re-open the issue yet again. SlimVirgin (talk) 19:51, Apr 25, 2005 (UTC)
  • Definitely not consensus--but something quite different. We need an objective measure for what consensus is--rather than this one-sided pronouncement of what is to be the favored POV-of-the-week. ---Rednblu | Talk 20:28, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I agree with SV that consensus has been reached. I can live with this intro despite that fact that by including spiritual beliefs it offers a definition of 'human' that is found in no other encyclopedia. Concessions have been made on all sides all around and likely no one is particularly happy with the intro, but the fact is that it closely aligns to reality, which it what we should focus on describing here. FeloniousMonk 22:37, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)
As much as hearing FM support it makes me triple check to be sure its not worth fighting over, the intro is acceptable for now, IMO. Its not great, heck, its not even all that good, but its acceptable, and sometimes (oftentimes) thats all you can ask for in the interim between now and perfection ;) Sam Spade 22:52, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Exactly Sam. My sentiments precisely. Great spitir of compromise, by the way. Tom Haws 18:07, Apr 26, 2005 (UTC)
This is one of those areas in which the Wikipedia community has, instead of boldly attempting to implement NPOV, decided for the time being to cowardly assent to bullying tactics. Indeed, this article conforms to FeloniousMonk's reality. Fortunately for all of us, the rest of the world is not circumscribed by that reality. --goethean 23:46, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  • Yep. So we need to come up with a design for an Actual NPOV process that includes an objective measure of consensus. This is no more difficult than resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis. 8)) Can we do it? ---Rednblu | Talk 00:15, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

User:Goethean/Human should be merged into the intro. Sam Spade 23:55, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Goethean, if you and Tom want to cause the arguments to start up again, I hope you'll set up a subpage to do that, and not re-start it on this page. The rest of us reached a consensus, which none of us is particularly happy with, but we can live with it, and that's what consensus is. FM made a lot of concessions, as did Sam, Ungtss, Zappaz, Knowledge Seeker and I, and several other editors who contributed. That's the last I'm going to say about it because I think replying only serves to feed certain people. SlimVirgin (talk) 00:02, Apr 26, 2005 (UTC)
I do not see where FeloniousMonk & company have made concessions. The religious perspective on humanity has not been presented as a legitimate perspective in the the intro. It is mentioned, as an function of the scientific perspective, but its contents are strictly verboten and implied to be fictional.
If you would like to bar "certain people" from discussing this article, you should seek an RfC. Otherwise, I will continue to use the "discussion" page that seems to have been deliberately attached to this article. --goethean 01:07, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Okay, let's dial it down a bit. As I said, I feel this is the mean of the views expressed and that some want to push it out to one tail or the other. I feel that FM was wanting one tail, but has compromised, and that SamSpade was wanting another tail, and has compromised. It seems to me that Tom is wanting us to say that humans are distinguished by having souls. There's no way that can gain consensus, not ever. What has to be clearly understood is that the biological and social elements of the distinction are not disputed -- no one claims we are not Homo sapiens, and no one claims we do not form associations. But the spiritual part is very much disputed. I think that we presented that fairly. I accept that you don't, so I ask you to make a subpage or a section with your suggestion of a presentation of that section of the intro that you feel could be agreed on by all. It's pointless simply to push your POV. Give what you feel the others ought to accept. For my part, I support the notion that all views must be heard and I agree that there is no consensus unless you feel you have been heard (I certainly don't think this issue or any other should be resolved by a vote or by any "objective" measure, because consensus is about how you feel, not who can ram through their POV through a vote).Grace Note 01:36, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Goethean, Sam is right. I'm afraid now is not the time to solve this. I don't want to argue or push for change at this point. I only dropped in to make it clear that the solution is not perfect. I should have said at the same time in the spirit of Sam's comments that it is a laudable tiny step. Good work and much thanks, folks. I just found a comment I made months ago that may help explain my point of view on this, in case anybody is interested. [4]. Tom Haws 18:07, Apr 26, 2005 (UTC)
The funny thing about NPOV (re: Joseph Smith, Jr.) is that achieving it takes a combination of POV editors who insist that their POV must be represented fairly and NPOV specialists who insist that it must comply with policy. NPOV specialists can't do it alone, because their minds are warped so that they are a little out of touch with the POVs that need to be represented. So even if an editor sticks around for years without becoming really converted to, or reading and pondering fully, the NPOV policy, he still is an indispensable part of the community. What a paradox. Tom - Talk 20:35, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Actually, I entirely disagree with you, Tom. The insistence that your particular POV be included is not a good route to NPOV. The insistence that POVs that you don't share are, however, is. POV pushing is the destruction of NPOV. The encyclopaedia would be immeasurably improved if we all agreed to work on articles on which we do not have a POV as such, instead of ceaselessly pushing whatever it is we want included. Your method leads to those who shout loudest gaining representation. That cannot be a good way to build this thing. Grace Note 22:29, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Please note that User:Goethean/Human lists different cultures conceptions of humanity, rather than emphasizing the soul, as has been suggested. Sam Spade 11:54, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

No way. It's a whole different level of representation. You could include this stuff (if it was anything like accurate) in the appropriate section but it's totally unacceptable for the intro. It's not fundamental though. We could pack the intro with all kinds of conceptions of what humans include, some very broadly held, but it is after all meant to be introductory. When I say "what others ought to accept", that obviously means "what they might accept". Since when did Buddhists of any kind believe that all humans are is illusion or Emptiness, btw? They don't deny the physical body. Quite the opposite. They emphasise that the physical is in a condition of flux. If you'd said they denied that humans are singular entities, maybe. But this is not considered or reasoned work. Grace Note 12:41, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Unlike the intro to the article under discussion, my proposal is open to suggestion and modification. If you can make it more accurate or readable, please go ahead and edit it. I wrote it by myself, which of course does not generally result in a NPOV. Perhaps if it was edited by a larger group of people, it would stand a greater chance of inclusion or merging with the present article. (There are two options that I include for Buddhists, BTW.) I never said that I was an expert on world religions. But I felt that someone had to make an attempt at NPOV, however flawed or risable. it seems to me that the intro to this article should describe the controversy over what human beings are, rather than presenting a single side of the controversy. That's my entire point. --goethean 19:34, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I don't want to make it more accurate or readable. I don't think the intro is in any way improved by including (rather fanciful) descriptions of what a few selected viewpoints on humans are. The key, for me, is that we discuss in the intro what distinguishes humans, not what people think they might also include. The latter is far too broad a subject for the introduction. It doesn't matter how many options you include for Buddhists, or for anyone else, none of the things you mentioned is actually fundamental. Perhaps you should try to put in simple terms what the "controversy" you're discussing is? I don't think there is one. I would say that most of the adherents of the religions you mention believe that humans are precisely what we say they are. You want to add more. Just saying "it's NPOV" doesn't really capture why you think we should. I'd agree that the article should include views of what being human includes, but I don't think you've made anything like a convincing case for suggesting that the intro should.Grace Note 22:29, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  • How about let's create about ten versions of the lead section on User talk:Goethean/Human? Then we could come up with some way to "evaluate" them by some Wikipedia:Actual consensus procedure--that we will have to invent.  :)) It seems to me that some versions of the introduction create more polarized opinions, thus less consensus, than others, and conversely some versions generate more consensus than others. So there must be some way to rank objectively the ten or so versions that we would come up with by the degree of consensus on them. Just an idea. How about let's remove the discussion to User talk:Goethean/Human? What do you say? ---Rednblu | Talk 22:05, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
By all means, Rednblu, make as many versions of the intro as you like. Effectively we have followed the process you suggest. What it came up with is the current intro. As I say, it's like a bell curve. Tom wants a tail. Our job is to convince him that the hump of the curve is all he can hope to get, just as Felonious Monk has accepted that his tail is not possible. Grace Note 22:29, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps you should try to put in simple terms what the "controversy" you're discussing is? I don't think there is one. I would say that most of the adherents of the religions you mention believe that humans are precisely what we say they are. --Grace Note
I don't think that it is impossible to succintly and accurately describe the major spiritual/religious views of humanity. I also don't think that Buddhists see human beings as primarily bipedal primates. Nor do Christians, Hindus, or Muslims. And I see their views as legitimate perspectives that should therefore be mentioned in the intro. I see disagreement in the contemporary world on the question of what human beings primarily are. That disagreement constitutes a controversy. And per Wikipedia policy, that controversy should be described in the article, rather than decided. --goethean 18:58, 27 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I don't think that it is impossible to succintly and accurately describe the major spiritual/religious views of humanity. Maybe not, but please note that the article is about "human" not "the spiritual views of humanity. At most the intro should contain information about what people think humans are, not ancillary information about what they believe. Buddhists see humans as bipedal primates among other things. The intro suggests that humans are defined in different terms. Are you suggesting that we should say that our status as bipedal primates should be disputed? Can you give sources for that? The Buddha, BTW, emphasised our corporeality. It was everything else he suggested was unreal. I don't think you can seriously suggest that the other religions don't believe we are bipedal primates. They most certainly do. Even those Christians that take issue with evolution do not dispute what we are, only how we came to be it. I suppose you could argue that we should say that some people think that human beings are a "kind" but if you did, you would need to change every page about animals to reflect that understanding. However, the people who hold that view have not published reputable material outlining their reasoning and certainly not for all animals, and you can see that that makes it difficult for many to accept their views.
I think we do reflect the view that understanding of what humans are includes more than that we are bipedal primates. I'm not sure we add a thing by saying that Hindus think we are a set of chakras rather than a physical body, especially since a/ it is not so far as I know true (can you source that?) and b/ many Hindus are biologists, some even primatologists -- do they just pretend that there really is a body there? I think what we have, which is the notion that we are at the same time biologically defined beings and beings that are capable of creating beliefs about ourselves is very fair. I think you should try to build on that, rather than try to introduce the doctrines of the major religions as you see them.Grace Note 22:29, 27 Apr 2005 (UTC)
At most the intro should contain information about what people think humans are
That's exactly what I'm asking for.
I don't think you can seriously suggest that the other religions don't believe we are bipedal primates.
I certainly do. Why don't you try running it past a religious person? Ask them what human beings are. Or better, ask them what human beings most fundamentally are. I'll give you a dollar if their answer is bipedal primates or anything synonymous. Christians believe that, fundamentally, human beings are creations of God, made to glorify Him. That doesn't mean that human beings don't have a body. There are Christian surgeons who believe that human beings are created in the image of god. That doesn't (necessarily) make them bad surgeons. And it also doesn't mean that their beliefs are ilegitimate or worthy of dismissal or supression.
It doesn't bother me if you think that my proposal sucks. And criticizing it sort of misses the point. Because what we have currently is nothing like NPOV. What we currently have is the acknowledgement that human beings define themselves in spiritual terms, but we can't elaborate, because it offends the atheists among us. --goethean 23:57, 27 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Moratorium proposal

I think that in WP the utopia of "we have reached consensus" is one that does not hold true for long. We can make agreements about an edit that "we can live with" but that does not mean that we agree with the edit wholeheartedly. Sometime a short break, an agreed upon moratorium, can help cool our heads (and hearts) and have a quiet time for a while for all editors involved. I propose archiving this discussion, establishing a moratorium of 40 days (40 is a good number, pun intended) in which we (editors in the current dispute) commit to neither read or edit this article, and after 40 days we can all come back, read the article and see how we feel about it by then. Editing some other articles, doing some cleanup tasks, visiting a RfC in which we have no POV, can do wonders. --Zappaz 00:52, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I think that that would set a bad precedent, since it would encourage editors to try to get their personals views enshrined before the "cooling off" period starts. --goethean 01:05, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

It's good advice for any article! It never serves anything to keep fighting the same issue over and over. A break freshens you up. Goethean, you're probably right, but if the "moratorium" is a personal commitment, you need not worry about what others do.Grace Note 01:42, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I hereby declare that I will not read or edit this article until Saturday, June 4 2005. -- Zappaz 03:06, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Capital proposal! Look how malleable I have become after a short rest :-D! See you all in the summer or fall or by e-mail or on your talk pages or elsewhere. Tom Haws 18:12, Apr 26, 2005 (UTC)

NPOV tag

Goethean, it seems to me that you're trying to cause trouble with the tag and nothing more. A consensus has been reached about the intro. Both sides compromised considerably, and most of the people editing this page agreed to it, with varying degrees of reluctance, after many weeks of discussion. What this means is that your objections are not actionable, because a decision has been made to leave the compromise intro in place. If you continue to add the tag, you're misusing it. SlimVirgin (talk) 00:51, May 1, 2005 (UTC)

That's not true. I do not, and have never supported the current intro. It does not treat religious or spiritual perspectives as legitimate points of view. The anti-religious group has not compromised significantly. As you know, several editors have taken a moratorium from this article, and thus are not voicing whatever opposition they may have to the current intro. You have made a decision to leave the current intro in place, not I. I dispute the neutrality of this article. --goethean 01:02, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

Read what I wrote: both sides compromised considerably and most of the people editing this page agreed to it. Everyone did not agree, unfortunately, but most did, and both sides did make considerable compromises. You are at liberty to dispute the neutrality of the page and your comments here have been noted, but you are not at liberty to use the tag as a weapon. Please read Grace Note's remarks above as s/he outlines the issue very well. SlimVirgin (talk) 01:13, May 1, 2005 (UTC)

I am at liberty to dispute the neutrality of this article. Accuracy therefore dictates a POV tag. --goethean 01:22, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

How many people dispute the neutrality of the Human page?

Do we have a dispute about whether there is a dispute?  :))

Question for empirical measurement. This is NOT a vote--but rather an empirical measure of current consensus, ultimately expressible as a percent of Actual consensus. 100% consensus on version V would consist of 100% of editors expressing the opinion that V was a "consensus version."

Do you dispute the neutrality of the Human page?

  1. Dispute. The current lead section of the Human page at this version violates NPOV by contradicting what most scholars have written about what "human" is. ---Rednblu | Talk 08:51, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
  2. Dispute see below*. --goethean 11:30, 1 May 2005 (UTC)


Discussion follows

Just put the tag back on the page if you really think it's disputed. I think you know that there is no real dispute. There is absolutely no way that the intro is going to say that human beings are created in God's image and absolutely no way it's going to say nothing about religion. Everyone accept Goethean has accepted that and moved on. Grace Note 09:06, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

  • I am more interested in the general problem of reaching actual consensus on disputed pages such as the Human page--not whether there is a tag on the page or not. Hence, I would like to get a sense of how empirically one would measure 1) Actual consensus of any particular version--and how one empirically could measure 2) whether a particular version had more consensus than another--hence the above proposed "measurement." Does that make sense? ---Rednblu | Talk 09:23, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
    Consensus just means getting something everyone can live with, Rednblu. It doesn't require votes, unless they are just a way of finding out who is unhappy. It can't be measured. You achieve it by bumbling along with good intentions until you have some godawful piece of prose that everyone hates equally... erm, I meant until you have something that everyone's happy with. Grace Note 10:02, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
  • I have seen "consensus" measured quantitatively. Let me give you an example. If everyone in a group of ten people could evaluate Version V1 compared with Version V2 with three possible evaluations +1, 0, or -1, then if everyone gave V1 a valuation of +1 that would give V1 a total "consensus evaluation" of +10 or 100%, would it not? And if half gave V2 a valuation of +1 and half gave a valuation of -1, then V2 would have a total "consensus evaluation" of zero; is that not true? And would it not be reasonable to say that version V1, with which everyone agreed, garnered more consensus than version V2, which split the group into opposing factions? Consensus for a serious working group means much, much more than just getting something everyone can live with; the challenge in consensus decision-making is devising a process that gets people to be inventive so that they come up with an alternative that gets a higher consensus than just zero. ---Rednblu | Talk 10:30, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
  • It's been about a day, I assume everyone else may not totally agree but do not dispute the intro. Is that a fair assessment? Trödel|talk 19:41, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
  • Heh! We shall see.  :) I would not mind if that were so. I know directly of six editors who are boycotting the Human page in retaliation against the bullying that went on the last month. Those of us who are actively disputing the intro now are "writing for the enemy," if you know what I mean.  :) We are not voting here. ---Rednblu | Talk 04:58, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

I missed out, there was bullying? Was I involved? I say we remove the dispute header, BTW. Sam Spade 05:01, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

Priority in intro

There is absolutely no way that the intro is going to say that human beings are created in God's image and absolutely no way it's going to say nothing about religion. Everyone accept Goethean has accepted that and moved on. --Grace Note

*I will charitably assume that you mean "except". My proposal is not that the article baldly assert that humans are created in the image of god, but rather that the article reports that some human beings believe that humans are created in the image of god, in addition to other spiritual beliefs.
The current intro does not present religious or spiritual perspectives as legitimate perspecives. That is the crux of the problem. --goethean 11:30, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
That we walk on two legs is a fact that no one disputes. That we have souls is a belief that many dispute. For that reason alone (nothing to do with POV), the first type of proposition is given priority in the intro over the second. That we are made in the image of a deity is a belief that even some religious groups don't hold, so there's no convincing argument that it should be included in the intro. By all means expand on it in the religion section. SlimVirgin (talk) 12:46, May 1, 2005 (UTC)
Are you not willing to accept that, for some, having a soul is equally factual as having two legs? That some dispute it is not in itself reason to discount it. We don't only deal in the empirical on Wikipedia.Grace Note 13:26, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
The self-consciousness of human beings, their resultant curious and introspective nature, and their dominance over other animals have given rise to attempts to explain the development and nature of the species, in both materialist and spiritual terms. The latter emphasizes a spiritual or non-physical dimension to life, and may include belief in God, gods or other supernatural entities, and reference to the concept of the soul. Such self-reflection is the basis of philosophy and is present in the earliest historical records.
The above text essentially claims: 'religion arose as the evolving bipedal primate tried to explain his environment'. That's POV. Christians, Muslims, and Hindus, at least, and probably New Age types, don't see it that way. --goethean 13:35, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
All philosophical and religious beliefs arose as a result of curious human beings trying to explain their environment. To assert this is not to comment on the truth or falsehood of the beliefs that arose. SlimVirgin (talk) 13:47, May 1, 2005 (UTC)
Some people believe that their beliefs arose because God instilled them. You are speaking from a strictly rationalist POV, which I share, but we must both recognise it as a POV.Grace Note 13:50, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
Even from that POV, had we not been trying to explain our environment, the beliefs instilled and the stories told would arguably not have affected or interested us. Our curious natures and our need for explanations underpins the whole thing from a religious and a rationalist POV, which is why it was phrased in those terms. The story of Adam and Eve is one of curiosity leading to knowledge. SlimVirgin (talk) 14:07, May 1, 2005 (UTC)
Excellent points and exactly why I largely support the intro and believe it to encompass a very difficult debate in fair and reasonable terms. Grace Note 14:16, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

::::::::I doubt that there's a Christian out there who would describe Christianity as an "attempt to explain the development and nature of the species". That's how your intro describes the origin of spiritual narratives. --goethean 14:29, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

The Picture

I think the image of a man and a woman is bad because the woman is not as steady as the man suggesting women arent as steady as men... It would be better with a image where both stand steady, upright. :/ just my 2$ Foant 10:58, 2005 May 1 (UTC)

Hi Foant, she does look a bit wobbly, but if she's standing with her feet slightly apart and one in front of the other, as she seems to be, that's actually the most stable way of standing, in that it's hard to push someone over if they're standing like that, even if you're quite a bit stronger than them. So maybe she's steadier than she looks. ;-) SlimVirgin (talk) 20:53, May 2, 2005 (UTC)

Intro suggestion

Moved from earlier section I've been thinking about whether you (User:Goethean) have had a fair hearing. I think there is a very good case for suggesting that human beings are distinguished from others by having a soul, in the belief of many. I don't think that view is expressed in the introduction. I don't believe it's an issue of NPOV, so please, don't use the inflammatory tag. Have a read of this. You might like it. I certainly think that given that the billion or however many there are Catholics theoretically believe this, and to a large extent so do the Protestants, it is not extreme to suggest that there is "a belief that humans are distinguished from other animals by having a soul" or something similar, and I don't think it's entirely out of place in the introduction. I think "with reference to the concept of the soul", a phrase that has troubled me throughout this process, is mealymouthed at best. I don't see why we couldn't at least say "and belief that man is distinguished from other animals by the possession of a soul, among other qualities."

I'd like to hear objections to that. I would request that they are more substantial than "it's not a rational belief", because we are not here to make judgements on others' beliefs, or "no other encyclopaedia says it", because I have cited an encyclopaedia that does say this particular thing and in any case the discussion about whether Wikipedia is the same sort of thing as other encyclopaedias is not decided. Grace Note 03:37, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

I don't mind Grace Note's suggestion, particularly if it would put the issue of the intro to rest with the current editors of this article. It would mean the relevant sentence would read: "The latter emphasizes a spiritual or non-physical dimension to life, and may include belief in God, gods or other supernatural entities, and the belief that man is distinguished from other animals by the possession of a soul, among other qualities." I would prefer "humans are distinguished ..." to "man is ..." but otherwise I'd have no objection. I do object to any extension of the religious aspect though, particularly the suggestion that we start getting into Eastern religions, and being made in the image of God, because then we'd have to start including a bunch of other beliefs too, and there would be no clear end to it. SlimVirgin (talk) 05:22, May 2, 2005 (UTC)
I believe that the objection to and belief that man is distinguished from other animals by the possession of a soul, among other qualities was that, Hindus for example, see animals as having souls also. Thus the current mealy-mouthedness. --goethean 13:41, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
Well then, Goethean, is it not the case that Hindus do not distinguish humans from animals on that basis, so their views are moot in this context?Grace Note 13:52, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
I suppose that would be fine, although the present 'soul' language is quite inclusive. I personally have never argued for soul language to be included. That was Tom's thing. --goethean 14:05, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
Then what exactly are you arguing for? That Buddhists think everything is mara? That is not how they distinguish humans from other beings though, is it? Which is after all, what our intro is about. Grace Note 14:07, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
Just being fair to other beliefs. Just recognizing the plurality of perspectives. "Some believe that we are created in the image of a supreme being" or something similar is really the minimum amount needed to achieve some semblance of fairness, and then you should mention Eastern religion somehow. --goethean 14:16, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
Well, if Buddhists think that everything, plants, animals and humans alike, are mara, and if they would authentically object to the current intro on that basis, then I believe that the intro should be amended to report that fact. I realize that there is an enormous number of complicated belief systems out there and that we can only mention a few. But we've currently got a 213-word intro that treats religion as a fiction. --goethean 14:24, 1 May 2005 (UTC)


Yes, I accept that you have good motives and are pursuing fairness. I'm just not sure that the plurality of perspectives exists or, if it does, whether it can be done justice to. That's what I'm driving at. Buddhists don't believe humans are mara and everything else isn't. And this article is about humans not what different humans think about the world.
The image of God thing is *very* difficult. What does it mean? Can you find a source that discusses what it means in terms that make sense? What wording are you suggesting? I think that it's possible to have something in the intro but strictly in terms of what makes a human, not just general blather about what humans believe.
I think SlimVirgin's discussion of beliefs and how they arose from our curiosity speaks about humans at a very basic level, and is something all beliefs would accept. You've got to aim for that level, that depth, to hope to sway the hardcore rationalist types.
The Buddhist thing's a nonstarter by the way. You'd go a long way to find a Buddhist who objected to the notion that we are bipedal primates who reflect on their environment. In fact, the Buddha urged that reflection.Grace Note 14:31, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
You may be right, although the beliefs of Tibetan Buddhists in particular seem quite at odds with naturalistic explanations. --goethean 14:36, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
And this article is about humans not what different humans think about the world. --Grace Note
No, it's about what humans think about humans. If Buddhists think that everything, including human beings, are maya, I don't see why that fact is irrelevant to this article. --goethean 18:59, 2 May 2005 (UTC)
If the Buddhists think that everything is maya, then it is not a thing that distinguishes humans. Scientists believe everything is atoms, Goethean. We don't feel the need to state that in the introduction to this article. Grace Note 23:02, 2 May 2005 (UTC)
The image of God thing is *very* difficult. What does it mean? Can you find a source that discusses what it means in terms that make sense? --Grace Note
Undoubtedly, it means many different things to different people, including Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Sunnis, Shiites. But 2.2B Christians and about 1B Muslims find the formulation meaningful enough to subscribe to it. I find it odd that that's not notable enough for this article. --goethean 19:05, 2 May 2005 (UTC)
You don't doubt that? Well, can you source it? Can you stop putting contentious tags on to the page until you provide sources for the contention? Do Muslims even believe that? I think they might consider it blasphemous.
If you want this article to being by saying that many people believe human beings are made in the image of God, you need to source that belief and source an explanation of how that makes them different from other animals. If you cannot convince the editors who are working on this page, you have no chance of convincing a reader. Grace Note 22:57, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

human/man

when the choice is between "man is" and "humans are", it is certainly preferable to say "man is". "man" without article still means "member of the human race", and is in no way politically incorrect. "humans are", otoh, is grammatically incorrect. You could, of course, say "human beings are", problem solved. but seeing that 'human' is an adjective, "humans" sounds like a political faction, like the 'reds', or the 'miserables' or something. It's science-fiction lingo. Maybe for killer robots from outer space it is appropriate to drone "must-kill-hoo-mans", but it's not suitable for an encyclopedic text. dab () 16:02, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

Human is now used as a noun and adjective. See the section on terminology. SlimVirgin (talk) 16:24, May 2, 2005 (UTC)
I know it is used as a noun. That's precisely what I'm complaining about. I was also involved in the "terminology" section. Only, someone changed "is not considered good style" to "used not to be considered good style". Begging the question, is it considered "good style in traditional English grammar" now? When did that tradition change? I'm not so far up my ass as to start an edit war about this, but since we have the choice, why not choose the stylistically superior form? "human" as a noun doesn't raise any eyebrows in Science-Fiction literature, I grant you that. But, do we really want to be the "'pedia that slashdot built", even in this article? dab () 16:58, 2 May 2005 (UTC)
The use of the word "human" as a noun as well as an adjective is correct, not a misuse. For example, Encyclopaedia Britannica: "Humans occur in a number of freely interbreeding races and are the sole recent representatives of the family Hominidae. (See hominid.) The term man has traditionally referred to the human race in general, or mankind, though in the term's modern and more limited usage, a man is simply an adult male human." SlimVirgin (talk) 17:25, May 2, 2005 (UTC)
not the 1911 one, though [5]. 1913 Webster's has a noun entry marked "colloquial". Whether or not it is "good style" to use human as a noun has no bearing, however, on the question of the meaning of man: yes, "a man", with an article, is an adult male "human". "man", however, unambiguously refers to mankind, even in 2005, and may be used so. You don't say "Man called me, the other day". I'm not going to eradicate use of "humans", even in this article. But why not consider using "human being" instead, and when reference to the collective is made, even "mankind" or "man". dab () 18:55, 2 May 2005 (UTC)
As humans, human beings, and humankind are nouns, and all are correct, there's no need to use man or mankind. As the Encyclopaedia Britannica notes: "in the term's modern and more limited usage, a man is simply an adult male human." I can't see any problem here. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:07, May 2, 2005 (UTC)
by your reasoning: as man, mankind, human beings and homines sapientes are all both nouns and correct by any standard, there's no need to use humans. You will note (as I pointed out twice before), that the EB doesn't claim "man is simply an adult male human." There can be no confusion between "man" and "a man". Anyway, my question now is: if "humans" was 'colloquial' in 1913, and up to encyclopedic standard in 2005, when did it make the transition, and does that hold for both British and American English? I am quite certain that "humans" was bad style until at least the 1950s, if not longer (assuming for argument's sake that it is 'good style' today). dab () 20:18, 2 May 2005 (UTC)
Sorry if I'm being dense, but I'm not quite sure of the point here. The EB states clearly that the modern usage of "man" is "adult male human." The EB also uses "human" as a noun and adjective. So the term "human" is now often (though not always) used where the term "man" used to be, and "humankind" is often (though not always) used instead of "mankind." Regarding when "human" as a noun ceased to be regarded as poor style, I honestly don't know. All I'm saying is that the sentence in question is grammatically correct, to the best of my knowledge. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:43, May 2, 2005 (UTC)
Having said that, I don't mind if someone wants to change it to human beings. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:48, May 2, 2005 (UTC)

I'd be very sorry to see it changed to "man", but (while SlimVirgin has clearly established that "humans" is accepted as good style outside the covers of Amazing!), I also prefer "human beings". On the other hand, the article is called "Human", not "Human being"... Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 20:52, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

I'll answer Dbachmann's question. It is no use referring to a 1913 dictionary as your reference for the use of words today. "Human" as a noun has been good style for years; I'd say at least 50. Man is less and less used these days, because it is a politically loaded term.

The problem with using "human being" these days is that it appears at first sight to be a tautology, because "human" now means "human being". Only a careful reader has at the tip of their mind that "human" in "human being" is the same word as in "human nature" or "human remains" and, even then, the reader is liable to understand it as a noun used as an adjective (similarly to "dog" in "dog collar" or "dog lover"). Grace Note 23:11, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

ok, I would like to keep the "human" question separate from the "man" question (although the two are related). You say "at least 50 years". I say "at most 50". So we both seem to assume the process started some 50 years ago. I have no doubt that "human" is treated as a noun by lots of native speakers, and that the same native speakers think that "man" means "male human". However, these would be the uneducated speakers that didn't pay attention to their English teacher, and who never read a book of literature older than a couple of years. My question relates to "official", correct, literary English. I simply don't see how "man" can be 'politically loaded' for people who know some basic English grammar, and recognize that the word has not the same meaning when used with an article. "a man" is male. "man" refers to mankind, collectively. How is that ambiguous, let alone 'politically loaded'? Also note that even the 2005 Britannica titles its article "human being", and not human, like we do. Of course we can have an article about the adjective, this is precisely why I wanted the "terminology" section, referring to "humane", "inhuman" etc. Even we begin the article with "human beings...", even though somebody unbolded the 'beings' . I do understand that "the kids" think "human" is a noun, making "human being" seem like a tautology. But my point is that, as an encyclopedia, we may use the correct terminology, and explain these processes to people. In fact, the whole semantic shift of "man" and "human" involved here would merit treatment in article space. Where should I take this, to Man, to Mannaz, to Human (terminology), or somewhere else? If anyone has access to the OED, I would be very interested in the earliest "respectable" use of "humans" outside science fiction. I did a literature search, and I did find 19th century examples of nominal use, but always in substandard idiom, or jokingly (e.g. "by golly, us humans are a puny lot" or similar). The first "serious" nominal use I found was in Lem, contrasting "humans" with "robots", i.e. Lem coined an idiom, set in the future, so to speak predicting a future English where "human" would be a noun. But what are the earliest, say, biology textbooks that use human nominally? I do not think they can be very old. The 1980s? I must say that the use in the 2005 Britannica is a bit shocking for me. It does seem that Lem's prediction has finally come true. But that's not something that happened 50 years ago, the final stages of this must belong in the 2000s. dab () 10:05, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

Mel, if it was up to me (which it isn't, obviously),

dab () 10:17, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

Dieter, I'm not responsible for the conceptual muddledness of native speakers of English. Suffice it to say, it exists, and "man" is frowned on nowadays as a generic. Perhaps those who feel the muddle are a little more convinced than you are by the two words' being homophones, and, at that, by the word "man" having the same source in both. It is no good appealing to Old English. "Man" has meant "adult male" for ten centuries now. I think we can accept that it has stuck. The view that it is not acceptable is widespread and becoming ever more so, and it is Wikipedia's general usage to reflect views fairly, not to impose its views. The use of "human being" for "human" strikes me as a bit quaint. Not that it is a genuine test, but there are just shy of 40 million usages of "humans" in Google, and 12 million of "human beings". This does not include usages of "human" as a singular noun, but I think it's quite clear that it's not just the "kids" who employ it so (a cursory glance will show it has usage among all types, from scientists to pulp fictioneers). They may or may not be "uneducated" but education has never been a measure in language: usage is dictated by what speakers use, with, generally, the majority winning, not those who brandish the most impressive qualifications. It goes without saying that whichever lowly educated person began this page used "human" as a noun, because this page is not called "human being".Grace Note 23:17, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

The very first version back in 2001 actually notes that the use of man and mankind is discouraged. [6] SlimVirgin (talk) 23:42, May 3, 2005 (UTC)
sure, sure, I'm not insisting we use "man". I'm just saying, sheesh, what will they decide is politically incorrect next. "man is..." has been "poetic" style for some time, so I agree it does not really commend itself to us here.
More interesting is the "humans" case. Couldn't we at least have the article at "human being"? like the 2005 Britannica? It's certainly not wrong not to use "man". But the "humans" portions are arguably in inferior style: We don't have to use "human n." either, without condemning its admittedly widespread use. "human" may yield 34M hits. But look, number one is titled "die puny humans"(!). Number two is an "everyman's introduction to evolution". Number three is this article (we are responsible for the language on WP, because it does have an impact on reality). The remaining links on the first two pages include "better humans - create the future", "save the humans humour and satire", "tell humans and computers apart" (Lem!), "destroy all humans", i.e. exactly the use I predicted (slashdot!, don't learn English based on Internet lexical statistics!) Anyway, this is not the most urgent edit-war on Wikipedia, and I'll be back when, and if, I get more ammunition out of OED. dab () 13:08, 4 May 2005 (UTC)

PoV template

From the relevant section of Wikipedia:Template messages/Disputes:

"Like the article messages above, these messages are intended for editors not readers and should go on the talk page. Sadly sometimes these messages are the only way to placate warring editors and they end up on article pages. Please minimize such cases. Wikipedia is meant to be a resource for readers, not a playground for editors."

This template's wording clearly shows that in this case it's meant for articles rather than for Talk pages, but the principle remains: it should be used in extremis. The mere fact that one or two editors disagree with the article isn't sufficient grounds, especially when the majority of editors disagree with them. If the template were placed on every article about which there's some disagreement of this sort, few pages in Wikipedia would escape. It isn't a weapon to be wielded in an edit war.

In fact I do feel that the article isn't NPoV; all that vague stuff about "spirituality", as well as the talk about religion in the summary, looks very peculiar in an article of this sort, and will almost certainly serve to lower Wikipedia in the eyes of most of those who read this article, but so long as there are people who have a very strong religious agenda, Wikipedia is going to have to make that sort of compromise. To disfigure the article with the PoV template would be an act of petty retaliation against those with whom I disagree, and would serve no practical purpose. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 20:31, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

I think that you have to accept that very many people are at least nominally religious. Wikipedia is not here to judge them, nor to be snide about their beliefs. You don't need a particularly strong "religious agenda" to believe man is distinguished from the beasts by having a soul, or by being made in God's image. Wikipedia is not scienceopaedia, not a rationalists' paradise, and it should not become one. It should represent all views fairly. The view that man has a soul and that God put it there is very widely held, which should be represented fairly. Grace Note 23:18, 2 May 2005 (UTC)
all that vague stuff about "spirituality", as well as the talk about religion in the summary, looks very peculiar in an article of this sort, and will almost certainly serve to lower Wikipedia in the eyes of most of those who read this article, but so long as there are people who have a very strong religious agenda, Wikipedia is going to have to make that sort of compromise. --Mel Etits
It's vague because the anti-religious crowd won't let anything specific in.
So on your view, NPOV dismisses what most people believe. Not only do we not present people's views as legitimate or assume good faith on their part, we're not even supposed to mention them. And why is that? Because we are certain that they are wrong. We are right and they are wrong.
Neutrality is all about presenting competing versions of
what the facts are. It doesn't matter at all how convinced
you are that your facts are the facts. If a significant
number of other interested parties disagrees with you, the
neutrality policy dictates that the discussion be recast
as a fair presentation of the dispute between the parties.

--Larry Sanger

Tell me — how many editors does it take to constitute a "significant number"? --goethean 23:54, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

But there actually has to be a dispute! You have not provided any sources for the belief that humans are not, in fact, bipedal primates. You have not provided any sources for the belief that we are distinguished from animals in "spiritual terms". I think that we now have that some believe we are distinguished by having souls, and it is reported fairly -- as a separate issue from the biological, which it certainly is. Did you read the Cath. Enc. article I cited for you? It's a very good exposition of Christian dogma and it does not bear you out. You have posted some stuff about Hindus thinking we are made of chakras. Well, okay, but it's not actually germane, is it? The introduction tries to cover (briefly) what humans consist in, not everything that can be said about them by anyone who might have an opinion.

And you are not a "significant number". You are the only person complaining that we don't say that Buddhists think the entire universe is maya and that this means... well, whatever you think that it implies for humans. Grace Note 00:03, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

I'm trying to follow you. Why is it that what Hindus believe about humans is not relevant to this article? --goethean 00:06, 3 May 2005 (UTC)
We're talking only about the introduction, not the article, and others have told you over and over what the problem is, and it actually boils down to one of space. The intro must succintly sum up mainstream, relevant views. We can't go into detail or even mention by name specific ideologies. If you're interested in the religious content of this article, please take a look at the religious section and perhaps consider rewriting or adding to it, because it (and the whole article, in fact) is in need of attention. The introduction is not. You're arguing now for the sake of it, and that's not what the talk page is here for. SlimVirgin (talk) 00:56, May 3, 2005 (UTC)

Well, there's that, but there is also that you are wanting to talk about something that this article is not about! Hindus believe that everything is a reflection of an underlying unity but this is true of absolutely everything, not specifically or humans. If you really felt it was "POV" not to mention this, it would be POV not to mention it in every single article in Wikipedia. The same goes for Buddhists. Are you seriously suggesting that every article in the encyclopaedia should carry a notice that says "Please note: some Buddhists believe that everything is just illusory, including the subject of this article"? If you are not, I fail to see what you are actually arguing.

As I said, scientists believe that everything material is made of atoms. Will you similarly claim it is POV not to mention that in every article about things material?Grace Note 01:06, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

  1. SlimVirgin has made the most important point (and Grace Note's point is also useful), but
  2. I have asked repeatedly for an explanation of what people mean by "spirituality" (see the archives of this page); no-one has answered. That it's vague is not "because the anti-religious crowd won't let anything specific in"; it's because even the people who want to stick it in don't really know what they men by it. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:04, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

Perhaps if you behaved less offensively, or moved on to another article, the discussion here might be able to progress slightly. Sam Spade 10:22, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

och Sam, just leave him alone. he makes a valid point, and we cannot treat "spirituality" in detail here, any more that idealism, dualism, atomism or materialism, do give everybody a break. Neither can we detail the Hindu views any more than the Australian Aboriginal, the Hopi, the Wolof, the Inuit or the Druidic ones, in the intro. dab () 11:03, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

See User:Goethean/Human. Sam Spade 12:48, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

I've explained at great length why that's not a way forward. The intro as it stands discusses how humans are distinguished from other animals and that is proper for an article about humans. Goethean wants to shoehorn humans' beliefs about the world in general into the intro. They have no place.Grace Note 15:12, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

Historically, spirituality has referred to the cultivation of entities other than those available to the immediate senses. Namely, the soul and/or spirit, which most members of most cultures, both historical and contemporary, believe to exist. That you, Mel Etits, believe that the soul and the spirit do not exist is not terribly relevant to the composition of this article. Or at least it wouldn't be, if we were following trying to write from a neutral point of view. --goethean 14:43, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

Well, frankly, spirituality isn't very relevant to the article either, given that it's about humans and not what humans believe (which we have tons of articles on).Grace Note 15:12, 3 May 2005 (UTC)
Religious people believe that spirituality is an integral part, or sometimes, the integral part of being human. --goethean 16:00, 3 May 2005 (UTC)
And we say that, Goethean. You want something much more specific and much less to the point. Grace Note 23:21, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

People are what they believe and how they behave, as well as their biology. The better articles on animals accentuate a wide variety of characteristics other than simply their physical aspects. Frankly the fact that we are even discussing omiting the spiritual aspect of humanity from this article underlines the problems faced not only by this page, but by any page faced by a determined special interest lobby. Sam Spade 19:22, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

So those who favor knowledge that is derived from the observation of nature as opposed to arbitrary, or at best highly subjective, personal beliefs are a special interest lobby? Hmmm... a special interest lobby for reality? I'd think reality wouldn't need special representation to be accepted, but OK, if you say so. Such is the nature of faith. In the struggle of rational epistemologies vs. irrational epistmologies, reality itself will always favor the former. The difference between faith and a conditional reliance on observation of the natural world is profound, and puts the lie to any claim that those who are so inclined are a special interest. FeloniousMonk 20:12, 3 May 2005 (UTC)
Unfortunately for your view, things have changed in the philosophy of science since the 17th century. --goethean 20:41, 3 May 2005 (UTC)
Sam, for my own part, I feel that Goethean is the one representing the special-interest lobby. I know I've made a number of concessions, was involved in writing the compromise intro, and have agreed to almost every suggestion for changes to it, but the more we concede, the more we're asked to concede, with previous concessions left unacknowledged.
WP:NPOV states, quoting Jimbo, that "[w]e can only seek a type of writing that is agreeable to essentially rational people who may differ on particular points," (my emphasis), and that "[a]rticles that compare views need not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views ... If we are to represent the dispute fairly, we should present competing views in proportion to their representation among experts on the subject, or among the concerned parties," (my emphasis).
The view that human beings are bipedal primates with highly developed brains, the capacity for abstract reasoning, speech, language, introspection, who have organized themselves into complex social structures and developed cultures incorporating different beliefs, rituals, and values is, without question, the majority view among experts on the subject, as well as among essentially rational non-experts. The view that we have souls and may have been created in the image of God is a significant-minority view compared to the former. Therefore, it has been given less space in the introduction, but no restriction of space within the rest of the article.
I will not be inclined to make further concessions to Goethean's position, though I can't speak for anyone else. I suggest that, instead of complaining on this page, Goethean should consider starting the dispute-resolution process. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:59, May 3, 2005 (UTC)
I'm quite amused by the view that the idea that we have souls is not "rational" or is a minority view! I'd say that Descartes was pretty rational and he believed we not only had a soul but that it was the seat of our rationality at that! And I'd say that most people on this earth believe we have a soul of some sort. Grace Note 23:21, 3 May 2005 (UTC)
No, I didn't say people who believe in souls are not rational; I said that NPOV is restricted to the views of essentially rational people. I also didn't say that the idea that we have souls is a minority view. I said it was a significant-minority belief compared to the belief that we walk on two legs, speak, and have organized ourselves into societies. Clearly, no rational person would deny that, but many rational people would deny we have souls. SlimVirgin (talk) 23:30, May 3, 2005 (UTC)
Jimbo Wales continues:
1. An encyclopedic article should not argue that corporations are criminals, even if the author believes it to be so. It should instead present the fact that some people believe it, and what their reasons are, and then as well it should present what the other side says.
--goethean 21:17, 3 May 2005 (UTC)
And that's exactly what the introduction does, bearing in mind that we report the views of essentially rational people and that majority views are given more space than significant-minority ones. Goethean, for the umpteenth time, the majority of editors on this page are willing to support the current intro. Please seek dispute resolution or drop it. SlimVirgin (talk) 21:32, May 3, 2005 (UTC)
I'll keep your suggestion in mind.
bearing in mind that we report the views of essentially rational people
In other words: dismissing without mention the views of 5 out of the 6 billion inhabitants of the world. --goethean 21:35, 3 May 2005 (UTC)
You've done nothing to substantiate that figure, or indeed anything else that you've claimed, and in any event, that's not what I wrote. Please read carefully what I wrote before you try to paraphrase it or draw implications from it. SlimVirgin (talk) 21:39, May 3, 2005 (UTC)

Timeloop wormhole, anyone? Sam Spade 21:48, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

i thought it was just me:). Ungtss 21:51, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

People are people

As I've said before, were all POV regarding ourselves, and this article is our autobiography (and that of our parents, loved ones, ancestors, children, etc...), so lets not take ourselves too seriously, or each other too severely. I think the answer for this page lies within the wiki process, and esp. within consensus and goodwill. I don't want to see the article saying "there is a God, and people have a soul, and etc...". I want to see the article saying: "Some people think this, some people think that, heres a summary", links galore. Can we at least agree in practice, if not in theory? ;) Sam Spade 22:24, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

hmm ... proposed new intro: "People are people. We don't really know what we are, but we damn sure all think we do. Here's what people have to say on the topic." Ungtss 22:28, 3 May 2005 (UTC)
As I said early, we might as well blank the article and redirect it to this talk page.  ;-) SlimVirgin (talk) 22:50, May 3, 2005 (UTC)
Personally I think people are way more amiable IRL than they are on the wiki, but maybe thats just my sheltered existence (traveling the worlds air bases ;) Sam Spade 23:05, 3 May 2005 (UTC)