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Science Writer and Editor

We don’t know which species should be classed as ‘human’

We don’t know which species should be classed as ‘human’

BBC Earth

Image:  Jack at Wikipedia

Some say it is culture that makes us human. Others opt for our moralitylanguage, or even our sense of humour. But putting philosophy to one side, what literally makes us human?

Surprisingly, there is no official answer. Science has yet to agree on a formal description for our genus, Homo, or our species, sapiens.

It’s not for lack of trying. There are actually several suggested definitions for the human genus – and an astonishingly broad range of opinions over what does and does not belong within it.

Talk to some scientists and you’ll be told that the genus Homo is little more than 100,000 years old and excludes even the most famous prehistoric “humans”, the Neanderthals. But others say our human genus actually has a history stretching back about 11 million years old and includes not only living people and extinct Neanderthals, but also chimpanzees and even gorillas.

How can there be so much disagreement on such a fundamental issue? And, more importantly, which definition of the human genus is the right one? Read more on the BBC Earth website…