On adult behavior
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Why the name of our species is broken

[ 4 min read ]

According to Wikipedia binomial nomenclature (“two-term naming system”) also called binominal nomenclature (“two-name naming system”) or binary nomenclature, is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages. Such a name is called a binomial name (which may be shortened to just “binomial”), a binomen, binominal name or a scientific name; more informally it is also called a Latin name. Binomial nomenclature is used in taxonomy (the science of defining and naming groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics).

The first part of the name identifies the genus to which the species belongs; the second part — the specific name or specific epithet — identifies the species within the genus. For example, humans belong to the genus Homo and within this genus to the species Homo sapiens.

The formal introduction of this system of naming species is credited to Carl von Linné, more commonly known by his Latinized name Carl Linnaeus, effectively beginning with his work Species Plantarum in 1753.

The name Homo sapiens describing the only extant human species (Latin for ‘wise man’) was introduced in 1758 also by Carl Linnaeus.

Someone (one of us — Carl Linnaeus) once decided that the current version of our species will be called Homo sapiens. And everybody acquiesced. No wonder they acquiesced. And no wonder the name stuck. ‘Sapiens’ means wise and ‘wise’ in our language means having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right. Or to put it differently, having / displaying something we called ’wisdom’. And what is wisdom? Common sense (sound practical sense, or sound judgment not based on specialized knowledge), or simply good judgment.

Cool name, isn’t it?

It could be deemed a proper name for our species were it not for the fact that other primates classified in the genus Homo, were wise too. If they hadn’t been they wouldn’t have been able to function properly. In general, all species capable of functioning properly in nature (i.e. all species) must be, what we called, ‘wise’.

Of course they have their own ‘wisdom’. But we make a continuous effort not to notice it, or not to admit it. We called their wisdom ‘instinct’. Or rather concluded that they have what we called ‘instinct’, and lack, what we called ‘wisdom’.

There is no such thing as ‘wisdom’ or ‘instinct’. They’re our inventions. We made them up. And, as with most things, there is no guarantee we did it right. We make many mistakes. We make them all the time (according to our knowledge initially Earth was flat).

There are living organisms (something we called ‘living organisms’, i.e. certain part of something we called ‘the universe’) which know what to do in order to survive and ensure the continuation of their own species. We made that distinction between ‘instinct’ and ‘wisdom’ — nobody besides us (no other ‘living organism’) knows such things exist. They know nothing about ‘instinct’ and / or ’wisdom’. They know what to do in order to survive and ensure the continuation of their own species (but cannot be 100% certain they’ll succeed).

We too have our ‘instinct’ but we pay little attention to it. We are Homo sapiens after all so we prefer to concentrate on that. At least that’s what we’ve been calling ourselves since 1758. Whole 260 years. Out of how many thousands of years? According to Encyclopædia Britannica we (as Homo sapiens) very likely first evolved in Africa about 315,000 years ago. So the current name of our species is a rather recent invention.

I think this name isn’t correct. It is a result of our wishful thinking. The descriptive part (‘sapiens’), as something which should differentiate us from other primates classified in the genus Homo is broken.

I think Homo cupidus (wishful man, or someone / something of which a distinctive feature is biased / wishful thinking), or Homo somnians (dreaming man, or someone / something of which a distinctive feature is dreaming / wishing something was better than it actually was / is) or Homo insanus (lunatic man, or someone / something of which a distinctive feature is having so called “unrealistic” visions), or Homo stultus (stupid man or someone / something of which a distinctive feature is the ability to do stupid things), or Homo perniciosus (destructive man, or someone / something of which a distinctive feature is the ability to destruct), or Homo suprascriptus (entitled man, or someone / something of which a distinctive feature is entitlement), or Homo favens (biased man, or someone / something of which a distinctive feature is the bias towards him-, her- or itself) would be way more precise terms describing our species. I think the last two are most accurate ones.

But definitely not Homo sapiens.

It’s possible that I’ve got some of the Latin endings wrong, but I don’t think it’s that of a problem (it’s correctable). A bigger problem (or maybe that’s also not a big one — who cares after all, it’s just a name, we don’t have to use it if we don’t like it) is that we’d got the name of our species wrong and it stuck with all of us. Besides, realizing that we’d got it wrong, admitting it, won’t change much (or even anything). We will still be biased, only we would be reminded of it each time we’d use the name of our species. And that’s why we will never change that damn name — Homo sapiens sits better with our biased nature.