April 25, 2012

Journal of Higher Education portrays education professors as inferior because they "were about twice as likely as general faculty members to be unaware that human beings are apes."

What?! Human beings are not apes! We're primates, but not apes. If you're going to lay into other people for being "unaware," get your facts straight!

57 comments:

themightypuck said...

The great apes belong to the taxonomic family Homindae, which includes chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, gorillas and humans.

http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/finder/greatapes/greatapes.html

Still who cares. Getting linnean taxonomy wrong doesn't mean a lack of understanding.

rhhardin said...

A is B isn't an identity but takes A narrowly and B broadly, B being expanded enough to cover A.

As in: might is right.

Or its opposite: right is might.

I myself think apes are men.

chickenlittle said...

Is this question within the Scope of a trial?

Ann Althouse said...

If the question is, Are human beings apes? the answer is no.

I know what all of this looks like on the taxonomic charts, but the word "ape" is not the right word for humans. I consulted multiple sources before writing this post.

The article portrays it as stupid to answer "no" to that question. I can understand giving credit for either no or yes but that's not what's going on here.

Icepick said...

The relatedness of humans and apes is still a matter of debate.

pogo101 said...

Ann, "great apes, including humans," is straight of the Wiki entry you linked.

Don M said...

Yes we are apes, in the ape family called in Latin Hominidae.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Theria
Infraclass: Eutheria
Order: Primates
Suborder: Anthropoidea
Superfamily: Hominoidea
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Homo
Species: sapiens

Of course if you believe in "Intelligent Design" that is just an accident, no moral implications whatsoever.

Kazinski said...

Humans are Apes, agreed, but not many are great. That maybe where the disconnect is.

chickenlittle said...

The question is to whom is it most important that humans be apes?

Can man and ape reproduce? (I know some try but that's different)

How much genetic sequence homology counts towards sameness?

themightypuck said...

Looking at wikipedia, I get the sense that humans used to get a special carveout but currently are included under hominidae. So basically, if you consider humans apes you are reading the current literature :)

chickenlittle said...

The Kinks' Apeman from 1970.

themightypuck said...

Without seeing the form of the actual question it is difficult to know how the author drew the conclusion that education professors didn't know humans are apes. On the other hand (depending on the sample size) it is interesting that there is around the same difference between education professors and general faculty members. If the question was confusing you'd expect it to be confusing across the board. In any case I don't see how you can attach stupid to the result. It is probably more indicative of world view than intelligence.

edutcher said...

In the case of some people, human and ape is distinction without difference, but even people who don't buy evolution know humans aren't apes.

phx said...
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phx said...
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Michael K said...

That is a weird question. Apes are primates but not humans. Orangutans are considered closer to humans genetically.

themightypuck said...

Most interesting item from the study:
"30% of the general faculty, 59% of the educators, and 75% of the students were Lamarckian (=believed in inheritance of acquired traits)."

Evolution Literacy

Don M said...

It is particularly interesting that humans have one fewer chromosome than the other apes. Further two ape chromosomes can be matched to one human chromosome. Telomere are characteristic sequences which end chromosomes. In the bonded chromosome, there are 'failed' telomeres between the two bonded chromosome.

Of course that has no moral implications whatsoever.

Don M said...

No. Orangs are not closer to humans. Chimps/bonobos are. There is some dispute as to whether chimps and bonobos are separate or not.

phx said...
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Bob_R said...

Whether the answer is right or wrong, it's stupid to base a judgement of inferiority/superiority on it. It's a question on a narrow issue of taxonomy and nomenclature. It doesn't determine if the person being tested has any understanding of the science behind the names. It's the kind of question I'd expect an education professor to come up with. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Icepick said...

"Humans are Apes, agreed, but not many are great."

How many have you tried?


Yet one MORE opportunity to link to HuFu on Althouse. Damn you, merciless markets, for driving HuFu out of business!

chickenlittle said...

themightypuck said...
So basically, if you consider humans apes you are reading the current literature :)

When I was in school chemical species like sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid were thought to violate the octet rule and Pauling carved out an explanation for them. That's no longer the case, apparently, but the acids, meanwhile, haven't changed a bit. :)

Bob Ellison said...

It's a linguistic question. What happens if you grab someone's shoulder and point and shout, "Look out! An ape!" What will that grabbed person think first?

In Africa, or in the Philadelphia Zoo, that person might first think you're talking about a non-human monkey thing. If that shoulder you grab is in San Francisco, however, or maybe Manhattan, that person might think you're pointing at a Republican.

I'm with the Professor, mostly. "Ape" is a word meant to differentiate between humans and human-like beasts. Sure, sure, we're in the same family and all that, but the word has meaning, and you destroy that meaning if you insist the boundaries aren't there.

Ann Althouse said...

"Without seeing the form of the actual question it is difficult to know how the author drew the conclusion that education professors didn't know humans are apes."

That's why I'm only criticizing the journal.

I'll bet the question was something like "are human beings and apes in the same taxonomic family."

Ann Althouse said...

A standard dictionary definition of "ape" does not include human beings.

themightypuck said...

I'm picturing a multiple choice question asking which of these are apes with pictures of a gorilla, a macaque, roddy mcdowell and davy jones.

chickenlittle said...

Don M wrote: In the bonded chromosome, there are 'failed' telomeres between the two bonded chromosome.

Of course that has no moral implications whatsoever.


I think it has both moral and aesthetic implications--especially if you consider body hair good, bad, or ugly, and that juncture (conjunction?) is the locus of that stored genetic information.

AllieOop said...

If apes in shorts fly, they should be made to buy two seats. Those hairy legs might scare some ladies and make children cry.

Big Mike said...

Richard Leakey has long maintained that humans are simply a hairless species of ape.

Case closed.

;-)

Fritz said...

Sorry Ann, people are apes. In every sense of the word.

chickenlittle said...

When I was a boy, my folks took me to a local restaurant. Vocal and uninhibited, I pointed to a strange man across the way and said loudly: "Look mom, that man looks just like Magilla Gorilla."

True story

rhhardin said...

Vicki Hearne reports that female chimps masturbate to Playgirl.

wyo sis said...

Before reading the comments I'd have said "Humans and apes are not the same thing."

Chip Ahoy said...

The rules on this are simple enough.

Humans are apes. Unless you are talking about a mixed race American president then such an observation is Racist. For example, it is okay fine and dandy perfectly kosher and copacetic within Marquess of Queensberry rules to depict a caucasian American president as a monkey, barefoot with monkey feet, deplaning AF1, "is this Yurp?", and be awarded best comic of the year, but should you draw your cartoon of Obama with monkey ears then you are clearly being racist and only racist.

Luke Lea said...

Humans are not "apes" according to Wikipedia:

"Thus the two sets of groups, and hence names, do not match, which causes problems in relating scientific names to common names. Consider the superfamily Hominoidea. In terms of the common names on the right, this group consists of apes and humans, and there is no single common name for all the members of the group. One possibility is to create a new common name, in this case "hominoids". Another possibility is to expand the use of one of the traditional terms. For example, in a 2005 book, the vertebrate palaeontologist Benton wrote "The apes, Hominoidea, today include the gibbons and orang-utan ... the gorilla and chimpanzee ... and humans",[10] thereby using "apes" to mean "hominoids". The group traditionally called "apes" must then be called the "nonhuman apes".

As of July 2011, there is no consensus as to which approach to follow, whether to accept traditional paraphyletic common names or whether to use monophyletic names, either new ones or adaptations of old ones. Both approaches will be found in biological sources, often in the same work. Thus although Benton defines "apes" to include humans, he also repeatedly uses "ape-like" to mean "like an ape rather than a human", and when discussing the reaction of others to a new fossil writes of "claims that Orrorin ... was an ape rather than a human".[10]"

DADvocate said...

Here's the opinion of the highest authority on the subject.

I'm an ape man, I'm an ape ape man
I'm an ape man I'm a King Kong man I'm ape ape man
I'm an ape man
'Cos compared to the sun that sits in the sky
compared to the clouds as they roll by
Compared to the bugs and the spiders and flies
I am an ape man

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEep67akIn4

rhhardin said...

Milton starts the categories at the top with a division into male and female.

bagoh20 said...

I don't know how the question could be serious if it wasn't meant in the scientific sense, where the answer is generally considered yes.

Are you really going to ask an adult if a human is an ape in the common use of the word? That would be silly. It might make sense to ask a 4 year old that, but if you are a college professor, I think you know the question is a a taxonomic one. If you don't, then yes, you are inferior... to most educated people.

Revenant said...

The moral of this story is that journalists know even less than education professionals do. :)

Quaestor said...

Ann Althouse wrote:
If the question is, Are human beings apes? the answer is no.

Birds are dinosaurs. Humans are apes. Cladistics, it's not just for evolutionary biologists anymore. Get with the program.

Synova said...

Most interesting item from the study:
"30% of the general faculty, 59% of the educators, and 75% of the students were Lamarckian (=believed in inheritance of acquired traits)."

Translating that into English:

"30% of the general faculty, 59% of the educators, and 75% of the students do not read questions carefully before answering or misunderstood the usage of "acquired"."

Quaestor said...

I'm not surprised that professors of education have failed to this degree to understand basic science. Back in the day the Ed majors on my campus were much more likely to buy whatever bullshit we need to sell to get laid on the first or second date.

Public education in the US is a disgrace. In spite of spending more per student than other country our children consistently score far down the list in math and science achievement. The overwhelming reason for this sad state of affairs is the idea that education, in and of itself is a profession.

Bruce Hayden said...

Well, I have a problem here. As far as I can tell, we are closer to chimps and pygmy chimps than they are to gorillas and orangutans. My memory is that we split from the other chimps about 7 1/2 million years ago, and all of us from gorillas maybe twice that (though the linked article seems to suggest that the branch between gorillas and chimps/humans is a bit more recent than that).

Which is to say that if there is a set that includes chimps, gorillas, and orangutans, then it should also include humans. And, probably those great apes that Tarzan had to deal with. I was somewhat surprised that gorillas and orangutans are apparently closer together than either are to humans/chimps, with, thus, two basic branches of apes: gorilla/orangutan and human/chimp.

I would suggest then that if these other species are apes, then so are we, and if we are not, then it is only because we are the ones doing the classification. Similarly, it has been suggested that chimps (of both types) and humans are of the same genus, and are only classified differently because, again, we are the ones doing the classification. And, since "Homo" was named before "Pan", chimps and pygmy chimps should also be considered to belong to genus "Homo".

Quaestor said...

Ann Althouse wrote:
A standard dictionary definition of "ape" does not include human beings.

Those harmless drudges do tend to lag behind the curve, don't they? Language is naturally conservative, and a good thing, too, else written language would have evolved beyond the needs of accountancy. But it is a capital mistake to rely on Webster's for the latest scientific estimate of nature.

Quaestor said...

Bruce Hayden wrote:
And, since "Homo" was named before "Pan", chimps and pygmy chimps should also be considered to belong to genus "Homo".

So you're lumper, are you Bruce? There's something to be said for that. However, by lumping one must ignore the important differences in gross anatomy, particularly in the pelvis, the leg and the foot between Pan on the one hand and Australopithecus and Homo on the other. Chimps and bonobos have virtually identical anatomy of the hip, leg and foot which makes them obligate quadrupeds, not to mention the position of the foramen magnum, whereas Australopithecus and all of its descendants are obligate bipeds with the requisite morphology.

No, I can't go with you on this. Lumping as its virtues, but dumping Pan into Homo produces much more heat than light.

Quaestor said...

Correction:
else written language would have evolved beyond the needs of accountancy.

Should read else written language would not have evolved beyond the needs of accountancy.

I left out a whole damned word. Stupid fingers.

EDH said...

What?! Human beings are not apes! We're primates, but not apes.

"God schmod, I want my monkey man!"

Chris Althouse Cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Althouse Cohen said...

What, no Planet of the Apes clip?

Fen said...

If the question is, Are human beings apes? the answer is no.

Some of them certainly behave like apes.

Michael McNeil said...

Part of the problem here is that for many years it was thought that the human and great ape lines diverged from each other long before the great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans) diverged from each other, and so textbooks would carefully point out that humans weren't apes, but rather humans and apes both descended from a common ancestor. Somewhat similarly it was believed that birds were not descended from dinosaurs, but both (along with mammals) descended from different near-reptilian lineages.

With the advent of genetic DNA analyses, as well as more careful anatomical comparisons of the fossil record, it has been discovered that neither of those things are true. First orangutans diverged from the rest of the (African) great apes line, then considerably later, gorillas diverged from the common chimpanzee/human line, then not long after, the latter two diverged from each other. Thus, in that sense the modern consensus is that we humans are apes — African great apes — but many folk haven't updated their knowledge in this area, still recalling from their childhoods the old scientific narrative.

Similarly, birds we now know are dinosaurs — specifically (of the two major divisions of dinosaurs) Saurischian dinosaurs, more particularly Caelurosauria, feathered theropods, which by the way includes Tyranosaurs and Velociraptors, whom we now know (pace Jurassic Park) were typically covered in feathers (the very largest may have retained only a tuft or two).

In much the same way, humans are not only great apes, but primates, placental mammals, amniotes (dual lineages that include both mammals and reptiles proper), tetrapods (amphibians along with a lineage of amphibian relatives that lost their dependency on a young water-borne stage), and sarcopterygians (lobe-finned fishes) — the latter of which invented the basic body plan (jawed head, backbone, arms and legs with five fingers each, etc.) that humans still use some 400 million years later.

A good tool to use to explore these interconnected descent relationships is the “Tree of Life” web project.

Steve Koch said...

A strange post by Althouse. She says,

"What?! Human beings are not apes! We're primates, but not apes. If you're going to lay into other people for being "unaware," get your facts straight!"

But the very first paragraph at the wiki entry to which she linked says:

"The Hominidae ..., also known as great apes, as the term is used here, form a taxonomic family, including four extant genera: chimpanzees (Pan), gorillas (Gorilla), humans (Homo), and orangutans (Pongo)."

Perplexing.

SGT Ted said...

Theres novody quite so stupid as smart people sometimes.

Peter said...

Perhaps the educators are followers of the late Trofim Lysenko.

For surely it would be attractive to an educator to believe that indoctrination in the classroom not only can affect the student's beliefs and worldview, but that these beliefs and worldviews might be inheritable?

In any case, the real scandal is that schools of education attract the least capable students, and all too often offer instruction that is essentially devoid of intellectual content.

Robert Cook said...

Somebody else said this before me, but I agree with it: we're monkeys in moon suits.

pst314 said...

Setting aside the ape question, it's long been common knowledge that schools of education are staffed with cranks and mediocrities. And by "long" I mean for many decades.