Chapter 28 - Homo africanus
…all men belong to the same species."
UNESCO Statement, July 18, 1950

    Taxonomy is an obscure word, but it has a simple meaning – the classification of living things. Scientists classify plants and animals using the Linnaeus classification system, where each species is identified by a Latin genus and species name, such as Homo sapiens. Occasionally, a Latin name for the sub-species will also be added, such as Homo sapiens sapiens. Here is the classification for man: 1

There are no labels on plants and animals, however that tell us what their classification is. Nature does not classify her critters; only man classifies things that are, or were, living. The decision as to how something should be classified is made by taxonomists according to how different a population is from related populations, which is bound to be somewhat arbitrary.
    As evolution does its magic, old species, orders, and even phyla die out and new ones arise. There is, however, no sharp dividing line between a preceding species and the species it evolves into. Even if a species splits into two populations that become so different as to be classified as separate species, it is usually not clear into which of the three species individuals who lived near the time of the split belonged. When a species evolves, it gradually changes, though a few of the changes may be “sudden” in geological time; i.e., they may occur in one individual, then spread throughout the population in tens of thousands of years instead of millions.
    Changes from one generation to the next are almost always so small that no individual can justifiably be placed in a different species from its parents. Even if we knew the genome of each and every individual in our lineage, it would be difficult to point to particular mothers and say, “She and her child are different species.” Paleoanthropologists spend a significant amount of their time arguing over whether a fossil is a member of an existing species or is a new species. Often the line that divides species is drawn where in-between fossils have not yet been found. But even if the bones of every individual from the first to the last were available and in the correct sequence, placing lines that divided the sequence into species would still be arbitrary.
    Many people believe that if two animals cannot interbreed they are different species and, conversely, if they can interbreed they are the same species. If two animals cannot interbreed they are always classified as different species. 3 But if two animals can interbreed, they may or may not be classified as different species. There are many examples where taxonomists have classified two animals as different species even though they can and do interbreed. Even most dictionaries will not define “species” as populations that are incapable of interbreeding. Indeed, one dictionary 4 specifically states, “… related organisms or populations potentially capable of interbreeding … “ Many “species” can interbreed, but typically do not. For example, many species of birds, such as the pintail (Anas acuta) and the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), can interbreed. The wolf (Canis lupus) and the dog (Canis lupus familiaris), the coyote (Canis latrans), and the common jackal (Canis aureus) have different species names (lupus, latrans, and aureus), yet they can all interbreed and produce fertile progeny. Even the two species of orangutan (Pongo abellii from Sumatra and Pongo pygmaeus from Borneo) can interbreed (Angier, 1995), despite having different chromosome numbers, 5 and so can the two species of chimpanzee, the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and the bonobo chimpanzee (Pan paniscus). 6 So the fact that all human races can interbreed to produce fertile progeny does not mean that they should be classified as a single species. 7
    The determination of when a population has become sufficiently different from another population to be classified as a “new” species or sub-species is especially important at the interface between archaic man, Homo sapiens, and his immediate predecessor, Homo erectus, and between archaic man and modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens). None of the populations thus classified suddenly leaped into a different classification. Erectus, for example, was around for about two million years and gradually changed from a very primitive early erectus (ergaster) to a less primitive late erectus, after which taxonomists decided to call him archaic “sapiens” instead of “erectus.” So, although early erectus might not have been able to produce hybrids with Hss, certainly late erectus could have. Some scientists estimate “that periods of around 2 million years are required to produce sufficient genetic distance to represent speciation.” (Curnoe, 2003).
    Again, man alone decides whether a population is or is not distinctive enough to be classified as a different species. 8 However, we can ask taxonomists to at least be consistent in making these decisions. That is, whatever their criteria are for labeling one population of living things as a “species” they should apply that same criteria in deciding whether another population of living things is or is not a “species.” This is clearly not the case now, 9 as there are many “species” of birds that can interbreed but differ so slightly in coloration that only an expert can tell them apart, while the differences between the races are so great that even a 3 month old baby can tell the difference, 10 and adults can correctly determine the race of a person 85% of the time just from his silhouette. (Davidenko, 2007). Taxonomists should not apply one criterion of speciation to animals other than man, and a different criterion to man himself. 11
    Ample evidence is provided in this book and its citations to support the conclusion that race is real, not a delusion concocted by evil racists. But that same evidence raises another question: Is the evidence adequate to classify Africans not just as a different race, but as a different species, Homo africanus? 12
    Another way to think about the re-classification of Africans (and primitive Asian aborigines 13) is to imagine that they were extinct and the only evidence we had of them was their bones and their DNA. Then, comparing the differences between them and modern living Eurasians, would their classification as a separate species be justified?
    To the egalitarians this question itself will be outrageously offensive and they will self-righteously condemn anyone even posing the question. But, long before egalitarianism came to dominate anthropology, the question had already been considered by anthropologists. Although the consensus was that Africans were not a separate species, a few believed they were. 14
    Until recently, species were classified based on their morphology, i.e., their form and appearance. This was not always accurate since populations that are not closely related can undergo parallel evolution, that is, they can be unrelated on even the phylum level, yet still look very similar as, for example, a bird, a bat, and an insect, or a shark and a dolphin. In classifying humans using morphology, were the taxonomists objective and unbiased and did they apply the same standards to humans that they applied when classifying other species? Well, not exactly.   

    We no longer need to rely on morphology, however, to distinguish between different species. DNA analyses can be used to determine the genetic difference between populations, a better way to classify species. 16 While this has not yet been done, a less subjective classification system might say that a genetic distance of less than “x” is a sub-species (race, variety, or breed), of less than “y” but more than “x” is a species, of less than “z” but more than “y” is a genus, and so on.
    Applying a bit of egalitarianism, let us begin with the proposition that the same standard of classification should be applied to the classification of all living things. That is, a population of birds, for example, should not be divided into a great many species because of small genetic differences, while populations within Homo, the genus of humans, are classified as a single species, even though the genetic differences between them are greater than the genetic differences between the species of birds.
    Applying that bit of inter-species egalitarianism to humans and gorillas, and using genetic distance as the standard to classify populations, 17 since the genetic distance between the two species of gorilla, Gorilla gorilla and G. beringei, 0.04%, 18 is nearly six times less than the genetic distance between (sub-Saharan) Africans (Bantu) and Eurasians (English), 0.23% (Table 7-1), either Africans and Eurasians should be classified as two different species or gorillas should be classified as a single species. The genetic distance between the common chimp and the bonobo is 0.103% (Curnoe, 2003, Table 2), less than half the English-Bantu genetic distance of 0.23%, and therefore either (at least some) sub-Saharan blacks and Eurasians should be classified as different species or the common chimp and the bonobo (and the two species of orangutan) should be classified as the same species. 19 Although wolves (Canis lupus) and dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are a different species (lupus) than coyotes (Canis latrans), "… there is less mtDNA difference between dogs, wolves, and coyotes than there is between the various ethnic groups of human beings..." (Coppinger, 1995). It seems that taxonomists have been bending their objectivity a bit.
    Now let’s see how taxonomists have classified Neanderthals. Until the 1960s, Neanderthals were classified as Homo neanderthalensis, a different species from us, Homo sapiens. But the genetic distance between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis (<0.08%) 20 is less than the genetic distance between the two chimpanzee species (0.103). 21 Today, Neanderthals are classified as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, 22 a sub-species of our species, while we are another sub-species, Homo sapiens sapiens. The genetic distance between (sub-Saharan) Africans and Eurasians (0.2%) is more than twice the genetic distance between living humans and Neanderthals (0.08%) 23 so, at the very least, Africans should be classified as a sub-species, Homo sapiens africanus and Eurasians as another sub-species, Homo sapiens eurasianensis.
    Finally, the genetic distance between Homo sapiens and Homo erectus is estimated as 0.170 24 (mean given as 0.19), 25 about the same as the genetic distance between the Bantu Africans and the Eskimos, but the genetic distance between living Africans and Eurasians is 0.23 (Table 7-1, p. 45). Thus, Homo sapiens is more closely related to Homo erectus than Eurasians are to sub-Saharan Africans. Either erectus should be reclassified as Homo sapiens erectus or sub-Saharan Africans should be reclassified as Homo africanus. 26
   
Chapter 29

Table of Contents

FOOTNOTES

1. Some recent reshuffling has limited “Hominids” to gorillas, chimps, and humans, added a sub-family, “Homininae” or hominins, for humans plus any (extinct) creature closer to us than a chimp, and a super-family, “Hominoidea,” or hominoids, the hominids plus gibbons and orangutans. The old classification may prove more accurate, however. Back

2.  Birds are also warm-blooded and so are some fishes. The bluefin tuna “is one of the few warm-blooded fishes.” (Ellis, R., “The Bluefin in Peril,” Scientific American, Mar., 2008, p. 72); birds also have four-chambered hearts. Back

3. Ernst Mayr, in 1942, defined “species” as a reproductively isolated groups of organisms, where the isolation can be purely geographical, i.e., populations that do not interbreed are different species, even if they can interbreed. Back

4. (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary). Back

5. The gibbon and the siamang can also interbreed to produce a hybrid, although they differ more in chromosome numbers than do humans and chimps. (Myers, 1979). Also, (Chandley, 1975). And some species that are not even in the same genus can still interbreed. (McConchie, 1994). On the other hand, some populations that include individuals with different chromosome numbers, but can still interbreed to produce fertile offspring, have been classified as the same species, e.g., Lemur fulvus. (Tattersall, 1993). Back

6.  Email from Professor William H. Calvin. The common chimp and the bonobo were separated by the Congo River 2.5 mya. (Arsuaga, 2001, p. 8). Back

7. An enlightening definition of “species” is: Two competing populations are different species if a genetic improvement in one of the populations would threaten the survival of the other. Suggested by Schwartz (1999, p. 254). Back

8. Darwin himself dismissed “species” as a term that is "arbitrarily given, for the sake of convenience." Back

9. Humans are at the top of the list in genetic diversity, which supports the conclusion that the same classification standards are not applied to humans that are applied to other species. "Racial morphological distances within our species are, on the average, about equal to the distances among species within other genera of mammals. [Except for races created by human selection, e.g., breeds of dogs], I am not aware of any other mammalian species where the constituent races are as strongly marked as they are in ours." (Sarich, 2004, p. 170). Back

10.  (Bar-Heim, 2006; Kelly, 2005). And people become more racially conscious as they grow older. (MacDonald, 2006). Back

11. The egalitarians demand that all living humans must be classified as the same species, but paleoanthropologists who discover a new fossil hominoid want it classified as a different species to enhance the importance of their discovery. (Curnoe, 2003). Back

12. The author presents this idea with some trepidation because it was not previously well-received by the Church; Bruno (1591) was burned at the stake and Vanini (1619) had his tongue cut out and was strangled. Back

13. And possibly also the Bushmen. (Baker, 1974, pp. 323-324). Back

14.  E.g., American physician and natural scientist Samuel George Morton, Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright, German medical geneticist Fritz Lenz, British geneticist R. Ruggles Gates, and Louis Agassiz, the founder of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Also, “The typical negroes of adult age, when tried by this rule, are proved to belong to a different species from the man of Europe or Asia, because the head and face are anatomically constructed more after the fashion of the simiadiae [apes] and the brute creation than the Caucasian and Mongolian species of mankind, their mouth and jaws projecting beyond the forehead containing the anterior lobes of the brain.” (Cartwright, 1857, p. 45). “[T]here is as good reason for classifying the Negro as a distinct species from Europeans as there is for making an ass a distinct species from the zebra; … there is a far greater difference between the Negro and the European than between the gorilla and chimpanzee.” (Hunt, 1865, p. 23). Back

15. (Sarich, 2004, p. 9). Humans are much more genetically diverse than dogs; the observed heterozygosity for humans is 0.7, but it is only 0.4 for dogs. (John Goodwin, “The Race FAQ”). Back

16. (Curnoe, 2003). That is, individuals in the same lineage, or branches of the same lineage (“phylogeny”) would be divided into species, genus, etc. according to a uniform standard of genetic distance. “ … a percentage threshold of common DNA can be stipulated for speciation.” (Ross, K.L.,"Human Evolution," 2006). Back

17. As discussed in the introduction to Section IV, interbreeding between lineages can reduce genetic distance so, if genetic distance is used to define species, genus, etc., it will not show actual descent unless genetic similarities due to interbreeding can be subtracted from genetic distance. Back

18.  (Guillen, 2005; Jensen-Seaman, 2000). Back

19. (Curnoe, 2003). These numbers will be different when insertions/deletions are considered. (Anzai, 2003). Back

20. (Caramelli, 2003, Fig. 2; Gutiérrez, 2002, Table 3; Curnoe, 2003). Moreover, this genetic distance may actually be less because ancient Neanderthal DNA may be damaged. (Id.). “… the Neanderthal and human genomes are at least 99.5% identical …” (Noonan, 2006). Back

21. The mtDNA sequence differences between modern humans and the Neanderthal is about half of that between modern humans and modern chimpanzees. (Cooper, 1997). Back

22. Though some favor the older classification. (Harvati, 2004). Back

23. “Thus, the largest difference observed between any two human sequences was two substitutions larger than the smallest difference between a human and the Neandertal.” (Krings, 1997). Back

24. (Curnoe, 2003, Table 3). Back

25. (id, p. 214). Back

26. Although DNA from Australopithecus is not available, the differences between at least some of the many species of Australopithecus may also be less than the differences between the Africans and Eurasians. Back