Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures

It may (or may not) have been Carl Linnaeus who classified our species as ‘homo sapiens sapiens‘ in the late 18th Century. As you probably know, that label derives from Latin: ‘homo’ means ‘man’, while ‘sapiens’ can be translated as a number of almost-synonyms; the double-barrelled use here might be read as ‘the wise, thinking man’.

I’ve experienced several decades of life as a member of this species, being a spectator (thankfully, on the sidelines) to the various nonsensical and outrageous behaviours our kind exhibits. I’m sure you know of what I speak: miscellaneous evils and injustices of all sorts, such as installing building cladding that’s not fire-resistant (Grenfell), building clusters of massive condominium complexes on reclaimed land (Champlain Towers), launching ships deemed ‘unsinkable’ (Titanic), warring against others of our own kind (often perpetrated by fanatics whose mantras include “love thy neighbour” and “kill the infidel”) — those kinds of things.

An utterly barmy crusade

I believe that Linnaeus (if it was him) made a poor choice. Particularly in the light of our species’ inherent inability to acknowledge threats that aren’t imminent (climate change being the obvious example), it became clear to me that far from being ‘the wise, thinking man’, we ought to have a moniker that’s more honest, and a whole lot less pretentious.

And so, almost exactly a decade ago, I found myself pondering the question, “what would be a more appropriate name for our species?” ‘Homo sapiens sapiens’ was clearly a misnomer. I settled on ‘homo fatuus brutus‘, which translates as ‘the foolish, stupid man’. And thus, I embarked upon a (mostly tongue-in-cheek) campaign to try to get our name changed.

Why would I even try such a thing? One lone nutcase on a blog trying to persuade others to join a lunatic crusade is going to only elicit ridicule, right?

It’s just a crazy thought experiment, but imagine if enough people were to think it a Good Idea, and the name were to actually be changed… it could have far-reaching effects.

Unsurprisingly, my campaign, such as it is, hasn’t been all that successful to date. It’s got some laughs along the way, and some funny looks, but that’s about it. I didn’t really expect much more.

Contemplating the receptacle’s exterior

Over time, I came to believe that this is more important than it would at first appear. In order to address an issue, it is first necessary to admit that there is an issue; only by recognising that there is a problem can one ever hope to take steps to rectify it.

Labels are important. And while we all think of ourselves as ‘wise and thinking’ (and some even expanding that to mean ‘masters of the universe’), we are less likely to consider that, perhaps, we can be capable of making mistakes. Contrariwise, any serious attempt to rename our species would, at the very least, bring heated debate, which, regardless of the success or failure of the endeavour, would shine a light on the matter.

And so, I recently considered the idea of trying to get our species name formally changed. The only avenue I can think of by which this might be achieved would be by setting up a petition, in the (admittedly foolish) hope that it might be possible to gain enough signatures to be taken seriously. After all, if millions of US citizens can follow the lead of a prevaricating moron, and (a somewhat smaller number of) millions of UK citizens can idolize a corrupt buffoon, well, the planet is one’s carpius nana.

Archaic rules prohibit reclassifying an existing species

To be effective, a petition needs to be addressed to someone (or some body) that has the power to act on it.

I did some digging. It transpires that the body responsible for ‘zoological nomenclature’ (a fancy way of saying ‘animal naming’) is the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) [not to be confused with the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN)]. Huzzah! thought I, having believed I had identified to whom I should address my petition, should it ever get enough signatories to not be laughed out of court.

Founded in 1895, the ICZN (not the ICZN) is an organization dedicated to “achieving stability and sense in the scientific naming of animals”.

‘Stability’. And ‘sense’. I strongly suspect the sequence of those two words is important, and that the ICZN (entirely understandably) values the former over the latter. And I’m reasonably certain that a request to rename the human species would be dismissed out of hand as utter nonsense.

Which, of course, it is (that’s pretty much the whole point). But, on the other hand, is it any more nonsensical than perpetuating the use of a ‘wise’ label for a species that is arguably on the verge of committing suicide?

Unfortunately, some more digging has revealed that it would appear that our fate is sealed: according to the ICZN, names are locked in by the ‘Principle of Priority‘, which says, in a nutshell, that as we have already been named, we can’t be renamed.

The eternally hungry ouroboros

It seems that the phlyarological ouroboros is complete, and self-sustaining.

An illustration of the short-sightedness of homo fatuus brutus, who, having ascended to the cliff's edge, is about to step off.
Having ascended to the cliff’s edge, the short-sighted homo fatuus brutus is about to step off.

(Just out of curiosity… if I were to actually set up such a petition, would you sign it?)

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, Core thought, perception, Phlyarology, Strategy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures

  1. pennross says:

    Yes I would absolutely sign it!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Tom says:

    A change is as good as a rest, Pendantry! They could wipe us all out with the stroke of a pen, which would charm the end of the world lot, and then, being a new species, we’d be able to launch ourselves boldly forth into the world, this time learning from our mistakes. I can see it now.
    So, which came first, the species or the red tape? One must trump the other…
    Interesting thoughts, but I’m a sheep. I’ll see how many signatures you get first! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • pendantry says:

      Um. Not entirely sure what it is you’re suggesting here, Tom. We aren’t two species. And even if we were, there’s only one planet (you know, the one that’s rapidly being turned into a shithole)… so any ideas of forging a brave new world (from a shithole?) after ‘the other lot’ have gone (where are ‘they’ going, exactly?) are a tad optimistic, I fear. I think I must be misunderstanding your point.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tom says:

        No, no, Pendantry, you’ve grasped my point perfectly! 🙂 I think.
        The ‘they’ I’m referring to are the people with the initials, like the other people with the same initials but different; the ones ‘in charge’ of the species names… they could say homo sapiens no longer exist (‘wipe the species out’), and then create a new species with a different name. We, the new species, could then turn our backs on everything that’s happened before (because now that wasn’t us!) and start again with new mistakes. Same old same old, only repackaged.
        Sorry about my ramblings here, my science fiction mind kicked in and decided to go for a run! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. jilldennison says:

    After 7 decades on this planet as a homo sapiens sapiens, I can honestly say that while some humans are wise and compassionate, the majority seem to fall somewhere beneath that. As you say, we are in the process of bringing about our own extinction through our foolish, selfish, greedy ways. Perhaps at some point humans had the potential to live up to their name, but a few things sucked the intelligence out of them: religion, politics, greed, and arrogance. Someday some new species will evolve and they will dig up the remains of our society, scratch their heads, and say, “What the heck were these creatures???” Thanks for linking to my post, my friend!

    Liked by 2 people

    • pendantry says:

      Oh, my purpose in linking to your post was an entirely selfish one; I remember you expressed an interest in this topic, and wanted to give you a pingback to alert you to this post :)

      I disagree with you on the suggestion that the majority aren’t compassionate; I think they are. And although many — perhaps not a majority — can be considered ‘wise’, I think the real issue is our inability to see the big picture. But that’s understandable, because today it’s a BIG picture, far too vast for individuals to grasp. Brains evolved to recognise tigers in long grass stalking us struggle when faced with the complexities of the globe-spanning civilization we’ve built.

      If our species doesn’t manage to come through this, I just hope that the world we leave behind is one in which there’s enough time left for other creatures capable of marvelling at the universe to arise (it took about four billion years for Mother Earth to spawn us… and there’s only about another billion years remaining before the Sun swallows her up).

      Liked by 1 person

      • jilldennison says:

        No matter what your motive, I still appreciate it! And, I’m glad you did, for this was one I didn’t want to miss.

        I hope you are right that the majority are people of values, humanity and compassion. I used to believe so, but these days I’ve become far more cynical.

        I have given up hope for the survival of humans on this planet they are working so diligently to destroy, but like you, I hope we can destroy ourselves without destroying every other species on the planet.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. leavergirl says:

    Well, we are both. :-)
    Talking about fatal stupidities… take a look at the elections in NYC primaries. (For a new mayor.) It may give you a new perspective on American election integrity.

    Confirms your renaming of our species… :-(

    Liked by 1 person

    • pendantry says:

      I tried asking DuckDuckGo for information on that but I wasn’t able to figure out what it is that you’re alluding to.

      If you’re talking about the ‘ranked choice’ voting system they’re using, I actually think that’s a good idea, myself; as I understand it, it seems much the same as the ‘alternative vote’ (AV) system we in the UK had a referendum on a decade ago (unfortunately, the ‘No’ vote succeeded).


      • leavergirl says:

        No, I was referring to the shenanigans of the NYC’s election commission (or board). They ended up counting over 100k of “test ballots”. Whatever those are. Oops. And when Adams, the favored (but disliked by certain subgroups) candidate, voiced concerns as he was losing ground at the last minute, they shrieked he was a Trump. Even Cuomo the guv called it a disgrace. The vote was on June 22 and the final results are still not in.

        And this, mind you, is an all-Democrat primary.

        And no, I am not against ranked choice. I am against incompetent, corrupt people who can’t do math running elections.

        Liked by 1 person

        • pendantry says:

          I’m with you in detesting incompetence (and incompetents). But as I understand it, the results not yet being available is largely a consequence of the complication of the ranked choice system — that’s bound to make it take longer, especially on a first run.


          • leavergirl says:

            Well, since election counting used to take several hours, another day or two for ranking would be just fine. But that’s not what we are seeing.

            i was an election judge twice, in the days of punch cards. We had everything ready to go to the courthouse by 10 pm (3 hours after closing), and the courthouse had the overall results a few hours past midnight.

            We’ve come a long way, baby.

            Liked by 1 person

          • pendantry says:

            I have to admit I would be interested in their explanation why it’s taking so long.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Agree we can be both wise and clearly stupid. Or is it greed, ego , selfishness

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rawgod says:

    You can have my signature on your petition, but I have to offer a slightly different nomen, HOMO STUPID STUPID IS US. (Just by-the-bye, no, the link on your original comment you left did not work on the tablet I was using, but when I switched tablets it brought me here. So now to check out the next link you left…

    Liked by 1 person

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