In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

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In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby andykhang » Sun Apr 30, 2017 1:29 pm UTC

I mean the most common definition is whether or not they could reproduce with each other. I have seen some novel of the same genre defining them as different race and be able to mate, so I see it's accurate.

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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Angua » Sun Apr 30, 2017 4:21 pm UTC

Technically, their offspring need to be able to reproduce as well. Horses and donkeys are not the same species, but you can still get mules.
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Liri » Sun Apr 30, 2017 4:38 pm UTC

There can also be geographically separated species that have viable, fertile offspring when they reproduce together, but they're still considered separate species because the two populations aren't naturally reproducing with each other.
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Angua » Sun Apr 30, 2017 4:50 pm UTC

Are they not subspecies?
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Liri » Sun Apr 30, 2017 5:44 pm UTC

Oftentimes not. "What is a species?" is a question with a bajillion answers, same with "what is a subspecies?"
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Soupspoon » Sun Apr 30, 2017 9:25 pm UTC

Liri wrote:same with "what is a subspecies?"
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(But, actually, the concept of Ring Species confuses things, too.)

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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby andykhang » Mon May 01, 2017 5:45 am UTC

So in this case, what would they be called? Variant?

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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Liri » Mon May 01, 2017 3:00 pm UTC

You can use whichever term you want, honestly. Biologists do. If you want it to be scientific, don't use "race" though.
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby jewish_scientist » Tue May 02, 2017 12:12 pm UTC

I asked my microbiology teacher for a definition of species and he could not give me one.

Any definition based on reproduction immediately faces problems because many species reproduce solely asexually. I came up with the idea that any two organisms whose DNA differs by <X, where X is a constant generally accepted by the scientific community, are part of the same species. The problem I realized is that this means that there is no Transitive Property of Species (a term I just coined), which is really weird in its implications.

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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Zohar » Tue May 02, 2017 12:21 pm UTC

There are literally dozens of definitions of species, depending on which scientist is talking and in what area of biology. This gives a good summary (and is a great show you should watch).
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Liri » Tue May 02, 2017 12:46 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:There are literally dozens of definitions of species, depending on which scientist is talking and in what area of biology. This gives a good summary (and is a great show you should watch).

I prefer my earlier "bajillion"
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby andykhang » Tue May 02, 2017 2:56 pm UTC

So, in our many scientific interpreptation, what would that particular situation fall into(s)?

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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Zohar » Tue May 02, 2017 3:52 pm UTC

Meh? Whatever suits the story I'm guessing you're trying to write?
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Xanthir » Tue May 02, 2017 5:33 pm UTC

Yeah, we've answered your surface question ("yes, no, or maybe, depending on which definition of 'species' you're using, because there are a lot of them"). Since you're still asking, that means there's a question behind your question that you're really trying to answer. Ask that one directly.

(I suspect your actual question is "in my fantasy world, do scientists call them the same species or different?", which we can't answer - you have to decide that.)
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Angua » Tue May 02, 2017 5:40 pm UTC

Consider the question - are Vulcans the same species as human?
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby SDK » Tue May 02, 2017 9:19 pm UTC

Angua wrote:Consider the question - are Vulcans the same species as human?

Clearly not. I define species based on the colour of their blood.

In most fiction, anything that resembles a human can reproduce with humans. Demons, or even tentacle monsters, are clearly not the same species as the humans who bear their children. Most people know it's biologically wrong, but it's typical enough in many stories that any attempt to shine a light on it in your fiction is likely to get more sarcastic "okay, thank you for breaking my suspension of disbelief" reactions than "whoa, that's deep" reactions.
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby morriswalters » Tue May 02, 2017 9:28 pm UTC

There is something about this question that give me shivers.
in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby madaco » Wed May 03, 2017 6:41 am UTC

Soupspoon wrote:(But, actually, the concept of Ring Species confuses things, too.)


That article says

"The textbook examples of ring species, including the circumpolar herring gull complex, the greenish warbler of Asia, and the Ensatina salamanders of America, have all been challenged, so ring species are at best rare."

.

Are there unambiguous current ring species (in addition to any which may have existed before, but don't anymore) ?
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed May 03, 2017 12:45 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:I asked my microbiology teacher for a definition of species and he could not give me one.

Any definition based on reproduction immediately faces problems because many species reproduce solely asexually. I came up with the idea that any two organisms whose DNA differs by <X, where X is a constant generally accepted by the scientific community, are part of the same species. The problem I realized is that this means that there is no Transitive Property of Species (a term I just coined), which is really weird in its implications.
No usable definition of species is going to be transitive, though. For every other thing that has ever lived on Earth, there's a chain of organisms connecting you to that thing, and each organism in the chain is considered to be the same species as the ones on either side of it.
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Soupspoon » Wed May 03, 2017 2:10 pm UTC

At best, one can suggest the temporal boundary of death of the Most Recent Common Ancestor (or perhaps Most Recent Breedable Cousins would be better1) as the emergent points of the "watersheds" between the streams of species that ultimately flow back and merge with the First Ancestor/whatever.

But good luck actually empirically testing and recording that to sufficient depth and width across the whole tree of life...


1 But accept the possibility that the first unbreedable nth cousins may yet beget n+kth cousins that have random genetic drift or allelle re-convergence sufficient to believably breed again, given both opportunity and inclination...

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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby andykhang » Wed May 03, 2017 5:05 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:Meh? Whatever suits the story I'm guessing you're trying to write?


Not really, just a bout of curiousity this time (though that would make an interesting concept, like magic is the great uniter of species or something...

Not really anymore question about this too, this is as direct as I could get.

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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby eSOANEM » Sat Jun 10, 2017 10:44 pm UTC

Linguistics suffers from a similar issue (defining when two dialects become different languages, and indeed, what make two things different dialects in the first place) and, as a result, has often started using "variety" as a way of recovering a similar sense without establishing a level in a hierarchy. I think it's roughly equivalent to "taxon" in biology.

E.g. Cockney is a variety of English which is a variety of Anglo-Frisian which is a variety of Germanic which is a variety of Indo-European

Similarly in biology one could just start using "taxon" at all levels

E.g. humans are a taxon of primates which are a taxon of mammals which are a taxon of animals etc

This recovers transitivity and resolves the question of is the thing a subspecies or separate species but it still has issues with ring species (or similar things though) because with those the issue is that these things are fundamentally not discrete but can be a continuum (which is where the issues of ring species and dialect continua arise).
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Liri » Fri Jul 14, 2017 1:28 pm UTC

"Phylon" is becoming the standard term as opposed to "taxon". Phylogeny incorporates evolution, taxonomy (traditionally) is about applying artificial tiers to the tree of life.

But yeah linguistics is similar.
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Thu Jul 20, 2017 8:50 pm UTC

I'd say the scientific answer would have to be: There's a lot of new stuff to consider, and we probably want to revise our classification system.

Do these different types of people originate from darwinian evolution? Lamarkian evolution? Created directly by the gods?

If the different races can interbreed, what's keeping them separate?
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Re: In scientific's definition, in a fantasy world would a beastman or an elf be considered the same species?

Postby doogly » Thu Jul 20, 2017 9:41 pm UTC

eSOANEM wrote:Linguistics suffers from a similar issue (defining when two dialects become different languages, and indeed, what make two things different dialects in the first place) and, as a result, has often started using "variety" as a way of recovering a similar sense without establishing a level in a hierarchy. I think it's roughly equivalent to "taxon" in biology.

But we do have a perfectly good distinction between a language and a dialect already - "a language is a dialect with an army."

Science, and the methods by which we reach a scientific consensus, are not so pure, extra especially when it comes to questions of demarcation. If you are writing a fantasy setting, there will surely be different groups that stand to benefit from the question being one way or another. Those supporting elf-suffrage may say they're all just samesies, the beastmen separatists may disagree. A scientist can be found who thinks anything you like, and they can be promoted and their thoughts propagated.
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