The term “Homo sapiens” is no longer working so well. Neither is the closely related term, “modern humans,” used to describe us and fossils of long-dead people who looked something like us. It’s not just that “sapiens” means wise, and there’s no evidence that our species is any wiser than any of the other kinds of humans that walked the planet. The problem is bigger than that. It’s hard to be objective about ourselves, even for scientists.

I started considering the trouble after seeing a Twitter discussion among paleontologists who appeared to be upset by the way journalists had used “modern humans” about a new claim that fossils found in Greece date back 210,000 years.

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