Author Topic: How many continents?  (Read 1463 times)

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Offline Sal Atticum

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How many continents?
« on: April 15, 2008, 08:53:48 am »
Was reading Facebook, found this discussion.

I'm less interested in the socio-political boundaries here, but seriously, there are people who think that North America and South America are the same continent (i.e., should not be separated).

For my rebuttal, I give you a map of Earth's tectonic plate boundaries:



Note that there are numerous smaller plates that are not shown on this map.
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Offline Plantains

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Re: How many continents?
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2008, 11:53:22 am »
beek. Interesting that you should bring this up as this is a HUGE debate in my family. All of my family is from Italy... as in, I am the first one born in this country.

In Europe, to my understanding it is widely taught that North and South America are the same continent. Most all of my cousins refer to it as the "American Continent" as does my dad.

I believe I was actually taught that there were 7 continents back in the good ole elementary school days, but don't quote me on that.

Out of curiosity... how many continents by definition are there?
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Offline Sal Atticum

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Re: How many continents?
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2008, 12:11:54 pm »
I really don't know, because I don't think there is a definition that would generally agree with both the socio-political boundaries and the geographic/geologic plate boundaries.

For example, I used North America and South America being on different plates as justification for my argument that they are separate continents.  However, I can't use that argument for Europe vs. Asia, because they are pretty much one big plate.  I would argue though for the separation between them because of the difference in cultures, or possibly a difference in biome or climate.

I really don't care what people say as long as they are precise, and as long as everything has a definition.  "Australia" means a certain large island, and "Oceania" is that island plus the surrounding region.  "America," from my perspective, means the United States of America.  I didn't invent the term, I just grew up with it.  "North America" means a specific area between Panama-ish and the North Pole, and "South America" means everything between Panama-ish and the edge of Antarctica.

People in the group I linked to seem to have a problem with people from the USA being called "Americans."  I'm not sure why, and I really don't think it matters.  In paleontology or biology, we could write a paper and give reasons that the name "America" is misapplied to a certain organism and put forth a new name for that organism.  It would still be up to the rest of the world to decide whether or not our reasoning is justified and whether they should follow it.

It's still an interesting question.  How many continents do you think there are/should be?
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Offline Plantains

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Re: How many continents?
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2008, 12:53:03 pm »
I think I'm on the same boat as you.
North America
South America
Antarctica
Australia
Europe
Africa
Asia

So 7. But I do agree that it is merely an argument over terminology. To one person something could be completely taken as offensive when it was only meant to more appropriately express oneself. To that same person later that day however, that same word could be left as it was meant?

That's largely what I get annoyed with. People not being consistent. Or the classic argument of why one word or definition is ok for one person to say, yet not another.

Plus... everyone will always have a problem with America and Americans. Its just how it is. sigh...
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Offline pmp6nl

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Re: How many continents?
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2008, 10:40:32 pm »
North America
South America
Antarctica
Australia
Europe
Africa
Asia

Is what I was taught.

I have heard of both N. and S. America just being called America as Sal Atticum mentioned, though it was mostly from people that were not born in the USA.
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