hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
[personal profile] hatman posting in [community profile] debate
New debate topic:

Should Europe be considered a continent?

I'm taking the negative position.

A continent is a continuous distinct landmass (with the addition of nearby islands) of particularly large size.

Europe is separated from Asia by the Ural mountains, not an ocean. Furthermore, the area of Europe is only 18% of the Eurasian landmass. It's roughly equivalent to that of the United States - big as countries go, but certainly not a continent unto itself.

Yes, it's had a disproportionate effect on Western history, but that's no excuse to go rewriting geography.

(As a side note, it's appalling to me that North and South America have to share one of the five Olympic rings, whereas Europe gets its own. The Americas are two distinct landmasses. Barely connected even before the Panama Canal cut them apart.)

Date: 2009-04-23 01:46 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ex_autopoiesi457
It probably shouldn't be, but it is--perhaps because they're seen as so culturally separate as to be different "worlds," even if they're literally part of the same landmass.

Date: 2009-04-23 03:24 pm (UTC)
adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
From: [personal profile] adalger
The issue is one of definition. You cite the geological definition, rather than the politico-geographical definition. The meaning of "continent" used to define Europe as a continent comes from the ancient Greeks, and by that meaning it is, indeed a continent.

People concerned primarily with the earth-science implications don't generally count Europe as a continent. In that context, Eurasia is the continent containing the geographical area known as Europe. Some even include Africa as part of the same continent.

There is nothing inherently wrong with terms having different meanings in specialized contexts. "Neurotic," for example, is used and commonly understood to describe many types of behavior that psychologists would not label as neuroses. The medical definition is more strict. Similarly, nearly everyone will know what you mean if you say you got bit by a poisonous snake, even though within the fields of science concerned therewith, there's no such thing. What snakes produce falls under the definition of a venom, not a poision.

Therefore, I conclude that yes, Europe should be called a continent.

Date: 2009-04-23 11:36 pm (UTC)
cyberjunkie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cyberjunkie
I must disagree with you. Europe is a continent, and by your own definition.

Instead of retyping the geologic history of the Ural Mountains, I borrowed it from Wikipedia's article on the Ural Mountains:

The Urals are among the world's oldest extant mountain ranges. For its age of 250 to 300 million years, the elevation of the mountains is unusually high. They were formed during the late Carboniferous period, when western Siberia collided with eastern Baltica (connected to Laurentia (North America) to form the minor supercontinent of Euramerica) and Kazakhstania to form the supercontinent of Laurasia. Later Laurasia and Gondwana collided to form the supercontinent of Pangaea, which subsequently broke itself apart into the seven continents known today. Europe and Siberia have remained joined together ever since.

Therefore, as it started as a large landmass, and just got larger for a time kept increasing in landmass until Pangaea, then got somewhat smaller (yet still linked to the Asian continent) also due to plate tectonics, Europe should be considered to be a continent.

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