In order to define a human, we need to consider that they are equal to non-human animals (NHA), in some ways. Such traits that we all share include having our biological basis from our parents, our own language/gestures, sexual behaviours, having intelligence which has been highlighted through tool-use and so on. Humans are obligate tool users; we’ve extended our reach far beyond our grasp by utilising nature and inventing technology but many other creatures use tools, around 1% of all animals (Rutherford, 2018). This establishes that we cannot dismiss all NHA of having consciousness as a result of their abilities to acquire tool-use.
Consequently, you could argue that NHA are just as intelligent as humans, with a different understanding. Similar to when you speak to a foreigner, they may appear less intelligent but it is just a language barrier blocking this reality. However, humans are entirely unique in comparison to NHA. We have cultural interests in art, music, politics, science, agriculture and so on which have been passed down by our ancestors, historical figures such as Aristotle and Darwin or even our own family/friends. This is further highlighted by Rutherford (2018): “Biology enables culture, culture changes biology, what humans uniquely do is that we accumulate culture, and build on it, many animals learn but only we teach.” Not only have our ancestors passed knowledge down, but the human race has changed the world in ways that NHA would never be able to do. If you need to be convinced that humans have initiated change, think of the inventions, buildings, clothes, houses and so on that encompasses the world in which we live in. The fact humans have developed culture indicates that we are capable of far more complex thinking and tool-use for progression than our NHA counterparts. While NHA may have consciousness, it that does not necessarily mean that they have a conscience the way humans do. We are the only living organism that we know of who can critically judge right from wrong, with moral values embedded in us. Take domestic pet dogs (descended from Wolves; known predators) for example. With training, they understand commands and behavioural control, totally harmless to humans. Yet, they still prey on rabbits or cats, without any ‘thought’. Thus, demonstrating that evolving humans have learnt to cooperate and reason with one another in a competitive society. This indicates that our capacity to feel and show empathy is what makes us intellectually distinct from NHA.Humans must remain in the care of their parents for much longer than other living primates (Choi, 2018). This exhibits that we have more complex and intellectual capabilities to develop before we become a full adult than NHA do. This is also perhaps the result of us having more of a protective instinct towards our offspring; a moral obligation.
In conclusion, being a human means to be given the gift of education, culture and a conscious mind. Together, they take us on our own path, characterized by our life choices.
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