Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle have long pondered about the nature of our existence. It all began with Socrates. Even though he left no written work, his studies were passed on by his students, who credited him as the first philosopher who turned his attention from the study of cosmology towards the study of humans.
Humans are unique in a way that we can blush, walk on two legs, and have the least amount of hair on our skin compared to other mammals. But, other than those differences, our mental capabilities such as reasoning always take the first place. The very act of asking "what makes us human?" is an answer in its own way, because we are the only animal capable of asking such a question in the first place.
Where Did Humans Come From?
Evolutionary biology informs us that we evolved from apes more than 6 million years ago, and archeological remains suggest that there were more than 15 species of humans in that time, also known as hominins. Among all those species of hominins, only the Homo sapiens persisted, evolving into what we are today – the modern man/woman.
We are the only ones who did not go extinct. We won the prehistoric lottery, but we still owe about 99% percent of our luck (DNA to be exact) to chimpanzees. Actually, Pan troglodytes (chimpanzees) and Pan paniscus (bonobo) are two primate species with whom we share most of our genetic and morphological characteristics.
Opposable Thumbs Make Us Human
No, not really. A lot of other primates also share this trait with humans. Monkeys can also hold a smartphone and scroll through Instagram, but the human thumb is slightly different in its position and size, as well as function.
It has evolved into a more sophisticated degree and enabled us to do calligraphy! Not a lot of monkeys can do that!
Maybe It Is Because Of Our Brain?
We are certainly getting closer to our answer about what makes us human. The human brain is one of our most exciting features. If we look at the ratio od human weight and the size of our brain, it is safe to say that our brain is bigger and stronger than the brain of any other mammal on our planet. It has more than 85 billion neurons. During our lifetime, it grows as much as three times bigger than the brain of a chimpanzee.
But, there is also something other, something closely connected without a brain that sparks even more curiosity when we talk about us being unique beings. It is the human mind, and the human mind is not so easily categorized. The relationship between our brain and our mind has been a field of study for many philosophers and scientists throughout history. Is our mind just a result of the physiological processes of our brain, or is it something entirely different?
We can be aware of ourselves, but there is no way we can observe the minds of others. We cannot touch someone's beliefs or emotions. But maybe it does not even matter; perhaps it is enough to say that our mental abilities enable us to think about things that are not physically present or those that are not even real. Yes, some primates are self-aware, but only humans can be self-reflective to such an extent that we seek to ask questions we are not even capable of answering. Maybe that is what makes us unique as a species.
With whom do we share most of our genetic and morphological characteristics?
Pan troglodytes (chimpanzees) and Pan paniscus (bonobo) are two primate species with whom we share most of our genetic and morphological characteristics.
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