On Being Human — A Reflection


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #1

@Agauger wrote a piece on her view as to what it means to be human. She said she was sad because we are both common to other animals and uncommon to other animal because of the evolution of human creativity.

On Being Human — A Reflection | Evolution News

I would like @Agauger to realize that there is no reason to be sad about humans mastering the planet. Atheists, Christian and non-Christian evolutionists, agnostics, and nones experience what it is to be human all the time. We have purpose and meaning in our lives. We know that humans are the most exceptional animals on the planet and the most exceptional species ever to live. Starting 2 million years ago, Homo Erectus was an exceptional species who’s human creativity sparked into language and culture. We homo sapiens living in the 21st century should be thankful for millions of years of human progress so that we live in comfort today.

So @Agauger be happy and thankful that your Homo Erectus ancestors made it so comfortable and wonderful to be alive in the 2019 modern secular world.

(Herculean Skeptic) #2

I’m thankful for insurance…

(Eric Michael Holloway) #3

That is quite the creative misreading of what she wrote :slight_smile:


And, here I am, petting my kitten and calling her rodjo (cousin, more or less)

I don’t know about that. Have you seen bunnies?

So freaking cute!


Nice. Those two morons in the end ruined it though.


In the article, @agauger wrote:

I would disagree. There is one animal that has those capabilities. HUMANS!!!

I view Ann’s half empty glass as being half full. How wonderful is it that one of the animal species on Earth has reached such wonderful levels of creativity and discovery!!! We aren’t “just” animals. We are ANIMALS!!! And we should be proud of that. We represent an absolutely amazing point in the 3 billion year struggle of life on this planet.

If you believe that God created all of the animals, then what would be wrong with being a part of that creation? That’s the question that keeps popping up in my head when this topic comes up.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #7

This is a great article by @Agauger. I really like it. Her point is to argue against this:

He wants to make sure that we all know we are only human, and that means we are only animal.

I think she agrees we are all “animals”, but we are more than just animals too. There something exceptional about the human species. I think she is right.

(John Harshman) #8

Is it necessary, in order for there to be something exceptional about us, that we are not just animals? Are there not other animals that are also exceptional in different ways? Is it the “just” she complains about?

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #9

(Ann Gauger) #10

@Patrick Glad you seem to track what I write I write. Just thought I’d let you know that I quite agree that H. erectus are our parents. But I think it was mainly the people in the two million years since they began that had something to do with it.

I enjoyed the commercial @Michael_Callen.

@T_aquaticus There is nothing wrong with animals. They are amazing. That’s why I am a biologist. I just want to acknowledge that we are more than animals.

(John Harshman) #11

That seems to carry a lot of hidden baggage. Could you unpack some of it?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #12

Perhaps but not necessarily. It is a statement of human exceptionality.

(John Harshman) #13

In order to be exceptional, is it necessary that we are not animals? Are there no exceptional animals?

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #14

Yes the human animal is and has been exceptional over past 2 million years going from creating stone tools to iPhones though creativity, imagination, and cooperation.


Every animal species has something that is unique to that species, so by that definition there are no animal species. Being different from other animals does not exclude us from the animal group, at least in my view. Instead, the animal group includes a species with amazing intelligence.

(Ann Gauger) #16

@T_aquaticus @Patrick @John_Harshman I’ll try to expand on what I wrote in my piece in a little more specifically biological terms. We have specific traits that are well outside the norm, so far outside the norm that some scientists see the gaps as unbridgeable. These include abstract thought, foresight, speech, art, music, sociality, theory of mind, manipulation of the material world, charity, wickedness, and religion. There may be other I haven’t thought of. We see rudiments of these things in animals, but human abilities are orders of magnitude higher than animals (or lower in the case of wickedness). Our specific abilities are greater than are necessary for survival, so unless they are linked to other traits why should we have a Mozart or an Einstein or a Galileo? Or closer to home, a @swamidass or a @Patrick or a @John_Harshman? (@T_aquaticus I’ll grant, just because the name is cool.) What we do is pretty esoteric, right? Is there a selective advantage to any of it? Maybe at low levels, but being Shakespeare or understanding the molecular dynamics of ribosomes or however you would describe your work is purely gratuitous. Is there a selective advantage to trying to persuade people of the truth of intelligent design? Not in this crowd :slight_smile:


The genetic differences between the human and chimp genomes is well within the range expected for two species sharing a common ancestor 5 million years before present, so I don’t understand how this difference is unbridgeable. This seems to be based more on emotion/intuition than on science. We also see an increase in tool complexity through time.

I don’t know of anyone who has shown that our intelligence does not improve our fitness as a species. In fact, there seems to be a very strong argument for an increase in intelligence increasing our fitness. That we happen to use our intelligence to write songs or paint pictures is secondary to its primary use. It is no different than trying to claim that the adaptations found in cougars does not provide a selective advantage because cougars use those adaptations for playing with each other and with things in the environment.

Molecular biologists unite!!!

I consider those equivalent to play. The primary use of our intelligence is to make tools, cooperate as part of a group to hunt and gather, emotional ties that help a group of humans work better together, and so on. Is our ability to knap a piece flint into an arrowhead advantageous? Absolutely. Is our ability to predict prey migrations, cultivar growing seasons, make fire, make shelters, and communicate with each other selective advantages? Absolutely. Do we also use these adaptations for activities that are not adaptive? Yes, but that does not change the fact that our intelligence is advantageous in other arenas.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #18

What gaps are unbridgeable? The many species of human animals that have lived the past 2 millions years slowly developed, on their own, abstract thought, foresight, speech, art, music, culture, theory of mind, manipulation of the material world. Homo Erectus started slowly with stone tools, which affected cognitive abilities of its brain, By 500,000 ago many human species have well advance tools and culture. By 10,000 years ago, a single species, us, begins manipulating plants and other animals. That’s at least 2 million years of exceptionalism by humans.

(John Harshman) #19

Which scientists, exactly?

Speaking of T. aquaticus (the species, not the person) aren’t its characteristics exceedingly special too? A DNA polymerase that works above the boiling point of water?