One of the many questions regarding the field of neuroscience that’s persisted over a vast number of years is the question on “what makes humans human?” What is it that really separates us from the other mammals in the animal kingdom (Don’t you dare say that humans aren’t animals!)? Well, besides the old, obvious answer of “we’re smarter,” there has to be some other defining factor that makes us human – the human factor.
Concerning the “we’re smarter” argument, that doesn’t really hold true today. In fact, recent research has allowed us to better understand the cognitive processes of a rat, which are apparently more mentally advanced than we thought. Even apes – who are already purportedly really smart, are actually able to perceive space, quantity, category, casualty, and intention. Some of which, until recently wasn’t known.
So what really is the human factor? In a conference in 2013, it was suggested that what really makes us humans humans is our ability to collaborate with each other. Although chimpanzees have been found to do the same, it is nowhere near the human’s ability to do so. Whereas chimps might collaborate to find food or swarm together to stay safe against a predator, we, even as early as little children do so, which is most obvious when we’re let out to play. You remember those times as a kid where you played house? That’s due to collaboration.
This sort of working together, in a more advanced way than any other animal out there makes us humans one step above the rest – because, in fact, we are social beings. We collaborate in society, and understand societal values. When you think about it, we’re no big ape. There are quite a few of our kind that are a little bigger – and stronger – than we are.
Therefore, we humans have evolved in a way that allows us to group in numbers, and work together to achieve a bigger goal, or in the case long ago – to outmatch a gorilla in search of prey, rule of territory, etc.
It’s amazing that we humans have comes as far as we have. Those who oppose the theory of evolution simply do not know the joy of being able to trace back an infinite number steps to understand how we became what we are today. We’ve evolved, and we are evolving. What will humankind be like in a thousand years? We don’t know – but it’s fun to think about it.