What Makes Humans Different?

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What Makes Humans Different?

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Self-consciousness and intelligence. The human mind gives us capacity for reasoned thought. Instinct isn’t the driving force that determines our behavior. This ability leads us to search for meaning in our individual lives as well as meaning in human life as a whole. Libraries are full of the works of authors searching for purpose in life. Every culture produces its own religions, myths and philosophies. We even have a need to find meaning and purpose in suffering. It isn’t enough for people to accept suffering. Even the youngest mind wants to know why the pet dog died or why God allows people to get sick. This leads us to another human trait: the capacity for empathy and sharing another’s suffering. # The ability to think and plan in time. It’s an amazing aspect of the human mind to think in terms of past, present and future. We have aspirations to achieve; we set goals and organize ourselves relative to time. When was the last time you saw a gorilla or chimp open his calendar and make an appointment? This leads us to the capacity to conceive of our own death. From the funeral pyres of ancient civilizations to modern funerals, we are ever searching for meaning in death. We are ever searching for a hope in an afterlife. Such concepts are foreign to animals. # The ability to create. Human beings are unlike other creatures in their concepts and development of art, music and literature. Beavers through instinct build the same types of dams generation after generation. There isn’t a raging river on the globe that mankind cannot dam and use to create electricity. Our creative abilities allow us to adapt to situations and solve new problems. # The ability to think abstractly. An architect can visualize a skyscraper, draw lines on a piece of paper called a blueprint, then pass along the blueprint to a builder who studies the lines and constructs the vision that existed only in the mind of the architect. Much human learning is through the five senses. Yet the human mind stretches beyond the senses to encompass concepts including infinity, liberty, beauty and humor. # The ability to create languages. Human beings comprehend connections between large numbers of words, including the ability to learn languages, even so-called animal languages. # The ability to create economic systems. Humans have the desire to work and be productive, to barter, exchange and set up economic systems. # The capacity for scientific thought. This includes experimentation and development of theories. # The ability to perform mathematics and construct computers. # The desire to find meaning in sex beyond procreation. # The ability to consciously change our environment, personality, character, habits and even physical appearance. # The ability to experience emotions such as happiness, joy, peace and, conversely, depression and despair. # The ability to conceive of morality. Because human beings can conceive of a choice between inherently right and inherently wrong behavior, we have a capacity for a relationship with God.

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