What Is a Human Being?
What is a Human Being? The answer to this question directly affects how human beings are treated by one another. The United States Declaration of Independence lists three unalienable rights granted to us by our Creator—Life being the first.
Some are of the opinion that life begins at conception, that it is at that moment one becomes a human being. It is common to hear someone say, "I'm going to have a baby!" and later, "Feel the baby kick!" or to hear the sorrow after a miscarriage in, "I lost my baby." It would seem that a baby is a human being. It is certainly alive, but there are people who define a human being based on variously defined junctures of gestation. The advent of the ultrasound has changed many views about fetuses, especially videos that show the reactions of fetuses to painful stimuli. This change of views had also led to questions about abortions that are performed solely because a baby is female, or a baby that may be born with hemophilia. The majority of those who support the pro-abortion stance are extremely upset over posters depicting dead, mutilated fetuses; curiously, they feel that the photograph is worse than the procedure.
Some people believe that you become a human being at the moment of birth. Peter Singer, a professor at Princeton, goes a step further by arguing that you are not a human person until thirty days after birth, and that disabled babies should be killed on the spot. He wrote, "Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons. Therefore, the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee."
Michael Tooley and Jeffrey Reiman support infanticide up to the point that a
baby develops a concept of self, positing that this is no different from
abortion. There are cases in abortion clinics where babies are born
alive, and then left to die in another room, babies who are perfectly
healthy. There are also hospitals where some babies are left uncared for;
they’re left to die simply because they’ve been born with some type of
deformity or Down's Syndrome.
End of Life
The end of human life is a subject greatly affected by the question, "What is a Human Being?" Huge advancements in modern medicine have given us the technology to invent machines to keep alive the very old, the very sick, and even the brain dead. Historically, human beings generally died at home, and this was the case through most of human history; now the average person spends 80 days in hospital during the last year of life. One quarter of all Medicare expenditures are spent to care for the dying. The ultimate question then becomes when to pull the plug.
Ironically, the choice doesn’t end with when, because beyond the when, there comes the question of whom; who decides when to pull the plug? Should this type of decision be in the hands of medical experts? Should it be decided by surviving loved ones—spouses, parents, or even children? Should it be decided by the government (in court), as were the famous cases of Karen Quinlan and Terri Schiavo? It has been suggested that a new governmental medical review board should decide, and there have been reports from some totalitarian nations that their governments decide the exact time of someone’s death based on needs for organ harvesting.
What do we think of euthanasia and assisted suicide? There are those who argue not only in favor of these methods of ending human life, but also for the unwillful euthanasia for those who no longer serve any useful purpose to society, and those who in turn, serve only to drain our resources. The word Genocide was coined in 1943, and it’s meaning did not only refer to the Holocaust. Twenty German physicians were put on trial for War Crimes in 1946; they carried out what were state orders to euthanize the old, the sick, the insane, the crippled, the feeble-minded, and deformed babies. At the 1961 trial of Adolph Eichmann, his attorney, Dr. Servatius, argued in court with this declaration, "Eichmann is innocent. He was doing his job as a doctor. Killing is a medical procedure."
The question of, What is a Human Being, also affects our view on the forced sterilization of the mentally-challenged. United States Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled in favor of such procedures in a 1927 case writing "We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. ... three generations of imbeciles are enough."
Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, advocated the abortion of black babies in 1925, but cautioned her audience, "We do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population." Sanger criticized the success-- not failure-- of charity. She called for a halt to the medical care that was being given to slum mothers, and decried the expense to the taxpayers of monies being spent on those who were deaf, blind, and dependent. She condemned foreign missionaries for their part in reducing the infant mortality rates in developing countries, and declared charity to be more evil than for the assistance it provided to the poor and needy. Her good friend, Adolph Hitler, wrote in Mein Kampf, "The demand that defective people be prevented from propagating equally defective offspring . . . represents the most humane act of mankind."
As we know, in many parts of the world today Human Beings are property—slaves. The sex slavery trade is a huge international business. This situation is surely affected by views about what Human Beings are. Another sign of these ever changing views would be the treatment of the dead. In the West, people longed to be buried in the churchyard for over a thousand years, with the expectation that they’d rise as a community at the resurrection of the dead. This also served as a reminder to the living each Sunday as to what their final destination would be.
modern times it became customary to build graveyards in cities with vertical
memorials for the dearly departed. Eventually, the edge of town was
determined to be better, as land was less expensive, and the feeling that one
would not need to be reminded of mortality unless he drove out there. More
recently, headstones have been flattened for easier mowing of the grass, and in
the winter you can actually drive by and not even realize it is a
cemetery. The latest craze is cremation. Why waste valuable ground on
the dead? I read once that we burn refuse; we bury treasure.
A Human Being can be defined as many things. It is a body of matter—two-thirds water—occupying physical space with trillions of cells; 600 muscles; 200 bones; 100 organs. Some human adults weigh 200 times more than others—ranging anywhere from five pounds to one thousand pounds. There have been adults who stand only two feet tall—and others who have reached nine feet tall. After age thirty, the body’s efficiency wanes at about 1% per year. An average eighty-year-old man has lost 30% of his muscle weight; 10% of his brain size; 25% of his nerves; and 50% of his lung capacity and kidney functionality.
We must breath to bring fresh oxygen to our blood. Life is in the blood. Our mouths and throats are amazing creations, regularly withstanding temperatures from 10 degrees F (ice cream) to 170 degrees (soup). The average person speaks tens of thousands of words each day, and breathes in 3000 gallons of air, laden with a billion particles of dust and smoke—along with innumerable microbes and viruses. Sometimes a 200-mph sneeze is necessary.
Human beings reproduce themselves through the means of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. Why male and female? The polarity principle. Sex assures mutual polar attraction of opposites. A man masters a woman from without through muscular strength. A woman masters a man from within through hormones and psychic forces. Sex organs bridge the gap between males and females, between ancestors and descendants.
cells are almost immortal. Generation after generation, they live on
without dying, passing down from parent to child the essence of their ancestors
through hereditary genes, which could be likened to recipes. Through
these intricate, beautiful spirals known as DNA, each person is
organized. Genes could be understood to be units of thought that are made
Science of Mind
Human Beings are more than physical bodies. We also have minds that think and feel. We participate in the noosphere. Our minds have many mental senses beyond the obvious big five. We weep, we anguish, we dread, we dream, we lust, we laugh. Human beings have a sense of time. We socialize, play, watch other people play, cultivate, speak, write, read, create art, and express our feelings. A human is able to reason, remember, invent, and have the capacity for logic and science. We observe the heavens, and we create and have appreciation for music, drama, and literature. We have a spiritual sense. We love.
The human brain is more complex than all the machines on Earth combined. It both consciously and unconsciously screens and filters images and ideas. The two hemispheres of a normal brain are in constant consultation; the left talks and articulates while the right listens and perceives. Since the body is not dependent upon the mind, I believe the mind is not dependent upon the body. A body is bound by time and space, but the mind is not. Humans are not only aware of themselves, but also aware of this awareness. Thinking is abstract and mysterious. Intelligence has no known limit.
We Are Star Dust
Human Beings are made of stardust. More creatures are living on your body at this moment than there are people on Earth. The same atoms make both living things and non-living things. Sir James Jeans wrote that the universe is not a great machine but a great mind, since all matter has a rudimentary degree of mind. Your physical death will be the result of disorder in your organism. Orderliness is a requirement of life. Life on Earth is primarily organized water.
People have an innate sense of social geometry, which varies from culture to culture. In America, the average man in conversation stands 20 inches away from another man, and yet he stands 24 inches away from a woman. Human beings can only survive through killing—vegetables, fish, and usually animals. A predator should only kill what is necessary for survival because he cannot afford to exterminate his prey. Man is territorial and much attached to property (land). Humankind has a pecking order, something easily observed by noting who averts their gaze first when two people meet for the first time—the dominant person does. This signal is invariably accepted by the more submissive one, and rank is established.
What Is Happiness?
Happiness is more affected by our movements to or from success, than our proximity to it. Happiness increases as we feel ourselves advancing toward what we want. It is a fact that billions of people live today with "necessities" that were either luxuries or undreamed of miracles to the kings of yesteryear, but still the discontent lingers.
and liberty must be constrained. A runaway train may be free, but it soon
leaps the rails and destroys itself. Emancipation requires
discipline. A violin string lying on a table is free, but it cannot
vibrate and make music. The string is liberated by being tightly tied at
believe humankind has free will, but that God knows what we are going to
do. It might be that the Creator’s creatures fulfill the Creator in the
same way that man creates technologies that in turn help create him. Both
subject and object are integral and reciprocal.
Since man has a mental as well as a physical world I believe in transcendence. Herakleitos observed that, "no man can step into the same river twice since the waters are ever fresh." The years of our lives pass by faster as we age since each additional unit of time we experience is a smaller portion of our total experience. Mathematically, a year to a 100-year-old person is only a mere four days to a one-year-old. Imagine how time must fly for a being a million years old. Whole generations would pass by in an instant.
Einstein said that the universe has rationality—implying an intent or purpose innate to it. Transcendence ultimately means that our minds will outlive our bodies. This means we would each retain our personalities. Surely there must be more to human beings than time and space physicality. Where does creativity come from, and how is it that creativity is infinite? How can a scale of seven notes be used to create billions of songs? As a musician, I can testify that I have never played or sang the same song in the same way twice in thousands of performances.
This world provides mortality, so we will concentrate on the here and now as we develop our souls. We avoid pain, but without pain and suffering would we be educated by life as we are? Is there a profound meaning beyond our material existence? Does not any message have to begin and end to have a lasting meaning for us? Could it be that our spirits assume form in this finite world to learn meaning, that our limitations teach us invaluable lessons? That great lessons are learned through difficulties? That here we grasp and measure ideas, wisdom, hope, faith and love?
Dying and Death
Seneca noted that, anyone at anytime can lose his life; that everyone will lose their lives; but no one will ever lose their death. Therefore death is safe and secure for each of us. Physicians regard death as unhealthy. Of course, our hair, nails, and teeth are dead all the time. Death is both inherited and genetic. Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it. Death serves a vital purpose.
A baby in the womb probably thinks he is in a great place, but he is unaware of the wonders and beauty of this world. In fact, even if the baby had adult-level mental understanding, you couldn't explain this world to him. It is for that very same reason that we cannot understand what lies on the other side of death—even if we were told about it in words, even if it were described to us in detail; it has to be experienced to be understood. Death is built into life, and we do best to accept it.
There’s no denying that the dying can be unpleasant, but four out of five people who die in the presence of living people are described as fading away peacefully without pain. When your body knows it is dying, pain has no function. Among the elderly, death often seems to be a relief from tension, and those who believe in God and an afterlife obviously go more peacefully than those who cling to this life as all there ever will be. Those who are scoundrels have harder deathbed scenes than those who are pious. Many dying people have said beautiful words as they spoke their last words on this Earth. Stephen Crane said, "It isn't so bad. You feel sleepy and you don't care." General Gordon Meade said, "I am crossing a beautiful wide river." Thomas Edison said, "It's beautiful over there," and people who have been revived from death have said such things as, "It looks so wonderful" "I heard the most peaceful music" "God was there and I was floating away."
Scales have shown that—in every measured trial—upon the moment of death something leaves the body weighing three fourths of an ounce. The soul? Death may just be a hatching of our souls from this body we cherish so.
Next time we will survey the related but subtly different subject Who are Human Beings?
My source for the latter half of this article is the great book, The Seven Mysteries of Life by Guy Murchie. The first half was researched through Google. The inspiration came from the article in the New Yorker magazine of November 30, 2009 titled The Politics of Death.