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Why are Humans Different From Animals

Updated on July 11, 2011

Every animal, insect or plant on earth is driven by certain basic needs to survive and continue the species. Primarily they require energy to live. Energy comes in various forms and, depending on the species in question, will vary. For plants much of the energy comes in the form of sunlight and plants are able to utilise sunlight using the process of photosynthesis. The energy sources for animals can be broken down into three categories:-

Carnivores - animals that get their main dietary requirements from the flesh of other animals.

Herbivores - animals that get all their dietary requirements from plants.

Omnivores - animals that can eat both plants and meat.

No matter what species or family we belong to when our bellies are full or we've had enough sunlight for one day we turn to the next basic need - reproduction. The methods of reproduction in different species are well known, but can range from the obvious to the truly bizarre by human standards.

So what makes us human?

What creates the distinction between us and animals?

In actual fact humans aren't that different from the rest of the animal kingdom. We are still governed by the first two basic needs - sustenance and reproduction, but one thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom is the ability to think and have free thought outside these basic needs. We may still have base animal instincts that are required to drive us to search for food and reproduce, but we also have the unique ability to ask ourselves why. This ability enables us to form complex communities, work together to build magnificent constructions, create symphonies and masterpieces of art – the list goes on.

It seems that we just can't help ourselves. We have this extra drive that animals don't. We continually question the how's and whys of just about everything that we can think of and as our knowledge increases so do the questions we ask. With every question answered two new questions appear to replace it and so we continue to ask more and more questions at an exponential rate.

It is these very questions that bring us ever more into an era of technological advancement. From the first ever manned flight by the Wright brothers to our first manned space flight. We can only speculate where we will be in 100 years from now. We may be starting to teraform other planets beginning the first colonies there. We may be living twice or three times as long as we are now. We may have created the first sentient lifeform from advanced programming techniques that mimic human behaviour.

It is obvious that our ability to question the world around us gives us a competitive edge in the animal kingdom, but although we are unique in these ways time has still to tell us if we can survive long enough as a species to prove our worth. The simplest way to describe the tiny amount of time the human race has been on the earth is best conveyed by imagining a clock. The time starts at 12 o'clock in the morning and every second of every minute represents 52,000 years. We humans appeared at 3 seconds to midnight at the end of that day! So we still have a long way to go to prove our longevity on this tiny planet.

And just because we can do something does this mean that we should? The area of science has been under scrutiny by some as certain people believe that we should not mess with mother nature. Particular attention has been paid to the possibilities of genetic modification and the 'Pandoras box' that may be opened as a result.

Whatever our motivation to strive for knowledge or to create something it is the very thing that makes us human, at least for today. Who knows what the future of our own evolution will make of us. Will we lose much of our large muscles as we no longer need them to catch food and move around? As our bodies need less nourishment to keep them maintained in our present state will our cerebral capabilities grow due to the extra energy sources our body can provide as a result? We won't know until it happens, but what makes us human today is not what will make us human in 1000 years time or 100,000 years time.

Time will tell.


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