• Question: What makes us human?

    Asked by to Bethany, Hannah, Keith, Peter, Ramya on 22 Jun 2014. This question was also asked by .
    • Photo: Ramya Bhatia

      Ramya Bhatia answered on 22 Jun 2014:

      What makes us human is our unique DNA signature. Every animal has the same types of DNA made of the same building blocks or nucleotides ATGC. the way these are arranged to form different genes and the different types of genes that a living thing has makes it its unique signature. Even though almost all animals have some or the other form of the same parts/ same type of mechanism, they are different in their own ways.

      One key characteristic that is not just our DNA related that makes us human is the fact is our social structures and its complexities. We can read and write and we are curious and try to always discover and invent new things!

      there is a good BBC series called what makes us human that you might quite enjoy http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p019yl4r and also a channel 4 programme http://www.channel4.com/programmes/what-makes-us-human

    • Photo: Bethany Dearlove

      Bethany Dearlove answered on 22 Jun 2014:

      Good question! If we’re being literal, I would say the 3 million or so nucleotides that make up the human genome. As a comparison, we share about 96% of our genes with chimpanzees, 60% with mice and 50% with bananas!

      If we’re being more philosophical than that, I think that our ability to make and create art, through whatever medium, is one thing that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Another is our ability to not only use, but create fire – Ray Mears discusses this in his ‘what makes us human?’ article in the New Statesman here: http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/03/ray-mears-catching-fire.

    • Photo: Hannah Tanner

      Hannah Tanner answered on 23 Jun 2014:

      I agree with Bethany and Ramya that at a purely biological level, what makes us human is having the DNA that makes us part of the species Homo sapiens.

      What makes us human in the more philosophical sense is what differentiates us from all the other animals. Our unique abilities to think in the abstract etc.

    • Photo: Peter Elliott

      Peter Elliott answered on 23 Jun 2014:

      Millions of years of evolution from simple bacteria with a huge sprinkling of random chance has allowed us to become who and what we are today.

      The major thing that separates us from other life of earth is the ability to recognise self and to be able to postulate about the world in which we live in.

      Now the philosophical question is whether that is coded in the strands of our DNA or whether it is the result of a soul, and if you say the latter then can our soul be found in our DNA?!?!