News

WHAT IS IT TO BE A HUMAN?

Posted in 19/11/2008


OPEN DEBATE

 

Monday, November 17, I was talking with Dr. Pedro and he came to me with a intriguing question: what is it to be a human beingω I thought for some minutes and answered using a biological logic, with the definition of the species Homo sapiens. But the question goes beyond that. After all, what leads us to be human beings and the other animals to be only animalsω

 

The arguments are diverse, just like the arguments given back. The idea that the human being is intelligent has not value anymore. It is not enough to be intelligent to be a human being, because other animals are intelligent too. Then, one argues that humans have feelings, suffer, cry, and smile. But other animals do that too. Another argumentω Let\’s talk about language. Human beings are the only ones who talk. But, at the same time, we have to remember that language is not only talking. There is the body language, the gestures. Isn\’t it a way of expressionω Or you would say that a speechless person is not a human being, as long he or she is not able to talkω Chimpanzees do not speak with words, but they do gestures and emit different sounds for each situation, a clear sign of intra and interspecific communication.

 

By now there is nothing atypical or exclusive of human beings, rightω Then, the last chance, defended by anthropologists: the symbolism. Only human beings are able to plan the future and remember the past. Is that correctω A recent study shows that chimpanzees are able to remember those who helped them in a specific moment and those who did not help. Apart from that, at Sorocaba Sanctuary, we observe that some of them carry their fabrics or juices to the places they will stay to sleep, keeping them to be used on a subsequent time.

 

Base on this, let\’s come back to the initial questionω What is it to be a human beingω Is it to be cooperativeω Socialω To feel love and to have compassionω To have and to live in a cultureω If all of these implies on being human, then we are affirming that men and the most primitive hominids – the chimpanzees – are human beings. After all, our genetics similarity counts more than 99%, with a reasonω More than primates, we are human beings with characteristics that unite us and result in ancestors in common, in a not so distant past, but in a future that depends only on us.

 

Msc. Luiz Fernando Leal Padulla

Biologist