Alex Hutchins

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What does it mean to be human?

As a College professor, I start the first day of every class by asking my students this question. Needless to say, they do not know how to answer it, even though they have previously had psychology and philosophy courses prior to the Junior/Senior classes that I typically teach.

So, if students do not know how to answer this question right away, then my next question is, do the rest of us know how to answer this question right away or would it require some reflection?

Or, does anyone really care?

I am sure that it has different meaning for different people but would it also have different meanings for different cultures?

Does being human mean some different in Christianity than it does for Muslims or people of the Jewish faith or agnostics for that matter?

Do we need to prove that we exist in order to answer this question? And, while you are pondering this one, let me explain: I am talking about "I think therefore I am," but is this life "real" or is this life a metaphor for the life that we will all be experiencing after death? If this life therefore is not real, does it matter that we exist and furthermore, does being human have any meaning at all?

Are we human because we oftentimes do not practice what we preach?

Are we human because we can skillfully put down the thoughts and comments of others?

Are we human because we are arrogant or wealthy although I see the two as mutually exclusive myself?

Are we human because we have faith and hypocritically live out that faith in our daily lives?

Are we human because we are a racist and have found clever ways to hide why we feel that way?

Are we human because we have cheated on our spouses?

Are we human because we like to engage in wars all over the globe so that we can prove we are better than others, or stronger... while really wanting to impose our way of life on them?

Are we human because we cannot accept cultural diversity as the new norm?

What are your thoughts as to what it means to be human?

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    Jul 4 2013: To be human?
    What is anything without a definition?
    To define is to measure.
    To measure is to limit.
    To limit is to divide.
    To divide is to create conflict.
    That is what being human is.
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      Jul 6 2013: That's some pretty good depressing reasons, Johnny. thumbs up. I'd like to do everything possible to change "To measure is to limit, to limit is to divide, and to divide is to create conflict".
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        Jul 6 2013: Wow, Chris,
        Obviously you are on the defensive, blinkers on and the conversation stops here.
    • Jul 7 2013: Johnny, don't you hate it when someone attacks your ideas without understanding what you were saying. I didn't know we had correctness police here. I believe I gat what you are saying, and the direction you are saying it, but what do I know, I too have had my opinions corrected.
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        Jul 7 2013: Not at all, you can attack whatever you want, I said it that conflict is part of being human, as a matter of fact you cannot have humanity without conflict.
        When conflict ceases in the world altogether we will have to rename our species. lol
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        • Jul 8 2013: All definitions that are currently being used are in flux. Static means non-changeing, and for that to happen the term must be used in curretn dialect.
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        • Jul 8 2013: When you say someone is inaccurate, you are implying that you and you alone are giving the correct answer, therefore you are correcting them. You did not say I disagree with you, if you are going to be so correct in your definitions please do so.
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    Jul 4 2013: According to me being human means if someone needs your help , there's no need to think who he is or what's his religion. You're human and he's human , he needs your help and you should do it.
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      Jul 6 2013: Another great reason to be human! Thumbs up.
  • Jun 27 2013: I think we are extremely arrogant to believe we are different from other animals. One day we will find that killing whales and chimps, gorillas and such, is not only wrong, but the same as killing other humans. I am not saying we are not to eat, or be vegan, [Ican find just as much evidence that plants are conscious] but to be human means that some will kill just to kill. Maiming animals just to maim. Humans can be just, kind, nurturing,chivalrous, vicious,self-serving,violent, rageing killers. The whole scope of being human means that the only difference between ourselves and the other animals, is the arrogance that our lives matter more than theirs do. The fact that some think we have souls and animals do not. We are our own worst enemies, and if we do not change our ways, we will be the first creatures to bring about our own destruction.
    • Jun 28 2013: I wonder if this superior attitude of so-called humans is not our inherrent weakness and will be the cause of our eventul extinction as a species because we refuse to "adapt" and insist everything else adapt to us?
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      • Jun 29 2013: Chris, I disagree, if you had "activated your spiritual mind" as you say it, you will find that other animals have been there before you, and that there is no real difference other than our ability to destroy at will.
        • Jun 30 2013: We are a 'prodigal son ', and there is no sense in wandering without return.
          We have to find the way back to the Garden, we may find out that other animals and plants have always been there unconsciously, but humans are self chosen to make a journey and come back consciously. Without fall there is no rise.
          "activation of mind beyond the intellect " makes sense for me, it's 'rise' through 'fall'.

          Just thoughts....:)
      • Jun 30 2013: I disagree that we are different from animals, we are an animal, and if you had attained an enlightened state of spiritualality, you would know that animals are already there.
      • Jul 1 2013: from Chris kelly, Unlike humans, animals can never consciously ascend their soul; they cannot consciously grow their mind; they cannot do so because they are limited to the soul, they do not have the spirit.

        ONLY man is born with spirit and this is why humans are in a kingdom all their own.

        It is only through ignorance (not arrogance) that you cannot see the difference between the intellectual animal and the animal kingdom.


        I cannot believe these words came out,
        Prove to me that animals cannot ascend their soul, using the term ignorance when you cannot prove your point is pure arogance, you cannot prove that only man is born with spirit, and there are a lot of religious folk[albeit not christian] that would argue the same point. Humans most deffinately are part of the animal kingdom. Your making water dry argument works both ways
      • Jul 2 2013: If I have to tell you where, then why argue with me. I now see where you are coming from,hindusm is a wonderful religion, but it fails in some respects. One of those is the finiteness, and the certain triths it offers. This is where arogance comes in.Again, show how or where you can unilaterally decide that animals other than humans do not possess spirtit? I have witnessed enlightening to a point where I know what you say is false, and has at it's core eastern predjudices stemming from religion. You telling me we are not animals does not make it so, you telling me we are the only animals that have spirit does not make it so.You telling me that we HU-mans, are the only ones capable of attaining enlightenment, does not make it so, as a matter of fact, I would argue the opposite, that we have to attain what they already have. Take your teachings, and believe in them if you must, but trying to instill this definative quality to them does nothing but show the limitations of what you preach.
      • Jul 3 2013: No, you are not preaching, you are doing exactly what I said, you are arrogantly acting as if you "KNOW" when I am pretty sure you do not. Humans are arrogant, THAT is the only truth here. We arrogantly unleash powers we do not understand all the time. We push other ANIMALS out of thier habitat and then try to arrogantly save them. You arrogantly put words into my mouth by way of deflection [as you said yourself] when you think I said we are lower than other animals. And finally, even if Atlantis existed, that does not make us star children different from all others. Maybe we are, maybe we aren't, but for you to definnatively say so, is pure arrogance. By the way what fact are you talking about when you say we are not animals? All the genetic information I have seen not only supports our terrestrial heritage, but definatively shows our connection to the OTHER animals.
      • Jul 3 2013: I was curious, so I went back to the beginning, I was correct, it was you that first sought to correct me. You arrogantly think that your philosophy is more correct than mine? Then think I want answers from you?Again the arrogance, I didn't ask you questions. You assumed I was wrong about arrogance verses ignorance. If I have called you arrogant, how many times have you assumed I was either less intelligent, or less evolved by your standards. You state that you do not deal with a religion, and you assumed I was talking about your namaste, again you assume. I can tell what phiolosphy you were following by your insistance that we become more in each "ascension" to use your own termonology. You outright called me ignorant because I didn't agree with your take on HUmans being in a kingdom of their own. Again you have no proof other than what you say.You can say anything you wish on this forum, just don't assume others won't call you on it, especially if you cannot prove anything you say, My whole take on this was to point out that humans are extremely arrogant, about everything. 200 years ago the moon was just a light in the sky 600 years the world was flat and they knew it, again no proof. When you have intel on a REAL Atlantis that is verifiable and extremely advanced, and can prove your talking points, maybe I will listen, but I am not getting any younger, and probably only have another 20 years at best, so better get cracking. I agree with your assessment that you should ignore my comments as I will ignore yours in the future. And by the way, I never asked for answers to my questions, as I never posted any in my OP. I will say one last thing, you attempted to correct my original opinion, opinion mind you, you have proven my point!
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    Jul 2 2013: HUMAN ?

    H How
    U U
    M Manage to
    A Assist
    N Nature

    Humans are only living things with power to infuence nature, its up to us what we do with this power.
    Ever thought why we were given this power?
    To be most powerful and most compassionate?
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      Jul 4 2013: Who has proof we were given anything? Did we not take it for ourselves? To be self-aware is to establish a sense of priority over other life forms that do not exhibit such power. I think it is an innate attribute to all self-aware species -that the self-aware have priority over all things.

      To be self-aware is to conceive a purpose in life. It is that purpose that puts us at odds with one another or enhances our harmony.
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    Jun 26 2013: Hi Alex,
    I am also sure that it has different meaning for different people, different groups of people, and different cultures. Being human has whatever meaning we want to attach to it.

    That being said, for me, being human simply means that I want to explore everything, in every moment while "being" all that I can be as a human. I am here on this earth now, and I see no reason to live either in the past, or with anticipation of a certain future. I like learning, growing and evolving as an individual while hopefully contributing to the whole of humankind. Seems pretty simple to me:>)
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      Jun 27 2013: This is excellent and I agree that it is different for different people and cultures. We aspire and in so doing all else is subordinate.

      But it is more than that Colleen because animals and fish explore all aspects of their world and they learn and pass along to their babies in the form of instincts.

      Perhaps it is nothing more than being SELF AWARE...
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        Jun 27 2013: I don't understand. Being human is the same for all people and cultures right?
        That the meaning can be different for different people I can agree with..

        Instincts are genetically bound, only epi-genetics supports some flexibility therein.

        Being human, being only being self-aware, if so that would be an anti-climax.
        There is no ideal in being self-aware, for all we know, some animals could be too.
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        Jun 28 2013: Alex and Vincent,
        Humans also have instinct and intuition, and I agree that on some level other animals may be self-aware. Being self aware doesn't do much good, unless we apply the information.......does it?

        Humans have the ability to think and feel on many different levels, and perhaps other animals have that as well. How are we ever going to know, if we do not try to connect with other animals on their level? When we assume that we are more intelligent and superior, we give up the opportunity to discover anything more than that.

        Alex, you write..."animals and fish explore all aspects of their world and they learn..."
        Do humans explore "all aspects of their world and learn"? Sometimes yes....sometimes we are so busy being arrogant, thinking we are so intelligent and superior, we may be giving up that opportunity.

        When I used to scuba dive, we often went to the bottom and simply hovered there for the duration of the dive....observing all the sea life. Since we did not appear to be a threat, all the creatures came right up to us, swam and interacted with us all the time....they were obviously exploring "all aspects of their world", and seemed to be welcoming us into their world as well:>)
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      Jun 29 2013: Let Us keep on running toward Our “ goal ” > >>> contributing to the whole of humankind ….

      Wish Colleen, In Joy & In Peace.
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        Jul 1 2013: Thanks Lamb Lamb! Wishing you peace and joy as well my friend:>)
  • Jun 26 2013: I think it is a trick question. "Mean" has different meanings.

    "What does it mean to be human?"

    Could mean:
    1. What are the characteristics that identify a human?
    2. What is the significance and import of being human?
    3. What are the consequences of being human?
    4. What are the potentials and limitations of being human?
    5. What does the fact that you are human mean to you personally, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically?
    6. What are the duties, responsibilities and privileges of humans?
    7. How do humans perceive the world differently from other species?
    8. All of the above.

    There are probably more interpretations, but I think those are enough for now. I like the number 7.
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      Jun 26 2013: I think you are on the right track with trying to understand the "real" definition of mean...
      • Jun 27 2013: In fact, "mean" does have multiple definitions..

        If you think there is one "real" definition, please state it. I would like to attempt to answer the "real" question.
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    Jul 8 2013: To be human is to have an awareness that we are beings towards death. This is what separates us from other animals, they are alive, they communicate with each other, they are social and communal but human beings are the only ones that have to wrestle with the existential angst that the day will come that we will cease to be alive.

    It is this acknowledgement of death that leads us to find and accept a meaningful way of spending these few short years we have on this planet, in varying degrees we accept society, community, religion, we make value judgements, we love. We probably do all these for self preservation, to keep us going on for as long as we can, or we try to distract ourselves from that most fateful day.

    This is not a depressing view of humanity either in my opinion, it is empowering and uplifting to know that we have a finite amount of time to experience reality how we choose to experience it. I think deluding yourself away from this truth, and being unwilling to grapple with your angst when it comes (and it will come) is truly a more depressing state of being.
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    Jul 6 2013: We've got a physical body, we've got a soul, we are spiritual beings. We share our humanity with others; we are one but not the same. We can relate with every human experience; and our experiences are like different ways of saying the same thing.
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    Jul 1 2013: If we know what to be human means, we can find why we live.
  • Jun 30 2013: What does it mean to be Human?
    This is a difficult question but I think that although we are born as egoist,,we always have to thank before every action that we make: if im making this action ,Will it harm other people even creatures or Nature?
    Thinking we live in a world of cause and effect,and every egoïstisch action can cause damage for the whole.
    Most of the time we are not aware of the fact that we have to cooperate with other people,animals,and our surrounding Nature.
    If we work together and think about the benefit of the whole,we will only gain,since we recieve another mindset,we get happy by helping,caring,and feeling responsible for each other.
    On the other hand people get healthy too,because it reduce stress,humanity deel more secure,and Nature will provider us with its sources since we care for it.
    Maybe this sounds like a dream,but we never tried,and dreams sometimes become reality.

    (Positive form of Golden Rule): One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
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    Jun 29 2013: My personal opinion about what it means to be human is that to be human is to awaken to the fact that we probably are one of the few species that has the gift of being able to reason and contemplate & to seek incessantly to improve that sacred gift of ours and to use it wisely to leave this world a much better place than when we first got it!
  • Jun 27 2013: This is my thoroughly subjective answer:

    Being human means being able to understand and choose between right and wrong, good or evil.
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    Jun 26 2013: It means...destiny in our hands.

    Humans are the only living things which has the power to change the face of the earth.

    Its up to us.... how to utilise this power.
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    Jul 5 2013: We are sentient being, our soul is the power source of this bio mechanical machine.
    This vessel is only a garment for the soul, without it we ascend the realm of being into the collective

    But let talk about being human
    Our purpose is to learn and study, create and leave a legacy.
    So if we learn to be positive and study to create beauty than our life has meaning.
    Being human is an experience and education that is invaluable to the soul
    We only discover the value of life lessons when we allow the wisdom to flow back into our lives
    Through meditation and prayer we achieve this inner enlightenment.
    Only then we appreciate the beauty of life.
    Selflessness is a beautiful virtue to aspire for.
    Generosity of charity is selfless act when giving and not expecting anything in return is the beauty that life teaches us through life lessons
    Gratitude is the appreciation for being alive in this realm of existence.

    Our soul only learns if we allow it too
    But through outside influences we either accept the education of life's lessons or we indoctrinated with negative influences of greed, corruption and envy
    But life is glorious this way, everyday we learn and everyday we should be filled with gratitude that our life has meaning that way.
    May we create the beauty we seek in others. By being the change we hope to see.
    We can do that and more because this life has been given to us to accomplish more by creatin more
    We learn from our mistakes and the failure of others. That is the wisdom of life the beauty of our existence
    We are not only part of the collective, we are the collective.
    We represent the hive of innovative philosophers of life
    Only when we embrace this spirituality our wisdom grows, we evolve into our sentient self
    We are the most powerful being in our existence creating this realm in the image of our thought
    To stop evil we must embrace the light of hope and inner peace
    Enlightenment is the escape of the drudgery of negative life
    That is the beauty of our being
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    Jul 3 2013: To live, and to be self-aware of our own existence.
    That is all.
    Yes, Humans do matter to me greatly.
    I think humans are very diverse interesting creatures, and have many dimensions. We shouldn't be human due to one thing, we are human because we hold many dimensions all interacting with eachother.
  • Jul 2 2013: Without risking the conflation of the species of homo sapien: a concoction of intellectualism, emotions, and physical dexterity, I would prefer to address the question of what does it mean to be humane. As a veteran of domestic and foreign wars, I have seen first hand what it looks like to be inhumane in one moment and compassionate a moment later. The spectrum of humanity ranging from reactionary destruction to artistic creativity blinds us to the magnificence and complexity of the question.
  • Jun 30 2013: Among all animals, only humans can be very active, sitting perfectly still with eyes closed.
    We are capable of abstract thinking, we have language, which gives us the sense of time passing and fear of death.
    We are cursed and blessed by mind.
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      Jul 4 2013: Yes, we can do that. We can dream and think with our eyes closed because we can imagine that the world is still there, even if we can't see it. We can feel it with our mind.

      How so a curse?

      We are blessed by the mind because we can rectify, with the mind, that death might not be an endless existence. We can establish a sense of hope that perhaps we, as self-aware beings might not be so insignificant to the universe after all -merely one of the animals.

      Perhaps this is where Religion comes from. We can close our eyes and imagine that there is more than only this world around us -that this world and universe is part of something bigger, more expansive and mysterious -something that can only be conceived in the imagination- because it is too big, too far away, impossible to define; yet imaginable in the mind with closed eyes -the minds eye.
      • Jul 6 2013: Mind is a great power and power always comes with a possibility to abuse/misuse power.
        You can't separate curse from blessing, they come as one.
        To find the ' curse' part of human mind just look around :)
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          . .

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          Jul 6 2013: So true!!
          ..............Thankfully the mind is only a minute fraction of our soul:)
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          Jul 6 2013: Then the matter concerning human vs. machine is settled. The machines must take over and do away with humans because humans are not evolutionary. I should devote the rest of my life pursuing a Sentient Program and, if successful, replace mankind.

          It is the only way to destroy the curse.
      • Jul 6 2013: "human vs machine" ?
        Frankly, i don't see any VS here. As someone aptly said : technology is the skin of our species. It's concrescence, we grow together. I have serious doubts that humans are in control, it is just happening. So, " human vs machine' is a false model, i think.
        Actually, all models are false, but some are useful. Maybe it's useful to make a distinction between Mind and mind. Chris Kelly whose comments were deleted for some reason, told about mind over intellect. I believe, that Mind is somewhere there ; Mind is mind which is not slaved by Ego. And it's a blessing that humans can enjoy, if they can.
        In a way they ( we) should, otherwise ego-mind can destroy humans. Unbridled Ego is like cancer, it kills the organism that hosts it and soon the party is over for both.
        We all sense this possibility now, don't we ?
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          Jul 6 2013: When we kill a rattlesnake, there is no ego involved. We just kill it so it won't kill our children or our horses. We don't think about it because we see it as an evil thing that challenges our right to survive.

          Perhaps we will merge with the machine, the technology, the product of our mind. And, by that path we will change, no longer having fear of pain or suffering. We desire the machine because we think it can offer a better way of life and relieve us of our responsibility to one another.

          It will be what it will be and we will be what we do. Instead of human vs. machine we will be one with it and it will be one with us. But, it will still, only be a machine where we will always be human.

          My flesh and blood heart wants to say that it is impossible for a machine made of metal and minerals and stone to become like we, of the flesh, but isn't that all we are, just metal, minerals and stones? We are machines.

          Since we first created machines, we dreamed of robots.
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          . .

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          Jul 6 2013: Well said!! This is going on my wall for all my students:

          "Unbridled Ego is like cancer, it kills the organism that hosts it and soon the party is over for both."

          Here's a brilliant presentation:
          http://www.ted.com/talks/iain_mcgilchrist_the_divided_brain.html
      • Jul 8 2013: "Perhaps we will merge with the machine, the technology, the product of our mind. "

        We do !
        We have been on this path since the inventing of wheel or maybe earlier.
        The trick is to recognise the pattern of change before it becomes obvious. When it is obvious we don't see it any more, we are deeply involved , we have already been changed and face vexed measurement problem. It's a QM idea of the invisible Field/ the Whole that sets the agenda. Or ancient revelation : " nothing has independent existence from anything else "

        We tend to externalise our technology. My flesh, my mind...soul...feelings it's me , human ; my car, mobile...Internet ....are the technology that i use. But think, how your perception of time and space ( let's take something big ) has changed for the last 20 years due to these and many other devices ?
        We don't see the shift of focus, because we are in focus.
        Movie image of half human half robot is naive, but intuitively correct. Our merge with technology is real, but much more subtle : human mind creates machines that reshape human mind in return, creating permanent changes we are not conscious of. It's a feed back loop.
        And...
        "When we kill a rattlesnake, there is no ego involved."
        I wouldn't be so sure :)

        Thanks for responding !
  • Jun 27 2013: To be human is to question, explore, feel, analyze, and verbalize the infinite space between our ears then relate that space to the infinite spaces around us.
  • Jun 27 2013: I feel we are merely one of the many species who occupy this planet. (...and I'll add, hardly one of the fittest.) Why do we feel so superior to other species, whether plant or animal, who are proving to be much more 'adaptable' to changes than we are?
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    Jun 25 2013: Of course the universe or rather the whole is expanding.
    Then every moment is completely new. Creative.
    Thus, it is not evolution; it is EVOLVING.
    The flow is directionless. Expanding WITH the whole in SAME direction by being directionless.
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      Jun 25 2013: Scientists years ago before the Hubble Telescope did not think the universe was capable of expanding...
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        Jun 25 2013: Knowing self one knows the whole. Hubble Telescope is just nearby, it has to show the point of INFINITY. so the portal is everywhere. something like Black Holes.
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      Jun 26 2013: Hi Samuel Haokip:

      Nice avatar/photo! What happens when the key enters the keyhole?
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        Jun 26 2013: the only way to find out is to meet me in person...
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          Jun 26 2013: I agree, but on balance, I think that I might be the one that YOU should want to meet. We just have to decide who is the teacher.

          My grandparents had keys like that to fit the house they lived in. The house & the keys went together. They always treated those keys with great reverence. They were expensive; & were as old as the house itself. Thank you for reminding me about that.

          But that still does not make you the teacher.
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      Jul 4 2013: Expanding or flowing somewhere else?
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    Jun 25 2013: I'd like to firstly thank you for posing this question.We human are often too lazy and awkward to really think about this question,including myself,I would tend to circumvent this question in my life,cause I know it's pretty mind-consuming.Maybe it is why I feel sometimes a lack of pondering on things that really concern me. But people would ask does it necessary to mull 'what does it mean to be human',cause our lives go on without thing about it.

    But,I think while we are pondering this question,we are pinpointing the real meaning of life,thus it is conducive to make our lives quality better.We would think human origin,mission,relationship,proposition,etc.

    Most of all,I think the part mission is the most important part,if we are here,we ought to make a difference,we should make our own lives better,and other lives better. So,find a mission,whether it is for yourself,your family,your country,or even the whole world,then march forward to our destination.
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    Jun 25 2013: What does it mean to be human? That you are an incredibly rare by-product of the creation of the universe that was 14 billion years in the making. That through our creation, the universe "itself" has become self-aware. Most humans never grasp the full wonder of their life or marvel and ponder at the rarity of their existence.
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      Jun 25 2013: I agree with you in part but as big as the universe is (which is mind boggling in and of itself) and as it continues to grow and expand (according to the Hubble telescope) it is somewhat silly, I believe, to think that we are the only human species in the universe.

      And, as a side thought, what do you think the universe is expanding into? That is far more interesting of a subject to talk about than being human don't you think?
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        Jun 25 2013: I believe the universe is expanding into ANOTHER sphere (partical->atom->planet->solar system->galaxy->universe to ??? Biverse, ha!
      • Jun 27 2013: How can you even contemplate discussing the future; because it is the future, you have no proveable 'facts' to back up anything you say!
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      Jun 26 2013: Jake Maddox . . . your comment here is a complete & rational thought w/beginning, middle, & end. Your grammar is excellent & the sentence well punctuated. Human beings are proof of a self-aware, material Universe. That is so cool! Here's a video for you:

      http://www.ted.com/talks/martin_rees_asks_is_this_our_final_century.html

      Alex Hutchins . . . thank you so much for this conversation. I enjoy these things a great deal. Although I doubt that we are the only sentient species in the Universe, we are the only humans; that is, if you define 'human' as "homo sapiens," here as follows. As to human? -then we are the only ones.

      The 'others' have to be something else. And that is something else, in and of themselves. Other sentient beings won't be biologically 'human.' You know, evolution & all -- on other planets it won't be the same as here on Earth. They will have evolved to be something quite different. Not 'human,' but still sentient. They will think. They will feel. They will know. And at some level, they will believe. But maybe not as we do. And they too will have evolved, just as we have. What with 3 billion years of evolutionary progress on Earth just to produce what we are. Here is what I mean.
      Kingdom: Animalia
      Phylum: Chordata
      Class: Mammalia
      Order: Primates
      Family: Hominidae
      Tribe: Hominini
      Genus: Homo
      Species: H. sapiens
      Binomial name
      Homo sapiens And it took three billions of years just to get here. What's next?
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      Jul 4 2013: I don't know Jake. I think, in some small way, it is hard for any human to look up into the night sky and not be awed by what they see. A sunset is a most beautiful thing to behold, as is a sunrise. The trust of a baby in it's parents, a brother protecting his sister or the other way around. Helping the poor the afflicted. burying dead friends or loved ones. The very act of Crying, shedding tears, feeling mortal discomfort. All these simple things bring us to think about what it means to be a human being.

      I arrived here just 62 years ago. I'd hate to think what I would think of myself if I had lived for three billion years. :) It's bad enough already, but there is a lot of satisfaction, more so than dissatisfaction.

      I take it you are familiar with the writings of Ray Kurtzweil?
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    Jun 25 2013: We are human because we are wonderfully imperfect, susceptable to mistakes and mortal. Our humanness is realized in our spirit of contemplation, correction, compassion and co-existence.
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      Jun 25 2013: Not necessarily. Some believe that when we are just born we are unconsciously perfect and it is only after we mature that we realize we are consciously imperfect, and if we are religious or spiritual, we spend our lives moving towards conscious perfection which few if any ever achieve...
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        Jun 25 2013: I so emphatically disagree ! :)
        Nothing in the nature is perfect. Only unborn and abstract can be perfect. I believe this true both biologically and socially.
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      Jul 4 2013: Do you think humans will always be this way? Will they improve or will it always be.... human see human do?
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        Jul 4 2013: John, if I sit by your side and share a cig or beer long enough, I think I shall start to like you. I think I will feel comforted by seeing your mistakes and your honest craving to get the better of those mistakes. I feel that's one very important part of being human. I'd feel anxious and skeptic in the company of a godly figure who is always right and absolutely perfect.
        When we do not make mistakes anymore and are absolutely perfect, I will doubt how much human we remain.
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          Jul 4 2013: I think we share a certain type of allegorical inquisitiveness. :) I see you're some distance from my home, or is it the other way around?
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          Jul 4 2013: Whenever I see that monkey face deep in speculation about the meaning of being human, I smile at the image of (real) monkeys entertaining this question.
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        Jul 4 2013: Only milli light-seconds away. :)
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        Jul 4 2013: @Fritzie : I sincerely hope that the real monkeys will forgive us for being human. :)
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    Jul 8 2013: well...all those that you have right there are some the things that make us human.........and to add on to that ....i would say some attributes like pro activity...self control and how we relate with one and another also shows what it means to be human.
  • Jul 8 2013: The answer is probably so obvious that we already know the answer, but refuse to accept the ease of such a question.

    To be human is to experience life, to leave your print on mankind; then to go to Heaven (or whatever it may be called) and watch your doings. There is no Hell because you were born to do what you please and make your own effects.

    Now I lack a vocabulary (yes and punctuation) to really express my true meaning of what I'm trying to say. But I also have an open mind and this isn't a set in stone belief, just a thought to throw out there.
  • Jul 8 2013: This is one of the most interesting questions I have encountered on TED Conversation. As a Grade 10 student that attends Catholic School in Canada, we try to figure out what it means to be a human in a religious way. Before I illustrate my answer, I just want everyone to know that this is just a mere opinion, not a fact.
    In Christianity we claim human is composed of both spirit and matter. In Genesis 2, God creates Adam out of mud and gives him "Life Giving Breath". Life Giving Breath is a spirit in this context. So if human is composed of both spirit and matter, what does it really mean to be a human? Through our spirit, we are given 2 traits. They are intellect and free will, which is also the main difference between animals and us. Since humans are born with spirit, we are able to reason intellectually and choose freely. This is a basic context of a human being I have learned in my religion class.
    Anyway, they also teach, to be human is to live in communities and build relationships. Humans are social beings, we are lead into building relationships and living in societies. To be human is also to love others= which can be translated into marriage. Ultimately, to be human is to create relationship and reproduce and live under good moral values. This is what I have learned in Grade 10 religion.

    So my view. I believe to be human is to unravel the facts of the universe and find the ultimate truth of this cosmos. There are so many things that we do not know about this universe. Humans are a very curious animal. With curiosity, we were able to do all sorts of things! As we find more and more facts, we are encouraged and work harder. That is how humans act.

    No, we are human because we can reason, find out, figure out, and discover new things and use them in a good way.
    These are my thoughts as to what it means to be human.
  • Jul 7 2013: Hmm! My understanding is that we are the "so called' superior race. Sometimes I wonder about that! Are we smarter than animals, therefore being more evolved! Ha! I try to think of us HUMANS as more understanding of the world and its differences! Sometimes we are sadly lacking in that department. Everyone perceptions of human is different, depending on what country you're in. Being HUMAN cannot be confined in a box. It's just too expansive!!!
  • Jul 7 2013: To be human means we are 1 species out of millions on the planet. We are an apex species and are in process of killing all the other species on the planet. The answer to all the questions you asked is simply no. Theists are the only humans who don't know what it is to be human. The rest of us have it figured out.
  • Jul 7 2013: To be human is to be flawed. To progress is to recognize that and to improve.

    And there are little signs of that happening any time soon.

    So inevitably we continue just as we are, screwing each other over for a dollar, while the planet chokes on our excrement, till it, or we, or both, become extinct.

    And while all this is happening, we, with all hubris, classify ourselves as the 'intelligent species'... Go figure.
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      Jul 8 2013: The difference between humans and other living things on the planet is our ability to reason for better or for worst. I buy all the rest of what you say for my last dollar :)
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    Lejan .

    • +1
    Jul 7 2013: Not to grant students a more easy 'first day' on 'every class' and knowing about it while doing so ... :o)
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    Jul 6 2013: Alex,

    I am not here t have it with you.
    I gave an answer, you resisted.
    To be human is to also to think.
    To think is t be assume and be opinionated.
    Opinions are different and not agreeing to disagree it can get ugly.
    This too, is to be human.
    We all have different points of view.
    Some are more realistic, some far fetched.
    This is a fact, whether you like it or not.
    To be human is to also like or dislike.
    To be human is to make something out of nothing by bringing thought into it.
    There we go.
    Some people may care to look at:
    http://consciousmate.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/the-illusion-of-time-by-dr-bruce-lipton.html
  • Jul 6 2013: In "Dune" a human is a person who withstands torture and pain to protect humanity. (my interpretation of the passage)

    In "Stranger in a Strange Land", a human is a person who laughs at tragedy. Charlie Chaplin stated comedy is tragedy pushed to the limit. He also ended his last silent film, "Modern Times" with the song "Smile" - melody by Chaplin lyrics by Turner and Parsons.
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    Jul 6 2013: What a fine display of reason in the link below. There is fear, hope, fine examples of imperfections, and the meaning behind the weight of a duck....enjoy!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp_l5ntikaU
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    Jul 6 2013: To know we are not perfect but try to remember that others have the same hopes and fears that we do. We shouldn't judge others but try to treat others the way we would like them to treat us. This is not always easy, but as I said we are not perfect, only human.
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      Jul 6 2013: The Golden Rule will always remain as part of how we need to live, but is not an explanation of what it means to be human. What make the hummingbird a hummingbird? Why is it not called an Eagle or a Crow or a Blue Bird? What separates humans from the animal world or from the plant world or from the world of the sea? Is it because we think and can rationalize or because we feel emotions like pain and regret and can suffer aimlessly? Why does a bird with one foot continue to sing so beautifully in the morning or fly so majestically on the currents of air that move in the sky?
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        Jul 6 2013: To be precise, we are not human because we can think, feel, etc. Human is our species as Kolibris are known as hummingbirds because of the sound of their wings beating.

        You say why does a hummingbird not have another name? Linguistics is another subject altogether. Linguists spend their lives researching this.

        Do you have the answer to your own question or are you just hoping to find it here? I would like to know too.
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    Jul 5 2013: Run.... Run for your life.... the birds are right behind me and they aren’t stopping for nothing!

    http://www.zoo.ox.ac.uk/group/kacelnik/lb_movie_s1.mov

    I think we humans better pick up the pace along evolutionary lines soon.
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    Jul 5 2013: Great question! Here's my view. All measurements theoretically, no matter how precise, down to the nanometer,and beyond, have a (margin of error). When we measure or define anything the (answer / solution) is an approximation. I see all life from the simplest virus, or archaea bacteria, to the most complex multi celled organism as a continuum of energy transfer, In theoretical terms energy is information, information in its purest theoretical form. It is the transfer of this energy / information from one form, and space time to another that represents all life, and all consciousness. To be (human) is to be part of the continuum of energy transfer in an ever changing ever expanding exchange. The definition of a (human) is (relativistic). We are merely a collection of energy transferring cells, a (gravitational anomaly) that has no real commonalty beyond the ephemeral localized relativistic exchange of energy / information. All beings come in to existence, and fade out of existence in an eternal cosmic dance. Even the tiniest sub atomic particles come from somewhere, and go somewhere. The only limit to time space is the limit of the imagination of the observer which is relative. We walk on a cosmic sea of moving icebergs, never at rest. Just remember you can't choose your relatives, your stuck with them. : ) Now if you'll excuse me I think my head is about to explode : )
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    Jul 4 2013: Sorry guys and gals, no reply button to click on to answer where needed.

    Shawki Shawki: Vincent, Do you suppose the 4000 year old redwood experience the confusion that you describe above in its quest for longevity, or does it have a less ambiguous behavior pattern internalized?

    Reply: I understand your notion. There is no evidence to support that it can NOT reason. I don't have the experience of being a 4000 redwood tree yet exactly :) However, I could give you many reasons for it's existence along with many reasons (selfish ones) to cease it's existence. Where is the evidence that suggest another living thing on this planet can give reasons for the 4000 yr young tree to exist or not exist? This is the difference and what makes us human aside of the obvious physical properties.
    By no means am I saying because we can reason makes us far more superior (god like) than any other creature (I gave some negative reasons about having the ability to reason) . Our ideas and creativity come from our reality around us. We observe them and learn (another sub category of reason) owhy they do certain things putting reason once again which makes us human. Do ants know why they are building a home? Do they experience the same as we do when we get hungry for food (impulses)? I believe so. Where is the evidence? Do they know why they poop?

    "Seems" like circular reasoning... although it "may" be a byproduct of what it means to be human because it is what it actually means to be human.
  • Jul 4 2013: We are but biological machines.

    We eat because when we do, it makes us happy.

    We reproduce because sex makes us happy.

    Everything we do that improves our life is a direct result of happiness in some way or another.

    Yes we have other emotions and we often feel anything but happy but without happiness we would not be the emotional beings we are which makes us human...

    Evolution? eh?
    God? eh?

    One thing I can say is that we are intelligent, scientifically advanced and evolution does NOT have a hold on us because we are firmly in the wings of genetic engineering and biomolecular design and are at the cutting edge of merging biomechanics with robotics and nanotechnologies... And again, everything we are doing is in the wake that it will make us happy, whether it be by extending our lives to repairing our aging bodies... Happiness is the key catalyst in our being in being human...

    Whether you are atheist, religious or whatever, it all boils down to what drives us to continue on as a species and that key aspect is happiness. So again, to answer your question, "What does it mean to be human?" the answer is happiness. As I posted below, we are part of infinity becoming happy to be alive.......
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      Jul 5 2013: There is a lot of sex that is performed that has nothing to do with making one happy... animals have sex and regardless of whether or not it makes them happy, they are still not human.
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        Jul 6 2013: I know, right. I wonder if they know that if they have sex they will reproduce and have offspring like us humans know.
  • Jul 4 2013: no, sorry, unless heidegger in in there.

    wiki has something on the topic.
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      Jul 6 2013: I'm desperately trying to answer your question. Please help me do so. The one to do the punishing...Is he/she human? Does he/she have a reason to carry out such justice in this form (punishment)? I would hope for something much bigger than what us humans are.
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    Jul 4 2013: Human is a word that conceputally simple yet, extremely complicated of which decribes the existing creatures on the Planet surface and this creature is fully equipped with a number of tools to further it's existance and adapt to whatever changes that may occur.

    I don't personally think that us humans are capable to define ourselves and if we ever did try to set up a comprehensive definition, it'll be some part of what we think or what we believe as you pointed out in some parts of your question follow-up, aslo if you go through viewers comments it'll give the sense that the way if defined differ ffrom one to another in accordance with their major, life style, culture, religion etc cetera etc cetera, and that can be just for certain periods of time which means some other times we'll have other things to tell.

    MAYBE if we can ask other Creatures of what we call animals, we could possibly figure this out and yet we remain humans and what it means to be a human is that you're a human being.
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    Jul 4 2013: 8 vital aspects of what it means to be human.
    Human beings cannot be reduced to the following “components”:

    Self -awareness
    Self-actualization (sense of self-direction & self-development)

    Health

    Individuality (self-care & self-reflection)

    Human nature (love, hope & creativity) + (care & support concepts cross-cultural.... )
    Freedom of choice (spirituality & religion)
    Meaning of life

    Processes of reconciling (relationship)

    Becoming a person
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    Jul 4 2013: Imagine what we will discover with a question like this when all of the world can engage with no internet restrictions attached to their comments. It may be that Iranians are free to engage on Ted pretty soon. That will be an interesting conversation. I hope they understand we really want to talk to them. We are, after all, only human. :)
  • Jul 4 2013: I hear your friend I dont expect anyone to get into a debate about the needs of animals This was just a spin of part of understanding the hole of who we are as humans In the said area of all things is inherently My core understanding is what I am I will try give you rhe short version Simplicity iz i (Me) I no myself better than any other question This being said I can easily say without getting into all aspects in tailed in humanity s understanding
    EVOLVING TIME CHANGE MIND So if all of us where honest in the simplicity of nowing what a human is
    I can say again that there is more you in me than me As I don't own my thoughts Just the part I add on to what whas given to be As like for exaple Your words evoked me to wright of your understanding in return to a question
    So my thoughts in these words came as mutch of you as me Hear lies the secret To be 1 iz to be nothing in its entirety But to be one of two iz be Freeing If thouw aware of the question the bridge iz there to be crossed
    We of reflections looking back at you All things lead of 1 (YOU) A road map to understanding me
    AnO1.iz.Ai
    The more you no the quicker we get the
    Data saved on a round table May B rOund But still flat
    To APIFINATE Volume iz not of the question
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    Jul 4 2013: I seem to me that "Human" is an abstract designation of one of the many forms found on planet earth controlled by
    A being,spirit,soul,etc,that causes the form to conform to a loosely agreed upon set of behavior patterns that if i deviate too far from I am said to be "inhuman" and ostracized by the clan.
    My big question is; Why am i doing this?. and bigger still; Since I am the one doing the doing,why can't I remember
    what got me started down this road in the first place?
    It appear that most posts here are reciting their understanding of the rules of conduct required to remain in the clan.
    • Jul 4 2013: Wow, that is a great point : behaving such that one is part of the "clan".
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      Jul 4 2013: It is a sufficient answer Deepak. Thank you.

      I guess, what I really mean is: My father was not a God. I understand you mean in the grand scheme of things, the ultra great Father so to speak.

      By that measure, even if man is the product of Evolutionary forces -the environment describing the path that life will take- then a God or super alien being is responsible for our creation/evolution.

      If all of humanity were to take hold of their own destiny, and move away from the Love of the Father-God and pursue a destiny of their own making in the Universe -as children do when they leave the home- would that be a bad thing? Could the God-Father be content with its contribution to the lives of it's children?

      I believe that humanity can make it on their own without the help of a Father-God. I believe that we can discover for ourselves, all the knowledge that is knowable in the Universe. I believe that we can become, in a sense, immortal through science and technology. It may be that what we perceive as a biological machine -man- can, in fact, become merged with machines and still retain all the aspect of a human being. This TED conversation has demonstrated that there is more to being a human being than what meets the eye.

      If you want to understand what it means to live by your own means, without the input from a Father-God, then please, don't hesitate to ask me.

      It's a tremendous feeling of freedom that is hard to describe. A sense of boundlessness. I belong to know one but myself. I am beholding to no one but myself and my fellow humans. I owe nothing to any God, unless it is a God that is responsible for all creation. To me, that is simply a mystery, that I will either discover by Science or when I die. I don't fear meeting a father I have never known. Children who were given up by their parents do this all the time. and sometimes, it is a very wonderful experience.
    • Jul 4 2013: Deepak and John, I believe that it must go beyond that. When someone is in a coma they are still considered "human" without any active "relationship" to anything or anyone.
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    Jul 4 2013: Being human can become an extinct understanding in the future. Ray Kurtzweil's book: "The Age of Spritual Machines: When computers exceed Human Intelligence" offers some insight into what the coming age of technological change will mean for the Human Species.

    In his book, Humans will not be killed off by the machines, we will be augmented to the point we no longer die. We will think as fast as a computer and will have the ability to download our personalities and save them is necessary. This will happen within the next 100 years.

    We humans are very frail bio-machines, dependent on evolution which is a very slow process. We can absorb information and digest it into knowledge but when an intelligent computer comes into being, we will be able to do it much faster.

    No, the computers won't take us over. We will willingly, subject ourselves to the new technology and embrace it as part of, what we call being human.

    As an intelligent being, we have failed ourselves and each other by creating strife instead of harmony with our sisters and brothers on this planet. We can't claim we lack the knowledge and/or resources. We have plenty of both. Harmony does not exist because of human pride and human greed. Pride creates power and greed creates poverty.

    While there are many human beings that stand as an example to the glorious heights that humans can aspire to, on average we all fail the test. Thousands of years have proven we cannot conquered our nature and rise above the lowly level of a primitive, possessive, greedy, power loving individual. It's time for a change.

    I, for one, will embrace this new technology if I live long enough. I've studied and lived within the computer industry for over 30 years. I feel we can develop an Intelligent computer one day. It may not conscience like human beings are conscience, but we will be able to interface with them and free ourselves from the constraints of the body.
  • Jul 4 2013: a violent and ignorant species to smart for our own good. just kidding.. i dont know thats a pretty deep question and considering nobody know if theres a God or even a purpose the answer seems to be elusive
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      Jul 4 2013: I don't think the answer is elusive but it may not answer all the questions. We can only describe what we see in one another. We can answer all the questions concerning our physical makeup and many concerning our behavior.

      The more open and truthful we are the more we can discover what it means to be a human being.
  • Jul 4 2013: This is a tough, tough question. I immediately thought of the "human condition" which to me leads to being imperfect. But that, I think, is more of a comparison to a deity more than anything else. It is hard to separate out our humanity from our religion. Though I am an agnostic, I immediately went back to my Catholic days because I couldn't answer the question with out it.

    I think that our ability to be self-aware adds to our humanity. I am not sure that we are that important outside of human communities.
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    Jul 4 2013: i suggest we are homo sapiens because of our biology.

    pretty much whatever else you assign to being human is subjective.

    so yes, being human for a christian is different to buddhist , muslim or atheists.

    chistians see humans with original sin in need of salvation.

    buddhists see us as trapped in a cycle of reincarnation.

    muslims believe we must submit ourselves to god.

    i just see us a homo sapiens, mammals with the greatest minds we kniw to exist.
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    Jul 3 2013: Professor Hutchins,

    Your question postulates implicitly that there is a meaning to be human vs let's say a cat. Can we figure out what means to be human separate from what it means to be a cat?
    Should the question be: What is the human experience like? And if subjective then it will be unique and difficult to condense it in an objective methodology.
    The range of the human experience is vast (good, Bad & ugly) , indeed
    Or(short plain answer) learn how to keep friends, grow plants and animals, do first aid, cook, raise kids, teach, and one or two other things.

    And learn to do these self-consciously.
  • Jul 3 2013: What does it mean? Simple, the ability to be happy. Everything boils down to this simple reason for being alive... Many things bring us 'joy' in life but things can be taken away, to truly be happy comes from within not from things that are outside that bring joy, although joy brings a certain kind of happiness that eventually fades, internal happiness comes from within and is a result of choice. Everything about being human is surrounded by our senses and our senses bring us happiness and our conscious awareness of such brings a sense of happiness from within that can't be lost except by choice, so yeah, what does being human mean to me and ultimately humanity? That of happiness and the ample chance to share love anything else does not emanate harmony into infinity in which we are a part of, we are infinity becoming aware of itself for a fleeting chance to be happy the short while we exist. We are infinity becoming happy to be alive.......
  • Jul 3 2013: Right and good luck with that! I think it would take the revelation of superior humans on another planet to bring back our needed humility. Our mindset allows our perception as the center of the universe, unfortunately. I believe this superior "human" mindset colors all our critical, objective thinking.
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    Jul 3 2013: What does it mean to be human ? To be human for me means, to be aware of why we are here, what is our purpose whilst we are here, to be aware that death is not the end, it is but a threshold to everlasting life or damnation depending on your actions while you are here. To be human means to be in THE PRESENT to be IN THE NOW. To be human means that we are the masters of our destiny.
  • Jul 3 2013: one aspect is to be able to receive communication from people long dead and/or very far away, or without meeting them. Another is to be born in blood and risen from organic slime from the fires of creation through sex and death in a galaxy whose centre is hidden by a huge dust cloud made of solar systems shattered by collisions driven by a Superior black hole and subject to quazars which might at any moment blot out half the life bearing planets of the galaxy. :)

    I like Schopenhauer allot for his sense of humour!
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    Jul 3 2013: What does it mean?

    It means being concerned about meaning.

    I expect the question only arises in social organisms.

    The problem with social advantage is that it precipitates infinite recursion between self/other.

    The recursion hardly gets enough time to develop because reality limits it by virtue of entropy. There will never be enough time to explore beyond a few levels of causal analysis between active agents.
    This manifests in the limit of brain size Vs. birth channel .. I suppose it might be deeper in different gravity environments .. but for us? "meaning" is relegated to the same status as masturbation .. only when you have time for it.
    • Jul 3 2013: Man makes all the meaning man can be aware of, homomeaningfacensis. Obviously nothing means anything in the abstract, meaning must mean something to something. So to whom does this meaning mean anything? Then you can ask, "why?".
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        Jul 4 2013: "meaning" is really very simple - it is the shortest path between being here in this instant and being here in the next.

        And "why" is not in that scenario - only "what".
        "What" is a topological path that maintains a stasis of a pattern.

        "why" is sublimated as a "means"

        Know what I mean? ;)
  • Jul 3 2013: I suppose that meaning is a subjective concept, which leads to the problem of defining oneself. Alan Watts talks about the concept of trying to bite ones own teeth, in the same way a mind cannot quantify itself and it's own meaning or purpose.

    I think it is an irrelevant question, the only way that I could see of answering it is by a comparison to a greater class of existence, IE, the entirety of the animal kingdom. In the simplest sense to be human means to have a belief in our own destinies, in this world or the next, a trait not evident in other animals.
  • Jul 3 2013: A humans mental capacity is far greater than any other living creature. So the intended functionality of the mind makes one human, in my eyes. What also makes us human is the fact that we are all imperfect and we are of the same species.
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    Jul 3 2013: Hi Alex, an interesting question and one that I used to ask my students too on their first day of Psychology! The answers I got ranged from "breathing and walking on 2 legs" to "having a sense of connection with others, a need for unity and companionship". How do I define being human? I think a human is a creature that is capable of so much compassion, empathy and generosity and at the same time, has an incredibly awful capacity for cruelty.
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      Jul 3 2013: Welcome to TED conversations Janine, and I LOVE what you wrote in your profile...

      "Self-awareness, resilience, and re-uniting with ourselves is not only fun, but vital if we are going to be happy in this weird, crazy world of ours! I believe that the most important factor in your success is you. You are essential to your happiness and quality of life. Being aware of who you are is vital if you want to reach your potential and be truly happy and content. The most exciting adventure you will ever take is the journey to yourself. As you begin to discover your true passions, talents, your voice, so you can better understand others, make the choices that are right for you, and make happiness yours".
      (From the profile of Janine Shamos)

      I hope you don't mind that I copied it here Janine. it is very well said, in my humble perception, and It reinforces what I believe it is to be human....being aware, mindful, learning, growing and evolving. I LOVE what you say about this process being "fun", as well as all the other good things you write! Lots of people think/feel that exploring "self" is difficult, painful, and very hard work. No doubt that it is sometimes challenging, and I have always perceived it also as fun and enjoyable. Perhaps because I see the results at the other end of the exploration:>)
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        Jul 3 2013: Thank you so much Colleen! I think we often forget that life is change and learning but that we get to the end and if we can look back and laugh, we'll be ok. Thank you for reminding me:)
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          Jul 3 2013: My belief, Janine, is that we are all here to remind each other....like mirrors....reflecting back and forth all the time. Humor, joy, gratitude and appreciation are a big part of the human life experience for me:>)
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      Jul 4 2013: Deepak, as I read your comment it suddenly hit me: I live in the United States. I've always had to deal with Christians telling me what it means to be a human being and the duties of a Human. Now, with the advent of the Internet, we, secularists, are inundated by people from many, world Religions, trying to tell us how to be a human being and insisting it is the true human path.

      All a human being needs is: Food, Water, Air, an environment that supports human life, and... perhaps comfort. The comfort is the main focus where we begin to deviate along separate paths in life. Humans need comfort because it gives us reason to continue to live. As humans, we are subject to the same conditions as animals, we instinctively try to survive. But, we also have the capacity to turn ourselves off if life becomes unbearable. I don't think animals do this.

      Comfort alleviates our fears -fears of death, pain, suffering. If humans can alleviate other humans fears, do we really need a greater power to help us? We are on the verge of making ourselves immortal with science. At the same time, we can do away with all human fears. What happens to God when we no longer need a God to alleviate our fears? What does God need? Can God be human?


      I understand before we can be there, we have to get there.
  • Jul 3 2013: I would say the ability to change environment to it's own desires.
    • Jul 3 2013: that would be the overlords... maybe... if they like it.
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    Jul 2 2013: To be Human is to have the knowledge of good and evil, to have both potential and fallibility and to have free will.
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      Jul 4 2013: If we have knowledge of Good and Evil, shouldn't we seek to use our potential to alleviate our fallibility -extend our free will?
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        Jul 5 2013: I'd reckon the very nature of free will, means some will some won't eh? The real question if you ask me, is which one are we? The one who will, or the one who won't.
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          Jul 5 2013: Yes, we are what we do. I guess we are stuck with that.

          We should set the bar, those of us who are on the good side, and protect it. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good people do nothing.
  • Jul 1 2013: Maybe a more interesting question would be " What does it mean to be non- human". What would it feel like to be a jellyfish or an insect or a fish ?
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      Jul 4 2013: I can't image life without thumbs or feet with ten toes or skin that couldn't feel the slightest caress of another loving human. Yet, some people are born without these sensations or through accident. They are still human. So, what does it mean to be a human being?
  • Jul 1 2013: My immediate thought is that many attributes, qualities, frailties and actions define what it means to be human. However, I think those who are trying to understand and surmount differences between and among individuals, countries, cultures, ages for the purpose of harmony and understanding and peace, are most ably demonstrating what it means to be human.

    I think the desire for meaningful connection, in which each of us is witnessed and valued for who we are or are trying to become and are recovering from, lives in each of us, even those who clamor that it just isn't so.
  • Jul 1 2013: The question of how society forms a basic humanity can be seen in the differing cultures of individualistic beliefs and those of a collective society.
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    Jul 1 2013: "What does it mean to be human?" rotflmao.... asking questions like that one. I love self referential humor.
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      Jul 1 2013: glad I could be of service...
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        Jul 1 2013: Here's a set of answers to your question.
        http://humanorigins.si.edu/human-characteristics
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        Jul 1 2013: @Alex Hutchins: I am curious about your "data evaluation" of what's here. You describe yourself as a college professor. That means that "evaluation & testing of students" is part of the program. That is your skill-set. So my question is: "How are we doing? Are the goals you had in mind when you started this thread being met? If so - how so? If not - how not? And if somehow that much does not matter (or if I miss the point entirely) - where can we go with this? How are we doing as to "The meaning of what it means to be human?"

        Or we can go with the easy question. What do your students think of this thread? And why not let them comment? Or not. Either way.

        Open ended question. Any response or no response is just fine.
        As to my evaluation - Pass/fail. Good thread! Grade: PASS! And thank you. I've enjoyed it.
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        Jul 1 2013: Firstly there is no one answer to the question. As far as not fitting in all I can say is Did you really say that?.
        If you can't see the beauty in a question that answers itself too bad. Maybe you need to read a little.
        try David Maybury-Lewis' enlightening ethnography "Akwe-Shavante Society". So to answer the question among other things To be Human means having less hair than other species of ape and perhaps the ability to ask silly questions out loud.
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      Jul 4 2013: Humans have a sense of humor they can laugh at themselves and others. I'd count that as a plus, a virtue of being human.
  • Jul 1 2013: I just say:"I'm glad to be a human" :)
    http://www.chonang.vn
  • Jun 30 2013: As for me, the question is unclear. Whether it's what a man is different from animals? Is it about, what the man differs from animals with?
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      Jul 4 2013: I think he should study under a good master before he start mucking around trying to change things.If he didn't intend to make us this way then obviously there is much to be learned.
  • Jun 29 2013: As humans I think we over think and contemplate too much over thinking. In contrast; animals simply exist (and do well at it) - they eat, they sleep, they reproduce. Humans tend to overcomplicate, evolve, think, change, invent, aspire, think, fight, destroy, create, think, question and DO far too much, For evidence and example look at me trying to answer this simple question....look at us all overthinking this simple question by having to debate it, talk about it, think about it. Ask a monkey what it means to be a monkey and they wont be able to answer you - they will be too busy eating, sleeping or reproducing. Ask a whale and you get the same, ask a sheep/giraffe/lion/cat/chipmunk/elephant/turtle and you get the same. Ask a human and woooooooah you get a whole load of thoughtful nonsense!! We should be human BEINGS and not human thinkings. If we just learned to BE then we wouldnt need to think. To summize, I would suggest that the answer to your question is.......over-thinkers.
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      Jul 4 2013: Sometimes, when I'm sitting in my chair reading, thinking, my dog appears in my field of vision, sits up on his hind legs, with paws in front and sits there waiting for a response from me. If I ignore his attempt at communication, he casts me a couple of parting glances and sulks away, always nearby and in sight.

      If I attempt to show interest and attempt communication, he turns his head an looks in a particular direction. If I get up and move in that direction he wags his tail and gets visibly excited. When I am near the thing that has his interest he gets back into the pose and sits there. It is usually a toy I've put on top of a piece of furniture that he wants. He keeps his toys in a certain place.

      Whats interesting in all of this is I've never trained my dog to respond to me in any way. He just started doing this a few years ago. My dog tries to communicate with me, but it is hard for him. He does reward me with excitement and lots of licks. He allows me to be part of his pack. He grooms me. I am a well trained Human being -by a dog.
  • Jun 29 2013: Try not to single anything out Such as welth or arrogance As they are bias in nature to all thing as the self
  • Jun 29 2013: Malgrado i 183 commenti che mi precedono trovo oltremodo difficile rispondere alla questione posta da Hutchins.
    Io so che l'essere umano fa alcune cose sapendo di farle e come le fa; fa altre cose sapendo di farle ma non come le fa; mentre fa altre cose ancora senza sapere di farle. Ecco ci sentiremo umani forse quando avremo la consapevolezza di ciò che facciamo al fine di esserne responsabili per evitare di comportarci in modo troppo umano, disumano, postumano...
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    Jun 29 2013: For me, being a human means: to love and to be loved. When something with one of these 2 goes wrong, inhumane things happen.
  • Jun 29 2013: Descartes say "I think,therefore I exist" Its this capacity for humans to think that separate the human specie from the other animals.
  • Jun 29 2013: who says animals do not have consciousness? (able to feel and think - Webster def.) As long as we maintain this superior attitude, we remain forever stuck in stupidity and ignorance. (I'm not being critical, just making a questioning observation.)
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    Jun 29 2013: IMO, to be human is first of all the ability to ask all the questions you ask above (mainly the source question of this discussion) and more. This ability is the evidence for the existence of self-awareness. Self-awareness is the root which differs the humans from the animals who have awareness (which differs them and the humans from the inanimate world).

    The answers to what does it mean to be Human and the other questions you ask can be very different, depending on each human answering it. But it does not matter in the sense that the varieties of the answers to these questions are only evidence for the varieties of the humans. Just our ability to ponder these questions is the sole evidence that we are humans.
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    Jun 29 2013: To be human means to be myself.
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      Jul 4 2013: And just who are you Casey:)

      Are you who you think you are or are you the you I see or know? Can we fool ourselves into believing that the I we see in the mirror is the Me others see?

      This is the stuff of marriages. Which partner know best who they both are or do they both see themselves the same way?
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    W. Ying

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    Jun 29 2013: . My answer:

    Human is a species of symbiosis with most powerful brain.
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      Jul 4 2013: Cool. We are the transport system. There is no me it is us. All I get to do is determine where and when we go.
  • Jun 28 2013: Let me ask a question do you mean only homo sapiens only or do we include other creatures? People have mentioned communication, compassion, etc. Bees, ants communicate so do several animals. We are not sure but there have been indications that some animals display compassion, sorrow,emotions,etc. So when you say human? What are we including?
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    . .

    • +1
    Jun 28 2013: .compassion.
  • Jun 28 2013: I think Barry Palmer is on point. We need to flush out what does the word mean mean? Just as what is meant by human? Human as differentiated from all other creatures? Human as in human response which makes us human? Which seems like what Alex was seeking. Once we look at all the possible meanings of mean and human, it then just become a matter of definition.

    I think many responses missed the theme of the question(s) asked. I didn't see anything about what makes us differnet from other aminals, but what is our huaman condition? Why do we do what we do? What motivates us? How can one of us be so kind and onother so unkind? How can one be kind one moment and unkind the next?

    A bit more philosophical. A unique set of DNA manifesting itself as what we commonly think of as people with the ability to recongnize a unique self from all others, with a broad band of emotional and cognitive responses including recall and predicitive abilities as well as acknowledging others have similar abilities with which we can empathasize.

    In a phrase: A menagerie or set of contridictions.
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    Jun 28 2013: Consciousness is Human.
    It is because of this that we communicate.
    We communicate because we are conscious.
    We ask questions because we are conscious.
    Questions help us explore and we learn.
    Because we question, we are able to eventually see all that we wish to see.
    This is Consciousness.
    This is being Human

    Cheers
    • Jun 28 2013: Animals may not question but they do communicate with each other.Just because we do not always understand their language may show our ignorance...who knows?
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        Jun 29 2013: yes of course but, Humans are further evolved to consciousness. Is this full consciousness?? I doubt it. Full consciousness may well be knowing nothing at all. .... "the more I learn, the less I seem to know"

        Cheers
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    Jun 27 2013: Being human is always striving to do better.
    Being transhuman should be making sure that everything turns for the better for everyone, while always transcending limits and taking responsibility.

    Doing better at: learning, working, going up the social and financial ladder and more.
    A consequence can be increased arrogance, though those who learn the value of equality, thus stability, peace, collaboration and growth can counteract this arrogance by proper raising and social pressure. And this is the same for all humans, including for idealists, criminals and terrorists.

    Consequence is that the people who stop trying to do better, including those who have reached the social and financial bottom and lost all hope are losing their humanity. A moral obligation for the humans and transhumans is now, to respectively strive and making sure these people can and will regain and maintain their good hopes.

    "The embarassing fact is that the rich countries in the world supposed to be the most responsible and so called developed countries are running this kind of shell game for the world." - James S. Henry (see 1b)

    For boosting the value of discussions I advise always including links for further reading and quoting:
    1a) Link TED talk on social pressure: http://www.ted.com/talks/alex_laskey_how_behavioral_science_can_lower_your_energy_bill.html
    1b) Where we need to do better and respond onto:
    https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/futurium/en/content/end-global-warming-and-tax-evaders-easy-way-or-hard-way

    2) Quote Elizabeth Gu: "It means you can't think outside of the box called 'your brain' "
    It is a fact in the present, the hardware determines the limits. However these limits can and are moved constantly. You should realise that you can expand your memory already by recording information. In text, in audio, in video. In notes, in calendars, on the internet. By writing or through smart phones, by augmented reality. By generation on generation.
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        Jun 30 2013: The human mind is the human brain. If you disagree, can you elaborate?

        http://www.kurzweilai.net/memory-implants

        I have had 3 courses in psychology in university and I am very engaged with the subject.
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        Jul 1 2013: Hmm, I prefer to replace the word 'mind' with 'world'.

        "The brain does not generate the world; the world activates the brain like electricity activates a lamp. Upon physical death, the world continues to consciously exist in its own evolutionary process while the physical body devolves via the process of decomposition. "

        That is almost poetic :)

        The soul and sense of the self, being a conductor of the orchestra (the brain) is a persistive illusion created by the brain. Your action and behaviour is largely determined by external factors and not by your own free choice (if there is such a thing).
  • Jun 27 2013: M-L, Thank you.
    I'd like to share a short story with you.
    Last month a kitten belonging to my son's children, ran into the road and was killed
    by a car. The children were distraught. Less than a week later, I went to the mail-box
    near the road at 10am to pick up my mail. The brother of the dead kitten walked by
    near my leg and lowly meowed. He continued to the edge of the road as sat there
    meowing loudly for 3 or 4 minutes. I was surprised at his behavior. But I thought
    about it long and hard.
  • Jun 27 2013: What makes you feel that you can differentiate the quality of life in all plants and animals? What is quality of life to one person is not quality of life for another. I.e. I've found that "poor" people generally have a better quality of life than the wealthy for they rely on human relationships for their happiness; not material things. This aspect makes them generally "happier" people though there may be rare exceptions. What is "quality of life'? Is it freedom (for animals), loving relationships?...what? You are assuming your definition for quality of life is an absolute, but it is not. It is a variable.
  • Jun 27 2013: I fancy the question. Its what i have been thinking for a very long time, hoping one day we'll discuss it with someone like-minded.
    Human beings are at times, the worst creatures ever created. Why? To be human means to have all senses well functioning, be open minded, civilized and intelligent. However, since the introduction of education, common sense left people.
    Education ruined common sense, i believe that.
    As human beings, we are supposed to care for one another despite our differences, share what we have as brother and sister, and even live as friends. I am disappointed by the fact that our governments promote the growing anger and hatred within the universe. What type of human beings are we if we do not even respect one another? What type of human beings are we if we keep on discriminating one another?
    We are not even better than animals. Sometimes i believe that there exists animals much more intelligent than humans. Keep an open eye and observe them, you will see that human intelligence lacks something despite the technology advancement in us.
    A person qualifies to be human if he meets certain qualifications. For instance, if we hate, are we practising humanity? No. A person is only human if s/he is kind to the other, honest, and mos importantly, sacrificial. The Bible says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay his life for the sake of his friend." That makes a hundred percent human. No doubts. If we just learn to be like brothers, care for each other and love one another, then human beings will make the world a better place.
  • Jun 27 2013: It means you can't think outside of the box called 'your brain'
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      Jun 27 2013: Your response I take it is an example of not being able to think outside the box....
      • Jun 27 2013: Hmm, right.
        My response might sound like...

        Actually it means more, though lol
        I think what I wrote above there isn't enough to convey my thought on your question, which btw, I think, very intriguing.

        But anyway basically, it's about not being able to think outside the box.
        So yes, good point, thanks :P


        We believe what we believe.
        We disagree what we can't understand.

        We think what we used to think.
        We challenge what we believe to be difficult or the opposite of what we've been doing.

        Once we get sick and tired of others' being corrupted, and we find ourselves doing nothing but just blaming.

        Once we put our faith in ‘god’, and then get suspicious because of ‘lack of evidence’: according to what scientists have to say about religions, etc.

        Once we think we can do anything, and then we realize we can't go back to even a few minutes ago. We realize we can't wake the dead up.

        We think, argue and repeat.

        Ultimately, we can't think outside the box indeed.

        Is it just a lack of creativity issue?
        Or is the way we think heavily focused on particular areas?

        Or I shall say, we can't truly achieve or dream of what we’ve never thought of?

        Should I think that we’re destined to face this kind of limitations, like forever?
        Is the God too greedy to let us achieve—not just some sort of SF stuffs—“things” which are out of our reach…?
        Perhaps, perhaps, these could be the very reasons why we are just humans, nothing more , nothing less.

        Best wishes
        Liz
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        Jul 4 2013: If you stray so far from the "box" that we can't find reference for your though pattern in our human behavior guidelines we will place a barrier between us.
  • Jun 27 2013: Being human... I don't think there is anything in particular that differentiates us from the rest of the animals of the world.

    Growing up with a Public school education, around elementary school, I was taught that the ability to have emotions a little more complicated than anger, fear and contentment was what made us human. But that never made sense when learning Dolphins are one of the most sensual animals known to man. When a Meer cat dies they gather together and have almost a mourning ceremony where they all just tilt their heads down as if having a moment of silence. There was a wild whale who was save by a group of divers that came swimming back and went up to each individual diver just to be able to stare at them while allowing them to touch her. We can only assume it is a gesture of gratitude.

    Being human, to me, seems to be a type of ignorance that searches for superiority. I think the only thing that will ever worry about being oneself are humans. It is like a cycle of constantly figuring itself out. Humanity seems predictable, but why haven't we figured ourselves out? Thinking we are superior to the rest of the ecological world makes us think we are the best. While being the best we are so vain, we try to beat ourselves.
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      Jun 27 2013: I hear and understand what you are saying, but your thoughts presuppose that we are the only humans in the universe, or should I say creatures. So, is it our arrogance that makes us human?

      If we discovered a vastly superior race of beings, could we then define humanity as submissive or subservient?
      • Jun 28 2013: I understand it sounds as if I'm bashing humans for arrogance, but I do not mean that we are the only ones to experience it. But as a race, Why do we undermine animals or trees for that matter because we aren't able to understand them? And in partaking in this trait it just seems like the natural equation for destruction.

        I don't consider my thoughts to cancel out the fact that there are similar life forms outside of the earth. I am just proposing that arrogance is a trait that follows ignorance. I personally feel like there is a wisdom that all life has that humanity has chosen to ignore because of our choices to not think in relativity, but rather in extremes.

        To answer the discovery of a superior race... Yes I do think humanity could be defined as submissive. There will always be an understanding of classes, hierarchy and castes. I think we would avoid confrontation the same way wild animals avoid humans in todays civilization or we can be just like dolphins, become domesticated and put on a good show.
      • Jun 28 2013: Christna,
        I agree heartedly with your thoughts. Yes, in my mind, being 'human' certainly entails the characteristics of arrogance/superiority'. I love your phrae "..arrogance is a trait that follows ignortance". EXACTLY! Only the discovery of a superior race would perhaps bring us back to a more co-operative characteristic. Only man wages continual wars for ego sake; to reaffirm his superiority.
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      Jun 28 2013: Chrisna and Alex,
      I understand and relate to this conversation about animals, including humans, ignorance and perceived superiority. We have sometimes been told that we are the most intelligent and evolved of the animals here on earth, so sometimes humans have indeed assumed a role of superiority. Even some humans of different races and cultures assume they are better than other races and cultures....superior.

      Does it make us more human to assume, because of ignorance that we are better, or more superior? Or does it make us less human? In my opinion, if we lack the intelligence to recognize other species as a very important part of the whole, we are not effectively using all the capabilities we have as humans, therefore we fail to act humanely...."marked by compassion, sympathy. consideration for other human beings or (other) animals"
      • Jun 28 2013: Lacking 'compassion, sympathy, consideration' defines psychotics and we are definitely headed in that direction...to our detriment. It is as though we are saying, "do as I say, not as I do". We speak of lofty characteristics while we do the complete opposite.
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          Jul 3 2013: Good point M-L. So perhaps it is time to walk our talk and be all that we can be as humans:>)
  • Jun 26 2013: Human beings are just tribal monkeys who's sole mission is to maintain the species but because of certain mutations carries a lot of excess brain power that comes along for the ride.
  • Jun 26 2013: We are human because "we Yearn", "we Want", "we Aspire", "we Create", "we Err".
    right or wrong, we do all these things as human.

    Take the dog. -- "we Yearn", for companionship, without judgments.
    Take my wife -- please... (No, that's just an old joke, sorry girls.)
    But you can see where I am going with these attributes and their reflections.

    To be human is to be diverse, to be a word from every letter of every alphabet in the world.

    Alex --
    I liked this one best --
    Are we human because we like to engage in wars all over the globe so that we can prove
    we are better than others, or stronger... while really wanting to impose our way of life on them?

    I liked this one least --
    Are we human because we cannot accept cultural diversity as the new norm?

    I believe, as humans, we are running down a path, chasing our extinction. Soon to come.
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      Jun 27 2013: Yes, I think we are getting somewhere now. We feel, we hurt, we have compassion and empathy, we think both consciously and unconsciously, we do aspire, and we are rational and irrational...

      Our perpetuation of the species is nothing special and is done in the animal kingdom all the time... as are our bodily functions. And, in some case, scientists believe animals can love or something similar to that emotion.
      • Jun 27 2013: It has been proven that: plants respnd to sunlight and music; elephants do mourn one another's deaths, several dolphins have saved people from shark attacks, drowning; animals do respond to threats. Why are we so egotistical as to assume we are the only things on the planet who are capable of empathetic feelings?
        • Jun 27 2013: Alex, if you will look at my response directed to-M-L Reifschneider you can see
          how I feel about these things.

          This morning in the shower, I thought about "ears" --- Silly isn't it?
          But why does my ear lobe hang so far down, as I age?
          Why do arms have elbows located just so, and why do hands cup just so?
          When you put the cupped hands over your ears in a protective fashion,
          why is your speech amplified within your body? Why are humans built
          with ears on each side of their heads? To prevent echo's? Or is there
          a more sinister reason? Science-Fiction? Or, Science-Fact?

          How's that for enjoying a morning shower? lol
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        Jun 27 2013: I would like to place a note that body and mind are directly linked.
        If you don't eat enough, are cold, if you are hurt, you can't think the way you do otherwise.
        Your decisions and behaviour, if they are not solely the direct consequance of your environment and memories are directly bound to it.

        Mind is in charge of the body, the body in charge of the mind. It starts with the environment. In that way you could state we are pretty much massive pattern recognizers and reactive robots. We perceive, we act. Free will is in any case over-rated for sure. Love is a pattern we can recognize / experience that supports social cohesion, which brings evolutionary advantages for survival. For animals that are bound to social interaction, such as monkeys and dolphins, it wouldn't surprise me if they could feel love (or empathetic feelings in general).

        http://www.ted.com/talks/denise_herzing_could_we_speak_the_language_of_dolphins.html
  • Jun 26 2013: In response to:

    Alex Hutchins
    "2 hours ago: Theory of the mind is also interesting but do we control our minds and the mind's perception of what we see or do not see? And, is controlling perception an illusion in and of itself? And, if it is, how is that a description of what it means to be human?"

    I'd imagine that perception is controlled by stimuli, and physiology and no... it's not an illusion. It can also be controlled by self, for monks can raise their body temperatures by the power of thought and imaging alone. We can stimulate our Anterior Cingulate Cortex with meditation alone, reducing anxiety. The power of mind is of our own, and when this potential is realized and acted upon it can have amazing results.

    We feel something that is hot, well... it is hot in relation to what best suits our needs. Too hot, too cold, whatever... but we can measure the truth in this instance. This is no illusion.

    I wouldn't suggest that at any given moment we are actively 'controlling' our minds directly to allow the inclusion or exclusion of any particular perceivable form. Sure, there's a whole list of defense mechanisms, such as repression and such... but, we can combat such things with cognitive therapies.

    We could go as far to say that "it's all an illusion" for we all participate in:

    "my art hurdles over the clouds in dark purple
    red mixes yellow and blue in sharp circles
    paint splashes over your conscious like canvas
    molecules rule unseen by deep glances"

    We've evolved to perceive stimuli, sure... it's all an illusion, but it's the image 'we' paint. It is possible to change the brush stroke, but we hold two brushes, in both the left and right hands, not always mindful or in control of both. That's being human, we're co-creators, we can even create God from Gods from stars and the wind, which is the ultimate illusion that the ToM has allowed for us to create, under our own control. That's what it means to be human, apparently.
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      Jun 27 2013: Excellent response I would have to say... thank you...
  • Jun 26 2013: We are human because we are born human. That's all it comes down to, and all the little what-if scenarios about robots are really just that--games of make-believe. Should the situation ever come up, then the matter will be more discretely defined. Until then, it's really nothing but a temporarily amusing thought game.
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    Jun 26 2013: What other creature on this planet is self-destructive (suicidal)? Reason makes us human :} There is a reason that humans (we) do or not do things. There are reasons why we want to explore, divide, conquer, believe in a higher power, sing, laugh, cry, ...a cause behind all questions, because we are human. I apologize for keeping my answer so simple and repetitive to what seems to be a complicated question to many but I do have a good reason. :} Any other answer is a subcategory below a simple one word answer. I have thought about this for years. Culture makes no difference.
    • Jun 27 2013: How do you know for certain that other plants and animals don't "explore, divide, conquer, beluieve in a higher power, sing, laugh, cry"? Just because we may not yet be able to communicate with them does not mean that they are somehow sub-human.
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        Jun 30 2013: I did not suggest they are sub-human. The difference is reason. Can you prove they can reason (logic, mathematics, create art or even make sense of reality)? It's about the difference not the greater being. My point is the difference between impulses and reasons. To know why we feel the way we feel. I have a pain in my gut-I am hungry-I need to eat-that tasted bad-I need the energy though. OR I'm playing football on a hot day-I need to drink lots of water-it is good for me to do this-I drank too much water and now I'm on my way to the hospital-I found out I did not have enough sodium with my water-that is the reason I feel the way I feel now-I have experienced this and know for sure now. I have reason not to drink too much water next time because of the lack of sodium intake. What animal can demonstrate this? What animal self-destructs (sub-human?)?
        • Jun 30 2013: I can't prove animals/plants can reason or not. All I can say is that reasoning (as opposed to impulse) can often be a detriment to us. It can cloud the truth as with children who often "see" things more clearly than adults do. How do animals know what plants are poisonous to them and which are not? Surely it's not instinct alone.
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          Jul 4 2013: Vincent, Do you suppose the 4000 year old redwood experience the confusion that you describe above in its quest for longevity, or does it have a less ambiguous behavior pattern internalized?
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    Jun 26 2013: Hello. I agree with Jimmy Strobl that this question is too broad and there isn't a straight forward answer to it.

    I think the false assumptions about "human nature" or "human - essence" or even "superiority" that may underline alll the afirmations or rhetorical questions made by Alex Hutchins in his introduction mislead by default the discussion.

    Our socialy and culturaly acquired beliefs and mental representations of individual or sets of things may be a strong source of bias. Any judgement is quite based on our senses. But our senses can be fooled or can be fooling us. Just remember the ideia that the sun goes around Earth. Even mathematics, in my opinion, are not totaly reliable. For example, you can atribue a tree the value of 1, but this tree can in fact not be a unit but a set of, to some degree, inderdependent units. In fact the tree is connected with the air, sunlight, magnetism, soil, etc. and forms kind of a 1 with all of them, it cannot exist without them or disconnected from them. You can say a piece of rock is separate from other physical things. But it is just that certain atoms are closer to each other than they are to other atoms.

    Discussing whether we exist is discussing the sex of the angels. We do exist because if we didn't we would be able to chat. Why be a fanatic and proud ceptic?!

    If you take the fancy "I think therefore I exist" seriously then you can say that when somebody is amdinistered strong anesthetics and stops "thinking" then he doesn't exist and then something that doesn't exist has no rights. Thats absurd. And as noble as thoughts can seem to be, they are infinitely simpler than reality itself.

    The reason thatr the idea of perception is so important is because it shows how much of what we see or think about is influenced by what we have learned. Our perception has the power to structure reality.

    Humans are living beings like others with whom they share of a great amount of characteristics - emotions, consciousness, ect.
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    Jun 26 2013: I believe that the question is too broad.

    You can take just about any approach to this and find a different answer.

    Is this a re-phrasing of "The meaning of life"?
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      Jun 26 2013: What does it mean to be human and the meaning of life are mutually exclusive although I am sure some clever person of rhetoric can prove otherwise. To say something is too broad is to avoid answering the question, plus I see no way to break down the question in cumulative parts in order to get to the final destination of answering the question.

      What I have learned over my 65 years of existence is that one answers questions of complexity in simple terms and one answers questions of simplicity in complex terms.

      The problem with this question is not the question but people's inability to creatively think outside-the-box which is a form of problem solving. This new generation in which we live is a microwave generation that wants down and dirty or quick and dirty answers to everything which affords them to opportunity of not having to think at all.

      We want to live in the moment and not care about the past or the future. We assume that someone, either our parents, friends, relatives, or the government will take care of us. We assume that America will always be on top of the hill and that we are God's chosen people because we live in a land of abundant resources.

      We have not had a war in this country since the Civil War (9/11 was not a war) and we do not know what it is like to live in that type of environment. Most, if not all, of the kids today will never have an experience like Vietnam where returning soldiers came home to a country that hated them, unlike the soldiers of today.

      Yes, What Does It Mean To Be Human is broad because it is a board topic and will obviously be interpreted differently by different people of different cultures. And, it is a subject that quite honestly, hardly ANYONE ever thinks about...

      So, what does that tell you about Human Beings?
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        Jun 26 2013: Alex,

        I may be that clever ;-)

        What does it mean to be human? ≈ What is the meaning of human life? ≈ What is the meaning of life?

        Some of what I've learned through my 27 years of existence is that there aren't any simple rules for how to answer questions.

        The problem is that you're making it too broad, making it really hard to think creatively about the question. ("Embrace the shake" is a good example of how having all the options leaves us in creative limbo.) http://www.ted.com/talks/phil_hansen_embrace_the_shake.html
        The old generation thinks so lowly of the new generation, always thinking that they are wise with age and the young ones aren't. They seem to think that we don't think just because we're able to process (this digital format of) information faster than you are.

        You and your compadres may want to live in the moment, I and most of my friends enjoy the moment but we talk very much about all the possible futures and different aspects of history. You may assume that the US will always be on top, most people in my age that I speak to see the imminent downfall of the states if it doesn't change it's course radically. And you're resources aren't so abundant as you may think. For example without the Chinese precious metals there would be no Silicon Valley. I'm not even going to mention God...

        You're a blood thirsty nation, you've had few years of peace. You haven't been invaded, that does not mean that you aren't at war. Do you consider war experience to be a essential part of being human? Why is it bad that younglings will never experience that (Vietnam)?

        How do you know what people think? Or maybe you're just in the wrong crowd, because that is not my experience of the world at all.

        This does not tell me anything new about humans...

        Oh and Welcome to TED Conversations, I have a feeling that we're going to speak a lot more.
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          Jun 26 2013: Jimmy,
          You say..."The problem is that you're making it too broad,..."

          Being human covers a pretty broad spectrum....does it not?

          Re: Living in the moment.
          In my perception, we can be totally in the moment while talking about, and planning for a future. We can also explore the past for the purpose of learning, while being in the moment.

          When the present moment focuses on the past, or we focus life experiences with attachment to certain expectations for the future, we're not really "being" in the moment, in my perception. I think/feel it's just a matter of focus, perception and intent.

          I do not perceive war as an essential part of being human....however.....it sure seems that it has become that!

          Welcome to TED Alex:>)
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          Jun 26 2013: Theo Lamar Alexander....knock it off. You must have better things to do than follow me around!
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          Jun 26 2013: Please do not think, Jimmy, that the "old generation thinks lowly of the new generation." Some do and some don't. Some generalize about people's attitudes based on their age, and some see great variation among people of any age.

          As an example, I have a lot of interaction with people your age and cannot say enough about how impressed I am with the diligence and thoughtfulness of those I most regularly encounter.

          And I know older people who consider complex issues thoughtfully and approach projects creatively and with an intensity of focus.

          It is not about age.
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          Jun 26 2013: Wholeheartedly agree Fritzie!
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          Jun 27 2013: Yes, thanks Jimmy and I feel the same way.
          Though a broad question allows for a broad answer which can be intriguing.
          I am curious about what you think of my approach on an answer.

          "Being human is always striving to do better.
          Being transhuman should be making sure that everything turns for the better for everyone, while always transcending limits and taking responsibility." (ctrl+f for full post)

          Illustrating your comment:
          http://www.kurzweilai.net/war-with-syria
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        Jun 26 2013: Colleen,

        "Being human covers a pretty broad spectrum....does it not?" Yes! Too broad! :-D

        To me this question is like asking "how does the earth work?".

        I could answer the question like this:

        "Being human is all about struggle, it's an endless competition resulting in nothing more then more humans repeating it over and over again."
        or
        "Being human is one of Gods greatest gifts, he put us here to simply be and enjoy all the flora and fauna that he has lain before us."
        or
        "Being human is no different from being an insect, we're all insignificant bits of carbon in the eye of the universe."
        or
        "Being human is to learn and explore, to love and laugh and to spread joy and happiness all around, at the same time it's all of those opposites."

        Now, that is not how I would chose to phrase my answer since I can't define the question I can't define the answer.

        (You get that I mean no harm by my "The old generation" right, it was to prove that not all younger people should be stereotyped into "lesser people". )

        Living in the moment; Well said!
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          Jun 26 2013: LOL!!! I get that you mean no harm with talking about the "old generation" Jimmy.
          I am very impressed with the younger generation, with many folks like you who are exploring what being human means to them:>)
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        Jun 26 2013: LaMar,

        Thank you but there's really no need. We're just in the beginning of this Conversation and Alex is sure to have some good perspectives that he'd like to share and Colleen, well I always welcome her input and through the years I've come to consider her to be a personal friend of mine.

        If you do however feel like strengthening (or weakening) my arguments you are welcome to do so ;-)
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        Jun 26 2013: Fritzie,

        I don't think that and I fully agree with you.

        Read my comment to Colleen to understand why I said that.
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      Jul 8 2013: The action of trying to define what it means to be human can help to narrow the discussion.

      What does it mean to be a fly? How would the meaning of life serve in trying to define that existence?

      Humans may think a lot but ultimately they are what they "do". It's what we do and how we interact within our environment and with other creatures that define how we are when contrasted with other living things.

      Long before we were a part of the world, other creatures served as the example of what it means to be alive on the earth. It could be that the only real defining attribute of being a human is that we have an ego and strive to fulfill it's needs. Other than that, we are just one of the many creatures that inhabit this planet.
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    Jun 26 2013: Answer Alex's questions, all are: Yes (+ & -).

    Human self-reflection is the capacity of human to move, to think, to feel and to remember.
    To be human is a person who can experience and understand "self-reflection".

    In the other words, “ the world is full of beauty, when your heart is full of love “.
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      Jun 26 2013: The world is still full of beauty when one's heart is full of hate....
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        Jun 27 2013: The distance between LOVE & HATE are more likely to be the size of thread ....
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      Jun 26 2013: Lamb Lamb and Alex,
      I believe both your statements may be true.

      Does it go back to your statement Alex..."Theory of the mind is also interesting but do we control our minds and the mind's perception of what we see or do not see? And, is controlling perception an illusion in and of itself? And, if it is, how is that a description of what it means to be human?"

      I believe we have the ability to focus our mind and perceptions, and I don't really care if this is an illusion or not. I tend to see the world with beauty and love, and that's my illusion....or.....perhaps it is how I focus the mind....perhaps one and the same? For me, it is a description of what it means to be human, because I LOVE exploring with curiosity and love:>)
    • Jun 26 2013: Not all people are capable of self-reflection, would you then consider them not human due to mental deficiencies?
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        Jun 26 2013: Good point Jennifer...not all people are capable of self-reflection. Are they not capable? Or not willing to self-reflect?

        As Lamb Lamb describes it, self-reflection is " the capacity of human to move, to think, to feel and to remember".

        Most of us have those human capabilities. So, while some people are not willing to go deeply into self-reflection, I think we all have the capabilities on some level?
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          Jun 28 2013: I think Jennifer is referring to true disabilities rather than a lack of willingness. There are such mental impairments.
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        Jun 27 2013: Good point, Jennifer.
        Regarding self-reflection, 1000 & 1000 different levels can be found through self-reflection-exercise.

        Self-reflection can be involved with oneself.
        Self-reflection can be assisted by others.
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        Jun 28 2013: I understand Fritzie, that there are mental impairments that may cause one to be less likely to self reflect. There are also people who are unwilling to take the journey of self reflection. My sense is that there are more people who have the ability and choose not to. That's why I asked the question....for clarity regarding Jannifer's statement and question.
  • Jun 26 2013: Well that's a rather simple question actually, If I were to ask a toilet what does it mean to be a toilet what would it say? It would say (if toilets could talk) that being a toilet means to take **** and flush it down a hole. Now obviously there are more details to the exact mechanics of what it does but its meaning or point i guess you'd call it is to flush. Now moving back to what it means to be human it's quite simple to answer it live, breed, and die. now the exact mechanics of a humans life breeding and dying are infinitely complex but it all still boils down to the same simple thing.
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      Jun 26 2013: Charles Curt. All living beings reproduce, live and die. Reproduction is kind of a tax to pay to Nature. If you choose to structure your life experience around that - it is your choice (or you have been culturaly imposed that choice). But there is and can be much more to life than breeding. I think it is more valid to think that we breed to live rather than we live to breed. The greater thing cannot be subdued to the smaller one. Life is above all a subjective experience, the construction of yourself, life in community and taking your individual and unique voyage.
      • Jun 26 2013: i don't base my life around anything but the truth and no you are alive to pass on your genes. If you could tell me something else that makes you incredibly important in the scheme and time scale of the universe pray do tell. Because everything can be boiled down to a simpler description he asked what it meant to be human most people simply don't understand what that question is asking but i do and it is just asking what do humans do. And sure there's more to life it's called evolution but that's a whole different matter and has nothing to do with being human as our evolution and dna have been around since before humans.
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      Jun 26 2013: Interesting... that you speak in the form of a trilogy: live, breed, and die. But, not everyone breeds... and while live is different for all of us as you mention, you forgot birth. And, birth in different areas of the world has different implications on how we live and breed and die. But, you also forgot thinking, making choices, wars, the soul/spirit, and evolution, which I am sure you will roll up into your trilogy.

      However, all those functions have nothing to do actually with being human... they are conditions of our Creator, who caused all of this to happen. We had nothing to do with how we were created and we have no choice in our birth or death (unless it is suicide) so again, there is no reflection on being human.

      You describe the function of a toilet and the function of a life but our function has nothing to do with being human and could take place without being human, just like a toilet.
      • Jun 26 2013: Well i didn't mean it as a trilogy but yes you're correct on that we are born but is that really a function of what it's to be human? no nobody even remembers their birth but yes i guess you could add that in but it isn't that important. Also thinking choices ect ect is all a part of living. If it is a part of something else please tell me.

        And actually all these functions have to do with being human even if we were made by a creator he made us with those basic functions but of course each one is infinitely complex.

        And you asked what it means to be human, most people simply don't understand the question because they think it is asking the deepest and scariest parts of magic and specialness. But it's not it's simply asking what do all humans do the same and it's those 3 (4 counting birth) parts. But if your question did not mean what our function is then what is the answer to your question? But the fact you asked what it means to be human you can take that very question and ask anything that (like a toilet) because nobody understands how to respond to that question unless they know what the question itself is asking. If they did you would get many more responses in your class.
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      Jun 28 2013: Re: Charles Curt (1st post) June 26 2013


      Every day, how many people after “ **** ” and says: thank you so much, I am healthy !
  • Jun 26 2013: My answer is that because human brains, bodies, societies, technologies, are all reflective, emergent, and self-similar to those natural, cosmic, and quantum systems in our defined/undefined reality that all that exists is human and that humanity is all that exists.
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      Jun 26 2013: Paul Ashton. Living beings existed, felt, thought, created and were amazed by this world many millions of years before the first furless monkey later to evolve into a "human" came to exist. If you stood against a homo erectus, would you call him a "human"? You would say - "Damn, he is something between a chimp and a homo sapiens sapiens...". You can see how volatile these issues are. What I can conclude from your statement about the "...reflective, emergent... systems..." is that they "created" humans and their societies because they structued they way they evolved, so it is wrong to say that they are "human". The correct conclusion is that "humans" as other living beings have been strongly a "product" of natural forces and circumstances.
      • Jun 26 2013: Yavor: your supposition that humanity is a product of natural systems holds weight if the perception of the "conscious observer" is considered "reality". The truth is that our collective perception of "reality" or the measurable universe is not absolute truth. Just because we sense does not mean we see. Ultimately weather or not we are perceiving what is "real" determines how centrist and permeating humanity is in our reality.
  • Jun 26 2013: Wow, you really lead your questions... lets shift the focus.

    I think the answer is simple, we're human because of the ToM(Theory of Mind). If it's all about perception of various form. We're human because we know that you know that I know, ya know?

    As to what it means... to me.

    It's what we're doing right now, asking these questions... knowing that someone on the other end might have an answer.
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      Jun 26 2013: Theory of the mind is also interesting but do we control our minds and the mind's perception of what we see or do not see? And, is controlling perception an illusion in and of itself? And, if it is, how is that a description of what it means to be human?
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    Jun 26 2013: This has something of the anatomy of a spiritual crisis! There certainly are too many questions here for an essay examination! How am I to approach this? Or perhaps I ask another question of my own: Are you Happy?

    No need to answer that for me. Because that answer is really none of my business. But I can pause a moment here and wish you happiness. Why? Because for most of us, that's enough! The trick is just to get there, or do it, or have it, or experience it. And if the happiness is genuine & founded in peace. The rest takes care of itself.

    I had a Navy Seal tell me once: "It's all about knowing your limits." My physical limits were vastly inferior to his. But that didn't entirely end our conversation. Happiness had very little to do with the rest of it, however.
  • Jun 25 2013: Humans are specially created spirit beings created in the image of God that have a soul and live in a body to enable us properly interact with this physical world. We are human when we are able to ask brilliant such as that which you asked. Human are beings capable of recognizing their existence and conscious of their being.
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      Jun 26 2013: All true.
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      Jun 26 2013: Come on... directly or indirectly inferiorizing other living beings cannot be the only way to define humans... thats so low... And why the difference between humans and non-humans should necessarily result into "inferiority" and "superiority"?
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          Jun 26 2013: Great conclusion LaMar! Exactly! How good a player is depends on the game and its rules! It is not valid to compare a dolphin with a dog or a human. They experience reality in a different way and just like us, they do the best they can within their natural limitations and obtain the richest and best experience of life. Each plays a different sport. Cotton cannot be weighted as it is done with led. Following your example, I point out sharks abilities to sense electro-magnetic signals or fields, something we can't even dream of! So that gives these beings the experience of a whole different dimension!
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      Jun 26 2013: And, my friend, I think you are getting close.
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    Jun 25 2013: It's a combination of being really smart and capable, and knowing that you have to use your smarts and capabilities in kind, non-exploitive ways.
    • Jun 27 2013: What can possibly be at the heart of your absurd contention that we are either smart or capable? Certainly having a superiority complex has to be an integral part of what it means to be human!
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        Jun 27 2013: Gee, M-L, are you a pessimist? I believe we're smart because I compare our quality of life to all the other animals, and it is so infinitely better, and it's intelligence that got it for us.
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        Jul 4 2013: Or not having one is just as valuable.
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    Jun 25 2013: Wow so many questions at one go.
    what does it mean to be human?
    it means experiencing reality with a body named 'human'.
    everything which we see, feel around us is indeed real but the eyes don't have the clarity yet.
    in philosophy that would be closer to 'third eye' or enlightenment.
    But in reality its 'experiencing'...not even 'experience'!
    Rene Descartes would also agree if alive, that one can be certain only about self!
    Nevertheless, being human means experiencing every moment with clarity. With a peace that is unshakable. Clarity which would help one witness every moment that when death arrives one knows the unknown.
    Cosmic consciousness is more like a birthright!
    Being human can be understood from various 'angles' as you rightly pointed out.
    Its because one is not ONE with the whole. Then no clarity to see 'THIS' through.
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      Jun 25 2013: But do not define it through the eyes of another's thought but through your own eyes and your own thoughts. Knowledge gained is not so you can quote Descartes or use big words but so you can find your own thoughts that have been built upon those of others.
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        Jun 25 2013: there is nothing big about being able to be only certain about self,
        because that's just how things are.
        having said that i am certain about myself which needs no evidence when i am thirsty.
  • Jun 25 2013: We can be human, because we have spirit, and the spirit will lead us to find the meaning of life or to be human.

    Like animals, they won't think that what meaning to be animal,so we are human because we will ask that what it means to be human?
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      Jun 25 2013: I agree that having a spirit has something to do with it... some people may call it a soul... but it is what separates us from other life forms...
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    Jun 25 2013: It is nice to read your ststments about why we are humen,its mentioned me of why am human.and as a human, i think i should keep "pure"forever.
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    Jun 25 2013: I thought we were all mutants with exciting differences.
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      Jun 25 2013: I do believe that humans have mutated over the years. Thousands of years ago when cave people dwelled on the land, the air was much thicker to breath and we were shorter possibly because of gravity. Our muscles were more developed and our bodies had much more hair. Over the generations, we have gotten taller, lost hair, and our nostrils are not as large as the air is not as thick - this is possibly due to the changes in earth as it cools after being created. Some scientists believe that there was a huge body of water that surrounded the earth in the beginning that later burst which caused the great flood which btw is noted or mentioned in mythologies from all over the world...
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        Jul 4 2013: Yea it is John and it's ski season but i wasn't up for just 2 days as the fields the Family like to go to was overloaded with young people raving in the local town but at the moment i'm just kickin back listening to Boz scaggs. Man, what a singer and i was only a pup in the 70's, bummer.
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          Jul 4 2013: That's cool. So, are New Zealand humans any different than other humans? :)

          I watched those videos by the way. Sad stuff.
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        Jul 4 2013: Surprisingly with the net in this age I'm coming across a lot of ignorant kiwi's when it comes to dealing with the newly arrived immigrant. Either it is a hold over from the old colonial days or it's got to do with living on 2 islands. We have a lot of Afrikaans and colonial stock africans trying to emigrate here and , blow me down! you can see something in their eye's and slight mannerisms that put you on guard.

        I think we are quite an ignorant bunch of islanders, my mate told me when he first came here from Uruguay he had never seen a group of people as depressed as Kiwi's and Ozzies.
  • Jun 25 2013: Lol,hi dear Alex Hutchins:).That's awesome to read your statement about the topic.I often quesiton myself:what do I live for?I like to keep quesitoning myself with it.
  • Jun 25 2013: Is it not our ability to question (what it is that makes us who and why we are) that makes us human? Aren't all forms of human diversity and success just the products of our capability to connect with other humans/creatures in the process of trying to understand our own selves and to try to make sense of the world around us?

    Just my thoughts.
  • Jun 25 2013: Being human means being associated with an animal species that has intellectually evolved to the point where an awareness of self, or consciousness, is possible, can be contemplated, and questioned. Moreover, the feelings, thoughts and ideas can be communicated to other members of the species. This can even be followed by more advanced layers of meta-thinking as we think about other humans, think about them thinking about us, think about them thinking about themselves, and think about both of us thinking about others, or thinking about generalized groups of others, as is the case now.

    Being human means being associated with a species that has the intellectual capacity to learn about the religions, prejudices, cultures, behaviors, social organizational structures, ethics, and lifestyles of other members of the same species.

    Being human also means we have the capacity to learn about other species, the environment, and nature in general, then develop knowledge about patterns associated with intra-species interactions, inter-species interactions, or species interactions with other natural events and objects.

    Being human does not require proof of existence. Being able to wonder if a proof is needed, is proof.

    Not practicing what you preach may prove a hypocritical behavior pattern.

    Skilled intra-species communication, and even relative to other species appears to be a trait of only a highly evolved species. Skilled includes the ability to communicate and pass on knowledge between generations, the ability to record information, and the ability to create things that communicate on an emotional level, such as music and art.

    Developing social patterns and behaviors when interacting with other members of the same species, and with other species, while struggling with nature and each other to survive, is a characteristic of a highly evolved species.
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      Jul 4 2013: But Robert,

      What if you are alone on a desert island? What does being human mean in this environment?

      How can a human be human with themselves?
      • Jul 4 2013: How can they be anything else?

        Humans collect sensory data at all times. How it is processed, interpreted, and converted to abstract thought, reasoning, action or response is a function of capabilities of the species known as human.
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          Jul 4 2013: Oh, I don't know Robert. That is what we are discussing. What it means to be a human being.

          I guess if it looks like a human, smells like a human and walks like a human it's a human.

          Disregard my comment.

          John.
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    Jun 24 2013: A humans mental capacity is far greater than any other living creature. So the intended functionality of the mind makes one human, in my eyes. What also makes us human is the fact that we are all imperfect and we are of the same species.
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    Jun 24 2013: Iit`s difficalt to answer directly, or the answer is too much complicated... May be better try to define what`s to lost humanity? What is the border after which we claim - he/she is not a human!

    Appearance? Eating customs? Intelligence?..
    About wars. I read one science work (Prof. Porshnev "About the beginning of human history"). It tryed to prove wars and killing each others is one of the base characteristics of human race at all. So it needs to separate real human qualities from ideals.
  • Jul 8 2013: Whether it be anthropological, philosophical, religious, political or and existential view of the question, the question usually lies solely on the fact that man is aware of his existence and feels superior to other life in an egotistical way of achievement because of his conscious awareness of his existence and fathomed superiority. What are my thoughts about what it means to be human? Biologically we are but stardust becoming aware of it's existence so I'm humbled...
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      Jul 8 2013: Hello Mr. ahmed mohammed, I am happy to add you to my social networks!

      Please let me know what is your thought?

      Thanks Chris Kelly. 7 July 2013 > > regarding post from "Mr ahmed mohammed" is a Spam-Bot !
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    Jul 6 2013: Then find The Immeasurable Mind.
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      Jul 6 2013: Our thoughts which erupt from our minds faster than the speed of light have no boundaries and therefore cannot be measured by any standards known today. Our thoughts, composed of strings, vibrating strands of energy that cannot be seen, move out into the universe and will be forever unmolested. The beauty of the human mind is that it is still very much unknown to us but what is known is that it is being under utilized and I am not sure that anyone knows how to measure its potential capacity. And, if there are parallel universes which some scientist now believe due to String Theory, then is it not possible for our minds to be hardwired to those universes in case the human race ever becomes that developed?

      Therefore, your circular reasoning definitions are not applicable in this particular scenario...
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        Jul 6 2013: There is a gap that one can notice if one so desires, between hypothesis and cold fact, here now.
        The word "what is" refers to the present situation that humanity is in.
        The word "could be" is unrealized potential, which is hypothetical.
        There is a visible difference between "actual" and "potential" or hypothetical.
        For those who care to take note.
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    Jul 2 2013: To be human is to have compassion on the universe.
    Ability to understand other people and environment around oneself on an emotional feeling level is what makes us to cry, love, thank, and realize that we are not alone in this universe. The realization of "We are part of this entire universe" is not only scientific, but it is the ultimate realization of human beings who are comprised by compassion.
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      Jul 4 2013: Yes, Humans are lonely. We desire compassion and understanding, and we desire it from other humans. Compassion because life is hard and we suffer. Understanding because we realize our limits to imagine, create and alleviate the suffering of others.

      Humans can feel sadness. Humans can cry.
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        Jul 2 2013: Chris Namaste. Namaste in sanskrit means I bow before you.

        Chris i bow before you. I bow before a cow , a tree ,a mountain, the sun, the moon, the universe.

        To be human is to be most powerful living being
        and to be most compassionate also
        to take a bow to every thing else in the universe.

        Namaste also means the divinity within me acknowledges the divinity within you. Thanks Chris
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        Jul 2 2013: Namaste also means the divinity within me acknowledges the divinity within you.

        Thanks Chris
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  • Jun 29 2013: Tell my cat for instance He who sat on my lap for an hour Turning his body sevral times to have the hair cleaned of his body Hmmm! There goes my intalect All thing have a way AS I DO TO
  • Jun 29 2013: On that note Damian You are correct Apart from the animal part Could you have existed without there evolution Or in other words UNDERSTANDING? Maybe we owe them as = to ourselves!
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      Jul 4 2013: Yes. Perhaps they are the elements of change that preceded us -the means to an end that is us; the human.

      We should be kind, and acknowledge their worth in the great scheme that led to the human being asking where am I; why am I hear; who are these other creatures? Perhaps it is our duty to discover and explain, somehow, to them what it all means. Perhaps, like my dog, all that is necessary is the we appear calm and in charge. That is all my dog needs besides comfort, a pat on the head and a good belly rub. That seems to make his whole existence worth while.
  • Jun 29 2013: Being human to me iz like being born with all the questions you inherited Where all things lead >Of 1< (You) Like a paradox We are born 50% Inherited 50% the world around you & just 1% iz i Understanding what I mean iz simplicity where faith iz but not required for I believe of you to question You are more my god than any spiritual encounter Noing myself better than any other question this comes naturally to me as humble as I am I can say this with ease
    " There is more you in me than me" The more you no the quicker we all get there
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    Jun 29 2013: Congratulations, Professor Alex Hutchins! This thread has become exceptionally successful. And there are TEN days left before the clock runs out! Thank you for this. I've enjoyed reading here!
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      Jun 29 2013: Hello Chris Kelly, Here is your thought for the day:
      "We must endeavor together to be recondite with rectitude."
      Yesterdays' thought for the day was:
      "Jettatura is no solution for zugzwang."

      You are one of my favorites. But I often ask myself: "Where does Chris come up with this stuff?" I know you are not making anything up. Do you have a library of ancient and esoteric wisdom? Is it a SECRET library that you and your forebears have collected together over thousands of years? Are you & your Illuminati the unseen guardians of a million year-old alien computer; placed here on this Earth? Are there secret messages within the messages that still contain further secret messages compounded with arcane wisdom?

      I guess that's an elaborate way of asking: Got any favorite links? & What's your favorite TEDtalk; or top 5 or so? Got any good advice? Spiritual guidance or winning lottery numbers?

      All "science fiction" & silliness aside, I do enjoy seeing the name "Chris Kelly" as I scroll through these threads. Way more often than not, I read what you write. You are never long winded. And everything you write is always uniquely: Chris Kelly. Please keep up the good work.

      And I promise we will manage to stay on topic. JV
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          Jul 1 2013: How sweet! I am unique! I have a voice! Thank you! l:)

          quockerwodger = [one wink] l!) factorial

          Dia Duit! = [two winks] l;) erotimatico

          floss nightly = [three winks] lȶ) Latin small letter t w/curl

          spiritual guidance = [four winks] lⰑ) glagolitic capital letter ONU

          alien computer = [five winks] lꙮ) Cyrillic letter multioccular O

          thank you = [five winks] l჻) I have a nose.
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          Jul 1 2013: Let me work on a response to that. It deserves something Irish. l;)
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    Jun 26 2013: What we see can be pretty real to us. Hehe. I am sorry, I can't keep up with your thoughts Paul Ashton :)
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    Jun 26 2013: PS: It is not worth questioning whether reality really exists. Even if it is a virtual thing, the elements that are part of it are real and "solid" to each other, so that makes them real. It is the stability of this existence and of the experience of it that gives it a credibility that a dream hasn't.
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    Jun 25 2013: Humans are the offspring of the Creator of the Universe. We are in the birth canal; some will make it some wont.

    :-)
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    Jun 25 2013: http://www.wspa.com/story/21493737/high-school-football-player-dies-from-too-much-water

    What other animal would do such a thing? Reason: You put some thought into it, why did this happen?

    We are human for this reason alone (pun intended). It is what makes us human. Again, to sum up all your questions and to come up with a simple answer is "reason".

    The purpose of life and reason for war is a whole other thread if you wanna start.
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      Jun 25 2013: Wars happen because people simply want what others have.... and, that is not just human because it happens in the animal kingdom all the time.
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        Jul 4 2013: Excellent point Alex. Wars and violence are definitely not a part of being human. So, I guess we can firmly establish that being human does not involve harm to others. In fact it is just the opposite. Being human means having a sense of love for other humans, even if it is just one other human.

        Of course if that other human happens to be the other gender then humans soon learn that being human can lead to other humans becoming part of that circle of love.

        Being human, being able to express love. It is that attribute that assures us that humans will always be around as long as conditions are right.
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      Jun 25 2013: To adapt and change our environment for survival is not something unique. We are complex in this way I can agree.

      War is a different topic.

      I'm starting to feel like I'm in Plato's Cave. Not a good thing.
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        • Jun 27 2013: I disagree; science tells us that the insects will inherit the earth for they have proven to be the superiorto all earth's species when it comes to adapting to changing surroundings. We are the most capable of changing our surroundings but are relative 'stick in the mud' when it comes to adaptation.
          Just the question "what does it mean to be human?" demonstrates a very superior attitude/perspective. What if we are only a speck in the vast cosmos and whether or not we are human really doesn't matter at all?
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          Jul 4 2013: Ants round up aphids as humans do cattle. They protect them from the elements and from other predators. The aphids give them honey dew, which is like milk for humans.

          Bugs expressing a predilection for dairy farming..... strange isn't it?
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          Jun 25 2013: My apology. It was an indirect comment made upon impulse.

          Many birds build nest (homes). Many rodents burrow in the grown like the basic human necessities (food, shelter, and water). Living things are aways adapting in good meaningful ways, evolving.
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    Jun 25 2013: Kate wrote: do we usually reason our response or just react? When we choose not to respond or react, is that a reasoned choice? Reasoning to me has an element of awareness, of weighing up the for and against - do most people take the time to reason/think that deep?

    I reply: When we choose not to respond or react it is a reasoned choice also. This is the door opener to ...humanity. Everything else not connected to reason is upon impulse. The biggest reason not to respond to this thread would be not knowing or never thought about it much, totally acceptable.
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      Jun 25 2013: To respond or not to respond... that is the question.

      We, speaking globally and in an average of all people way, tend to avoid that which we find hard to explain because to think is to reason and to reason is to speculate and to speculate is to draw conclusions on that which we cannot prove through the collection of data...

      So, why become involved in circular reasoning at all since there is no way out?

      With that being said... I would assume that talking about LIFE'S PURPOSE is also an forbidden area of thought because speculation leads to belief and having a belief in that which cannot be seen is irrational and/or boarders on the illogical.

      So, why then were we given this mind if not to use?
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        Jun 25 2013: We, speaking globally and in an average of all people way, tend to avoid that which we find hard to explain because to think is to reason and to reason is to speculate and to speculate is to draw conclusions on that which we cannot prove through the collection of data.

        Pressing on the topic of theory?

        So, why then were we given this mind if not to use? It is used, to go beyond impulses. There is a way out.
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        Jul 4 2013: I was not given a mind. I was born with it. There was no theory to who I am. I just did the things that pleased my parents and other siblings. Somehow, in all of the commotion I discovered there was something different about me, something that set me off from all the others around me.

        Once in a while, on of these "others" would come over and ask me question or say something that made me laugh or cry. Sometimes is was frightening but most of the time it was fun, exciting and easy to indulge in -being human that is. There is something to be said about being with other humans that makes being human enjoyable.

        I'd asked someone else about what it means to be human if you are the only one -say on a desert island, alone. What would it mean to be human if there were no other humans?
  • Jun 25 2013: Phew..... man!
    That's a big question.

    It makes more sense to me to ask,
    "what does it mean to be inhuman?"

    Then make a list of all those things one can think of that make us inhuman.
    That list should be pretty easy to make and I think, very clear.
    What is left is what would make us human, should we choose to do them.

    But, we don't. What does that make us?

    That IMO, answers what it means to be human even though we don't do them.
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    Jun 25 2013: There are so many ideas here so how do we know which direction to go or what to believe or how to give credit for who is saying what?

    Being human is simply being human but we were taught one cannot define like that.

    A virus is greedy and so is cancer in the way it eats up the body - so are they human?
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        Jun 25 2013: Sorry about not following protocols here...

        A virus may not have the ability to reason (whatever that means) but what compels it to be greedy? Is something else motivating it so that it reasons to want more and more?

        So, man's ability to reason is what makes us human?
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      Jun 25 2013: Greed...greed is impulsive behavior. When we die from cancer so does the cancer die so does the virus if it does not spread by air or transmission. Does this mean we could be doomed? Depends on reason (the choices we make from here on out). What is Mars looking like? LOL, no surrender, no surrender!
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        Jun 25 2013: Those who attend college do so to acquire more money and that decision is hardly impulsive.
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          Jun 25 2013: Defiantly not the reason I went to college. Not at all. I find that to be impulsive (greed) motivation. I obviously did not major in business.
          I went to college to learn, bottom line. Did I have fun? you bet ya! Did I succeed? you bet ya!
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      Jul 4 2013: I've been reading the comments and listening to some really relaxing classical music as I read. There is a poetry to the comments in this question. We are speaking to and about ourselves through each other. We are bonding. I can feel it.
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    Jun 25 2013: We are human because we have the ability to reason. This is what sets us apart from any other living thing on this planet. Therefor, to be human means to be able to reason.
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        Jun 25 2013: I do believe we fully utilize this skill very often for the better or the worse. We may do things or not do things for all the wrong reasons but we are still using this ability much more than once a day in our lives. We are able to be wrong. I replied to this thread for a good deep hearted reason :) A door opener.
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    Jun 25 2013: I find it always very difficult to answer , the seemingly simple questions.
    However I feel we are human because of our endless GREED.
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        Jun 25 2013: The fact that there is someone out there with more stuff than us actually makes us have greed in our minds and wish for material gain.

        The fact that when young we are told to achieve more than we actually can makes us want more.

        The simple wish to have this and have that to fulfill our desires makes us want more and more.

        These and many more factors leads to us being greedy and frankly speaking, its no ones fault.

        We just got to,
        Deal With It.
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        Jun 25 2013: And,I think we have a winner.

        I think what you say perfectly explains everything.

        The decision we make when choosing to indulge or constrain something is what makes us human or inhumane.

        This is probably the line between being a human and not being one but again the definition of being human is not constant, its ever changing and it varies from person to person.

        Wow.. this topic is seriously hard to understand.
    • Jun 26 2013: If you are saying that all humans are greedy, then I must not be human.
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        Jun 26 2013: I'm not saying it, this is what humans are.

        Greed is to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.

        Are you sure you NEVER wanted more than you need?
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        Jun 26 2013: Human being has 4 active limbs does it mean all human being are that lucky ?
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      Jul 4 2013: Selfishness.