What Makes Human?

What Makes Human?

What Makes Human?

The study of anthropology and related disciplines has brought to focus the unique aspects by engaging studies of their origin, body structure and habitual traits. Human beings belong to the Homo sapiens species. They are the most unique and intelligent beings on Earth.  Despite traceable roots from animals, humans are defined as superior beings from their communication through language, their appreciation of human talent, and their invention of certain complex tools to enable adaptation, survival and sustainability of human and other species. There are certain aspects of human existence that distinguish humans from animals and their close allied species, primates. In addition, there are certain concepts that explain the existence and what really makes humans the complex beings they are.


Several unique aspects that enable humans to exercise some human capabilities not familiar to other species define humans. These aspects are determined by the environmental, social conditions to which humans adapt to the way in which they engage in their activities. Some of these aspects are the “ideologies of self-identity and moral consciousness, cognitive ability, imitation, mediation and comprehension among others” (Rushworth 21).


Cognitive Ability

Cognition is the ability of a human to perceive learning and reasoning. The claims of human cognitive uniqueness are derived from two theoretical approaches, the developmentalist and predominant approaches that emphasis on the importance of gaining systematic bias on what to learn and perceive. Cross-species evaluation on humans and apes has been experimentally proven following relevant protocol to explain cognitive differences in apes and humans. According to Tomasello and Rakoczy, “a child is able to distinguish certain intentional agents to engage in social and collective forms of intentionality spear headed by communication, pretense and other metal processes” (122). In support of this claim, the following was deduced, that

“Human beings have a biological adaptation for a species-unique form of social cognition. This adaptation expresses itself ontogenetically at two key developmental moments, one at about one year of age and one at about four years of age. Although conceptualized and investigated in very different ways-as skills of joint attention and theory of mind, respectively-these are really just two phases of the same developmental pathway: understanding persons as intentional agents and then as mental agents” (Tomasello and Rakoczy, 122).

According to the developmentalist approach, the modern evolution of biological studies in human depicts the inherence of a specific genotype from their ancestral roots. These genotypes relate to the environment from the childhood moments to adulthood. The genotype is derived from the set of selection changes in generational change. This is a reflection of the interaction of with the environmental conditions. Biologists have deduced that the relationship between the environment and human beings develops certain morphological and behavioral characteristics in humans, which is not relatable to other species. This notion is supported by the assertion of the theory of natural selection that humans have the ability to adapt to different environmental conditions. Despite the fact that animals have the ability to synthesize these changes, the human cognitive domain enables them to depict an intra-specific variability to predict the most adaptable environmental condition to adapt. This variability occurs due to the large distribution of humans and hence superior behavioral characteristics and cognitive abilities. The developmental approach therefore suggests, “Development of cognitive ability in humans is influenced by environmental conditions and population variations” (Boesch 228).

The predominant approach also referred to as the deterministic approach “postulates the human unique from the fundamental differences between animals and humans” (Boesch 228). Based on the thinking capabilities of human beings, animals are termed as machines that follow a precise program while humans develop different thinking paths. A human being at birth is born with no thinking ability, while a baby animal develops with a fixed conceptual mind.  The human development in various ways of thinking is influenced by the various experiences that they undergo while transiting into adult hood. This view is also supported by psychology as a social science and is influential to explanation of culture and social anthropology. The deterministic approach also supports the fact that this cognitive aspect determines human beings by developing full-pledged species-specific cognitive abilities. Humans have previously manifested the approach from historical times by the depiction of “flexibility in which humans exercised in their survival tactics in the different environments they hailed” (Giadrosich 34). These assertions of the two approached towards the cognition aspect of humans are different in explaining their cognitive abilities of human beings.




A human has the ability to imitate. This assertion is dependent on the implications that during the hominid evolution, the ancestral fathers began copying each other’s actions and sounds. This ability was able to transform Homo habilis to Homo sapiens. The transformation led to a human with a big brain, ability to communicate in a specific language, and having a complex collective culture. It is arguable that the evolutionary processes that happened upon the ancient humans were “dependent on information copied with the variations and selection of genes” (Blackmore 1). However, the advent of human imitation led to the provision of new copying, variation and selection of memes. With the new replicator, humans developed as imitation devices, the reason why animals cannot identify.

Human beings have a big brain with low brain capacity, and the mysteries that human brains are big with huge functionalities, such as imitating. Imitating is a difficult skill that many animal species cannot perform. However, this aspect of humanity is dependent on the execution of human brain control. Some humans are capable of imitating better than others imitate and this is passed on genetically to rising generations. “As the imitation ability differentiates among the human population, more memes used in copying the skill flourish and continue exerting pressure on individuals” (Blackmore 2).


A human young child is able to learn and understand his or her environment, and so are the adults. They have the sense of knowing and understanding the changes in their surroundings. This attribute of comprehension defines the difference between other animal species and the human beings. For example, in the event of climate change, a human being understands the effects of such a calamity to his or her sustainability and survival; hence, he or she will find out ways in which he can ensure environmental sustainability without compromising the surroundings. An animal in this situation just stays on; probably develop adaptive measures to ensure its survival. The distinction that humans develop of overlooking a situation and assessing it through comprehensive analysis defines who we are.

Comprehension in a human also develops sensibility, which is controlled by the human sensing system. The epicenter of this system is the brain, which alerts a human to develop adaptive changes and solutions. This is achieved through constant engagement in skill, trial and error and training. “One learns the art and skill and their applicability in different circumstances” (Gladrosich 197). This aspect has enabled human beings to be quick learners from their ability to comprehend and gain insights into the roles they are expected to undertake.


Meditation aspects in a human promote a working memory, which humans utilize in their conduction of their day-to-day activities. It focuses attention towards a specific target role. This practice developed from the ancestors of Homo sapiens, based on certain propositions by anthropologists. These propositions are based on the emergence of symbolism that occurred during the archaeological period. This emergency concentrated on fortuitous genetic mutations on humans that augment the working memory capacity, the Baldwinian process of genetic adaptation followed somatic adaptations as an emergent mechanism; “mediation that affects the brain parts critical to concentration and working memory; and shamanistic rituals of healing that were fitness-enhanced by the ancestral past of humans” (Rossano 47). The human brain is the only one capacitated to meditation, which in turn associates the brain with a functional memory and focused attention. Through biological process in a functional human brain, Homo sapiens are the only species with the ability to coordinate mediation with the brain and therefore perceiving different levels of concentration.


Self-identity is one of the most important aspects in human life. This is ability to have a sense of belonging. Human beings ought to belong in a certain group or groups. Living things have the ability to correlate but “human beings have a special ability to connect as well as correlate with each other” (Chapeyama, 24). The idea of connection and correlation provide human beings with the advantage to advance in technology. Self-identity is associated with behavior and intension. Human beings have the power to chose and make decision. Self-identity promotes self-confident thus the ability to rule or make self-decisions.

Moral Consciousness

Human beings have moral conscious, which makes have admiration and develop interest in a variety of things. In the context ‘Metamorphoses’ the creation period is referred to as the golden age since there was no law, coercion, no fear nor punishment and no use of threatening or insulting words. This is an indicator that humankind have morally evolved and transformed to evil and unethical ways of life. The earth was smooth without a mark of plough. Currently, the situation has change and human beings are forced to work in order to obtain food. This notion is explained in the book of Genesis, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis. 3:19). Humankind was initially created to be immortal but God made death to be a punishment for disobedience.   Human beings are subjected to fear and live in a world guided by laws. Human beings evolve thus are prone to negative or positive change.

Consciousness by human beings is explainable from two viewpoints in relation to other animal species. A human is subjected to personal views through which one dictates the actions to involve. The other is the camera view, an objective viewpoint that asserts, “Humans depict certain behavioral characteristics of each other. Such conscious views by human beings lead to their motivation to exercise determinism and free will” (Laming 60). Unlike the humans, other animal species cannot acct per se to their interpretation of determinism or free will. Animals act on impulse to changes in their surroundings regardless of consciousness, which they do not experience.


The origin of man remains a phenomenon as scientists and religious concepts seem to differ in belief and explanations. The two conflicting parties disagree in almost every aspect thus posing the question that cannot be explained without choosing a side to believe. Who we are as people is a broad field of analysis of human life and all that is attributed towards it. The bible explains the origin of human life in the book of genesis. Charles Darwin is a scientist who wrote about the origin of man. “In his manuscript, man evolved from a single cell. The replication of these cells led to the development of the first species of man. Religious societies have their own way of interpretation creation” (Rushworth 21).  However, the method is based on strong belief, as it cannot be physically proved. The book of genesis contains the whole story of creation. The religious view of creation believes that a supreme being created human beings


Religion concept

Religious and scientific aspects of life agree on one common understanding of human traits. They both believe that human beings are supreme creatures. According to the bible, God created heaven and earth and placed inside all the life components that exist. He created man on the last day and rested. Man is considered a special creature as God Himself gave him the breath of life. God also appreciated his last creation as he made. This portrays that the last creature was special. Man was made in the image of his creator, which was different case with the rest of God’s creation. According to science, man has the most complicated brain. Human beings are the most intelligent creatures. ‘In the text Metamorphoses’ God created heaven and made it a home the stars, He created the sea and made it a home for the fish and finally the earth which he made it to be a home for the wild animal. However, He was not impressed as none of the creatures had higher thought to rule over His creation. Finally, He made man whom he gave the ability to rule over His creation. They have the ability to reason thus differentiate between logic and illogical situations. Man was given the ability to raise his head high and face the sky while the wild animal and flying creatures all bow and face down as a sign of respect for humankind.

Technology concept

Technology is another aspect that makes human beings special creatures. They have the ability to discover. Human beings are flexible to the inevitable change. They have the ability to manipulate change in order to match their needs. Human beings have a life span and are able to work with nature to ensure their life span is within the life expectancy radar.

Environmental concept

God created the ecosystem and place human beings in control. In this case, environmental impacts are decisions made by man against his responsibility. The concept of creation makes man a superior creature thus giving him power to dominate over other creatures. Man uses his ability positively as he advances technology but destroys the environment by depicting the ecosystem. Therefore, human beings go against the principle of conservation thus promoting pollution and destroying other creatures.

Culture concept

Cultural diversity also answers the question of identity as people. People are defined by their culture and social welfare. Culture plays an important role in determining the identity of a person. In most instances, “people are judged by character and behaviour, which are shaped by their original culture” (Chapeyama 16). It also promotes unity since human beings have the ability to interact share cultural practices, which leads to the adaptation of new experiences. Culture also helps to instill self-identity in a person. Through culture, a person can be identified in a foreign environment.

Geographical concept

Their geographical background can identify people. Identity can be derived from a geographical location in which a person was born or resided. All human beings belong to a certain geographical identity such as country, continent or state. Geographical concept can be used to respond to the question of identity.

Race Concept

Race is another aspect that can be considered when dealing with the question of human identity.  All human beings belong to a particular race and culture. Though using race as a form of identity has led to a lot of conflict in many parts of the world due to global. Race determines the social aspects of individuals. However, race has been stereotypically been represented across the globe associating it with scientific ambiguities. “Despite the differences of region, color and ability of other animal species, only human beings morphophenotypically exhibit their differences upon racial concepts, a concept that defines individuals from their ancestral roots depending on the demographic changes and dissemination of information regardful of human genetic differences” (Chapeyama 4, 33).


‘What makes us Human’ is a concept that promotes understanding to human nature and origin. It promotes a sense of belonging to a person as it tries to dig out the origin and purpose of humanity. Self-identities and appreciation promote self-esteem and confidence in a person. Religion and science have tried to answer the question of human identity and our disparity from other non-human creatures but it remains a form of quagmire in the minds of many human beings. Understanding oneself and the relationship with others is the basic step of determining who we are as people.  Self-understanding does not just answer the question of ‘which’ we are but also allows us to examine who we might be in future. In this case, self-identity is the first step.




Works Cited

Blackmore Susan. Imitation Makes Us Human, pp 1-16, 2007. Print.

Boesch Christophe. What Makes Us Human (Homo sapiens)? The Challenge of Cognitive Cross-Species Comparison, Journal of Comparative Psychology, Vol 121, No 3, pp 227-240, 2007. Print.

Chapeyama Mashell. How to change the world: Two Essays. New York: GRIN Verlag, 2011. Print.

Giadrosich Donald L. Operations Research Analysis in Text and Evaluation. Chicago: AIAA, 1995. Print.

Laming Donald. Understanding Human Motivation: What Makes People Tick. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.

Rossano Matt J. Did Mediating Make Us Human? Cambridge Archeological Journal, Vol 17, No 1, pp 47-58, 2007.

Rushworth Gary. What makes a Human a Human? Washington:  Benchmark Education Company, 2011. Print.

Tomasello Michael and Rakoczy Hannes. What Makes Human Cognition Unique? From Individual to Shared to Collective Intentionality. Mind & Language, Vol 18, No 2, pp 121-147, 200. Print.


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