Are Humans Unique?
The argument for human uniqueness is of mostly historical interest. As we gained more understanding of animal behavior, we learned that their psychology has more in common with us than had been imagined previously.
Here, then, are some of the criteria put forward for human uniqueness and contradictory evidence.
The (rational) soul Not scientifically observable and therefore irrelevant
Problem solving Kohler’s banana-and-box experiments claimed insightful problem solving in chimpanzees
Consciousness Self-awareness demonstrated in chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, dolphins, even magpies, using mirror test
Language Initially contradicted by ape language learning that turned out to be methodologically flawed; dance ‘language’ of bees; birds mimicking human speech; birdsong; complex vocal communication of whales and dolphins
Social learning Widespread throughout animals with backbones (vertebrates); rodents learn what to eat by observing their mothers; cats teach young how to hunt; many birds learn song from their fathers
Tool making Chimpanzees fashion tools used to fish for termites or ants that they eat; flaked stone tools (e. g., Gona Ethiopia, 2.6 MYA) may precede humans
Traditions Birdsong dialects in local areas; rats diving for shellfish in Po River; novel cliff-nesting by Mauritius kestrels; varied local tool traditions in chimpanzees, etc
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