As humans first evolved our brains improved. That is not to say that humans grew smarter than other animals, but they started to think in new ways. We started to find that using each other for support in a hunt would yield greater rewards. This gave us as a species more time. We saw beauty in things and sought to duplicate it and not to show the beauty. We wanted to tell those yet to come of the world and things they saw. Early humans drew on cave walls. These first most primitive drawings were stories or depictions of events. This eventually led to more complex cave art. Music also played a very important part in the life of early man. The invention of music was seen as a connection with the gods. As we explored the musical frontier we came up with other instruments than just drums. Flutes came along, and after a very long time we developed the massive musical array we see today. With every new invention some human has turned it into an instrument. With the discovery of the recording device it was instantly used for music. We explored all the possibilities. Our cave art had gone from caves and onto our massive structures. The structures themselves were developed when humans stopped migrating and started settling down. As our societies grew we used new innovative ways to protect our families with walls, and soon we had cities. We incorporated art in the cities we built. The Egyptian civilization used art in everything they did. Every wall was covered in stories and etchings of things that had been. Babylon had made the massive Ishtar gate and humanity was making artistic progress. Our language had gained artistic value and music had become a massive part of every culture. It was the one thing that brought every culture together. Early invaders of the United States had admired the native music and brought back specimens of the native population to show the world their culture and its primitive form. The art of painting had been used on buildings for thousands of years but soon this art was moved onto canvas and paper. The world revolved around the expression of man made beauty. In this marvelous modern age we use art to express our thoughts and to make a statement. We still occasionally use art in our buildings and homes. We paint our houses different colors and we customize everything we can. We use art in the way we dress and in our words. There is a massive trade market involved with art and we admire it daily. THAT is what separates us from other animals.
This question has an incredibly obvious answer, the difference is we have developed tools that allow us to enjoy a lifestyle unlike any other animal. Sure other animals can communicate, but can they communicate about how the world works, or what lies outside our solar system? Being the only creatures who have been able to develop, and maintain knowledge we are very different from other animals. Now don't get me wrong, we certainly ARE animals, but the difference is we don't share their primitivity.
What separates us from animals, besides our grasp of electricity and natural resources, ability to cultivate and produce our own food and shelter, is our ability to communicate. And our use of language, particularly written language. Being able to overcome barriers and communitcate with each other is what leads to our progession as a species.
We have been given the supreme ability to rule on this Earth, and part of that rule is to take care of animals. If we were equal with animals, we would not have the same kind of jurisdiction and power over them that we do now. Animals are here to serve and be protected by us.
In a physiological sense we are identical to aliens. We crave, food, sex, water, and comfort. One major difference is out intelligence level. We have the ability to comprehend far more complex entities then animals. We have built an orderly civilization based on this intellect. Without it, we would be nothing more than undeveloped neaderthals fighting with spears.
It is called making decisions based on what we want, rather than by instinct. Duh! That is a pretty simple answer, I mean look at these animals, they are animals doing whatever was pre-programmed in their heads and they have no choice. Nothing at all gives them a choice. Therefore I say no.
Several characteristics distinguish us from animals; free will, rational minds, abstract thinking, etc. Humans are animals in the sense that we have animal instincts: the desire for food, drink, self-preservation and sex. Pre-Socratics said these characteristics humans have distinguishes us from animals: dreams, intuition and mystical experiences. We also have an aesthetic sense. In addition to animal instincts, we also possess free will, which enables us to choose the higher instinct over the lower one. Despite the fact animals do not have the ability to reason or appreciate art, they are still entitled to our moral consideration.
While both animals and man are capable of executing activities, only man is capable to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic. That process of logic - that is, investigating the principles governing correct or reliable inference - takes place through 1) cognition of the steps to reach the conclusion and 2) the ability of other humans to replicate the process. Equally valuable to humans is the ability to review the process and express alternative constructs and determine if and how those ideas can be better than the original conceptualization.
In essence, show me an animal that has gone to the moon and returned to earth.
Movies, writing and books, music, paintings, poems, games and the like, all of these are what I would consider to be art. Our ability to comprehend, create and bond to these things that are, in reality, seemingly not important to us from a survival, or animistic stance. This is how we are separated from the animals. These almost superficial things that we are so fond of.
Frequently humans are designated as separate from other animals in their capacity to communicate, in their superior intelligence, in their moral judgment, etc. Many animals communicate, and as Aristotle suggests, bees and ants use communication to build a social structure. Humans have the capacity for rational debate, which Aristotle suggests distinguishes us from other animals, and serves as the basis of our self-organization into political orders. However, the notion of what 'rational debate' might be doesn't seem to be universal, or the basis of all political orders. It is also something that has to be trained into us deliberately -- it is not innate. Related to the idea of moral judgment, mentioned in the previous post, it seems to me that humans have the capacity to choose to undertake actions that cause harm, pain, and suffering in other animals, including humans. No other animal deliberately causes pain, or does so as a means to an end or as an end in itself. Sharks may rip their prey to shreds, which strikes one as a horrifying way to die, but they do so merely for sustenance. One can follow this idea along any path and see that murder, mayhem, and violence of various kinds may be justified as a means to an end -- often a political end -- or they may be justified simply as what a sociopathic individual finds gratifying. Additionally, as an effect of our economic organization, we accept many forms of suffering in support of our daily existence, justified as necessary in order for us to have the goods we desire. We make the choice constantly, whether or not we acknowledge it, and no other animal functions in this way.
This question isn't phrased well. We are animals and every animal is unique in its own way. Foxes are clever, birds can build intricate nests from scraps, and humans have thumbs. I'm not kidding, what makes humans so special is our thumbs. Without thumbs we cannot make tools and can barely hold things. We could be Einsteins but without those thumbs we'd be getting no where fast.
Purely biologically, we are obviously animals (as opposed to plants or bacteria) but I don't think that's the question here. It's true that our mental capacities far exceed that of any other organism and we've developed a society so advanced that we are incapable of living outside of it, but that doesn't separate us from being animals. If dolphins, for example, evolved greater intelligence and came up with their own functional language and government, we wouldn't call them humans. At heart, we are still motivated to do what is best for ourselves and pass on our genes to the next generation, just like every other animal in existence.
Perhaps I don't have a romantic notion of what it means to be human, but I don't think that humans are really all that different from the lower life forms from which we evolved. It seems like our society is always on the brink of breaking down, and when conditions get harsh, you always see base behaviors emerge. There is some compassion, too, but humans are not the only animals to show that.
Human beings are made up of skin, bones, blood, hair, and many other properties that every other animal shares. Like other animals we have an internal, primitive need to mate and pass on our genetic makeup; although you may not think of it that way. And to be quite honest, the argument for evolution can be made by simply looking at our genetic relatives; apes and monkeys. We look so much like other primates because we are one of them ourselves. We are no different than gorillas and orangutans because we belong to the class of Great Apes as well. You watch 'Planet of the Apes' and think what a crazy world that would be if apes ruled the world. But the fact is that apes are ruling the world. And those apes are us.
We have language which is different and can be seen as more advanced (art, literature, etc.), but we also are the only species that kills each other and we find ways to harm others with our "advanced" mind. We are not separate as in somehow superior to all other forms of life, just different. Neither better nor worse.
Many of the arguments put forth are centered around ideas of compassion, ideology and invention as something that gives us somehow a 'human quality'. Arguments could be made that our intelligence and brain function is unlike anything else found in the natural world but this is a malformed suggestion. The human brain is indeed a wonder of nature but it shares a 97% likeness to that of the Orangutan and a 96% likeness to that of a chimpanzee. There are no workings within the human anatomy that differs to animals and the 3-4% difference above is by virtue of evolution. Our cerebral cortex is far larger than an Orangutan's, our brain to body size ratio is far greater than an orangutan's and our ability to create letters, symbols and other forms of sight-based communication is something only we command. Yet here is the thing, it is not a quality around which the human genome was born (so to speak), it is a quality that evolution allowed us to develop. The human intelligence is merely natural instinct in it's most exalted form and what we take for granted as compassion and such is merely the natural instinct to strengthen one's position for survival. Suggestions have been put forth that we wouldn't eat a dying animal are true for places such as the UK where snacking on roadkill is frowned upon but in tribal areas of Africa and South America and the finding of a dying buffalo, of course they would eat it. This is not an argument for human quality, this is a statement about qualities instilled by our environment. Love seems to be an idea that sits above biology but remember natural instinct is the drive to survive and is life not safer with a partner? Again this is not something that doesn't exist within the animal kingdom, it just merely exists in a higher form within the human race. If any argument could be made for a human quality, it is that we are slightly higher along the evolutionary chain but as for something that no other species can claim, arrogance is perhaps our quality...