What Makes Us Human? Essay

1809 words - 7 pages

Humans are extremely complex and unique beings. We are animals however we often forget our origins and our place in the natural world and consider ourselves superior to nature. Humans are animals but what does it mean to be human? What are the defining characteristics that separate us from other animals? How are we different? Human origins begin with primates, however through evolution we developed unique characteristics such as larger brain sizes, the capacity for language, emotional complexity and habitual bipedalism which separated us from other animals and allowed us to further advance ourselves and survive in the natural world. Additionally, humans have been able to develop a culture, self-awareness, symbolic behavior, and emotional complexity. Human biological adaptations separated humans from our ancestors and facilitated learned behavior and cultural adaptations which widened that gap and truly made humans unlike any other animal.

Biological Evolution
Biological evolution is the change in the inherited and genetic characteristics of a species. Much of what makes us human is our physical appearance and biological adaptations. Human ancestry originates in primates and over time, we have physically evolved a great deal in order to become the modern humans that we are today. Humans have larger brain sizes, longer legs, and are habitually bipedal all of which biologically separate humans from other animals and create the human identity.

One of the most important and pivotal physical and biological adaptations that separate humans from other mammals is habitual bipedalism. According to Darwin, as restated by Daniel Lieberman, “It was bipedalism rather than big brains, language, or tool use that first set the human lineage off on its separate path form other apes” (Lieberman, 2013, p. 44). Humans are unique in that they are one of the only animals that walk upright on two legs rather than four. Through the fossil record and examination of the location of the foramen magnum on skulls, scientists have been able to uncover that not all early hominids were bipedal. Our primate ancestors for example, were knuckle walkers, using both their arms and legs for locomotion. However, as the African environment transition from rain forest to grassland roughly 10-6 million years ago, bipedalism and upright posture evolved so that early humans could travel the long distances through the open grasslands for food and shelter. This physical adaptation allowed for additional capabilities such as bigger brains, language, advanced cognition, and even tool use because through bipedalism, hominids were able to reduce the cost of walking, they were allowed to dig for, obtain, and carry food all while being more energy efficient. According to Daniel Lieberman, “once bipedalism evolved, it created new conditions for further evolutionary change to occur” (Lieberman, 2013, p. 46). For example, with the ability to find food more easily...

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