It can mean many different things to many different people, I suppose.
Wikipedia defines the human as:
“Humans, known taxonomically as Homo sapiens (Latin for "wise man" or "knowing man"), are the only living species in the Homo genus of bipedal primates in Hominidae, the great ape family. Anatomically modern humans originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, reaching fullbehavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago.
Humans have a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection, and problem solving. This mental capability, combined with an erect body carriage that frees the hands for manipulating objects, has allowed humans to make far greater use of tools than any other living species on Earth. Other higher-level thought processes of humans, such as self-awareness, rationality, and sapience, are considered to be defining features of what constitutes a "person".
Like most higher primates, humans are social animals. However, humans are uniquely adept at utilizing systems of communication for self-expression, the exchange of ideas, and organization. Humans create complex social structures composed of many cooperating and competing groups, from families to nations. Social interactions between humans have established an extremely wide variety of values, social norms, and rituals, which together form the basis of human society. With individuals widespread in every continent except Antarctica, humans are acosmopolitan species. In January 2011, the human population was estimated to be about 6.89 billion.
Humans are noted for their desire to understand and influence their environment, seeking to explain and manipulate phenomena through science,philosophy, mythology, and religion. This natural curiosity has led to the development of advanced tools and skills, which are passed downculturally; humans are the only species known to build fires, cook their food, clothe themselves, and use numerous other technologies. The study of humans is the scientific discipline of anthropology.”
But what does it really mean to be human? Aside from wearing clothes and cooking dinner, what else sets us apart from the rest of nature? Is it that we feel love and hatred? Is it because we can feel happiness and express laughter? Or maybe it is because we can commit evil acts like murder, stealing, and or even perversions like bestiality. Yes, I said it, bestiality. Is it because we can feel so much emotion at the sight of a new born baby that sends most women [and some men] into tears? Or maybe it’s because we mourn our dead.
I think we can all agree that these feeling and emotions can be seen in very public displays throughout history. [Bestiality may not fit in with that particular sentence, but hey, we all know it happens.] However, the question should be asked, “Are these traits seen in other animals?” Can animals show love, affection, laughter, joy, and hatred? Can they commit heroic acts or murder, crime and even perversion?
I think so.
There are several different species on Earth that practice monogamous relationships. From gibbons monkeys to French angelfish, they stick together until death do them part. Albatrosses fly great distances from their homes. Each year, they return to the same perch and to the same partner. If that is not enough proof of love in the animal kingdom, there's a great slide show with more animals that remain monogamous throughout their entire life here.
Feuds are caused by hatred. [You may have some neighbors that are feuding because one hates the other's choice in lawn decor.] People are expelled from their tribe or social groups because of choices that they've made. We can also witness this in the animal kingdom. Different types of species, including fish and mammals, can be forced away by their group. If you're a fan of Meerkat Manor, you no doubtable witnessed as a pregnant meerkat was exiled from her family. It happens and it is a part of nature.
What about happiness and laughter? You've heard the hyena but have ever heard a rat laugh? There are so many videos on YouTube showing animals having fun and just enjoying life.
What about murder and crime? Most animals, if not all, that travel in groups have some sort of authority figure. It could be the leader of the lion pack or the elder in an elephant group. What happens if that leadership is challenged? In some cases, fights are initiated as if to show who is stronger. This can sometimes lead to death. From a human persecutive, the death of a leader is deemed a murder or an assassination.
The female praying mantis will sometimes eat her male companion both before and during their mating process.
Now, wouldn't that be a headline?
"Women eats her husband while they're having intercourse!"
Now if the praying mantis wasn't enough perversion for you, let's move onto bestiality, the act of a human fornicating with another species. [I think that's the first time I've ever used "fornicating" in a serious manner.] We all know that a donkey plus a horse equals a mule but are there any extreme cases?
Heather Harris of the California Department of Fish and Game published an article* in the Aquatic Mammals journal regarding nineteen documented cases of physical and sexual abuse between otters and seals.
The article paints a vivid picture in the mind:
|Not so cute anymore, eh?|
"A weaned harbor seal pup was resting onshore when an untagged male sea otter approached it, grasped it with its teeth and forepaws, bit it on the nose, and flipped it over. The harbor seal moved toward the water with the sea otter following closely. Once in the water, the sea otter gripped the harbor seal’s head with its forepaws and repeatedly bit it on the nose, causing a deep laceration. The sea otter and pup rolled violently in the water for approximately 15 min, while the pup struggled to free itself from the sea otter’s grasp. Finally, the sea otter positioned itself dorsal to the pup’s smaller body while grasping it by the head and holding it underwater in a position typical of mating sea otters. As the sea otter thrust his pelvis, his penis was extruded and intromission was observed. At 105 min into the encounter, the sea otter released the pup, now dead, and began grooming."
This is clearly a form of sexual abuse between species other than humans.
What about homosexuality, you ask? Homosexual behavior has been observed in over 1500 different species, including gut worms. It too is a natural behavior.
Humans have evolved into something greater. We've built cars, tall buildings, trains, airplanes, and so much more. We've created and cured diseases. We developed nuclear weapons and harnessed nuclear energy. We have smart phones, iPods, and the famous Internet.
Yet when you look at the core of human behavior, we are exactly like all other animals. We all have the capabilities of feeling the same emotions and repeating the same acts.
Maybe we're not so different after all.