Is It Culture that Defines Us?
Humans, both individually and collectively, want to be special. I guess I
don't blame them, for I want to be special too. But "special" implies "better
than"… but we seem to be OK with that.
For if humans did not think they were better than our animal neighbors,
we'd have a harder time abusing, enslaving, killing and eating them.
But what makes us better? What makes a human … er, human?
Ripping apart an animal and ripping apart our brother and we find the
differences to be skin deep… we have the same guts, hearts and brains. It is
this reason that our earliest ancestors developed myths and stories to appease
the guilt associated with an omnivore's diet in a world populated with your
brothers and sisters.
The discovery of evolution and DNA shows that we are even more closely related
to an oak tree than we ever thought… But the quest to discover our specialness
wouldn't give up, and for years we've been spouting biological superiority with
our hands, our upright posture, our vocal cords and our big fat heads.
There is a difference between a human and other animals, but is it one of
quality? I mean, do our brains have better neurons or something? Doesn't appear
to be so. But we must be special… we must be better than the animals.
And so, with the conclusion firmly in our heads, we start to look around
disappointedly at the lack of evidence.
So, we invoke the name of God, for without divine help, we can't continue to
kill and eat our animal siblings much less our fellow humans. God created us
special. He gave us a soul, and it is the soul, and not the changes imposed
by evolution that has brought us to be the pinnacle of creation.
But there are those damn transitional fossils that keep sprouting up to
demonstrate the links between us the rest of creation. But the worse is when
we encounter living links, like the Bonobo. For here is a creature so
similar to us that it blurs the distinction we crave.
Still don't believe me, eh? Well, listen to this talk by
Susan Savage-Rumbaugh and her work.
Clearly what makes a human is our culture. That nebulous concept that allows us
to learn from countless generations of ancestors and other humans around the
world. So, without society, we'd be back in the jungle with the Bonobo… and
maybe a wee bit more happy.
Tell others about this article: