Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What Does It Mean To Be Human?

The Smithsonian Human Origins Program is asking people to submit their answer to the question, "What Does It Mean To Be Human?"  I see that Joyce Carol Oates has weighed in, answering that
Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.
That's sure to make the semioticians happy. There's also a response by a Karen Anderson, but I don't think it's sf's Karen Anderson.

The most fascinating thing about the various answers posted when I visited the sight is the degree to which idealism dominates people's view of humanity. Almost all the answers focus on what people think or feel, and most could be summed up with the phrase, "Humans have souls." Hardly any answers expressed a materialist perspective, such as "Humans are social animals that use complex tools to modify their environment." Or "Humans are mammals that walk upright and have learned to control fire."

Say, where did that monolith come from?

What will your answer be?

[via Science Weekly]

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