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What separates humans from animals?
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Human skill transmission

While most animal behavior is instinctual, much of human behavior is learned. Our methods of skill transmission allow for information to be passed down from generation to generation, letting our species retain inventions and ideas. In other words, our ability to learn new information separates us from animals.

The Argument

Though many attempt to distinguish humans from animals on arbitrary physical or mental grounds, they forget a key difference: mankind's unique aptitude for skill transmission. Like all animals, humans can learn a skill, use a tool, or come up with a new idea. Unlike other animals, however, humans can take this information and transfer it to others, often through the use of language. On an interpersonal level, this effect can be seen in a father teaching his child to change a tire. On a grander scale, it can be seen in scientists continuously building on research completed by those before them. Of course, this begs the question: what is so important about skill transmission? Most importantly, it enables our societies to be much more developed than those of other species. After all, skill transmission fosters the gradual accumulation of ideas and improvement of science and technology, which, in turn, create s advancements that make individual lives easier. Without skill and information transmission, each person would be "starting from scratch," without the help of those around them and before them. Clearly, our unique ability to transmit skills distinguishes humans from animals.

Counter arguments

Though humans have certainly refined the art of skill transmission, many other animal species teach their young. For example, whales teach their children to beach safely as a hunting tactic, meerkats teach their children how to prepare their prey to eat, long-tailed macaques teach their children how to clean their teeth, and dolphins teach their children to use sponges to protect their noses as they poke around for food on the seafloor. All of these skills are not merely instinctual. Rather, they are adaptations passed along from generation to generation, used not only to survive but to make their lives easier. Thus, skill transmission is evidently not a uniquely human ability but is found throughout the animal kingdom at different levels.



[P1] Humans can transmit ideas and skills from generation to generation. [P2] Animals cannot do this. [P3] Therefore, humans and animals are fundamentally different.

Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Friday, 19 Jun 2020 at 01:28 UTC

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