I can remember having this debate with my friend, Mike, when I was in college. He argued that humans are no different from other animals except for our larger brains. There is nothing we can do that animals can’t do. Animals just do things in a more primitive and basic fashion.
This always struck me as ridiculous, and I just ran across a quote from Professor Bruce Thornton at Fresno State University which explains the difference well:
What makes us recognizably human, then, is not what is natural about us but what is unnatural: reason and its projections in language, culture, ritual, and technology, self-awareness, conscious memory, imagination, and the higher emotions; and, most important, values, ethics, morals, and the freedom from nature’s determinism that allows us to choose, whether for good or ill. Nothing else in nature possesses any of these attributes, despite the wishful thinking of those who believe they are teaching chimps to “talk,” or who consider a monkey digging up termites with a stick to be “using tools,” or who label baboon rump-submission a “social practice,” or who subjectively interpret the behavior of animals to indicate the presence of “self-awareness” ore higher human emotions such as love, grief, regret, guilt, shame, or loyalty. For every dog that howls over the body of its dead master there is another that, if necessary, will happily eat his corpse.
Well said, professor.