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What Separates Humans from Apes?

What separates humans from apes? What makes us human? These questions have many ambiguous answers by the representatives of different fields of science, and it is very difficult to state what answer in the most grounded and important. Although humans and apes have much in common, they are different at least in three aspects: physiological, cognitive and social.

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First, the main differences are seen in anatomy. Humans have upright bipeds, nimble hands, short faces, and big brains. Although humans and apes have almost the same tooth pattern, the human’s jawbone is smaller and V-shaped, while apes have U-shaped tooth-beating mandible. Besides, the pelvis of human is more bowl-shaped, and thus it provides support for the abdominal organs. Human hands and arms can easily manipulate object. All the mentioned features seem to be unique, and they are associated with the power humans have over nature. In contrast to humans, apes have shorter legs, longer arms and longer body. That is why apes are heavier and less stable when walking on feet. Ape’s profile slopes backwards. The nose is usually flat and wide. Speaking about genetics, it needs to be mentioned, that nearly 99% of genomes are identical, and this fact confuses and makes the question even more difficult to answer. In fact, genetically humans have much in common with chicken and mice. However, neither skeletal qualities nor genetics can give full answer to the question: what makes us human?

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The fact that human’s brains are bigger than those of apes explains the cognitive differences and the way humans deal with the information and communication. In fact, the size of brain is a function of larger cortical area and this means that humans are able to make decisions, choose responses, and be more economically productive. One of the most unique human’s features is the communication and the usage of language for communication. Apes are able to communicate by means of gestures, vocalizations and some facial expressions. Some researchers have found out that apes can be taught to recognize symbols and to communicate with their help (Byrne, 1995). At the same time, the nervous system of apes does not allow them to talk as humans do and to write words. Our speech is controlled by the sections of cerebral cortex. Apes do not have these functional areas. The ability to speak different languages is also built into our brain. Thus, children learn to speak any language as their brains takes in the language, analyses and re-synthesizes it (Gardner, 1989). Besides, the process of speaking depends on the structure of face, larynx and tongue and the ability to control the breathing muscles. Unfortunately, apes cannot control breath, as well as the arms and hands for drawing and writing. In this way, brain is responsible for communication, cognition and behavior, which are closely connected to socialization and self-expression through culture and art.

Social behavior of humans interrelated with the usage of language. In this context, language is used to not only tell the words or say something, but also to share ideas, to predict something, to ponder over some issues, to imagine. By means of language and cognition people socialize, learn, communicate, share views, and create their own culture (Geary, 2005). Culture is the unique ability to create shared symbolic worlds and pass them on. Apes, on the contrary, are able to pass on some learned behavior but no more than that. One more unique trait of humans is art, namely self-expression though art. Humans are able to transfer ideas and imagination into dances, painting, music, etc. Accordingly, culture and social communication can be considered the most obvious and unique things that make us humans. Owing to culture, we build knowledge and can make a conversation. What is more, culture is shared among people independently from genetics (Tomasello, 1996).

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Summing up, humans and apes are separated by many issues, though they seem to be similar in a way. The questions regarding evolution, human’s origin and the reasons for humanness are being widely discussed by the representatives of many fields of science. Apart from visual differences and some dissimilar skeleton qualities, humans are unique due to the structure of their brain and resulting from it ability to communicate, socialize, create culture, think, use tools, and do all the things we do in everyday life.

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