Podcast: Uniquely Unique | What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Our first episode of our podcast series called Uniquely Unique is out now!

Colin (our podcast producer) has worked on collecting content and putting this together for over six months now. We hope you enjoy this exploration into what it means to be human.

Part One is an overview, and there will be a wide variety of topics covered in the 6 part series. Enjoy!

@Mervin_Bitikofer, looks like a conversation reminiscent of the kind discussed by Bishop Barron and Jason Blakely in Bishop Barron Presents Jason Blakely: Conversations at the Crossroads. Science-religion discussion and the need for a hermeneutic that bridges the “gap.”

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Yeah - their conversation touched on these broad topics too, from the perspective of “the humanities” as put forward in liberal arts education.

I just finished listening to this part 1 of this podcast myself and thought it a very good introduction to what’s coming. I already like how they are carefully defining / clarifying / discussing terms such as “distinctiveness” vs. “exceptionality” vs. “unique” vs. “superior” and such. I’m looking forward to future episodes.

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I’m intrigued by the fact that the topic has been popping up all around me lately, … more so than I remember it ever having popped up before. I’ve just been chewing through a transcript of conversation between Sam Harris and David Chalmers on consciousness. Harris mentions Thomas Nagel’s 1974 essay: “What’s it like to be a Bat?”.

Reading through the transcript of the conversation in “Uniquely Unique,” I think to myself: “What’s it like to be a Homo Sapiens?” The things that come to mind are myriad, in my case, anyway. But the following–from my reading of Neurobiology of Sexual Desire [NeuroQuantology (June 2013), Volume 11, Issue 2, Pages 332-359]–stand out in my memory:

  • Humans have Brodmann areas 9, 46 and 10. Brodmann area 10 is a “treasure house” when it comes to accomplishing goals (Burgess et al., 2007; Charron and Koechlin, 2010; Gilbert et al., 2006; 2007; 2010; Koechlin and Hyafil, 2007; Koechlin et al., 1999, 2003; Kouneiher et al., 2009; Okuda et al., 2011; Ramnani and Owen, 2004).
  • The concept of self and the concept of future comes from this area (Buckner et al., 2008; Christoff et al., 2011; Gusnard and Raichle, 2001; Raichle, 2010; Raichle et al., 2001). Rats or monkeys do not have self as an autonoetic entity (awareness of oneself as a continuous entity across time) that encompasses past, present and future (D’Argembeau et al., 2008; Tulving, 2002).
  • Monkeys have the Brodmann area 10, but monkey Brodmann area 10 appears to be the functional analog of the human ventromedial prefrontal cortex to monitor action outcomes (Tsujimoto, 2011). The human dorsolateral Brodmann area 10 (monkeys do not have this part of the brain) appears to subserve unique anthropoid function, providing cognitive flexibility that leads to emergence of human reasoning and planning abilities (Koechlin, 2011).
  • Through this anatomical arrangement humans can link sexual motivation to an almost unlimited number of strategies that will trump temporal and spatial limitations. For example, rats cannot say “Let’s meet again next week at the corner ice cream parlor”.
  • In humans, sexual desire that emerges during adolescence parallels the development of self-concept. From this point on, a person (self) makes a conscious (volitional) decision to have or not to have sex, a Shakespearean metaphor but based on scientific evidence (see Koechlin’s work above).
  • Animals will never kill themselves (willfully) out of romantic fallouts. Countless numbers of young people have done just that when their intense love fell apart. Why does this happen? This happens because human strategies and human identity (self) are one and the same. They both originate within the executive regions; especially in the Brodmann area 10 (see the references above). “Self” is an abstract representation of accumulated episodic memories. Humans have a monster called “self”. Each and every decision has to be filtered through the self. It is the self that makes decision to kill the self; animals do not have a sense of self, so animals die only when they run out of food, or are killed by a predator, or by accident, but humans commit suicide even if plentiful amounts of food are available to them. In this regard, the methods of engineering human sexual desire are significantly more complicated than those of animals.

It was a nice episode. I wish it was 10 times longer. The whole reason why I originally stuck with this podcast was because of the episode with Colin where be went into a discussion , though short, about dirt and “hum” for human, humility and humus.

I guess for me I ultimately fall into the camp that human extends to all of our genus for sure. I’m not against it going to the others. I agree that in the image is a link to our roles as corulers with Yahweh. Binomial nomenclatures and how we create clades of life and relationships is obviously a bit messy. But it’s definitely better than others. The clades now days are not completely based on morphology. Every few weeks , at least with plants,I see changes based on genetics. I think dogging into genetics will definitely be part of the clades in the future. I think with most extant animals we are not to messy but the podcast a while back with the woman who really liked beetles mentioned that all these separate species was potentially the same among the group she was studying and that they were different more closely to morphs rather than subspecies or separate species. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the discussions of this mini series.

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To be human means I need God. Without him, I cannot be complete or happy or content, not for long, anyway. Without God life is one long drink of booze hoping to find meaning. Booze is much like God. It immediately changes everything around me and me. Life becomes fun and exciting, wild and crazy good times. Life becomes a hilarious adventure. Nothing I can’t do. No one who can’t be my friend.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, it is killing me. Unlike God.

Interestingly, I find the parallel with carbon interesting in this debate as arguably like humans carbon holds a fairly unique position in the periodic table that has lead to about half of chemistry being dedicated to that element. Yes, you can define carbon as the element with 6 protons, this is a simple and hardline definition that lets you know what carbon is but it does not explain why it has half of chemistry dedicated to it. For most elements, you can find an other element that can do similar chemistry with varying degree usually within their, the halogen can often be swapped out for an other halogens, oxygen can often be swapped out for sulfure, a lot of the metal can be swapped out for an other similar metal for chemistry. Yes they all have their unique reaction but nothing near to the degree that carbon has which is irreplaceable in organic chemistry.

This is doubly interesting because it does not hold any characteristic that is truly unique not even in degree, it electronegativity is similar to that of sulfure, selenium, iodine and interestingly gold, it has the same valency as a silicon and many other elements can have higher valency, it size is fairly close to that of boron, and nitrogen but its the combination of caracteristic that has made carbon so unique that life was able to form from it.

This probably mostly talks to me because of my background in chemistry.

I loved organic chemistry. It still irkes me when the food industry uses “organic” in describing products.

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Then fasten your seatbelt. Because “organic” is now getting much broader use yet - beyond and outside of scientific application. But yeah, somebody should try marketing “inorganic cereal” some time. (I guess they would have to figure out how to make it first - and that might be a challenge.)

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I’m trying to workout if organic is better or worst than bio as we call them in France. Especially since companies that were selling their products for the biological effect had to give up that name which became reserved for organic produce.

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