What is unique in human compare to animal?

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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby santa100 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:13 am

SarathW wrote: Hi Santa
I see your point. What I am looking for is whether there are any characteristics which find only in human.
Why did Buddha say that human life is so rare and important?


There're quite a few things as already mentioned in the other posts. One obvious one is that our level of intelligence is quite unique. We're the only species so far on earth that can build spaceships and put men on the moon and at the same time build nuclear weapons that can destroy everything.

Your second question has 2 parts: rarity and importance of human life. Rarity because it's a matter of probability: the odds of being born human is 1 divided by the sum of all species within the animal realm (~ 8.7 millions and growing) plus all classes of beings in the hell, hungry ghosts, asuras, and deva realms. Needless to say, that's a very very tiny number. Importance because humans have about the right mix of suffering and blessing. Too much blessing like the devas and you won't have any need to practice the Dhamma. Too much suffering and you won't have any energy left for the Dhamma..
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby Mkoll » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:59 pm

SarathW wrote:Why did Buddha say that human life is so rare and important?

Dear Sarath,

From a scientific perspective, there is what is called the Rare Earth hypothesis. Basically, it says that the odds of intelligent life like ourselves arising in the universe requires a precise confluence of factors and the probability of this is astronomically tiny.

Here are just a tiny sample of factors: you have to have an environment supportive of simple lifeforms, that simple life has to evolve into more complex lifeforms, the more complex life has to develop greater intelligence, that smarter complex life has to become self-aware, those self-aware lifeforms have to survive and develop morality and technology and not wipe themselves out, and all the while this is happening the environment can't be subjected to huge catastrophes.

If that asteroid didn't hit the earth, the dinosaurs would probably still be ruling it and the largest mammals would be the size of dogs. Or if a bigger asteroid hit, only single-celled organisms might have survived, if that. Or a gamma ray burst could hit the earth and wipe out our atmosphere and all life. Heck, it could happen today and we'd have no warning of it.

Space is a dangerous place.

:anjali:
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby SarathW » Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:52 pm

Thanks Mkoll
I think in a given moment every thing (not only human life) is a rare moment . It is highly unlikely it will repeat again.

You did not say why human life is so important.


:)
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby Mkoll » Sat Dec 28, 2013 10:02 pm

SarathW wrote:Thanks Mkoll
I think in a given moment every thing (not only human life) is a rare moment . It is highly unlikely it will repeat again.

You did not say why human life is so important.


:)

Dear SarathW,

You're right, I didn't. But I think you've said it quite nicely: it's rare.

:anjali:
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:16 am

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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby SarathW » Sun Dec 29, 2013 7:51 am

Hi David
Good picture.
I think Buddhism does not teach (accept) theory of evolution.
:shrug:
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby chownah » Mon Dec 30, 2013 12:06 pm

Fire is the difference.
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby daverupa » Mon Dec 30, 2013 3:48 pm

chownah wrote:Fire is the difference.
chownah


Hmm... except that Neanderthals and Denisovans had fire as well as proto-Humans, and also they were all interbreeding with each other.

It's possible that H. erectus had fire, but they don't seem to have used it for cooking; so, maybe modern humans et al are set apart since they cook their food... but it gets complicated when trying to find this or that feature.

Modern humans are set apart from other animals the same way that a given animal X is set apart from other animals - it's a different animal.

:shrug:

But on the other DW I mentioned that anthills were just as natural as cities, and there was some disagreement on that point, which I simply don't understand.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Dec 30, 2013 7:39 pm

SarathW wrote:Hi David
Good picture.
I think Buddhism does not teach (accept) theory of evolution.
:shrug:


I disagree. I think the Aganna Sutta and Brahmajala Sutta are at least compatible with biological evolution. No, I don't think they describe evolution the way Darwin or a scientist would, but it basically states that beings were rudimentary and evolved out of craving and gradually became what we have now. The Buddha-Dhamma acknowledges animals in the cosmology, that a human could be reborn an animal and an animal could be reborn as a human; which is certainly different than many other religions where only humans have a "soul."
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:19 am

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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby SarathW » Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:33 am

chownah wrote:Fire is the difference.
chownah


How about the fire bird which is using fire, to catch animals?
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby Mkoll » Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:35 am

Dear friends,

There is also the "Stoned Ape Theory" put forth by Terence Mckenna which basically argues that our use of psilocybin mushrooms, ie magic mushrooms, helped us evolve.

:anjali:
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby SarathW » Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:41 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
SarathW wrote:Hi David
Good picture.
I think Buddhism does not teach (accept) theory of evolution.
:shrug:


I disagree. I think the Aganna Sutta and Brahmajala Sutta are at least compatible with biological evolution. No, I don't think they describe evolution the way Darwin or a scientist would, but it basically states that beings were rudimentary and evolved out of craving and gradually became what we have now. The Buddha-Dhamma acknowledges animals in the cosmology, that a human could be reborn an animal and an animal could be reborn as a human; which is certainly different than many other religions where only humans have a "soul."


Thanks David. I think theory of evolution is about the evolution of the species not individuals.
See below.

7. Tiracchàna = tiro, across; acchàna, going. Animals
are so called because as a rule quadrupeds walk horizontally.
Buddhist belief is that beings are born as animals
on account of evil Kamma. There is, however, the possibility
for animals to be born as human beings. Strictly speaking,
it should be said that an animal may manifest itself in
the form of a human being, or vice versa just as an electric
current can be manifested in the forms of light, heat, and
motion successively—one not necessarily being evolved
from the other. An animal may be born in a blissful state
as a result of the good Kamma accumulated in the past.
There are at times certain animals, particularly dogs and
cats, who live a more comfortable life than even human
beings. It is also due to their past good Kamma.
It is one’s Kamma that determines the nature of one’s
material form which varies according to the skill or unskilfulness
of one’s actions. And this again depends entirely on
the evolution of one’s understanding of reality.
Page 270
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/abhidhamma.pdf

============
Please also see my post:

viewtopic.php?f=14&t=16067
:shrug:
l
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby chownah » Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:05 am

daverupa wrote:
chownah wrote:Fire is the difference.
chownah


Hmm... except that Neanderthals and Denisovans had fire as well as proto-Humans, and also they were all interbreeding with each other.

It's possible that H. erectus had fire, but they don't seem to have used it for cooking; so, maybe modern humans et al are set apart since they cook their food... but it gets complicated when trying to find this or that feature.

Modern humans are set apart from other animals the same way that a given animal X is set apart from other animals - it's a different animal.

:shrug:

But on the other DW I mentioned that anthills were just as natural as cities, and there was some disagreement on that point, which I simply don't understand.

Are you insinuating that those raw foods people are Neanderthals and that they interbreed?
Also, don't most modern humans cook with electricity....not fire?......so are they posto-humans?
Your assertion on the equality of naturalesqueness of cities and anthills is well taken......perhaps many can not follow this in that they see how anthills are so much better planned than most cities and thus have difficulty in admitting to any similarities much less congruence in some aspect.
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby binocular » Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:49 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
SarathW wrote:Hi David
Good picture.
I think Buddhism does not teach (accept) theory of evolution.
:shrug:


I disagree. I think the Aganna Sutta and Brahmajala Sutta are at least compatible with biological evolution. No, I don't think they describe evolution the way Darwin or a scientist would, but it basically states that beings were rudimentary and evolved out of craving and gradually became what we have now. The Buddha-Dhamma acknowledges animals in the cosmology, that a human could be reborn an animal and an animal could be reborn as a human; which is certainly different than many other religions where only humans have a "soul."

How do Buddhist notions of rebirth and the idea of time being cyclical fit in with the Theory of Evolution?
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Dec 31, 2013 6:05 pm

binocular wrote:How do Buddhist notions of rebirth and the idea of time being cyclical fit in with the Theory of Evolution?


Very well, almost perfectly.

"He recalls to mind his various temporary states in days gone by – one birth, or two or three or four or five births, 10 or 20, 30 or 50, a 100 or a 1,000 or a 100,000 births, through many cycles of cosmic contraction and cosmic expansion . . . Now there comes a time, when sooner or later, after the lapse of a long, long period of contraction, this world-system passes away. And when this happens beings have mostly been re-born in the World of Radiance, and there they dwell made of mind, feeding on joy, radiating light from themselves, traversing the air, dwelling in glory; and thus they remain for a long, long period of time. Now there comes also a time, friends, when sooner or later, this universe begins to re-evolve by expansion."
(DN: Brahmajala Sutta)
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby chownah » Wed Jan 01, 2014 2:13 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
binocular wrote:How do Buddhist notions of rebirth and the idea of time being cyclical fit in with the Theory of Evolution?


Very well, almost perfectly.

"He recalls to mind his various temporary states in days gone by – one birth, or two or three or four or five births, 10 or 20, 30 or 50, a 100 or a 1,000 or a 100,000 births, through many cycles of cosmic contraction and cosmic expansion . . . Now there comes a time, when sooner or later, after the lapse of a long, long period of contraction, this world-system passes away. And when this happens beings have mostly been re-born in the World of Radiance, and there they dwell made of mind, feeding on joy, radiating light from themselves, traversing the air, dwelling in glory; and thus they remain for a long, long period of time. Now there comes also a time, friends, when sooner or later, this universe begins to re-evolve by expansion."
(DN: Brahmajala Sutta)

You have shown how rebirth and cyclical time are compatible but I think the question is how do these two complementary ideas fit with the Theory of Evolution.....something it seems you have neglected to mention.
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:43 pm

Note the words in the Sutta quote above:

"when sooner or later, this universe begins to re-evolve by expansion"

If the solar system perishes (and we know from knowledge of the field of astronomy that it does), it eventually reconstitutes and forms a new solar system. We are all "space dust" as many scientists have noted. Human beings and other animals don't just "pop-up" they evolved to what we have today. This is Buddhist teachings and the biological law of evolution. They are fully compatible.

In the Aggañña Sutta there are some mythical explanations, but setting aside some of the mythology, you see it describing rudimentary beings, perhaps single cellular beings who due to craving evolved.

At that period, Vasettha, there was just one mass of water, and all was darkness, blinding darkness.... And sooner or later, after a very long period of time, savory earth spread itself over the waters where those beings were. It looked just like the skin that forms itself over hot milk as it cools. It was endowed with color, smell, and taste. It was the color of fine ghee or heated butter and it was very sweet, like pure wild honey

the body of the creatures had been finely evolved. There was already the distinction between male and female. The man became preoccupied with women and vice versa. Then, as they were deeply attracted to one another, passion and desire aroused, and they engaged in sexual relationships.


Not exactly a Darwinian answer, but still referring to a primitive form of life without gender, such as the first single-celled beings which had no gender and then evolved.

We are members of the Animal Kingdom. According to Buddhism, we can be reborn as animals and vice versa. This is a significant feature, imo. Many other religions do not consider [other] animals as spiritual beings, not possessing a soul, etc. whereas in Buddhism humans and animals are seen at just another level in the cosmology, which is fully compatible with the law of biological evolution since we are in fact animals too.
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby binocular » Fri Jan 03, 2014 11:31 am

Just try rocking up at a scientific conference and claim that the Universe exists in cycles and that there have been countless Big Bangs ...

Or even better: Go to the UN or some other big shot organisation and tell them that the world crisis will happen over and over again, that world wars will happen over and over again. Hiroshima and Nagasaki - over and over again. The plagues, the drug-resistant strains of TB, the hunger, the droughts, the floods, the earthquakes, the astroids colliding with planet Earth ... and all this over and over and over again! Never to end!


Something tells me they won't be enthusiastic about it.
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Re: What is unique in human compare to animal?

Postby fig tree » Sat Jan 04, 2014 8:40 am

I think many of the differences between human beings and animals are matters of degree, and that if we could see our ancestors at various stages along the way this would be more obvious.

The linguist Steven Pinker has some interesting comments on this. He likens the human ability to use language to the trunks of elephants. Apparently elephants' trunks really are just noses, but noses that evolved to be drastically different from any other animals' noses. Similarly, human language is just another instance of communication through sounds, like many other animals do, but developed very far.

Many of the other things that are unusual or almost unique seem to be tied to that. I think a lot of our success with intelligence comes from being able to articulate what we are thinking so that we can pass it around to other people, and so that we can bring it back through a memory of the sound or sight used to convey it. People who grow up without a language show that it's not absolutely necessary, and that we have an intelligence that doesn't rely on it. One deaf man who was not taught sign language in childhood told his story of what it was like.

I think for Buddhist purposes, the key thing is that we can communicate the dhamma.

There are various caveats that people will want to make at this point. One speculation some people have is that sea mammals' sounds may convey a lot more than we think. We've discovered that even prairie dogs are communicating more than we knew until recently. (When there is an approaching threat, they convey to each other whether it is a tall creature like a person, a snake, or something flying, and apparently other details about the threat too.) If it turns out to be possible to whistle the dhamma to dolphins (which I don't really expect, but is hard to rule out) I would say we should categorize them as people too. We've had some interesting discussions about non-verbal communication of the dhamma. If we can manage to convey the spirit of the dhamma to some creatures without being able to do any conceptual analysis, I think they deserve to be categorized in some sort of grey area. I think people have managed to communicate kindness and non-violence sometimes to animals, but despite folklore to the contrary, I don't think it ever quite adds up to a mind-to-mind transmission of the dhamma.

A lot of people seem to want there to be a hard-and-fast line between humans and non-human animals because their ethical standards are completely different for human beings and non-human animals. Some people think that people have an afterlife and animals don't, and so on. But I think most of us consider our ethical obligations to animals to be serious, and for at least some animals similar to the obligations we have to people.

Time now for an animal story. There's a forest where there was poaching. Sometimes the gorillas in the area would get killed in traps. One person observing them would sometimes find and dismantle the traps. The gorillas apparently also observed his doing that. One day he was walking along when he heard a kind of gorilla alarm sound and he stopped. Some gorillas rushed over and took apart a trap that was right in front of him that he hadn't noticed yet, as well as a second trap a short distance away. We should think of creatures like this as being a lot like us.

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