12 Jan

Human Choice and Responsibility

Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human. Some of the factors that have been offered as distinguishing characteristics of humans include language, religion, and social laws. Evolutionists, such as Charles Darwin, believed that humans are similar to animals, although incrementally more intelligent due to their state of evolution. But claiming such incrementalism is not enough to prove it, and finding the genes responsible for language, art, music, politics, literature, economics, religion, taxation, and mathematics—just some of the things uniquely found among humans—will prove to be daunting. However, I will not make the question that complicated, because there are indeed humans who do not exhibit some or all of the above. Their language may be primitive, or they may not be even able to speak. They may not practice any religion or pay any taxes. Does that make them not human? There is also a sense among us that humans should be described not by what they are but what they should be. By that criterion we call some human actions “inhuman”.

In this post I will offer a simple definition of humanity, namely that a human is one who understands two ideas—choice and responsibility. Humans indeed have a greater symbolic ability relative to animals, but even if a machine existed that could process symbols like humans—as the contenders of strong AI believe—it would still not be human because the machine has no choice or responsibility. Read More