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Serious Business


Debate Info

Debate Score:40
Arguments:21
Total Votes:43
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Debate Creator

ddjxie(58) pic



What makes a human human?

What characteristics define a "human"?

Here are some questions to get you started:

If science one day manages to copy an entire human's brain into a computer such that the all their memories, the way that person thinks, behaves, etc. are exactly the same as the original "copy", would you consider that computer human?

If you amputate all of a human being's limbs, are they still human?

If you cut off a human's ears, eyes, nose, tongue, etc., are they still human?

If a human's mind goes into a vegetative state, are they still human?

Does a single human cell with fully in-tact genuine human DNA constitute a human? (ex. a skin cell, a recently-fertilised egg, etc.)

Are recently-deceased humans still human? Will they always be human or is there a point in time when they are no longer considered human?

Are there fractional humans? (ex. measured by number of limbs, one's degree of intelligence, ability to think critically, amount of worldly knowledge, etc.)

Add New Argument
2 points

Emotions are the catalyst for something to be considered "human". That irrational, illogical, insensible part of our brains are what truly constitute as a miracle. Emotions are the transmutation of past experience, instincts, senses, and thought into pure and unbridled chaos. Therefore if a machine were able to make chaos without destroying itself, sure it's human. If it could feel love, or hate, or happiness, or fear as we know them, then for all intents and purposes that machine behaves as a human does. It catalogs information to arrive at a conclusion that may not be rational is an individual conclusion, rather than a conclusion that everyone must make given the same data.

Side: Emotion
MKIced(2482) Disputed
4 points

Other animals can have their own forms of emotions. Just look at dogs! When their owners come home, they are visibly happy and when their puppies die they are visibly sad.

Side: DNA
Conro(767) Disputed
2 points

But I wonder if they are conscious of their emotions. If they are really feeling all varieties rather than the base, instinctual, animalistic emotions, e.g. fear, sadness, anger, lust, happiness. I wonder if they can feel not just dislike or anger, but hate. I wonder if they can feel not just happiness or lust, but love.

Side: DNA
1 point

Elephants also mourn when a member of their herd dies. They visible show sorrow, that doesn't mean their human.

Side: DNA
2 points

A human being is an organism of the species homo sapiens. All you need to have to be human is human DNA. I mean, it's what separates us form every other species, right? And it proves that no computer can ever be human. Ever.

Side: DNA
Siriusly97(2) Disputed
2 points

According to your argument, a chimpanzee is then 98% human. The difference in relative "humanity" between a homo sapien and a Starfish is a a paltry 40% or so. Both chimanzees and starfish are definitely not Human, so your argument logically falls apart.

Also, extending your argument that "all you need to have to be human is human DNA" a vat grown organ, kept alive by machines and actual human interaction, would be human according to your example. Again, we can definitively state that a vat grown human is not actually a human.

Side: Hard to say exactly
MKIced(2482) Disputed
3 points

So then you agree. A chimpanzee is not human. It is only 98% human, which is my point exactly. the other 2% is what makes us human.

And a single organ is not an individual human in the same sense that a single antenna is not an entire television. Or one down feather is not a complete down feather jacket.

Side: DNA
2 points

I think what makes us human is our concience.

It is the least understood part of us.

Every religion attains the importance and often (sadly) human's concience.

Side: Concience
2 points

I have known a few humans that are hardly human! I would rather spend time with a good dog then some people. Its not an arm or a leg or a complete whole that makes us human its a good soul! and interaction with others and a need for interaction that makes us human.

Side: Concience

A human is sentient - they feel emotion, the are self-aware, they are conscious. Animals, on the other hand, are not sentient. Or so they are believed. That is also my argument against animal rights.

Side: Sentience
Siriusly97(2) Disputed
2 points

Define sentience then.

Is it the use of tools? The awareness of time, and planning ahead? Manipulating one's environment to better its chances at survival? Or as you put it, feeling emotion, being self-aware, "consciousness"?

Animals have demonstrated all of these.

And your argument is ill-defined. What are you saying is consciousness? Most people define it as an "alert cognitive state" which most animals are.

Side: Hard to say exactly
1 point

....I'm having a geek attack, because there is a Doctor Who episode in which a little girl saves all these dying people into her brain, which was a computer, I think...it's been a while since I've seen it. Anways. I'll be a serious debater now. :P

Interesting debate. I think that combining the definitions given create a good working definition of a human being: a human being is a conscious life form with human DNA. Now...I'm uncertain about this definition, so if anyone wants to argue it out, that would be great.

Now, as for computers and vegetative states: A human's mind inside of a computer cannot be a human being, as MK said, but if it could somehow have consciousness/sentience, I would say it is a person. Thanks to my Physicist brother(and his offense at my excluding aliens from the definition of "person"), I don't believe that a person has to be a human. Now, someone may bust out a dictionary and prove me wrong...but hopefully my point can be seen.

Vegetative states: If someone truly has no consciousness, no dreams, nothing, and they can never come out of it, then they are, as doctor's say, brain dead. Now, deciding whether or not the dead or the essentially dead are still human beings gets into some murky water that I don't think I'll wade in just yet(YaY for silly-sounding metaphors).

I should also mention that I was speaking hypothetically; it is very difficult to actually determine that a person is actually brain dead, in fact, I don't believe that we are technologically advanced(if i enough to determine it(due to people coming out of those states after having been declared brain dead). That's a bit of a side note, but I thought I'd mention it.

Sorry I got off topic....but excellent debate. It made me really have to think, which is awesome. :)

Side: Hard to say exactly
1 point

Emotion is what mainly make a human human. but aside from that its our sense's and the way we have evolved.

Side: Hard to say exactly
1 point

If you're interested in this question, you should read some of Robert J. Sawyer's stuff. He's an awesome sci-fi author, and in his books, he brings up many theories about consciousness and what makes a human human. One of his books, Mindscan, involves this guy, Jake, who "copies" his consciousness into a synthetic body because his "real" body is dying. Before he does this, he signs over his rights of personhood to the synthetic body. His original body, which still has consciousness and memories, goes off to live on the moon in a retirement community-ish place. But once a cure for the thing that is killing the original body is found, the original body holds people hostage and demands his identity back. It's a good read.

A lot of his other books bring up consciousness, too. If you're into that kind of speculation, it's a recommended read.

Side: It's complicated
1 point

I think many of us tend to over-think the question ( what makes a human a human? .)

A human being at the most basic level is the young human organism of the human parents who created it.

A sperm and and egg cell have only the potential to create that which a child in the zygote, embryo or fetal stage already is.

Sperm and eggs (Gametes cells) are not the young of any parents. They are only reproductive cells. And- when the sperm and egg combine, a new young human organism (being) is formed.

So, the short answer is "a human being is the young of the parents who created him or her."

Side: It's complicated
1 point

In short...

A human being in its most basic state is the young of the parents who created them.

A child (their young) even in the first days of life (zygote, embryo, fetus) would qualify.

Side: It's complicated
0 points

Humans have the ability to show compassion and the ability to use morals and conscience- choosing right from wrong. Animals have instinct which they follow.

Side: It's complicated