Humans: unique or not?

Here’s a brief lecture by Robert Sapolsky, a neurobiologist at Stanford who also studies baboons and other primates. In this lecture he talks about aggression, theory of mind, the golden rule, empathy, anticipation, and culture as examples of human behaviors that also overlap with animal behaviors. Then after showing you how animal-like our behaviors really are he highlights how humans abstract or elaborate upon each of these behavioral qualities in ways that exceed animals.

He’s a great story teller and speaker! You’ll enjoy this. It’s only about 30 mins. You can watch it on your phone if you want. Cue it to 4’50” in and you can skip the guy who comes out to introduce him.

Now, your assignment is to leave a remark in the comments section below. The website will prompt you to leave your name. Be sure to do this! That is how I will see you’ve completed the assignment. The deadline for leaving a thoughtful comment is Monday morning at midnight.

I want you to reflect on the place of humans in the natural world.

  • Which do you think is more significant? Our similarities to the other animals, or our differences?
  • How does it make you feel to consider that humans are not so different from the rest of life on earth?
  • What do you think about Sapolsky’s conclusion that humans are defined by the ability to hold contradictory beliefs? Can you think of a better essential difference?
  • Is there anything in this video that confuses you or doesn’t make sense? What point do you want to be better explained?

Feel free to share web links in your comment if they’re relevant to the point you’re trying to make. I look forward to reading your responses.


About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is a project cataloger at The Mariners' Museum library. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and was formerly a professor at ODU. You can find him on Twitter @m4ttTh0mps0n.
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80 Responses to Humans: unique or not?

  1. Joshua Frechem says:

    I think it is rather humbling to have it slapped in our faces that we are in no way alone in the MODERN sense, classical maybe, but not modern. Knowing we are a number of alleles away from animals we keep in a zoo just exemplifies how interconnected everything on Earth is. It keeps us in our places to not get too egotistical and take better care of what has been Evolutionarily given to us as our responsibility to maintain. We have been placed at the top and so far we are not being smart with it. However I think the converse is true in that the fact we are different is also humbling as we were the ones it benefited to be so advanced. But the thing to me is that humans are advanced in ways that are beneficial to us. Dung beetles guiding themselves via the Milky Way starlight, bees use chemicals to find their way around, fish laying eggs outside of water just to outsmart predators, and primates ability to use primitive tools.. we are in no way the only advanced thinkers/animals out there. We are however the only ones to be advanced in our way of logic. I, in ways, agree with him because we as humans are free thinkers. We have the luxury to think differently and disagree on things. You won’t find primates disagreeing about dinner.. Sushi or mexican? More like starve or fallen fruit. We only have this array of thoughts and opinions because we have the luxury to and that essentially defines us as humans. Rather than doing what we have to do because it’s the only way to survive we do what we want to do because we have millions of different means to survive.

    • Matt O'Brien says:

      I think it’s easy to look at this both ways. We are very similiar to some of the species Sapolsky talks about. It’s almost weird to see so much similiarity when at first glance it seems like there are barely any. I think the differences are more significant. The language, the modern way of life. One that really jumped out at me is one people don’t really think about. Our abillity to know something that someone else might not and be able to see their reaction etc. The differences and siimilarities put things in perspective. It’s things you don’t think about. It makes me ponder evolution and its process. We as humans definetley have a very different thought process. We have the abillity to think freely.It’s a huge difference. Our world is always changing and you could argue that adds to all the different beliefs and ideals of people. Most primates know one way of life and stick to it. A pretty significant difference

  2. Sean Bujno says:

    Robert Sapolsky considers himself an atheist but clearly he has found religion in primates. He chose to look at humans differently based on his motives, bias, opinions, etc. The basics, we are all carbon-based life forms so naturally we will have much in common chemically, genetically, as well as our environments in which we live. The environment is very important because that is what will make our differences unique, or is it? So our differences would be most important. Sapolsky attempts to relate “mankind” to other species at first physically and then through behaviors. Behaviors that are environmentally dependent upon where the species has lived. His material is pretty mainstream especially in stating that humans are a “basic off the rack mammal.” I guess he forgot that somewhere along the line Homo sapiens with big brains mated with other Homo sapiens with big brains and supposedly 25,000 +- years ago we reached our peak in brain development. What is unique is what our big brains have done for us especially in shaping our behaviors and leading us to do things such as dominate the planet alongside bacteria. Sapolsky used a multitude of animals to cite his examples so by his logic we are the species that possesses all his examples of behavioral traits and then some while then it is also true that not all species closely linked to us by genetics, DNA, etc., possess all these traits making humans unique again in the fact that not only do we have them but we have expanded upon them greatly. Key word being “not so different” and yet we are extremely different than the rest of life on earth. For example our behaviors have given us the nuclear bomb and space travel. I have yet to see a baboon or a chimpanzee build a nuke let alone build a shuttle to escape orbit.
    His conclusion that humans are defined by the ability to hold contradictory beliefs is his opinion. We can be defined by many measures especially if I pulled out a DSM-IV-TR and looked at mental disorders or what can be termed “other contradictory behaviors” in this case. If anything it is another example of what makes Homo sapiens even more unique in that we can go against the state quo.
    What is interesting is that he did not talk about other evolutionary mysteries especially those related to “behavior.” There are many things that we still do not understand or know about ourselves and we can only theorize to explain most things. Behaviorally speaking why does religion exist in virtually every culture? That is behavior. Why are humans fond of arts? That is a behavior. Why does consciousness exist? That is a behavior.
    Sapolsky did a great job in trying to mirror us or compare us to other species but in the end we still know little to nothing about ourselves. There are many explanations to behaviors and to certain behaviors but the question behind them is why?

  3. Kylie Beauchamp says:

    This was a very interesting talk and he was a pretty good speaker and kind of quirky funny too. I knew that our genes were not all that different from all other species but the other qualities we have in common with animals was somewhat shocking, especially the Golden Rule idea (or the tit for tat concept). To know that other species on earth are not so different from humans is not really unnerving or crazy but just different or hard to think about or to actually know because we typically do feel so superior to the rest of the animals in the world. But the fact that chimps can show empathy for other chimps is pretty cool, but doesn’t surprise me because dogs can sometimes sense when their owner is down or really happy too. Just like we all have our own personalities, I can imagine that animals do too they just don’t communicate or verbalize their feelings/emotions the same way we do and they may not have such complicated lives as humans do either, but are much more sophisticated than I would have thought before watching this video. I also thought that the way culture is passed down in other species was pretty interesting; its done the same way our cultures or traditions are passed down to next generations. I would also tend to agree with Sapolsky’s conclusions about humans being defined by their ability to hold contradictory beliefs because faith is a pretty complicated thing to feel and understand. I believe animals can feel love and compassion/empathy but I would be completely floored if they had the ability to believe in something higher or greater than themselves. Or if they had organized religion like humans do, that would just be so not animal like so I guess that really is a huge difference between us and them. Overall, I think he did a pretty good job at explaining things, made his talk interesting and the 30 something minutes went by pretty quick. Maybe one thing that I would like to further have explained or research myself was at the very end when he was talking about faith and that its a “Moral Imperative.”

  4. Landon Jones says:

    I have to think that it is our differences that make us more successful with our fitness compared to other species. Although our DNA is very similar it is the small differences that make species more successful. With that said it is also humbling to witness nature and how the little things that different species do to stay alive is quite intriguing. I watched Africa on Discovery and in the sahara there is a specific type of ant that is able to stand out in the sahara desert for ten minutes without being affected. The ants are aware of this and waste no time when they leave the underground nest. The ants were bringing food back to the cave and realized there time was short. Instead of dropping the food (a giant fly) and running back to the cave, the ants were intelligent enough to cut off the legs with their months to reduce drag. These little survival instincts that are associated with such small creatures that we do not necessarily find intelligent is entertaining to witness. Although we can use our surroundings to create new products and things we find necessary, other species are doing very similar things. We teach our youth how to survive and maintain the same way as many different types of species. Overall a very interesting lecture that brought up many different questions and ideas.

  5. This was an extremely interesting video. I found it interesting knowing that we are so similiar to animals. It shows how interconnected everything; how humans and animals are linked together in one way or the other. Although being at the top with all of technological and even in a since intellegence, we need to remember that we are extrememly fortunate for being so gifted. Another aspect of the video that I found rather shocking was the way that culture is passed down through other species. While personally I had never even thought about the matter other than from a human standpoint, many other species use the same methods we do to pass down their culture through generations. By teaching their young ways of survival and maintain a steady way of life, they ultimately help their young develope a sense of identity, allowing them to continue the species traditions. Overall a very interesting lecture that brought about many topics and ideas that are not first to come to mind when thinking of humans and species of animals.

  6. Rhea Weldon says:

    This lecture was actually very interesting. The speaker made it easy to understand as well as very entertaining. After watching, I believe that the differences between animals and humans are the most significant. I feel this way because there aren’t many of them. It is so surprising to hear all of the similarities between us and the animals that depicting the differences seems to be the most important. For example, the speaker mentioned that all species have sex and reproduce, but human beings are the only ones that do so for pleasure and not just the sole purpose of reproducing. Also, he mentioned that in feeling empathy, animals can only feel so for their own kind, when on the other hand, human beings can feel it or not only another species but one that doesn’t even exist. So the differences is the most important to recognize so that we can be separated from the animal species.

    Like i previously stated, it is very shocking to hear all of the similarities between human beings and animals. To think that we are not far off from a monkey or any other mammal is very interesting to say the least. It just shows that we all came from a common place, and that it may even be possible to live amongst each other. This phenomenon also explains how humans can grow up with certain animal species and adapt to their ways–they aren’t that much different.

    I do agree with Sapolskys’ conclusion that humans are defined by the ability to hold contradictory beliefs. For example, religion, marriage, sexuality, and some aspects of politics. I don’t see an organized religion or any type of arguing or controversy over sexuality. Animals get together for the sake or reproduction, not love and looking to settle down. Though animals have the alpha of their group, they do not get a choice of how they should be led like humans do. I believe that Sapolsky got his studies and his point across very well in a way that was easy and fun to listen to. I have no further questions.

  7. Alana Weldon says:

    After watching this video I have come to conclusion that both our similarities and differences are very significant. Our similarities are important because there are so many of them and it shows you a lot about the part of the world that we tend to ignore. Our differences are significant because of the lack thereof. Being similar to an animal in so many ways is a bit weird because you see yourself as a civilized species while an animal is a savage. In actuality we’re all just civilized savages.

    It’s shocking to learn how much animals and humans share not only physically but mentally, emotionally and socially. Things such as humans and other species of animals have sex for pleasure and not just for reproductive purposes and abiding by the “golden rule” are very surprising to hear. It’s very interesting to know that animals pass down culture as well, just as us humans pass down traditions depending on our families.

    I agree that “humans are defined by their ability to hold contradictory beliefs” because there are many things that can be tagged to “contradictory beliefs” such as something as big as religion. As humans we have different beliefs in what’s real and what isn’t pertaining to a higher power, while animals may not have those beliefs rather they have a higher “ranked” monkey or chief.

    Nothing in the video was very confusing, so I have do not have any more questions.

  8. Zach Christman says:

    Humans are a very interesting species. We have the same basic genetics as simple creatures such as a fruit fly and we possess the same traits as other animals in the animal kingdom such as theory of mind, empathy and reward. Judging by that, one would think that our similarities are more significant because our similarities are more prevalent than our differences. Yet our differences are by far more significant. We as mankind have almost developed a second level of subconscious. An example would our second theory of mind where we think what the other person is thinking. These next steps in our conscious makes me think that our differences are more significant that our similarities to other animals. We take basic thought and culture and expand and make it more complex than other animals. This difference is what makes us different. At the same time, it is almost a joy to hear that humans are not that much more genetically different than a fruit fly or share the same empathy as a chimp. It is refreshing to think humans aren’t that more different yet we are. The point I’m trying to make is that humans are special because we go beyond what every other animal has without having much more of a difference. Sapolsky’s conclusion about contradictory beliefs is completely accurate. In sports, we root for the underdogs. We root for them because if it is less likely they will win, they must win. Overall, humans are not much more different than other animals in our genetical makeup, our conscious, and our culture yet we are different. That is the beautiful thing about human life.

  9. Phillip Lambert says:

    I think our differences are more significant than our similarities with other animals. It is our differences that make us stand out and allow us to do what they cannot do themselves. Our thought process, perception, developed oral and written language, along with our opposable thumbs is what makes us different from other animals. I don’t feel any different considering that humans are not so different from the rest of life on earth. We all have similar genetic makeup and share similar habits. This all could be considered a way of life, like the default settings of a game that cannot be changed. I feel Sapolsky’s conclusion is right and a lot of people look over it. We believe something but go against it at the same time and then clime “we’re becoming a better person”. It confuses me when he talks about the monkeys with the banana and the mirrors. I don’t understand how would either one know who the alpha male is without any communication. It just all seem to be based off of assumption and who has the most courage.

  10. Jon Faulkner says:

    I found the examples given of our similarities between us and other animals really interesting. The ideas of our cultural similarities and the passing down of information was really enlightening. I didn’t know that an animals group culture would change based on the removal of specific members of the group either.

  11. Sabrina Faulkner says:

    Going into this assignment I didn’t think that this video was going to be very intersting, however, Sapolsky is an excellent speaker and was quite funny. His use of humor kept me interested in his speech. After watching his speech, I was amazed by how similar we are to other species. I knew about the genetic part, but with the cultural aspect is what was surprising. In response to what is more significant, I think our differences from other animals is more important. The differences are what makes our species unique (or as he put it, uniqier? I believe). While it is amazing and humbling to note our similarities, to me it is more astonishing to note the differences. Knowing that humans are not so different from the rest of life on earth doesn’t really phase me, it just shows how connected everyone and everything here really is. Sapolsky’s conclusing that humans are defined by our ability to hold contradictory beliefs is an interesting one. I think it’s a wonderful point and I cannot think of a better essential difference at the moment. I believe that his speech was very clear and do not have any questions.

  12. Mark Belardo says:

    Dr. Sapolsky does an excellent job at reminding us how indifferent we actually are as humans; and informs us of how strong the similarities between us and animals truly are. I found his lecture quite humbling, for helping to realize how I, as a human, am not so different from the rest of life on Earth. The greatest point I believed that Dr. Sapolsky makes is of humans natural contradictory beliefs, when he states, “The less it is possible that something can be, the more it must be.”

  13. Desiree Johnson says:

    I found the lecture by Robert Sapolsky very interesting. When you hear someone saying we arent very different from many other species, you think to yourself “yeah right”. Listening to Sapolsky go into details about how much we as humans actually do have in common with other species is very mind blowing. The fact that we all share things such as aggression, theory of the mind, “tic for tac” empathy even down to the females ovulating cycle really makes one put their thinking caps on. The fact that he feels as if the only thing that makes us “uniqueier” is the fact that we have the ability to contradict ourselves is actually very mind boggling. Whether one chosses to believe that, or really feels that it is more differences in seperating us from others species, you gain alot of knowledge from just listening to his lecture. You can really look at life different and appreciate it more. When you see an animal now, its not just a dog, fish, or thats just a monkey anymore you can see and know that they carry some of the same things we do

  14. Bryan Dorman says:

    I find Sapolsky’s speech both interesting and humorous. He is a well-spoken and influential speaker. As humans we have adapted to surviving on this planet like all other animals have, so I have always been a fond reader of how certain species have evolved to keep up with the race of the animal kingdom. I agree with him on the fact that we are all interconnected beings and have mutual adaptations, but I believe that as humans are biggest adaptation is our minds and the way we think (which I believe he touched on in a sense) and solve complex problems that are constantly presented to us. I believe that our differences outweigh the similarities and are more significant than the differences. In all I find the similarities both fascinating and complex.

  15. Rebecca Taylor says:

    I think our similarities to other animals is really significant, especially after watching this video, and pretty humbling to the human species because we often believe we are so different than animals, and justify doing violent things to them because they are so different. Recognizing how similar humans are to animals really puts into perspective that humans are essentially just another species on planet earth trying to survive. I think every species is unique though because of what they are capable of doing or not doing, and these different capabilities have come along as a means of survival. For example, cows are not able to build tools or think complex contradictory thoughts, but they are able to know how to get food and other basic things for survival, whereas humans have developed to survive among other humans and have more complex ways of thinking.

    It makes sense that humans are not that different from animals, because essentially we are just another species on earth. We have become a dominant species through technology, which has allowed us to become dominant because although a tiger could outrun us and tear us apart, we have developed the technology to shoot that tiger with technology that we have created. I think Dr. Sapolsky has done a very good job in explaining that we are not as unique as we think we are as humans, but we are just more complex.

    Dr. Sapolsky’s conclusion made sense to me, because I think it sums up what makes humans unique, which is the complexity of our minds. No other species experiences this, and I think a large part of that is the morality of humans. We are the only species that has religion, and I think that confuses us a little bit and the only way to deal with that is through being able to hold contradictory thoughts. I thought Dr. Sapolsky’s presentation was very clear and actually a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. Plus that beard is pretty impressive.

  16. Samara says:

    1. After watching this phenomenal speech, I must conclude that the similarities and differences among animals and human beings are both powerfully significant. I use the term powerful to emphasize the great humility human beings have after realizing how similar we genetically are to other species. This humility, in turn, manifests into somewhat of a concept that is grounding and if taken seriously very humbling. Our differences amongst other species are also powerful in that the amount of increased complexity which makes our species so different can be held as somewhat of an inspiring and determining notion that human beings have limitless potential and should use the differences we have as motivation and progression.
    2. I feel extremely humbled and less separated knowing that human beings share the same behaviors as other animals. One common outcome of modern education is this feeling that humans are separated from the rest of the universe and that we alone as a species are in another playing field. Realizing that we share the same behaviors and feelings as other animals reminds me that humans aren’t as alone as we all believe/feel.
    3. Sapolsky’s conclusion that humans are defined by the ability to hold contradictory beliefs is in some ways true and in others not so true. Take a video I recently viewed about a leopard that was in the wild hunting for food. After noticing a sick and abandoned baby monkey, the leopard took the baby monkey and tried its very best to provide food and shelter for the animal. This sense of “uniqueness” which Sapolsky states defines human beings can also be seen throughout numerous walks of life, human beings on the other hand, have more awareness and complex knowledge in which they can manifest this contradiction in their every day lives more so than other animals.
    4. There isn’t much in the video that confuses me or doesn’t make any sense. I believe that human beings are unique in that we are increasingly more developed and complex, however, I also hold very close to my heart a belief that everything in this world is interconnected. Every plant, animal, human, non-human, chair, desk, lamp, street, building so on and so forth all essentially share elements and particles found throughout the galaxies, which is the most humbling and extraordinarily striking conclusion of them all. It does not surprise me in the least to see how similar we are to other animals.

  17. Scott Festejo says:

    This speech by Sapolsky was great, he had great examples and kept the audience interested. With that being said, I believe our differences are more significant because small differences can allow humans to do more. A small fruit fly has very similar cells to humans but on the exterior humans are very different. Also something slightly different like disposable thumbs thumbs allows us humans to activity use our hands a lot more than other animals.
    I thought it is very interesting how similar humans are to the rest of life on earth. Since other life on earth does not speak or communicate like humans, it makes me feel like we are so much different even though we are not. I found it very unique how animals follow the golden rule but in order to survive or get along, they need to give respect to others with higher power.
    I think that Sapolsky’s conclusion that humans are defined by holding contradictory beliefs is very true. It is not thought about much like how he explained it because people are just born to believe. By believing, it forces people to work towards the things that are sought out to be impossible so that we are always pursuing something.
    I understood most of the video. One thing that I found most interesting was that animals are similar to humans because we both have culture and personality. Only one example was given (the baboons that he studied), if you could give us a couple more examples then that would be great.

  18. Preston Wrenn says:

    It is weird hearing that there are not many differences between humans and non-humans. To be honest it is sad how we treat animals so poorly and put humans on a pedestal, when in fact there is no reason to because of how similar we are. I think it is more significant to look at our similarities than our differences when looking at a general overview between animals and humans.

    I find it interesting how humans are not so different in a majority of the life cycle. The respect aspect is very interesting how animals know the more dominant animal has priority and the passive animals give the dominant animals the respect and priority to anything the dominant animal wants. It is reassuring to show that all animals go through everything that humans go through just in a little different of an aspect of life and environment.

    The conclusion was my favorite part because it shows what sets humans apart from any other species. Our brains are vastly more complex than any other species which shows by the nun and her ability to show so much love to men even after what they have done. Humans and other species are incredible and this video does a great job showing why.

  19. Parisa Fard says:

    This was quite a refreshing lecture as it is remarkable to know that we are not “uniquier” than other species. It’s intriguing to hear about how much we really share with others animals-not only genes, but feelings. I think that our similarities to other animals are more significant, simply because people already know the obvious differences. It’s easy to point out the differences between humans and animals. However, it’s the similarities that we need to be educated about. It makes me feel humbled and I get a sense of unity with the Earth when I think about how humans are not so different from the rest of life. The fact that we share things like the act of aggression, to the feeling of sympathy with other animals is quite astonishing. I feel as if people take for granted being a human being-being able to feel what other animals can’t. I find it fascinating that Sapolsky concludes by saying that humans are defined by the ability to hold contradictory beliefs. It makes me think whether or not other animals are really just smarter than most humans. Everything in this video made sense to me. I believe that Sapolsky made some VERY interesting points, and enjoyed his humor and conclusion the most.

  20. Christopher Bailey says:

    The information in the video was thought provoking. The first example the speaker used caused me to recall the new word that was presented during one of the assigned reading. Prior to just recently, I had never encountered the word drosophila, and what’s more, I was astounded to learn that for more than a century fruit flies have been use study genetics. The fact that mere fruit flies share 75% of the genes that causes disease with humans is amazing.
    With that said, I believe that our similarities to other animals is vastly more significant than our differences, particularly in terms of the useful data we can glean from studying these behaviors. What we learn from studying the behaviors of animals, or the fruit fly, will ultimately benefit all, regardless of the species.

  21. Cody Smith says:

    The many differences, and similarities, between humans and animals has always intrigued me. It is interesting to watch and listen to someone who is so knowledgeable about the subject. The fact that we are so extremely similar to the animals in many of our actions just shows that humans are not as unique as we thought. However, our many differences do show that humans are unique.

  22. Ryan Barbrey says:

    When I first listened to this I felt very humbled by the points Robert Sapolsky made. As humans, I think we always like to believe we are special and unique, not only among other species but each other as well. When I listened the second time I began to think that even though we have many similarities to other animals like chimps our differences from them seem to carry even more weight to them. It shows that even with a species so closely resembling us we still dominate this earth and are the few differences make all the difference in the world. Generally, yes, we are all the same as far as our genes are concerned and Mr. Sapolsky showed these but he also showed a few differences. He made the point that he believes our ability to hold contradictory beliefs is vital to us being different. While this is a great point and definitely a defining attribute to humans however I feel another attribute that is just as important is our ability to reason with ourselves and each other. Yes, other animals have some reasoning skills but humans have it beyond that of any other creature on earth. When Mr. Sapolsky was speaking he made most of his points very clear but when he mentioned the reward system it felt rushed and even after listening twice to his lecture I did not fully understand but for the most part I really enjoyed his lecture and found it informative and easy to listen to and understand.

    Ryan Barbrey

  23. Jamaal Foster-Scott says:

    The fact that Female Hamsters ovulate every four days was really interesting to me and showed that animals more so have sex to reproduce as to where humans also have sex to reproduce but have sex mainly for fun. I also liked how Sapolsky talked about the “Theory Of Mind” which is when we realize that other people have different thoughts then you do. And how the “Secondary theory of mind” which is when someone has information that the other person doesnt, but its more or less like critical thinking. Also how we as humans are so different from animals but at the same time we are so similar.

  24. William Hayes says:

    It was very interesting video to watch. To observe how similar humans are to other animals on this planet. Humans just have slight variation to certain aspects. for one fact that humans have sex for pleasure and reproduction. But animals only have sex to reproduce. Another interesting fact i learned was that just like animals, females menstrual cycles will sink up eventually if they are living together. Also how even both humans and animals have empathy when it comes to certain things. Like how if a chimp is a victim in a beating the others will gather around him and care for him. I learned a lot watching this video about the similarities beat both humans and animals. I found this to be very interesting.

  25. Mary Parsons says:

    I like the idea that we are just a “basic, off the rack mammal.” I have never agreed with the idea that humans were brought into this world to dominate the animal world. Since we share so much with them we do not reserve the right to poach them and destroy their habitat. The fact that we are very connected to our animal brothers is actually very comforting. It gives hope that maybe one day we can move past our mistreatment of other animals and make a greater effort to preserve them.

    It is not our similarities or differences that is more significant. Instead, it is the combination of similarities and differences that makes us the most unique animals. In some ways, we are set apart, with our more complex forms of culture and our cognitive abilities. However, when it comes right down to our basic instincts we are exactly the same as other animals, and this is something to be proud of. We have the right to stand beside some of the noblest creatures on Earth because of of the things we share.

    For me, the most interesting part of Dr. Sapolsky’s lecture was the application of the Golden Rule by other mammals. I had no idea that this rule was rooted in the basic instincts of animals. It is so ingrained into the animal way of life that it has become one of the most important lessons that we are exposed to as children, from posters in schools to reprimands given by adults. It is a perfect example of how animal instinct has permeated our culture and it shows just how connected we are to the animal world.

  26. Joe Perea says:

    It is interesting to hear the different similarities that humans share with other animals. The speaker explains the similarities between aggressive behavior of humans and different animals such as monkeys. The power of understanding and theory of mind is shared in common with other animals although secondary theory of mind is unique to humans because we understand that we don’t know something that someone else might understand. Humans are bound together by understanding or empathy that is also common amongst chimps and other primates. There is more extremes that humans can explore using empathy that no primates share in common with humans.

  27. Ashleigh Van Straten says:

    What an eye opener! This speaker brought up several different things which I have always believed to be strictly human characteristics. Empathy was the one characteristic that I was most surprised to learn that other mammals are also capable of possessing. I thought it was very interesting how chimps would socially groom the victim in order to make them feel better. The speaker then continues to say that humans differ in their extraordinarily amounts of empathy that they display. After viewing this speech I decided to YouTube some clips about mammals other than humans showing empathy. I watched several different clips involving a very intelligent gorilla who in my opinion shared exceeding amounts of empathy. For example the gorilla was watching a sad movie that had a young girl being kidnapped and split apart from her mother. The gorilla then turned around in his seat and covered his eyes. His owner said that sad scenes always made him look away. Another clip showed the gorilla becoming extremely emotional and heartbroken after he was told that his cat friend had passed away. This speaker offered some very interesting points that have opened up my mind to how similar other mammals actually are compared to humans.

  28. Antasia Ward says:

    I think that our differences are significant enough to give us an advantage but on a larger level really don’t mean much. Even though other species of animals can make tools us as humans can make the tools, manipulate the tools, and use technology to constantly improve the tool. I find it very interesting that we as humans have a unique characteristic in that we can have contradictory thoughts. I never took the time to really appreciate that thought process because we can be told something is impossible and that only makes us go out and try our hardest to achieve that goal.

  29. Justina Williams says:

    I believe that our similarities to other animals are more significant than our differences. We all have the same basic blueprint for life, we just display this in different ways. This reminds me of the quote “what unites us is greater than what divides us.” I feel more connected to the rest of life on Earth knowing that we aren’t as different as we seem to be. It makes sense why we as humans consider ourselves as animals even though we have different ways of living. Sapolsky’s conclusion that humans are defined by the ability to hold contradictory beliefs may be true and it may not be. I don’t think a thought or a belief is big enough to define our species.

  30. Nick Rackowski says:

    “…at the end of, it’s really impossible for one person to make a difference…” which means you must make that your moral imperative.

    “Faith” being thrown out the window, purely on a day to day living equation, I can’t help but agree with Dr. Sapolsky’s evidence for the vast similarities between humans and other animals. The most astonishing comment, besides the closing statement(above) was that he stated the daily calories burned between a baboon killing a rival and the mere stress and thinking processes of a Chess player sitting in a chair, were in fact the same. The differences between humans and other animals is simply our ability to have a different(i.e. more sophisticated) degree of Aggression, Theory of Mind, the Golden Rule, Empathy, Culture, and Pleasure in Anticipation and Gratification of Postponement.

    If there is one thing that makes us more unique than our moral imperative(to have faith in face of great adversity) I would have to say it is our ability to deceive for the better of others. Selfless disregard of a standard “good” for the end result in being “good-er”. Our complex struggle of the ends justifying the means aspect of life.

  31. Keenan Falls says:

    I think that our similarities and differences are equally significant, because this perspective exemplifies exactly what makes us who we are. That we are not so different from rest of life on earth reminds of the fact that the molecules we are made up of are the same molecules as the trees and animals that I see everyday. Also that all of life is interconnected, such a great feeling. I think that the ability to hold contradictory beliefs is extraordinary, as it allows for a vast amount of diversity among our species – an essential quality of life. I would say that this is the most essential difference we have. It is interesting how he proposes that the contradictory nature of holding contradictory beliefs themselves is what makes it vital to do so. Great Video.

  32. Caitlin Smith says:

    Dr. Sapolsky introduced some fairly basic knowledge in terms of our place in the world, relative to other organisms–however, reiterating this kind of knowledge is incredibly due to how commonly it is overlooked (by us). Many of the constructs embedded into our society and culture pollute this kind of necessary realization concerning our “uniqueness.” Rather than viewing the world as a unified and all-inclusive ecosystem, many human beings seem to think we are entitled to “holding dominion” over the planet and the other animals living on it. This misconstrued way of thinking relates directly to Sapolsky’s suggestion, that we evolved to be smart enough to make ourselves sick. Our so-called rational and reasonable minds lead us to separate from the natural world, rather than coexist as successfully as possible. We are, in fact, a “basic, off the rack mammal,” sharing the same chemical compounds and genetic make-up (for the most part) with even the fruit fly; our neurotransmitters fire the same way, revealing the same underlying brain processes/mechanisms. For me, the similarities existing between human beings and the other animals living on Earth is far more significant than the somewhat insignificant differences/subtleties. Failure to recognize our similarities is undeniably disruptive to nature’s grand(er) scheme of things; the human race’s attempt to stray from this path is a direct cause of unnecessary destruction and misunderstanding. How closely human beings are related to all of the other matter and organisms that make-up our Earth is not only humbling, but is absolutely miraculous. Animals existing outside of the human race exhibit Theory of Mind and The Golden Rule, demonstrating empathetic and motivated behaviors within their species. Setting us apart from the other members of the animal kingdom is our upholding of various contradictory believes, as Sapolsky suggested. This kind of ability reflects aspects of human selflessness and compassion that are “unprecedented” in other realms of the animal world–this is because such acts are not necessary for or facilitative to their basic survival needs.

  33. Mitch Castleberry says:

    I believe unique the similarities to other animals are more significant than our differences. We all have the same basic blueprint for life, we just display this in different ways. But our differences i believe make us unique and somewhat better, although the other animals are advanced i think that we are the most advanced on this planet because of our level of intellect.

  34. Taylor Perschka says:

    ■Which do you think is more significant? Our similarities to the other animals, or our differences?
    ■How does it make you feel to consider that humans are not so different from the rest of life on earth?
    ■What do you think about Sapolsky’s conclusion that humans are defined by the ability to hold contradictory beliefs? Can you think of a better essential difference?
    ■Is there anything in this video that confuses you or doesn’t make sense? What point do you want to be better explained?

    WIthout a doubt, the differences apparent between humans and other mammals or animals is more significant than the similarities. After all, it is our differences that set us apart as humans. For instance, our passive aggressiveness, abilitiy to speculate, or the extensive enthapy we feel, to name a few, give us a uniqueness not found in other animals. That being said, I understand that animals are not so unique in comparison to the rest of the life on earth. I feel that, because of this, our differences are most significant because it is what defines us as human beings. I cannot think of a better essential difference than Sapolsky’s assertion; the very topic of the lecture was contradictory. Humans are similar to every other animal–but they are dissimilar, too. The essence of human beings is, like Sapolsky stated, based on being “unique-er”.

    Sapolsky was a clear and engaging speaker. The only topic that could have been elaborated on was the concept of reward reinforcement and dopamine release–it was interesting, but I would have appreciated more of an explaination.

  35. Neville Carrasquillo says:

    Dr. Sapolsky speech was very interesting and entertaining. I like when he talks about the similarities between humans and animals. I think that we are similar but at the same time unique and different than the animal. I agree and impress by Rebecca Taylor comment when she stated an example “That cows are not able to build tools or think complex contradictory thoughts, but they are able to know how to get food and other basic things for survival”. This is why it makes us unique, no matter how similar the species are; they are still different. But I was confuse when Dr. Sapolsky started comparing us female with females hamster by ovulating and synchronized the cycle.

  36. Anthony Portacio says:

    I believe that our similarities and differences to other animals are equally significant. Humans and animals share almost the same genetic makeup and do basically the same things in life. I think the fact that humans are no different from the rest of life on this planet is beautiful and it gives me a much bigger appreciation about other life on Earth. I do agree with Sapolsky’s conclusion about humans being defined by the ability to hold contradictory beliefs because this allows us to change behaviors easily compared to animals which mostly act off of instinct. I thought the lecture was very interesting. It made me think more about the similarities between humans and the animal kingdom, which is probably something most people don’t ever think about.

  37. Tyler Hickey says:

    I found this video to be very interesting as well as thought provoking. As far as genes, humans have only a few more than fruit flies. This just goes to show just how similar humans are to the rest of the animal kingdom.
    I definitely agree that our similarities with other animals is astonishing, however I find that our differences are much more interesting. The fact that we have a much more advanced mind enables us to be where we are today. It seems that these differences show that we take the similarities and add a bonus to each. For example our ability to have controversial beliefs. We can create and invent any idea we can think of. That sets us above the rest. The cities we’ve built and large-scale transportation we’ve created show a huge gap between us and the rest of the animal kingdom.
    Don’t get me wrong I do find it very interesting to know all of the similarities we share with other animals, but its the differences that place us where we are today.

  38. Justin Burton says:

    The fact that us as humans are not very far from other primates is humbling to me. Our thought process that makes us feel in every way superior even though we aren’t but a gene sequence or splice away from one another. This thought ability to contradict what hard evidence is really present is shocking and vexing at the same time. Our similarities should be regarded as something quite remarkable because it gives us a look into where we came from and what sort of direction we may be headed. The fact that most of earth is pretty much, in close comparison, very similar to each other also puts a bit of a veil of misconception. Should we expect similar or almost the exact same types of evolutionary progressions as one another? Or are we just that much different that we can predict our own new set of evolutionary problems and patterns? This known ideal poses somewhat as a double edge sword so to speak. I agree with Sapolksy’s ideal that humans are defined by contradictory beliefs. You can say that humans posses a higher level of wit than most animals but in reality all animals are witty in their own special way. The fact that we can think in a completely contradictory manner due to the simple presence of another being or some other extenuating circumstance. This separates us as humans in this respect, in my opinion in no better way. I appreciated this video very much due to it’s clarity and conciseness, nothing needed to be explained in any more detail.

  39. Chris Hill says:

    The lecture was interesting he points out things that we tend to overlook as we are the superior. Based on what the professor was saying our simularities are more signifigant. People tend to claim we are more superior because we reign over all the other living creatures but as some of the points the Professor was saying we are a lot more simular than meets the eye. I’m not so surprised that we are a lot alike. The fact that we can make decisions and understand certain circumstances does show our difference though. With animals its mainly about survival where as humans its not so much.

  40. Ashley Matters says:

    I loved Dr. Sapolsky’s speech on what makes us unique compared to other species. I have always believed that us as humans are not that different from the rest of the animal kingdom and his speech confirmed my thoughts. His descriptions of the border chimps and their display of organized violence was extremely fascinating. I was told time and time again that humans were the only species that readily murdered each other so it was interesting to find that wasn’t the case. The only big difference that stuck out to me on the differences between us was the level of complexity we have. In particular our capacity for empathy even in the abstract form is what made me think about how unique our thinking patterns can be. Comparing humans to flies genetically had to be the most humbling experience I have had in awhile. Genetically, socially, and culturally, each and every species including ourselves are ruled by instinct whether or not we realize it. We all strive for the same things-to be “fit”-and have a certain level of base thinking. I didn’t really have any questions about the lecture because our complexity of thinking and reasoning is greater than other animals is not a new theory. The only thing that I have always wanted to be explained is the example of ovulating hamsters, I had heard previously about this phenomenon previously but no scientific reasoning behind why this happens has ever been presented to me in a clear precise answer.

    Great presentation and an engaging speaker.

  41. Alan Flynn says:

    Humans are indeed a unique species, and I think what is most significant about us are our differences from other species. Although Dr. Sapolsky spoke of humans being fairly similar to other animals in certain ways, its rather fascinating to understand the advantages we have. Its no so difficult to grasp that we aren’t completely different from other life on earth because we are not aliens to our own planet, we among every other species sprang from the same origins. It doesn’t make me feel primitive or anything just because we as humans have the ability to study other species and try and understand them, which is a privilege. There is no better difference than having the ability to hold contradictory beliefs. That is the essence of human dominance, and sets us apart from other species. Overall I thought the lecture was very interesting, and opened my mind up to the idea of how similar we are to other life on earth, even on the smallest scale.

  42. Ashlynn Christian says:

    Listening to the differences and similarities between humans and animals was very intriguing. I have always thought of humans as “animals” just because I do believe that we are the same but obviously we are also different than animals. After learning about animal’s sexual behavior in class and listening to Sapolsky’s lecture, I noticed that is where animals and humans are similar. Crazy to believe that both animals and humans have sex to “have sex” or the main reason why: reproduce. However, humans and animals do have our differences, as a human we are more complex “creatures” than animals. Humans, I think, are more emotional in our ways of thinking sometimes. This to me relates to Sapolsky’s “contradictory beliefs”. Humans always have to second guess ourselves or outweigh the consequences of a decision humans make. Whereas animals just do or just know. I do strongly believe that another main difference between humans and animals is how both species interpret “survival”. Animals just do, humans are much more complex than that.

  43. Courtney Williams says:

    As I watched the video I found it very interesting to find out all the similarities between humans and other animals; however I find our differences to be more significant. Our differences make us humans human and not just any other animal. We may have similar aggression and behavior but we are not apes or baboons; we are a completely different species of animal because of those significant differences.
    It’s also not a shock that humans are not so different from other animals because essentially we all come from the same place and survive in the same world. I also believe that other animals, besides just humans, hold contradictory beliefs. No one animal is the same as another; we are all different no matter the species. I believe what defines humans is our ability to advance faster and greater than other species and our ability to see the differences between us and other animals, not only the similarities.

  44. Julianna Nickolas says:

    I thought this lecture was very interesting. I liked the way he spoke; he was humorous, easy to follow along with, and understand. Based off the information provided in the video I think that our differences from animals are more significant. They are what set us apart from everything else and without them humans would not be any more advanced than other animals. Although humans do not have that many differences from other animals, the small amount of differences we actually do have is what is important. Sapolsky’s conclusion that humans are defined by the ability to hold contradictory beliefs is very interesting. He has a good point but I also don’t think that contradictory beliefs alone is the one thing that humans are defined by. We may not be all that different from animals but the differences are far greater than just one idea.

    – I noticed the website has been messing up the times, so I am putting the time I am submitting this in here. I sent this in 02/10/13 at 11:08 pm.

  45. Jarrell Young says:

    Sapolsky’s overall insight on the similartiies and differences amongst humans and animals was well explained. I was able to grasp a better understanding on both subjects through his explainations. I believe without question, the differences play a much more significant role due to the fact that most living organisms function in a similar fashion in which we humans function. With that in mind, I feel no difference in learning that humans aren’t so different from the rest of life. I couldn’t agree more with his conclusion as far as the breaking difference amongst both subjects is the humans ability to form contradictory beliefs. And essentially, I don’t belive there is a better difference. The only actual confusion I had was when he was on the topic of empahty on the third painted portiat of an some kind of animal. Otherwise, this video was far more than just informative.

  46. Dustin Woodham says:

    Sapolsky, as you said in class, is a great speaker and storyteller and he kept things interesting and funny in his speech. I found the segment on how humans aren’t the only species that kill other members of their society out of aggression or just because they can particularly interesting. As he said, one baboon he was observing was making some enemies in their congregation and wound up dead. I think that this made me realize that there are more similarities among humans and other animals than there are differences. It seems that our similarities among each other are more significant than what our differences are. The golden rule among the animal kingdom is an intriguing philosophy that I hadn’t realized existed among animals. Before watching this video I thought it was only humans that could come up with such a code to live by. The vampire bats and their “tit for tat” philosophy is something I found really interesting and it just amazes me that animals such as that can think and process in that sort of way, the same as humans. After watching this video, the comparisons and similarities among different kinds of animals and humans made me realize that we aren’t so different from animals after all. I’m not sure how to feel about this because we’re always told that we’re the dominant species and are superior to other animals, but what makes us that much more superior? Overall I thought Sapolsky’s was informative, interesting, and quite funny at times.

  47. Chase Winans says:

    I personally believe that our similarities to other animals is much more significant that those few things that differ us from other species. In fact if you stop and think about what Robert Sapolsky has said it makes a lot more sense to consider that we are so similar to other species. I dont necessarily totally understand his closing statement about the uniqueness of humans by our ability to hold contradictory beliefs in our heads. I do agree that humans strive and believe that when they are told something is impossible, deep down it makes us want to strive to do the impossible, but I do not know if this is what he is going for.

  48. Myko Banks says:

    Before watching the video, I was very skeptical about listening to Dr. Sapolsky’s speech. However, he started off very strongly. Actually, the whole speech was great. He kept the audience engaged by making jokes and keeping them laughing pretty much the whole time. I really enjoyed listening to his words. The speech was very educational and entertaining.
    The Welsly effect is a great thing he pointed out that really caught my ears. The synchronization of certain things in which many of us experience is commonly thought of in confusion – for example, the woman’s menstrual cycle. It’s not that this happens randomly. Those who are socially dominant.

    I believe it is our differences to other animals that is more significant. Without such differences, we wouldn’t be unique. The unique-i-ness that lets us differ from every other animal makes us special. One great difference we have is we have the ability to choose right from wrong. I can’t say other animals don’t have the ability. But I know for sure we have that ability.
    To know that we aren’t so different than the rest of life on earth is quite thought-evoking, though. One great similarity among humans and other animals is our need to stand up for our territories, as Dr. Sapolsky states. Everyone loves their property. This is seen among all animals.
    I think Dr. Sapolsky is absolutely correct in his conclusion. And I cannot think of anything better than just that. We are indeed defined by our ability to hold contradictory beliefs. But I would like to know more about that.

    -Posted February 10, 2013 @ 11:38

  49. Devin Allen says:

    This speech gave me a different viewpoint on humans are our connection with the world. I believe that the differences in humans are more significant than our similarities to other animals. The reason I say that is because humans are so similar to animals in basic ways and genetically. Our minds are the main thing that separates us and makes us such a complex organism. Knowing how similar we are to other animals it humbles me and makes me feel closer to nature because naturally as humans we tend divide ourselves from nature. I think the contradictary beliefs humans have do help set us apart from other species but also having a conscious mind and being self-aware is the true deal maker. Being able to make thorough descions and thoughts that we humans are one of the things that make us so significant in this world.

  50. Will Sykes says:

    This video is great and its awesome we can access these for free. First off, it does not come as a surprise to me that chimps engage in many cognitive behaviors similar to humans. If we truly did descend from a common ancestor, it should be expected to find many similarities in chimps. Something that struck me as somewhat odd though is the comparison of the fruit fly. It is common sense to me to believe that we have the same genetic structure as other species, even those as small as a fruit fly. We inhabit the same planet, and therefore in a sense live by the same rules or “genetic abilities.” What I believe separates us from other species is the development of our consciousness. In the golden rule example, the bats will not feed the mother’s babies if they believe she is not upholding her duties. While this is remarkable, it is a programmed response. it is seen as a choice to not feed the mother’s babies as per the “Golden Rule” when really its the bats automatic response for when they sense this occurring. Understanding this is what helps me comprehend the uniqueness of humans. While we have these “automatic” responses to certain situations, reactions are solely determined by the individual. Put a human in the bat example, and they might feel bad that the babies are not being fed, regardless of the mothers actions, and would continue to feed her children accordingly because of their beliefs(Social Services follows this protocol if you step away from the bat example.) While we have our fight or flight responses, instincts, etc. The way our subconscious and conscious come together and form who we are brings a certain uniqueness to every individual, whereas in the animal kingdom there really is no individuality aside from dominant and submissive. I may have just gone a complete nonsense rant, but this is how I see things. Great video!

  51. Jennifer Follin says:

    I found this lecture very interesting and informative. Dr. Sapolsky did an excellent job of explaining the differences and similarities between humans and other species; both obvious and subtle. I feel that while our many similarities are fascinating, the differences between the humans and other species, particularly primates, are definitely more significant. It was strange to immediately be shown the human vs fly slide, and humbling to learn just how alike we all really are in this world. I was drawn into the topic with the example of the man who performs his daily routine, including work, with the work consisting of testing bomb simulators that may later be deployed to kill others half-way across the world. The man then goes to his daughters ballet recital and cannot believe he could ever love someone as much as he loves her. This contradiction of beliefs, the fact that the man can love so strongly and turn a blind eye to what the final result of his ‘work’ may become, is unique in humans. The idea that humans also believe in the rule that fuels ‘the more one is unloved, the more love one deserves’ is another interesting point that reinforces Sapolsky’s conclusion that humans are defined by contradicting beliefs. All in all, this lecture was very thought-provoking and has helped me gain a better understanding of what makes the human species unique.

    This was posted at 11:53 pm on 2/10/13.

  52. Samantha Peters says:

    Overall, I must say that I think it is our similarities to other animals rather than our differences that is more significant. I feel this way particularly after watching the video and seeing how similar our genetic makeups to other animals truly are. Honestly, I am really not surprised that humans are not so different from the rest of the life on Earth. I am fairly certain that I have learned this somewhere before, and logically, it just makes sense to me. However, this is also coming from somebody who is vegan and who has viewed all creatures/animals as equal for a significant amount of time. Therefore, I may be a bit biased in my viewpoint. At the same time, I had pretty similar feelings toward this topic before I was vegan. I do think that humans have minute individual differences from other creatures that make us stand out; however, I would essentially agree with Sapolsky’s conclusion. As humans, we are all so different in our viewpoints and values, and other creatures simply do not experience life in this exact way. However, it does not make us “superior” in any necessary way. Nothing in this video really confused me because overall, I liked the way Sapolsky represented his beliefs and it seems pretty in line with the way I view life on our planet.

    The time is now 11:53 p.m., Sunday, February 10th.

  53. Amber Thorne says:

    As many have said, which I agree, Dr. Sapolsky is a great speaker. I have always somewhat believed the saying “humans are similar to animals” however he brings up other points that are similar in both species. He also gives examples of other animals besides the common “ape similarity”. For instance, similarly to the hamsters, many have said women that live together eventually have synchronized menstrual cycles as well. Also the theory that “we’re the only species that kills our own species”. According to Sapolskys. Bamboos, and chimps kill among themselves to the point they are they’re biggest enemy for survival. Sapolskys also shows how animals have culture as well (passing down techniques). Overall after his speech I have a better understanding of the many common factors between animals and humans

  54. Ashley Gibbs says:

    first off, is it silly that for the entire first half of this all i could think of was the pop culture movies instinct, congo, A:1(i think thats what its called? with the little robot boy…) and iRobot, as well as the entire mass viewing and reaction to; its very widely shown through television and movies how completely similar we are to animals and often programmed to forget.
    Also, the details into our differences was a bit more eye opening. Overall, however,in my opinion it really boils down to animals have the same basic reactions to circumstances as people, only we make everything extremely more complicated and contrived, and make up words like complicated and contrived.
    I completely agree that we are defined by our ability to hold contradictory beliefs in our minds. Like i said, we all do the same things, only differ in how we go about them. Then again, its all relative really; differing perspectives.

  55. Tatiana Nell says:

    After viewing this lecture, I strongly believe that our differences from other animals is what truly makes us unique. The fact that we can choose who and what to have compassion for is very interesting. The example Sapolsky gave about humans empathizing for other species is truly amazing if you think about it. I know personally I feel worse about an animal dying in a movie than an actual person.
    Knowing that humans are not so different from the rest of the life on Earth give me a greater appreciation for all of creation. Animals share this planet too and have a reason for being. Without other species living among us it would be very hard for our existence to continue. Studying these other species can help us better understand what part we play in this crazy thing we call life.
    Sapolsky’s conclusion that humans hold contrary beliefs is very interesting seeing that he is an atheist. I strongly believe that religion exists only to keep the world from complete chaos. With that being said, people need something to believe in so that they can feel that they are fulfilling a certain purpose.

  56. Ashley Moye says:

    When comparing ourselves to other species, I think both similarities and differences are significant. The differences are what allow us to call ourselves “unique” and “human,” but it is the similarities that prevent us from proclaiming divine right to a pedestal. More importantly, the similarities keep us from participating in speciesism. I think its important to relate our tendencies and behaviors back to the rest of life on earth. Without doing so, we become disconnected from the evolutionary processes that created our species but maintained close relationships with other species that remain “undomesticated.” Sapolsky’s suggestion that holding contradictory beliefs defines human is interesting, but I don’t know that I consider it to be the essential difference. I think that humans are likely to have more thoughtful beliefs compared to most animals and can weigh risks and benefits with a sense of consciousness. I think Dr. Sapolsky explained all of his points very well, especially by providing examples.

  57. Owen Branigan says:

    I thought that this video was incredibly interesting, and amount of similarities between humans and other species of living creatures is a lot more than I expected, however, you cannot deny that the things that separate humans and other species of animals are what make us so incredibly more in depth than any type of animal. the fact that we show empathy towards a whole different species of creature when we see them in pain is absoulutely incredible. this is just one of the many reasons why i think that all in all there are a lot of similarities in humans and animals but so much of a human’s process of living is so much more advanced that we still are a dramatically different species all together in my opinion

  58. Marta Kidane says:

    This video was very interesting. I had a very easy time understanding the speaker. Like others, I found it very surprising that as humans we have very common similarities with animals. When thinking of animals, I find that our similarities should be more significant. As humans we are animals ourselves, and I feel that is something that many forget at times so similarities should have a better stance than differences. When we really look at how similar we are, is is surprising but nonetheless it makes sense. We all are born, we reproduce, and we pass at some time as well. We all look for a way to survive, each animal may have different ways but the outcome is similar. i found the video to be informative but well needed, I feel that I have a general understanding of Sapolsky

  59. Alfred Posis says:

    Dr. Sapolsky brings up the very interesting concept of the Golden Rule existing in the animal kingdom. For the longest time, I believed that humans were the only species with the natural predisposition of a reciprocal relationship in terms of retribution. It’s known that animals do work together in order to survive and of symbiotic relationships between species, but I never knew that animals can wreak revenge.
    The fact that certain animals behave in seemingly vengeful manners towards each other, to me, is so astounding. You’d think that animals are incapable of feeling cheated nor noticing that there is unfair treatment occurring due to the fact that nature seems to independently flow harmoniously. But shedding light on a few species’ behavior upon the Golden Rule is truly a fascinating detail. Between bats and fish, Sapolsky describes the fact of revenge existing in an animal’s habitat.
    In actuality, the Golden Rule existing both in nature and in humans is not such a surprising fact. For nature to take its course, species’ need to recognize when unfairness is occurring and have a reaction to it. That reaction causes the discord to naturally fix itself. Although human nature may have more layers in the Golden Rule, the mere understanding that committing an undutiful action may cause others to treat you just as equally as what you did helps explain mother nature’s attempt at trying to maintain balance to the world.

  60. Rebekah Ewer says:

    Sapolsky gave a great lecture, very clear points and a good amount humor to keep things lively. I think both our differences and similarities are important for varying reasons, but I really enjoyed hearing about the similarities that I was so unaware of. I guess differences are easier to see through the eyes of ignorance. Contradictions really put a cap on things for me though, people are walking contradictions. We’ve created all these avenues and ideas to live by where as animals have a stricter more limited agenda. The nun made me curious of how trust and forgiveness works in the animal kingdom.

  61. Ethiopia Gultneh says:

    I think our differences from other animals are more significant than our similarities because although they are few biologically, it is our social differences and capabilities that so radically set us apart from other animals on Earth. The fact that we are not so different biologically slightly surprises me but at the same time does not. I am surprised because we are so much larger and different in appearance than other animals, but it also does not surprise me because we learned in basic biology that we share many of the same biological traits as other animals. I agree with Sapolsky’s theory that our ability to hold contradictory beliefs could define us because our advanced language is one trait that is significantly different from other animals, and using it we are able to argue our contradicting beliefs and thoughts. Other animals may have simpler forms of “language’ but do not argue beliefs or thoughts. Any conflicts are probably fought over physically rather than verbally. I pretty much understood all the concepts touched upon in this video, and agreed with most.

  62. Alexander "AJ" Boughner says:

    Sapolsky shares an interesting point in describing how little differences there are between us and other animals. However animals resolve altercations through physical contact and not verbal. I disagree along the lines of language because every animal has a distinct method of speaking with each other, studies have shown that gorillas were being taught ways of communicating with each other and learning human interactions. So our ancestors are being taught ways to communicate with us. Along the lines of capabilities, we can do more because we have thumbs and that enables us to do more things than other animals. Other than this disagreeable point, I agreed with the rest of the concepts covered in the video and understand all of them.

  63. rebanga says:

    What an amazingly complex and intricate way to humble an individual, shock, inspire a crowd and reveal such a fundamental idea in a thought provoking way. Our similarities to so many forms of animal life was fascinating in the examples given. Using specifics to show links between our basic behaviors is a productive way to introduce the idea we’re at our simplest form, beasts. Then to quickly catch our dulled down versions of self aware-ness with examples that differentiate us from our animal kingdom counter parts hel

  64. Tina Hierspiel says:

    This vidieo was eye opening because I never had a veiw point such as his before. Great video!

  65. Chris Shertzer says:

    This video was extremely interesting and i thoroughly enjoy the speakers other works as well as this lecture. I think our differences from other animals is more significant. That is why our technology is so much more advanced. The reason we have overpopulated this world. Our differences are what will help us either save or destroy this world in the coming years. The idea that we are similar to other creatures is not new to me and i am very comfortable with it. It only makes sense since we all come from the same basis of life and are carbon based that we should share virtually the same chemical makeup.

    For the most part i understood the lecture in full, and i agree with almost all of the ideas. I support our contradictory ideas ability to be the major difference between our species and others. I also believe that this difference gives us a responsibility.

    If you have the time you should read this:

  66. Kelsey Longnaker says:

    While I was already aware that humanity is not alone among creatures in our thoughts and abilities to feel and understand another’s emotions, I had previously heard that humans were alone in the degree of cruelty we inflict upon one another. While I am not at all proud of the terrible things done by my fellow humans, I do feel slightly better knowing that we’re not the only ones that engage in nasty things against others of our species. Humans didn’t invent the concepts of genocide or mob violence; maybe there’s hope for us yet.
    On a slightly less depressing note, I had not realized humans were the only creatures that feel empathy for other creatures outside of our own species. I feel strangely proud of our species knowing that we can feel such an emotional bond with other species. While humans have a strong capacity for cruelty, we have an equally strong if not stronger capacity for kindness. I haven’t much faith in humanity as a whole, but this video has renewed that faith a little. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this.

  67. Ryan Whitmore says:

    The video was very interesting. I understood the vast majority of the lecture. I did not know that humans had such similarities to other forms of life in those ways. The feeling of empathy is something that I only thought was human. It seems that many forms of life can show kindness and all of the other emotions that humans can inspire in one another. Humans are very different in the way that we socially behave when it comes to money. I believe that is the biggest difference.

  68. Nick Leider says:

    The lecture by Professor Robert Sapolsky was very interesting and enlightening. After watching the video, I kind of started viewing humans in different ways. Learning that the genes of humans and animals are virtually synonymous with all other animals was shocking to me. Ive taken many courses dealing with anatomy since I’ve been in school, and I still had no idea how similar our genetic makeup is to that of animals. Having said all of this, I believe that our similarities to animals is way more significant than our differences, although differences are paramount in other ways. Humans are civilized beings, while animals are savage for the most part. Sapolsky’s conclusion that humans are defined by their ability to hold contradictory beliefs is an interesting hypothesis. I can acknowledge that this may have some truth to it, but in my opinion humans are defined by much more than just our ability to go against the status quo. Also, I am not convinced that animals do not possess the ability to hold contradictory beliefs. I say this because of animals theory of mind.

  69. Matthew Sachse says:

    This video was very entertaining and interesting. I never realized how similar animals are to humans, and we certainly share many similarities. However, it is our differences that are far more significant, as they are what set us apart from other species. It is a little humbling to think that humans are not quite so different from other species, and certainly raises some questions on just how superior we are or are not. I think Sapolsky’s conclusion about contradictory beliefs is very interesting, and the fact that so many people believe in religion shows a lot about the human species. I think that humans are unique because we have such a complicated emotional intelligence, and that it is our superior intellect and capacity to express out thoughts that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.

  70. Bill Phillips says:

    When one considers the natural world I feel it is a rather easy conclusion to make that it is our differences to animals that make us unique and give us a unique place on earth. However, I’m okay not being so different from animals because we all had to start somewhere in the form of another animal. Salonsky conclusion is Spot on because it is the ability to hold such contrary believes that makes the human species so unique and unlike any other on earth. Although I agree with this conclusion I would’ve liked to have heard him elaborate more on the subject of contradictory human beliefs.

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