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A Scientist’s Perspective on What Makes a Person a Human Being

23 Dec 2016Education and science

Scientists believe that not all human beings can qualify as people. To become people, they must possess certain characteristics. These include human being’s abilities to feel pain, be conscious, reason, communicate and be self-aware.

To be a person a human being must be conscious and able to feel pain

In the article ‘Mindset Management – How Strong is Your Ability to Reason and Get Everything You Want in Life’, Stendall said that consciousness is the ability to think and to be self-aware. According to Freud, consciousness is the cognitive process that influences thoughts, perception, plans, sensitivity and reflections. In the broader sense, it also includes self-consciousness which is awareness of one’s existence. Aristotle said that the core of human development is the development of thought and hence consciousness.

Human beings are meant to feel pain, not just physical pain but mental pain as well. This is a quality that makes a human being a person, and makes people stronger.

Scientists believe that a human being who is not conscious and does not feel pain does not qualify as a person, and that consciousness is the essence of one’s existence. This is a controversial statement. It does not justify our disrespect towards anyone who is not conscious and does not feel pain, for example a human being in coma. Just because a child lacks cognitive abilities, it does not give anyone a right to mistreat him. Hence there are no set criterion on which we can distinguish between a person and a human being (Koukl).

To be a person a human being must be able to reason

All human beings possess the ability to evaluate, reflect, make choices and reach decisions. To be able to reason is a sign of growing up and maturing. Reasoning can help people accomplish their dreams. However, surprisingly, not everyone uses their ability to reason according to Stendall, in the article ‘Mindset Management – How Strong is Your Ability to Reason and Get Everything You Want in Life’.

It is important to link one’s ideas and to use one’s logic to collect relevant information and organize it to one’s benefit and success. Successful people have broad cognitive abilities and an eclectic and rational approach to life. Aristotle believed that human beings can have a good life if they chose a logical path and use their reasoning ability to develop as told by Stendall in ‘Mindset Management’.

Hence scientists propose, that to be a person means to take on challenges and be able to reason and evaluate. However, this statement is debatable. If a human being cannot reason, for instance someone who is insane or a child, it does not mean that he does not qualify as a person (Koukl).

To be a person a human being must be able to communicate

All human beings are gifted with the art of communication. Some people are exceptionally good at it. The effectiveness of communication depends on the skills of the people involved. On the other hand, there are people who have problems understanding others and being understood. Such people can work on their communication skills in order to improve. Other species do not have the ability to communicate in a meaningful way. Communication is so essential to human beings that they cannot avoid it. They do it all the time, verbally and through body gestures. The process involves an exchange of information between the sender and the receiver, and is meaningful only when the receiver understands the message. Human beings of all ages can communicate, even if they do not know how to talk. The existence of human beings depends on communication. Therefore, as scientists believe, communication is an essential characteristic of all people (Scheidel).

To be a person a human being must be self-aware

There are many characteristics of human beings that distinguish them from other species. Human beings have minds and the most significant asset of the mind is self-awareness, which means to be aware of who a person is. People possess self-awareness in degrees. Some people are more self-aware than others. There are those who argue that self-awareness is not present only in human beings, animals are self-aware too. However, scientists believe that it is the quality of self-awareness that distinguishes people from animals. Along with self-awareness come the quality of consciousness, cognitive abilities and intelligence. Being self-aware broadens a person’s horizons and enriches his experiences. However, there are many people who are not self-aware, such as bonded labor. They are just living their lives without any sense of who they are. This in no way means that they are not people. Hence we can argue against the statement made by scientists.

The advantages that scientists achieve when they are critical of their own methods

To be critical to one’s own writing is integral to scientific research. Scientists should not only critically view their own research, but also that of each others. This is because another person is better able to take an unbiased approach of research that is not their own. Critical analysis of scientific methods can be done at various stages ranging from the first draft of the research to the final method. Friends and colleagues can give their suggestions so as to improve the scientific method before it reaches the eyes of the public. It is better to accommodate criticisms earlier than to leave to public scrutiny (Kuyper 248 - 250).

Healthy criticism can help remove any bias or weakness in carrying out the research. Critical analysis often reveals weaknesses that have gone unnoticed such as an unrepresentative sample, duplication of information or a flawed experiment. Critiquing ensures objectivity, clarity and minimizes disapproval from the public (Kuyper 248-250).

Conclusion

Scientists may be right about the fact that human beings must possess certain qualities to achieve the status of people. However there are exceptions to this: Many human beings do not possess such qualities. These include children, people with disabilities and severely ill human beings. Such incapacities do not disqualify them from the status of being people, and it does not justify any mistreatment or disrespect towards them.

To disregard their ego and take criticism of their ideas is in the best interest of scientists.

Works Cited

  • Scheidel, T. M. Speech Communication and Human Interaction. Scott Foresman/Addison-Wesley. (1972).
  • Shenandoah, L. and Wall, S. To Become a Human Being: The Message of Tadodaho Chief Leon Shenandoah. Hampton Roads Pub Co. (2002).
  • Kuyper, Barbara J. “Bringing Up Scientists in the Art of Critiquing Research.” BioScience, v41 n4 (1991): 248-250. 18 December 2008 <http://bio.classes.ucsc.edu/bio161/Papers/critiquing%20research%20papers.doc>.
  • Stendall, R. “Mindset Management - How Strong is Your Ability to Reason and Get Everything You Want in Life?” 10 December 2008. Ezine Articles. 18 December 2008 <http://ezinearticles.com/?Mindset-Management---How-Strong-is-Your-Ability-to-Reason-and-Get-Everything-You-Want>.

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