Senate What is the "best thing" that humans have ever done?

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ghost, Aug 14, 2011.

  1. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Looking at all of our history, what is the "best thing" that humans have ever done?

    Nothing speculative, nothing about our hopes for the future... out of all the things we have certainly already done (or are doing), what has been our "best" moment, achievement, idea, process, action, etc.?

    Is a particular person responsible for it, or are many different individuals all responsible for this same thing, or is a particular group or civilization responsible for it, or is all of humanity responsible for this "best thing"?
  2. Kawphy Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 4
  3. Obi-Zahn Kenobi Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 23, 1999
    star 7
    Risen from the dead.
    Bib Fartuna likes this.
  4. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6

    Red Rose brand Orange Pekoe tea. Nothing better.
  5. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The development of wheat, maize and rice, the domestication of pigs, cows and goats, rank as the greatest achievements of humans. Our modern food supply is still utterly dependent on the technological innovations of stone age societies. No one knows for sure how they did it, we remain somewhat mystified by the chicken/egg paradox of how to develop strains of grain worth cultivating. We're talking at the very least about handing down and refining techniques through many dozens of generations. And men may have been too busy hunting and trading to have been bothered, so likely the technology that made civilization possible was developed and implemented by mere women.
  6. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
  7. firesaber Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2006
    star 3
    survived this long as a species.
  8. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Progress from the dark ages into the age of reason. The father of modern science, Galileo, being the first to user in this new age.
  9. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Compassion for fellow humans.
  10. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    So far we have:

    *Communication (Kawphy)
    *Plant/Animal Domestication (Jabbadabbado)
    *Science (Darth_Yuthura)
    *Compassion (DarthBoba)

    (and I guess, if they wanted, Obi-Zahn Kenobi could amend his to be "Religion" or "Christianity" since not everyone agrees Jesus rose from the dead, and I know he was joking but maybe Jabba-wocky could amend his to be "the United States" or something. firesaber, the human species has actually not been around for that long, and I doubt "no nuclear war" would be the best thing humans have ever done :p)

    I can already see some pro's/con's for each one, but first, would any of you like to explain why that's the "best thing that humans have ever done"? Especially when compared to the others we have come up with so far?
  11. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Well, I'll take a stab with compassion, I suppose.

    To keep a recognizably human society running, you have to be capable of caring about other people besides yourself. The vast majority of animal species have never achieved this; even social animals like lions don't particularly care about much besides passing on genes, and their societal structure reflects that. Humans, on the other hand, have been taking care of members of their social groups since at least the Neanderthals were around; there's human fossils that lost their teeth long before they died or have other injuries that would have left a human or any other animal utterly helpless, but didn't die for years afterwards; this implies that other humans were caring for them even though they were actually somewhat harmful to the tribe, given their inability to hunt or gather for the clan/tribe.

    Thus proving Neanderthal Man had more empathy & compassion than your typical follower of Ayn Rand.

    Humans would probably still have society, based on our bipedalism, large brains, and opposable thumbs, but it would not be the society that (in certain countries, anyway) supports itself literally from birth to death.


    Edit: Just wanted to say that this is a really great thread idea, especially in the face of the (not misguided, sadly) pessimistic environment that typically pervades this forum.
  12. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    [image=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/34/Chocolate02.jpg/220px-Chocolate02.jpg]
  13. Darth Geist Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 1999
    star 5
    You could make a pretty good case for the Internet.
  14. firesaber Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2006
    star 3
    I actually wasn't referring to nuclear war. I was speaking more to the fact that as a species we are an antithesis to what is generally found in nature in that we do not live in harmony with our environment. Most animal/insect/plant life uses resources but somehow also manages to recycle something back in. We only use/take, and what we do offer back isn't fit for most living things. We also make poor living choices. We congregate in areas prone to mass flooding or natural destruction say via volcanoe or wild fire. Most animal life doesn't do that, or knows well enough to get out of dodge prior to an event. We more than any other species have (or will have, depending on whether you subscribe to global warming, et al) the ability to influence the state of the planet.

    Granted, as a species we're not that old, but can an argument be made that our technological advances have accelerated certain footprints and thus the usual time table is relative?

    Again, war(s) wasn't my point, but since you did mention it, do you know another species that conciously chooses to kill millions of itself?
  15. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    That's the idea! It's time to have a constructive, thoughtful discussion debating the best things about us and our history.

    You made a good case for compassion too. Maybe you'll want to explain why you think it's been more valuable for us than some of the other ideas so far? Like communication, science, and agriculture/civilization.


    Could you please make that case? :)


    Have you taken a class in Environmental Anthropology too? ;)

    This is interesting, you're saying it's amazing we've survived this long despite agriculture/civilization, while Jabbadabbado is arguing that that is the very best thing that humans have ever done.

    And I'm not sure about "millions" since I don't think that many exist, but our chimpanzee cousins do sometimes go to war to kill another group over limited resources and take their females, and some chimpanzees are killed or exiled when they kill someone within their own group. I've also seen ants who attack and kill other ants of a different nest. I'm sure many species do this, but humans definitely do this more blatantly and in greater numbers.

    Do you really think our mere survival, despite taking advantage of the environment unlike so many other species, is really the "best thing" about humans and everything we've ever done? And if it is, why do you think we have survived for so long, despite upsetting the natural balance?
  16. firesaber Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2006
    star 3
    Have you taken a class in Environmental Anthropology too?

    what are these classes you speak of? :-B

    This is interesting, you're saying it's amazing we've survived this long despite agriculture/civilization, while Jabbadabbado is arguing that that is the very best thing that humans have ever done.

    Agreed this is a tremendous achievement. The other side of the coin is the impact on HOW we are doing it, especially in modern times. Not taking anything away from it though.

    And I'm not sure about "millions" since I don't think that many exist, but our chimpanzee cousins do sometimes go to war to kill another group over limited resources and take their females, and some chimpanzees are killed or exiled when they kill someone within their own group. I've also seen ants who attack and kill other ants of a different nest. I'm sure many species do this, but humans definitely do this more blatantly and in greater numbers.

    Agreed, it's the scale/effeciency with which we've accomplished that I'm pointing out.

    Do you really think our mere survival, despite taking advantage of the environment unlike so many other species, is really the "best thing" about humans and everything we've ever done? And if it is, why do you think we have survived for so long, despite upsetting the natural balance?


    To be true, I don't know, but that's kinda my point, that we HAVE despite the upset of the natural balance. All other achievements are a direct result of that survival, and our continued survival is sure to bring many more.

    Clearly, just my opinions and again I'm not taking anything away from other posters thoughts.
  17. Asterix_of_Gaul Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2007
    star 5
  18. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Language.

    This is a very significant piece of what has allowed humans to become the dominant species of the planet. Although others can communicate to a degree, language has allowed humans to form and exchange ever more complex ideas than could ever be done via gestures and body language. Somewhat trailing along the lines of compassion, humans could only have formed language if they were able to trust one another. So although compassion and morals are what we first adopted, language is really the crowning achievement of our species in my opinion.

    However I place the adoption of the scientific method somewhat ahead of communication because of the exponential growth of our species since the brilliance of Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, and Darwin graced our civilizations. While many of their contributions may have proved to be less true than they had hoped, individuals such as these really sparked the progress of humanity from the iron age to where we are within only a few hundred years.

    And although I could say more about the environmental impact technology has inflicted upon the world, I'd say our ways of life and survivability have been improved more greatly through science and working as a society than anything else.
  19. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Refrain from nuclear war, regardless of means by which it was avoided (saving an equally destructive catastrophe).

    66 years and counting.

    the human species has actually not been around for that long, and I doubt "no nuclear war" would be the best thing humans have ever done

    I, on the other hand, do not.
  20. MasterDillon Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2010
    star 2
    The best thing that humans have ever done thus far in my opinion was work together to defeat Adolf Hitler, and the Axis powers of WWII. Ever since WWII several countries all across the world are working together more then they ever have in history. Through interaction, and alliances we have become a very advanced race in a very short amount of time. I would also say the formation of the United States in the fact it accomplished the task of proving that a Federal Constitutionial Republic can work,and that the common people don't need a King, or Emperor to govern them. Since then many countries across the world have turned away from monarchies, and developed Republics across the globe. Of course if your Christian the best thing that will ever happen to humanity is yet to happen in which Jesus Christ comes back to Earth, and purges it of evil.
  21. Ichor_Razor Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2004
    star 2
  22. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    I'm not sure about the whole "only humans don't work with environment" angle. Wild populations quite regularly overshoot their carrying capacity. Likewise, animals can profoundly change the environment by merit of their presence alone. What exactly is the basis for your claim?
  23. Kawphy Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 4
    I've spent a great deal of time studying consciousness (philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, etc), and I've recently come to a startling realization -

    The moment that consciousness emerged and the birth of language were the same event.

    Meanwhile, logic itself is deeply entwined with language. I've heard a theory tossed around that the shortest words in any language are the most central words. 'And' 'Or' 'If' 'Not' are awfully short words.

    But the brain isn't a logic machine; it's a pattern recognition machine. The fact of the matter is, your behavior is the output of your brain. And your brain cannot help but perceive your own behavior. Thus, the pattern recognition machine becomes self-referential. Language and Consciousness emerge from that 'strange loop' (as Hofstadter calls it). With language comes (an approximation of*) logic. Logic (rationalism) + Pattern Recognition (empiricism + statistics) = The Scientific Method.

    The Scientific Method was rudimentary at first. And human brains are plagued with 'exploits.' One of the earliest 'derailments' of Science is what Dennett calls 'The Zombic Hunch.' Basically, we're biologically pre-disposed towards dualistic thinking (a la Descartes). This is an artifact of the strange loop.

    Information has been passed from generation to generation through genetics going all the way back to the first DNA. But with the birth of language, culture emerged. Basically, sentient beings capable of communicating linguistically create a 'social environment' that is distinct from the 'natural environment' (though it's still strictly natural). That 'social environment' allows us to pass information down through generations without it being encoded genetically. This allows us to 'stand on the shoulders of giants', which completes the whole 'how did the scientific method come to be' problem. Point of fact, the earliest proto-scientific systems (astrology, alchemy, etc) made the error of anthropomorphizing inanimate matter. This is also a result of the 'zombic hunch.' Churchland argues that this same error occurs in psychology - and that, just as we replaced alchemy with elemental chemistry, we should replace Folk Psychology (the attribution of beliefs, desires and intentions to 'agents') with neuroscience.

    Developments in communication are very significant in this narrative. Spoken word has a problem of 'signal degredation.' Just as in the schoolyard game 'telephone', the message shifts, is distorted and evolves as it progresses through a population. Some useful information inevitably fails to get passed on to the next generation. The written word helped dramatically, but was either 1) difficult (carving stone) or 2) transient (marks in dirt). The invention of paper was HUGE.

    Then the printing press. Now yo
  24. firesaber Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2006
    star 3
    It's all a question of scale. Generally what you see is a localized impact of an eco-system. We have impacted entire geographical areas and all the eco systems contained therein. With the exception of the methane from cow dung argument, there are no other species putting holes in the ozone layer or laying waste to entire other species.

    I guess the easiest way to put it would be look upon the earth with sattelite imagery today, then imagine what it looked like say even a 1000 years ago. Vast swaths of land cleared, the corresponding wildlife that went with it, and that which was nature replaced with what we created, next to none of it actually contributing positively to an ecosystem on any scale.

  25. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Kawphy... that was a very impressive speech you just presented. I've thought along those lines, but never really bothered to put all those ideas together in the same stream.

    I've had a similar 'realization' as well. I once thought at what point in a human's life do they transition from an instinctual animal to a sapient being, and I found that it happened once an infant/toddler recognized language. All sapient/sentient beings use language, as it's a key element in logical operators. 'And', 'or', and 'not' are absolutely critical to this because it's what allows us to designate how a thing relates to our thought process. These are what give us the ability to interpret logic, even if we haven't yet figured out the other elements of a language.

    I've tried to remember my earliest memory and found there was never a time in my life when I didn't understand a language. Because I didn't yet have a perception of time until I was about five, it's hard for me to remember when I became a sapient being. I can remember back to a time before my fifth birthday, but everything before that... I can't remember any of it. Very likely the 'transition period' where we develop as humans is a slow and methodic process, but it's probably when we've mastered logical operators that we officially learn how to communicate.

    It's interesting for you to mention that, considering as we're seeing some of these exact 'evolutions' in animals such as the dolphin, chimps, as well as certain birds. Although primitive compared to us, many of these animals have demonstrated the ability to interpret logic and learn language. Seeing such animals learn these things is absolutely remarkable, considering how intellectually-impaired we once considere