This article is key to an effort to anarchize:body, cognition and senses articles to remove mechanistic bias and authoritarian bias. It should be spread very widely and translated very often, and linked to as often as possible.
- Biology is concerned with basic life processes shared by the human body and what surrounds it, and is not specifically concerned with humans as humans except as examples of genetics and evolution.
- Ecology is the most organized way that humans sense their environment, and how they affect it by their actions. These actions include many (breathing, drinking, eating and defecating) that are absolutely basic to human body survival.
- Economics thus can see the body as consuming what it calls natural resources and generating what it calls waste.
- Ecological and economic views come together in the ecological footprint - the impact of each human body and associated lifestyle on the Earth.
- Anthropology looks at body and brain evolution and is very concerned with the comparison to other homonoids and the hominid body in general. For instance, differences between human and chimpanzee - where there is an overlap with primatology.
- Psychology where body differences in the senses and the mental modules thought to exist in the brain to deal with sensory data are studied - especially in perceptual psychology. Here also there is much comparison with other primate behaviour, but most of these differences are not necessarily only in the body or brain but may come from culture. This is dealt with below.
- Religion has many different views of the body, from a disposable and temporary vessel of the soul, to a temple or house of worship, to a construct of chakras that must be tuned and mastered like a musical instrument to connect to the rest of the universe and understand it on a path to enlightenment or inner peace. These different views also show up in politics.
- Medicine takes the medical view of the body which is as a sort of machine (see mechanistic paradigm) which can be diagnosed and which can be fixed. This too compares the human body with primates, and does primate testing to determine the likely effect of treatments on humans.
Thanks to biology there is no controversy about the genetic and behaviour similarities between the human body and that of its near relatives. Over 98% of human DNA is also found in other hominid species. By comparison to those, the human body has the following traits:
- It is suspectible to influenza, unlike the bonobo.
- Unlike the orang-utan it is carnivorous and seems to have more expressive and thus social capacity - most humans prefer group activity to the long lone episodes orang-utans prefer in the wild. For a long time it was thought that orang-utans had no culture at all, but it now appears that humans destroyed the orang culture, so the social difference may be due to "who survived the diaspora".
- Unlike the gorilla it seems to have much less dimorphism - human males and females are closer to the same size than gorillas.
As these differences suggest, the human body is closest to that of the chimpanzee, sharing over 98.4% of its DNA. The major differences with chimps, thus the unique human body and brain capacities, seem to be:
- Less agile human feet, although, some humans without arms have learned to play the violin and dress themselves only with their feet (proving the difference is probably cultural, with only the longer chimp toes being genetic).
- Vocal chords and voice box capable of more expressive sound - basic to human language ability - chimps seem not to be able to form words with their mouths and throats.
- Pattern matching intelligence, as measured by IQ test, of an average IQ of 100, whereas chimps score lower, but not much lower.
- Symbolic processing ability much more like that of a computer which chimps seem to lack above basic arithmetic. See human mind for more on this issue.
- A theory of mind which lets human children reliably lie after about four and a half years of age.
- A larger brain relative to body size, which seems to have been limited by the size of the female human pelvis to bear children.
- A shorter weaning period - other homonids continue to breast feed as late as seven to years old. This is probably cultural, as human children can continue to drink breast milk until quite old. To substitute animal milk is also very common in human cultures. Studies of human children and chimp children raised together suggest that they are about equal until the age of two or three, after which the humans learn language and rapidly pull forward in their mental development. The chimps however focus then on physical development. It is hard to say how much of the major differences between older homonoid bodies and brains, and our own modern ones, were just a product of selective breeding. For instance the human body is mostly hairless except for strange patches remaining in pubic areas, underarms, male chest, male face, and on the head of both genders. It appears that this evolved because human health is easier to determine with a clear view of the whole human body minus the hair. However the hair itself retains pheromones that are an important mating signal. And healthy hair indicates more robust health. So the higher awareness of humans to health factors seems to have been what made us lose most of our hair. Likewise a preference for younger females among males may have led to what is called neotony - a younger appearance even into later life, including a larger head and hairless face, higher voice, and constant sexual arousal. These traits continue to be aroused by advertising and pornography which train human males to be very aware of younger female sexuality, and which train human females to cater to it as a way to achieve attention and status in mating. So it seems unlikely that the differences between male and female human bodies will become less over time.
If these trends continue, there will be more dimorphism as human females become smaller and cuter (an objective idea according to psychologists) and seem to be younger for longer, and males become larger and more cunning at getting new resources to impress them with. This would make humans more like the gorilla ultimately.
Another view is that the human body is somehow not needed any more and can be replaced with a robot body or just brains kept alive in liquid. This view is common in science fiction and ideology such as transhumanism which promotes human cloning and also nanotechnology as ways to improve or replace the human body soon. One criticism is that this is a "body hating" view and that it is an attempt to deny what we share in common with other primates.
Most people do feel more kinship with other hominids than with robots or computer programs, human stem cells or even a human fetus. Empathy seems to be more based on body similarity than on genetic similarity, and on the belief that the body feels. The mechanistic paradigm however says empathy is not important, and allows experiments that would cause terrible pain and suffering on humans to be conducted on chimps. Some think it also allows them to be killed and even eaten, acts which would be called genocide or cannibalism if they were carried out on human bodies by other humans, rather than being carried out on hominid bodies by humans.
For these and many other reasons, the human body will remain a very controversial thing to study and to state strong opinions about. A major issue is that in medicine most studies have been on males not females, and that some disease is poorly understood because of that. In some cultures female bodies get less treatment because of religious taboos trying to prevent adultery or other sexual contact between doctor and patient. One way around this is to train many women as doctors and nurses so they can deal with women's problems. Then when you have a problem with your own body, you are going to someone with a similar body who knows about its differences and problems. And, perhaps, has some more empathy.