This idea has always alluded me, I've always seen my kind as just another extension of branches on the tree of life. Bound together with all other living things on this planet. When someone says Human being, I immediately think either Mammal or Great Ape because we are defined as both.
So what makes us so special? Well there are many theories or opinions on this matter, but for the sake of simplicity I'll deal with a few main ones.
Human beings have the ability to create things!
Yes, this is a true statement. However, people neglect to associate this coined "Human" quality with other animals. There is much work done with other primates which show that they have the ability to both make and use tools effectively with purpose. Some interesting ones which come to mind are sponges made from leaves, hammer stones, and (my favorite) spears used to hunt and kill monkeys. These creations tend to carry on within troops through generations.
Humans have morality!
This one really gets to me, because morality is such ambiguous term which is so subjective to the culture one is accustomed to that there is no clear definition. For instance a highly Christian sense of morality would probably be very disturbed by the morality set of a tribe in New Guinea. This whole morality idea to me seems very fallacious. Many Human made groups accuse other Humans of being immoral, so if Human beings are moral creatures by definition... why does this not make sense?
I like to use the example that Animals are subject to the same evolutionary laws as we are, killing each other is deemed a bad thing for animals in groups. For solitary Animals, it is less of an issue. So why is it that it isn't okay to kill people in a mall, but to travel to some other land and kill someone else in the name of some greater good. Human is Human, one can't pick and choose who is more Human or not.
Animals do not comprehend concepts!
Well, this is true, mostly. Some animals have a better grasp on things non-instinctual than others. We happened to evolve away from such things, but there is much evidence showing that some Animals do understand. Primates in particular have the ability to trick, lie, and with hold information to benefit themselves or for other reasons. These a big concepts, and shows a great deal of intellectual ability to intend to do an action with reason to get a result.
I'll leave these with you, I personally don't think Humans are any more special than any other animal. Our purpose remains the same, to continue generations and survive. We've not even been on the block for very long, so we have a long way to go before we can even start claiming superiority in that regard.
Well, it has been fun. A little heavy but fun.