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Differences Between Humans and Animals: Buddhism’s Perspective and New Scientific Controversies

Differences Between Humans and Animals: Buddhism’s Perspective and New Scientific Controversies

Yanli Mi

Heroes are the practical people who recognize current tasks (识时务者为俊杰 )

Chinese Proverb

Editor’s Note: Stephen Friberg is visiting Morocco, Turkey, and then the Holy Land for pilgrimage at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa. His blogs will restart on July 22nd. Today’s guest blog is by Yanli Mi, a biophysicist from Szechuan province in China.

June 18th, 2012: Four positions can be offered to discuss the differences between humans and animals:

  1. Humans are the only species created by God, and are blessed with spiritual superiority compared to other animals (theologian’s position).
  2. Both humans and animals are sentient beings whose minds survive death (Buddhist position).
  3. Both humans and animals are and always have been automatons whose minds cease at death (materialist position).
  4. The ape-men were suddenly equipped with souls at an arbitrary date during the evolution process (evolutionist position).

We see humans as different from other animals on four levels: physiologically, mentally, socially and spiritually. However, neither science nor religion knows completely how to distinguish humans from other animals. Neither has advanced far enough to understand the whole of the “divine” connection between human and other animals, although we understood pieces of it.

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The Heroes are the Practical People Who Recognize Current Tasks (识时务者为俊杰 )

The Heroes are the Practical People Who Recognize Current Tasks (识时务者为俊杰 )

Yanli Mi

Heroes are the practical people who recognize current tasks (识时务者为俊杰 ) 

Chinese Proverb

The vast majority of Nobel prize winners have religious beliefs, religious identity and some are even religious professionals. Most Nobel Prize winners from the West have Christian backgrounds. As of 1996, out of 639 Nobel laureates, there were 618 believers and only 21 a-religious laureates (for a reference in Chinese, see http://www.qq.com/). The a-religious are mainly from the former Soviet Union and Eastern European socialist countries.

Among those laureates who were religious, 596 were Christian (including Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox), eight were Jewish, eight were Buddhists, four were Muslims, and two were Hindus. Among the 81 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, religious identity was even more prominent.  This data illustrates the close relationship between modern Western science and Western religion.

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