Michael Gazzaniga in Edge:
The great psychologist David Premack once lamented, “Why is it that the (equally great) biologist E.O Wilson can spot the difference between two different kinds of ants at a hundred yards, but can’t see the difference between an ant and a human?” The quip underlines strong differences of opinion on the issue of human uniqueness. It seems that half of the scientific world sees the human animal as on a continuum with other animals and others see a sharp break between animals and humans, see two distinct groups. The argument has been raging for years and it surely won’t be settled in the near future. After all, we humans are either lumpers or splitters. We either see the similarities or prefer to note the differences.
At the same time, I hope to illuminate the issue from a particular perspective. I think it is rather empty to argue that because, say, social behavior exists in humans and in ants, there is nothing unique about human social behavior. Both the F-16 and the piper cub are planes, both obey the laws of physics, both can get you from place A to place B, but both are hugely different and unique. I want to begin by simply recognizing the huge differences between the human mind and brain and other minds and brains and see what structures, processes, and capacities are uniquely human.
It has always been a puzzle to me why so many neuroscientists become agitated when someone raises the question of whether or not there might be unique features to the human brain. Why is it that one can easily accept that there are visible physical differences that make us unique, but to consider differences in our brains and how they work is so touchy?