What sets "us" apart from the rest of the universe?
Dead things don’t reason, choose, or act. They just react. They are mindless assemblages of particles which only respond slavishly to the impulses given them.
Dumb animals don’t reason, choose, or act. They just behave. They are non-rational expressions of genes which only serve reflexively the end of propagating those genes.
Humans and any other animals who have evolved reason are assemblages of particles as well; and we are also expressions of genes. But crowning all of this, we also have reason, will, and action.