Human evolution and the Human Ego

Zsolt Hermann
5 min readAug 6, 2020

Opinion from the Internet on Human history and the use of the ego:

“Why don’t we say that we are just stupid, devoid of any substantial scientific thinking capability which is 99.999% of the world.

I would like to add a couple of references: How Hunter-Gatherers Maintained Their Egalitarian Ways
If this is true, evolution did originally produce a human society, with a brain genetically like ours, that was clearly non-egotistical.

Second: In messy human civilization there are exceptions to almost everything.

In music, ego must be overcome to create great beauty. Nearly a hundred musicians, their teachers, the instrument makers, their teachers, the conductor and his teachers and of course, the composer and his teachers. The musicians must perform in perfect unison attuned to the spirit of the composer and the conductor and the soloist and conductor must agree on their conceptions of the music to achieve greatness, despite the probably large (strong, which is different) egos of the soloist and conductor.”

Since you and someone else mentioned the “hunter-gatherers” as an example of “selfless, natural” behavior, I try to give you a wider picture on Human evolution according to the Natural science I am studying:

According to what we know about evolution, hominoids appeared about 25–30 million years ago.
From these original hominoids, chimpanzees and early humans separated about 4–8 million years ago.

As I understand we are very close to chimpanzees (our DNA matches over 99%) we didn’t evolve from them but we have a so-far unidentified common root.

Still during 4–8 million years chimpanzees developed, changed very little, while Humans reached the Moon, put probes on Mars, and of course, wrote and play music like Chopin and Rachmaninov for example.

What happened?

There are two species with almost identical DNA, born from the same system, in exactly the same Natural environment, receiving the same environmental factors. What’s the difference?

Humans at some point became self-aware, at a certain point Humans started to feel “outside of”, independent of the Natural system, differentiating between themselves and Nature and later even between themselves in a way that never happens in other animals not even in apes.

Another person tried to explain this with the effects.

“Yes because Humans started to develop agriculture, moved on”…why?! “Because they were overpopulated”. Why?! “We become like what we have become as a result of the societies, education, culture we live in”. But who built those societies, education, culture? We did! Why?! You say democracy is failing and Trump appears as a result. But who caused democracy to fail and who elected Trump? We did (in this case the Americans). Why?!

Animals stay within their habitat, they are instinctively part of Nature’s circle of life, they don’t accidentally overpopulate as Nature then takes care of it in different ways to restore balance, where each species have to act as individual cells in a single body for life to be sustained.

But not Humans.

In Humans as a result of the self-awareness, sensing themselves as outsiders in Nature, feeling dependant on Nature and each other, they started fearing Nature (with a much deeper fear then animals) and developed a desire to control, exploit Nature. And as this desire grew, Humans started to become more and more effective in exploiting, using, destroying not only Nature but each other as well.

What is the “ego”?

It is a very unique Human desire for constant, ever-growing self-fulfillment, way beyond Natural necessities. And since we are social creatures and constantly compare ourselves to others, we want to have more, better than others so we can feel ourselves higher and we can control, exploit others.

This has driven Human development to the level where we are today, without this insatiable desire for more, for control, for greatness we would be exactly where the chimpanzees are today.

Everything else - society, religion, culture, economy, our historic vicious cycles, our present threatening crisis - are the effects of this cause, the excessive, all-conquering, all-consuming Human desire.

This is neither evil nor it is a sin.

Evolution gave us this desire to facilitate our development towards our evolutionary Human purpose: to become conscious, independent observers, partners of Nature’s perfect system.

This all-encompassing Human desire has a variety, multiple levels as Maslow also established.

Very simply we are driven by the instinctive desires of food, sex, family, and socially developed desires of wealth, control, fame, and knowledge. Our individual uniqueness is expressed in the unique combination of these desires. But the bottom line, the fuel is the same: we can only act if we receive selfish fulfillment for it - and the rewards can be very subtle, almost imperceptible.

You love music and consider playing music a selfless act. We simply can’t even move a finger - not even Krystian Zimerman -unless we are rewarded for it. If you or Krystian was asked to play something you really don’t like, without any payment, for an audience you don’t like, and you are neither rewarded nor punished (in any way, not even with emotional blackmailing) whether you say yes or no, it is very likely you decline the request.

And you wouldn’t be evil, you simply follow the very simple, instinctive calculations according to our initial program.

The problem is that this inherent program has become self-destructive in today’s global, integral system - evolution pushed us into. Thus it doesn’t matter what we think about our instinctive program. If we don’t change we will not survive.

But we can’t change unless we know what we need to change!

As long as we refuse to look at how we are making calculations, what desires, intentions drive us, if we still think it is only certain people, parties, nations, cultures or religions that need changing while we can remain as we are, we will continue to fail and progress towards a “mutually assured” self-destruction.

This is why studying ourselves and finding the - evolutionary, purposeful - ego behind everything we do is necessary.

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Zsolt Hermann

I am a Hungarian-born Orthopedic surgeon presently living in New Zealand, with a profound interest in how mutually integrated living systems work.