Evolved Homo Sapiens (and the frustrated “ID”)

As we move further into the 21st century, shared delusions about human complementarity with robots, “artificial intelligence”– or even the bizarre fantasy of a forthcoming “trans-human” fusion with AI (Ray Kurzweil’s “Singularity” [efn_note] It is hardly coincidental that Kurzweil has worked as Director of Engineering at Google..[/efn_note] ) — are becoming all-pervasive.  In a previous article, “Homo Sapiens: Not a Machine!,” I offered a trenchant critique of this growing technophilia, with its false definition of the human organism as just another machine.  Furthermore, in my article “The Blank Slate: A Liberal-Totalitarian Dogma,” I warned of the now-prevailing notion that human behavior is entirely programmable (rather than directed by bio-psychological drives).

For decades now, post-modernist academics have indoctrinated students in the notion that scientific claims about a shared human bio-psychology are intrinsically biased and reductionist, and that a universal human nature does not exist(!). We may recall that Orwell and others repeatedly warned that, when an absurdity is repeatedly proclaimed indefinitely (and when there are sanctions against skeptics), most people will eventually come to believe it.

Admittedly, in the nineteenth century the deliberate distortion of Darwin’s thought into a pernicious Social Darwinism was used to justify a brutal capitalism (Herbert Spencer’s “survival of the fittest), and with it came rationalizations for racist and sexist policies. [efn_note]See: Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1944.[/efn_note]  But in our present time, the ideology that humans are programmable machines, rather than biological organisms with drives and needs, is entirely compatible with a totalitarian Corporate State.

In the 18th century, the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus introduced a brilliant taxonomic system for Kingdom Animalia.  Although not explicitly Darwinian in its design, his system seemed to indicate that species emerged from ancestral larger groups (and therefore that an evolutionary process of “descent” produced new species).  When Darwin, having spent twenty-years of painstaking research, finally published Origin of the Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), the ensuing heated debate and uproar testified to a very real Scientific Revolution in the understanding of what human beings really are–and where they came from.  Christian theologians were outraged and aghast: was the whole story of Creation in the Book of Genesis to be discarded?  (Unfortunately not: it certainly survives today, notably re-marketed as Creation “Science.”)

Within Linnaeus’ static taxonomy was the clear implication of evolutionary change over time (as later explained in Darwin’s theory of natural selection).  Over vast geological periods, Kingdom Animalia became subdivided into vertebrates and non vertebrates. Within the former eventually emerged several Classes, Mammalia being the one relevant to this article (intra-uterine gestation, lactation, four-chambered heart, etc.).  But various Orders of mammals were to gradually branch off, among them Order Primates (grasping hands with opposable thumb, prolonged dependency of offspring, binocular vision, etc.).   And from there?  Several million years ago, the Family of Hominids further split, one line leading to our genus Homo and later Homo sapiens (bipedal locomotion, freed hands for tool-use, dramatically enlarged cerebral cortex, and concealed ovulation). [efn_note]But see:  William C. Manson, “Sexual Cyclicity and Concealed Ovulation.”  Journal of Human Evolution, vol. 15, pps. 21-30, 1986.[/efn_note]

By the mid-20th century, education and public knowledge not only recognized that humans are first and foremost an animal species, with specific drives and needs, but also that Freud’s emphasis on the primacy of our drive-psychology–and the neurotic consequences of its denial and repression–was valid. [efn_note]For example, Desmond Morris’s bestseller,The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal. McGraw-Hill, 1967.[/efn_note]  Sadly, our society has by now regressed to the extent of ignoring our animal origins and nature.  Classical Freudian theory is now completely out-of-fashion.

In classic psychoanalytic theory, the primal core of our survival-oriented drives was simply labeled the “id” (latin).  This designation was chosen by James Strachey, the preeminent translator of the complete Standard Edition of Freud’s writings.  The “id,” hardly mysterious, is nothing more than a label for the combined survival-drives dominating human motivation (hunger, sex/reproduction, aggressive drive to master the natural world and its threats, etc.).  (Oddly, even in popular psychoanalytic books, it is often confused with Freud’s conception of “the Unconscious,” which by definition contains material which we have repressed, such as forbidden desires and fantasies and traumatic memories, and which only come to our awareness through our dreams, Freudian slips, and “free associations”).

How much time do we as humans actually devote to subconscious sexual fantasies, efforts to find an intimate sexual partner (so as to assuage the urgent frustration of unfilled sexual desire), as well as to aggressive outlets in violent sports (and TV) and in domination and control of others, including animals? [efn_note] The current Incel Movement sadly attests to the magnitude of sexual frustration at present, as especially voiced by celibate young men.[/efn_note]

It is simply incredible that, with the exception of our present-day acceptance of homosexuality, the primacy of sexual drives and needs has become an almost–taboo subject.  Seemingly a throwback to Puritan asceticism, the prevailing attitude today just assumes that the “human machine,” however inadequate in its struggle to overcome “irrational” emotions and urgent desires, will eventually conform entirely to, and even fuse with, systemized Artificial Intelligence.


Intellectual historian and psychoanalytic anthropologist, William Manson (Ph.D., Columbia) has published numerous scholarly books and papers, and is a longtime contributor to Dissident Voice. Read other articles by William.