The universe is constructed from a multitude of various materials. It is dynamic in form and shape due to a multitude of various processes and interactions between these materials. To the human, however, in his need to establish his place and purpose in the universe, the most important material is biological and the most important process is evolution, far it is only here that the human can learn to understand himself, an understanding that is vital to his survival.
Wise men, psychologists, philosophers and theologians have surmised and conjectured about the human over the centuries, and still do, but the truth about the human may be found only through factual knowledge. That factual knowledge lies in a process called evolution. The human is what evolution made him.
Man has been a tribal animal since he first walked erect, more than four million years ago. With the impediment of being bipedal, he could not out-climb or outrun his predators. Only through tribal cooperation could he hold his predators at bay.
For two million years, the early hominid was a herd/tribal animal, primarily a herd herbivore. During the next two million years the human was a tribal hunter/warrior. He still is. All of the human's social drives developed long before he developed intellectually. They are, therefore, instinctive. Such instincts as mother-love, compassion, cooperation, curiosity, inventiveness and competitiveness are ancient and embedded in the human. They were all necessary for the survival of the human and pre-human. Since human social drives are instinctive (not intellectual), they can not be modified through education (presentation of knowledge for future assimilation and use). As with all other higher order animals, however, proper behavior may be obtained through training (edict and explanation followed by enforcement).
The intellect, the magnitude of which separates the human from all other animals, developed slowly over the entire four million years or more of the human development. The intellect is not unique to the human, it is quite well developed in a number of the other higher animals. The intellect developed as a control over instincts to provide adaptable behavior. The human is designed by nature (evolution) to modify any behavior that would normally be instinctive to one that would provide optimum benefit (survivability). This process is called self-control or self-discipline, and is the major difference between the human and the lower order animals, those that apply only instinct to their behavioral decisions. Self-discipline, therefore, is the measuring stick of the human. The more disciplined behavior (behavior determined by intellect) displayed by the individual, the more human he becomes. The less disciplined behavior (behavior in response to instinct) displayed by an individual, the more he becomes like the lower order animals that are lacking in intellect and are driven by their instincts.
Concluding this story without giving tribute to an enigma in our history would not be proper. The Homo sapiens neandertalensis does not quite fit in our story. They probably came from far northern Europe, the descendants of an ancient Homo erectus tribe, a tribe that had migrated to that region many hundreds of thousands of years before. They had many physical characteristics of the modern Eskimo, who is well tuned to arctic living. They were stocky, almost massive, in build. The males were about 5'6" tall but they were much heavier and stronger than modern man. They had the large pronounced cheeks usually associated with cold weather adaptation. They walked as erectly as modern man. Their tools paralleled the coexisting Homo sapiens sapiens, but it is not known who copied. Although lacking a forehead, they had brains that averaged 1450cc, about 8% larger than modern man. They were the first to bury their dead, complete with flowers and artifacts. Were they cunning beasts? Or were they gentle and intelligent people? And what happened to them? Were they of the same species and their genes disappeared into a much larger pool? Or, (the most likely) did they get in the way of the early Homo sapiens sapiens and were simply exterminated? Late evidence in a study of the DNA from fossil remains seem to indicate that the neandertal was not assimilated into the gene pool of modern man.