Whether this is an opinion or scientific fact, I am not 100% sure, but the following image is floating around on Facebook, and I found it amusing.

And another way of putting it:

Technically speaking, the only two things in life that give you reason to keep living are dopamine and serotonin.

In other words, that which we call hope is all chemical?

Call me a contrarian, but that makes me want to reach out and embrace despair. (Philosophically, I mean.  I’m still not quite ready to head out for the Japanese suicide forest I read about earlier.)

Anyway, I hate sneaky qualifiers like “technically speaking” as it gives whoever comes up with these slogans too much of an out.

As some of the commenters here make plain.

I hate oversimplified science.

[–]Stair_Car 7 points 1 year ago

Wow that is so depressing.

[–]AMagill 49 points 1 year ago

That just means you don’t have enough of them.

What we call “depression” is seen as wrong, out of balance, something in need of correction. And of course, because this is all chemical, it follows that chemicals of one sort or another are needed to alter the “problem.” These may take the form of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, foods, or they may take the form of activities like sex, exercise, or listening to whatever sensually stimulating music “turns on” a given person. Even love may be nothing more than shameless pursuit of dopamine, as this card suggests:


In the old days, such various, um, pursuits were left up to the individual, but in our modern world, attempts by an individual to cope with the vicissitudes of life without the outside help of “professionals” can be labeled “self medication.” Which itself is seen as at least symptomatic of illness. The modern trend is that the individual has no right to medicate himself. However, if optimizing serotonin and dopamine levels are in fact the goal, and if there are many ways of achieving it, by what standard are some of them to be labeled “bad” while others “good”? If we are talking about controlled substances, goodness or badness is determined solely by the credentials and licensing of the provider. All other self medication is a crime. However, if we are talking about alcohol, tobacco, or coffee, the individual can still self medicate; however, if he admits to doing so to the credentialed classes, he may very well be labeled ill and in need of “professional” medication. As to self medication by exercise or whatever food, music, gambling or the Internet, these are still largely unrestricted, although the credentialed classes would still label many of the people as in need of “help.”

If the Buddhists are right that life is suffering, then might any sort of attempt to optimize serotonin and dopamine levels (whether by the individual sufferer or the credentialed priests entitled to relieve him) be ultimately futile anyway?

I’m reminded of Gerard Van der Leun‘s comment to a comment in M. Simon’s recent post.

Comment:”But I am hopeful.”
Well, as the ancient ones say, “Live in hope, die in despair.”

Hope (often considered optimism) may be a form of self delusion, and it may be a form of self medication. And despair (or pessimism) may be the ultimate form of honesty and realism. If that is the case, then depression may be a healthy response to life. And calling it a “disease” and medicating it may be one of the silliest follies of which humans are capable. Would it not be more healthy to leave the individual alone to do whatever he sees fit? Does not the right to pursue happiness include the right to decide when and where and how to pursue it? Or not?

Whose serotonin and whose dopamine is it, anyway? Like it or not, a good scientific argument can be made that these two substances lie hopelessly and ineradicably at the heart of what lay people might call “happiness.”

How you get there, of course, can vary greatly from person to person. And while Thomas  Jefferson et al. did not know about serotonin and dopamine, they may have had a rudimentary understanding that happiness is what many if not most human beings seek. Hence the declaration that what they called the right to “pursuit of happiness” is an unalienable  right. Well, if we assume an inalienable right to pursue happiness, and if we assume further that what is actually being pursued is serotonin and dopamine, then it would follow that what the founders meant was this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Serotonin and Dopamine.

Is this right still owned by the individual? Or is it been hijacked by a cabal of scientific eggheads, medical statists, and public policy bureaucrats? By breaking down happiness to its essential chemical elements, have scientists thereby gained ownership and or control over it?

The way some people talk, you would almost think so.

While it might be a minor point, I think it is worth noting that a man with a genetic condition leaving him with virtually no serotonin or dopamine was nonetheless found to be not suffering from depression.

How depressing such a condition must be!