Now that long-held conventional wisdom about the link between serotonin levels and depression has proven to be a flop, the “authorities” are flipping the script. So, all those mood-altering SSRI drugs weren’t very efficacious after all. Pity that an entire generation of MDs, pharma reps, school counselors, politicians, and uncritically-minded parents will now have to rethink the meaning of their past lives.
Rather than confront, you know, the actual causes of depression, our esteemed experts devised pills, whose perceived efficacy was likely derived as much from the placebo effect as from any actual benefit.
But this is not about SSRIs or flip-flopping “science.” It’s about the perpetual, overly fearful reliance on “authority” figures to figure out our lives for us. The narrative goes something like this: Humans are imperfect (if not outright broken) machines that need fixing; “experts” in their respective fields are the only ones qualified to do the fixing; there is no questioning of these “experts,” and to do so is to be “anti-science.” It’s about thinking we know better than our bodies, about our inability to let go of what we think is right or best or proper. It’s about setting arbitrary standards of what it means to be and using them to measure all experience.
By analogy, think of the 1997 film Contact. After receiving instructions from an alien race on how to build some kind of transport device, the big science brains decide to alter the plans and add a harness that will ostensibly protect Jodie Foster during her journey, assuming that the alien plans are flawed.
During her tumultuous journey, the heroine realizes that something is off (starts about 2:55 in the clip). She then has the good sense to detach from her unessential harness, realizing that the whole thing was useless, that the safety measure was never needed.
Coming back to the junk science of SSRIs, “experts” assumed people got depressed because they were “chemically imbalanced,” and therefore needed fixing. They were never interested in what may well be the true causes of depression, only fixing perceived problems. If our society really wants to do something about depression, perhaps we should explore meaningful work for all rather than an economy of bullshit jobs. Perhaps we should focus on strengthening familial and community bonds to combat the alienating effects of an insipid mass consumer culture. Perhaps we should reforge our ancient connections to spirit or (gasp!) God, rather than submit to the atheistic, lifeless decrees of a scientismic dictatorship. Atheists are devout believers, too; they just believe in their intrinsic, materialistic deadness.
As far as SSRIs are concerned, rather than fixing anything, it seems more like the fix was in.
Will the “experts” apologize for ruining countless lives, for rewiring innumerable brains, and doing absolutely nothing to “cure” depression? Of course not. That’s not how “science” works. But one thing they will do is come up with something else to fix what ails us.
Doestradamus predicts that we will again believe them when they tell us X will fix Y. We already have. MRNA biologics, anyone? Puberty blockers and hormone therapies? How long will it take to prove that these fixes are flops just like the depression cure-alls? How many lives will be ruined by today’s “experts” assuring us we can eradicate microbes or permanently cure adolescence?
Fear, confusion, and self-loathing continue to guide us. As long as we try to defeat them they will grow stronger and we will lose. We must turn and face our demons, unafraid, like the apocryphal tale of a younger Socrates who, as the Athenians were being routed by their rival Spartans, stood by his injured friend Alcibiades; rather than run from the enemy in fear, he turned and faced them, and the oncoming Spartans, thinking this particular hoplite and his injured companion were under the protection of a god, gave them a wide berth and did them no harm.
Perhaps we never killed God as a syphilitic Nietzsche so long ago claimed. Perhaps we’ve only succeeded at killing that part of ourselves that dared to believe we are something more than we know.