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That perhaps depression, as well as other mental illnesses that affect the affluent, are nature's way of destroying/slowing down those members of society that threaten the established rate of progression. If a person is no longer mentally enthusiastic about the world in general, the brain begins the process of releasing chemicals that trigger the emotions and thought processes we associate with clinical depression.

This may often be the case when dealing with person's whose visionary genius is a threat to the biological standing of the species at large. Conclusions made so the thinker eliminates any form of hope (i.e., objectivism, atheism, nihilism) leave a person in a mental place where they are no longer of any use to society. They can no longer be a happy, healthy member of the family of man, so biology overrides the programing and hits the self-destruct button. Some people may just be too smart for their own good.

Examples of famous individuals to which this may be applicable? Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut, jr., Ayn Rand, Frida Khalo, Vincent Van Gogh, Zelda Sayre, Eugene O'Neil, Nietzche, Dostoevsky... (this list could seriously go on for ages, these were just off the top of my head) The point is these people are often labeled "ahead of their time," a mutation that often leads to the destruction of the individual unit, even if the species benefits from the change in the future.

This in no way suggests that depression *or* natural selection are part of a conspiracy theory. Crazy is as crazy does. No one listens to the people babbling on street corners for a reason.

Depression isn't limited to intelligent people- a general feeling of uselessness is a common symptom, and the fact that you did think yourself into a hole shows you aren't the brightest crayon in the box. It's a case by case thing.

The purpose of depression isn’t to drive people to suicide (I also disagree with the idea that becoming an atheist is giving up hope but I think that’s another node . .). The purpose of depression is to drive us to be social. Being social leads to happiness, sex and children, so the depressive tendency (when left alone) is selected for. Sometimes people self-isolate or become unable to connect emotionally with others and they get trapped in depression, but I believe that even for these sad people there is a way out.

If we accept the ideas of evolution and natural selection, then we must also accept its unguided purposelessness. The fact that an organism is "capable of" depression does not imply that depression has any use or purpose. It just means that the physical processes of that organism, which have on the whole performed well, can produce depression.

The genetic mechanisms that underlie evolution have a great capability to isolate and treat as independent the different aspects of an organism to be selected for or against. But we must remember that despite this capability, there may be traits that are practically inseparable in their expression in the organism, because these different traits actually arise from the same mechanism. It would make no difference if such traits, inextricably linked, were to differ from each other in their ability to contribute to survival value. Only the sum total of their contribution to survival value would matter.

Asking whether depression has survival value is like asking whether car exhaust serves car manufacturers in any way. Car exhaust is a byproduct of internal combustion engines, which themselves have dominance for historical reasons and because of their power and performance. There is no way to change an internal combustion engine in a small way so as to eliminate car exhaust. Car manufacturers keep making cars that make exhaust because those cars, despite their exhaust, continue to sell well. The trait of exhaust, inextricably linked to the trait of performance as found in the internal combustion engine, cannot be independently selected for or against.

Depression is a byproduct of the current evolutionary configuration of human brains, which themselves have dominance for historical reasons and because of their power and performance. There may very well be no way to change the human brain in a small way so as to eliminate the possibility of depression. Evolution has allowed depression as a trait to continue because humans, despite having possibly depressed brains, continue to reproduce and survive. The possibility of developing depression, potentially inextricably linked to the specific aspects of current human brains that give them their high performance, could not then be selected for or against independently of those aspects.

I would contend it's actually the other way around - that depression is indeed a tool for evolution, that it is beneficial, and confers an advantage, one that we haven't quite learnt how to use yet.

Speaking from personal experience, I don't know very many people who have never been depressed, and I go to university with a lot of rather clever bods, who are constantly being challenged and taught by a bunch of even cleverer bods, who also seem quite depressed at least some of the time. I have found that whenever I am depressed, it actually helps me do maths, or plan out programs, or solve complicated engineering problems.

In fact, I've found that when I'm cheery going into an exam, I do worse than when I'm depressed going in. I think more clearly, I sustain concentration longer, and my answers are more complete, and "astonishingly insightful". (To quote one of my maths teachers, Mr Gambel, who was quite upset to find out I was one of his better students that year, and it was a good year.)

The point is that when we are depressed, what is depressed is our range of emotions, which often interfere with our analytical abilities. Imagine walking over a landscape with hills, rivers, forests, and even mountains.

Interesting isn't it?

Now imagine if all those are gone, and you're walking over flatness. It may be boring, but you certainly will make better time, and have less to destroy your concentration.

The problems come when you aren't able to handle this analytical toolset, and you turn it upon yourself, trying to literally break yourself down into your component parts, and possibly doing intense damage to your own self-esteem in the process (we don't component well, us human beings). And after all, very few critical reviews are entirely positive (except Zaphod Beeblebrox's but that's another story).

Those people who are able to limit this introspection and guide their depressive, and detached mindsets towards constructive things usually don't commit suicide. They go on to prosper and have lots of kids. :-) Or at least give lots of ideas to other people which are beneficial. Anyways, it's just a theory.

BTW, if you are having problems with depression, SEEK MEDICAL HELP Especially if it doesn't lift in a couple of days.

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