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Dec 19, 2008



> He believes that long-term depression is a person's built-in mechanism for self-destruction

> if a person is shunned by their friends and relatives, can't hold a job, or otherwise is rejected by society, then they are a drain on the superorganism

Too bad for him that the evidence doesn't even remotely support his theory.

The cause of depression is already known, and has to do with various physical conditions.

It is no more a condition intended to eliminate dysfunctional members of society than AIDS is designed to kill off gays.

Just as AIDS kills people indiscriminately, so does depression. Some of our best and most productive members of society have struggled with depression, and many have been killed by it.

Even the slightest investigation of depression would show that it isn't even slightly selective for dysfunction. Bloom is just thinking aloud, basing his thought on hackneyed stereotypes rather than real reserach.

Wouldn't be the first time.


Does Bloom comment what about all the people with depression who still contribute to society? I did a quick Google search (http://depression.about.com/od/famous/Famous_People_With_Depression.htm) and came up with these names. (I didn't list musicians or actors because there were too many of them!) Many had depression during the time in which they did the most for the macroorganism.

Buzz Aldrin
Diana, Princess of Wales
J.K. Rowling
Mark Roget (creator of the thesaurus)
Mike Wallace
Vincent Van Gogh
Winston Churchill


Hi Keith,

Yes, he does mention that there are plenty of people who have depression that are also very productive. Unforunately, bodies often go wrong and there are many people who experience inappropriate emotions because of a brain dysfunction. However, these cases should probably be ignored when coming up with a general theory.



Hi Stephen,

I just re-read that part of the book and he is refering to the depression that results from isolation from society, not from other causes of depression such as a chemical imbalance.

Apparently isolation and/or uncontrollable punishment are the two things that consistently cause depression in laboratory animals.


Jon Udell

Howard's a fascinating guy, you might also enjoy _The Global Brain_ -- which I interviewed him about here: http://blog.jonudell.net/2008/10/07/a-conversation-with-howard-bloom-about-collective-learning-group-selectionism-and-the-global-brain/.


Hi Jon,

Thanks for the link! I listened to your podcast a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I was particularly impressed by how deeply you had read his work, which made the podcast all the more enjoyable!


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