Mark Twain, Dopamine Expert

by Charles Lyell on June 8, 2013

“Since the Moral Sense has but the one office, the one capacity (to enable man to do wrong) it is plainly without value to him. It is as valueless to him as is disease. In fact, it manifestly is a disease.”     – Mark Twain

In 1906 Samuel Clemens published “What Is Man?” In his story Twain offered a bleak opinion of mankind by setting up a lopsided dialog between a dogmatic old man (O.M.) and a skeptical young man (Y.M.). The O.M. starts by stating that man is a machine and nothing more. According to the geezer, man is lower than any mammal and beneath the ants. Everything man does is determined by training and temperament. Man possesses neither free will nor the capacity to understand that he doesn’t have free will. As the O.M. explains, our minds control us so effectively we never suspect we’re incapable of controlling our minds.

Twain was concerned his essay would be met with howls of indignation and when his apprehensions proved unwarranted he was more than a little disappointed. It appears the author didn’t realize how spot-on he was. So much so he overlooked the possibility readers wouldn’t get insulted, enraged, or even care because they were machines who lacked the free will required to comprehend what Twain was trying to explain.

Clemens couldn’t have known it but he was diagnosing dopamine-induced addictions and dopamine-induced madness (DIM). He was so ahead of his time that he surmised a disease was making humans behave like chimpanzees.

The man had an inquisitive mind. He was intrigued by scientific breakthroughs and shared his interests with a friend, Nikola Tesla. If Clemens were alive today he would be fascinated with PET and fMRI research. After spending decades writing about DIM (without realizing it) Twain might even incorporate what he learned into a work of fiction.

Surely, the world’s most famous nicotine addict would find an interesting way to explain why all addictions are dopamine addictions and how dopamine addiction is a curable brain disease that has turned into the pandemic to end all pandemics.


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