adaptive suicide

Rob Quinlan (C611417@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU)
Wed, 26 Oct 1994 11:49:48 CDT

1. John Ford's posting on this subject brings up some very interesting points.
But I think his critique of my suicide hypotheses as ethnocentric loses some of
its sting when followed by an essentially functionalist interpretation. E.g.
"Group cohesion is above the interests of the individual." IMO for the good of
the group explanations are no less ethnocentric than evolution.

2. Sorry for splitting hairs, but . . . adaptive refers to things that
increase an individual's genetic representation in future generations relative
to the genetic representation of others. There is no morality here unless you
put it there. Adaptive means good to Western minds through a series of value
judgements not intended by evolutionists. That is, adaptive-success-goodness-
moral may go together in someone's mind, but not mine. Conversely, maladaptive
-failure-malness-immoral is the opposing value cluster. I wonder if this
Calvinoid association might be at the heart of much reticence to accept bio-
social arguments?

3. What is the meaning of suicide in particular cultural contexts? I think
this is a really good question. I bet it means different things to different
people depending on their relationship to the victim. It should mean grief for
relatives whose intensity should be a function of the reproductive value (RV)
of the victim and the coeffecient of relatedness of the relative (r). This
should hold true across cultures. For the victim suicide most likely means
an improvement in status for himself or his family (imagined or not), a
reduction of the costs of a burden to kin, or the end of pain. I don't think
many people in any culture kill themselves w/ the idea of going to a worse
place or w/ the idea of dishonoring one's family. Such behavior would be
truly spiteful. I think in all cultures human minds work about the same way.

4. I don't think politically motivated suicides make a good sample, because
they are relatively infrequent (and they may fit my model anyway).

5. We can ad the Siriono nomads (Holmberg 1950) to the list of people who leave
the elderly behind when they are a burden. Not quite the same as suicide, but

Rob Quinlan