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Yes! Now there is a Darwinian explanation of suicide

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Darwinian evolution can explain everything and its opposite, so why not suicide? Well, just watch:

Most controversially, Soper proposes that mental illness itself can be a safeguard against suicide. He suggests certain mental disorders are associated with suicide because they were designed by natural selection to be last-line defenses against it. For example, he argues that the lack of initiative that accompanies depression may help prevent suicidal acts.

That argument is plausible for some kinds of depression, says Riadh Abed, who chairs the Royal College of Psychiatrists’s evolutionary psychiatry group in London. But he and some other psychiatrists are skeptical of Soper’s arguments about other disorders—for example, that compulsive drug use and addiction can sometimes dull unbearable pain and so may reduce suicides.

Even Shackelford says such ideas need more testing, and other scholars find them fringe. One critic is psychologist and leading suicidologist Thomas Joiner of Florida State University in Tallahassee. Joiner’s interest deepened during his graduate school years, when his father died by suicide, and he has explored suicide’s evolution because, like Soper, he thought the resulting understanding could help patients. But Joiner vehemently disagrees that suicidal behavior is a result of a natural human condition.

Elizabeth Culotta, “Have humans developed natural defenses against suicide?” at Science

Wow. It’s amazing what passes for insight among evolutionary psychologists. How would it help anyone decide how to help a depressed person? Read the whole thing for sure. It gets into beehives and such.

Note: Here’s the problem in a nutshell: Suicide is only possible as a behavior because human beings comprehend the abstract idea of death. An animal that kills another animal need not have any idea of death; he kills to fulfil his needs and thinks nothing in particular. He may be distressed when a herd mate dies (cf elephants) but does not have theories about it. One cannot really understand the human propensity for suicide apart from an account of the origin of the human mind, that is, the capacity to imagine death in the abstract and the many ideas that follow from that.

See also: “The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote — and shop, and tip at restaurants”

and

The real reason why only human beings speak. Language is a tool for abstract thinking—a necessary tool for abstraction—and humans are the only animals who think abstractly.

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4 Replies to “Yes! Now there is a Darwinian explanation of suicide

  1. 1
    AaronS1978 says:

    Why in the world does suicide exist in the first place

  2. 2
    EDTA says:

    >One critic is psychologist and leading suicidologist Thomas Joiner…

    That would be one depressing job.

    >Why in the world does suicide exist in the first place

    Because existence and consciousness can be mentally painful.

  3. 3
    AaronS1978 says:

    EDTA That’s so metal!

  4. 4
    tjguy says:

    Someone should collect these gems and either publish a book or make a documentary and sell it in the comedy section! Who would have thought that “science” could be so funny and provide so much great entertainment!

    Swallowing the Darwinian story hook, line, and sinker leads to faith in ridiculous just so stories, but the most amazing thing about it is that many actually believe they are doing science when they dream up ridiculous just so scenarios like this.

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