A history of instinct prefacing consciousness in our evolutionary past presents an illusion of control in the human world. As we discussed on the topic of free will, the actual merit of control falls more accurately on a continuum with our genetic programming on one end, and our will to influence that programming on the other. And in this struggle of perceived control, one element of programming pervades all of our decisions: our instinct to survive. From where you live, to what you choose for your job, to what you eat, to who you love, there’s a baseline survival instinct guiding our decisions. So before we get to the assisted part of the youth-in-asia discussion, let’s talk suicide and Dean Potter.
How does the behaviour of suicide fit into that instinct to survive? As silly as it may sound at first, suicide can be thought of as an evolutionary adaptive behaviour. As elaborated on in this article, evolutionary neurobiologist, Denys deCatanzaro, quantified, measured, and discovered correlational proof of the following mathematical relationship of suicide:
Ψi = ρi + Σbkρkrk
- Ψi = the optimal degree of self-preservation expressed by individual i (the residual capacity to promote inclusive fitness);
- ρi = the remaining reproductive potential of i;
- ρk = the remaining reproductive potential of each kinship member k;
- bk = a coefficient of benefit (positive values of b k ) or cost (negative values of b k ) to the reproduction of each k provided by the continued existence of i (-1 ≤ b ≤ 1);
- rk = the coefficient of genetic relatedness of each k to i (sibling, parent, child = .5; grandparent, grandchild, nephew or niece, aunt or uncle = .25; first cousin = .125; etc.).
“People are most likely to commit suicide when their direct reproductive prospects are discouraging and, simultaneously, their continued existence is perceived, whether correctly or incorrectly, as reducing inclusive fitness by interfering with their genetic kin’s reproduction.”
Suicide is adaptive when we remember our evolutionary behaviour has it’s foundation set in a social, and not an individual, society structure. So where does Dean Potter fit into this? Lets put or romantic hats on for a second. When Dean Potter continually adventured into unexplored land, eventually diving to his death, people often claim such behaviour as having a suicide wish. But, to me, and I’m guessing yourself too, this is a perfectly poetic life philosophy. One to strive for. One that is truly anti-programming. To keep with the Myth of Sisyphus analogy, instead of suicide at the bottom or in the middle of the hill with no means, energy, or will to keep pushing, Dean Potter went out on top (well, literally speaking, he went out on the bottom). Beyond just pushing yourself to live without fear of death, I think there’s something poetic in the conscious action of taking your own life when you’re at a high Ψ. When you know the book has an ending, it’s more profound to write your own final chapter after conquering whatever you decide was meaningful to you. In the case of Dean Potter, he had already partially written an ending, he just didn’t know when it was being published. For me, I relish the idea of sometime in the future, when I’m content with life, things I’ve done, or have wanted to do, having a goodbye party with my friends and family, and taking the dive to embrace the absurd.
Now on to the whole assisted part of the suicide discussion. You asked a bunch of questions at the end of your post. I’m going to steer away from the ‘resource-allocation-medical-utilitarian’ discussion, and also away from the ‘categorical value of human life versus the right to autonomy’ one, because I think we both are pretty pro-euthanasia/autonomy. But if you are still interested in venturing into that area, here‘s a great debate on the topic. Instead, I’m going to answer your last one. Yes, I would kill you if you asked me to. What’re your conditions?