Sentences to ponder

by on March 27, 2015 at 1:21 pm in Philosophy | Permalink

From Will Wilkinson:

Reminder: The much greater mystery is why people don’t go on shooting sprees or crash planes on purpose ALL THE TIME.

1 Lord Action March 27, 2015 at 1:36 pm

If this is a joke, it’s in bad taste.

If it’s serious, it’s really stupid. Those things are in part suicides, and it’s pretty obvious why anything that evolved is going to be pretty averse to suicide.

2 Abe Froman March 27, 2015 at 1:57 pm

It’s not a joke. And its very thoughtful actually…

The world’s population is around 6.5billion people. If .0001% of the population went crazy and commandeered a gun or a plane each year or some other horrible, you’d be looking at 650,000 mass killing episodes each year.

3 Lord Action March 27, 2015 at 2:12 pm

The set of people who want to murder is small. The set of people who want to commit suicide is small. The overlap between the two sets is really small. Which is just as you’d expect.

The combination should be a really small fraction of suicides and a really small fraction of murders, which it is.

4 Anon March 27, 2015 at 5:11 pm


And it will be a tragedy that “Mental illness” will have one more notch of stigma attached after this.

5 Turkey Vulture March 27, 2015 at 9:53 pm

The fraction of human males (esepcially in the 15-35 age range) who have moments where they would like to murder someone, and would do so if there were no threat of punishment (from God, State, or conscience) is not small.

6 Lord Action March 27, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Are you really sure it’s not a joke? ‘Cause it’s mind-blowingly stupid if it’s not a joke.

If it’s a joke, he should just apologize and try to move on.

7 Jack smith March 27, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Apologize for what? An unfunny joke? Go drink jizz you sissy

8 Ray Lopez March 27, 2015 at 2:51 pm

But 0.0001% is one in ten thousand, that’s a very high rate. More realistic, if one in a billion people have the wherewithal to go crazy with a gun and shoot lots of people (which is harder than it looks, since spraying people with a machine gun, unless you are skilled, won’t hit them, and unless you have a captive audience, it’s hard to kill lots of people with a gun), then you would get about 7 mass murder episodes a year, which sounds about right. So the issue is why we only get one or two episodes every year rather than about 7, which is a far less dramatic question.

9 Dude March 28, 2015 at 9:13 am

Less dramatic tweets don’t get as much attention. 🙂

10 M April 2, 2015 at 12:12 pm

No mass shooter has ever used a machine gun.

11 J March 27, 2015 at 2:52 pm

I don’t know why everybody is getting all bent out of shape about that tweet. I also thought it was thoughtful for precisely the reason you just said.

I think people just find the implication disturbing and so are getting touchy.

12 Daniel in Va March 27, 2015 at 3:30 pm

.0001% is one in one million. So, 6,500.

13 JG March 30, 2015 at 4:10 pm

All this shows is that people are really bad a large numbers and small numbers.

Take 10 seconds:

A) Estimate the odds that you’ll die on a single 30 mile drive.

B) What is the value this would have to reach for you to be unwilling to drive?

If we call C the real value, my guess is that you’ll have a tough time picking a value such that A C and that you wouldn’t already be dead based on the value for C you picked. This doesn’t prove anything other than real numbers with large multiples are hard and you need time to think about it. 0.0001% is just a made up number that means nothing.

14 Pshrnk March 27, 2015 at 2:41 pm

41,149 suicides in the U.S. in 2013.

15 Lord Action March 27, 2015 at 3:06 pm

And there were about 14,000 murders. (41k/US population)x(14k/US population) = about 5 in a billion.

There are subtleties which make that math not exactly right, but basically that’s why it’s rare.

16 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2015 at 3:35 pm

It must be wonderful to live in a country where much more people are killed by themselves than by strangers. It must be interpersonal trust is high.

17 Lord Action March 27, 2015 at 4:01 pm

I’m sure you’re very proud to live in a country where more people are murdered than commit suicide. Presumably that’s why interpersonal trust there is low.

Though, of course, the more-suicides-than-murders pattern is pretty much the norm in developed nations.

18 Larry Siegel March 27, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Interpersonal trust in the U.S. is not all that high, but after the huge increase in crime in the 1960s to 1980s, we began to take law enforcement seriously. We have a large number of people in prison, and it’s hard to commit crimes against non-prisoners when you’re in prison.

19 Dan Lavatan March 27, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Well, as Tyler noted they are padding the stats. If you get murdered in Japan, they aren’t going to write it up that way.

20 Doug March 27, 2015 at 4:26 pm

You’re assuming that the probability of someone being a murderer or wanting to commit suicide is independent. Many people avoid committing murder because they fear the consequences, if one’s intending to kill one’s self than that’s not an issue. We’d expect people about to commit suicide having a much higher tendency to kill. And that’s not even factoring in the consideration that most suicides involve highly emotionally disturbed people.

21 Lord Action March 27, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Yeah, I’m not an idiot. OTOH, my estimate seems to be a bit high, so maybe independence isn’t so crazy an assumption. Presumably both are very, very rarely rational, so the probability of simultaneously making both errors is pretty low.

Also, we’re talking about a special kind of murder here, and a special kind of suicide. So using the general numbers, which are mostly about bar-fights-gone-wrong and drunken-impulse suicides, probably overestimate the problem.

22 Lord Action March 27, 2015 at 4:42 pm

All that said, your articulation is much better than Wilkinson’s.

But it assumes there’s something rational going on in the commiter’s mind, when probably there usually isn’t.

23 Doug March 27, 2015 at 6:13 pm

I agree the empirical facts actually show the confluence of murder-suicides to actually be quite low. In fact on the country level, there’s an inverse correlation between homicide and suicide rates, so there’s obviously some countervailing factor at work. My guess would be that murder is actually quite hard to commit. Probably 90% or more of people couldn’t commit a murder even if they wanted to. An untrained person trying to wield firearms, blades or blunt objects will most likely fail to do lethal, if any damage.

Murder success is predicated on deliberate and pre-meditated practice and planning beforehand. And on the day of carrying out the task requires vigor, energy and focus. A half-hearted murder will almost always be an unsuccessful one. The sizable bulk of suicide committers are suffering from major depressive episodes. They lack the energy to get out of bed, let alone go through all that trouble.

24 Dan Lavatan March 27, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Not really, and certainly not after they reproduce. Do you believe spiders that practice reproductive cannibalism are evolved? What about parasites that cause their initial hosts to get eaten by predators or drown.

Society as a whole could reproduce faster if people killed themselves off after raising their young to an age where they could work.

25 Lord Action March 30, 2015 at 9:52 am

These are corner cases, and pretty obscure ones at that. My statement holds generally and in the particular case we’re discussing.

26 Flannery Bro'Connor March 27, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Planes are not flown into the ground all the time because the pilots are screened extremely thoroughly. Shooting sprees in fact happen all the time. Pondering over.

27 Art Deco March 27, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Uh, no. Even in the U.S., the instances of homicide which incorporate more than three victims is generally around 0.15%, or a couple dozen a year. A typical metropolitan region can expect to see one every dozen years or so. That’s not ‘all the time”.

28 jonathan March 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm

Compared to the rate of plane crashes on major commercial airliners in America that absolutely is “all the time.”

29 Cooper March 27, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Two hundred million Americans have access to firearms. There are only 100,000 commercial airplane pilots.

Assuming a gun owner is as likely to become a murderer as an airplane pilot, we should expect to see 2,000 more murders than airplane crashes.

Now factor in that we screen pilots better than we screen gun owners.

The math works out.

30 Flannery Bro'Connor March 28, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Have you been to Nigeria lately?

31 Dan Lavatan March 27, 2015 at 6:49 pm

As a gun grabber would you allow anyone with a first class medical certificate from the DOT to posses any weapon, or are you just trying to annoy firearm owners?

The screening consists of filling out a section of the form asking if you have mental illness. If you want the job you check the box no and they believe you. You do have to function at some level to pass the practical tests. Anyway, any other system would work even worse.

Of course, in response to this, all members of the flight crew will be allowed on the deck when the pilot non-flying goes to the can. So any steward can slit the other’s throat and fly into terrain. Lubnitz was an attendant before he got the pilot gig. Expect deaths to increase proportionally. Just as this was caused by the stupid reinforced door idea, each solution should lay the groundwork for the next incident.

32 Artimus March 28, 2015 at 8:34 am

Actually Dan that is only half true. Yes for the application of a FAA Medical License you are asked if you have mental illness. But do work for a major airline you need to pass a psychometric test and interview with a psychologist.
Unfortunately as this plane crash showed no system is fullproof. But at least up until now this sort of thing has been extremely rare, thankfully.

33 Rich Berger March 27, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Note to US airlines: do not hire WW as a pilot.

34 Steve Sailer March 27, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Yes, this explains more about WW than humanity.

35 Turkey Vulture March 27, 2015 at 10:24 pm

It seems like you, moreso than most, should be wary of ascribing thoughts like WW’s to some underlying obsession or personality defect rather than as an earnest desire for Truth.

I think many of the people with a negative opinion on your views would feel like they could say “Yes, this explains more about SS than humanity” to almost anything you write.

36 jean-louis salvignol March 27, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Jacques Derrida in practice.

37 albatross March 27, 2015 at 1:54 pm

If even one person in a thousand were wandering around looking for the opportunity to do as much harm as possible to others, the world would be a nightmarish place. Most people can manage a mass-shooting (you can tell, because a lot of the infamous mass-shooters were also nonfunctional nuts who couldn’t hold down a job at a convenience store), or crashing a car into a crowd of people. Fewer can become pilots or build bombs without turning their home into a steaming crater, but a few would manage that. With even that level of overt evil intent, the world would have to look radically different.

38 hamilton March 27, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Perhaps it is because, to the shock of the political / ruling wannabe class, humans are not really as evil or in need of strong external guidance as one might expect.

39 MOFO. March 27, 2015 at 2:08 pm


40 meets March 27, 2015 at 4:48 pm

I believe the other exact opposite.

We have more external guidance than we realize.

If there is some sort of govenrment collapse or apocalyptic scenario, we will kill ourselves all the time. At least until some sort of rule of law and society can be established again.

41 Pshrnk March 27, 2015 at 8:20 pm


42 Go co March 28, 2015 at 12:27 am

Awfully speculative.

43 dead serious March 28, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Somebody doesn’t watch The Walking Dead!

44 Urstoff March 27, 2015 at 1:57 pm

I am sometimes amazed that we all haven’t died in car accidents yet. The fact that I trust fellow drivers not to kill me out of sheer stupidity is pretty astounding.

45 Floccina March 27, 2015 at 2:34 pm


46 Pshrnk March 27, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Did you enter your comment via smartphone while driving?

47 Rusty Synapses March 27, 2015 at 3:35 pm

I am amazed at how many people text and drive now – I would think there would be way more accidents. Quite routinely (as recently as yesterday) a car coming toward me on a 2 lane road will cross the double yellow line because they are texting and I have to honk. It’s extremely frustrating and scary, but still, I guess people just recover most of the time or are lucky in their inattention.

48 Thor March 27, 2015 at 7:17 pm

But we don’t really “trust” the other drivers, do we? We are usually eyeing their cars, looking at their movements, seeing if they are pulling into our lanes, etc.

So more like “trust but verify”.

49 Rusty Synapses March 27, 2015 at 11:36 pm

Every time you drive by another driver going the other way at 40 mph with a gap of a few feet between the cars, you are trusting them.

50 derek March 27, 2015 at 2:01 pm

If one doesn’t understand why this doesn’t happen, one should not be anywhere near power or state any opinion on policy.

In fact, people are delegated responsibility every day where the consequences could be quite dramatic if the person went rogue. We wouldn’t put up with it any other way. If the stakes are really high, systems are put in place to limit the damage, eg. double entry accounting, adversarial legal system.

51 albatross March 27, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Overwhelmingly, that’s people who are in a position to enrich themselves or otherwise do themselves some good at someone else’s expense. We have some mechanisms to keep from giving crazy people who want to hurt others lots of opportunity to do so, too, but a lot fewer of them. Hardly anyone actually wants to kill a planeload of strangers, even among people who are suicidally depressed or enraged and homicidal.

52 Jan March 27, 2015 at 2:09 pm


53 Paul March 27, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Not all the time.

But more often, yeah, I agree.

When I look at how the cockpit door is locked and we are over the middle of the Pacific and our lives depend on neither pilot deliberately doing anything evil or crazy in a planned calculated way – well it just doesn’t bear thinking about. Sort of like driving and you can’t really think about how amazing it is we don’t crash into each other more often.

i have to wonder if this wasn’t partly a copycat of the Malaysian plane that disappeared where a similar thing might have happened?

54 x March 27, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Sometimes when driving down a busy multilane road, I imagine suddenly steering into oncoming traffic. I can see the opposing drivers’ panicked eyes as they try to get out of my way, but eventually someone’s ticket is up. I can hear the wailing of surviving family members asking why, and me smiling that the answer is “no reason at all.” I can smell the blood. I can taste the power. I can feel the control over life and death.

55 TMC March 27, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Darn it Mulp, at least have the guts to sign in correctly.

56 rayward March 27, 2015 at 2:27 pm

I don’t like to hold a loaded gun or a large knife or stand on the precipice, fearful that I will have the uncontrollable urge to do the unspeakable. It’s true that the devil may be in the details, but the devil’s also in all of us. Wilkinson’s creative writing side (that novel) is revealing itself. Who knew Wilkinson is Stephen King!

57 Ricardo March 27, 2015 at 2:53 pm

I’ve heard that some new moms have inexplicable impulses to throw their babies out the window or into traffic. But they rarely act on them.

58 Art Deco March 27, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Kerry Howley hasn’t done that to their son. Maybe he’s marveling at the wonder of that.

59 The Anti-Gnostic March 27, 2015 at 2:34 pm

I’m one of those people that actually feels a twinge of irrational fear that a driver of an approaching car on a country highway will have a sudden Tourette’s-like impulse to swerve into my lane. I didn’t need this reminder.

60 Brian Donohue March 27, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Is it irrational? I often ponder the nameless hundreds of people in whose trust I put my life every time I drive a two-line, no median highway. What’s irrational is calmly accepting this risk while going to great lengths to avoid much smaller risks elsewhere in your life.

61 The Anti-Gnostic March 27, 2015 at 3:16 pm

You’re not helping, Brian.

62 T. Shaw March 27, 2015 at 4:15 pm

You know that some day you will die, right?

Eat when you’re hungry.
Drink when you’re dry.
If the sky don’t fall in
You’ll live ’til you die.

About half the population is female and far less disposed to violent murder or suicide. They prefer inflicting long years of emotional torture, anyhow.

63 Judah Benjamin Hur March 27, 2015 at 4:56 pm

+1 😀

64 x March 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Maybe this is your day.

65 Thor March 27, 2015 at 8:10 pm

Would you let me know beforehand? Then I will take the bus.

66 Brian Donohue March 27, 2015 at 6:57 pm

I view it as an illustration of the power of co-operative self-interest in organizing behavior.

67 Thomas March 27, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Markets in everything

68 Urso March 30, 2015 at 11:51 am

MAD writ small

69 tt March 27, 2015 at 2:34 pm

its probably because we are all not like will wilkinson.

70 EG March 27, 2015 at 2:41 pm

After Elliot Roger’s rampage some of my nerd friends and I asked ourselves that same question. Why didn’t this kind of thing happen more often? We knew there were a lot of rage filled nerds out there. I’m sure lots of people fantasize about shooting up their office, their school, or other places where their various “enemies” are.

The conclusion we agreed on was that most of them, however miserable they appeared on the outside, didn’t do it because they were looking forward to their Saturday of reading comic books, getting drunk, and watching The Walking Dead.

71 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Fair enough, but do nerds commit suicide? If they do- when the societal carrots and sticks have no power over them anymore- why don’t they decide to take lots if people with them? Apply the same ideas to other kinds of people.

72 Dain March 27, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Rodger’s problem was that he was a nerd surrounded by Aryan jocks out of some 80s movie. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard. He was in completely the wrong milieu. If he’d been in the Bay Area he’d have a job, be getting laid at least a little, and be talking about Walking Dead around some fancy catered lunch.

73 albatross March 27, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Or maybe he was just an extremely messed up person whose hostility about various bits of his life interacted badly with whatever mental illness drove him to shoot a bunch of strangers.

74 Alexp March 27, 2015 at 4:45 pm

He wasn’t terribly deformed looking and he was rich. If he weren’t so fucked up, he could have gotten laid anywhere.

75 Pshrnk March 27, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Why are some of y’all down on WW for this?

76 Art Deco March 27, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Because there aren’t any glib libertarian pundits you shouldn’t be down on, all the time and about just about everything.

77 hamilton March 27, 2015 at 3:04 pm

I thought WW disavowed liberarianism and declared for team blue. Thus explaining the projection.

78 Art Deco March 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm

One can be down on him for that reason too.

79 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2015 at 3:26 pm

“‘I don’t care,’ snarled the Wolf; ‘if it was not you it was your father;’and with that he rushed upon the poor little Lamb and ate her all up.”
Reasons may be in short supply, but excuses never will be.

80 Sam Haysom March 27, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Yea some people, like you, generate distaste for a lot of reasons. Good thing for you Riberio is that for the most part personality is fixable.

81 AndrewL March 27, 2015 at 2:54 pm

It maybe because such a condition has been “selected out” by evolution. Think about it in terms of a virus. If a virus is too deadly, then it will kill its hosts before having an opportunity to spread, thus ensuring it’s own extinction. The most deadly viruses slow infect their hosts allowing their hosts to present many opportunities to spread the virus around.

By the same token, people with mass murder tendencies are not the kind of people who are evolutionary successful in that they are unlikely to pass on their genes. at the same time, genes that make humans adverse to these kinds of behaviors are selected because they lead to better people and a stronger society.

By pure random chance, yes it is a mystery why there aren’t more psychopaths and mass murderers, but evolution is a powerful tool against random chance.

82 Art Deco March 27, 2015 at 2:55 pm

It maybe because such a condition has been “selected out” by evolution.

Every age has its intellectual reflexes, I guess.

83 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2015 at 3:28 pm

It is fortunate enough when “the Jews are poisoning our wells and killing our children to make bread” is not one of those “intellectual” reflexes.

84 AndrewL March 27, 2015 at 3:41 pm

@Art Deco: Please, help an ignoramus like my self out and tell me why evolutionary theory as we know it could not be a potential answer to this question.

85 Pshrnk March 27, 2015 at 3:17 pm

“a powerful tool” ??? Who is the tool maker? Who is the tool user?

86 AndrewL March 27, 2015 at 3:36 pm

That is up for philosophical debate. Who made us? for what purpose?

Maybe “Tool” is not the right word to use here, but evolution is a mechanism that seems to keep life thriving in spite of all the odds against it.

87 duxie March 27, 2015 at 9:47 pm

The Darwin Awards

“individuals who have supposedly contributed to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool.”

88 Art Deco March 27, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Maybe it’s a confession. Either he or Kerry Howley has waves of horrid inner turmoil where one wishes to go on shooting sprees.

89 rayward March 27, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Anybody seen The Happening? I like the suicide where the guy lays down in front of a large lawn mower that is being self-propelled across the lawn.

90 Art Deco March 27, 2015 at 3:12 pm

I gather both you and the screenwriter are fans of Dr. Demento.

91 Dain March 27, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Interesting the way people got blank-faced suicidal in that movie in some kind of autopilot fashion. I guess they also lack emotion when the lawnmower doesn’t kill you but tears you up something fierce, or the jump off the building merely breaks your back and legs.

92 zbicyclist March 27, 2015 at 3:04 pm

I will defer to those who are actual commercial pilots. I just have one as a neighbor.
You run through all those simulators. You drill on training, so well that faced with an emergency you can land in the bleeping Hudson River without anyone panicking. Your responsibility toward the passengers, toward the plane, and toward your inherent sense of duty is drilled in, hour after hour and year after year.

93 Will Wilkinson March 27, 2015 at 3:22 pm

I wrote a blog post on this theme after the Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass killing. The “why are we so moral?” question is strangely neglected. It’s really not obvious. A good answer would illuminate a lot about human nature.

94 rayward March 27, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Sorry, you are confused: morality and the urge/willingness to commit suicide (alone with with hundreds of unknowing volunteers) are different questions and raise very different issues. Suicide is neither a moral act nor an immoral act; it’s the product of mental illness (or something in the air in The Happening), whether the co-pilot in the case of the crash on Tuesday or the terrorists in the case of the crashes on 9/11. What the Germans did to the Jews was immoral; what the co-pilot did on Tuesday was mental illness.

95 Art Deco March 27, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Suicide is neither a moral act nor an immoral act;

Thanks for your input.

96 Pshrnk March 27, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Murder is an immoral act. Suicide by means that do the least possible harm to others is not immoral. Taking many others with you by murder is immoral.

97 albatross March 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Is there research on the relationship between murder-suicides and suicides? My impression is that they are driven by enormously different things, but I don’t know that for sure. Suicidally depressed people seem to me to pose very little danger to anyone but themselves or maybe small children left in their care.

The 9/11 attacks and similar suicide attacks are a completely different thing, as far as I can tell–these attackers were probably no more mentally ill than any soldier who has accepted a suicide- or near-suicide mission. There’s no reason I can see to imagine that they were suffering from any mental illness unless you define willingness to die for a cause as a mental illness (in which case it has to apply to soldiers in regular armies, too).

The normal kind of mass shooting involves a man (almost always a man) who is angry about something that most everyone can understand getting angry about, but he responds in some horrific, out-of-proportion way–the classic version is the guy who murders his ex-wife, her new boyfriend, his kids, and then turns the gun on himself. That’s disturbing, but at least the motivation is recognizable–most people don’t much like their ex-wives or their new boyfriends. (The other common version of this is workplace shootings, and again, you have recognizable motivation with wildly out-of-proportion, immoral, awful actions stemming from that motivation.)

This case is more like the really disturbing mass-shootings, like the Aurora mass-shooter. There wasn’t some clear motivation, something messed up in his brain just convinced him to go murder a bunch of complete strangers. (I think he may have thought he was the Joker or something.) The copilot may have had a personal dislike or hatred of the pilot or some of the flight crew (or not), but he can’t really have had anything personal against the planeload of strangers he killed along with himself.

98 Judah Benjamin Hur March 27, 2015 at 5:36 pm

The co-pilot was evil incarnate. I can’t think of a more obvious example of immorality than murdering 149 people, including entire families, because you hate your life and want to die.

99 Kevin C. March 27, 2015 at 6:34 pm

“Suicide is neither a moral act nor an immoral act; it’s the product of mental illness”

Tell that to the Forty-seven Ronin.

100 tomhynes March 27, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Worldwide, the suicide rate is about 12 per 100,000 (Wikipedia)
There are about 100,000 airline pilots. worldwide (

Expect about 12 airline pilots to commit suicide every year. If 1% of the suicides involve crashing the plane, then every 8 years this will happen. I love math.

101 Judah Benjamin Hur March 27, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Sadly, it’s happening more often than that. There have been 5 or 6 (depending if you count Malaysia Airlines Flight 370) major ones in the last 21 years.

21 August 1994 – 44 fatalities A Royal Air Maroc ATR-42
19 December 1997 – 104 fatalities Silk Air Flight 185
31 October 1999 – 217 fatalities Egypt Air Flight 990
29 November 2013 – 33 fatalities LAM Flight 470

102 Artimus March 28, 2015 at 8:40 am

You are assuming pilots have the same rate of suicide as the general population. What the actual rate is, I have no idea.

103 tomhynes March 29, 2015 at 10:26 am

Pay $1 million to the family of any airline pilot who kills himself without killing anyone else. By my estimate, it costs $12 million a year. Assume it doubles, because it encourages suicides. $24 million a year is cheaper than an airliner crash every few years. The extra pilot suicides caused by the reward are less than the passenger loss.

104 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2015 at 4:05 pm

“Yea some people, like you, generate distaste for a lot of reasons. Good thing for you Riberio is that for the most part personality is fixable.”
If not the lamb’s personality, maybe his father’s.

105 Donald Pretari March 27, 2015 at 4:19 pm

I think there’s a difference between wanting to end your own suffering by taking your own life and wanting to take others with you. However, I’ll need more time to think it through. We should also not rule out an undiagnosed brain injury or such. I’ll have to admit there are days that I think like Will did today, but, thankfully, not many.

106 Judah Benjamin Hur March 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Twitter accounts should be equipped with breathalyzers.

107 Pshrnk March 27, 2015 at 5:09 pm

And a 5 minute delay

108 Peldrigal March 27, 2015 at 5:05 pm

I wonder how many accidents caused by “sudden sleep” were just drivers that lept off a bridge. Sleep tight next time you take a bus.

109 Judah Benjamin Hur March 27, 2015 at 5:11 pm

If this sort of thing happened more often, there wouldn’t be a commercial aviation industry. Already a person is more likely to be murdered on an airplane (aside from small aircraft) than die in an accident.

I’m more concerned about (evil +) crazy or fanatical people with ever proliferating nuclear weapons.

110 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2015 at 6:04 pm

“I’m sure you’re very proud to live in a country where more people are murdered than commit suicide. Presumably that’s why interpersonal trust there is low.Though, of course, the more-suicides-than-murders pattern is pretty much the norm in developed nations.”-Lord Action
Don’t be so sure, I was not being sarcastic, but, now that you mentioned that, it means you are a dying breed and we are taking over.
Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.

111 Cooper March 27, 2015 at 6:09 pm

Some other macabre figures to consider:

1. Suicide rates are somewhat higher than reported. Some suicides are designed to look like accidents and some unsolved missing persons cases are actually suicides.

2. Homicide rates are somewhat higher than reported. Some murders are designed to look like accidents/suicides and some unsolved missing persons cases are actually murder victims that have been buried in the desert.

That missing Malaysian plane was likely a murder/suicide. The plane wasn’t abducted by aliens. The pilot deliberately crashed the airplane and killed everyone.

Some of the other unsolved plane crashes with “human error” as the cause could also conceivably be murder/suicides.

112 E. Harding March 27, 2015 at 6:15 pm

My question is why nobody has blown up the White House yet. Or shot Obama in the face. Come to think of it, why weren’t there multiple assassination attempts on Bush in 2008, at least one of them successful? He was crazy unpopular at the time, and many anti-Bush Americans held massive grudges. Shooting sprees and deliberate plane crashes are associated with psychopathy; not many Americans were ever psychopaths.

113 Dan Lavatan March 27, 2015 at 6:39 pm

The reason Bush was not assonated was Dick Cheney. For Obama it is Joe Biden. I’m not sure how Hillary will be able to find someone more annoying than she is, but I suspect she’ll give it her best.

114 E. Harding March 27, 2015 at 7:07 pm

Joe Biden is a much poorer speaker, and, therefore, much less capable of getting the Democratic agenda anywhere. So he’s no explanation for the lack of Obama assassination attempts from the Right.

115 Pshrnk March 27, 2015 at 8:48 pm

Roughly 2-3 million Americans are likely psychopaths.

116 jjbees March 27, 2015 at 6:26 pm

Suicide is an economic act.

The chances of surviving suicide attempts are very high, especially if one is female.

When one has low social status and poor economic prospects, a suicide attempt is a “cry for help”.

Research shows that people who attempt suicide have a very much improved financial situation post attempt. The more serious the attempt, the better the financial situation. Family and friends all pitch in, your boss has to be nice because you were a suicidal person, jeez! By attempting suicide, you force the community around you to lend a helping hand that they wouldn’t when you were “sane”.

While to a rational person suicide sounds crazy, some people are doing so poorly, have no job or good prospects for improving their evolutionary fitness, to the point where suicide becomes a rational choice, that the gambit of risking your life is worth the risk, that the chance of improving one’s fitness via getting some family support outweighs death…and of course, the majority of suicide attempts FAIL–> THIS IS INTENDED.

117 E. Harding March 27, 2015 at 6:28 pm

True for Native Americans. But why so many White Americans?

118 jjbees March 27, 2015 at 8:23 pm

White people are richer, but it doesn’t mean they have any easier time getting sex.

119 RM March 27, 2015 at 7:45 pm

The kind of question a graduate student who wants to get noticed at a seminar would ask.

120 Turkey Vulture March 27, 2015 at 9:26 pm

“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” – H.L. Mencken

121 Art Deco March 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm

He died childless and was an atheist from adolescence. He was a bachelor until the age of 50, at which point he married a terminally ill woman 18 years his junior (who managed to last another five years. perhaps because they slept in separte bedrooms). Would he have known a normal man from a cord of wood?

122 Turkey Vulture March 27, 2015 at 11:06 pm

Unusual people can have insights that apply to the more normal population.

I think his statement is reasonably accurate, and would accept people quoting me as its source. I have been married for nearly a decade and have nearly two children, so I can safely speak for normal men.

123 dead serious March 28, 2015 at 8:10 pm

Of the two – you and Mencken – you sound more inhuman.

124 Bernard Yomtov March 27, 2015 at 9:30 pm

Go ahead and ponder that if you like, Tyler.

I myself don’t deem it ponder-worthy, or particularly interesting at all.

Collective egomania strikes again.

125 Turkey Vulture March 27, 2015 at 9:39 pm

How is his statement objectionable, except the word choice of “mystery”? I would say it is amazing, but that we have some decent ideas about why, so it isn’t a mystery.

Humans, especially males, have a great capacity for violence, cruelty, and self destruction. Cultures, through combinations of religion, morality, and ethical systems, and legal systems, through threat of punishments, have historically done most of the heavy lifting. When one of these contraints break down, the absence of a replacement contraint can put us all at increased risk.

I think a general increase in standards of living and access to pornography have played a big role in recent times. And video games. Keep the young male busy and give him something to look forward to tomorrow, and he is a lot less likely to kill you or himself. Maybe legalizing prostitution would help in the U.S. too?

126 Art Deco March 27, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Humans, especially males, have a great capacity for violence, cruelty, and self destruction.

Elaine Morgan to the white courtesy phone.

Again, try inserting a real person as the subject of such sentences and see if they still make sense. As in, “My postman has a great capacity for violence, cruelty, and self destruction”.

127 Turkey Vulture March 27, 2015 at 11:09 pm

My mother is a postwoman and I believe that under the right circumstances she would lay waste to a small village.

128 albatross March 28, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Is there a reason to think your postman doesn’t have the capacity for massive destructiveness and killing? Most humans do, after all–it doesn’t take enormous skill to kill some strangers with a gun or a car, and even building a bomb or two isn’t beyond the abilities of a normal person. It’s interesting to ask why we don’t see more people doing those things, given that most people are capable of them. Why don’t we have a terrible mass-shooting of strangers a week? Why don’t we have hobbyist terrorists blowing up buildings and people once a month? Why aren’t prominent politicians and celebrities constantly getting gunned down?

The answer isn’t a lack of ability on the part of the people–killing people with guns isn’t actually all that hard, and there are plenty of other tools to use. Something else–probably something about human nature or stuff burned into almost everyone in our culture–has to explain it.

129 Art Deco March 28, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Is there a reason to think your postman doesn’t have the capacity for massive destructiveness and killing? Most humans do,

I think I’m going to keep some serious distance between myself, you, and anyone you associate with.

130 dead serious March 28, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Funny that you chose that particular profession as “going postal” means just that.

131 duxie March 27, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Google on ‘estranged fathers’ ‘murder suicide’

“About 976,000 results”

132 Turkey Vulture March 27, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Criticism of WW seems to come from two main directions:

(1) It’s not a “mystery” why this doesn’t happen, and it’s stupid to say it’s a mystery. There are a lot of safeguards/constraints in place to try to prevent it from happening.

(2) People aren’t like that, there are just a very very small number of bad apples. Also, how dare you, and you must be a sick man dreaming of mass murder.

I think the (1)s have a point, and that WW should have phrased it in terms of it being amazing rather than a mystery (as I already said above).

I think (2)s are naive, and that this naivety is an impediment to a true understanding of humanity, as well as dangerous. (2)s are surprised by instances of violence and cruelty, especially of the systematic type. They trust in the good nature of both their fellow citizens and people with power, and see little need for the constraints and safeguards noted by the (1)s, given how rare naughty people are. Maybe they are just unusually good people, or maybe they are willfully blind to their own viscous tendencies.

133 Turkey Vulture March 27, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Nice, “viscous” tendencies, I like that.

134 albatross March 28, 2015 at 1:20 pm

More to the point, point and sputter outrage about a tweet or blog post takes little thought and no insight, so it’s a popular thing to produce among people who have to produce some words every day.

135 Mark March 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm

1) Shooting sprees are pretty common.
2) People who own planes tend to make sure they don’t get crashed.

136 Yancey Ward March 27, 2015 at 11:59 pm

The much greater mystery is why people don’t go on shooting sprees or crash planes on purpose ALL THE TIME.

Fortunately, most of the people who want to do such things are too incompetent to carry it out, and most of the rest are too cowardly.

137 mikeInThe716 March 28, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Excellent point.
I find fascinating that, in the aftermath of the Beltway Sniper Attacks, there were ZERO organized copycats. The equipment necessary, a car and a decent rifle, is rather easy to come by. The skill set necessary, skilled shooting & car mods, can be mastered/completed by a non-trivial percentage of people over a couple months.
Where are the Isis, Al queda, copycats?

138 Marc March 28, 2015 at 5:40 am

People still care what Wilkinson says? I though that ended years ago, not to mention his wife’s terrible book about dude’s who get into a ring and pummel each other. It is all bread and a circus.

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