Saturday, September 13, 2008

Grim Trigger

It seems that the late army scientist turned anthrax suspect Bruce Ivins was not just a microbiologist, he was a game theorist. In an article today in the New York Times, we learn that before the FBI focused its anthrax investigation on him, he wrote a will, requesting that in the event of his death, his remains be cremated and scattered. But talk is cheap, and he wasn't sure that his wife and children would honor his request. 

It turns out that Ms. Ivins, his wife, was an anti-abortion activist and a former president of Frederick County Right to Life, a pro-life organization. So Ivins wrote the following into his will:
“If my remains are not cremated and my ashes are not scattered or spread on the ground, I give to Planned Parenthood of Maryland $50,000"
or about 1/3 of his estate. 

His concern seems to have stemmed from the fact that cremation is discouraged by Catholic doctrine, and in the case of cremation, ashes must be buried in sacred ground rather than scattered. But the threat-from-beyond-the-grave has worked, and it seems that Ivin will get his wish. So consider this a victory of game theory over theology.