In his seminal work, "The Origin of Species," Charles Darwin presented evidence that species evolve over time to fit their environment better. Do the Darwin Awards really represent examples of human evolution in action?
Consider that there are three requirements for evolution to occur. First, a species must show diversity. For example, some people are taller than others. Second, there must be a selective pressure working on this trait. If people live among trees, and tall people whack their heads on branches and kill themselves more frequently than their shorter fellows, then short people will have a survival advantage. Third, the trait must be inheritable. On average, short people have shorter children than tall people, so evolution favors short people in this example. Within a few generations, our species would become shorter, and it would also become better at evading low branches.
The stories on this website, which range from the sublimely ironic to the pathetically stupid, display examples of trial and (fatal) error that vividly illustrate evolution in all its selective glory.
I started collecting the stories that make up the Darwin Awards in 1993, while I was doing biological research at Stanford University. I found them in newspaper articles from around the world and once I verified their legitimacy, I rewrote them for a small mailing list of friends. As people passed these emails around, I began to receive nominations from far and wide. When the Stanford server became overloaded, I moved the pages to www.DarwinAwards.com, set up voting and submission mechanisms, and became the primary source of and repository for the Darwin Awards.
Through word-of-mouth, as well as my email newsletter, the
website has attracted a huge following. The dark humor, engaging stories, and mordant social commentary have made the Darwin Awards one of the most popular humor sites on the web.
One should not be ashamed of laughing over the misfortune of others. Humor is perceived by human brains alone, which sets us apart from all other beings. Jokes always involve the unexpected clash between reality and expectation.
Flames come from two camps: Those who don't want their favorite group featured, and those who are offended by stories that spoil purity of Darwin Awards.
The first group decries stories about children, dyslexics, and the clergy. The second group scoffs at legends, near-misses, and sterility.
Please direct your comments to Darwin, or discuss your ideas on our active Philosophy Forum.
So how are the Darwin Awards actually determined?
Nominees significantly improve the gene pool by eliminating
themselves from the human race in an obviously stupid
way. They are self-selected examples of the dangers inherent
in a lack of common sense, and all human races, cultures, and
socioeconomic groups are eligible to compete. Actual winners
must meet the following criteria:
Out of the gene pool: dead or sterile.
Cause one's own demise.
Capable of sound judgment.
The event must be true.
[ What about kids? ]
[ Why so many men? ]
Not a Darwin (but not safe either)
* Whizzing on an electric wire
* Smoking in an oxygen tent
* Being hit by a train or automobile
* Aerosol cans, etc., in the oven
* Climbing into zoo cages
* Falling off precipice while posing or pissing
* Carbon monoxide poisoning
* Most autoerotic deaths
* all too common!
Killing others: The death of innocent bystanders
absolutely rules out a Darwin Award. We don't applaud
those who take others out of the gene pool, even if they
share some DNA in common. Injuring bystanders is also
What are they?
The Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives: by eliminating themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species' chance of long-term survival. In other words, they are cautionary tales about people who kill themselves in really stupid ways, and in doing so, significantly improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race.
These individuals carry out disastrous plans that any average pre-teen knows are the result of a really bad idea. The single-minded purpose and self-sacrifice of the winners, and the spectacular means by which they snuff themselves, make them candidates for the honor of winning a Darwin Award. The terrorist who mails a letter bomb with insufficient postage deserves to win a Darwin Award when he blows himself up opening the returned package. As does the fisherman who throws a lit stick of dynamite for his faithful golden retriever to fetch and return to him. As do the surfers who celebrate a hurricane by throwing a beachfront party and getting washed out to sea.
Named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, the Darwin Awards represent examples of evolution in action by showing what happens to people who are unable to cope with the basic dangers of the modern world. These ironic tales of fatal misadventure illustrate some of life's most important lessons.
Most of us know instinctively that the words "trust me" and "light this fuse" are a recipe for disaster. We assume that basic common sense eliminates the need for public service announcements such as, "Warning: Coffee is hot!" and "Superman cape does not enable wearer to fly." But the true stories you will read show that common sense is really not so common. No amount of overzealous caution would have helped the man who used household current to electrocute fish in a pond, then waded in to collect his catch without removing the wire. As you'll see, there are even people who need to be told not to peek inside a gas can using a cigarette lighter.
The Darwin Awards are macabre tales that make us laugh while instructing us in the laws of common sense. Consider the man who crawled under the roller coaster guardrail to retrieve his hat. When the next coaster came by, an unfortunate rider broke her leg on his skull. Ouch! From our point of view, the man who lost his head is a Darwin Award winner, and his story is just another episode in the saga of survival of the fittest.
The Darwin Awards can be considered a rusty chromosome award
for those who douse the gene pool with chlorine.