Darwin Awards

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

A Darwin Award is a tongue-in-cheek "honor" named after evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin. Awards have been given for people who "do a service to Humanity by removing themselves from the Gene pool", i.e., lose the ability to reproduce either by death or sterilization in a stupid fashion. According to Wendy Northcutt, author of the Darwin Award books: "The Awards honor people who ensure the long-term survival of the human race by removing themselves from the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion." The Darwin Award books state that an attempt is made to disallow known urban legends from the awards, but some older "winners" have been 'grandfathered' to keep their awards. However, despite claiming veracity as a requirement, most submitted stories are not verified against reliable published sources, and many of them are fictional.[1]


[edit] History

The Awards have circulated since 1985 as emails and Usenet group discussions; the Google Usenet archive records two early mentions of Darwin Awards, 7 August 1985 Vending Machine Tipover[2] and 7 December 1990 JATO Rocket Car[3] urban legend. The JATO legend was widely distributed via emails from 1995–97. Several anonymously authored email lists titled (for example) 1999 Darwin Awards have appeared annually since 1991.[2] There are several websites that record "Darwin Awards"[1] — a well-known one started in 1994 is darwinawards.com, run by Wendy Northcutt, who has also written several books on the Darwin Awards.

[edit] Requirements

DarwinAwards.com logo

Northcutt has stated five requirements for her Darwin Award:

[edit] Inability to reproduce

  • Nominee must be dead or rendered sterile.
Sometimes this can be a matter of dispute. Potential awardees may be out of the gene pool due to age; others have already reproduced before their deaths. To avoid debates about the possibility of in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, or cloning, the original Darwin Awards book applied the following "deserted island" test to potential winners: If the person would be unable to reproduce when stranded on a deserted island with a fertile member of the opposite sex, he or she would be considered sterile. In general, winners of the award are either dead, become unable to use their sexual organs, or are imprisoned for life with no chance of escape.

[edit] Excellence

  • Astoundingly stupid judgment.
The candidate's foolishness must be unique and sensational, perhaps because the award is intended to be funny. A number of foolish but common activities, such as smoking in bed, are excluded from consideration. In contrast, self-immolation caused by smoking after being administered a flammable ointment in a hospital and specifically told not to smoke[4] is grounds for nomination. One 'Honorable Mention' (a man who attempted suicide by swallowing nitroglycerine pills, and then tried to detonate them by running into a wall) is noted to be in this category, despite being intentional and self-inflicted, which would normally disqualify the inductee.[5]

[edit] Self-selection

  • Cause of one's own demise.
Killing a friend with a hand grenade would not be eligible, but killing oneself while manufacturing a homemade chimney-cleaning device from a grenade[6] would be eligible. To earn a Darwin Award, the candidate must have injured or killed himself, rather than a third party.

[edit] Maturity

  • Capable of sound judgment.
The nominee must be at least past the legal driving age and free of mental defect.

[edit] Veracity

  • The event must be verified.
The story must be documented by reliable sources, i.e., reputable newspaper articles, confirmed television reports, or responsible eyewitnesses. If a story is found to be untrue, it is disqualified, but particularly amusing ones are placed in the urban legend section of the archives. Despite this requirement, most of the stories are fictional, often appearing as "original submissions" and presenting no further sources than unverified (and unreliable) "eyewitnesses".

[edit] Examples

Examples of Darwin award winners include:

  • Juggling active hand grenades (Croatia, 2001),[7]
  • Leaving a lit cigarette in a warehouse full of explosives (Philippines, 1999)
  • Jumping out of a plane to film skydivers without wearing a parachute (U.S., 1987),[8]
  • Trying to get enough light to look down the barrel of a loaded muzzleloader gun using a cigarette lighter (U.S., 1996),[9]
  • Using a lighter to illuminate a fuel tank to make sure it contains nothing flammable (Brazil, 2003),
  • Attempting to play Russian roulette with a semi-automatic pistol that automatically reloads the next round into the chamber,[10]
  • or attempting Russian roulette with an unexploded landmine,
  • Crashing through a window and falling to your death in trying to demonstrate that the window is unbreakable,[11]

Northcutt's Darwin Awards site gives "Honorable Mentions" to people who survive their misadventures with their reproductive capacity intact, by luck or chance. One example is Lawnchair Larry, who attached helium filled weather balloons to a lawn chair and floated far above Long Beach, California, in July 1982. He reached an altitude of 16,000 feet and was later fined for crossing controlled airspace. Another notable honourable mention was given to the two men who attempted to burgle the home of 'hard man' footballer Duncan Ferguson (who had 4 convictions for assault and had served 6 months in Glasgow's Barlinnie prison) in 2001, with one burglar requiring 3 days hospitalization after being confronted by the player.[12]

[edit] Special Winners

Each year, one award is selected as being much more "honorable" than the rest, and it is crowned as the "Darwin Award of the Year" or "[year] Darwin Award Winner". In 2007, the winner was "The Enema Within", in which a man died of alcohol poisoning after having two 1.5 litre bottles (over 100 fluid ounces) of sherry inserted... anally.[13][14]

[edit] Actual 'Darwin Award'

The Zoological Society of London presents the Charles Darwin Award, given to a British undergraduate student "for outstanding work in zoology." [15]

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

Personal tools