Darwin Awards: Evolution In Action

( 21 )

Overview

"Only two things are infinite-the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not so sure about the universe." — -Albert Einstein

Named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, The Darwin Awards vividly portrays the finest examples of evolution in action, and shows us just how uncommon common sense can be.

Marvel at the thief who steals electrical wires without shutting off the current. Gape at the lawnchair jockey who floats to a height...

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The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action

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Overview

"Only two things are infinite-the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not so sure about the universe." — -Albert Einstein

Named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, The Darwin Awards vividly portrays the finest examples of evolution in action, and shows us just how uncommon common sense can be.

Marvel at the thief who steals electrical wires without shutting off the current. Gape at the lawnchair jockey who floats to a height of 16,000 feet suspended by helium balloons. Learn from the man who peers into a gasoline can using a cigarette lighter. All three — and many more — contend for Darwin Awards when their choices culminate in magnificent misadventures.

These tales of trial and awe-inspiring error—verified by the author and endorsed by website readers—illustrate the ongoing saga of survival of the fittest in all its selective glory.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Since 1993, the Darwin Awards have honored people whose demise is the result of their own idiocy and lack of common sense. These self-sacrificing folks, who no doubt inhabit the shallow end of the gene pool, have unwittingly made the world a better place for the rest of us simply by removing themselves, their genes, and their chances of procreation from it. Now the hilarity of this Internet phenomenon can be enjoyed in book form with The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action.
Baltimore Sun
Delightfully funny...taken together they constitute a delicious sermon in support of common sense.
Salon.com
A warning to all dimwits.
San Francisco Weekly
The Darwin Awards is a riot to read. Deeply entertaining.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Anyone who has e-mail has probably already been entertained by the Darwin Awards, honors that stand out from the miasma of e-humor for several reasons: they are often genuinely hilarious and they are supposedly true. For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are given to people, mostly now deceased, whose actions reveal an astounding lack of common sense. The awards go only to those who have either died or rendered themselves unable to breed, confirming Darwin's belief in the survival of the fittest. Among the winners: terrorists who set their bombs on daylight saving time and delivered them on standard time, thus blowing themselves up; and a lawyer who crashed through a skyscraper window while demonstrating its safety. The audiobook also contains an honorable mention category for those who survive their idiotic behavior. This set provides hours of bizarre yet disturbing listening, mostly drawn from the author's popular Web site, DarwinAwards.com. Jason Harris does an excellent job of reading each reported incident; basically, they sound like standup comedy: yarn after yarn of such astounding stupidity that one cannot help but laugh. The lack of common sense exhibited here is undoubtedly comical, but Harris's reading accentuates the fact that beneath the laughter lurks a kind of pathetic sadness. Based on the Dutton hardcover. (Sept.)n Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781885408723
  • Publisher: Listen & Live Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Series: From Hit Websites Ser.
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 3 CDs
  • Sales rank: 1,266,459
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

A graduate of UC-Berkeley with a degree in molecular biology, Wendy Northcutt started collecting the stories that make up the Darwin Awards in 1993, and she founded the Web site soon thereafter. She has been profiled in Salon.com and USA Today, and now divides her time between managing the website and working as an Internet consultant. The Darwin Awards Web site has received awards from Yahoo!, USA Today, and the BBC.
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Read an Excerpt



Introduction


The Darwin Awards: What are they?

Darwin Awards illustrate Mark Twain's observation, "Man is the only animal that blushes-or has reason to."


Survival of the Fittest

Most of us know instinctively that the phrase "trust me, light this fuse" is a recipe for disaster. Darwin Award winners do not. Most of us have a basic common sense that eliminates the need for public service announcements such as, WARNING: COFFEE IS HOT! Darwin Award winners do not. The stories assembled in this book show that common sense is really not so common.

There are people who think it's practical to peer into a gasoline can using a cigarette lighter. There are people who throw beach parties to celebrate an approaching hurricane. We applaud the predictable demise of such daredevils with Darwin Awards, named after Charles Darwin, the father of evolution. No warning label could have prevented evolution from creeping up on the man who electrocuted fish with household current, then waded in to collect his catch without removing the wire.

Darwin Awards show what happens to people who are bewilderingly unable to cope with obvious dangers in the modern world. The terrorist who mails a letter bomb with insufficient postage wins a Darwin Award when he opens the returned package. As does the fisherman who throws a lit stick of dynamite onto the ice, only to see his faithful golden retriever fetch the stick. As does the man caught stealing from a church.

Darwin Award winners plan and carry out disastrous schemes that an average child can tell are a really bad idea. They contrive to eliminate themselves from the genepool in such an extraordinarily idiotic manner, that their action ensures the long-term survival of our species, which now contains one less idiot. The single-minded purpose and self-sacrifice of the winners, and the spectacular means by which they snuff themselves, qualifies them for the honor of winning a Darwin Award.


Rules and Eligibility

To win, nominees must significantly improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race in an astonishingly stupid way. All races, cultures, and socioeconomic groups are eligible to compete. Contenders are evaluated using the following five criteria:

The candidate must remove himself from the gene pool.

The prime tenet of the Darwin Awards is that we are celebrating the self-removal of incompetent genetic material from the human race. The potential winner must therefore render himself deceased, or at least incapable of reproducing. If someone does manage to survive an incredibly stupid feat, then his genes de facto must have something to offer in the way of luck, agility, or stamina. He is therefore not eligible for a Darwin Award, though sometimes the story is too entertaining to pass up and he earns an Honorable Mention.

Heated philosophical discussions have sprung up around the reproduction rule. If a person or group gives up sex, are they eligible for a nomination since they are no longer willing to breed? Must the candidate be utterly incapable of reproduction? Can the elderly be ruled out because they are too old to have an impact on the gene pool? Should those who already have children be banned from winning?

These are complicated questions. For example, frozen sperm and ova are viable decades after the donor's demise, and sheep and humans can be cloned from a single cell. It is almost impossible to completely eliminate an individual's genes. And it would take a team of researchers to ferret out the full reproductive implications, a luxury the Darwin Awards lacks. Therefore, no attempt is made to determine the actual reproductive status or potential of the nominee. If he no longer has the physical wherewithal to breed with a mate on a deserted island, then he is eligible for a Darwin.

The candidate must exhibit an astounding misapplication of judgment.

We are not talking about common stupidities such as falling asleep with a lit cigarette or taking a bath with a radio. The fatal act must be of such idiotic magnitude that we shake our heads and thank our lucky stars that our descendants won't have to deal with, or heaven forbid breed with, descendants of the buffoon that set that harebrained scheme in motion.

The Darwin winner is seldom a copycat. The death under consideration must reflect a unique manifestation of the grave lack of sense and misapplication of judgment indicative of a genuine cleansing of the gene pool. Using bullets as fuses, reenacting the William Tell stunt, and bungee jumping with rubber bands are all worthy Darwin Award activities.

Oscar Wilde said, "To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune ... to lose both seems like carelessness." If you fry yourself along with your parents while rewiring their outdoor hot-tub during a thunderstorm, you may be eligible for a Darwin Award.

The candidate must be the cause of his own demise.

The candidate's own gross ineptitude must be the cause of the incident that earns him the nomination. A hapless bystander done in by a heavy anvil dropped from a skyscraper is an unfortunate tragedy. If, however, you are smashed by the anvil you rigged above your own balcony to kill those squawking pigeons, then you are a Darwin contender.

A tourist trampled to death by a rampaging bull in a parking lot is merely suffering from bad luck. If you are gored to death during the "running of the bulls" while riding naked in a shopping cart piloted by your drunken friend, you are a candidate for a Darwin Award.

Some feel that a person who intentionally attempts to win a Darwin Award, and succeeds, is by definition a perfect candidate. However, readers should remember that a Darwin Award is an exceedingly dubious honor, and we discourage anyone from intentionally attempting to join these illustrious ranks.

The candidate must be capable of sound judgment.

Humans are generally capable of sound judgment, except those with mental, chemical, or chronological handicaps that render them unable to fully comprehend the ramifications of their actions. That means no children, Alzheimer's disease sufferers, or Downs Syndrome patients. Child nominees are a bone of contention. A vociferous majority argues against letting them win Darwin Awards, citing the gulf between ignorance and stupidity. An equally clamorous minority contends that they are the best candidates for a "rusty chromosome" award, since they obviously have not reproduced. To muddy the ethical waters further, some children have stated that restricting them from vying for this laudable award is yet another encroachment on their civil liberties. We appreciate that parents are responsible for teaching their offspring to make responsible decisions. Therefore children are not eligible to win a Darwin Award. However, a few are included as nominees, when their actions can be considered foolhardy by even their peers.

The event must be verified.

Reputable newspaper or other published articles, confirmed television reports, and responsible eyewitnesses are considered valid sources. A friend's mother's employer, a chain email, or a doctored photograph are not.

This book contains four categories of stories.

* Darwin Awards nominees lost their reproductive capacity by killing or
sterilizing themselves, and this is the only category eligible to win a Darwin
Award.

* Honorable Mentions are foolish misadventures that stop short of the ultimate
sacrifice, but still illustrate the innovative spirit of Darwin Award
candidates.

* Urban Legends are cautionary tales of evolution in action, and are so popular
they have become part of the Internet culture. Various versions are widely
circulated, but their origins are largely unknown. They should be understood as
the fables they are. Any resemblance to actual events, or to persons living or
dead, is purely coincidental.

* Personal Accounts were submitted by loyal readers blowing the whistle on
stupidity, and are plausible but usually unverified narratives. In some cases
readers submitting Personal Accounts have been identified with their permission,
but this does not necessarily mean that the sources are directly associated with
their Personal Accounts.

Darwin Awards and Honorable Mentions are known or believed to be true. Look for the words Confirmed by Darwin under the title, which generally indicate that a story was backed up by multiple submissions and by more than one reputable media source.

Unconfirmed by Darwin indicates fewer credible submissions and the unavailability of direct confirmation of media sources. In "unconfirmed" Darwin Awards or Honorable Mentions, names have often been changed and details of events have been altered to protect the innocent (and for that matter, the guilty).


Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution

Do the Darwin Awards really represent examples of evolution in action?

In 1859 Charles Darwin revived the theory of evolution in The Origin of Species, which presented evidence that species evolve over time to fit their environments better. At that time, the theory of evolution was no longer in vogue. It had already been conceived, discussed, and discredited.

The earth was thought to be only six thousand years old, far too young to show evidence of the slow pace of evolution, and besides, there was no plausible explanation for how evolution might occur. Furthermore, many people were repelled by the notion that man descended from apes. But Darwin's careful biological observations, and his proposed mechanism for evolution, propelled the theory back into the scientific limelight.

Darwin called his mechanism for evolution "natural selection," and described four requirements that must be satisfied in order for natural selection to occur.

First, a species must show variation.

Humans exhibit this quality in abundance. There are variations in every trait you can imagine: height, eye color, emotional balance, toe length, intelligence. We also are very different on the inside. For example, the major artery from the heart may branch either before or after it leaves the left ventricle. Both variations are normal. Your liver may be large or small, your appendix present or absent at birth. Countless differences exist between even the most closely related individuals.

Second, variations must be inheritable.

Children resemble their parents. A staggering number of traits are inherited in the myriad genes we store on our chromosomes. For better or worse, parents pass their genetic strengths and weaknesses on to their offspring. Complex characteristics such as intelligence and personality are influenced by the environment, but even these traits have strong, heritable genetic components.

Third, not all individuals in a population survive to reproduce.

Charles Darwin calculated that a single pair of elephants would multiply to nineteen million in 750 years if each descendant lived 100 years and had six offspring. But the elephant population has remained fairly stable over time. Why aren't we overrun with elephants? Because most of them die without reproducing. As our population boom attests, this criterion is less obviously met by humans; nevertheless, a significant number of people die without reproducing, as the stories in this book show.

Fourth, some individuals can cope with selective pressures better than others.

Due to inherited attributes, some members of a species are more likely to survive predators and cold winters, win the competition for mates, and leave more offspring. Successful traits become more prevalent in the population, while less successful ones decline and eventually die out. The tales you will read clearly show differences in our ability to cope with the selective pressures that surround us.

Keeping these four criteria in mind, let's follow the example of a hypothetical group of humans with a single variable trait: some are taller than others. Because height is inherited, short people bear shorter children than tall people, on average. Picture these people living in a beautiful setting among branching trees and scenic cliffs. In this environment, tall people whack their heads on branches and fall over cliffs more frequently than their shorter fellows do. Therefore, short people have a survival advantage, and within a dozen generations, the population will become shorter. It should also become better at evading low branches.

The stories in this book vividly illustrate evolution in all its selective glory, from the sublimely ironic to the pathetically stupid. We think that even Charles Darwin himself would be amused by these examples of trial and fatal error.


Uncommon Common Sense

Why are there so many failures of common sense in the modern world?

The world we inhabit today is very different from the world of our ancestors. We evolved to survive on a planet with nothing faster than tigers, and nothing more toxic than broccoli. No carcinogenic man-made chemicals, no explosive fuels or electricity, no refined radioactivity, no mercury thermometers, no lead paint.

Imagine a woman standing in the sun watching squirrels playing in the trees. Imagine that she lives in the past, when there were only a thousand people on earth, and none had thought to smoke tobacco yet. Suddenly, at the speed of light, a photon of ultraviolet radiation travels from the sun to the earth, zaps one of the chromosomes in her ovary, and changes the sequence of a gene. When that egg becomes an embryo, the result is a child who falls asleep while smoking in bed. He has the Sleepy Smoker gene.

Of course, this is an oversimplification. Complex behaviors don't usually arise from a single mutation. Nevertheless, let's think through the consequences of our hypothetical scenario.

Cigarettes are still unknown in the world, so this child grows up and has children of his own, who also harbor the Sleepy Smoker gene. As the centuries roll by, one in a thousand in our growing population has the dangerous but unexpressed tendency to fall asleep while smoking in bed, and all because one woman's ovary was pierced by a stray bit of radiation.

Eventually shamans discover tobacco, peace pipes become popular in diplomatic circles, and an occasional religious or political figure dies tragically in bed from a side effect of tobacco use. Even so, there just aren't enough people smoking in the world yet to make the consequences significant. The Sleepy Smoker gene continues to proliferate.

Then, in the 1920s, cigarettes are popularized by Hollywood movies. Over the next few decades smoking gains popularity. Suddenly that one person in a thousand is far more likely to be in a situation where his tendency to doze off while smoking in bed will play a role in evolution. Now there is a selective pressure against this particular gene, and the incidence of Sleepy Smoker disease will begin to decline.

Don't take this scenario to heart, and expect to see changes during your lifetime. Evolution works on a grand timescale. It can take hundreds of thousands of years to eradicate a single unfortunate trait. And if we learn to overcome our addiction and stop smoking, the selective pressures against the Sleepy-Smoker gene will ease, and sleepy smokers will continue to proliferate undetected, hidden by a progressive culture.


History and Internet Culture

The philosophy of the Darwin Awards is a way of life.

The origin of the Darwin Awards lies in the infancy of the Internet itself. Darwin Awards were one of the first email chain letters. A story was born when someone with a flair for journalism would notice an example of natural selection in his own backyard, turn it into an amusing anecdote, and send the story to friends. Friends would email friends would email friends, and those original email chains continue even today. They are fossils from the dawn of the Internet.

Some Darwin Awards are short reports based on a single newspaper clipping, such as the man who slept with a gun (FOOLISH INGENUITY: "Midnight Special"). A few turn out to be clever fictions crafted by sardonic writers not content with mere facts. Surreptitiously hidden among authentic Darwin Awards, these legends are known and loved by a microgeneration of fans. Therefore they remain the winners of record, despite being debunked as indicated in the text.


Darwin winners are determined by a lengthy and subjective process. Nominees are culled from the submissions using the the five rules of death, excellence, self-selection, maturity, and veracity. They are written with an eye toward the evolutionary, and made available for public vote and comment. Thorny issues are debated in the Philosophy Forum, a process illustrated by the John F. Kennedy Jr. debate (LEAPS OF FAITH).

Discredited nominations are removed, and those that fare poorly in the vote are reevaluated for suitability. Community members who believe a story is misrepresented are encouraged to provide an accurate version of events, and stories earning the disapproval of family or community members may be reassessed and removed from consideration. This continuing process of evaluation and revision is perhaps unique to the Internet culture and is made possible by the constant exchange of information among Darwin's thousands of readers. In this manner errors have been eliminated and the stories published here have benefited from that corrective process. At the same time readers should understand that the Darwin Awards and related stories have been built upon this process of community information exchange and are not the results of official investigation. While Darwin is constantly striving to eliminate errors, readers would be wildly missing the point if they were to treat these stories as gospel rather than as humor.

Advice on Reading the Stories

These stories aren't meant to be read all at once. Like tasty gourmet jelly beans, the flavors are most appealing when you consume a few at a time. A story that makes you laugh out loud when read fresh, may elicit a mental ho-hum after you've surfeited yourself with a dozen others. For maximum enjoyment, be content with a chapter each day.

Remember that a story that makes you laugh may make another recoil with dismay, and vice versa. Reader polls show that, in my quest to illuminate the evolutionary process, I am usually successful at walking the fine line between humor and horror. If you find that I have erred, please turn the page and enjoy the next selection.

As you explore these gems, I hope that you, too, will find joy in the concept of evolution as it applies to our fellow man.


Chapter One


Natural Selection: Animal Misadventures

"Only two things are infinite-the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not so sure about the universe."-Albert Einstein, Scientific Advisor to the Darwin Awards.


Can Animals Win Darwin Awards?

The simple answer is no. Darwin Awards commemorate individuals whose deaths improve the human gene pool, not the animal gene pool. But that trifling objection could be countered if the Darwin Awards credo were simply changed to read "Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who improve their species' gene pool." Then would an animal be eligible for a Darwin Award?

To win a Darwin, one must first behave stupidly.

And the prerequisite to behaving stupidly is to possess intelligence.

Animals can certainly display intelligence. Lassie, the legendary canine, taught us that dogs are sensible enough to dial 911 and summon help in an emergency. And an impressively smart fox was recently shown on a British news story. Pursued by hunters and dogs, it ran across an electrified railway line. Four of the dogs were electrocuted by the live wire, and another ten were killed when a train plowed through the confused pack. The fox escaped.

It is apparent that animals possess a degree of intelligence.

But animals lack the mental capacity to weigh alternatives. What's dumb for a human is not dumb for a dog. If a human stuffed his head into a potato chip bag to scarf the last scraps, we might laugh at his suffocation, but for a dog, the death is just plain sad.

If animals are to win Darwin Awards for their respective species, the triggering events must be appropriate. For instance, when birds fly into "invisible" windows, their mistake is not of Darwinian caliber. But a bird that singles itself out by repeatedly attempting to peck fleas off a cat is a prime target for natural selection.

Animals can be really stupid, even from their own limited perspectives. Chickens get trampled to death in a rush to be the one to drink the water dripping from the ceiling, while abundant water is available all around. A dozen sheep will follow one another, each stopping to gaze down the cliff at the bodies of its buddies before stepping out into space. We can imagine a few sheep and chickens standing back from the scene of the disaster, shaking their heads and clucking in astonishment at the stupidity of their own species.

In their defense, it is anthropomorphic of us to categorize chickens and sheep as "stupid" for their lack of foresight. Indeed, perhaps it is even hypocrisy. We have bred domestic animals for docility, not intelligence. There is evidence that we are the most intelligent species on earth because we systematically eliminated the competition of our intelligent cousins. Furthermore, domestic animals are living in an artificial environment instead of in their natural habitat. Domesticated pets and livestock are prey to dangers undreamt by Nature.

We animals are all subject to the same process of evolution. Therefore, each species is eligible for Darwin Awards from its own perspective. But the human version of the Darwin Awards is meant to tickle the human funny bone. Since we can't easily relate to the thought processes of animals, we just aren't amused by their foolish deaths. Therefore, animals are not eligible to win Darwin Awards. But the human animal can and does win, as the following stories attest.

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Table of Contents

The Darwin Awards: What are they? 1
Survival of the Fittest 1
Rules and Eligibility 2
Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution 7
Uncommon Common Sense 11
History and Internet Culture 13
Advice on Reading the Stories 15
Chapter 1 Natural Selection: Animal Misadventures 17
Can Animals Win Darwin Awards? 17
Darwin Award: In a Pig's Eye 21
Darwin Award: Killer Whale Rodeo 23
Darwin Award: Playing with Cats 26
Darwin Award: Hungry Python Kills Owner 27
Darwin Award: Poisonous Pets 29
Darwin Award: Snake Charmer? 30
Darwin Award: Burmese Python 32
Darwin Award: What's New, Pussycat? 33
Darwin Award: Wild Animal Lesson 34
Darwin Award: Smarter Animals 36
Darwin Award: Running of the Bulls 37
Darwin Award: Silenced by the Lambs 38
Darwin Award: Human Hitching Post 39
Honorable Mention: Nine Times a Loser 41
Honorable Mention: Revenge of the Gopher 42
Honorable Mention: Woman Disarmed by Tiger 43
Honorable Mention: Don't Mess with Mama Bear 45
Urban Legend: Man Glued to Rhino Buttocks 46
Personal Account: Bug Repellent 48
Personal Account: Why Kids Leave the Farm 50
Chapter 2 Relatively Dangerous: A Family Affair 51
Children and Evolution 51
Darwin Award: Go, Speed Racer, Go 54
Darwin Award: Wife Tossing in Buenos Aires 56
Darwin Award: Count Your Chickens 57
Darwin Award: Father Knows Best 58
Darwin Award: Laughing Gas 60
Darwin Award: Murderous Affair 61
Darwin Award: Avoiding a Fight 63
Darwin Award: Maine Chainsaw Romance 64
Honorable Mention: Trash Compactor 66
Honorable Mention: Darwin Your Bratty Kids 67
Urban Legend: Missionary Miscalculation 68
Personal Account: Accidental Safe Sex 69
Personal Account: Wives with Chloroform 70
Chapter 3 "I Fought the Law ...": Stupid Criminal Tricks 71
If Evolution Works, Why So Many Idiots? 71
Darwin Award: Junk Food Junkie 74
Darwin Award: Copper Caper 75
Darwin Award: Good Trumps Evil at Church 76
Darwin Award: Jumping Jack Cash 77
Darwin Award: Tired of It All 78
Darwin Award: Modus Operandi Misfires 79
Darwin Award: Restaurant Thief 80
Darwin Award: Dum Dum Boutique 81
Darwin Award: Scrap Metal Thieves 82
Darwin Award: Wrong Time, Wrong Place 83
Darwin Award: Clumsy Canadian Burglar 84
Darwin Award: Escaping Conviction 85
Darwin Award: Rob Your Neighbor 86
Honorable Mention: Pick Your Target 88
Honorable Mention: Armed and Dangerous? 89
Honorable Mention: Poor Sense of Direction 90
Honorable Mention: Airbag Weapons 91
Honorable Mention: Mis-Steak 92
Honorable Mention: Wile E. Coyote of Burglars 93
Honorable Mention: Limo and Latte Burglar 94
Honorable Mention: Spare Some Change? 95
Honorable Mention: Three Times a Loser 96
Honorable Mention: Sunny Side Up 97
Honorable Mention: Official Drug Test 98
Honorable Mention: Klutzy Crook 99
Personal Account: Compacted Ignorance 100
Personal Account: Gangster Blues 102
Chapter 4 Up in Smoke: Fire and Explosions 103
Awards for Priests and Gays? 103
Darwin Award: Living on Zionist Time 106
Darwin Award: Firefighters Ignite! 107
Darwin Award: Igniting Fireworks the Easy Way 108
Darwin Award: Justice Is Served 109
Darwin Award: No Smoking? Ha! 110
Darwin Award: Dynamite and Boats Don't Mix 112
Darwin Award: Up in Smoke 113
Darwin Award: Cigarette Lighter Triggers Fatal Explosion 115
Darwin Award: Lights Out 116
Honorable Mention: Chimney Safety 118
Honorable Mention: I Just Flicked My Bic! 119
Urban Legend: Scuba Divers and Forest Fires 120
Urban Legend: Cow Bomb 122
Urban Legend: Raccoon Rocket 123
Urban Legend: Hydrogen Beer Disaster 125
Urban Legend: Cell Phone Destroys Gas Station 128
Personal Account: Elemental Mistake 129
Personal Account: Is It Loaded? 130
Personal Account: Final Flick of Bic 131
Chapter 5 Leaps of Faith: Fatal Falls 133
John F. Kennedy Jr. 133
Darwin Award: Don't Drink and Fly 138
Darwin Award: Lawyer Aloft 140
Darwin Award: Stoned Sleep 141
Darwin Award: Homegrown Parachute 142
Darwin Award: Yosemite Parachute Safety 145
Darwin Award: Shocking Fall 147
Darwin Award: Bungee Jumper 148
Darwin Award: Bridge Bonzai 149
Darwin Award: One for the Birds 150
Personal Account: Leap of Faith 151
Personal Account: One, Two, Three, Heave! 153
Urban Legend: Misadventure at the Metallica Concert 155
Urban Legend: Power Plant Fitness Freak 158
Personal Account: Leveled 160
Chapter 6 Military Intelligence: Uninformed Men 161
Historical Darwin Awards 161
Darwin Award: Intelligence Blunders 164
Darwin Award: Hanging Around Jail 165
Darwin Award: Peeper Plummets 166
Darwin Award: Dead Spitter 167
Darwin Award: New Dating Technique 168
Darwin Award: Resistance Is Futile 169
Darwin Award: Wait for Me! 170
Personal Account: Industrious Brain-Dead Private 172
Personal Account: 5 Soldiers, 6 Police, 0 Brains 174
Personal Account: Jet Ski Jock 176
Personal Account: North Pacific Deckpecker 178
Personal Account: Flack Vest Testing 180
Chapter 7 Testosterone Poisoning: Macho Men 181
The Issue of Offspring 181
Darwin Award: JATO 184
Darwin Award: Fatal Footsie 186
Darwin Award: Guy Gulps Goldfish 187
Darwin Award: Dry Spell 188
Darwin Award: Sequined Pastie 191
Darwin Award: Gun Safety Training 192
Darwin Award: The Winner Gets ... A Postmortem 193
Darwin Award: I'm a Man, I Can Handle It 195
Darwin Award: William Tell Overture 196
Darwin Award: Sink the Cue Ball 197
Darwin Award: Repairs on the Road 199
Honorable Mention: Right Tool for the Right Job 200
Honorable Mention: Kiss Bites Back 201
Urban Legend: The Dog and the Jeep 203
Personal Account: One Cool Dude 206
Personal Account: Out of Their Heads 209
Personal Account: Round Lake Shortcut 210
Darwin Award: Chute Boy 212
Chapter 8 Dangerous Liaisons: Unsafe Sex 213
Evolutionary Hall of Shame 213
Darwin Award: Love Crushed Sex 215
Darwin Award: Baby, You Drive Me Crazy 216
Darwin Award: Sex and Suffocation 217
Darwin Award: Fatal Flasher 218
Honorable Mention: Chimney Manners 219
Honorable Mention: Betrayal of Trussed 220
Urban Legend: Lightning Date 222
Urban Legend: Gerbil Rocket 224
Urban Legend: Hedonist Air Pumpers 225
Urban Legend: Romeo and Juliet? 227
Chapter 9 Davey Jones' Locker: Watery Demise 229
Divergent Evolution 229
Darwin Award: Hurricane Hangover 232
Darwin Award: Gone Fishin' 233
Darwin Award: Polar Bear Swim 234
Darwin Award: Crappy Driving Award 236
Darwin Award: Can Duck Shooters Swim? 237
Darwin Award: Yosemite Hike 239
Darwin Award: Wet Will He 240
Darwin Award: Hard Work Rewards 241
Honorable Mention: Loch Ness Monster 242
Urban Legend: Darwin Beach Death 243
Personal Account: Quarry Story 245
Personal Account: The Iceman Exiteth 248
Personal Account: Rub Dub Dub, Men in a Tub 249
Personal Account: Surprise Flush 250
Personal Account: Tide-ally Impaired 252
Chapter 10 Man's Favorite Toy: Penis Envy 253
Losing the Family Jewels 253
Honorable Mention: Zany New Zealand Contest 256
Honorable Mention: Mr. Happy's Vacuum 258
Darwin Award: Priapism Takes a Penis 260
Darwin Award: Man Slices Off Penis 262
Darwin Award: Love from the Heart 264
Honorable Mention: Scoutmaster Snare 265
Honorable Mention: Scrotum Self-Repair 266
Honorable Mention: Horse Drug Experiment 268
Urban Legend: Frog Giggin' Accident in Arkansas 269
Personal Account: Jump Rope Blues 271
Personal Account: Disco Dork 273
Personal Account: Bridge Bowling 274
Personal Account: Pissing into the Wind 276
Chapter 11 Foolish Ingenuity: End of the Line 277
Evolution in Action 277
Honorable Mention: Lawnchair Larry 280
Darwin Award: The Last Supper 283
Darwin Award: Ultimate Price for Smelling Nice 285
Darwin Award: Midnight Special 287
Darwin Award: Deadly Reading Habits 288
Darwin Award: Breatharianism 289
Darwin Award: Roller Coaster 291
Darwin Award: Mental Eclipse 292
Darwin Award: No Bike Lane at the Airport 293
Darwin Award: The Bumbershoot 294
Darwin Award: Lemmings in a Well 295
Darwin Award: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow 296
Darwin Award: Death of Dracula 298
Darwin Award: The Daily Grind 299
Urban Legend: Christmas Roast 300
Urban Legend: The Laundry Was Clean ... 301
Urban Legend: Unfortunate Husband 303
Urban Legend: Overkill 306
Personal Account: Team Spirit 307
Personal Account: Cleaning the Head 308
Appendices 309
I. Website Biography 309
II. Darwin Haiku 311
III. Author Biography 312
Story Index 313
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First Chapter

Chapter 1
Natural Selection: Animal Misadventures
"Only two things are infinite-the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not so sure about the universe."-Albert Einstein, Scientific Advisor to the Darwin Awards.

Can Animals Win Darwin Awards?
The simple answer is no. Darwin Awards commemorate individuals whose deaths improve the human gene pool, not the animal gene pool. But that trifling objection could be countered if the Darwin Awards credo were simply changed to read "Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who improve their species' gene pool." Then would an animal be eligible for a Darwin Award?
To win a Darwin, one must first behave stupidly.
And the prerequisite to behaving stupidly is to possess intelligence.
Animals can certainly display intelligence. Lassie, the legendary canine, taught us that dogs are sensible enough to dial 911 and summon help in an emergency. And an impressively smart fox was recently shown on a British news story. Pursued by hunters and dogs, it ran across an electrified railway line. Four of the dogs were electrocuted by the live wire, and another ten were killed when a train plowed through the confused pack. The fox escaped.
It is apparent that animals possess a degree of intelligence.
But animals lack the mental capacity to weigh alternatives. What's dumb for a human is not dumb for a dog. If a human stuffed his head into a potato chip bag to scarf the last scraps, we might laugh at his suffocation, but for a dog, the death is just plain sad.
If animals are to win Darwin Awards for their respective species, the triggering events must be appropriate. For instance, when birds fly into "invisible" windows, their mistake is not of Darwinian caliber. But a bird that singles itself out by repeatedly attempting to peck fleas off a cat is a prime target for natural selection.
Animals can be really stupid, even from their own limited perspectives. Chickens get trampled to death in a rush to be the one to drink the water dripping from the ceiling, while abundant water is available all around. A dozen sheep will follow one another, each stopping to gaze down the cliff at the bodies of its buddies before stepping out into space. We can imagine a few sheep and chickens standing back from the scene of the disaster, shaking their heads and clucking in astonishment at the stupidity of their own species.
In their defense, it is anthropomorphic of us to categorize chickens and sheep as "stupid" for their lack of foresight. Indeed, perhaps it is even hypocrisy. We have bred domestic animals for docility, not intelligence. There is evidence that we are the most intelligent species on earth because we systematically eliminated the competition of our intelligent cousins. Furthermore, domestic animals are living in an artificial environment instead of in their natural habitat. Domesticated pets and livestock are prey to dangers undreamt by Nature.
We animals are all subject to the same process of evolution. Therefore, each species is eligible for Darwin Awards from its own perspective. But the human version of the Darwin Awards is meant to tickle the human funny bone. Since we can't easily relate to the thought processes of animals, we just aren't amused by their foolish deaths. Therefore, animals are not eligible to win Darwin Awards.
But the human animal can and does win, as the following stories attest.

Reprinted from The Darwin Awards by Wendy Northcutt by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Wendy Northcutt. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 21 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 5, 2012

    highly recommended

    Makes you laugh, maybe feel uncomfortable at some of the stories, but makes you see human nature as it is now.

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Funny stuff

    The Darwin books never get old, and are funny and scary at the same time! When you feel you have done something stupid, pick up one of these books, you'll realize you have nothing on some humans!

    Lisa Corkern

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2006

    funny, great quick read

    After reading and enjoying volume 4 of the series, I had to get more. So I tried the original, and I was not disappointed. The original collection of life's little lessons of what not to do in order to survive (or at least to procreate). Entertaining, humorous, even hilarious at times. Not that death is funny. Just as history is destined to repeat itself, those lacking common sense are desined to attempt (unintentionally) to pull themselves out of the gene pool, winning the coveted Darwin Award. I also appreciate the format of the book, since it can be taken bit-by-bit in little doses, like when waiting in the emergency room for your non-life-threatening treatment. Or swallowed all at once, when in the recovery room, waiting to be discharged. A great gift for the person lacking common sense, or those who love the bizarre. I guess both describe me!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2004

    a bit twisted but gives stories to tell your friends

    The book can be funny and depressing at the same time. It's shocking on how some people die and the dumb things they do to land them there. Its a great book to use at parties too make converstation. But it also has a negative aspect to it and that is that no one survives. To make it into the book you must have died. If you read to many stories it goes from funny to depressing. Its a book to pick up read one story then put it down until another time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2003

    Funny, Stupid, but great!

    This is a very funny book. I cant believe pople actually did this stuff! I mean when i die.. i hope its not in any of the ways shown in this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2002

    BLOWN AWAY!

    This book is so funny. I cant belive that they wrote a book on how many people died in the most stupid ways. It would really suck to die the way these people did, but its just so funny to the ones that it didnt happen to. I would give this more stars if I could. I just love this book!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2001

    This book makes me lol!

    This is gr8! I can't believe how many stupid people have gotten themselves killed, but the way they do it, and the way the author tells the stories, is incredible. I was rolling on the floor while reading about two drunk guys trying to get into a Mettalica concert.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2001

    Unbelievable

    The Darwin Awards are given to people that 'improve the gene pool by removing themselves from it'. That means you either die or lose your ability to reproduce. You have to read this book to believe it. I can't believe most of these are real (They'll tell you if it's confirmed or not). Want an example? Drowning is an unfortunate tragedy. Throwing a beach party for an oncoming hurricane w/65 MPH winds is stupid. Falling from a building is bad luck. Rigging your lawnchair to fly with 45 helium-filled weather balloons and flying into LAX airspace is idiotic. Want more? Read the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2001

    This book shows that some people are just 'boneheads'

    This book has stories about the stupidest ways people have died. I mean honestly; would you get out of your car and take a picture of a tiger that is just a few feet away from you?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2001

    Amazing Book

    This book is greatly humorous. this book is about stupid deaths made by stupid people. Great book!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2001

    Funny Stuff.

    What's so funny about people dying? Nothing of course-- unless we are talking about the deaths of people who receive Darwin Awards-- er, posthumously. This is some funny, funny stuff. YOu read about how some of these folks died, and you ask 'How could anyone do something so dumb?'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2000

    Happy Husband

    I purchased this book for my husband, a trivia and humor fan. He hasn't put it down and regales us again and again with stories he found in this wonderful book. It proves that we may not be perfect but we are not in fear of being like those mentioned in the stories. This is packed with enough to keep even the most voracious readers happy. Tidbits and Tales, most enjoyable and fun !

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2000

    About Time

    I've been waiting a long time for this book and is was worth the wait. My co-workers keep coming back into the break room to find out what the fits of laughter are all about. You couldn't make up funnier stories about people's stupidity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2010

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews

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