There is nothing funny about death.
Some people, though, upon learning the circumstances surrounding a death, have to chuckle because they attribute a certain amount of blame to the deceased. This is because the deceased was doing something that he or she really shouldn't have been doing.
Most of the time, it's a "he" who shouldn't have done it, say researchers from the UK's Newcastle University.
In their study of Darwin Award winners from 1995 to 2014, the researchers offer a depressingly clear vision of, well, idiotic behavior. Published in the British Medical Journal, their paper is titled, "The Darwin Awards: Sex Differences In Idiotic Behaviour."
Should you be unfamiliar with the Darwin Awards, these celebrate those who, in the researchers' words, "must eliminate themselves from the gene pool in such an idiotic manner that their action ensures one less idiot will survive."
There are five criteria: death, style, veracity, capability and self-selection. These people didn't die in unfortunate circumstances. They, in the judges' view, truly did something ineffably stupid to accelerate their death.
The researchers pointed to a couple of examples. These included the terrorist who sent a letter bomb without the requisite number of stamps. The letter bomb had a return address. When it arrived back at the terrorist's house, he opened it. Yes, without thinking.
What the boffins found during their study were 332 confirmed Darwin Awards nominees. In 14 of these, men and women were in idiotic cahoots. But of the remaining 318 cases, a stupendous 282 involved only men. This, your calculator will tell you, represents 88.7 percent.
Perhaps because they're from the gritty northern town of Newcastle, the researchers declared boldly that this was overwhelming proof of Male Idiot Theory.
They did toss in a few caveats. Perhaps men are nominated more often (by women). Perhaps the media finds writing about stupid men easier than writing about stupid women. Perhaps men just drink more. (I'm not sure that's true in the UK any longer.)
At heart, though, I fear these results will offer little surprise to the remaining gene pool.
Before insisting they will continue their research in a Christmas party setting (really), the scientists offered one more curious sentence: "It is puzzling that males are willing to take such unnecessary risks -- simply as a rite of passage, in pursuit of male social esteem, or solely in exchange for 'bragging rights.'"
Somehow, I think many people won't find that puzzling at all.
If you look at the vast majority of utterly stupid actions that have mangled history and humanity, somewhere at their heart will be a man (and a proud one too).Chris Matyszczyk