Why it’s hard to survive when idiocy and really bad judgment meet
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) just published a study titled, The Darwin Awards: Sex Differences in Idiotic Behaviour (link is external)in which they concluded men are significantly more likely to engage in idiotic behaviors so ‘up there’ on the stupidity scale, they result in the person getting themselves killed.
For male readers thinking the article is nothing more than an April Fool’s joke, rest assured the study was published in December not April, and for female reader’s thinking Duh! They needed a study to figure that out? not so fast ladies, the methodology they used to reach their conclusions was just as idiotic and flawed as their decision to publish an article about it.
The Darwin Awards
The BMJ study uses as its data set past recipients of The Darwin awards. The Darwin Awards have been given for the past twenty years (posthumously) to individuals whose actions and judgment is so idiotic as to result in their death, thus doing the rest of humanity a favor by removing themselves from the gene pool.
The Darwin Awards website and books are chock full of cringe-worthy stories and anecdotes involving acts of such sheer stupidity and bad judgment, they elicit both amusement and horror despite the subject always dying at the end. The study mentions the example of the terrorist who mailed a letter bomb with insufficient postage that was then returned to him, and which he then promptly opened, triggering the device and killing himself in the process. And the man who tried to steal a ride home by hitching a shopping cart to the back of a train, only to be dragged for two miles to his death before the train reached its next station.
Male Idiot Theory
The BMJ decided to review all the past recipients of Darwin Awards and test to see if men and women were represented in equal numbers, and ‘shockingly’ they were not. Men were indeed much more likely to be nominated for Darwin awards than women. After reviewing the minimal statistics involved, the researchers go on to state, “This finding is entirely consistent with male idiot theory (MIT) and supports the hypothesis that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.
Since the BMJ is a real and reputable journal, they do admit their study has certain ‘limitations” not the least of which is that it relies on the selection criteria of the publishers of the Darwin Awards books and website (who are not and never presume to be scientists). Why this incredibly biased, non-scientific method of cherry-picking data does not render their results invalid in the authors’ minds is unclear.
What is clear is the BMJ’s love for Darwin Awards’ Male Idiot Theory (MIT), in which they demonstrate a great interest, “We believe MIT deserves further investigation, and, with the festive season upon us, we intend to follow up with observational field studies and an experimental study—males and females, with and without alcohol—in a semi-naturalistic Christmas party setting.”
Perceptions of Science and Scientists
While I found BMJ’s article highly amusing and I understand the tongue-in-cheek spirit with which it is intended, I was reminded while reading it how dry British humor can be, and therefore how easy it might be for some readers to miss the humor entirely.
Although I am slightly curious to see how many news outlets cover the study as ‘real science’, I am also concerned that, at least in the U.S., scientific literacy is already suffering greatly as far too many people have a skeptical if not a hostile and in some cases, even a paranoid view of both science and scientists.
Therefore, despite finding the paper highly entertaining, I wonder whether the BMH’s decision to publish it was in essence a mini-Darwin-Award moment in itself, as it might represent yet another small step toward diminishing even further the respect and credence society places in science and scientists today.
My own work has always been focused on translating the findings from psychological science into practical uses that can benefit people’s lives and improve their psychological health. I therefore would like to take this opportunity to reassure my readers that I rely solely on peer-reviewed and well-respected scientific studies, none of which involve idiots blowing themselves up or dragging themselves behind a train.
For other scientifically proven ways to heal from failure and avoid it going forward, check out Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts(link is external)(Plume, 2014).
Copyright 2014 Guy Winch