Darwin Award nominees are natural selections

Across our nation, school boards are trying to reintroduce creationism into the curriculum, claiming that teaching only evolution ignores the theory of intelligent design.

These community leaders ought to worry less about their children learning Charles Darwin's theory than their growing up to commit acts of fatal stupidity that prove him right. Every year, the intelligence-challenged improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it. Such events are commemorated by the Darwin Awards, a contest in which the evolutionary process' losers are winners, and all awards are presented posthumously.

Who survives, according to Darwin's theory? The strong, swift and smart. Who goes the way of the dodo? Those who strap sharp steel spurs onto fighting roosters.

A Filipino man earned a Darwin nomination when, before a 2003 cockfighting match, he affixed razor-sharp blades onto his bird's legs. He lost control of the rooster, and the bird, trained to aggressively attack with its claws, beak and - when available - sharp foreign objects, turned on him. In moments the rooster sliced through major arteries in his owner's thigh and groin.

The evolutionary lesson here? A man more fit to survive would have worn protective gear when handling a razor-wielding rooster. An even fitter man wouldn't have strapped blades to a bird in the first place.

At this point my loyal readers - all nine of them - probably are thinking, "Ben, we get your point and we understand the dark humor some may see in this tragic incident. But isn't it unseemly to make light of a man's demise?"

My nine loyal readers are absolutely right. It's incredibly tacky and not at all funny to make jokes about life-threatening mishaps. That is, unless those mishaps involve a guy blowing himself up in a Porta-Potty.

Consider the case of the West Virginia man who earned a Darwin nomination in July 2004 with an explosive decision: While relaxing in a portable toilet, the man determined he would feel even more at ease if he were enjoying a cigarette. The man's smoking habit nearly shortened his life more drastically than expected, as the lit cigarette - coupled with the methane inside the john - set the Porta-Potty ablaze. Remember, kids: Lighters don't kill people. Lighters ignited by morons in methane-filled Porta-Potties kill people.

Or at least they should. But the man survived the incident, disqualifying himself from Darwin Award consideration.

The same can't be said for the 25-year-old New York man who, after years of annoying neighbors by snowmobiling at high speeds, finally received his comeuppance - and a Darwin nomination - when he drove into a tree in February 2003.

He wouldn't have earned a nomination had he not sped recklessly through a residential area at night. Or done so in an unregistered, uninsured snowmobile. Or failed to wear a helmet. Oh, and did I mention he was drunk?

Securing his nomination was the fact that the man was a firefighter, a member of the same company that was dispatched to the accident scene. The same group that posted an illuminated helmet safety notice 700 feet from his home.

This is how evolution works. The fittest men - and Darwin nominees tend to be male, a gender that seems to evolve in spite of itself - reproduce and watch as their descendants go on to great things such as curing diseases and inventing TiVo. The rest do our species a favor by draining their razor-attaching, toilet-igniting, drunken-snowmobiling genes from the shallow end of the pool.

That's why it's so important for students to learn evolutionary theory. Those who ignore it are doomed to prove its merit.

And get nominated for a Darwin Award.

Columnist Ben Bromley hopes never to find his exploits detailed at http://www.darwinawards .com. A former editor at Lillie Suburban Newspapers, he is now a writer at the Baraboo News Republic.

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