To all the men out there: your mother/wife/girlfriend is right. Men are idiots. Medical researchers have now confirmed it (again).
A new study in the jokey annual “Christmas Edition” of the British Medical Journal examined the gender split in “idiotic” risk-taking — the kind “where the apparent payoff is negligible or non-existent, and the outcome is often extremely negative and often final.” The researchers analyzed the past 20 years of Darwin Award winners, looking at 318 verified cases in which people died “in such an idiotic manner that ‘their action ensures the long-term survival of the species, by selectively allowing one less idiot to survive.’”
Just to reinforce the level of scientific rigor involved here, the study clarifies that not just anyone can qualify for a Darwin Award:
The Darwin Awards Committee attempts to make a clear distinction between idiotic deaths and accidental deaths. For instance, Darwin Awards are unlikely to be awarded to individuals who shoot themselves in the head while demonstrating that a gun is unloaded. This occurs too often and is classed as an accident. In contrast, candidates shooting themselves in the head to demonstrate that a gun is loaded may be eligible for a Darwin Award—such as the man who shot himself in the head with a “spy pen” weapon to show his friend that it was real.
The researchers’ findings, presented below in scientifically compelling bar chart form, showed that 88.7 percent of Darwin Award winners, 282 of the 318 cases studied, were male. The results, the researchers write, are “entirely consistent with male idiot theory,” which basically posits that “men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.”
The study cites past research that has found men are more likely to be admitted to an emergency room with accidental or sports-related injuries and are more likely to get into traffic accidents with higher mortality rates. “Some of these differences may be attributable to cultural and socioeconomic factors: males may be more likely to engage in contact and high risk sports, and males may be more likely to be employed in higher risk occupations,” the researchers write. “However, sex differences in risk seeking behavior have been reported from an early age, raising questions about the extent to which these behaviors can be attributed purely to social and cultural differences.”
As with so many scientific studies, the Darwin Award analysis comes with caveats. There might be some bias in the nominations or reporting of Darwin Award candidates, for example. And other “sociobehavioral” factors — like alcohol use — may be a factor. “Anecdotal data support the hypothesis that alcohol makes men feel ‘bulletproof’ after a few drinks, and it would be naïve to rule this out,” the study says.
In other words, more research is necessary, and the study authors say they intend to get right on it, in the form of “observational field studies and an experimental study—males and females, with and without alcohol—in a semi-naturalistic Christmas party setting.”
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