History & Rules

In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species' chances of long-term survival. Next


The candidate must remove herself 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. Therefore, the potential winner must be deceased, or at least incapable of reproducing. The traditional method is death. However, an occasional rebel opts for sterilization, which allows her more time to enjoy the dubious notoriety of winning a Darwin Award.

If someone manages to survive an incredibly stupid feat, then her genes de facto must have something to offer in the way of luck, agility, or stamina. She is therefore not eligible for a Darwin Award, but sometimes the story is too entertaining to pass up, and she earns an Honorable Mention.

Heated philosophical discussions have sprung up around the reproduction rule. If a person (or group) gives up sex, is she eligible for a nomination? How about birth control pills? Must the candidate be completely incapable of reproduction? Frozen sperm and ova are viable decades after the donor's demise, and sheep can be cloned from a single cell. Should the elderly be ruled out because they are too old to breed? Their misadventure has no impact on the gene pool, unless you consider the "grandmother effect". Should those who already have children be banned from winning?

Advanced Discussion of Offspring]
The existence of offspring, though potentially deleterious to the gene pool, does not disqualify a nominee. Children inherit only half of each parent's genetic material and thus have their own chance to survive or snuff themselves. If, for instance, the offspring has inherited the "Play With Combustibles" gene, but also has inherited the "Use Caution When..." gene, then she is a potential innovator and asset to the human race. Therefore, each nominee is judged based on whether or not she has removed her own genes, without consideration to the number of offspring or, in the case of an elderly winner, the likelihood of producing more offspring.

In any case, these are complicated questions. And (when this was written in the 1900's) it would take a team of researchers to ferret out the actual reproductive status or potential of the nominee--a luxury Ms. Darwin of the Darwin Awards lacks--therefore, if she no longer has the physical wherewithal to breed with a mate on a desert isle, then she is eligible for a Darwin Award.

Jerome B. Martin notes:
"The purpose of Darwin Awards is to applaud victims for removing their genes from the gene pool. This act can have varying degrees of merit, depending upon whether the victim has procreated, and if so, how frequently. Removing ones genes from the pool clearly has less merit if the genes have already been passed on to several offspring, unless you can rely on the offspring to also find creative ways of eliminating their genes before they reproduce. Thus, a weighting factor should be applied to the criteria, giving maximum benefit to a victim who has never procreated, decreasing as the number of offspring increases.

Darwin replies, "I agree with your assessment in principle, Jerome, but argue that it is impossible for a mortal, non-omniscient, to weight such factors in the Darwin Awards.

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