Darwin Awards #4 Intelligent Design Hardcover – Oct 24 2006
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About the Author
A graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in molecular biology, Wendy Northcutt began collecting the stories that make up the Darwin Awards in 1993. Her award-winning Web site www.DarwinAwards.com is one of the most popular humor pages on the Web. The Darwin Awards have been profiled in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, and on NPR’s All Things Considered. Wendy is the author of the international bestsellers The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action, The Darwin Awards 2: Unnatural Selection, and The Darwin Awards 3: Survival of the Fittest. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
The fourth in a series of such books by the author, this seamless abridgment reports the antics of real individuals who have acted so stupidly that they sometimes die, thus removing themselves from the reproductive chain. Starting a paper fire under a car engine that is too cold to start, snowmobiling across water, blowing up outhouses, idiotic gun mishaps--these true stories are sometimes funny, sometimes sad. They are told alternately by the two narrators, whose pacing and phrasing serve the material well. Patrick Lawlor Girard's energetic performance includes foreign accents that work more often than not. His vocal skill and reportorial urgency make co-narrator Julie Schaller sound too innocent or casual by comparison. T.W. © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Volume 4 features the latest folk who have removed themselves from the human gene pool (Darwin Award winner) or attempted to (Honorable Mention).
Death isn't required as an endpoint for a Darwin Award, but reproductive fitness must be reduced to zero.
As an example of an Honorable Mention, I submit the case (p. 135) of an unidentified 50 year old entering the emergency room of a hospital in Hong Kong, complaining of abdominal pain. After an x-ray, doctors spotted what appeared to be an eel in his colon! Yes, the man admitted. He had been suffering from constipation, and decided that inserting an eel would be just the ticket to solve this problem. He recovered, so he remains in the gene pool (for those who will have him, and his traits).
And who gets a Darwin Award? Consider the case of the sleep-deprived Romanian (p. 129). He couldn't sleep because of a pesky and noisy rooster. He dreamed of wringing its neck, or, even better, decapitation. One evening he had had enough. He got out of bed, grabbed the rooster, and chopped off its head. Unfortunately, the sleep-deprived man noticed soon after that he had accidentally chopped off his penis instead, and while reflecting on this, his dog came over and ate the discarded member. He did get to the hospital and recover, but he was effectively removed from the gene pool.
See? Death need not be the endpoint. However, I guarantee you that the majority of Darwin Award recipients are no longer of this Earth. And, as compiler Wendy Northcutt would argue, that is just fine for the human gene pool.
We know, or at least we believe, that OUR brains won't be victims of what some wit has labeled "testosterone poisoning", which too often leads to such famous last words as "Hey, y'all, watch this!" (Alcohol poisoning seems to exacerbate the testosterone poisoning, as in the case of the two drunken young men who made a bet to see who could dangle the longer from a freeway overpass one night. They both lost the bet, dying when they fell into traffic after they could no longer hold on.)
So get ready to shake your head in amazement, and have many a chuckle along the way, as you read the latest round-up of human idiocy. You'll learn some other fascinating things too, in the science essays that introduce the chapters. Enjoy!
One common criticism of the Darwin Awards is the apparent cruelty of laughing at other people's tragedy, especially considering the family and friends who are left behind. Those critics fail to see that we don't laugh at the tragedy of it all, but the stupidity that lead up to it. People who commit acts of monumental stupidity has to be ridiculed as much as possible, because that is the best way of ensuring that other people learn from their mistakes. When someone tries to weld a live handgrenade to a chain in order to clean the chimney, it would be immoral NOT to bring the story to light, and to make sure everybody understands that if they ever do anything remotely similar, they too will be the laughing stock of millions.
Of course, if this view on life and death offends you, this book is not for you. It is also not the book for anybody who has a religious view that conflicts with modern science, because that is another key point in the philosophy behind the Darwin Awards, promoting science and knowledge, as part of the battle against stupidity. A losing battle it might seem, by the constant influx of new material...
This comes across clearly in the extra material in the book. The book is structured with the Darwin Awards themselves sorted into categories which each make a chapter. There is a chapter dedicated to death by explosives and fireworks, another dedicated to death by water. There is also a separate chapter for the female Darwin Award winners, who seem to be a more rare breed than their male counterparts.
Introducing each chapter is a short essay written by various knowledgable people, covering a wide variety of popular science.
Now you know what the book is all about, but the question remains, is it any good?
The answer is yes, it is very good. I'm tempted to give it top marks, but there are a few things that I feel detract a little. First of all, although the stories are for the most part excellent, and clearly worthy winners of the Award, there are one or two who, to me, are less an issue of blatant stupidity and more an issue of being somewhat stupid, but also just unlucky. This is always a personal feeling, and it did little to influence my overall enjoyment of the book, which was still very high. The other point is that the scientific portion of the book occasionally was slightly inaccurate. I was probably more sensitive to that matter as the essay concerned covered my own field of expertise, and I must stress the point that it was overall a good essay.
Those are the "bad" parts. It is not much, but it needs to be mentioned in a thorough review. The good parts are far more numerous, and includes the main part of the book, the stories. There is a lot of them, and they are all very good. Wendy Northcutt is a talented writer and editor, and the stories are usually very well chosen. The essays are all enjoyable and enlightening, and are a nice break from the Awards themselves.
All in all I can highly recommend this book if you enjoy the concept of the Darwin Awards, and if you like to read interesting articles and essays.
There may be limits to human intelligence but there are NO limits on human stupidity. If you need a laugh or have a need to feel superior, this is the book for you! The illustrations and the commentary which go with some of the stories are first-rate as well.