Men Are Idiots Who Do Stupid Things

Posted on December 22, 2014


Life in the Boomer Lane took out a few moments from writing to Kim Jung Un to ask him to please send her a list of acceptable films to see over the holidays, in order to read some research that an alert reader sent to her. A note to male readers of this blog. The following is, in no way, intended to be an example of any low regard in which LBL holds you. She appreciates the male species in general, and holds a special place in her heart for any male who spends a small part of his day reading her posts, rather than whatever it is that men read.

Time to get down to the research. NPR, in an article titled, “Men Are Idiots Who Do Stupid Things,” described research done by BMJ (the former British Medical Journal), in which was postulated a Male Idiot Theory, based on an exhaustive analysis of past winners of the Darwin Awards.  The Darwin Awards are given each year to those people who die in such an idiotic manner that “their action ensures the long-term survival of the species, by selectively allowing one less idiot to survive.”

The study looked at 318 cases, of which 282, or 88.7 percent, were men.

“Limitations of the study, the authors noted, include its retrospective nature, selection bias— women may be more likely to nominate men — and reporting bias — male candidates for the award may be more newsworthy than female candidates.”

On the other hand,  “Despite these limitations there can be little doubt that Darwin Award winners seem to make little or no real assessment of the risk or attempt at risk management. They just do it anyway.”  An example of a past winner is a terrorist who mailed a letter bomb with insufficient postage and who, upon its return, opened it.

Rather than citing endless examples of how people have earned Darwin Awards, all one has to do is think about your average Road Runner cartoon.  Wile E Coyote, in an attempt to catch his prey (Road Runner), runs off cliffs, explodes himself, and, in general, “makes little or no real assessment of the risk or attempt at risk management.” Because he is a cartoon, WEC immediately springs back into action, unlike the male recipients of the Darwin Awards, who merely spring into their coffins.

All this leaves us with the pesky problem of figuring out why men engage in unnecessary risk-taking. Clearly, if males were risk-averse, nobody would have gone out hunting mammoths. People would have been reduced to eating whatever they found lying around, or ordering inferior food delivery. Wars would have been impossible to wage, without young men willing to stay on the field or the boat, or later, in the air. The West would not have been won, the continents explored, the pyramids built.  The Amazon would have been left to the Amazonians, rather than to all the intrepid explorers who boldly succumbed to any number of hostile plants, animals, and people, in order to see what was there.

With a few notable exceptions, most of the large-scale lack of risk management has been the territory of men. The study notes, “Presumably, idiotic behavior confers some, as yet unidentified, selective advantage on those who do not become its casualties. Until MIT gives us a full and satisfactory explanation of idiotic male behavior, hospital emergency departments will continue to pick up the pieces, often literally.”

LBL sincerely hopes that this post has not offended the most important man in her life: Santa.  Like you, she is just doing her job. She asks you to be generous to her this season.  Very, very generous.