This week’s topic may be controversial to those of you that adhere to the belief that we were conjured out of a pile of dirt in the Garden of Eden. It deals directly with the very basic concept of survival of the fittest. This idea, which was introduced by Charles Darwin in his book On the Origin of Species published in 1859 and made part of the lexicon by Herbert Spencer in his book Principles of Biology published five years later, is actually a poor description of how natural selection or evolution works in natural populations. Natural selection is the process by which certain desirable traits are selected for in a population so that there will be a survival advantage to the next generation. For example, moths that look like tree bark are less likely to be scarfed up by birds than moths that have blinking “Eat at Joe’s” signs on their asses. The ones that survive mate and pass the tree-bark-camo traits on to the next generation. Pretty simple idea; however, as I said, the term survival of the fittest is not a good descriptor for the process. The term should most likely be “survival of the fit enough” or more accurately “destruction of the weak.” “Destruction of the weak” has a slightly negative slant so “survival of the fittest” has remained in vogue since it seems more positive. Not surprisingly, I like the former term. It sounds more final, more resolute. Sounds like you need to get your crap in a pile or you’re going to be on your way out, Bub. Survival of the fittest seems soft, almost like natural selection is a friendly Parcheesi game.
Anyway, I’ve managed to digress from what the topic of this week actually is – The 2008 Darwin Award Winners. For the uninitiated in the audience the Darwin Awards have been chronicling the most idiotic instances of self-extraction from the gene pool for many years now and have been a source of countless hours of laughter and distraction for me, personally. In order to qualify for an award a person must successfully remove themselves from the reproductive race by either death or some other means (I’ll leave that to your imagination) in such an idiotic way that we should be glad that they cannot pass on their genetic material to the next unwitting generation. Becoming a priest on its own doesn’t count (unless they are castrated, which I would argue for), but as you’ll see in the list below there are other ways God’s spouses can enter the contest. I can’t qualify for the list since (although I may come to an early demise through my own idiotic decision-making) I have already passed on my flawed genetic material to my children. Suckers! Below are the top five Darwin Award Winners as voted on by viewers at www.darwinawards.com:
- (20 April 2008,
) Adelir Antonio de Carli, 41, (a Catholic preist) was attempting to set the world record for clustered balloon flight to publicize his plan to build a spiritual rest stop for truckers. The priest took numerous safety precautions including wearing a survival suit, selecting a buoyant chair (in case of a water landing), and packing a satellite phone and a GPS. However, the intrepid balloonist made a fatal mistake. He did not know how to use the GPS. The winds changed, and he was blown toward open sea. He could have parachuted to safety while over land, but he poorly chose not to. When the voyager was perilously lost at sea, he prudently phoned for help. But rescuers were unable to reach him since he could not use his GPS! Without the GPS, the priest let God be his guide, and God guided him straight to heaven. Bits of balloons began appearing on mountains and beaches. Ultimately the priest's body surfaced, confirming that he had in fact won a spot on the list. Atlantic Ocean, Brazil
- (July 16, 2008,
) Gerhard Adolf Zeitler Plattner, 68, was stopped at a traffic light with a railroad crossing in his beloved Porsche Cayenne. The man did not let the line of cars ahead of him move forward far enough before he crossed the railroad. The safety bars came down, leaving the Porsche trapped on the rails. When he realized he was stuck the man jumped from the car and started to run -- toward the oncoming train, waving his arms in an attempt to save his car! The attempt was successful. The car received less damage than its owner. He was hit hard enough to land 30 meters away, and attempts to revive him were (thankfully) unsuccessful. Italy
- Three military men volunteered to help one of their grandmothers out by removing a tree from her property. To keep the 50-foot tree from crushing the house, the privates reasoned that they would tie a rope to the top of the tree and pull the rope away from the house as the tree was cut. The privates climbed a nearby tree, wound a rope through its upper branches, and threw the rope to a private in the target tree. He tied the rope around the trunk. By this device, they could pull the rope from the ground. Two privates were situated on the ground, each straining to pull the tree away from Grandmother's house. The third private revved his chainsaw and started to cut. Lo and behold, the tree actually fell away from Grandmother's house! However...The rope-pulling privates had wrapped the rope around their waists, not considering that the falling pine weighed several tons. As the pine tree fell, both privates were ripped off their feet and smashed through the branches of the other pine tree. At the height of their acceleration, they broke through the top branches of the tree, and were briefly airborne before being jerked toward the earth when the fallen tree hit the ground. The privates entered into
history, either on the way up through the branches or on the way down to the cold, hard ground. Darwin
- The telephone company was replacing above-ground telephone lines with buried lines. In one sparsely populated farming area, if lines crossed a country road they would dig a trench halfway across, so rural traffic could continue through. Then they would fill in the trench, and dig a trench on the other side. One morning, a local farmer called the sheriff to report a smashed-up pickup. Inside were two ranch hands that were last seen the previous night, heading home after last call. On their way to the bars, the men had decided to play a prank. They stopped their pickup, and moved the flashing warning signs from the trenched side to the good side of the country road. Crime scene analysis later confirmed that they were the culprits who moved the flashing stands. Investigations also revealed that at the time of the accident, they were driving at an excessive speed with an impressive amount of alcohol in their systems. No crime scene analysis is capable of determining whether the ranch hands forgot their prank, or chose to see what would happen if they hit that trench at a high rate of speed in the middle of the night. Welcome to the list.
- (2 February 2008,
) David, 46, was sliding down an Italian ski slope one night, riding on padding that he had removed from the safety barriers at the bottom of the run. It did not occur to him that it might be dangerous to sled down the same slope from which he had stolen the protective padding. The man careened straight into the bare barriers at the bottom of the slope. David died from head and chest injuries inflicted by the unpadded metal. Two of his friends survived with medical attention. Another Darwin Award candidate is still missing after he wandered away "bloodied and distressed." Italy
There you have it. The Top Five Childless Dead Idiots of 2008. R.I.P. Be sure to check the website. There are some real doozies on the list.