The theory that men are idiots and often do stupid things is backed up by evidence in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.
The findings are based on an analyses of sex differences in idiotic behavior.
According to “male idiot theory” (MIT) many of the differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency department admissions, and mortality may be explained by the observation that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things. There are anecdotal data supporting MIT, but to date there has been no systematic analysis of sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. In this paper we present evidence in support of this hypothesis using data on idiotic behaviours demonstrated by winners of the Darwin Award.
Winners of the Darwin Award must 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 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.
To qualify, nominees must improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race using astonishingly stupid methods. Northcutt cites a number of worthy candidates.These include the thief attempting to purloin a steel hawser from a lift shaft, who unbolted the hawser while standing in the lift, which then plummeted to the ground, killing its occupant; the man stealing a ride home by hitching a shopping trolley to the back of a train, only to be dragged two miles to his death before the train was able to stop; and the terrorist who posted a letter bomb with insufficient postage stamps and who, on its return, unthinkingly opened his own letter.
Data for the 20 year period from 1995 to 2014 were obtained from the Darwin Awards (http://darwinawards.com). Nominations for a Darwin Award are evaluated according to five rigorous selection criteria: death, style, veracity, capability, and self selection.
The candidate must be eliminated from the gene pool
The candidate must show an astounding misapplication of common sense
The event must be verified
The candidate must be capable of sound judgment
The candidate must be the cause of his or her own demise.
However, this study has limitations, add the authors. For example, women may be more likely to nominate men for a Darwin Award or the sex difference may reflect differences in alcohol use between men and women.
Despite this, it is puzzling that males are willing to take such unnecessary risks – simply as a rite of passage, in pursuit of male social esteem, or solely in exchange for “bragging rights,” say the authors.
They believe male idiot theory deserves further investigation, and, “with the festive season upon us, we intend to follow up with observational field studies and an experimental study – males and females, with and without alcohol – in a semi-naturalistic Christmas party setting,” they conclude.