Please read the information on this link and any other stories about individuals eliminating their genes from the gene pool that you would like to read. Some of the stories are pretty funny!
The theory of evolution claims that organisms in a population that hold traits that put them at a disadvantage for survival are less likely to reproduce, thus changing the overall characteristics of the population over the course of time. Advantageous traits begin to appear more frequently in the population while disadvantageous traits disappear. This mechanism of evolution has to do with whether certain genes are passed on to the next generation or another, meaning that only genetic traits can be affected by evolution. However, what aspects of an organism are controlled by genetics? For example, in human beings it is clear that physical traits are controlled by genetics, but what about our personalities and characters? Are these traits genetically inherited as well?
In 1993, a biological researcher at Stanford University began an email that listed ridiculous things that individuals did that resulted in their deaths. She used the premise that these individuals had removed themselves from the gene pool through lack of common sense and had actually done humanity a favor by removing their lack of common sense from the gene pool. The interest in the email grew and soon people began sending her other stories that they had heard. So many emails were sent that the Stanford email server was overloaded. To avoid interference with the email server, she began a website that handed out awards to individuals “who significantly improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race in an obviously stupid way.” She gave each individual who did this a “Darwin Award” for helping eliminate his or her genes from the gene pool.
The requirements for such an award are simple. The individual must be unable to reproduce, which means that he or she must be dead or sterile. They became sterile or died because of an “astounding misapplication of judgment” and caused their own demise. Lastly, they must be mature enough to be capable of sound judgment and the event that is depicted must be an event that actually happened. A side criterion is that their actions must have caused harm only to themselves. The nominees cannot cause harm to others or remove other people from the gene pool because of their actions.
The awards seem to claim that common sense is an inherited trait that can be passed genetically from parent to offspring. The whole point of the awards is to remember and recognize those who protected the human gene pool by removing themselves from it through a lack of common sense, but it is unclear whether common sense is actually an inherited trait. The offspring of the individual who removed himself or herself from the gene pool may have been capable of a great amount of common sense and made better choices than their now dead parents made. In this sense, the Darwin Awards seem to be somewhat of a misnomer because the elimination of the trait that they are rewarding individuals for may not even be an inherited trait. In this sense, these awards should not be named the Darwin Awards, since the individuals who eliminated their genes from the gene pool were not eliminating the gene that caused their death. No gene has yet been proven to control common sense or whether an individual has common sense.
Another interesting aspect of these awards is the rhetoric that is used on the website’s page dedicated to explaining the history and rules of the awards. The page discusses how individuals who visit the page should not feel ashamed of laughing at the individuals who were killed by their own actions and should instead enjoy the stories since the perception of humor is distinct to the brain and the result of “the unexpected clash between reality and expectation.” This paragraph subdues any hesitation that a visitor to the website may have about laughing at the dark humor that characterizes many of the stories on the site, thus increasing the possible viewership of the site. It uses a very logical argument to make this point, stating that you are suppose to laugh because the brain finds clashes between reality and perception funny. The site’s author also uses her prior experience as a biological researcher at Stanford to increase her own ethos, ensuring that people can trust her on the topic that site discusses. Lastly, the whole site is an appeal to emotion since the stories are meant to invoke laughter in readers. The readers may walk away with a little bit more information about evolution than they had before, so the emotional appeal draws visitors to the site. While the science behind the site is subject to criticism, the overall rhetoric that the site utilizes draws visitors to not only visit and read the stories that are currently posted, but to send their own stories to the author to augment the Darwin Awards.
What do you think of the Darwin Awards? Do you think that common sense and other personality and character qualities can be genetically inherited?