Home » Intelligent Design » Alternative Darwin Awards

Alternative Darwin Awards

Bill asked me to introduce myself, and to describe an idea that came to me recently.

I am a graduate student, working on philosophy of biology (at a university that shall remain nameless), nearing the dissertation stage.

I am sure that everyone knows about the odious “Darwin Awards.” I have been concerned about this phenomenon for some time, because they seem to be catching on with the broader public. I encounter references to them increasingly frequently among the mostly liberal crowd I hang out with. I guess this is not too surprising, as their cynicism is certainly in tune with the times and the culture.

I even had a public school teacher of my acquaintance tell me recently about a child who fell off a cliff on a school outing. She was laughing about this incident and saying that the little boy should get a Darwin Award!

Well, I had a light bulb go off recently about how to fight fire with fire—satire with satire.

I was reading a book called Clockwork Garden, by Roger J. Farber (Amherst: UMass Pr, 1986). The book contains the following startling image (the passage pertains to the author’s critique of selectionism as a basis for reductionism of teleology to mechanism; in particular, he is distinguishing true selection—which is intentional—from mere sorting), on page 16:

“Consider a swimming coach who selects her team by throwing the entire freshman class into the pool and signing up those who float.”

When I read this passage, I suddenly had this vision of a cartoon depicting this situation—as an illustration of the tender mercies of the Darwinian philosophy.

The thing is, people laugh at the Darwin Awards because they feel superior to the people being ridiculed by the awards. But perhaps, through a more subtle (and more accurate) form of satire, they could be brought to see that the human form of life stands in dedicated opposition to the “natural”, especially as conceived of in Darwinian terms.

So, what do you all think? Worthy of a T-shirt? A regular comic strip? With a little imagination, the permutations on the theme are endless . . .

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

34 Responses to Alternative Darwin Awards

  1. I’m more than willing to take a shot at creating such a cartoon. I’m a graphic designer and illustrator and ID “enthusiast”. Which is funny to say… can you imagine a graphic designer who is “opposed” to intelligent design? Print materials designed by such a person would likely be chaotic, unorganized and illegible!

    Anyway, the only down side is that I’m insanely busy with work presently. But I would LOVE to take a shot at it as soon as I put another project or two behind me. I have a couple of other good cartoon concepts, too, which I’d like to get “out there.”

    How can I get my e-mail address to you without posting it here?

  2. Hi Theodosius and thanks for joining UD!

    Philosophy of Biology- Any particular aspect or are you examining the broad aspects of what philosophical biases have on biology?

    But anyway- Is slapstick the same? IOW do we laugh at the “Three Stooges” because we feel superior?

    What about the people who look at the “Darwin Awards” as life lessons learned without the cost.

    I know I will never try to rob a place by crawling on a drop ceiling with a flashlight in my mouth.

    I will never go ice fishing by driving out onto the lake with my faithful retriever and throw dynamite to make a hole in the ice.

    There are so many things that I never even thought of doing but now, if such a thought ever arises, I can deal with it.

    ;)

  3. Theodosius,

    I think you are on to a wonderful idea. Anything that can get the public thinking and asking questions without us having to pointedly bring up a conversation about it is great. T-shirts are awesome because people comment about them and it opens up an opportunity to share your point of view.

    As long as we are not poking fun of people, but rather pointing out the inconsistencies and flaws surrounding the ToE, then I’m all for it!

    I bought the ID/evolution game that Bill pointed out a few weeks ago, and brought it to a 7th & 8th grade Wed. night class I teach. The kids really got into it, and the trivia questions spurred lots of conversation about the issues in the debate. The only downside to the game was the dvd included (kinds of hokey). But, I’d like to see more of these type of products.

    Anyway, I’d certainly stock up on the T-shirts!

  4. I like satire. Everyone that knows me knows that I like satire. I’ve written numerous satires in my life. I used to write for a satirical newspaper.

    Naturally (or maybe by design), I like this idea. I do, however, have one drawback. You wrote:

    “I even had a public school teacher of my acquaintance tell me recently about a child who fell off a cliff on a school outing. She was laughing about this incident and saying that the little boy should get a Darwin Award!”

    If this is the degree to which they have taken the Darwin Awards, I would careful about satiring them. A child who fell off a cliff during a school outing is no laughing matter (Baylor lost a student last year due to this).

    I would proceed with caution. Consider, before we go forth, what benefit this has to the entire debate and weigh that against the time and effort.

    Otherwise…I love satire.

  5. I think it’d be a great idea, and agree with “Forthekids” that the no poking fun of people should be involved (excepting, in rare instances perhaps, Dawkins, Myers, and Harris, but only when they really outdo themselves).

  6. Ignore the “the” in “that the poking fun”.

  7. Add include “no” between “the” and “poking” in “that the poking fun” in my above comment.

  8. Darn it, stop mutating your previous comment into new CSI!

  9. Theodosius: Question about the child that fell off a cliff — what happened to the child? Did the child die? If so, the teacher’s joke is monstrous.

  10. Fred Williams has a nice satire:

    Start the slide show

  11. TRoutMac:

    You can get my e-mail from Bill D., but you don’t need my permission, anyway. I just throw the idea out there for what it’s worth. If you or anybody else likes it, feel free to take it and run with it.

  12. Bill:

    Yes, my understanding is that the child died. (I should add the caveat that all I know about the incident is what I heard that evening.)

    And yes, of course, the remark was monstrous, though I ought to add that the context was that of a teachers’ party (they are a wild bunch) with a lot of drinking going on.

    Naturally, I found the teacher’s comment reprehensible at the time. But the reason I mention it is not to reproach her personally so much as to show the extent to which the “Darwin Awards” mentality has penetrated into the public sphere.

    This was a particularly outrageous example, but it is actually becoming commonplace nowadays in cocktail party settings among bien-pensant liberals to hear casual references to the Darwin Awards, to the supposed male propensity to promiscuity, etc., as though Darwinism justified all sorts of evil and moral corruption. It is a growing and very pernicious way of thinking that I find so alarming.

    As a footnote, I must confess that I did not react heroically to this comment. I just bit my tongue.

    I wonder when the day will come when it is felt to be as disgraceful in educational circles to invoke Darwinism in defense of cruelty as it is to make racist comments, etc. That is the day that I see the ID movement as helping to bring about.

  13. Theodosius (and whoever else is interested):

    Visit the link below to see an example of a cartoon I created in this genre. It was just a funny idea I had and no one has published it or anything, so it’s my rightful property. I trust no one will use it for anything without my permission.

    I could certainly do something similar with the scene you described.

    http://homepage.mac.com/pandac.....bum81.html

  14. “This was a particularly outrageous example, but it is actually becoming commonplace nowadays in cocktail party settings among bien-pensant liberals to hear casual references to the Darwin Awards, to the supposed male propensity to promiscuity, etc., as though Darwinism justified all sorts of evil and moral corruption. It is a growing and very pernicious way of thinking that I find so alarming.”

    I hate hearing stuff like this, and I think one of your t-shirts should somehow slam this type of idea.

    Anyway, has anyone seen this guy’s stuff?

    tccsa.tc/nuckols/primordial.html

    I think it’s maybe a starting point of come kind. You probably need something a bit more sophisticated, IMO. But, he is using statire to make a point.

    TroutMac, your idea is good, but I’m afraid some of the everyday folk might not get it.

    Perhaps something between your idea and the link I provided. I suck at coming up with ideas, but I think this is something to pursue.

    Oh, and sex always catches the eye, so think along those lines as well. God knows, pz myers is good at using it. We should be able to use it in an appropriate manner and without looking like prudes, cuz we all know conservatives like it too!! (We just don’t do it with every monkey that swings our way.)

  15. SChen24 & Forthekids:

    You are both right that if this idea (satirizing the Darwin Awards) has any merit, it must be handled with discretion. If it is not done well, it will just look like a regular pro-Darwin Darwin Award.

    What I had in mind is something (like the example from the Farber book) that is so clearly outrageous that no one could mistake it for the ordinary Darwin Award.

    Throwing kids into the pool and letting them sink, then “selecting” the ones who spontaneously swim for the swim team. That is carrying Darwinian thinking to its logical conclusion. It also shows the utter absurdity of Darwinian thinking, at least as applied to human beings.

    The idea is that these would be “The REAL Darwin Awards”—what Darminism really comes to, if followed to its logical conclusion.

    But I agree, it would have to handled delicately, so that it could not be mistaken for the ordinary Darwin Award that just makes fun of individuals.

  16. I really like you kids in the pool idea. That’s perfect for what you’re looking for….just need some more ideas….thinking, thinking, thinking…………

  17. The Darwin Awards are a cultural icon adored by very many. I don’t see where any good will come from mentioning them in a negative light. The teacher mentioning a kid falling off a cliff should get a Darwin award is scandalous for that individual not for the awards.

    As for throwing kids in a pool and picking the ones that don’t drown for the swim team to illustrate Darwinian processes isn’t going to make you any friends or influence any people either. It’s kind of sick to use drowning kids as an example of anything. Quite frankly I’m flabbergasted this has even come up as a topic for discussion it’s such a bad idea.

  18. Okay then…

    You’ve got a point, Dave. But, he’s on the right track with the t-shirts.

    And, somebody please come up with an anti-”Darwin Day” because if I read any more about it, I’m liable to become physically ill. It’s getting bigger by the minute…

  19. Forthekids:

    Thanks. It’s true that this cartoon (the one I posted a link to) might not be suitable as a T-shirt, perhaps because it might go over peoples’ heads. Understand that was offered not as a competing idea, but rather as a testimony to my abilities in this area.

    Glad you liked the idea, just the same!

  20. Theodosius et.al.-

    Are you thinking to title the cartoon as a Darwin Award? I’d ALMOST think so, in order to make the association. For example, suppose you had a cartoon depicting the swimming event (with teacher selecting the floaters). What would give th eviewer of this piece the impression that this is a Darwin or Darwin related piece? AND How much benefit would it provide to the ID perspective..or is it mroeso aa antiDarwin perspective?

    I was thinking perhaps scenes whereby the Darwin Award recipient – the person likely hurt in the cartoon – were hurt in a way that depicts/demonstrates no fault of their own and/or by fault of a Darwinian thinker(eg. the coach in your swimming pool idea). Maybe, this summary/model might be helpful for coming up with more ideas. There may be other models & methods, of course, to aid in the creative process here.

  21. Real Life example of Theodosius’ concept:

    I was reading a book on/related to the Spetsnaz several years ago. Spetnaz are the Russian special forces. There was I think an American with a Russian Spetsnaz trainer standing nearby a bridge – watching candidates. In part of training to become Spetsnaz there is a diffucult route, and a part of this route the individual Spetsnaz candidate would come upon a bridge. The candidate is wearing a very heavy backpack this whole time. The Spetsnaz candidate is running the route, then turns to jump off of the bridge into the river far below. This is obviously a very dangerous maneuver. One could break his back or perhaps suffer a cuncusion in the river if not properly situated with the backpack on impact with the river.
    The American, seeing how hazardous this maneuver was, asked the Russian Spetsnaz, “What happens if the candidate dies?!”. The reply was, “Then he’s not Spetsnaz”.

    How much more Darwinian minded can you get?

    Reminds me of this film coming out in March – watch the selection process from 20 – 40 seconds into the trailer:
    http://video.google.com/videop.....#038;hl=en

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for selection for highly demaninding jobs and responsibilities. However, these depict the worse case of selection, ie. death to the weaker less perfect person.

    ————-

    Anothe rangle to approach are ways to view the slave trade. ie. People being selected & used based on their health and physical standings.

    ————-

  22. “selectionism as a basis for reductionism of teleology to mechanism; in particular, he is distinguishing true selection—which is intentional—from mere sorting”

    Can you please explain what you mean by this noise? (By ‘mechanism’ I assume you mean materialism? Teleology cannot be ‘reduced’ to ‘mechanism’ since they are incompatible. And your “distinction” between selection and sorting is nonsensical.)

  23. JGuy

    death to the weaker less perfect person

    Most people think of natural selection as resulting in survival of the fittest (and think that phrase has content).

    Years ago I read a book by a geologist who, in discussing events like meteor impacts and subsequent mass extinctions, asked what fitness had to do with survival in those circumstances. His conclusion was that survival was of the luckiest.

    In the last few years we’ve had cable and consequently I’ve been able to watch a lot of Discovery, National Geographic and Animal Planet. One thing I’ve noticed is that selection of prey is related to how easy it would be for the predator to make the kill. Old, slow animals are easier to kill but they’ve already had their breeding opportunities so natural selection is not operating there. Sick animals are easier to kill but natural selection only operates on those animals that are genetically abnormal and then it works to conserve rather than to improve. Many animals are sick because of accidents; maybe they stepped on a thorn and the wound got infected, or into a hole and tore or strained a ligament.

    But the easiest prey are the young. They are small and have a lot of learning to do. They could be perfect specimens with wonderful potential but their immaturity puts them at risk. Natural selection in the progressive Darwinian sense is not operating here either.

    So I don’t think that the illustration from Farber is accurate. A better one would be of a muscular swimming coach who tours the whole neighbourhood, snatching anyone he can catch and carry, or wheel, away; elderly men and women, young men in traction, women in labour, little children and any baby whose mother turned her head away for a moment. Then he would chuck them in the pool and see who floats.

  24. Janice:
    “But the easiest prey are the young. They are small and have a lot of learning to do. They could be perfect specimens with wonderful potential but their immaturity puts them at risk. Natural selection in the progressive Darwinian sense is not operating here either.”

    Janice, I think we can make a reasonable prediction. Evolution should evolve all species to give birth to only fully formed adults – ready to mate at birth.

  25. JGuy,

    I’d like to laugh but my second child weighed in at just under 10lbs and considering what pushing him out did to to me for the following six months I don’t want even to imagine how female human beings would have to shape-change to allow giving birth to a fully formed adult.

  26. Especially considering that the adult in question, though skinny, is now over 6′ tall whereas I am a mere 5’4″. Still can’t think in metrics where bodily measurements are concerned.

  27. My daughter was only 2 lbs. 8 oz. at birth (10 weeks early). Neither she nor my wife would have made it without emergency surgery. My daughter is now 4+ and people think she is 6 because of her size.

    About the swim team thingy- could we have the coach throw the kids into the shallow end? (I’m thinking of the Kevin Cistner “Robin Hood” scene in which he fights Little John for the first time- in a river.)

  28. JGuy:

    Yes, you are right, it would be necessary to make the link to the Darwin Awards concept explicit to get the point across. My idea was to run a series of similar scenarios (the Spetznas idea is another good one) under the general title “The REAL Darwin Awards,” or something like that.

    Trystero57:

    Re: my “noise.” You may not think it makes sense to attempt to “reduce” the teleology manifest in living things to “mechanism” (and I think you are right), but surely you must know that the vast majority of working scientists and naturalistically inclined philosophers would disagree with you.

    They would say that the ‘teleology” apparent in living things is only apparent, and that in reality the phenomena of life can be fully explained by the theory of natural selection and molecular biology, information theory, cybernetics, etc., with no resort to the idea of teleology.

    The Farber book argues, among other things, that natural selection fails to accomplish this reductive task. However, Farber himself believes that cybernetic control theory can do the job. Personally, I think they both fail. But at any rate, there is a lively debate on this subject in the philosophical literature.

  29. My observations are that a really good/funny cartoon can pass very rapidly across the internet. People like humor and excitedly forward cartoon pictures on to friends and to their friends etc.

    What I think would be good would be a non-copyright series that can be posted on websites such as mine, put in church newsletters and so on.

    A new ID friendly Gary Larson would be great! Remember his giraffe evolution piece? The giraffe started off with really long legs and a short neck and ‘evolved’ over (I think) 6 slides to obtain short legs and a long neck. It was beautifully done, simple and even stuck in my bad memory :-)

  30. Hi everybody. Here in Germany we have a cartoonist that works with very cynical humor.

    He is quite famous over here. His cartoons are called “Nicht Lustig” which means “Not Funny”.

    Here is a counterpart to the teacher laughing about the child falling of the clif.

    Its called “Lemming Kindergarden”

    http://www.nichtlustig.de/such.....ut=Lemming

    Have fun with the “Not Funny” Cartoons

    The Lemming, jumping, is screaming:

    “Oh no Eric why?”

    http://www.nichtlustig.de/such.....ut=Lemming

    Or this one:

    The Dino is saying: “He says he comes from the future and he wants to show us something. We should all tag along.”

    http://www.nichtlustig.de/such.....ut=Lemming

    Go to search and click on the lemming to see all the suicidal cartoons!

    http://www.nichtlustig.de/suche.php

    Lemmings are strange :)

  31. Also some people may find it funny and attribute a Darwin Award to at least 4-5 kids haveing hung themselves on accident after watching Saddam Husseins execution, I would not like to see that kind of humor on a T-shirt.

    see here
    http://www.news24.com/News24/W.....41,00.html
    and here
    http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/st.....id=4904242

    I do laugh about Lemmings, yet I think the dignity of human beings should be preserved to make a good joke!

  32. Re the article “The thing is, people laugh at the Darwin Awards because they feel superior to the people being ridiculed by the awards.”.

    Well that more or less what humour is, i.e. laughing at peoples misfortune (all in varying degrees of course).

  33. There’s was a Drudge report link about a beastiality movie at Sundance that’s controversial for what are quite unsurprising reasons given the subject matter. Anyhow, the director comments that some guy in his home town of Seattle died of injuries sustained while having sex with an Arabian stallion.

    Now THERE is a classic someone deserving a Darwin Award.

    Oh and the best joke I heard so far was:

    “Neigh means nay.” ROFLMAO

Leave a Reply