Four years of college and all I got was this lousy Darwin Award


I wonder how many of the people making smarmy Darwin Award comments understand that there is nothing Darwinian about the Darwin Awards at all? Because Darwin Awards based on strict Darwinian theory would have nothing to do with being stupid. They would be about not having children. Or, childless, having never assisted in the upbringing of blood nephews or nieces who themselves have children. That’s who’d get the Darwin Award. It’s not about brains, it’s about progeny.

Which means, whoops, I win a Darwin Award.

Well, not really. I have some nephews, though I haven’t exactly been an attentive uncle. But same genes, so I am disqualified on a technicality. Had I dropped my brother from a third story window or better yet talked him into joining the priesthood, then I’d scoop up my Darwin Award.

But I didn’t. I have those four nephews. Great kids, all of them. And therein lies the future of my genetic heritage. Or some of it. Me and my brother don’t have exactly the same genes. Same parents, but not the exact same genes in the exact same order. Who knows what bits of junk DNA I have that he doesn’t. And impossible to explain (or even pronounce) heterochronous traits like me being so damn hypermorphotic I can’t find shoes that fit. My brother can find shoes. His kids can find shoes. It’s possible that my huge frame will lie recessed waiting to pop up in some huge baby somewhere in the future. But I think probably not. Something went a little amiss with me. Junk DNA maybe. A Hox gene that went rogue. Odds are that those are a one time only deal. But there’s genetically enough of the same between us, as siblings, to make sure that some of what is in me was also passed on to my brother’s own sons and into their children and on down the line for a few generations (after a few generations it gets so divided up and scrambled it’s not anything recognizably me anymore). And in Darwinian terms shared genes are all you need to succeed. A brother isn’t perfect, gene wise, but he’ll do in a pinch.

Now what about Jose Canseco, butt of a zillion Darwin Award jokes this week for blowing off his own finger? Yeah, that was stupid, blowing off his own finger while cleaning one of his handguns. Really stupid, actually. The middle finger, too, my favorite. But stuff like this doesn’t matter, no matter how dumb it is. What does matter is that Jose Canseco has a daughter. So no Darwin Award for him. Much as you all want to give him one, he doesn’t qualify.

In fact, even if Jose Canseco had no children and shot his middle finger off cleaning a loaded handgun, he still wouldn’t qualify for a Darwin Award. Because Jose Canseco has an identical twin brother, and an identical twin brother, gene wise, is perfect. If that brother has children it’s the same thing as Jose Canseco having children. Identical twins pass on identical genes, or as close as you can get to identical this side of parthenogenesis (i.e., cloning). So even with nine fingers, it’s a Darwinian win/win situation for Jose Canseco. The Jose Cansecos of the world don’t receive Darwin Awards. They hand them out. They call you Double Income No Kid dinks up on stage and hand you a shiny statuette of Charles Darwin. People laugh. You shake Jose’s bandaged hand. He yelps in pain. His identical twin brother leaps up and decks you. You fall backward. The audience, every one of them the spitting image of Jose Canseco, is in hysterics. Then you wake up.

Meanwhile I type this last line with ten fingers and the realization that some fool with nine fingers will have an impact on the coming evolution of the species that I will never have. Because as natural selection goes–and that is the core of Darwin–the winners pass on their genes. And the losers, well, don’t. We’re dead ends. We die, and our individual genetic traits–the blend of our parents that developed, in my case, into me, the guy writing this–will die with us. Disappear. Poof.

Oh well, no use crying over spilled milt.


Charles Darwin had ten children, sparing him the ignominy of a Darwin Award.


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