Every year, the British Medical Journal or BMJ publishes a series of papers in their Christmas edition that are meant to be one part science and two parts silly. According to a new paper in this year’s edition, men are idiots. Let me explain.
For how confused the data is on sex differences between men and women, there is one set that seems straightforward — men are more likely to get hurt. From the paper:
Males are more likely to be admitted to an emergency department after accidental injuries, more likely to be admitted with a sporting injury, and more likely to be in a road traffic collision with a higher mortality rate.
But what about risks to men and women that are different from accidents, high-risk jobs, or even contact sports? What about risks that are just plain dumb?
To find out, the researchers looked at all the verified nominees of the infamous Darwin Awards from 1995 to 2014, noting the sex differences. The Darwin Awards catalog people who die in an idiotic manner and whose actions ensure “the long-term survival of the species, by selectively allowing one less idiot to survive.” For example, last February, a man who modified his car to start only after touching two live wires together under the hood of his car was run over by the vehicle and dragged to death after trying to do so.
Out of 413 Darwin Award nominees over this time frame, 318 cases were verified independently and were not shared between men and women. So how did it break down?
The team found that almost 89% of Darwin Award nominees were male, and the finding was statistically significant. In other words, if there were no sex differences, we’d expect it to be 50/50 and for this result to be produced by chance alone. The distribution of the data suggested otherwise. The paper concludes: “This finding is entirely consistent with male idiot theory (MIT) and supports the hypothesis that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things” (remember, this is all tongue-in-cheek).
Of course, this being a “rigorous” scientific paper and all, there are limitations to the findings. There could be some sort of nomination or reporting bias here — men are more “newsworthy” or are for whatever reason reported on more often. Still, taking the data for what they’re worth, why are men more so much more likely to be nominated for a Darwin Award? Maybe the activities give bragging rights or act as a rite of passage, the authors speculate. Maybe idiotic behavior “confers some, as yet unidentified, selective advantage on those who do not become its casualties.”
“We believe MIT 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.”