The Intelligent Design Awards
The Darwin Awards are given to those who contribute most
to the gene pool by removing any possibility of their ever
contributing to it by killing themselves in the stupidest
possible way. The Intelligent Design (ID) awards are
given to those who do precisely the opposite – they
survive, unarmed and by wit alone, some homicidal assault –
rather like a chess player, hopelessly behind in material,
forcing a stalemate. So to qualify for an ID trophy, a
defenseless contestant must somehow survive an overwhelming
But showing is better than telling. To involve you directly you
will be placed, in character, into some foreboding historical
setting from which you must extricate yourself by wit alone.
To make sure that each death threat comes alive, each predicament
is presented as a test, very like a chess problem, for which you
know at the outset that a solution exists. So match wits with the
champions of ages past. There is no time limit, but one false
move, and it is checkmate, checkmate forever.
ID1: Discovered Checkmate
You are a gifted astrologer in the court of the king of France,
Louis XI (1461-83). You repeatedly foretell the exact dates of
the deaths of court aristocrats. But King Louis has finally had
enough and corners you in your room. He is accompanied by three
large, fully armed knights.
"Perhaps, monsieur" says Louis smilingly, "you can predict the
date of your own death."
Say something to save yourself.
"I will die three days before your majesty."
ID2: Achieving the Eighth Rank
You are the 4th century Greek philosopher Anaximenes. You have
accompanied Alexander the Great on his campaign against the
Persians during which Lampsacus, your Macedonian hometown, is
captured. Alexander, knowing that you will plead for mercy,
grants you an audience but cuts you off.
"I swear by the Styx I will not grant your request."
Save your hometown from destruction.
"I merely wanted to ask you to destroy Lampsacus."
You are an intelligent, first century Christian mother whose
husband has been killed in an Imperial pogrom. Your almost grown
son is determined to follow his father to martyrdom the next
Hide his clothes.
This is another example illustrating what Asians have known for
centuries. A need to avoid embarrassment or a loss of
face is stronger in an individual than his instinct for self
preservation. This technique will be used by another winner
ID4: Double Check
You are Voltaire (1694-1778), the French Enlightenment writer and
philosopher. You have been exiled to England where anti-French
feelings are running high. A mob corners you crying: "Hang him!
Hang the Frog!"
Say something that will not only change their minds but will also
have them buying you dinner.
"Men of England! You wish to kill me because I am a Frenchman. Am
I not punished enough in not being born an Englishman? Will you
punish me twice?"
ID5: The Quiet Move
You are Arthur Wellington (1769-1852), the victor at Waterloo.
You are sitting at your desk when a madman rushes in shouting:
"I'm going to kill you!"
Without looking up from the work on your desk, impatiently ask:
"Does it have to be today?"
The lunatic reacts with confusion.
"Good, a little later on then. I'm busy at the moment."
The disturbed assassin leaves.
ID6: Accepting a Draw
You are Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902), a pathologist and statesman.
You have been challenged to a duel by the Chancellor of Germany,
Otto Bismarck, and you don't know how to shoot, but according to
the code duello, you have the choice of weapons.
What will be your choice of weapon?
Select two sausages, one infected with germs and the other not.
Propose that Bismark eat the sausage of his choice and that you
will eat the other.
Bismarck declined. This ploy has come to be known as The
Andrew Johnson (1808-75), later to become Lincoln's
vice-president and the 17th president of the United States, is
out of a Greenville bound train, while he was serving as a
senator from Tennessee, by an angry mob in (where else?)
Lynchburg, Virginia, that's been driven to a murderous rage by
his opposition to secession.
You are a kindly, clever, old woman looking on during this riot.
Say something that will save him.
"His neighbors at Greenville have made arrangements to hang their
senator on his arrival. Virginians have no right to deprive them
of that privilege."
ID8: King's Gambit
You are Alfonso XIII, King of Spain from 1886 to 1931, and you
have frustrated many assassins. One day a murderer armed with a
pistol jumps in front of your horse, not a yard away, and he
prepares to fire at point blank range.
How would you save your own life?
"I set my horse's head [note the knight
sacrifice] straight at him, and rode into him as he
fired. Polo comes in handy on these occasions."
ID9: Orangutan Opening
You are the 19th century English surgeon, Humphrey Howarth.
Despite the fact that you are a terrible marksman, you accept a
challenge by a duelist so experienced that he always buys a
one-way rail ticket to the field of honor since he can always use
opponent's for the return journey.
What can you do to save your own life?
Howarth courageously accepted and appeared punctually on the
appointed field of honor – but stark naked. The surgeon
explained that infection occurs if unsanitary cloth is propelled
into the body. The expert marksman left in disgust. Howarth was
the only man to ever survive the marksman's challenge.
ID10: Chinese Checkers
In the 1969 film, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, there is
a three-way gunfight in a graveyard near the end of the show. The
camera spins you around for five minutes – an eternity in a
film – until you finally come to understand what you must
avoid, what is sheer suicide.
What must you NOT do to stay alive in this
Do not be the first to draw your handgun.
How did you do? Less than a perfect score perhaps? Unfortunately,
as previously mentioned, there is no room for error in an
Intelligent Design test.
But if you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with
the sun on your face, do not be troubled; for you are in Elysium,
and you are already dead! – Maximus
Decimus Meridius, Gladiator.
[editorial note: we regret to inform you that
this is the last composition by David Choate
that we will be able to publish due to his untimely death on 25
July 2006. The loss of his wit and wisdom, courage and courtesy
is already felt by his family and friends, his colleagues and
students, his readership and our staff ... we miss his insights
and encouragement very much. He was good people! /s/Ed]
by David Choate
... who was a professor of mathematics and freelance writer. His
poetry ("Easter Island", "Ode to an Academic", "Song of Sums")
has been published in Amelia and
Defenestration; his science fiction ("The Kid
Catcher", "There Came Forth She Bears") has been published in
Starwind and Space &
Time; and his "Christianity and Cannibalism", a
philosophical essay, in Sophia. Some of his
other fine works have previously appeared in this literary