Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

Internet Source: Recent news on Neel/Chagnon allegations - University of California, Santa Barbara, Anthropology Department
Source URL (Archive.org): http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/chagnon.html

Chagnon's first letter to Time magazine, prior to the publication of their article on the allegations

September 22, 2000

Today I was contacted by a journalist from Time Magazine who indicated that Time staffers all over the world had been advised to jump onto this scandal and cooperate in getting the story into the upcoming national and international issue. I had no option more reasonable than trying to limit the damage that we all know this will now inflict on many innocent people. I elected to make the below statment and sent it to Time Magazine shortly after 8:00 PM EDT.

Date: Fri, 22 Sep 2000 20:06:49 -0400
To: Margot_Roosevelt@timeinc.com
From: chagnonn@traverse.net
Subject: Re: Chagnon's statement

To Margot Roosevelt, Time Magazine:

I'm disappointed to hear you are proceeding with your article after I indicated to you by phone that there is no credible evidence to support Tierney's fantastic claims, or the claims by Turner and Sponsel in their widely spread document that has been sent to not only the president of the AAA, but to many others with the apparent intent of inflicting harm on me. That document is, as I write this, now all over the world. Many innocent people will be injured when you publish your article, however carefully you couch your wording. I want you to explain to me sometime why people at Time Magazine even want to publish an article knowing that the evidence does not exist to support the libelous claims made by non-credible people, and knowing that the evidence shows their claims to be false. "Because it is a hot story" is not an appropriate or ethically justifiable reason.

You can break my statement up into pieces and put the pieces where you want to, as long as you preserve and do not compromise the meaning of what my statement, as written below, says.

"The charges can not be sustained by widely known and easily found empirical evidence in the scientific anthropological and biomedical journals. For example, there is an abundance of easily located biomedical research on the effects of the Edmonston B vaccine that indicates several things that shoot down Tierney's argument and the claims in the document being widely circulated by anthropologists Terence Turner and Leslie Sponsel. For example, many studies have reviewed, over a 40-year time span, the hundreds of millions of cases where this vaccine has been used. This is a very large sample size by any standards. The results show that patients vaccinated do not and have never been known to have communicated measles to uninnoculated people exposed to them after innoculation. The vaccine does not "cause" or "exacerbate" measles epidemics in Native populations or in Western populations where it has been frequently used, and this finding holds up in cases where gamma globulin was not simultaneously used at the time of the vaccinations. It also shows that the small number of patients, mostly in African countries, who died after being innoculated had severely depressed immune systems caused by the fact that they had leukemia, AIDS, severe malnutrition, and similar sicknesses from which they probably would have soon died anyway. I was present during the tragic measles epidemic and, in a letter I wrote to some of my colleages four years ago (which I posted today on my website), nobody died of measles in the villages we vaccinated and local missionaries who heroically helped us contain this epidemic told me that nobody we or they vaccinated in their villages died either.

What is the scientifically plausible sample size Mr. Tierney uses to make his libelous claim that "hundreds, if not thousands" of Yanomamö died as a consequence our attempts to prevent the spread of measles by vaccinating them?

Intelligent people base their judgements on evidence. Only believers in conspiracy theories and a large number of cultural anthropologists from the Academic Left leap to conclusions that are not only not supported by the available scientific evidence but contradicts and thoroughly refutes them. Many cultural anthropologists even despise the words "empirical evidence." This is like believing in tabloid headlines that claim things like "Baby born with a glass eye and a wooden leg. The doctors are amazed!"

Mr. Turner once reported, on the basis of a brief trip to the Brazilian Yanomamö area (I'm not sure he even visited any Yanomamö villages), that the harm done as a consequence of the garimpeiro (Brazilian gold miner) invasion of Yanomamö territory caused such a disaster that affected villages had no children under the age of 10 years and the garimpeiros caused the birth rate to drop to zero among the Yanomamö. I've never been in a Yanomamö village in the 35 years that spans my research activities among them where there were no children under the age of 10. I've been to at least 75 villages thus far. I'd like to believe and endorse his claims because I love the Yanomamö dearly and have spent many years among them and his "data", if true, wold be useful to me to intensify the alarm about threats to their well-being. But, I know that lying about it is not the correct way to do it---the truth itself, the empirical and testable facts, are bad enough and I can defend whatever facts I published. But lies, when discovered, discredit liars and in this urgent case, lying about the magnitude of the harms being inflicted on the Yanomamö would be dangerous because, despite the good intentions of the liar, if discovered to be lies the truly harmful people would then be able to legitimately claim "Don't belive that person---his/her evidence does not exist." Because my own research focuses largely on demographic issues, I know it would take many years of fieldwork in dozens of villages to even come close to estimating the allegedly precise statistics Turner dishonestly reported. He is not a credible person, and I have said this in print and to his face in the past when he has attacked me in ways totally beyond the bounds of academic propriety citing non-credible "facts".

Anthropological evidence immediately availible can be found in one of my books: Yanomamö: The Last Days of Eden. Many of the accusations claim to be based on things I said in this book or it's college text equivalent. Check the available facts and read this book if you are interested in data pertinent to these grotesque accusations. The accusations have been repeatedly made in the past by the same people and are resurfacing again, but because they are now being widely spread in the non-academic media at large, I will take the time to address them soon in a book, well underway, to be published by Simon and Schuster later this year: The Noble Savage. I have already effectively rebutted these accusations in the community of serious academics, who are weary of what has now acquired a technical name: Chagnon-bashing."