Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

Source URL (Archive.org): http://www.tamu.edu/anthropology/Pitchford.html

Tierney, Chagnon and Neel: The story so far

Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2000 13:37:25 +0100
From: Ian Pitchford <Ian.Pitchford@scientist.com>
To: HBE-L discussion list <hbe-l@a3.com>
Subject: [hbe-l] Tierney, Chagnon and Neel: The story so far
Resent-Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2000 08:42:13 -0400 (EDT)
Resent-From: hbe-l@a3.com

Dear Colleagues

I thought it would be useful to have a summary of the more useful correspondence on the forthcoming title 'Darkness in El Dorado' by Patrick


Please feel free to archive or redistribute this email as you think appropriate

Ian Pitchford <Ian.Pitchford@scientist.com>
Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies
School of Health and Related Research
University of Sheffield, S10 2TA, UK


Measles expert on the Neel/Chagnon allegations

Dr. Samuel Katz, a co-developer of the measles vaccine:
September 24, 2000

"In summary measles vaccine viruses (Edmonston B, Moraten, Edmonston Zagreb, and any other descendents of Edmonston) have never been shown to be transmissible from a vaccine recipient to a susceptible contact. Except for the rare instances noted above they have not been responsible for deaths despite the administration of hundreds of millions of doses throughout the world."

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Statement from Napoleon A. Chagnon
September 22, 2000

"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."

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Dr. Les Sponsel, Ph.D.
Former Chair, AAA Committee for Human Rights (1992-96)
September 22, 2000

"Dr. Turner, myself, and a few other individuals actually read a pre-publication copy of Patrick Tierney's book --- unlike almost everyone gossiping about it in cyberspace and now the media. As a result of our careful reading of the book for the editor, Dr. Turner and I felt a professional, ethical, and moral obligation to alert top AAA officials to read the book ASAP, judge for themselves, and act accordingly when the inevitable inquiries would soon emerge in the media, profession, and beyond."

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Neel's 1968 fieldnotes
Susan Lindee (Department of the History and Sociology of Science), University of Pennsylvania:
September 21, 2000

"Today I had the opportunity to read James Neel's entire field notes for the 1968 work in Venezuela. I also read archival materials relating to his consultations with the Centers for Disease Control in late 1967 in preparation for the program in measles immunization he and his colleagues planned to undertake. And I read other correspondence in his papers, including correspondence with missionaries, Venezuelan authorities, Chagnon, and others.

The picture that emerges in these documents is at some variance with that presented in a widely circulated email describing the arguments in a new book by Patrick Tierney."

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Raymond Hames
Anthropology Department
University of Nebraska
September 24, 2000

"Chagnon's work on the relationship between combat killing and reproductive success is simply part of the larger research by behavioral ecologists on the relationship between cultural success and fitness. It is merely one of the TWENTY-ODD studies done that show that those who are successful culturally tend to have higher than average reproductive success. It is important to realize that what constitutues cultural success varies from society to society. For example, Kim Hill and associates show for the Ache that good hunters have higher RS than poor hunters and Borgehoff Mulder shows that Kipsigis who have large herds have higher RS than those who have small herds."

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The CDC and the Edmonston vaccine

"What at first appeared to be a minor oversight in the wording of an informed consent form has exploded into claims of racial experimentation, resulting in significant changes in how CDC research programs are carried out".

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John Patton
Washington State University
September 21, 2000

"The unokai correlation has been scrutinized carefully and no data has been presented that has undermined its credibility. The arguments against it have been based on assertion, and not evidence. The relationship between age and reproductive success has been examined. The data reported in Science was broken down into five year age groups and the correlation between being an unokai and number of children is significant (p < .05) in all age groups not just the older age groups. The relationship with number of wives was significant in all but one age group (31-40 years of age, p = .0672).

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Darkness in El Dorado
>From the Amazon.com website:

Leslie Sponsel, University of Hawaii

"In many respects, the most important book ever written about the Yanomami. . . . It candidly and systematically exposes with ample documentation the data, interpretations, and ethics of the anthropologists who constructed and publicized the fierce image of the Yanomami. . . . It is no exaggeration to say that this is by far the ugliest affair in the entire history of anthropology.

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W. W. Norton


American Anthropological Association Statement on Allegations made in the Book Darkness in El Dorado
September 20, 2000

"This book presents the views, conclusions and opinions of its author. It is extremely important, however, that other individuals featured in the book be afforded the opportunity to express their own views on its contents. Until there is a full and impartial review and discussion of the issues raised in the book, it would be unfair to express a judgement about the specific allegations against individuals that are contained in it. The Association is anticipating conducting an open forum during our Annual Meeting to provide an opportunity for our members to review and discuss the issues and allegations raised in the book."

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William E. Davis III, Executive Director
American Anthropological Association
September 20, 2000

"The AAA is extremely concerned about the implications of these allegations for the discipline. We are presently drafting a public statement on the issue. President Louise Lamphere will serve as the organization's spokesperson on the matter, and will respond to all questions by reporters on the Association's position.... You should also be aware that Barbara Rose Johnston, Chair of the AAA Human Rights Committee, is attempting to organize a Human Rights Committee Open Forum at the Annual Meeting in San Francisco to discuss the disciplinary implications of allegations contained in the forthcoming book. We will give you additional details on this as things occur."

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Yanomamö experimentation
September 19, 2000

Timothy Hall, UC San Diego, notifies the list of the impending controversy:

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The Chronicle of Higher Education picks up the story
Scholars Fear That Alleged Misdeeds by Amazon Anthropologists Will Taint Entire Discipline
September 20, 2000

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The Guardian picks up the story
Scientist 'killed Amazon indians to test race theory'
September 23, 2000

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The BBC picks up the story
September 23, 200
Amazon geneticist 'killed hundreds'

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An archived newspaper article from January 2000:
Los Angeles Times (Sunday, January 30, 2000) - Napoleon Chagnon's War of Discovery
Terry Turner (co-author of the letter alerting the AAA to Tierney's book) is quoted in this article:

Turner says he became a vocal critic when he began investigating the slaughter in 1993 of more than a dozen Yanomamo by Brazilian gold miners. As he saw it, the Indians had been jeopardized by Chagnon's depiction of them as fierce warriors, which led the miners to attack violently and made the larger public unsympathetic. "His politics are bad," Turner says. "His ideas are used by miners and politicians, especially in Brazil, to argue for a breakup of Yanomamo land." Worse, Turner says, is Chagnon's assertion "that the males who are dominant get more women, and therefore their genes get passed on more. This is very close to the Nazi idea that there's a leadership gene that the dominant people pass on and this is the natural order."

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Websites - further information

Napoleon A. Chagnon

James V. Neel

Terry Turner

Leslie Sponsel

Susan Lindee


Chagnon - Further reading

Chagnon, N. A. (1981). Terminological kinship, genealogical relatedness and village fissioning among the Yanomamö Indians. In R. D. Alexander & D. W. Tinkle (Eds.), Natural selection and social behavior (pp. 490-508). New York, NY: Chiron Press.

Chagnon, N. A. (1983). Yanomamö: The fierce people. (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Chagnon, N. A. (1988). Life histories, blood revenge, and warfare in a tribal population. Science, 239, 985-992.

Chagnon, N. A. (1992). Yanomamö: The last days of Eden. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Chagnon, N. A., & Bugos, P. E. (1979). Kin selection and conflict: An analysis of a Yanomamö ax fight. In N. A. Chagnon & W. Irons (Eds.), Evolutionary biology and human social behaviour (pp. 213-249). North Scituate, MA: Duxbury Press.

Fredlund, E. V. (1985). The use and abuse of kinship when classifying marriages: A Shitari Yanomamo case study. Northwestern University Symposium: Human sociobiology: New research and theory (1981, Evanston, Illinois). Ethology & Sociobiology, 6(1), 17-25.