Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

Internet Source: Discovery, September 25, 2000
Source URL (Archive.org): http://www.discovery.com/news/briefs/20000925/hu_te_indians.html

Scientists Infected Amazon Indians

Sept. 25, 2000 — A new book claims American scientists intentionally infected thousands of South American Yanomami Indians with measles to test genetics theories, reports England's Guardian newspaper.

The book, to be published in November, is likely to shake the world of anthropology, said Cornell University's Professor Terry Turner, who has read the proofs.

Uncovered over 10 years by investigative journalist Patrick Tierney, Darkness in El Dorado alleges hundreds — possibly thousands — of Yanomami died in the mid-1960s when geneticist James Neel ignited an epidemic by using a virulent measles vaccine on the Venezuelan tribe.

The book says the research team "refused to provide any medical assistance to the sick and dying Yanomami, on explicit order from Neel. He insisted to his colleagues that they were only there to observe and record the epidemic, and that they must stick strictly to their roles as scientists, not provide medical help."

In a letter to the American Anthropology Association (AAA), alerting them to the impending scandal, Turner wrote, "In its scale, ramifications, and sheer criminality and corruption it is unparalleled in the history of anthropology."

Neel died last February, but the AAA has invited his associates to defend themselves at its annual meeting in November, says the Guardian .

The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission also had a stake in the study, accuses Tierney, funding Neel's research in its own attempt of find out how a community would survive if a large portion of it were wiped out by nuclear war.

"Medical experts, when informed that Neel and his group used the vaccine in question (Edmondson B) on the Yanomami, typically refuse to believe it at first, then say that it is incredible that they could have done it, and are at a loss to explain why they would have chosen such an inappropriate and dangerous vaccine," Turner wrote.

"Neither he nor any other member of the expedition has ever explained why that vaccine was used, despite the evidence that it actually caused or, at a minimum, greatly exacerbated the fatal epidemic."

No record of an explanation from Neel exists, but Turner thinks Neel was trying to test eugenic theories like those of Nazi scientist Josef Mengele, says the Guardian .

Turner says Neel believed in the theory that certain genes existed for leadership and innate ability, and that in "natural" human societies — small, genetically isolated groups that existed prior to large-scale agriculture — those genes had a selective advantage.

Males with those traits would mate more, and have more offspring, leading to a continual upgrading of the human species.