Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

Internet Source: W. W. Norton (Publisher of Darkness in El Dorado ) (
Source URL (Archive.org): http://www.darknessineldorado.com/tooby.htm

Response to John Tooby

A Slate article by Professor John Tooby called "Jungle Fever," which appeared online on October 24, 2000, about my book, Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon , has been cited by various academics, scholars, and concerned readers. The article is filled with inaccuracies and misrepresents my book in various ways. With this statement, I wish to set the record straight.

It is first necessary to understand the background surrounding the Slate piece. John Tooby began attacking Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon before he even read it. He has good reason to do so. The co-director of the University of California at Santa Barbara's Anthropology Department, Tooby has been trying to block the publication and fair reviewing of a book that details his colleagues' role in disastrous helicopter expeditions to the most remote, least-disturbed cluster of aboriginal villages left in the Amazon--the Siapa Highlands. These expeditions were undertaken by Napoleon Chagnon despite the opposition of Venezuela's Indian Agency and elected Yanomami leaders. The helicopter descents themselves blew down roofs and, at the village of Ashidowa-teri, injured five Yanomami. According to Charles Brewer-Carias, who described himself as a research associate at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the expedition to Ashidowa-teri was partly financed by the UCSB.1 Moreover, the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, which Napoleon Chagnon once headed and Tooby now heads, has played a partisan role of great importance in the aftermath of Chagnon's expulsion from Venezuelan Yanomami territory in 1993.2 While Professor Tooby has identified himself as a colleague of Napoleon Chagnon, he has withheld this information that would have been pertinent to his article.

To underscore the point that John Tooby is not a neutral observer, I need to cite many important facts that he has gotten wrong about Darkness in El Dorado . Although I cannot deal with all of Tooby's mistakes here--since he continues to update his website constantly and so much of what he writes is either wrong or distorted--let me take up the following points:

The points cited above only begin to reflect the massive amount of rumor and misguided information that has been swirling about me and my book. I trust that this succinct statement will begin to clarify the confusion.


Patrick Tierney
December 3, 2000

1. Charles Brewer-Carias, Curriculum en Antropologia , p. 13.
2. Napoleon Chagnon, "The View from the President's Window," Human Behavior and Evolution Society Newsletter 2, No. 3, October, 1993.
3. Patrick Tierney, Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000), p. 82
4. Ibid, p. 80.
5. Patrick Tierney, "The Fierce Anthropologist," The New Yorker , October 9, 2000.
6. Tierney, Darkness in El Dorado , pps. 23, 41
7. Ibid, p. 34.
8. Napoleon Chagnon, "On Yanomamo Violence: Reply to Albert," Current Anthropology , Vol. 31: 49-53.
9. James Neel, "On Being Headman," Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 23 , Winter 1980, pp. 277-294.
10. Neel, Physician to the Gene Pool , p. 394
11. Elsa Redmond, Tribal and Chiefly Warfare in South America (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Museum of Anthropology, 1994), p. 126.
12. Tierney, Darkness in El Dorado , p. 29 and p. 34.