Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Anthropological Niche of Douglas W. Hume
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Internet Source: Slate.msn.com, Oct. 24, 2000
Source URL: http://slate.msn.com/HeyWait/00-10-24/SideB01.asp


Though Chagnon (who last year retired and left California) is a friend, he and I have had our disagreements: Amazingly, he recently rejected a paper of mine from a volume he was editing because of our theoretical differences. Moreover, he viewed with genial contempt my laboratory-based efforts to study human nature, considering them ecologically less valid than observations of real people making decisions with real consequences in the course of their daily lives. Nonetheless, his narrow sect and my narrow sect are both parts of the same larger movement of researchers who—like Sigmund Freud and William James—consider evolved human nature to be something more than a blank slate and eminently worthy of study.

Moreover, unlike many anthropologists, I am not repelled by Chagnon's view that the tactical use of violence is one setting on the dial of human nature, just like love, fascination, or sexual desire—and one that can be found in all cultures. One would think it did not have to be said were it not so widely misunderstood, but to investigate something like disease or war is not to endorse it. Hard as it is to believe, people might even study something because they want to eliminate it.