Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Anthropological Niche of Douglas W. Hume
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Internet Source: California Academy of Sciences, September 27, 2000
Source URL: http://www.calacademy.org/thisweek/Archive/09272000.html


Anthropologists Infected Yanomami, New Book Alleges

American scientists who worked in Brazil and Venezuela in the 1960s have the blood of Yanomami Indians on their hands, according to a controversial book due out next month. Investigative journalist Patrick Tierney spent ten years researching the book, Darkness in El Dorado. He claims that geneticists, led by the late James Neel, from the University of Michigan, purposely infected the Yanomami with a virulent measles vaccine to test eugenic theories. Hundreds or thousands of the Indians may have died as a result of the vaccine, which produces symptoms nearly identical to measles. Tierney also charges that Neel ordered coworkers to refuse stricken Yanomami any medical help in an effort to observe natural selection in action. The geneticist allegedly believed that in "primitive" and isolated cultures, men with exceptional leadership skills survive and reproduce more often than other men, steadily "improving" the race. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission is also implicated in the experiment. Tierney writes that it funded the research to see how a society would function if a large portion of its population were killed in a nuclear war. Neel's surviving collaborators have been invited to defend themselves at the American Anthropology Association's annual meeting in November, where the book will be discussed in an open forum. They have not yet publicly commented on the accusations.