Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Anthropological Niche of Douglas W. Hume
Home | Darkness in El Dorado | Contact

Internet Source: Public Anthropology: Engaging Ideas, May 27th 2001
Source URL: http://www.publicanthropology.org/Journals/Engaging-Ideas/RT(YANO)/Turner2.htm


ROUNDTABLE FORUM:
Ethical Issues Raised by Patrick Tierney's
Darkness in El Dorado
ROUND TWO

ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESPONSIBILITIES, SCIENTIFIC ETHICS, AND THE IDEOLOGY OF "SCIENCE":
WHAT DO WE OWE THE YANOMAMI?

Terence Turner
Cornell University

The first round of papers contributed to this round table raise many important issues and do a good job of presenting their different points of view. That my responses to them will be disproportionate in length does not reflect my estimation of their relative value. I thank John Peters for an equable reminder of the importance of the missionary contribution to the situation, indeed the survival, of the Yanomami and other Amazonian indigenous peoples. It is certainly the case with the Kayapo that the UFM/CEM mission has made the difference between life and death for hundreds of people through the series of contact epidemics beginning with the measles epidemic of 1958-9. That the mission was a reliable continuous presence, invariably dealt honestly with the Indians, respected them as individuals, and treated them with good will, and thus established as nothing else could have that a decent and humane accommodation with non-indigenous society was possible has also been vital to the successful adaptation of the Kayapo to coexistence with Brazilian society.

Hames’s and Martins’s papers form a complementary pair, speaking to opposite sides of the same question, and I have little to add on either side. One comment on Hames’s discussion of the ethical ramifications of Chagnon’s statements on Yanomami "fierceness": the main ethical issue involved, as I see it, is not dependent on an estimation of the effects of Chagnon’s theories or pronouncements (or silences, for that matter, since these too have become an issue). Ethically, one is obliged to speak out when one possesses relevant knowledge that an act or statement is an abuse or a misuse of the truth (for example, a misuse of one’s own research findings that damages one’s research subjects) regardless of the effect one’s speech may have. The ethical issue, in other words, is prior to the issue of effect. This, as I read it, is the main point of the Brazilian Anthropological Association’s critique of Chagnon as relayed to the AAA at the San Francisco Meeting last November (2000). The Brazilians recognized Chagnon’s right and responsibility to publicly state his research findings, but insisted that it was also his responsibility to denounce a misuse of those findings against the interests of the people with whom he had done research. These issues came to a head in the attack on the Yanomami reserve by politicians and media aligned with mining interests between 1988 and 1992. It is good that Chagnon has made some attempts to deal with the general problem in later editions of his book, as Hames records, but as Martins’ detailed account makes clear, he did not speak out against the most dangerous abuses of his statements and interviews when and where it would have done the most good.

Albert’s paper is the only one that focuses on how an analysis of the ethical abuses of biomedical research on the Yanomami in the past might be translated into a basis for actually doing something to help them in the present. His well-documented treatment of the ethical problems of biological sampling without informed consent and some of the less-than-optimal medical treatment accorded the Yanomami by the 1968 AEC expedition has important implications, which he acutely points out, for moral and legal claims for compensation and aid for health and educational assistance in the present.

Hill’s contribution raises in compelling fashion the issue of how critical analysis and discussion can be debased and rendered effectively impossible when partisans of opposing positions are led to distort reality to suit their passionately held ideological perspectives. The first victim under such circumstances is the truth, or as close an approximation as we can come to it. The second is the capacity for ironic self-awareness, as true believers unselfconsciously transform themselves into caricatures of the faults they denounce in their opponents.

As Hill is surely aware, there are a number of scientists (biologists, psychologists, geneticists, and historians and sociologists of science as well as anthropologists) who are critical of sociobiology and its allied tendencies, such as evolutionary psychology and meme theory. Not all of these critics are irrationalist fanatics inspired by religious hostility to science. There are reasonable grounds for criticizing sociobiological views that have been stated in numerous publications by respected authorities: Lewontin, Gould and Ingold, to name a few. My point is not that these critics are right (although I do tend to agree with them) but that many of them make reasonable arguments that should be engaged, and if possible, refuted after taking due account of their strengths. Reducing all criticism to caricature as the expression of ideology, incompetence or dishonesty, without taking the trouble to consider the arguments and evidence presented by critics on their merits, is a hallmark of the ideological true believer, not of a scientist open to critical debate and capable of revising his views.

The essence of the "evolutionary view of human behavior" offered by Chagnon, which follows in essential respects that of Neel , as it applies to the Yanomami, is that the latter exemplify an "earlier" stage in human evolution in which dominant males are able to attain leadership in small breeding isolates by virtue of superior genetic endowment, and by virtue of their position as headmen or leaders to acquire more female breeding partners. Neel believed that there must exist a genetic complex that he called the "Index of Innate Ability" (IIA), defined as "a quantitative trait certainly related to intelligence, based on the additive effects of alleles at many loci." A superior increment of IIA was the effective prerequisite for leadership, and thus headmanship, in such small, isolated groups. Neel’s notion of leadership was relatively diffuse, combining intelligence with hunting ability and the capacity for effective violence when required for the defense of the group. As headmen are said to be universally polygamous, they are therefore in a position to reproduce their superior genes--their greater Index of Innate Ability--at a higher rate than other men. The result is a secular tendency to upgrade the average genetic quality--i.e., the quantity of genetic "innate ability"--of the population.

Note that not only headmanship as a central social institution, but the structure of society as a whole is in this view directly determined by genetics. Neel represents the social organization of the small deme (endogamous breeding population) as a hierarchy of males, with differing numbers of wives corresponding to their relative dominance, which in turn is determined by relative proportions of genetic "innate ability." The more numerous groupings of wives attached to the more dominant men give rise to sibling groups of differing size, which become "lineages" across generations. The differing size of the lineages, a determining factor in the political order of the community, is thus a result of the differing numbers of wives of the adult males, which in turn is a function of their relative dominance, with the headman or -men having the most. Social structure is thus defined as a dependent variable of the unequal proportions of the right genetic stuff possessed by male competitors for leadership and reproductive advantage (i.e., women).

This conception of "primitive social structure", with headmanship as its central institution, as directly determined by genetics is the basis of Neel’s explicit claim for the selective advantage, and thus the eugenic effect, of Yanomami-style society. In his article, "On being headman", he maintained that this form of society was and is the common form of social organization in hunting-and-foraging and simple horticultural societies, and thus represents the natural social form of the human species. The same ideas and eugenic claims for Yanomami-type society are repeated, in less developed form, in Chapter 17 of Neel’s autobiography, Physician to the Gene Pool .

Neel recognized that there was no empirical evidence for the "Index of Innate Ability", and considered his failure to find any measurable objective trait that would serve to indicate different levels of the IIA in individuals the greatest disappointment of his scientific career. In his research trips among Amazonian Indians, he pursued the possibility that differential head size or shape might be correlated with headmanship and greater reproductive success, without success (Turner and Stevens 2001: COR 174, 175, 176 1966) Chagnon, who adopted the general form of Neel’s theory, came up with an apparent solution to Neel’s dilemma. Synthesizing his own interpretation of Yanomami society as organized around the violent competition of males for female reproductive partners with Neel’s conception of genetically superior, reproductively successful headmen, he proposed that his ethnographic data showed that men who had killed male enemies, thus concretely demonstrating their dominance, had more wives and children than men who had not. Killers could be identified by the Yanomami title, unokai , denoting one who had gone through a ritual incumbent on all who had killed. Unokai status might thus serve as the objective correlative of male dominance in association with greater reproductive success, and thus, presumably, of the possession of higher levels of genetic IIA: in effect, an ethnographic equivalent of what Neel had fruitlessly sought in head measurements. The importance of "fierceness" in Chagnon’s account of the Yanomami was directly connected with his thesis that Yanomami warfare was primarily motivated by male conflicts over women, which in turn was tied to the thesis that competition among males for possession of female breeding partners, and thus ultimately for greater reproductive success, was the central principle of Yanomami social organization. This in turn was central to his and Neel’s contention that the Yanomami represented a survival of an earlier evolutionary stage of human social organization, when human society was still organized along the lines of sub-human primate societies organized around "Alpha males" with harems of brood females.

I have taken the trouble to spell out my understanding of the "evolutionary view of human behavior" (Hill’s phrase) embodied in Neel’s and Chagnon’s accounts of Yanomami society to make clear why I think Chagnon’s claims about Yanomami "fierceness" have been so important to him and his sociobiological and evolutionary-psychological followers, and why criticisms of the "fierceness" thesis on the basis of mere ethnographic accuracy or the relative discounting of the importance of peaceful, cooperative and female-associated modes of behavior have seemed to Chagnon and other sociobiologists to miss the point. "Fierceness" and the high level of violent conflict with which it is putatively associated, are for Chagnon and like-minded sociobiologists the primary indexes of the evolutionary priority of the Yanomami as an earlier, and supposedly therefore more violent, phase of the development of human society. Most of the critics of Chagnon’s fixation on "fierceness" have had little idea of this integral connection of "fierceness", as a Yanomami trait, and the deep structure of sociobiological-selectionist theory. The association is all the more important as the Yanomami continue to serve as virtually the sole data on a human society that seems to support the theory. The same considerations account for the tenacious allegiance of some sociobiologists to Chagnon’s thesis in his 1988 Science article that killers, qua killers , have more sexual partners and offspring, despite its manifold methodological and empirical flaws. Thus Hill, an otherwise astute critic, who would blow any interpretation by Tierney with half as many begged questions and unsupported claims out of the water, defends Chagnon’s basic thesis in the article as "an important result" even after recognizing many of its problems 

There are a number of reasonable grounds for challenging the theoretical foundations of this Neel-Chagnon model of primitive society. To begin with, the Yanomami have been evolving along with everybody else since whatever point in the remote and more ape-like past they may be claimed to represent, and therefore cannot be considered as a specimens of what they, let alone the rest of humanity, were like then. For another thing, there is no genetic evidence for a connection between any "cluster of alleles" such as the "index of innate ability", or its counterpart in Chagnon’s conception of the genetic endowment of successful killers, and such a complex social behavior as leadership or success in warfare, let alone a social status like headmanship or unokai -hood. The attempt to account for human social structure as somehow determined by genetic differences in ability or capacity for leadership, which is fundamental to Neel’s and Chagnon’s accounts, is simply not defensible in scientific terms. That it is nevertheless defended as "science" by sociobiologists must therefore be understood as a manifestation of ideology. Its ideological character is underlined by its reduction of intrinsically social phenomena to expressions of intrinsically individual properties. It is of course for such reasons that most scientists (including anthropological social scientists) view sociobiology as a kind of ideology, not as "science".

Right or wrong, it has to be admitted that these are views held by many reasonable and scientifically well qualified people, including well-reputed human biologists and geneticists, who cannot all be explained away as fanatics engaged in "a massive ideological hate campaign...based on their own ignorance of human biology ...the ferocity of [whose] hatred for the sociobiological threat to their worldview" turns them into a "terrorist band of self-righteous shock troops against ‘incorrect’ views of human nature." There should be room for critical disagreement over ideas (and, yes, ethical standards) without leaping directly to "flaming denunciations" like the above. Hill’s white-hot rhetoric turns him into a clone of his caricature of Tierney.

Quite apart from the issue of the correctness of the Neel-Chagnon conception of the generic foundation of human society is the issue of its potential political implications. If one really believes that Yanomami culture and social organization is a throwback to the evolutionary past, one may easily be led to the view that it is incompatible with contemporary society. Apparent counter-instances, such as the appearance of educated Yanomami leaders able to play NGOs and national government bureacracies against each other and cultivate allies among sectors of world public opinion, will be likely to seem unauthentic contradictions in terms engaged only in deceiving their modern supporters by telling them what they want to hear, while losing any valid connection with their communities and cultural roots. Looked at in this way, any support for indigenous Yanomami political movements or struggles might well seem pointless at best or counterproductive and hypocritical at worst. An apparently anti-indigenous policy such as that of the Brazilian miners and their representatives in the late 1980s , who wanted to break up large indigenous reserves into mutually isolated communities, might even seem more suited to the primordial realities of Yanomami culture, as well as rendering politically inert and disunited local communities more accessible to research and less able to make self-destructive attempts to break from their immemorial roots.

Hill raises an important point when he says,

"anthropologists should be aware that while we have multiple intellectual goals we should share a single priority. Our goals are to study issues of academic interest, but the health and welfare of the study population must always take precedence over any academic goal."

That actually makes two priorities, not one. Much of the present controversy arises from the fact that while all anthropologists share both priorities in principle, in practice they may conflict and force difficult and ethically fraught choices: not between one or the other, but between different combinations of the two. I suggested in my previous contribution that it was a choice of this latter kind that Neel faced in the desperate circumstances of the 1968 epidemic. My reading of his papers and field journal has convinced me that he strove to fulfill both priorities, but ended by cutting corners on both sides in order to meet his basic research goals. (Turner and Stevens 2001) I think that the evidence shows that Chagnon, in his drive to fulfill his ambitious research goals with minimal concessions to gaining local rapport, has been led to engage in methods, actions and statements that have negatively affected the welfare of the Yanomami. It sometimes appears that Hill may also agree with this statement, but he avoids committing himself.

Not so with Hill’s opinions on Tierney’s ethical problems. Hill makes some valid points against Tierney. Tierney clearly made serious errors in his chapter on the epidemic. He also slips at points into unseemly personal abuse (references to Chagnon’s "beer belly") and in his treatment of Neel does seem "to assume the worst" about his motivations. To say, however, as Hill does, of Tierney’s whole book that iIndeed the entire case presented in the book is based on leaping to unwarranted conclusions based on insufficient scientific background, assuming the worst about the actors, and backing unwarranted speculations with distorted information" is rhetorical overkill. What "entire case"? The book presents many "cases," most of which do not involve "scientific" issues and call for no specialized scientific background. Many, moreover, are not based to any significant extent on unsupported "speculation", but on publicly available information, governmental documents and press accounts, missionary and medical records and anthropological writings (including Chagnon’s). Tierney’s use of much this information does not appear to be "distorted" in any obvious way. Let Hill document his blanket claims with some specific references.

It is important to insist, as Hill does, that medical and other scientific research on indigenous groups is not in and of itself unethical, but on the contrary stands to benefit such groups, as well as the rest of humanity, in the short or long run. But to whom is he addressing this admonition? Certainly not to Tierney, who never argued to the contrary, and explicitly stated at the San Francisco AAA Meeting that he was not opposed to science or vaccinations. There are some other issues related to the 1968 expedition’s and Chagnon’s subsequent biological research which Hill very properly raises but does not fully clarify. He says the collection of blood samples was "critical to saving Yanomami lives". How? This is in the context of rebutting Tierney’s charge that they were unethical because obtained without informed consent (an allegation also made by Albert in his paper and the Brazilian medical group’s report (de Castro Lobo et al.). Well, they were obtained without informed consent, and this was contrary to the ethical guidelines laid down by the Nuremberg code and the Declaration of Helsinki, which were in effect at the time. I fully endorse Hill’s contention that using Yanomami as research subjects to study problems like asthma is ethical as long as they are given to understand the purpose of the research. He is right to point out that Roche’s experiments with goiter did not meet this criterion; but what he says about Roche applies equally to Neel and Chagnon’s blood sampling. Why not say so?

Hill says "in the urgency and chaos of the field situation,...the vaccination of threatened villages took precedence over any research design." Neel’s papers and field journal, however, show that the reverse is in fact true: the expedition continued to fulfill its original research design and itinerary with only small changes, which with one exception (mentioned below) were not made because of the medical needs of coping with the epidemic. (see Turner and Stevens 2001) Hill is correct, on the other hand, that the expedition vaccinated many people who were never recorded by name and thus never included on any research protocol. The evidence shows that they had originally planned only to vaccinate half of the population of each village, but in the face of the epidemic vaccinated everybody they could reach. It is true that Tierney tries to interpret Neel’s use of the vaccinations for an experimental purpose (an allegation born out by Neel’s own papers) as an indication of unethical motivations. It is also true that Neel’s defenders, including in this connection Susan Lindee, have insisted that the vaccinations were undertaken for purely humanitarian motives. (Tierney xxxx; Lindee xxxx) Neither is true. The vaccinations were originally planned long before the epidemic materialized as a way of researching the formation of antibodies by the Yanomami as a "virgin soil" population. This was neither unethical in itself nor inconsistent with humanitarian medical motives, as Hill correctly insists. Hill, however, goes on to say that Tierney and

some of his supporters have sought to prove that the measles vaccination program was mainly an experiment rather than a medical procedure designed to save lives. In their simple view of science it must be either one or the other.

Which "supporters"? Whose "simple view of science"? Or is it really Hill’s simple view of these unnamed supporters that is really in question?

Hill lists a series of allegations by Tierney of unethical behavior by Chagnon, then says that "these charges should cause all anthropologists to reflect on their own field work". As indeed they should. But what about reflecting on Chagnon’s field work and actions, the original subject of the allegations? Hill somehow doesn’t get around to facing that issue. He gives a long and sensitive discussion, with which I fully agree, about the problem of reconciling the scientific obligation to publish and the need not to injure the interests of research subjects, but fails to bring it back to the specific issues Tierney and others, such as the Brazilian Anthropological Association, raise about Chagnon. These concern not only the damage his statements on "fierceness" allegedly caused, but more importantly his failure to speak out against the use of his statements by politicians and journalists seeking to obtain the dissolution of the Yanomami reserve. Hill’s deflection of the discussion back to a renewed attack on Tierney’s "hypocrisy" circumvents this key issue. Again, when he raises the question of the problems allegedly caused by Chagnon’s distributions of gifts, Hill evasively responds by saying that there is in any case no evidence that the effects of Chagnon’s gift-giving were worse than gift giving by missionaries, and also that it was "not excessive given the rewards he gained from his research" (something of an understatement, that). This may be so, but it avoids the point at issue, which is, what was the effect of Chagnon’s actions on the Yanomami? Hill claims that Tierney provides no "serious" evidence that Chagnon’s behavior in this respect induced social conflict by giving massive support to one faction of a village and nothing to others, but he does in fact give such evidence, citing for example Ferguson’s Chapter 13 and conclusions, which deal with this issue. One can argue about whether Ferguson’s evidence is conclusive, but hardly over whether it is "serious". On a related point, Hill justly observes that other anthropologists working with the Yanomami, such as Albert and Peters, have succeeded in obtaining genealogies with the names of dead relatives without causing serious disruptions. As he says,

Thus, there is little doubt that there are appropriate ways to obtain such information and that Yanomami names are not absolutely taboo as Tierney asserts. The question here is whether Chagnon used methods unacceptable to a large fraction of the study population.

I think that Hill states the issue fairly here. The answer seems obvious, at least in principle: Chagnon did, by his own account (e.g. 1977:10-11) use methods that would be offensive to "a large fraction of the study population". This has been seized upon by many critics of Chagnon, including otherwise critical reviewers of Tierney’s book, as a major issue. Hill , however, takes no position, and declines to answer his own question. We never do get a straight story on what Hill thinks about Chagnon’s ethical problems.

On another important point, Hill notes that Tierney alleges that "Chagnon falsified data or engaged in misleading data analyses in order to obtain a desired result". This concerns the central issue of whether killers have higher rates of reproductive success. As Hill notes, "the claim of data falsification is clearly a serious ethical issue", but says "no credible evidence is presented to back up this claim." I cannot agree: Chapter Ten of Tierney’s book presents a great deal of credible evidence on this point, which no defender of Chagnon has thus far refuted in a credible fashion. Hill Ôs flat assertion that none of Tierney’s evidence (drawn in considerable part from published critiques by Lizot and Albert) is "credible" is itself of dubious credibility. Hill notes that "I and other sociobiologists have pointed out some weaknesses" in the study at issue, and notes that Chagnon himself has recognized the seriousness (i.e., potential credibility) of some of the criticisms, such as his initial failure to include the children of dead fathers, to give due weight to age differences, and to note the importance of headman status, and has promised to produce data from more recent field work that he says will resolve the problems. No such data has appeared. It may be that all that is involved are errors of fact and/or method, in which case Hill is correct to insist that they cannot be considered "unethical". On this point the jury is still out; but to dismiss Tierney’s whole discussion, and with it the whole issue, simply by saying that Tierney presents no credible evidence will not wash.

The attempt by Chagnon and Charles Brewer-Carias to set up a personal Yanomami preserve in the Seapa valley under the patronage of Cecilia Matos, the Presidential mistress and president of FUNDAFACI, the national fund for aid to peasant and Indian families, in the early 1990's, has been the focus of some of the most serious charges of unethical conduct leveled at Chagnon. It is important to be clear that these charges focus on the illegal activities of Matos and Brewer, with Chagnon only in an accessory capacity. Hill notes that he has himself "voiced displeasure" at Chagnon’s association with these "disreputable characters", but gives his opinion that this involved "bad judgement rather than serious ethical shortfall". What it undeniably involved for Chagnon was willing collaboration in actions that he must have known were criminal violations of Venezuelan law, and would have resulted in a free hand for Brewer and Matos to pursue mining operations that would have had damaging consequences for Yanomami health, social stability and the ecosystem. The incident involved illegal actions (e.g., the misuse of military aircraft and personnel) and fraudulent use of funds by Matos, for which she was tried in absentia and sentenced to a substantial jail term. It also led to a parliamentary investigation of Brewer-Carias for illegal gold mining activity on indigenous lands, which produced abundant evidence of illegal mining activities but no indictments. Hill says that Chagnon at the time had no evidence that Brewer planned to carry out illegal mining on Yanomami land, or that he and Matos intended to dispossess the Yanomami of their land. Chagnon by that time had known Brewer for more than 20 years, and had to have been familiar with his long history of mining activities in Indian areas. He cooperated with Brewer in drawing up the project for the Biosphere Reserve that would have given Brewer and himself effective control of the huge slice of Yanomami territory it was designed to contain (and no effective control to the Yanomami themselves). So how can he have had "no evidence" of their intentions? He certainly participated in the illegal flights by air force helicopters and planes into the Seapa valley that Matos funded out of the FUNDAFACI budget, bringing medically unscreened Venezuelan and foreign visitors into contact with "virgin soil" Yanomami communities and damaging Yanomami shelters. In all these ways, it seems plain that Chagnon’s association with Brewer and Matos was indeed, in Hill’s own words, "harmful to his study population and thus unethical".

Hill raises the issue of Chagnon’s failure to provide any aid or support for the Yanomami aside from the presents he brought as part of his field work. He complains that "Chagnon’s enemies made it impossible for him to return to the Yanomami for many years so he couldn’t possibly have helped them even if that were his top priority." Couldn’t he have opened a bank account in Puerto Ayacucho and hired somebody to act as go-between?

Finally, Hill addresses the issue of Yanomami opposition to Chagnon, and suggests that it is due to "malicious coaching" by "somebody" who has been working hard to turn them against sociobiology. No doubt the Salesians have done some such "coaching", but that hardly accounts for the willingness of so many Yanomami to protest against Chagnon’s return to their territory, and the other complaints many of them seem to volunteer to whomever will listen. What is missing in Hill’s account is any recognition that at least some of the Yanomami may be able to speak for themselves, and may be worth listening to on their own account. They can not all be written off as "parrots" (as Chagnon has called the Yanomami leader Davi Kopenawa, whom he recently described to a CNN TV crew as a "cigar store Indian"), mindlessly repeating the promptings of their puppet masters, the NGOs, Salesian missionaries, and sinister "somebodies" hostile to sociobiology.

When the Yanomami speak, can we bring ourselves to listen to them? Can we take seriously the possibility that they might be able to speak for themselves?

Hostility to science is not the reason for Tierney’s criticisms of Chagnon or of Neel, and certainly not of the criticisms of either by myself, Leslie Sponsel, or other anthropologists of which I am aware. Tierney’s criticisms of Neel and Chagnon are primarily motivated by partisan zeal for the defense of indigenous people (in this case, the Yanomami) against exploitation and other forms of mistreatment by outsiders of all descriptions: scientists, movie makers, journalists, and gold miners (although not missionaries, as Hill and others cogently point out). As I have indicated in numerous places, I think that Tierney’s zeal led him astray on crucial points in his treatment of Neel and the 1968 expedition. I have done my best to research the disputed issues and publicize my own critical disagreements with Tierney on these points. At the same time, I stand by what I have said all along, that I find most of Tierney’s account of the activities of Chagnon and others to be substantially accurate. It is in general agreement with the published and verbal opinions of many anthropologists, medical workers (including missionaries), and NGO workers with the Yanomami I know and respect on both the Brazilian and Venezuelan sides of the border, and also with the public record (government documents, NGO reports, and media stories).

Hill attempts to make the case that the ethical issues raised by Tierney proceed from a fanatical hostility to sociobiological science, are distorted by Tierney’s misunderstandings of science in general and sociobiology in particular, and are therefore essentially false. For Hill, it is the ideological opposition to sociobiology, and the willingness to distort the truth that it incites in Tierney and other critics of Neel and Chagnon, that are the true ethical issues raised by Tierney’s work. I have given my reasons for disagreeing with Hill’s general thesis and many of his specific criticisms. I have made clear some of my general reasons for disagreeing with Neel’s and Chagnon’s sociobiological views as applied to the Yanomami. Disagreement with the claims of sociobiology (including skepticism about Neel’s and Chagnon’s genetic reductionism) is however not the same thing as hostility to science, and I know that on this point I am in good company with many scientists. The preoccupation of Hill and other sociobiologists with the threats to their own position they see as posed by Tierney’s and other critiques of Chagnon and Neel leads them to substitute the false issue of an attack on science for the real ethical issues in the Yanomami case: responsibility for speaking out against misuses of research findings by third parties damaging to the research subjects; untruthful and damaging statements about indigenous leaders and NGOs; disruptive research methods practiced repetitively and on a massive scale; failure to give appropriate priority to the health needs of the subject population over personal research goals; failure to obtain informed consent or give appropriate compensation for the taking of biological samples and other medical-cumbiological procedures; and collaboration with citizens of the host country engaged in corrupt and criminal acts directly related to personal research activities, among others. These are issues on which scientists and non-scientists, rightists and leftists, cultural anthropologists and sociobiologists ought in principle to be able to agree. Above all, we should be able to agree that when such activities damage the interests and well-being of the people with whom anthropologists work, anthropologists have an obligation to speak out against them as inconsistent with professional anthropological ethics. This at least we owe ourselves, and this is the least we owe the Yanomami.

  [Round One]                       

REFERENCES

All first round papers: Albert, Hames, Hill, Martins. Peters

Chagnon, Napoleon 1977 Yanomamš: the fierce people , 2nd edition. New York. Holt, Rhinehart and Winston

_____________ 1988 Life histories, blood revenge and warfare in a tribal population. Science 239: 985-92

de Castro Lobo, Dra. Maria Stella, Dra. Karis Maria Pinho Rodrigues, Dra. Diana Maul de Carvalho, and Dr. Fernando Sergio Viana Martins 2000

Report of the Medical Team of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro on Accusations Contained in Patrick Tierney's Darkness in El Dorado . Tr. Catherine Howard

Ferguson, Brian 1995 Yanomami Warfare. Santa Fe. School of American Research Press

Ingold, Tim 2000 The Poverty of Selectionism. Anthropology Today

Lewontin, Richard 2000 It ain’t necessarily so New York. New York Review of Books

_____________ 1984 Not in our genes: biology, ideology and human nature. New York. Pantheon

Lindee, Susan

Neel, James V., "On Being Headman", Perspectives in Biology and Medicine , 23 (277-94) Winter 1980

Neel, James V., Physician to the Gene Pool: Genetic Lessons and Other Stories . New York. John Wiley 1994. Ch. 17,"Some longer-range problems for the gene pool (301-316, see especially 301-304)

Segerstrale, Ullica 2000 Defenders of the truth: the battle of science in the sociobiology debate and beyond. Oxford University Press

Turner, T., and J. Stevens, 2001 Annotated index of selected documents and correspondence from the collection of James V. Neel’s papers in the archive of the American Philosophical Society