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Patrick Tierney's "Attack-Dog" Story: A Report on One of Tierney's Many Allegations against Chagnon.


Bill Irons

Department of Anthropology

Northwestern University


March 3, 2002

This is a report on an investigation I conducted to check the accuracy of one of Patrick Tierney's many allegations against Napoleon Chagnon in his book Darkness in El Dorado . This is the charge that Chagnon had his students dress up in padded suits to be attacked by Chagnon's "attack dogs," and that he took his dogs into bars in State College, Pennsylvania, where he would have them "corner big, 200-pound-plus weightlifter types." (P. 130, Darkness in El Dorado .) Tierney claims that this behavior on Chagnon's part reflects a fascination with violence (p. 182). Tierney cites an interview with Kenneth Good as the source of this information: "Kenneth Good, phone interview, January10, 1995" (p. 351, note 29).

According to Good, as relayed by Tierney, there was a risk of injury involved in these demonstrations with Chagnon's dogs. If this charge were true, Chagnon's behavior in doing this to his students would have been clearly unethical. Also, using one's dogs to threaten anyone in any location, other than in self-defense, would be unethical and illegal.

Although they are lesser allegations than the charges of genocide and fomenting warfare also made by Tierney, they are nevertheless serious accusations. Also, unlike much of the information Tierney presents from interviews, this story can be checked easily. These are not allegations about events in a remote Yanomamo village that are difficult or impossible to check. These are allegations about events, in the town of State College, Pennsylvania, that were witnessed by a number of people who can be reached by telephone or by e-mail.

Although the matter is a serious one, I present the results of my investigation primarily as a check on the truthfulness of what is reported in Tierney's book. Chagnon himself remembers what happened regarding his dogs in State College and has shared his memory with me (see below). By comparing Chagnon and Tierney's accounts with what former Penn State students have to say, one can assess which are more reliable.

Inquiries Put to Chagnon's Former Students

I checked the accuracy of this statement by contacting, by e-mail, the former Penn State graduate students I knew about who were closely associated with Chagnon--that is, those who frequently socialized with him and who would be the ones most likely to have been involved in any demonstration with Chagnon's dogs. Not all of those contacted have responded yet. The investigation is not complete, but I am ready to report what I have found: that these particular accusations are inaccurate. This result needs to be seen in context of the numerous other inaccuracies reported by various investigators. These include especially those reported by Tooby, Hagen, and Price of The University of California At Santa Barbara in their very thorough report (www.anth.ucsb.edu/ucsbpreliminaryreport.pdf), the additional inaccuracies revealed in the report done at the University of Michigan (www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/Releases/2000/Oct00/r103100a.html), and those pointed out in the American Journal of Human Genetics 70: 1-10,2002 (available at (www.journals.uchicago.edu/AJHG/journal), as well as those reported by other sources.

Here is what I asked each of the former Penn State graduate students regarding Chagnon' dogs:

I am getting in contact now to ask some questions raised by Patrick Tierney's book Darkness in El Dorado (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000). As you probably know this book accuses your former advisor, Napoleon Chagnon, (as well as James Neel, Timothy Asch and several others) of a large number of crimes against humanity. The most outrageous allegations include: intentionally starting or exacerbating a measles epidemic that killed thousands of Yanomamo, fomenting war, and engaging in illegal gold mining. These charges have been extensively investigated and found to be without foundation. I assume you are familiar with the University of California Santa Barbara web site that presents some of the investigations of Tierney's allegations (www.anth.ucsb.edu/ucsbpreliminaryreport.pdf). Despite this, however, a number of anthropologists are claiming that not all the allegations have been refuted and various people continue to check further including the American Anthropological Association's Task Force on El Dorado. As you probably know this is a special task force established by the AAA to investigate the allegations in Tierney's book.

I am currently checking some lesser charges in Tierney's book that concern Napoleon's use of his trained dogs while he was in State College. On page 130 of his book, Tierney says that in 1976 Nap got a large grant that enabled him to hire two senior consultants and three graduate students. He then goes on to say the following:

"One of the graduate students was Kenneth Good. Until then, Good had been a good friend and protégé of Chagnon's. They got to know each other at Penn State University, where Good was Chagnon's drinking buddy. "We used to go down to bars and drink together," Good recalled. "It was an embarrassment, but I did it because he was going to be my chair. He was the type of guy, who had German shepherd attack dogs, and he'd have people come over to his house in the afternoon and he'd have the students dress up in padded suits and have the dogs attack them. Oh, yes. They'd have to put out an arm or a leg and the dog would attack. Students could get injured. And he used to like taking the attack dogs---whose names were Gus and Parma---into bars so he could corner big 200-pound-plus weightlifter types." [There is an endnote citing "Kenneth Good, phone interview, January 10, 1995" as the source of Tierney's information.] Again on page 182, Tierney says briefly "Chagnon used his students as decoys for attack dogs."

The specific questions I would like to ask you (if you are willing to answer them) are the following.

1. Did you "know" Napoleon's two German shepherds, Gus and Parma, that is, were they ever around when you visited Chagnon at his home or his office?

2. Do you remember whether Nap asked you or any of his graduate students to dress up in a padded suit in order to be attacked by his dogs? If so, what specifically do you remember?

3. Do you remember anything about Nap's taking his dogs into bars in State College and using them to threaten people? If so, what do you remember?

Assuming you can supply some information, can I use your name in reporting it? I am directing these questions to as many of Nap's former Penn State graduate students as I can locate, and I may work the results of these inquiries into a publication at some future date. Initially, however, I intend to send the results to the AAA Task Force on El Dorado. I am doing this with Nap's knowledge, but if you wish I will not report your response to him. If you can supply information but do not want your name revealed to anyone, let me know. I am especially interested in what you actually did or saw, but also I am interested in anything you heard by word of mouth, but did not see.

Tierney's book is now being distributed by W. W. Norton and Company as anthropological teaching material and it is vitally important that the accuracy of Tierney's numerous allegations be checked and the results be made known. It is also important that the AAA Task Force on El Dorado have accurate information and I want to share the result of these inquiries with them.

The list of people I will also be contacting includes: Carolyn McCommon, Nancy Berte, Tom Melancon, John Hadidian, Mark Flinn, Laura Betzig, Paul Turke, Paul Bugos, Bruce Byland, and Jim Hurd. Do you know of any other former PSU graduate students who might have information?

Any help you can supply will be very much appreciated.

With best regards,

Bill Irons

Some of the wording was slightly different in different cases, but the substance was always the same. In the course of the investigation, the names of Michael Logan, Roscoe Stanyon, and Eric Fredlund came up as names that should have been included in the original list above. These former students were then sent the message above, and Logan and Stanyon replied. Another name that appeared in the course of the investigation was that of John Perlis, but I was never able to locate any kind of address for him. I did not know Perlis, but I did know all of the students for whom I was able to locate an email address because I was at Penn State myself from 1974 to 1978. The messages I sent each of these former Penn State students included some friendly comments in addition to the questions about the dogs. These comments were different for each former student, and I have left them out of the above message.

The Responses

Below are all the responses I received by e-mail. I have not corrected typos in the parts of the responses I have quoted below. I have left out personal parts of their responses that do not have anything to do with the "attack-dog" issue. In addition to 10 responses by e-mail (some consisting of more that one message), I interviewed one former Penn State graduate student, Paul Turke, by telephone. A summary of the crucial elements of that interview is included below. I did not receive any responses by any other route.

1. Nancy Berte (Ph.D., J.D.) by e-mail on January 27, 2002:

I was a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University during the 1974-1979. I received my Master degree there completed my PhD work except for the dissertation at Penn State. I finished my PhD at Northwestern University after conducting fieldwork because my two principal mentors had taken positions at Northwestern while I was conducting fieldwork in 1980. Napoleon Chagnon was one of my advisors. I followed them to Northwestern where I finished my doctorate.

My recollection of events concerning guard dogs and drinking in bars at Penn State follows. On a few rare occasions Chagnon accompanied a group of graduates, myself included, to a local tavern to hear Blue Grass music and have a beer. This was a common part of evening social activities at Penn State, a large university in the middle of farm country. Chagnon was a lively personality, to be sure, but I never felt pressured to go to the bars by him, nor did I ever detect that any of my colleagues went for any other reason than to unwind and listen to some good music with good company. In fact, as I recall, the graduate students were going to the bar and often asked him to come along.

During my time at Penn State, I never felt pressured by Chagnon to do anything against my will, ever. Chagnon was a supportive mentor. He and his wife were always friendly to his graduate students and made us feel welcomed. As to any alleged dog attacks, I recall attending one gathering at Chagnon's house where he and his wife invited the graduate students to come to eat. When I arrived, there was some excited discussion about the dog show and how cool it was. Apparently someone - perhaps Chagnon, or perhaps a guest, I can't recall -- had dogs put on a guard dog demonstration. I am not even sure if they were Chagnon's dogs or someone else's. I recall hearing that someone volunteered to wear protective clothing for the demonstration, but I can't recall who this was, nor am I even sure if it was a graduate student. Since I arrived after the demonstration, this is all second hand. My first hand recollection is, however, that the atmosphere was that of a relaxed and fun party, a bit of excitement over the dog demonstration, and a bit of a lark. I did not personally see anyone visibly distressed or feeling pressured by this event. The atmosphere was not at all intimidating.

I have absolutely no recollection about bringing dogs into bars at Penn State nor did do I recall ever hearing anything about such an event. If such an event had happened and if it had caused a stir, I probably would have heard about it, as the people in the anthropology department comprised a social community and not just an academic one.


(In a later e-mail message on February 11, in response to my inquiring specifically about Chagnon's using his dogs to threaten people, I got the following statement. Nancy Berte wrote: "I never saw him use his dogs to threaten anyone, nor use them in any way except to pet them as normal people do with their dogs.")

2. Laura Betzig (Ph.D.) by e-mail on January 27, 2002:

I remember seeing dogs like that--probably German shepherds--in a pen at Nap's Penn State house. We were there a couple of times. I'm allergic to dogs, so never asked to get close. I do remember hearing that Nap was an expert dog trainer, even that he'd written a dog training book?

(On February 4, I sent Laura Betzig a second e-mail asking specifically (1) whether Chagnon ever had her put on a padded suit and be attacked by a dog and (2) whether she ever saw Chagnon use his dogs to threaten anyone. She answered "no" to both question by e-mail on February 4.)

3. Paul Bugos (Ph.D.) by e-mail on January 27, 2002:

Yes, I of course remember Parma and Gus. In those days the dogs were always around. Though I am not the most comfortable person in the world around dogs, they never bothered me. They were very well trained and tame.

Yes, once at a cook out in his back yard Nap did invite student to try on the suit and let the dogs jump at them. I remember a guy who I think was named John Perliss putting on the suit and getting jumped on by the dogs. And I think that Ken Good got into the suit as well. By no means was anyone coerced into putting the suit on. Eric Fredlund and I sure didn't do it.

I remember that Nap would bring the dogs to bars. As I recall they usually didn't let the dogs in. I never saw him use the dogs to threaten anyone anywhere. Usually he just amused people by having the dogs do tricks.

(Several of the students responding mention Eric Fredlund. Initially I did not have an e-mail address for him. Later I found an e-mail address for him and asked him the same questions. I sent the inquiry three times, but he has not replied.)

4. Bruce Byland (Ph.D.) by e-mail on February 7, 2002:

My recollection of Ken Good is at some variance with his recollection of himself. I knew Ken only a little while we overlapped at school. We were never close friends. It seems to me that it was never difficult to get him to go down to the bars and drink. I certainly do not remember any indication that he was ever embarrassed by being in the presence of Chagnon while drinking. To the contrary, my impression was that he rather enjoyed being in the presence of the great one.

Finally, by way of preamble, I know a lot about dogs. My family had a boarding kennel through most of my childhood. We normally had 50 or 60 dogs around the house (lots in the kennel out back and 4 or 5 of our own in the house). I lived with dogs, I am comfortable with dogs, I have a good feeling for their personalities.

In answer to your specific questions.

1. I did know Gus. I remember Parma only vaguely. I met Gus on campus once or twice and at parties, dinners, and advisement meetings at his home. Gus was a strong, well trained dog. He was gentle and obedient. Didn't Nap once publish a book on dog training?

2. I never was asked to wear a suit and be attacked by his dogs. I never was present when any such event occurred. I don't know anyone who was ever used for this purpose. I do recall hearing of an apocryphal event that was said to have taken place at some time in the distant past. It was said that at that event Nap had demonstrated a dog's training by having someone dress in a padded suit and be attacked. I recall that the story I heard had that individual as a dog training colleague of Nap's and not a student. I don't know which dog, I don't know the person, and I don't know if it really even happened.

3. I never saw Nap's dogs in a bar. I never heard of him taking a dog into a bar. Indeed, I never saw or heard of him using his dogs to threaten anyone. I have seen Gus bark and snarl but that is what Shepherds do. Some might see that behavior as threatening. I never did. My family had a shepherd named Faust for many years. The threat act is much more intense than simple barking. I never saw Gus get his hackles up and do a real threat. I think that Gus was a good dog, with a generally sweet disposition.

5. Mark Flinn (Ph.D.) by e-mail on January 28, 2002:

Obviously this borders on the absurd. In direct response to your questions I remember going to Nap's house(s) on numerous occasions, and was never asked to serve as an attack dummy. I remember Gus and Parma as well-trained, normal dogs. They barked at strangers, but were friendly and loved to be rubbed. The only somewhat negative issue I can remember is they seemed a bit cramped (and noisy) at Nap's first house that was in a tight neighborhood. I was late on the scene at PSU (started in fall, 1976), and never met Ken Good. Eric Fredlund and some of the older students would be better informed. I cannot imagine any bar in State College letting dogs in; that should be a matter of legal record (surely it is and was against the law, and if Nap had ever done such a thing, the bar owner must have filed a complaint, and that would be in the police records).

(On January 28, I sent Mark Flinn a second e-mail message saying: "Thanks for the response. I want to ask for a clear statement on one other thing. I think I know the answer, but I need to ask and get an answer. Do you ever remember Nap's using his dogs to "corner" or threaten anyone anywhere (never mind the bar business)?" On January 29, Flinn responded by e-mail saying: "No, I never knew of any instance in which Nap used his dogs to threaten or attack anyone.")

6. John Hadidian (Ph.D.) by e-mail on January 26, 2002:

I actually spoke with a reporter who originally covered the story (?Atlantic) and whose name escapes me now. Of course I knew Gus and Parma --- Rose and I dogsat for them when the Chagnons were out of town. They were sweet dogs. Yes, they had probably been trained to command and would be responsive to threats to Nap or the family, but I never saw on their or on Nap's part any suggestion of "attack" scenarios, the use of the dogs to threaten or intimidate people; never heard about such a thing as a padded suit event or the dogs going into bars (and we spent no small amount of time in Duffy's with Nap and others). Can't imagine that this would not have been a subject of discussion among those of us who were students of Nap's.

My feeling about these sorts of claims and allegations is that they are the product of an over-active imagination, and I told the reporter as much as that. I believe Rose and I were in closer and more immediate and prolonged contact with those dogs than almost anyone else outside the family and I can categorically say that I never for an instant felt them to be threatening or intimidating or saw Nap as anything but a completely normal, proud and loving dog owner.

I've been around all sorts of animals all my life and my professional career has been focused in that direction; those dogs were just dogs.

I read the book. It's a very disturbing attempt to use quasi-science and ad hominen argument to, basically, conduct a character assassination. If it is not refuted then its open house on legitimate science and scientists.

(I found John Hadidian’s last paragraph especially significant.)

7. James P. Hurd (Ph.D.) by e-mail on January 31, 2002:

I didn't hear anything about dogs in bars. I did go to a party once at Naps where he had Bruce Byland (an archeology student?) dress up in a protective suit and had his dog attack him. I remember at least one dog. Perhaps there were two.

(On February 8, 2002, I sent a second e-mail message to James Hurd saying the following: "I think I can infer from your answer that Nap never asked you to put on a padded suit and be attacked by an attack dog, and that you never saw Nap use his dogs to threaten anyone in any context. But I need to be absolutely sure. Is my inference correct?" His response, on February 10 was: "Your inference is correct about Nap's dogs.")

8. Michael Logan (Ph.D.) by e-mail on February 10, 2002.

At the outset let me say, and I do so with absolute sincerity, that the accusations raised by Good, then Tierney, are false. Not once did I ever see or hear from others any thing even remotely close to what Good and Tierney claim. I recall just the opposite, in that Nap always kept his dogs under control, by means of a leash, commands, and a pen. What Ken Good is referring to was an event that took place at a gathering at Nap's home on Fairmont. I remember it well, as does my wife, Beth. We witnessed the performance of a highly trained guard dog. Contrary to what Good claims, the dog was not one of Nap's. It belonged to a local trainer, Bob Martin. with whom Nap co-authored a book on dog training. So Good is wrong on two counts...the dog was not Nap's, but Martin's and the person directing the animal was not Nap, but Bob Martin. The student being attacked had volunteered for this role and Martin provided the necessary protective gear...body padding, head padding, face mask, and boots. I believe it was Paul Bugos who volunteered. At any rate the demonstration was quite informative. The charge that Nap would regularly threaten students,

or any one else, with his dogs is incorrect. Never, on any occasion, did I observe Nap engaged in this type of behavior, nor did any of my classmates claim he had. And this includes Ken Good, who was a close friend of mine at Penn State. In fact I was the one who advised Ken, who at the time was burned out with archaeology, to study with Chagnon. It's all so very sad, and unnecessary. To recap...I spent much time with Nap and his family, both at his home and elsewhere. He always maintained the tightest control over his Shepherds. At that time I also owned a large Shepherd, and because of this I came to quickly appreciate how well Nap cared for his dogs, especially when others were around. To say that he used his animals to intimidate others is wrong. I never saw him act in this way.

(Chagnon remembers that the student who voluntarily put on the padded suit was a man named John Perlis, whom I do not know and have not been able to locate. Bruce Byland and James Hurd's responses above make it clear that neither of them was the one to put on the padded suit. It is now almost twenty-eight years since the event these witness are remembering. It is hardly surprising that some of the details are not clear in their memories. Exactly who put on the padded suit and took part in the demonstration is not an important question. The important facts reported are that this was a one-time occurrence, and the participation in the demonstration was voluntary.)

9. Carolyn McCommon (Ph.D.) by e-mail on February 2, 2002:

The allegations made by Tierney seem so ridiculous. While the measles incident pre-dated my time at PSU, I did work with Nap extensively in later years and have the utmost respect for his integrity. It's not to say he can't be rude and arrogant - I have seen him do that more than once with other people (such as Martin Harris) But I also feel that it is perhaps for that perception alone that some academics have jumped on the criticism boat. He instilled high standards for me as one of his students. He is a good teacher, encouraging, and far-sighted.

As for your questions - I vaguely remember the dogs being at Nap's house. I don't remember anything vicious or threatening about them. I never heard anything about students being asked to dress up in padded suits or Nap taking his dogs into bars to threaten people. The latter seems particularly out of character. Underneath it all, I found Nap to be a very kind person, particularly towards students.

(Chagnon was at Penn State for 9 years (from 1972 to 1981) and not all of the students contacted were there when the voluntary attack dog demonstration did occur. The barbecue where the demonstration occurred, according to Chagnon, was held in late spring of 1974.)

10. Roscoe Stanyon (Ph.D.) by e-mail on February 11, 2002:

I knew both his dogs well, Gus and Parma. It is true that his dogs were trained guard dogs. I was and still am a dog man myself, I had two English setters and was interested in dog training. Chagnon was an excellent dog trainer and had the respect and cooperation of professional dog trainers in the area. He wrote a well-received book on dog training which sold well at the local bookstore where I and Chagnon's wife were both part time employees.

I have seen demonstrations of Parma's and Gus's guard dog skills including with the padded suit, but I found the demonstrations interesting and informative. Frankly, I do not remember if a student was suited up. He never asked me to although I would have liked to learn more from him about dog training and would have been willing. Gus and Parma were extremely well trained and behaved and I never had the slightest anxiety around them. They were good dogs. It is dogs that are not trained that are dangerous.

I never personally knew Ken Good although I had heard of him when I was at Penn State as a former Chagnon's PhD student. I have had a beer or two at plenty of bars with Nap in and around the Penn State area over a period of maybe six years or so (mid 70s-82). I can assure you that I was never in a bar with Chagnon accompanied by his dogs.I never even heard that he had taken Gus and Parma to a bar. I cannot rule out that he took his dogs to some bar, but it seems strange to me. The rest of the Tierney story about threatening people with the dogs in bars or elsewhere is complete garbage and out of character. Chagnon rightly prided himself on his extremely professional attitude and behavior with his dogs.

11. Paul Turke (Ph.D., M.D.), telephone interview on February 28, 2002.

In the interview I asked Paul Turke: (1) Did Chagnon ever have him put on a padded suit and be attacked by an attack dog? (2) Did he ever see Chagnon have someone else do this? (3) Did he ever see Chagnon threaten anyone with his dogs? The answers to all three questions were "no." He also volunteered that he finds it hard to understand why people are taking Tierney's allegations seriously at all.

(Paul Turke arrived in State College several years after the one-time attack-dog demonstration in late spring of 1974.)

What Chagnon Himself Remembers

Now for Napoleon Chagnon's own memory of what happened as he has relayed it to me by e-mail and telephone. When he was at Penn State, he was very much into dog training. He collaborated with a professional dog trainer, Robert J. Martin, to produce a detailed handbook and training manual on this subject (Robert J. Martin and Napoleon A. Chagnon, Toward the Ph.D. for Dogs: Obedience Training from Novice through Utility , Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich, 1975) and he had two German shepherds, Gus and Parma, that he trained. Gus and Parma were not trained as attack dogs and Chagnon never did any training of attack dogs. He did train Gus in all the obedience skills required by the American Kennel Club (AKC) for the certificate of Utility Dog, and he took Gus to AKC obedience competitions where Gus displayed his obedience skills and was judged by AKC-certified obedience-trial judges. Dogs that are successful in these obedience trials receive AKC certification attesting to their obedience skills. The first certification is Companion Dog (CD), followed by Companion Dog Excellent (CDX), and finally by Utility Dog (UD, the canine equivalent of the "Ph.D." in obedience.). Gus was one of the youngest dogs ever to achieve official certification as an AKC Utility Dog. Parma was given much of the same training, but Chagnon did not enter her into AKC obedience trials. Training a Utility Dog requires, beyond learning the handler's skill of dog training, considerable effort and expense to take a dog to AKC obedience trials and lead them through demonstrations of their skill in front of an AKC-certified judge.

"Attack dog" is not an American Kennel Club designation, but some professional dog trainers do train attack dogs. Competent professional dog trainers who adhere to the philosophy of the American Kennel Club never train a dog for attack until it can reliably perform the skills required for the CD, CDX, and UD exercises. Trainers of attack dogs do not normally compete in AKC obedience trials, but their dogs would do very well in such competitions. A well trained "attack dog" is very obedient and is of no danger to anyone unless its trainer gives it the signal to attack. Attack dogs require a responsible and skilled handler, who gives the commands to the dog. Attack dogs are to be sharply distinguished from "guard dogs," also not an AKC-recognized category. Attack dogs and their handlers are normally used for law-enforcement or for military purposes. Guard dogs are usually on their own and are normally used to protect property or challenge and threaten intruders. "Guard dogs" may or may not have intensive training in obedience skills.

The following quotation from the preface of Toward the Ph.D. for Dogs (p. xi) should make clear the nature of a properly trained attack dog. This passage was intended for dog owners who might assume that it is a trivial matter to train a dog to attack and to discourage dog owners from doing so:

A properly trained attack dog is not noticeably different from any other well-trained dog: attack is to him a command to execute a particular exercise efficiently, stop when commanded and return for praise. It is done without much passion and wholly without anger. It is, simply, an exercise, like heeling or fetching a dumbbell.

We frequently demonstrate these kinds of dogs in front of children. The children can put their heads, hands, arms, or legs into the dog's mouth with impunity, box his ears, tease him, step on his tail. The dog will wince occasionally but will not bite. However, one command can alert him, and one command can stop him (he can, so to speak, be stopped in mid-air)—but only if he is well trained in basic obedience.

If you have an attack dog and he does not behave this way, he is a potential menace to you, your family, and your friends. If your dog cannot perform the material in Chapters I and II, it would be both foolish and dangerous to try to train him for attack from one of the several available manuals. Most dogs will bite when they feel like it, but a properly trained attack dog will bite only on command. And, most important, stop biting on command.

Robert Martin did train attack dogs, and he followed the philosophy explained in the quotation above. (The "we" in the above quotation refers to Martin and other professional dog trainers who follow the AKC approach to training.)

In the late spring of 1974, Napoleon Chagnon and his wife, Carlene, had a barbecue in their back yard in State College. Robert Martin asked Chagnon if he could bring one of his attack-trained dogs and give a demonstration to the guests who were mostly Penn State students and faculty members. He wanted to show how gentle an attack dog could be when not given the signal to attack, and how obedient the dog would be when given both the signal to attack and the signal to desist from attack. (Chagnon's dogs were not trained as attack dogs and could not have given such a demonstration.) Martin came to the party with one of his own attack-trained dogs. He also brought a padded suit and other protective gear designed to allow demonstration of the behavior of highly trained attack dogs without risk of injury to the person attacked. Martin let the dog circulate among the guests so they could see that he was not a threatening dog. He then called for a volunteer to put on the padded suit and allow the dog to attack him when signaled to do so by his trainer. The student who put on the suit and took part in the demonstration did so voluntarily and was at no risk of injury. Chagnon specifically remembers that the student who put on the suit was John Perlis, who was at the time painting Chagnon's house to earn extra money. There never was any other demonstration involving Napoleon Chagnon and an attack dog.

Chagnon says he did take one of his dogs, Gus, into a bar on rare occasions, but never used him to threaten anyone in any context. When he did take Gus into bars he always had him on a leash and he discreetly stayed near the entry door. It was probably illegal to take dogs into bars in State College, but a few bar owners turned a blind eye to this.

In addition, Chagnon pointed out that, apart from general departmental picnics and parties where many faculty members and students mingled, he recalls only two occasions where he and Good had drinks together. They definitely were not drinking buddies, contrary to what Tierney reports.

Chagnon and I are good friends and I was aware that there had been serious tension between him and Good for a long time. I asked Chagnon what he could tell me about this. Chagnon said that the tension stemmed from problems that arose while Good was doing field research for his doctorate under Chagnon's supervision. Chagnon supported Good's field research with funds from an NIMH grant Chagnon got in 1975. Good had no grant of his own. All his research funds came from Chagnon. Chagnon had an agreement with Good to the effect that (1) Good would collect data for Chagnon in addition to the data he needed for his dissertation, (2) Chagnon and Good would collaborate on publications growing out of Good's field research, (3) Good would send Chagnon progress reports from the field, (4) Good would provide Chagnon an accounting of the funds he received from Chagnon's grant. Chagnon needed the latter for his own accounting to NIMH. This was not an unusual type of agreement between a professor and a graduate student. Chagnon had the same agreement with Raymond Hames and Eric Fredlund, and Hames and Fredlund stuck to their agreements. Good however failed to stick to the agreement. For over a year, he failed to send any progress reports to Chagnon, and, in response to the lack of reports, Chagnon sent him a message saying he would cut off his funding if he did not send a progress report in the next three months. The progress report never appeared and Chagnon cut off Good's funding. Shortly after this, in June of 1977, Good returned to State College and complained that he had been mistreated by Chagnon. Good eventually went to the University of Florida and wrote up the data he collected as a doctoral dissertation under the supervision of Marvin Harris. The field research this dissertation is based on was supported largely from Chagnon's NIMH research grant. Good has never supplied any data to Chagnon despite his agreement to do so, nor has he supplied a satisfactory accounting of the funds he received from Chagnon. Since these events, Good has been hostile to Chagnon, and has published very negative accounts of his relationship with Chagnon (see Kenneth Good with David Charnoff, Into the Heart: One Man's Pursuit of Love and Knowledge Among the Yanomama , New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.)

What Chagnon's Collaborator on the Dog-Training Book Remembers

I tried to contact Robert Martin, who was out of town when I e-mailed him. His assistant at his dog training school, who handles his e-mail for him, phoned him and read him my message, which contained Tierney's allegations about Chagnon's dogs. The assistant relayed Martin's answer to Chagnon, who was also trying to contact Robert Martin, and Chagnon passed the answer on to me. Martin said that he did not remember the incident. He has given a very large number of demonstrations of his attack dogs over some 35 years and he does not remember them all. Martin, however, was very emphatic in saying that Chagnon's dogs were not trained as attack dogs.

What I Remember

At this point, I might as well add my own recollections of Chagnon's dogs. I was in State College from September 1974 to August 1978, as noted above, and knew Gus and Parma very well. I was not at the barbecue where the attack dog demonstration took place. (The barbecue occurred in late spring of 1974 before I arrived in State College.) However, I knew all of Chagnon's students during the time I was there and if Chagnon had made a habit of coercing them into attack-dog demonstrations I am sure I would have heard about it. Moreover, I have known Chagnon for forty years, and I find the description of Chagnon's use of his dogs completely out of character. Gus and Parma were well-trained, friendly dogs and I was very fond of both of them. I never saw or heard of Chagnon's using his dogs to threaten anyone.


Closing Comment

I have not tried to contact Ken Good himself because I assume he would not respond to an e-mail message from me. Chagnon and I have edited two books together and many anthropologists, Good included, know that we are long-time friends.

It is important to keep in mind that this small investigation is not the only one revealing false claims in Tierney's book. So far as I am aware, everyone who has checked any of Tierney's purported evidence for wrongdoing on the part of Chagnon, Neel, Asch, or Roche has found his evidence to be either dubious or outright false.

What Tierney did with his account of Chagnon's dogs in State College is very revealing about his competence and reliability as an investigator. In many ways, reporting on the dog story should have been an easy task that any novice journalist could have done correctly. When Tierney was interviewing in the Amazon through interpreters in an unfamiliar environment, he faced a much greater challenge. There was a serious barrier of language and culture to overcome. Even when interviewing Yanomamo who knew Spanish, he had to cope with very different cultural assumptions and values that stood between him and his informant. In the case of the dog story, none of these difficulties existed. These were events that occurred in State College, Pennsylvania, not far from Tierney's home in Pittsburgh. Many people who could easily be located witnessed them. There were no language or cultural barriers to cope with. Any cub reporter for a small-town newspaper would know that an unlikely tale about wrongdoing given by one person, especially one who dislikes the person he is accusing, should be checked by contacting other witnesses. It is improbable that Chagnon could have made a habit of coercing his students into dangerous interactions with his dogs, and could have made a habit of cornering large men in bars with "attack dogs" without some sort of intervention by the local police and university administrators. Would students, weightlifter-types, and bar owners take such bullying so passively? Tierney shows no awareness of this implausible aspect of his story. Any competent reporter would surely have asked why the authorities took no action, and would have sought some explanation of why no such thing happened if witnesses insisted this were the case. Tierney gives no evidence that it ever occurred to him that he should check Good's unlikely account, or even that the story is very improbable given the setting in which it occurred. If Tierney was unable to recognize the unlikely nature of this story and investigate it properly, how likely is he to make sense of, and report accurately, what happened in the unfamiliar setting of a Yanomamo village thirty or so years before his interviews?

What Tierney has done here is typical of what has been reported in other investigations of his many allegations. Numerous inaccuracies, exaggerations, and outright fabrications have been exposed by several other investigations. These include, among others, the report by Tooby, Hagen, and Price of The University of California At Santa Barbara, the inquiry commissioned by The University of Michigan, and the recent investigation published by the American Society of Human Genetics. (See web site URLs above.) The evidence presented here indicates that Tierney's story contains a tiny grain of innocent truth. On one occasion, at a barbecue in Chagnon's backyard in State College, one of Chagnon's guests put on a padded suit and other protective gear and took part in a demonstration of an attack dog's skills and obedience. The dog belonged to Robert Martin, a professional dog trainer and senior author with Napoleon Chagnon of a book on dog training. The participation by one of the guests at the barbecue was voluntary and no one was harmed or upset. It is impossible for me to know who enhanced this innocent story: Good, Tierney, or both. However, the story did get enhanced over the course of the twenty-six years between the barbecue and the publication of Tierney's book. The dog used in the demonstration became Chagnon's dog. Chagnon's dogs, Parma and Gus, became attack dogs. This one-time harmless diversion at a party became a dangerous habit of coercing students into putting on padded suits and submitting to attack by Gus and Parma. Chagnon also made a habit of taking his dogs into bars and using them to threaten large men. For some strange, unexplained reason the police or university administrators never saw fit to intervene. According to Tierney, this story about Chagnon's dogs is evidence that Chagnon has a fascination with violence.

This is the kind of story that people often refer to as a fish story. Someone catches a six-inch perch. Each time he recounts his catch the fish grows. It becomes a 15-inch walleyed pike, then a 50-inch muskellunge, and finally a 100-pound freshwater shark. Speaking for myself, I don't believe Tierney's fish story. I believe Chagnon's story because it is consistent with what other witnesses report and with what I know first hand. Over the course of the 27-plus years since the barbecue in State College, the students responding to my inquiries have gotten some of the details wrong. But they are clearly honest witnesses and they have the core of the story right. Not one of them reports being coerced into putting on a padded suit and submitting to attacks by a dog. Not one of them reports seeing someone else, or hearing of someone else, being coerced into such a demonstration. Not one of them reports ever seeing Chagnon use his dogs to threaten anyone. The accounts of these witnesses make it clear that Tierney's is telling his readers a fish story.

I recently received a free paperback copy of Tierney's book from the publisher, W. W. Norton and Company. The book was accompanied by an invoice describing Tierney's book as "course material." I think the academic discipline of anthropology has a problem if its course material contains too many fish stories.

I think it is also important to note that Chagnon's involvement in dog training was a socially constructive thing. Many people find trained dogs useful in a variety of ways. They can be companions and guards; they can aid in police and security work in a variety of ways. Properly trained dogs are not a threat to anyone (law breakers aside) and they perform many useful services. By providing a readable dog training manual Chagnon and Martin were providing a service to our society. Tierney's book has distorted the truth about this and spread the false story that Chagnon's involvement with dogs was a socially destructive thing. This parallels what Tierney did when he distorted the role of Neel and his associates in the 1968 measles epidemic (see the Santa Barbara web site). His false story turns something constructive into something destructive. How should we evaluate a book that does this sort of thing over and over again?