September 2000


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Michael Goldhaber <[log in to unmask]>
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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 25 Sep 2000 00:58:23 -0700
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Having sent a piece on the other side, I find it onfari to forward this.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Statement from Napoleon A. Chagnon [evol-psych]
Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2000 20:59:30 -0700
From: "Michael Gregory, NEXA/H-NEXA" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: "H-NEXA: the Science-Humanities Convergence Forum"<[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]

From: "Paul Okami" <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2000 21:35:26 +0100


Paul Okami

----- Original Message -----
From: <[log in to unmask]>
To: "Ed Hagen" <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, September 22, 2000 5:18 PM
Subject: Re: Chagnon's statement

[Ed:  post the whole thing]

Today I was contacted by a journalist from Time Magazine who
indicated that Time staffers all over the world had been advised to jump
onto this scandal and cooperate in getting the story into the upcoming
national and international issue.  I had no option more reasonable than
trying to limit the damage that we all know this will now inflict on many
innocent people.  I elected to make the below statement and sent it to Time
Magazine shortly after 8:00 PM EDT.


Date: Fri, 22 Sep 2000 20:06:49 -0400
To: [log in to unmask]
From: Napoleon A. Chagnon <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Chagnon's statement

To Margot Roosevelt, Time Magazine:

         I'm disappointed to hear you are proceeding with your article
after I indicated to you by phone that there is no credible evidence to
support Tierney's fantastic claims, or the claims by Turner and Sponsel in
their widely spread document that has been sent to not only the president
of the AAA, but to many others with the apparent intent of inflicting harm
on me.  That document is, as I write this, now all over the world.  Many
innocent people will be injured when you publish your article, however
carefully you couch your wording.  I want you to explain to me sometime
why people at Time Magazine even want to publish an article knowing that
the evidence does not exist to support the libelous claims made by
non-credible people, and knowing that the evidence shows their claims to
be false.  "Because it is a hot story" is not an appropriate or ethically
justifiable reason.

         You can break my statement up into pieces and put the pieces where
you want to, as long as you preserve and do not compromise the meaning of
what my statement, as written below, says.  I may put this on my UCSB Web
page and circulate it more widely.

         "The charges can not be sustained by widely known and easily found
empirical evidence in the scientific anthropological and biomedical
journals.  For example, there is an abundance of easily located biomedical
research on the effects of the Edmonston B vaccine that indicates several
things that shoot down Tierney's argument and the claims in the document
being widely circulated by anthropologists Terence Turner and Leslie
Sponsel.  For example, there is a study that covers over a 40-year time
span involving hundreds of millions of cases where this vaccine has been
used.  This is a very large sample size by any standards.  The results
show that patients vaccinated do not and have never been known to have
communicated measles to uninnoculated people exposed to them after
innoculation.   The vaccine does not "cause" or "exacerbate" measles
epidemics in Native populations or in Western populations where it has
been frequently used, and this finding holds up in cases where gamma
globulin was not simultaneously used at the time of the vaccinations.  It
also shows that the small number of patients, mostly in African countries,
who died after being innoculated had severely depressed immune systems
caused by the fact that they had lukemia, AIDS, severe malnutrition, and
similar sicknesses from which they probably would have soon died anyway.

         I was present during the tragic measles epidemic and, in a letter
I wrote to some of my colleagues four years ago (which I posted today on my
website), nobody died of measles in the villages we vaccinated and local
missionaries who heroically helped us contain this epidemic told me that
nobody we or they vaccinated in their villages died either.

         What is the scientifically plausible sample size Mr. Tierney uses
to make his libelous claim that "hundreds, if not thousands"  of Yanomamö
died as a consequence our attempts to prevent the spread of measles by
vaccinating them?

         Intelligent people base their judgements on evidence.  Only
believers in conspiracy theories and a large number of cultural
anthropologists from the Academic Left leap to conclusions that are not
only not supported by the available scientific evidence but contradicts
and thoroughly refutes them.  Many cultural anthropologists even despise
the words "empirical evidence."  This is like believing in tabloid
headlines that claim things like "Baby born with a glass eye and a wooden
leg.  The doctors are amazed!"

         Mr. Turner once reported, on the basis of a brief trip to the
Brazilian Yanomamö area (I'm not sure he even visited any Yanomamö
villages), that the harm done as a consequence of the garimpeiro
(Brazilian gold miner) invasion of Yanomamö territory caused such a
disaster that affected villages had no children under the age of 10 years
and the garimpeiros caused the birth rate to drop to zero among the
Yanomamö.  I've never been in a Yanomamö village in the 35 years that
spans my research activities among them where there were no children under
the age of 10.  I've been to at least 75 villages thus far.  I'd like to
believe and endorse his claims because I love the Yanomamö dearly and have
spent many years among them and his "data", if true, would be useful to me
to intensify the alarm about threats to their well-being.   But, I know
that lying about it is not the correct way to do it---the truth itself,
the empirical and testable facts, are bad enough and I can defend whatever
facts I published.  But lies, when discovered, discredit liars and in this
urgent case, lying about the magnitude of the harms being inflicted on the
Yanomamö would be dangerous because, despite the good intentions of the
liar, if discovered to be lies the truly harmful people would then be able
to legitimately claim "Don't believe that person---his/her
evidence does not exist."    Because my own research focuses largely on
demographic issues, I know it would take many years of fieldwork in dozens
of villages to even come close to estimating the allegedly precise
statistics Turner dishonestly reported.  He is not a credible person, and
I have said this in print and to his face in the past when he has attacked
me in ways totally beyond the bounds of academic propriety citing
non-credible "facts".

       Anthropological evidence immediately available can be found in one
of my books: Yanomamö: The Last Days of Eden.  Many of the accusations
claim to be based on things I said in this book or it's college text
equivalent.  Check the available facts and read this book if you are
interested in data pertinent to these grotesque accusations.  The
accusations have been repeatedly made in the past by the same people and
are resurfacing again, but because they are now being widely spread in the
non-academic media at large, I will take the time to address them soon in
a book, well underway, to be published by Simon and Schuster later this
year: The Noble Savage.   I have already effectively rebutted these
accusations in the community of serious academics, who are weary of what
has now acquired a technical name:  Chagnon-bashing.

End of My Public View For The Time Being.

Napoleon A. Chagnon

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