September 2000


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George Salzman <[log in to unmask]>
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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 21 Sep 2000 10:01:20 -0500
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Thank you, Michael.

Michael Goldhaber wrote:

> >Read below and gasp! AS I mentioned yesterday, all hell is going to break
> >loose when the American Anthropological Association meets in SF this
> >november around the issue below. Talk about Nazi medicine....
> >JIm
> >-----------------------
> >From: Donna J. Haraway <[log in to unmask] Sent: Thursday, September
> >14, 2000 4:13 PM Subject: Fwd: Imminent anthropological scandal
> >
> >Colleagues,
> >
> >I am forwarding this message in case you have not seen it.
> >
> >This is something we should all know about. Very, very ugly. It makes
> me pay
> >attention again to the hard and on-going problem of how to be
> responsible in
> >the many worlds of genetics--in biology, anthropology, medicine, journalism,
> >science studies, art, women's studies, popular culture, dog worlds--in short,
> >in all those places in which we all work.
> >
> >Donna
> >
> >========== To: Louise Lamphere, President, American Anthropological
> >Association
> >([log in to unmask])
> >
> >Don Brenneis, President -elect, American Anthropological Association
> >([log in to unmask])
> >
> >From: Terry Turner, Professor of Anthropology, Cornell University. Head
> of the
> >Special Commission of the American Anthropological Association to Investigate
> >the Situation of the Brazilian Yanomami, 1990-91 ([log in to unmask]
> >
> >Leslie Sponsel, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.
> >Chair of the AAA Committee for Human Rights 1992-1996 ([log in to unmask])
> >
> >In re: Scandal about to be caused by publication of book by Patrick Tierney
> >(Darkness in El Dorado. New York. Norton. Publication date: October 1, 2000).
> >
> >Madam President, Mr. President-elect:
> >
> >We write to inform you of an impending scandal that will affect the American
> >Anthropological profession as a whole in the eyes of the public, and arouse
> >intense indignation and calls for action among members of the
> Association. In
> >its scale, ramifications, and sheer criminality and corruption it is
> >unparalleled in the history of Anthropology. The AAA will be called
> upon by
> >the
> >general media and its own membership to take collective stands on the
> >issues it
> >raises, as well as appropriate redressive actions. All of this will obviously
> >involve you as Presidents of the Association-so the sooner you know
> about the
> >story that is about to break, the better prepared you can be to deal
> with it.
> >Both of us have seen galley copies of a book by Patrick Tierney, an
> >investigative journalist, about the actions of anthropologists and associated
> >scientific researchers (notably geneticists and medical experimenters) among
> >the Yanomami of Venezuela over the past thirty-five years. Because of the
> >sensational nature of its revelations, the notoriety of the people it exposes,
> >and the prestige of the organs of the academic establishment it implicates,
> >the
> >book is bound to be widely read both outside and inside the
> profession. As
> >both an indication and a vector of its public impact, we have learned
> that The
> >New Yorker magazine is planning to publish an extensive excerpt, timed to
> >coincide with the publication of the book (on or about October 1st).
> >
> >The focus of the scandal is the long-term project for study of the
> Yanomami of
> >Venezuela organized by James Neel, the human geneticist, in which Napoleon
> >Chagnon, Timothy Asch, and numerous other anthropologists took part. The
> >French
> >anthropologist Jacques Lizot, who also works with the Yanomami but is
> not part
> >of Neel-Chagnon project, also figures in a different scandalous capacity.
> >
> >One of Tierney's more startling revelations is that the whole Yanomami project
> >was an outgrowth and continuation of the Atomic Energy Comissions secret
> >program of experiments on human subjects James Neel, the originator and
> >director of the project, was part of the medical and genetic research team
> >attached to the Atomic Energy Commission since the days of the Manhattan
> >Project. He was a member of the small group of researchers responsible for
> >studying the effects of radiation on human subjects. He personally
> headed the
> >team that investigated the effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs on
> >survivors,. He was put in charge of the study of the effects of atomic
> >bombs at
> >Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and later was involved in the studies of the
> >effects of
> >the radioactivity from the experimental A and H bomb blasts in the Marshall
> >Islands on the natives (our colleague May Jo Marshall has a lot to say about
> >these studies in the Marshalls and Neel's role in them). The same group also
> >secretly carried out experiments on human subjects in the USA. These included
> >injecting people with radioactive plutonium without their knowledge or
> >permission,in some cases leading to their death or disfigurement ( Neel
> >himself
> >appears not to have given any of these experimental injections). Another
> >member
> >of the same AEC group of human geneticists and medical experimenters, a
> >Venezuelan, Marcel Roche, was a close colleague of Neel's and spent
> some time
> >at his AEC-funded center for Human Genetics at Ann Arbor. He returned to
> >Venezuela after the war and did a study of the Yanomami that involved
> >administering doses of a radioactive isotope of iodine and analyzing
> >samples of
> >blood for genetic data. Roche and his project were apparently the connection
> >that led Neel to choose the Yanomami for his big study of the genetics of
> >"leadership" and differential rates of reproduction among dominant and
> >sub-dominant males in a genetically "isolated" human population. There is
> >thus
> >a genealogical connection between the the human experiments carried
> out by
> >the
> >AEC, and Neel's and Chagnon's Yanomami project, which was from the outset
> >funded by the AEC.
> >
> >Tierney presents convincing evidence that Neel and Chagnon, on their
> trip to
> >the Yanomami in 1968, greatly exacerbated, and probably started, the epidemic
> >of measles that killed "hundreds, perhaps thousands" (Tierney's language-the
> >exact figure will never be known) of Yanomami. The epidemic appears to have
> >been caused, or at least worsened and more widely spread, by a campaign of
> >vaccination carried out by the research team, which used a virulent vaccine
> >(Edmonson B) that had been counter-indicated by medical experts for use on
> >isolated populations with no prior exposure to measles (exactly the Yanomami
> >situation). Even among populations with prior contact and consequent partial
> >genetic immunity to measles, the vaccine was supposed to be used only with
> >supportive injections of gamma globulin.
> >
> >It was known to produce effects virtually indistinguishable from the
> >disease of
> >measles itself. Medical experts, when informed that Neel and his group used
> >the vaccine in question on the Yanomami, typically refuse to believe it at
> >first, then say that it is incredible that they could have done it, and
> are at
> >a loss to explain why they would have chosen such an inappropriate and
> >dangerous vaccine. There is no record that Neel sought any medical advice
> >before applying the vaccine. He never informed the appropriate organs
> of the
> >Venezuelan government that his group was planning to carry out a vaccination
> >campaign, as he was legally required to do. Neither he nor any other
> member of
> >the expedition, including Chagnon and the other anthropologists, has ever
> >explained why that vaccine was used, despite the evidence that it actually
> >caused or at a minimum greatly exacerbated the fatal epidemic.
> >
> >Once the measles epidemic took off, closely following the vaccinations with
> >Edmonson B, the members of the research team refused to provide any medical
> >assistance to the sick and dying Yanomami, on explicit orders from
> Neel. He
> >insisted to his colleagues that they were only there to observe and
> record the
> >epidemic, and that they must stick strictly to their roles as
> scientists, not
> >provide medical help.
> >
> >All this is bad enough, but the probable truth that emerges, by implication,
> >from Tierney's documentation is more chilling. There was, it turns
> out, a
> >compelling theoretical motive for Neel to want to observe an epidemic of
> >measles, or comparable "contact" disease, or at least an outbreak virtually
> >indistinguishable from the real thing-precisely the effect that the
> vaccine he
> >chose was known to cause-and to produce one for this purpose if necessary.
> >This
> >motive emerges from Teirney's documentation of Neel's extreme eugenic theories
> >and his documented statements about what he was hoping to find among the
> >Yanomami, interpreted against the background of his long association
> with the
> >Atomic Energy Commission's secret experiments on human subjects. Neel
> >believed
> >that "natural" human society (as it existed everywhere before the
> advent of
> >large-scale a gricultural societies and contemporary states with their vast
> >populations) consisted of small, genetically isolated groups, in which,
> >according to his eugenically slanted genetic theories, dominant genes
> >(specifically, a gene he believed existed for "leadership" or "innate
> >ability")
> >would have a selective advantage, because male carriers of this gene could
> >gain access to a disproportionate share of the available females, thus
> >reproducing their own superior genes more frequently than less
> "innately able"
> >males. The result, supposedly, would be the continual upgrading of the human
> >genetic stock. Modern mass societies, by contrast, consist of vast genetically
> >entropic "herds" in which, he theorized, recessive genes could not be
> >eliminated by selective competition and superior leadership genes would be
> >swamped by mass genetic mediocrity. The political implication of this
> >fascistic
> >eugenics is clearly that society should be reorganized into small breeding
> >isolates in which genetically superior males could emerge into dominance,
> >eliminating or subordinating the male losers in the competition for leadership
> >and women, and amassing harems of brood females.
> >
> >A big problem for this program, however, was the tendency, generally
> >recognized
> >by virtually all qualified population geneticists and epidemiologists, for
> >small breeding isolates to lack genetic resistance to diseases
> incubated in
> >other groups, and their consequent vulnerability to contact epidemics. For
> >Neel, this meant that the emergence of genetically superior males in small
> >breeding isolates would tend to be undercut and neutralized by epidemic
> >diseases to which they would be genetically vulnerable, while the supposedly
> >genetically entropic mass societies of modern democratic states, the
> >antitheses
> >of Neel's ideal alpha-male-dominated groups, would be better adapted for
> >developing genetic immunity to such "contact" diseases. It is known
> that Neel,
> >virtually alone among contemporary geneticists, rejected the genetic (and
> >historical) evidence for the vulnerability of genetically isolated
> groups to
> >diseases introduced through contact from other populations. It is possible
> >that
> >he thought that genetically superior members of such groups might prove to
> >have
> >differential levels of immunity and thus higher rates of survival to imported
> >diseases. In such a case, such exogenous epidemics, despite the enormous
> >losses
> >of general population they inflict, might actually be shown to increase the
> >relative proportion of genetically superior individuals to the total
> >population, and thus be consistent with Neel's eugenic program. However this
> >may have been, Tierney's well-documented account, in its entirety, strongly
> >supports the conclusion that the epidemic was in all probabilty deliberately
> >caused as an experiment designed to produce scientific support for Neel's
> >eugenic theory. This remains only an inference in the present state of our
> >knowledge: there is no "smoking gun" in the form of a written text or recorded
> >speech by Neel. It is nevertheless the only explanation that makes
> sense of a
> >number of otherwise inexplicable facts, including Neel's known
> interest in
> >observing an epidemic in a small isolated group for which detailed
> records of
> >genetic and genealogical relations were available, his otherwise inexplicable
> >selection of a virulent vaccine known to produce effects virtually identical
> >with the disease itself, his behavior once the epidemic had started (insisting
> >on allowing it to run its course unhindered by medical assistance while
> >meticulously documenting its progress and the genealogical relations of those
> >who perished and those who survived) and his own obdurate silence,
> until his
> >death in February, as to why he carried out the vaccination program in the
> >first place, and above all with the lethally dangerous vaccine.
> >
> >The same conclusion is reinforced by considering the objectives of the
> >anthropological research carried out by Chagnon under Neel's initial direction
> >and continued support. Chagnon's work has been consistently directed toward
> >portraying Yanomami society as exactly the kind of originary human society
> >envisioned by Neel, with dominant males (the most frequent killers)
> having the
> >most wives or sexual partners and offspring. If this pristine, eugenically
> >optimal society could be shown to survive a contact epidemic with its
> >structure
> >of dominant male polygynists essentially intact, regardless of quantitatively
> >serious population losses, Neel might plausibly be able to argue that his
> >eugenic social vision was vindicated. If the epidemic was indeed produced
> >as an
> >experiment, either wholly or in part, the genetic studies on the
> >correlation of
> >blood group samples and genealogies carried out by Chagnon and some of his
> >students thus formed integral parts of this massive, and massively fatal,
> >human
> >experiment.
> >
> >As another reader of Tierney's ms commented, Mr. Tierney's analysis is
> a case
> >study of the dangers in science of the uncontrolled ego, of lack of respect
> >for
> >life, and of greed and self-indulgence. It is a further extraordinary
> >revelation of malicious and perverted work conducted under the aegis of the
> >Atomic Energy Commission.
> >
> >Tierney's revelations begin, but do not end, with the 1968 epidemic.
> There are
> >many more episodes and sub-plots, almost equally awful, to his
> narrative of
> >the
> >antics of anthropologists among the Yanomami. Enough has been said by this
> >time, however, for you to see that the Association is going to have to make
> >some collective response to this book, both to the facts it documents
> and the
> >probable conclusions it implies.There will be a storm in the media, and
> >another
> >in the general scholarly community, and no doubt several within anthropology
> >itself. We must be ready. Tierney devotes much of the book to a
> critique of
> >Napoleon Chagnon's work (and actions). He makes clear Chagnon has faithfully
> >striven, in his ethnographic and theoretical accounts of the Yanomami, to
> >represent them as conforming to Neel's ideas about the Hobbesian
> savagery of
> >"natural" human societies , and how this constitutes the natural selective
> >context for the rise to social dominance and reproductive advantage of males
> >with the gene for "leadership" or "innate ability" (thus Chagnon's
> >emphasis on
> >Yanomami "fierceness" and propensity for chronic warfare, and the supposed
> >statistical tendency for men who kill more enemies to have more female
> >sexual/reproductive partners). He documents how all these aspects of Chagnon's
> >account of the Yanomami are based on false, non-existent or misinterpreted
> >data. In other words, Chagnon's main claims about Yanomami society, the ones
> >that have been so much heralded by sociobiologists and other partisans
> of his
> >work, namely that men who kill more reproduce more and have more female
> >partners, and that such men become the dominant leaders of their communities,
> >are simply not true. Thirdly and most troublingly, he reports that
> Chagnon has
> >not stopped with cooking and re-cooking his data on conflict but has actually
> >attempted to manufacture the phenomenon itself, actually fomenting conflicts
> >between Yanomami communities, not once but repeatedly.
> >
> >In his film work with Asch, for example, Chagnon induced Yanomami to enact
> >fights and aggressive behavior for Asch's camera, sometimes building whole
> >artificial villages as "sets" for the purpose, which were presented as
> >spontaneous slices of Yanomami life unaffected by the presence of the
> >anthropologists. Some of these unavowedly artificial scenarios, however,
> >actually turned into real conflicts, partly as a result of Chagnon's
> >policy of
> >giving vast amounts of presents to the villages that agreed to put on the
> >docu-drama, which distorted their relations with their neighbors in
> ways that
> >encouraged outbreaks of raiding. In sum, most of the Yanomami conflicts that
> >Chagnon documents, that are the basis of his interpretation of Yanomami
> >society
> >as a neo-Hobbesian system of endemic warfare, were caused directly or
> >indirectly by himself: a fact he invariably neglects to report. This is not
> >just a matter of bad ethnography or unreflexive theorizing: Yanomami were
> >maimed and killed in these conflicts, and whole communities were
> disrupted to
> >the point of fission and flight.(Brian Ferguson has also documented
> some of
> >this story, but Tierney adds much new evidence). As a general point, it is
> >clear that Chagnon's whole Yanomami oeuvre is more radically continuous with
> >Neel's eugenic theories, and his unethical approach to experimentation on
> >human
> >subjects, than appears simply from a reading of Chagnon's works by themselves.
> >
> >Chagnon is not the only anthropologist mentioned in Tierney's
> narrative. Some
> >of his students, like Hames and Good, are also dealt with (not so
> >unfavorably).
> >The F French anthropologist, Jaques Lizot, also gets a chapter. He has had
> >nothing to do with Neel or Chagnon (in fact has been a trenchant and cogent
> >critic of their work), but he has an Achilles heel of his own in the
> form of a
> >harem of Yanomami boys that he keeps, and showers with presents in exchange
> >for
> >sexual favors (he has also been known to resort to young girls when
> boys were
> >unavailable). On the sexual front, there are also passing references to
> >Chagnon
> >himself demanding that villagers bring him girls for sex.
> >
> >There is still more, in the form of collusion by Neel and Chagnon with
> >sinister Venezuelan politicians attempting to gain control of Yanomami lands
> >for illegal gold mining concessions, with the anthropologists providing
> >"cover" for the illegal mine developer as a "naturalist" collaborating with
> >the
> >anthropological researchers, in exchange for the politician's guaranteeing
> >continuing access to the Indians for the anthropologists.
> >
> >This nightmarish story -a real anthropological heart of darkness beyond
> >the imagining of even a Josef Conrad (though not, perhaps, a Josef
> >Mengele)--will be seen (rightly in our view) by the public, as well as most
> >anthropologists, as putting the whole discipline on trial. As another
> >reader of
> >the galleys put it, This book should shake anthropology to its very
> >foundations. It should cause the field to understand how the corrupt and
> >depraved protagonists could have spread their poison for so long
> >while
> >they were accorded great respect throughout the Western World and generations
> >of undergraduates received their lies as the introductory substance of
> >anthropology. This should never be allowed to happen again.
> >
> >We venture to predict that this reaction is fairly representative of the
> >response that will follow the publication of Tierney's book and the New Yorker
> >excerpt. Coming as they will less than two months before the San Francisco
> >meetings, these publication events virtually guarantee that the Yanomami
> >scandal will be at its height at the Meetings. This should give an optimal
> >opportunity for the Association to mobilize the membership and the
> >institutional structure to deal with it. The writers, both emeritus
> >members of
> >the Committee for Human Rights, have arranged with Barbara Johnston, the
> >present chair of the CfHR, that the open Forum put on by the Committee this
> >year be devoted to the Yanomami case. This seemed the best way to
> provide a
> >venue for a public airing of the scandal, given that the program is of course
> >already closed. With Johnston's consent, we have invited Patrick
> Tierney to
> >come to the Meetings and be present at the Forum. He has accepted. He
> has also
> >agreed to have a copy of the book ms sent to Johnston, for the use of the
> >CfHR.
> >We have also tentatively agreed with Barbara that the CfHR should draft a
> >press
> >release, which the President (either or both of you) could (if you and the
> >Executive Board approve) circulate to the media. There are obviously human
> >rights aspects of this case that make the CfHR appropriate, but the Ethics
> >Committee, the Society for Latin American Anthropology, and the Association
> >for Latina and Latino Anthropology should also be notified and involved,
> >separately or jointly. These obviously do not exhaust the
> possibilities--- a
> >lot of thought and planning remains to be done. Our point is simply
> that the
> >time to start is now.
> >
> >------- End of Forwarded Message ______________________________ Donna J.
> >Haraway History of Consciousness Dept. University of California at
> Santa Cruz
> >Santa Cruz, CA 95064 fax: 831-459-3733
> >
> >
> >Attachment Converted: "c:\program files\eudora\attach\nielsft.vcf
> >

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