Here's another bit of news that shows our fight against the eugenics
movement needs to be ratcheted up. We need to organize a contingent of
progressives to be at the AGM November meeting to support Prof. Turner.
I sense he will be either ignored and dismissed as misinformed and
paranoid or that the Right will use this opportunity to push their "new
and improved" eugenics movement agenda upon academia.
This is another clear marker for the need to rejuvenate and rebuild a
Science for The People organization... and I don't just mean
S. E. Anderson
Scientist 'killed Amazon indians to test race theory'
Geneticist accused of letting thousands die in
Paul Brown, Environment correspondent
Friday September 22 2000
Thousands of South American indians were infected
with measles, killing hundreds, in order for US
scientists to study the effects on primitive
societies of natural selection, according to a book
out next month.
The astonishing story of genetic research on
humans, which took 10 years to uncover, is likely to
shake the world of anthropology to its core, according
to Professor Terry Turner of Cornell University, who
has read the proofs.
"In its scale, ramifications, and sheer criminality
and corruption it is unparalleled in the history of
anthropology," Prof Turner says in a warning letter
to Louise Lamphere, the president of the American
Anthropology Association (AAA).
The book accuses James Neel, the geneticist who
headed a long-term project to study the Yanomami
people of Venezuela in the mid-60s, of using a
virulent measles vaccine to spark off an epidemic
which killed hundreds and probably thousands.
Once the epidemic was under way, according to the
book, the research team "refused to provide any
medical assistance to the sick and dying Yanomami,
on explicit order 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
The book, Darkness in El Dorado by the investigative
journalist Patrick Tierney, is due to be published
on October 1. Prof Turner, whose letter was
co-signed by fellow anthropologist Leslie Sponsel of
the University of Hawaii, was trying to warn the AAA
of the impending scandal so the profession could
Although Neel died last February, many of his
associates, some of them authors of classic
anthropology texts, are still alive.
The accusations will be the main focus of the
AAA's AGM in November, when the surviving scientists
have been invited to defend their work. None have
commented publicly, but they are asking colleagues
to come to their defence.
One of the most controversial aspects of the
research which allegedly culminated in the epidemic
is that it was funded by the US atomic energy
commission, which was anxious to discover what might
happen to communities when large numbers were wiped
out by nuclear war.
While there is no "smoking gun" in the form of
texts or recorded speeches by Neel explaining his
conduct, Prof Turner believes the only explanation is
that he was trying to test controversial eugenic
theories like the Nazi scientist Josef Mengele.
He quotes another anthropologist who read the
manuscript as saying: "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
Prof Turner says Neel and his group used a virulent
vaccine called Edmonson B on the Yanomani, which was
known to produce symptoms virtually indistinguishable
from cases of measles.
"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,
are at a loss to explain why they would have chosen
such an inappropriate and dangerous vaccine," he
"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
"Neither he nor any other member of the expedition
has ever explained why that vaccine was used,
despite the evidence that it actually caused or, at a
minimum, greatly exacerbated the fatal epidemic."
Prof Turner says that Neel held the view that
"natural" human society, as seen before the advent
of large-scale agriculture, consists of small,
genetically isolated groups in which dominant genes
- specifically a gene he believed existed for
"leadership" or "innate ability" - have a selective
In such an environment, male carriers of this gene
would gain access to a disproportionate number of
females, reproducing their genes more frequently
than less "innately able" males. The result would
supposedly be a continual upgrading of the human
He says Neel believed that in modern societies
"superior leadership genes would be swamped by mass
"The political implication of this fascistic
eugenics is clearly that society should be
reorganised 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," Prof Turner
In the memo he says: "One of Tierney's more
startling revelations is that the whole Yanomami
project was an outgrowth and continuation of the
atomic energy commission's secret programme of
experiments on human subjects.
"Neel, the originator of the project, was part of
the medical and genetic research team attached to
the atomic energy commission since the days of the
James Neel was well-known for his research into
the effects of radiation on human subjects and
personally headed the team that investigated the
effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs on
survivors and their children.
According to Prof Turner, the same group also
secretly carried out experiments on human subjects
in the US. These included injecting people with
radioactive plutonium without their knowledge or
"This nightmarish story - a real anthropological
heart of darkness beyond the imagining of even a
Joseph 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," he says.
"This book 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... This should never be allowed to happen
Yesterday Professor Turner told the Guardian it
was unfortunate that the confidential memo had been
leaked, but it had accomplished its original purpose
in getting a full response from the AAA.
A public forum would be held at its AGM in November
to discuss the book its revelations and courses of
In a statement yesterday the association said "The
AAA is extremely concerned about these allegations.
If proven true they would constitute a serious
violation of Yanomami human rights and our code of
ethics. Until there is a full and impartial review
and discussion of the issues raised in the book, it
would be unfair to express a judgment about the
specific allegations against individuals that are
contained in it.
"The association is anticipating conducting an
open forum during our annual meeting to provide an
opportunity for our members to review and discuss
the issues and allegations raised in the book."
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited