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Posted December 4, 2000
The love of scandal
Even educated Americans seem to be uncritical in their acceptance of scandalous accusations. A careful reading of this book will show that its allegations are made through cleverly worded inuendo and not supported by data. While it is very important that all of us who work with people pay scrupulous attention to ethical issues, it is unconscionable to create havoc with half truths and statements quoted out of context as Tierney has done. Careful investigation of Tierney's allegations shows serious credibility issues, just as it did with Derek Freedman's criticisms of Margaret Mead's work. All scientific research should be open to scrutiny, but yellow journalism is not the way to do it.
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Posted August 4, 2008
Sad, But on Point
Excellent book discussing the arrogance and unethical enthnographical research conducted by various anthropologists. One in particular, Prof. Napoleon Chagnon, is discussed at length in terms of his negative impact on the Yanomamo Indians of the Amazon during his many research visits. For example, it discusses Chagnon trading axes and guns for research information with the Yanomamo. However, such items were later used as weaponry on each other, leading to bloodshed and death. I had Chagnon for Cultural Anthorpology at UC Santa Barbara many years ago, and my recollection of his lectures about his research with the Yanomamo were consistent with some of the discussions in this book. Highly recommended.
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Posted May 15, 2001
This book makes very serious charges of unethical and unscientific conduct by a number of scientists and government entities. Based on reading the evidence cited in the book, however, it was hard for me to tell how solid these charges are. If you like a good mystery, this book will probably appeal to you as an opportunity to figure out what went on with the Yanomami people in South America from 1964 on. Contact with primitive people has many special responsibilities associated with it. In some cases, those who are being studied can be exposed to dangerous illnesses. In other cases, the social structure can be influenced in ways that are harmful to individuals. On the other hand, what aspects of modern science and technology, if any, should be withheld? This book raises all of those questions in very fundamental ways. Apparently, those who were involved disagree about both what was done, and its appropriateness. The charge of unscientific research is that what has been reported about the violence of the Yanomami is inaccurate. Mr. Tierney argues that the data behind the findings are either missing, wrong, or mischaracterized. Filmed evidence is claimed to have been 'staged' in exchange for gifts, or incited by inflammatory behavior by the scientists (like firing off weapons to intimidate, dressing as a shaman, and staging feasts). Charges of U.S. government misconduct relate to obtaining specimens from Yanomami for a control group as part of Atomic Energy Commission studies of the effect of radiation on human beings. Apparently, this sampling was going on in large numbers while the initial anthropological studies were being undertaken. That research, if it took place as described here, seems like a very strange thing for anthropologists to be doing. Clearly, the Yanomami suffered from severe outbreaks of disease (measles and other complications) at about the same time that the anthropological contacts occurred. Arguments are made that measles vaccine was misapplied by the anthropologists, which made disease and death worse. Apparently, this charge is very controversial. I do not know enough about the subject to have an opinion, but I would certainly be interested in what a disinterested third party would have to say on the subject. One anthropologist is accused of having abused children in the process of his research. Where should these accusations go from here? They clearly need to be resolved somehow. If they are true, serious misconduct seems to have taken place. If they are not true, serious harm to the individuals charged has occurred. In either case, I hope that this book will not be the end of the examination and discussion. Regardless of what turns out to be the case in each aspect of the charges, I do hope that standards will be set and observed that all people will agree to and follow for working with privitive peoples. It is hard for me to imagine that some of these factual issues can ever be resolved. A lot of time has passed, and the evidence is often buried (as in the case of the many dead Yanomami). What people say today may or may not be correct. On the other hand, it seems like t
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Posted March 2, 2009
I cannot write a review of the book just because eventhough I paid for it, the book never arrived. I sent a mail to B&N trying to find out what happened and the answer was that I should ask the local post office. Whithout any data regarding the shipment I could not ask a thing about it. Subsequent mails were not answered. So I lost my money and don't have the book. To ask me for a review sounds to me like a (bad taste) joke. Maybe you would like me to review B&N service.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 12, 2000
An indictment that should be cautiously considered
While many anthropologists are dismissing this book as a 'journalistic' piece and others are calling it 'revelatory', the allegations made in this book are by no means 'new.' Indeed, Mark Ritchie made even more daring accusations about the exploitation of the Yanomami in his book 'The Spirit of the Rainforest.' The key is that this book has been published by a mainstream publisher, and hence is causing much consternation in academic circles. Perhaps the most stunning indictment of Chagnon's work (which this book focuses on criticizing) comes from some of his own statements about the Yanomamo, which show a lack of sensitivity to his 'subjects.' For example in one of his writings, Chagnon refers to them as follows: 'The best they can achieve by entering mainstream society is to become bums beggars and prostitutes on the fringes of society.' (From his book 'Yanomamo: The Fierce People', where he also refers to the Natives as 'hideous men.'). This is not just a matter of political incorrectness, but rather of professional respect. While Tierney's book tends to sensationalize the issues at hand by assuming certain unsubstantiated linkages, some of the evidence which he presents is compelling. Nevertheless, the author should have spent some time investigating the more positive outcomes of Chagnon's work, such as the establishment of a fund to benefit the Yanomamo. Overall, this book should neither be revered nor reviled but rather read with some trepidation and introspection -- particularly by anthropologists.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.