PC World

Anthropologists Gone Wild

February 22, 2013

Such data should not be considered controversial. The problem with ignoring stats such as Herrnstein and Murray’s is you end up fostering indignation when people notice the world isn’t as perfectly fair as promised. If fat, short men were told they’re not prominent in the NBA because of some sort of bias, they’d be furious. That’s what you do when you foster false notions of ubiquitous equality. You make people angry. That’s the irony of trying to create a world without hate. It nurtures hatred. When anthropology student Nkosi Thandiwe was asked why he went on a shooting spree that killed one white woman and injured two others, he said, “I was trying to prove a point that Europeans had colonized the world, and as a result of that, we see a lot of evil today.” Maybe if Thandiwe had spent some time away from his college curriculum and read The Death of the West he would have learned that “The West did not invent slavery, but it alone abolished slavery” and his murder victim Brittney Watts would still be alive.

Harvard’s Steven Pinker is one of the few sane academics who understands the dangers of dismissing sociobiology as Nazi propaganda. He describes political correctness in academia as “pluralistic ignorance.” Pinker was one of the few to defend Harvard president Larry Summers after Summers was fired for asking an audience if it was possible that men were innately better at math. Pinker mentions Chagnon favorably in his anti-nurture book The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature and in his most recent book, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

Pinker is interviewed in a surprisingly fair feature on Chagnon in Sunday’s New York Times. “This whole tactic is a terrible mistake: always putting your moral action in jeopardy of empirical findings,” Pinker said. “Once you have the equation that the Yanomami are nonviolent and deserve to be protected, the converse is that if they are violent they don’t deserve to be protected.” Eakin later points to a Chagnon interview where he told a Brazilian magazine, “The real Indians get dirty, smell bad, use drugs, belch after they eat, covet and sometimes steal each other’s women, fornicate and make war. They are normal human beings. This is reason enough for them to deserve care and attention.” Eakin then adds, “His critics, appalled by the first sentence, typically ignored the rest.”

A few pages later in the same edition of the Times Book Review, we get a much more predictable response. It’s from a lesbian professor of anthropology named Elizabeth Povinelli, who looks like Anderson Cooper with rigor mortis and has penned such feel-good classics as Thinking Sexuality Transnationally and The Cunning of Recognition: Indigenous Alterities and the Making of Australian Multiculturalism. Povinelli reverts to the old politically correct “Oh, poor white man” trope for her review. She says she couldn’t stop hearing the song “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” in her head while reading Chagnon’s book. She admits it may be “politically correct to wonder” if Chagnon was responsible for genocide. She was referring to the measles vaccinations Chagnon provided for the Yanomamö and the idea that this noble effort led to more measles deaths. The accusation has since been rescinded, but not before two of Chagnon’s peers compared his efforts to that of Josef Mengele. That’s your reward if you spend decades in the jungle dodging jaguars, anacondas, and poisonous spiders as you document life among a virtually untouched tribe of people and learn their language. You’re a Nazi. Chagnon’s data never changed. Nor did Mead’s. It’s the perception of their data that fluctuated wildly.

This “we suck” angle is all over college campuses, but it remains surprisingly steadfast in anthropology. In Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel he starts out saying there is no such thing as innate IQ, but a few pages later he claims the aboriginal Papua New Guineans are genetically smarter than us. So “Why you white man have so much cargo…?” the tribesman asks. Diamond claims it’s because we cheated using either guns, germs, or steel depending on when it suits his argument. When we tried to invade Africa we were constantly wiped out by germs. No white people could handle it, not even Dr. Livingstone I presume. Diamond ignores this hatefact and says in that instance, we used guns. He also turns a blind eye to when Hannibal tried to colonize Europe. When Indians died from smallpox, he goes back to his germs theory despite that myth being debunked long ago. Today’s anthropologists are never wrong because they keep moving the goalposts. That’s not science. It’s not even sports. They say white people are the worst savages in history and then say race doesn’t exist. Really? If this is all only skin-deep, why are forensic anthropologists able to identify a person’s race simply by examining their bones? You can’t just convert a natural science into a liberal art because it makes people feel better.

Napoleon Chagnon was there when education was about facts, not feelings. When you trump feelings over facts, everybody loses, from the most primitive cultures to the most advanced.


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