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Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon Paperback – Bargain Price, January 17, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (January 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393322750
  • ASIN: B000OVLNEW
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,248,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Since Napoleon Chagnon set foot in the Amazon in 1964, the Yanomami Indians have been an emblem of savage primitive man, as well as a staple of anthropology classes. Chagnon's Yanomami: The Fierce People is the all-time bestselling anthropology book, and his award-winning documentaries brought images of brutish, wife-stealing, naked Indians into classrooms around the world. Chagnon, however, has been dogged by criticism and controversy for years, and with the publication of Patrick Tierney's Darkness in El Dorado, the debate has erupted, forcing what may be the most tragic and shameful chapter of anthropological history into public view. Tierney's allegations, if true, are devastating. While Chagnon made the Yanomami synonymous with aggression, Tierney charges that Chagnon himself fomented wars through his tactics of creating false alliances, giving away machetes, and staging scenes in order to substantiate his own belief in male aggression. Even worse, Tierney believes that Chagnon and his mentor, the famous geneticist James Neel, actually started the measles epidemic that decimated up to 20 percent of the tribe's population by administering a contraindicated "dinosaur vaccine" to a highly vulnerable population. Tierney paints a horrific picture of Neel and his team of scientists rushing to get their samples of blood, urine, and saliva out of the tropical heat--and Chagnon choreographing his documentary--while the Yanomami fall like flies around them.

Tierney's research is meticulous and exhaustive (and includes the discovery of sound recording outtakes never before heard). He has penned a riveting story backed by a flood of facts that condemn Chagnon and his cohorts, and those who continue to abuse the Yanomami:

In the economics of exoticism the more remote and more isolated a tribal group is, the greater its market value. As the last intact aboriginal group, the Yanomami were in a class by themselves, poster people whose naked, photogenic appeal was matched by their unique genetic inheritance. Their blood was as coveted by scientists as their image was by photographers.
Anthropologists have been fearful of public reaction to the Chagnon scandal, and for good reason. As Yanomami spokesman Davi Kopenawa says, "For many years now anthropologists have been saying how exotic we Yanomami are. But when we finally tell our story the world will find out who is truly exotic." --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This book, already nominated for a National Book Award, details the tragic encounter between an archaic Amazon people, the Yanomami, and what's depicted as a culturally toxic conglomeration of ruthless social scientists, rapacious financial interests, amoral governments and pop-culture journalists. Tierney (The Highest Altar) argues for an end to the arrogant exploitation of peoples outside of the classical Eurasian traditions. Copiously annotated and well documented, the work is the culmination of a decade-long study of what Tierney claims is false science; along the way, he exposes the dark side of some famous social-biologists. These self-promotors, he argues, cooked statistics and misrepresented behavior among the people they studied in order to support their presuppositions. Tierney explains how the Yanomami's desire for steel implements in their Paleolithic world of hunting, gathering, fishing and rudimentary farming led to exploitation by the observers, who wielded the promise of tools and modern gadgetry to manipulate the native population. Bribing the Indians enabled some scientists, with preconceived genetic theories of violence and dominance, to induce the Yanomami to act in ways antithetical to their own ancient customs. In the end, these flawed studies encouraged and justified mistreatment of this tribal people by Brazilian, Venezuelan and U.S. government agencies and the mining industry. Tierney's indictment exposes the worst depredations of modern cultural imperialism. Photographs and charts, not seen by PW. (Nov. 30)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Not a single accusation has withstood the external scrutiny.
Jackal
This book is written well and it is even, at times, thought-provoking.
jaronak
The quoted material doesn't really say what Tierney claims it does.
A Santa Barbara reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By jaronak on March 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book is written well and it is even, at times, thought-provoking. However, its central claim -- that anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon spread measles to the Yanamamo -- has been disproven.

The author has been warring against the anthropologist. The main point of contention seems to have been, yet again, the issue of an evolutionary approach to human behavior. Unfortunately for Tierney and others (e.g, Alice Eagly and Wendy Wood), it's a measured, sound and massively productive approach that generates ideas that are, more often that not, right. Bones can be picked with ideas, but the problem these folks have with Chagnon's work (and others') is not about the ideas, but rather the approach; they are against an evolutionary approach not on scientific, but rather often on moral grounds. They are afraid that saying violence happens is the same thing as saying violence *should* happen. This just isn't science.

But back to this book specifically; as often happens when journalists pick fights with scientists, the scientist was right, even as the sensationalist tales of the journalist caught attention.

I'd recommend skipping this book due errors in its factual content. Instead, read work from Chagnon himself or other giants in the field like Frans de Waal.

Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes -- the Yanomamo and the Anthropologists
The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates
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152 of 197 people found the following review helpful By UCSB Team on November 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This review is by Dr. Kim Hill, one of the world's foremost authorities on Native tropical South Americans.
After reading the Tierney book I was concerned about a variety of issues, from the truth of specific allegations to the motives behind publishing the myriad of obviously false allegations, and from the ethics of specific fieldwork activities described to the overall impact the book would have on the health and welfare of indigenous peoples. The book is complex and brings up many important issues that have not been well discussed in anthropology. However, unfortunately, the book is also full of false and misleading information, half-truths and deception by omission. As such it constitutes unethical journalism. It does not honestly examine the true causes of the current precarious situation of the Yanomamo and other native South Americans. Specifically, while embellishing a longstanding vendetta and self righteous ideological witch hunt against two prominent anthropologists, Jim Neel and Napoleon Chagnon, and including many highly detailed accounts of their alleged misdeeds, it remains curiously silent on the roll of the Venezuelan/Brazilian governments in failing to provide healthcare assistance and territorial protection to the Yanomamo. The book also ignores entirely, the numerous easily revealed misdeeds of several missionaries and anthropologists who constitute its main source of information against its scientific targets thus rapidly revealing a blatant and powerful bias against only a few individuals in recent Yanomamo history.
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84 of 108 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book alleges scandalous, hideous misdeeds on the part of distinguished scientists such as Napoleon Chagnon and James Neel. But all of the book's main accusations have been thoroughly refuted, and the only genuine scandal here is the way the author, Patrick Tierney, has fabricated and distorted reality in order to sell some books. The anthropological reputation of Chagnon remains intact, unlike those of anthropologists who have endorsed this dishonest, tabloid-calibre book. The book's egregious distortions and errors were first discovered in the manuscript, and I was expecting them to be corrected in the final version, but nope, they all appear to be there. How deeply disturbing that a book such as this could be published by a respectable publisher, endorsed by anthropologists, and even be nominated for a National Book Award.
If Tierney was just honestly presenting evidence of wrongdoing, that would be fine. Never mind that it would trash the reputations of the developers of the measles vaccine (Enders, Katz), the world's most important pioneering geneticist (Neel), and the world's greatest scientific anthropologist (Chagnon), and cause their friends and families to suffer. Such evidence would deserve an audience nonetheless. But this is not what Tierney does. He distorts his printed sources, omits evidence in these sources that refutes his accusations, and invents material that isn't actually there (there are currently many web sites which document this dishonesty in a point-by-point manner, although Amazon asks that reviewers not include URLs in their reviews). And that's just the sources that CAN be fact-checked - who knows the extent to which he misrepresents his uncheckable sources on which his accusations depend (mission records, interviews, audio tapes, etc.).
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jackal on January 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
A long list of alleged crimes of researchers studying an indigenous tribe in the Amazonas is presented. It is rather riveting reading and you start to work up an indignation about evil researchers. The only problem is that there is no evidence. The author himself noted that he has no smoking gun evidence at all. Instead, after the publication, the accusations have all been scrutinised by several outsiders. Not a single accusation has withstood the external scrutiny. So the whole book is an extreme exercise in hypocrisy and cynicism (but I'm sure some asses would now argue that it all is a conspiracy against the author). Zero stars.
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