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Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact Paperback – August 1, 1997

3.7 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though Deloria (Custer Died for Your Sins) has a broad academic brief?he teaches history, law, religious studies and political science at the University of Colorado?here he ventures into a new area, attacking the way scientists have created "a largely fictional scenario describing prehistoric North America" and suggesting that Indian lore may offer better explanations. Given Deloria's not-so-temperate tone?"Christianity has been the curse of all cultures into which it has intruded"?it is hard to judge all his arguments. He finds flaws in scientific accounts of how Indians once traversed the Bering Strait land bridge; he also reports that geological evidence suggests an earlier Indian presence and notes that no tribal creation stories reflect such a migration. Similarly, he criticizes scientists who argue that Indians killed off North American megafauna of the Pleistocene era. Deloria's fiercely argued study sometimes overwhelms as a narrative, but his charges should provoke more evaluation, as well as examination of the consonance of science and Indian tradition.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Deloria, one of the most outspoken Native American voices of the century, is back?this time to take on the scientists. Demonstrating that a theory is just that until it has been solidly proved, the author of Custer Died for Your Sins (Univ. of Oklahoma, 1988) takes the scientific community to task for insisting on uniformity of opinion within academia while neglecting Native oral traditions about such events as the peopling of the Western Hemisphere and the disappearance of the giant animals of the Pleistocene era. While many will challenge Deloria's arguments, the author's insistence that scientists investigate non-Western knowledge in their search for the truth echoes a cry heard through Native American communities. An important addition to all collections.?Mary B. Davis, Huntington Free Lib., N.Y.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing (August 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555913881
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555913885
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
If "science" is defined as a technique for gaining an understanding of the world around us, many "scientific" disciplines are in fact profoundly unscientific. In "Red Earth, White Lies," Vine Deloria, Jr. clearly demonstrates how conjecture can attain the status of fact, even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence. Perhaps even more condemning is Deloria's depiction of how alternative ideas, most notably indigenous traditions, are frequently (typically) cast aside without any investigation whatsoever, simply because they conflict with currently accepted norms.
"Red Earth, White Lies" is a wonderfully provocative indictment of how historical sciences, such as anthropology, geology, and ecology (my own field) frequently fail in practice. Nevertheless, perhaps without realizing it, Deloria relies on the very hallmarks of modern science; alternative hypotheses, critical analysis, and crucial evidence, to make his case.
Here, unfortunately, is where "Red Earth, White Lies" loses much of its power. While Deloria succeeds in casting doubt on many beliefs cherished by entrenched academics, he typically does not subject his own hypotheses to the same treatment. Even more unfortunate, Deloria himself employs some of the techniques he most violently condemns in academics, including the selective use of information (the most obvious example is on page 58) and summary dismissal of entire world-views on the basis of a superficial understanding (his entire discussion of evolutionary biology, for example).
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By A Customer on November 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
Vine Deloria Jr.'s book is a very useful and merited challenge to a whole host of theories, especially the Bering Strait land bridge, magafauna extinction ("Overkill") and some other things in which U.S. racism, capitalist waste and ruthlessness towards the environment, and scientistic narrowness are shown to be the underlying roots of these theories. However, I can't help but feel that Deloria both throws the baby out with the bathwater based on a kind of "multicultural creationism". For example, his attacks on Stephen J. Gould are almost ridiculous at times (given his prominence, not as a mainstream Darwinian, but as a 'catastrophist' and anti-sociobiologist) and represent the fact that he never got past Gould's first collection of essays. Also, Gould and others have for years defended allopatric speciation, which would allow a species' 'gestation' in 5-10,000 years. This type of narrow, shotgun scholarship makes Deloria subject to exactly the type of criticism he so correctly levels at academia. Also, his knowledge of genetics and evolution seem to leave a lot to be desired, and he clearly does not expect the reader to be scientifically literate (otherwise, he would not be able to make some of the peculiar remarks he makes about speciation). Anyone familiar with modern biology cannot but be amazed at how his work is little more than a reworking of Christian Fundamentalist creationism (or vice versa). Having said that, Deloria's value as an anti-racist, as a defender of the worth and validity and richness of non-white, non-European sources of knowledge is more than worth the occaissional bad science and anti-intellectualism. All I can say is that this is essential reading for anyone learning about the material he covers, and for thinking about how racism and power can determine whose knowledge is 'myth and fantasy' as much as it determines who is the 'terrorist' and who is the 'freedom fighter'. A must read book.
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Format: Paperback
Deloria attempts to undermine modern science by claiming that scientists are engaged in a massive conspiracy to cover up the truth. He alleges their motivation is to gain favor with the important names in their fields. Calling science "the sterile language of cause and effect," Deloria promotes using Indian legends as the basis of our understanding of the natural world.

Even at the time it was written, many of the ideas Deloria attacks were not held by modern scientists. He often simplifies and distorts scientific theories and methods in order to provide a straw man to argue against. In addition, rather than simply stating his ideas and the evidence he sees in support, he offers little but personal attacks on virtually every scientist with whom he does not agree.

An example of this is his attack on Stephan Jay Gould's comments regarding the migration of the Irish elk over the land bridge between Ireland and continental Europe during a warming period in the last glaciation. Deloria's curious claim that Irish elk could not possibly have migrated over the land bridge because the interstadial period of 1,000 years was too short for the animal to have moved the 21 miles between the continent and England, and the even shorter distance across the land bridge between England and Ireland. His attempt at sarcasm is typical.
"Since the interstadial was only 1,000 years long, or about the time between the fall of Rome and the discovery of America, the Irish elk must have been gathered on the shore waiting for the land bridge to open. It does not seem possible, considering the time that most scientists require for species to pass over a land bridge, for the large deer to make the transfer.
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