“But of course, only a fucking idiot would believe that”

Sometimes a blog entry comes along that just bowls you over. I almost always enjoy Jon Marks’s all-to-infrequent posts but his latest one  is really a work of art and now wins my awards for ‘best short explanation of why anthropologists think NAS jumped the shark when it elected Napoleon Chagnon’.

The fire works really start in the second half of the entry, where Marks asks “can we generalize from Napoleon Chagnon’s demonstration that murder and babies are correlated?” He writes:

What would it mean if Yanomamo murderers outbred non-murderers?  Well, if you believe that this is a bi-allelic system, then the Yanomamo murderer alleles would quickly swamp out the non-murderer alleles.  But of course only a fucking idiot would believe that. 

When Brian Ferguson (amongst others) made this point (without cursing) Chagnon said that “it looks as though [Ferguson’s] hypothesis doesn’t hold up”. To which Marks replies:

No, Chagnon is the one with a hypothesis, and his data are statistically inadequate to either confirm or deny it.  Moreover, when Nicholas Wade writes, “Dr. Chagnon said he was familiar with those criticisms but called them invalid and said none had been published in a peer-reviewed journal”  he puts an unchallenged falsehood in Chagnon’s mouth in support of this poor scientific reasoning In science, if you make a claim, you have to demonstrate its validity and do the proper controls.  Or else shut up.  Really. That’s not an extravagant demand; it is an expectation.

Emphasis is in the original there folks.

Regarding the second issue in the Yanomami debate, “was Chagnon’s work rejected out of an anti-science ideological bias in anthropology?” Marks responds:

Are you fucking kidding me? Say that out loud and hear how stupid it sounds…The AAA voted not to strip the word “science” from its long range plan.  Yes, it was suggested (to emphasize the breadth of the scope of anthropology beyond the boundaries of science and encompassing the humanities as well); yes, it was put to a vote (because there was some feeling that it was a bad idea); and yes, it was voted down

Marks nails it right on the head when he writes:

It’s not that the opposition is against Darwinism; it’s that Darwinism is compatible with many understandings of human social behavior, including normative anthropology.  Nicholas Wade scowls at Marshall Sahlins, who recently resigned from the National Academy of Sciences partly over Chagnon’s election, by explaining that Sahlins opposes sociobiology, which Wade defines as “the idea that human social behavior is shaped by evolution and culture.” Actually… that’s not sociobiology, that’s anthropology!
In sum
It’s not that anthropology is against evolution, it’s that anthropology is against the perversion of evolution in support of idiosyncratic social theories, which recurs every generation.
And in the end
Science, evolution, and anthropology are all on the same side.  The other side is where the anti-intellectuals and ideologues are, and have always been, the ones who either don’t understand evolution themselves, or are knowingly misrepresenting its implications to the public.
All I can say it: ouch.

 

Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at rex@savageminds.org

66 thoughts on ““But of course, only a fucking idiot would believe that”

  1. Well Rex, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you are allowing personal attacks (in violation of the comment policy, again) and more racist trolling from Ilonggot Headhunter. Bravo. Not to mention the ridiculous and nonanthropological assertion that anyone is free of theoretical bias and preconceptions about race. Way to sanction racist abuse for its own sake.

  2. In fact, Ilognott’s ridiculous comment, with its claim that only some (stupid black) people have theoretical biases and preconceptions about race is a reminder of the title of this post and why it was deployed: yes, “only a f*cking idiot would believe that’.

    Again, Rex: bravo on sanctioning racist abuse, personal attack, lazy stereotyping, and trolling:

  3. I did not say “some (stupid black) people.” I’m specific with my example– You. I’ve been reading your posts, and they are annoying. For a change, can we discuss Black privilege? Oh, you won’t because your idea of racism is selective and myopic.

  4. More racist trolling. Entirely unsurprising. So what that you think my comments are annoying. As if some would not say the same about yours.

    Please stop being petty. You are not making any constructive arguments.

  5. My handle is not “Only Discuss White Privilege”. So your comments are made just to troll and be abusive. I point out normative assumptions about whiteness when they are relevant to the discussion, to show that these assumptions are being made and not acknowledged as such though foundational to the argument/analysis.

    All you have to say is ‘discuss black privilege because I find you annoying’. This is the definition of pettiness and a lack of critical thinking. There is no point to any of your comments to me except to be abusive and racist.

  6. As I said, even if the topic is a Polynesian dance, you will find “white privilege” in it. Even the story of Snow White can be an anti-black racist narrative to you. That’s the case because of the biases and preconceptions that influence your ways of seeing and analyzing. If you are an anthropology professor, you are the one students should be avoiding during class registration.

  7. And let us not pretend that the “some (stupid black) people” is not implied. You troll to be abuse because it is clear that this is the perspective from which you write your comments to me, and why you find both me and my comments annoying.

  8. Your assertions are ridiculous. You are not a mind reader. So now you can predict what I am going to say on every topic.

    You are a troll not engaging the substance of specific comments; you are just engaging in lazy racist stereotyping. But thank you for the teachable moment on racist abuse.

  9. For a change, can we talk about Black privilege now? If a troll is the one who tries to open your eyes to the reality you seem to deny, then I am a troll. I’m Asian-American and my best friend is African-American– not angry and obnoxious like you though.

  10. @Illonggot Headhunter

    I find your comments very uninteresting, and quite frankly childish. On the other hand, Discuss White Privilege contributes something of substance to this site’s discussions. Her posts have covered how racial dimensions are relevant to certain topics, and also why anthropologists should be concerned with racial dimensions in practice and theory.

    Your “Polynesian dance & Snow White” examples amount to a strawman.

    @ Discuss White Privilege

    Thanks. I always enjoy reading your posts.

  11. If you want to tackle racism in an anthropological way, be (w)holistic. Don’t be selective and myopic. There are black racists and black privilege too. Why don’t you talk about them? You can’t because they will ruin the core of your angry rants. You are the troll.

  12. @T: thanks, glad you enjoy the posts. And please know that I am still laughing from the predictable hilarity of the ‘my best friend is black’ (I mean, African American!) defense.

    It’s a comment on Rex that he allowed the childish trolling from the beginning, and didn’t remove her comment as soon as he saw it was a personal attack and comments-policy violation. I mean, seriously: attacking me on a post I hadn’t even commented on. So ridiculous.

  13. Again…

    If you want to tackle racism in an anthropological way, be (w)holistic. Don’t be selective and myopic. There are black racists and black privilege too. Why don’t you talk about them? You can’t because they will ruin the core of your angry rants. You are the troll.

  14. Yes yes, I’m an Angry Black Woman. How predictable. More lazy stereotyping. I’m bored already.

  15. @Ryan: I think you now have some interesting material for your next racism in anthropology post.

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