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.