Another battle has broken out in the century-long "anthropology wars" over the truth about human nature. Journalist Patrick Tierney, in his book dramatically entitled Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon, purportedly reveals "the hypocrisy, distortions, and humanitarian crimes committed in the name of research, and reveals how the Yanomami's internecine warfare was, in fact, triggered by the repeated visits of outsiders who went looking for a 'fierce' people whose existence lay primarily in the imagination of the West."
Tierney's b¿te noir is Napoleon Chagnon, whose ethnography Yanomam¿: The Fierce People is the best-selling anthropological book of all time. Tierney spares no ink in painting him as an anthropologist who sees in the Yanomam¿ a reflection of himself. Chagnon's sociobiological theories of the most violent and aggressive males winning the most copulations and thus passing on their genes for "fierceness," Tierney says, is merely a window into Chagnon's own libidinous impulses.
This article was originally published with the title The Erotic-Fierce People.