Read Chagnon’s “Noble Savages” instead – “Falling Sky” is co-written by one of his attackers

A book review by Alice Friedemann at energyskeptic of “The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman” by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert.

Anyone who knows about the baseless, hateful attacks on Chagnon by Tierney and other cultural anthropologists like Bruce Albert, who helped write this book, will not read it. My apologies to Davi Kopenawa, the Yanomamo native co-author, for not reading this book, because such accounts are rare and the insights probably fascinating. But it’s impossible to know how much Kopenawa’s views were twisted or influenced by Bruce Albert.

You can read about Albert’s attack on Chagnon on pages 396-397 in “Noble Savages” (at & the “Look Inside” at amazon).  Here is a short summary. Bruce Albert and Alcida Ramos wrote a letter of complaint to the editors of Science magazine about Chagnon that accused his 1988 article in Science of:

  1. Being “racist,” an accusation often used by radical cultural anthropologists to deprecate anything that can be construed as having been inspired by sociobiology
  2. Chagnon was guilty of complicity in genocide
  3. Chagnon had faked his data
  4. Chagnon had deliveberately concealed the fact that diseases were the main source of death among the Yanomamo in order to make violent deaths appear to be the most common cause of death
  5. Chagnon encouraged and abetted sensational, negative press coverage of the Yanomamo at a time when they were being invaded by miners
  6. Chagnon’s Science article was the main reason Brazilian officiels were going to separate the Yanomamo into 21 “micro” reservations.  This was a false accusation repeated so often by anthropological opponents that it is now an unchallenged “truth” in the community of activist anthropologists.

Chagnon characterizes Albert as a French national who sometimes worked among the Catrimani Yanomamo. “His data came largely from Giovanni Saffirio, a Consolata priest who operated the Consolata mission on the Catrimani River. Both were known less for their ethnographic accomplishments than for their efforts as political advocates of Brazilian Indians in general and the Yanomamo in particular”.

I am appalled that cultural anthropology is still closer to creationism than it is to science, still uninformed by evolution, and stuck in pre-enlightenment superstition – ironic since this field studies superstition in other cultures while thinking it has none itself.

We are at peak everything, but most importantly, peak oil, the master resource that unlocks all others.  97% of transportation runs on oil.  Out of fish?  Take a factory ship to the ends of earth and find the last schools with sonar.  Out of water? Build a desalination plant with fossil fuels that runs on fossil fuels, or use fossil-fueled pumps to drain the last water out of aquifers.  Civilization is about to unwinde.

We need to understand how societies may behave as we slide down Hubbert’s Curve back to the age of wood, since alternate energy doesn’t have the EROI needed to run civilization as we know it (see booklists at energyskeptic).  Can we keep from sliding all the way to the tribal level and lose the rule of law?

As a woman, I’d like to know if we could protect women from being property and subject to male violence as we go back in time to a wood-based society.  Is there a way to maintain equality of work and education besides adopting a Bonobo culture (just kidding)?  If anthropologists could help us figure out rituals, bonding, and institutions based on existing societies or that we could foster now, this would be useful information, and I hope evolutionary anthropologists are working on it.

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