Darkness in El Dorado


February 26, 2003

How Science and Journalists Devastated the Amazon

Teaser: By Patrick Tierney, Photographs by Valdir Cruz, W. W. Norton & Co., 2000, Hardcover, 440 pages, 35 photographs, $27.95

Image: /sites/default/files/darknessineldorado.jpg

A scathing indictment of the destruction wrought on the Yanomani Indians living in remote jungles and highlands of Brazil and Venezuela by anthropologists, journalists and missionaries. The book's allegations of experimentation without consent, the possible spreading of diseases by researchers, and the staging of intertribal warfare have been denounced by many, including Richard Dawkins, E. O. Wilson and Daniel Dennett, for in effect libeling prominent anthropologists James Neel, Napoleon Chagnon, and Jacques Lizot. Nevertheless even if only a fraction of charges can be verified, the book raises many serious questions about the methodology and purpose of anthropology and adds fuel to debates about sociobiology and the naturalness of human aggression. On the other hand, if the charges are false or grossly exaggerated, then we have another example of excessive and irresponsible journalism.

Web sites that document the charges and countercharges include: www.tamu.edu/anthropology/News.html


Peter Nevraumont

Peter N. Nevraumont is publisher of Nevraumont Publishing Company where he has produced books by many prominent scientists, including Donald Johanson, Niles Eldredge, Ian Tattersall, Lynn Margulis, and R. McNeill Alexander.

Prior to that he was a reporter for Women's Wear Daily (now W), an editor at Macmillan Publishing, Managing Editor of the Columbia University Forum, an assistant producer at Universal Pictures, National Director of Advertising and Promotion at Films Incorporated, and Vice President at Ruby Street.

Peter lives in the Wall Street area of New York with his wife, Ann Perrini.