Can Humans Scientifically Analyze One Another?
Imagine an alien landing on Earth and trying to figure out two groups of people. One group wields spears and arrows and decides that those who interfere with their traditions are enemies to be killed. Another lives in penthouses and universities and explains the behavior of the other group as evolved tendencies from their animal past. Would the alien necessarily agree that the latter group was more honorable? The following two stories may enlighten the question.
Anthropologist Meredith Small wrote in Live Science about hunter-gatherer tribes in New Guinea and South America. She seemed to echo the evolutionary view of researchers who denied that the warrior culture granted reproductive success: “Waorani warriors did worse in terms of reproductive success and their killing was for naught, in evolutionary terms,” they found. Small noted that revenge seems to work and fail: “In one group, the Yanomamo, the killings resulted in times of peace and love and more babies, and in the other, the Waorani, endless revenge was leading to the end. That gave her a morality lesson to end on. Since evolution has produced tribal cultures that are successful within their own realms, who are white people to judge? “Maybe people should be left on their own to live or die, to kill or be killed, left to live under their own rules and moral structures, regardless of how we judge them.”
Sometimes evolutionizing one’s fellow sentient earthlings can backfire. Michael Balter reported in Science that popular evolutionary science author Jared Diamond is finding that out.1 Diamond recorded conversations with New Guinea tribespeople and wrote a piece for New Yorker magazine that explained their vengeance culture in evolutionary terms, “to draw an overall lesson about the human need for vengeance.” Apparently, his subjects took offense at that characterization. Some of them are not so primitive as he portrayed them; some have good-paying jobs and internet access. Diamond found himself slapped with a lawsuit by a couple of these New Guinea tribesmen (see Balter’s Blog for a summary). They are asking $10 million in damages. In addition, Diamond has been investigated by Rhonda Roland Shearer, an artist and the widow of evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, whose website StinkyJournalism.org criticizes Diamond for bad anthropology and bad journalism.
1. Michael Balter, “Science and the Media: ‘Vengeance’ Bites Back at Jared Diamond,” Science, 15 May 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5929, pp. 872-874, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_872.
It’s not “Coming of Age in Samoa” anymore. Anthropologists can no longer evolutionize their fellow human beings with impunity. The internet has changed things. Evolutionists are now accountable to the people they label as primitive, less-evolved members of the human race.
In an evolutionary context, like Small writes, who is to say one culture is better than another? Why not live and let die? If she really believes that, she has no grounds to fight terrorism. Notice that it’s Christian missionaries who bring medicine, healing, and peace to these people. They believe that we are all of one blood, corrupted by sin, and in need of a Savior. Choose which analysis you think produces good fruit.
It would be a shame if Jared Diamond loses his freedom to write candidly. He has provided three of the best examples of evolutionary propaganda in our Baloney Detector. Search on his name there and enjoy.