November 10, 2023 | David F. Coppedge

Darwinian Anthropology Is Inherently Elitist

A study on African hunter-gatherer singing
borders on racism, elitism, and malpractice


— Let’s turn the tables on the Darwinians this time to expose their folly —

The Darwinians, afflicted with the Yoda Complex, love putting other human beings in test tubes. Social scientists afflicted with this condition (sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists) are especially prone to this logical fallacy, forgetting that the same forces that they believe caused other people’s behavior to evolve must have caused their own to evolve.

Here is a story about a team that tried to speculate on the origin of music by watching an African tribe where the women sing in the forest while collecting tubers. On the surface, it looks like legitimate inquiry done ethically: they gained the women’s consent to follow them along and observe them, and tried to treat them with respect. They didn’t interfere with their gathering, and took good notes of factors influencing the amount of time they sang as they worked.

The Yoda fallacy becomes evident, though, if you reverse the roles, and let the African women study the behavior of the scientists. This would be anathema to the Darwinians! They are accustomed to being the smart ones running the studies. This thought experiment reveals their elitism. They look down their noses at hunter-gatherers as “less evolved” than themselves, acting out “primitive” instincts that can be studied to show how “singing evolved.”

How to keep a forest happy? A study on the function of singing behaviour in BaYaka hunter gatherers in Congo (University of Leiden, 7 Nov 2023). This “study” might be acceptable if the researchers went to the Congo as equals, to understand and learn from members of their own species, Homo sapiens. But the press release makes it clear they had Darwinism on their minds. They wanted to look at these poor black women “from an evolutionary perspective.”

Origins of music
Why is music so prevalent and universal in human societies? Does music serve an adaptive function, or it is just “auditory cheesecake”, as cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker infamously claimed: a delightful dessert but, from an evolutionary perspective, no more than a by-product of language? The debate on the origins of music has intrigued scientists for centuries. The hypotheses range from music being a mating display in order to woo females, to a means to increase social bonding in group contexts.

The only hypotheses they considered are evolutionary ones. They are reducing one of the glories of human experience—music—to mating displays or other “adaptive” behaviors like social bonding. So why go to deep, dark Africa, where poor blacks predominate, for this “study”? Why not go to Vienna or New York? The only reason is that they view these human beings as less evolved, being hunter-gatherers like the primitive ancestors that came “out of Africa” in their evolutionary scenarios. Is this not racist?

Music has always been an evolutionary puzzle as the links to improving fitness in humans have not been direct yet, music has spanned several contexts and has been prevalent across all human societies and performed among all age groups. The researchers decided to test some of the hypotheses that could explain the role of music in a social or group context, in the context of predation, and in a parent-infant context.

BaYaka women, Congo, from the U Leiden press release

Their human lab rats go into the jungle, where they face dangers from leopards. Maybe singing helps keep the predators away. The BaYaka are too poor to afford child care, so they carry their babies with them as they gather tubers.

But look at the photos! The BaYaka are well dressed women living today in 2023, not throwbacks to 1,000,000 years BC. They wear colorful dresses. They speak and laugh as they work. They like to sing. Does that have to have an adaptive function? They avoid conflicts. Why shouldn’t the western scientists, many of whom can’t even define what a woman is, come as learners and not “social scientists” higher on a presumed hierarchy of worth?

Women during tuber finding events were more likely to sing in large groups of strangers and less likely to sing in large groups of individuals they were close with. That was found by a group of international and interdisciplinary researchers led by Karline Janmaat and her former MSc Student Chirag Chittar. The study was part of an elaborate longitudinal study spanning 2 years and has now been published in the scientific journal, Frontiers in Psychology.

These women, the social scientists think, evolved primitive religion as an evolutionary strategy, thinking that singing keeps the forest happy.

“We know from their communication about music that the BaYaka sing to “please the forest”. They say: “a happy forest provides us with more food”. What the BaYaka dislike most is conflict, as they believe it would make the forest spirits angry. Our behavioural observations nicely complement their verbal communication and expression through music. The women sing more frequently when they search for food in groups that are large and contain fewer “friends”, in which conflicts about food are more likely to arise.

The researchers claim to have obtained oral permission from the researchers before the study. What if the women were observing the scientists? Given the bad reputation of Darwinism in many parts of Africa, especially from the Dutch, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the tribe was playing along to make fools of their watchers.

We’re reminded of how Darwin-lover Jared Diamond got into trouble by making the people of New Guinea his lab rats, only to be sued by them for libel (17 May 2009). A recent expose on the nefarious actions of Darwinists in Africa was written by Olufemi Oluniyi, Darwin Comes to Africa, and published posthumously by Discovery Institute Press. See this article on Evolution News for synopsis and link to a podcast about it.

Exercise: Read the press release, and then rewrite it with reversed roles. Write up a fictional version as if written by the BaYaka. Explain how they observe the behaviors and habits of the Dutch researchers and draw conclusions about the influences that made them act so elitist and racist. Should be fun!

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