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The True Nature of Primitive Man April 14, 2014

Posted by geoff in News.
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This book review of Napoleon Chagnon’s book Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes—The Yanomamo and the Anthropologists discusses how Chagnon’s research undermined the inane Rousseaian “Noble Savage” invention of liberal writers and anthropologists.

His anthropology education had taught him that kinsmen—the raiders were related to those they’d attacked—were generally nice to one another. Further, he had learned in classrooms that primitive peoples rarely fought one another, because they lived a subsistence lifestyle in which there was no surplus wealth to squabble about. What other reason could humans have for being at one another’s throats?

Chagnon spent decades studying the Yanomamo first-hand. What he observed challenged conventional wisdom about human nature, suggesting that primitive man may have lived in a Hobbesian state of “all against all”—where the concerns of group and individual security were driving factors in how society developed, and where a sense of terror was widespread. His work undercut a longstanding politically correct view in anthropology, which held that Stone Age humans were noble savages and that civilization had corrupted humanity and led to increasing violence.

Nothing too surprising there, at least for anybody with a realistic view of humanity sans its wafer-thin veneer. If you are lacking in such a view, I suggest you attend the next IB or H2 meatup.

Naturally the anthropologists were less than enthralled with somebody overturning their behavioral and cultural paradigms, and they happily persecuted Chagnon for decades. In the end it appears that Chagnon has been vindicated. A rare triumph of reality over political correctitude.

Despite my long excerpt, there’s still plenty more at the link, both on the Yanomamo tribe and the anthropological persecution Chagnon endured. It’s amazing just how violent a natural, unspoiled-by-evil-civilization-and-capitalism, nobly primitive society can be – Chagnon estimates that 45% of men in the tribe he studied had killed another man. Why?

Wimmens. Ain’t that always the case?

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Comments»

1. geoff - April 14, 2014

Wikipedia schools me:

“Contrary to what is sometimes believed, Jean-Jacques Rousseau never used the phrase ‘noble savage’.

…the phrase “noble savage” does not occur in any of Rousseau’s writings.[29] In fact, Rousseau arguably shared Hobbes’ pessimistic view of humankind…”

and

“In English, the phrase Noble Savage first appeared in poet Dryden’s heroic play, The Conquest of Granada (1672):

I am as free as nature first made man,
Ere the base laws of servitude began,
When wild in woods the noble savage ran.

Hunh. And all these years I was blaming that bastard Rousseau.

2. Mitchell - April 14, 2014

Fascinating. I’ll definitely pick up this book. It reminds me of another scene of anthropology behaving badly. I don’t remember the specific details or the people involved but it generally went thus:

1. It’s an Everybody Knows Thing that the western hemisphere was settled by people coming over the Russia to Alaska land bridge during the last ice age (called Clovis People).
2. Anthropologist discovers new Clovis cave site somewhere in the eastern-ish states. He organizes the usual, careful dig and given the depth, carbon 14 dating, etc.he confirms what Everybody Knows.
3. For giggles he keeps digging expecting to find usual animal stuff…and finds somebody was there before Clovis. Definitely older, definitely different people.
4. He publishes his discovery expecting praise and renewed interest in What Everybody Knows. He is VERY mistaken.
5.Instead he’s savagely attacked and becomes a radioactive persona non grata in academia. Why? Because The Science Is Settled.
6. Anthropologist turns to researchers in other fields (genetics) to see what they had to add.
7. Sure enough – mitochondrial DNA analyses matched ancient western European DNA with some populations of western hemisphere natives.
8. They get attacked: lather, rinse, repeat.
9. Eventually academic Fascists have to relent that The Science Is NOT, In Fact, Settled.

Fin.


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