Dreger into Darkness

A reader pointed me to a new paper by Alice Dreger Dreger:2011, focusing on the “Darkness in El Dorado” scandal in the American Anthropological Association. I mentioned the episode last week (“Going Draper”), and it is very relevant to the current “science wars” in the field.

Dreger’s thesis is that the AAA essentially betrayed its members to perpetuate a witch-hunt:

While the Peacock and the Task Force Reports contain some critiques of Tierney, both explicitly took Tierneys book as the roadmap to follow for further inquiries. Both even essentially thanked Tierney on behalf of anthropologists. The Peacock Commission concluded this: Patrick Tierneys provocative book, Darkness in El Dorado, has contributed a valuable service to our discipline (Peacock et al. 2001). The Task Force later concluded this: Darkness in El Dorado has served anthropology well (AAA 2002a:9). No other scholarly organization treated Tierneys house of cards as constituting a valuable service to their discipline.

The paper contains some new revelations about falsehoods in Tierney’s book, and more directly addresses the bungled decision-making by the AAA leadership. Some of it is just amazing. One newsworthy item:

Fascinatingly, in our interview, Frechione told me that, since Darkness, Tierney has apparently teamed up with the equally discredited Andrew Wakefield.

Scary.