Something that my readers may not know about me is that I am an anthropologist by training, biological (or evolutionary) anthropology to be exact. Indeed, BS from Rutgers University of New Brunswick, New Jersey, on the Dean’s List my senior year, which frankly makes me as legitimate a scientific authority as Bill Nye.
Jokes aside, I’ve noticed in our little sphere of the internet that amongst men who have taken the red pill, so to speak, anthropology is not respected very much, if not seen as a major reason for why the cultural zeitgeist of today sucks as hard as it does. And…yeah, I’m inclined to agree. But I don’t think it should be that way if anthropology is taught and studied properly; that is to say, if actual archaeological and ethnographic evidence is used rather than being swept under the rug in order to promote an ideological agenda.
But to answer the question of how anthropology does make the world worse…that is an answer that will require a good amount of explanation. In my not-so-humble opinion it goes back to France’s own Jean-Jacques Rousseau—he of the noble savage and the blank slate, two idealistic concepts that are still carried on to this day.
The ideology of the noble savage is not only wrong, it is hysterically wrong. Any archaeologist worth his salt can tell you that pre-history was far from a “20,000-year camping trip”. The glorious indigenous peoples were quite capable of committing massacres, compiling mass graves, holding slaves, and all of the other sins that are only attributed to those awful Snow People.
Now, if you ask modern leftist anthropologists, they will vehemently tell you they don’t believe in “noble savages” due to that concept being “patronizing, racist, and devoid of nuance”. And yes, you will never see the term “noble savage” used in academia today.
However, the concept, the idealized idea, is still quite popular as seen in how leftist researchers will repeatedly fudge and obfuscate data to create their “noble savage” ideal—observe this book written about the Khoi San, purporting that these hunter gatherers are noble savages when in fact they have a higher proportional murder rate than Detroit. Or look at how leftists fell all over themselves to glorify the “gentle Tasaday” who…kinda…don’t actually exist, at least not in the idealized “noble savage” way they were described, but the leftists took it as an article of blind faith that they were this way—and I use the term “faith” deliberately in the same manner Napoleon Chagnon says “For many anthropologists who cling to Rousseau’s view of mankind rather than Hobbes’, I am a heretic, a misanthrope, and the object of condemnation…”
When you see leftists downplaying the unpleasantness of non-white cultures and over-exaggerating those same unpleasantries in white cultures, or speaking of “people of color” as if they’re unspoiled simpletons without agency, it’s hard to see this as anything other than repurposed “noble savagery”.
But that’s only half of the problem, the “blank slate” has done its share of making the current zeitgeist terrible as well—more specifically, the idea of the blank slate when intertwined with another idea, one that started out with good intentions but has since become perverted, that of cultural relativism.
To discuss these we’ll have to fast forward to about 1900 or so, and the study of anthropology, or “ethnography” as it would have been called then, had at that time evolved a lot, and admittedly, in some ways that were less than scientific, most infamously those who leaned towards “Galton’s error”, the idea that all was nature and could only be affected with biological means, which of course led to such pseudosciences as eugenics and various other justifications for racism and imperialism.
A Columbia university professor named Franz Boas saw that in many cases the anthropology of his day was wrong, and sought to amend that, to use anthropology as a means of ensuring harmony between the ethnicities and races, rather than being used as a justification for difference and violence. Indeed, he introduced the idea of cultural relativism, which holds that no culture can be judged to be “higher or lower” than another, as they all have adapted to their particular place and time—certainly a noble sentiment, but unfortunately he and his students didn’t fix the problem so much as tilt the scales of chicanery and pseudoscience to fit his ideology rather than the racist ideologies of the time.
An example: in 1912, Dr. Boas published a famous study in which he showed that skull shapes of the children and grand children of European immigrants to the US differed from the original immigrants. Therefore, so the study went, different racial and ethnic types do not have a fixed set of characteristics and therefore the idea of race is a mere social construct.
The problem was that the data in this was falsified because Mr. Boas thought it was more important to make a point about the rampant racism of his day rather than tell the truth. But don’t take my word for it, take the fact that Wikipedia has a whole subsection in their Franz Boas article about scientists as activists.
Similarly, Boas’ protégé Margaret Mead was also guilty of spectacularly manipulating her data to prove a point as well, albeit she sought to “debunk” gender roles and thus prove the blank slate to be correct. Her famous and, again, highly influential study involved observations and surveys of three Polynesian tribes-One, the Arapesh, was described as having both males and females being graceful, cooperative, and all things that Western society refers to as feminine. Another, the Mundugumor, described both males and females being belligerent, swaggering, and assertive (traditional masculine stereotypes), and the third, the Tchambuli, being a complete inversion of “Western” gender roles-men described as being emotional, gossipy, etc. and women as being domineering, practical, and other masculine traits. The conclusion that was sought was that traditional gender roles were, of course, “socially constructed”, and that there was no real/practical basis to them at all, “no more than the headdresses of chiefs signify masculinity or femininity”.
The problem, of course, was that the data was completely falsified—It has since been noted that Mead’s data gathering was not thorough-she had been barred from chiefly consortiums strictly because she was a woman (so much for gender ambiguity), and mainly interviewed young children who would of course not be highly involved in the cultural goings on of their tribe. Later anthropologists corroborate that, contrary to what Mrs. Mead said, the men of Polynesia are competitive, prideful, valiant, and obsessed with rank, so much so that many of them were offended when told what Mead had written about them.
Starting in the 1970s, some anthropologists started to question and criticize these early 20th century theories, oftentimes because their own first-hand experience completely contradicted those beliefs in nurtured noble savagery, such as one of my favorites, Napoleon Chagnon, who I mentioned above. They sought to apply the theory of evolution and stronger, more objective analysis to the field of anthropology, both in terms of biological evolution and the evolution of social/cultural behavior, a new field that Edward O. Wilson dubbed “sociobiology”.
Those who were more Boasian were, of course, horrified by the concept of biological analysis being applied to humans, claiming that this was just one step away from eugenics, and scientific racism, and of course just another blink of the eye and we’d be herding minorities into boxcars to go to concentration camps. Arguments were many and ferocious and, in many cases, walk-outs and general obstructive behavior were instigated.
Throwing up their hands collectively, the entire field of anthropology had a schism, between biological and cultural camps, that has still not healed to this day. The result of this intellectual isolation is that leftist anthropology has essentially become a pseudo-religion, in which the noble savage, the blank slate, and cultural relativism are sanctified and any evidence to the contrary is seen as heresy. And left unabated, without any sort of objective analysis, cultural anthropology has continued to propagate its overly-idealized and completely untested theories.
Whenever you see some rich white liberal crying about invisible knapsacks, or see some hairy, barrel-chested man in drag barge into a lady’s bathroom…even though I doubt they wanted this, that is Mead and Boas’s legacy. When you see people crying about how science and objectivity are “white supremacist” and that black magic should be considered equally valid, that’s the legacy of cultural relativism.
And even though I and a few other anthropology heretics try to fight against it, that is why I can say anthropology, as it is today, has made the world worse.