Home Forums Podcast supporters Video ROMA Questions Reply To: Video ROMA Questions

Andreas H.

Hi Jamie,

well, the Slate article could almost be right, couldn’t it? If it was saying “in the developed world, we live in the most peaceful, healthful time in history”, and if it would really mean only history and not pre-history. But, of course, the way Dunn uses the word, it means both…

It is even misrepresenting scientific research. In the fourth paragraph it quotes from the work of “Thomas Headland, an anthropologist” who “recently conducted a study of Agta hunter-gatherers in the Philippines.” The article says he interviewed 120 men about attacks of pythons and that “six [people] had been killed by a python” concluding that this would be “a death-by-python rate of 1 in 20.”

With a very quick google search for “Thomas Headland Agta” I found a National Geographic article (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/meet-the-agta-a-tribe-where-a-quarter-of-men-have-been-attacked-by-giant-snakes) about Headland’s research and things are a little bit different there. Yes, he interviewed 120 individuals, but out of a population of 600. Therefore the dead rate would be one 1 in 100 instead of 1 in 20.
But it gets worse. “Only six people have actually been killed in the span of 39 years, including a man who was found inside a snake, and two children who were eaten by the same python on one fateful night.”
I think it’s safe to assume that over the course of almost 40 years the total size of the population we should take into account is bigger than the currently 600 living people. So we’re down to 1 in 200 or whatever number now?

A little bit later in the article: “We should be careful before making specific claims about how snakes affected our evolution, since earlier attempts to address this question have been somewhat fraught. While some scientists have suggested that fear of snakes is innate, young babies don’t show such fears …Headland and Greene don’t make any such claims.”

To sum it up: the Slate article is useless bullshit. (I know you didn’t you’ve said otherwise).

All the best