Last Thursday I attended a lecture at the American Museum of Natural History on Bill Schutt’s most recent book, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. Schutt debunked some of cannibalism’s “taboos”—such as the idea that Cannibalism in humans only occurs out of necessity, when hunger is so intense we must eat one another to survive. This idea is widely accepted with popularized information on such examples as The Donner Party in 1846-47—a quest of westward expansion in the early days of America where a group of humans (lead by George Donner and James F. Reed) were left stranded in twelve feet of snow for six months and had to resort to cannibalism.
Schutt also speaks of the misconceptions of cannibalism in non-humans, such as fish and bears. For decades zoologists and scientists alike have had extremely incorrect information and because of a variety of reasons: lack of funding for further exploration, genuine agreement with the results, etc.—this data has been widespread within the scientific community but also within the general public. Cannibalism is seen as a strange occurrence, something we disapprove of or even cringe when confronted with the idea. Bill Schutt hopes to debunk these preconceived notions and enlighten his audience with the use of cannibalism in instances you may not seem so threatened and/or repulsed by.
The idea that a set of scientific research could reach such a widespread audience (professionally and personally), made me think of the instance in which a memorial monument was given to Jack Purcell, the badminton champion instead of Jack Purcell, “The Stick Doctor”—who constructed and gave away hockey sticks to community children. Misinformation can be spread in the smallest of ways (gossip around an office water cooler), but also in huge ways (a wrong Wikipedia article, the advent of “fake news”). It is important, now more than ever, that we as LIS enthusiasts and citizens of the world do our best not to corroborate the spread of incorrect information among any fields we come across.
Whether it be double-checking the name of a famous figure before beginning construction on a memorial piece of sculpture, or perpetuating misinformation about scientific taboos without knowing the real facts. This is not only important in professional fields, but also in common conversation with such topics as politics, religious views, and almost anything you hear today. It is always important to fact check before starting discourse based on information you’ve obtained.
-Kelsey Gallagher, LIS-653, Wednesdays 1130-230
SCHUTT, BILL. CANNIBALISM: A Perfectly Natural History. S.l.: ALGONQUIN OF CHAPEL HILL, 2018. Print.
“Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History.” AMNH. American Museum of Natural History, 20 Feb. 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
Kavanaugh, Shane Dixon. “This Town Built a Memorial to the Wrong Guy.” Vocativ. Vocativ, 28 May 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.