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Melanin has nothing to do with afrocentricity, it's apart and parcil to all of nature

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    Melanin, Afrocentricity, and Pseudoscience

    BERNARD R. ORTIZ DE MONTELLANO Anthropology Department, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48228

    KEY WORDS olution

    Melanin, Afrocentric, Pseudoscience, P-MSH, Melatonin, Ev-

    ABSTRACT A component of the Afrocentric movement has incorporated a theory that black people, including ancient Egyptians, have superior men- tal, physical, and paranormal powers because they have more melanin both in their skin and in their brains. By extension it is also claimed that black people have more melatonin and P-MSH in their systems and that these compounds also contribute to the superiority of people of color over whites. In this paper, these claims are detailed and refuted. A review of the genetics and biochemistry of human pigmentation shows that all humans have sim- ilar amounts of neuromelanin (brain melanin), and that its concentration is absolutely independent of skin color; that adult humans do not synthesize P-MSH; and that human melatonin has no clearly demonstrable physiolog- ical function and no relationship to skin color. Melanists also distort hu- man evolution by claiming that European whites are descendants of negroid albinos. The main problems posed by this ideological movement are that i t will increase the already rampant scientific illiteracy in this country, it will contribute to further widening the gap between the races, and, most impor- tantly, it is being introduced into the public school curriculum under the guise of multicultural education.

    In the last few years, a growing movement in the African-American community proposes that black people are biologically superior to whites because the pigment melanin has extraordinary qualities. It claims that melanin provides a scientific explanation for the origin of civilization in Egypt and its subsequent diffusion to the rest of the world. There would be no need for this paper if these ideas were only being proposed in the scientific literature, because their lack of validity is clear. Claims of superiority based on religious belief would also not be a topic for a scientific journal. However, these concepts, and their advocates, are deeply in- volved in Afrocentric science curricula now being implemented in a number of large urban school districts. While this may not seem a matter of deep concern to many physical anthropologists, the case of scientific creationism is a reminder of what happens when we ignore the spread of pseudoscience among the public.

    There is a demand to introduce multiculturalism into the grade school curricu- lum. The most widely disseminated Afrocentric science material is the Portland (Oregon) African-American Baseline Essay, (Adams, 1990) which are aimed pri- marily at grade school teachers to be used as a resource on the contributions of Africans and African-Americans to science and mathematics. These essays have been adopted as source materials by school systems in Portland, Detroit, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Prince Georges County, Maryland, among others, and they have been distributed widely in other urban areas (Ortiz de Montellano 1991, 1992). The Science Baseline Essay argues that the enormous success of Egyptians was due to the inclusion of religion in their scientific paradigm and makes a

    o 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

    0 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.


    number of pseudoscientific claims. One of the most problematic claims is that the paranormal exists and that ancient Egyptians had psychotronic engineers who used ESP in a controlled manner (Adams, 1990). The trend to include such mate- rial in the curriculum, if continued, can have serious consequences for education. The level of scientific literacy in this country is appalling. Many efforts are being made to remedy the situation, but here we have a case where pseudoscience is actually being taught in schools. Minorities are presently underrepresented in science, and the situation can only be made worse by teaching pseudoscience in- stead of science and by fostering an attitude of credulous acceptance of unsup- ported statements rather than developing critical thinking. Melanist concepts also have deleterious consequences in the community because they provide scientific support for existing beliefs in a conspiracy to destroy black men. This can lead to increasing tension between the groups in urban areas or the concept that AIDS was developed by whites as part of this conspiracy and that, thus, African-Amer- ican mothers should not get their children vaccinated by white doctors. Anthro- pologists should be aware of these trends and the distortions of human biology being propagated.

    At the turn of the century, hyperdiffusionist European scholars argued that all civilization originated from one primary center of innovation, Egypt (Perry, 1923, 1937; Smith, 1923; Massey, 1907; Churchward, 1913, 1921). Because most Euro- peans did not think that black people were capable of the achievements reached by classical Egyptian civilization, in this Heliocentric model the Egyptians were Caucasian and Egypt was not considered part of Africa. Much effort has been expended in archeology, anthropology, and history to overcome the racist ideology of the 19th century. The dominant theory today, independent invention, holds that discoveries and inventions such as agriculture, metallurgy, and architectural tech- niques are the results of independent efforts by different peoples. Archeological evidence simply does not support claims that these great human advances origi- nated in only one place and then spread to others (Fagan, 1991). Clearly, biological differences do not produce cultural differences, and one race or ethnic group cannot claim intellectual superiority over all others.

    It is ironic that today much of Afrocentric writing about Egypt is based on the same evidence used by earlier Heliocentric authors. However, now the claim is that ancient Egypt was a black African civilization and that Egyptians (or at least the rulers and the cultural leaders) were negroid (Diop, 1974, 1981; Williams, 1974). No one disputes that Egypt is in Africa, or that its civilization had elements in common with sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in religion. However, the claim that all Egyptians, or even all the pharaohs, were black, is not valid. Most scholars believe that Egyptians in antiquity looked pretty much as they look today, with a gradation of darker shades toward the Sudan. Evidence for the racial composition of Egypt comes from a variety of sources. Berry et al. (1967), using a measure of divergence based on 30 nonmetrical skeletal variants, found that there were significant differences between negroid populations (Ashanti, Sudan), Mediterra- nean populations (Palestine), and all ancient Egyptian samples. They also found a remarkable degree of constancy in the population of Egypt over a period of 5,000 years. Recent multivariate analysis of crania (Keita, 1990) showed a pattern com- mon to both northern Late Dynastic Egypt and the Maghreb (North Africa west of Egypt) in which both tropical African and European phenotypes, as well as inter- mediate patterns, were present. Early southern Predynastic Egyptian crania

    Anthropologists have labored long and hard to refute the existence of biological races. We are all Homo supiens supiens. Latter (1980) compared the variation in 18 polymorphic gene loci in 180 populations represent- ing the major racial groups and found that 84% of the total genetic diversity of humankind is due to differences between individuals belonging to the same tribe or nation, while only 10% of the total diversity occurs between racial groups. This is only slightly more than the 6% difference between groups in East and West Africa. Lewontin (1972) came to the same conclusion and his data agree quite well with Latters. However, social races exist and the public believes that they are biologic. The melanists consistently speak of races as if they were biological, and, in order to deal with their concepts, racial designations will therefore be used in this paper.


    showed affinities with tropical African patterns and differed notably from the Maghreb pattern. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Nile valley was pri- marily settled by immigrants from both the Sahara and from more southern areas and that Egyptian culture was formed by the fusion of Saharan and Nilotic peoples (Hassan, 1988). The mixture of phenotypes suggested by the archaeological and skeletal evidence is amply supported by representations in art and sculpture (Ver- coutter, 1978; OConnor, 1971; rigger, 1978; Kelly, 1991). Brace et al. offer fur- ther review of Egyptian biological status (this volume). Egypt was a multiracial society that did not discriminate internally on the basis of color, but looked down on all foreigners regardless of color (Yurco, 1989,1990; Snowden, 1970,1989,1992; Young, 1992; Levine, 1992; Coleman, 1992). Even Martin Bernal, the most artic- ulate proponent of Egyptian influence on Greece, agrees that in the pharaonic period Egypt was a racially mixed society with a higher incidence of negroid phenotypes in Upper Egypt (Young, 1992; Kelly, 1991; Bernal, 1992).

    According to the black Heliocentric model, Greek civilization (and ultimately all of Western civilization) was heavily and fundamentally influenced by Egypt (Ber- nal, 1987,1991) and that practically all of Greek civilization was stolen from Egypt (James, 1988; Ben-Yochannan, 1971). Black Egyptian civilization is also claimed to be the forerunner of other civilizations: of the New World Olmecs (Van Sertima, 19761, India and China (Van Sertima, 1985a1, and Europe (Van Sertima, 1985b).

    How is the superiority of Egyptians, the primary source of all civilization, ex- plained? A couple of approaches have been taken. A number of Afrocentrists, most prominently Molefi Kete Asante (19801, have proposed that Egypt (and Africa in general) was undergirded by a particular value systedreligious orientation, njia (called maat by others) and by an African epistemology that is different from that of the West. The glory of Egypt and of other African empires was due to the superiority of this approach to knowledge and to their organization of society. This approach is based on philosophical and historical evidence, and will not be dis- cussed further. A more extreme approach attributes the success of Egypt (and the use of maat) to the fact that black people are mentally, spiritually, and physically superior to other people. This is a theory of biological superiority based on the amount of melanin in the skin of black people. A number of extraordinary prop- erties are attributed to melanin. These properties, in turn, confer superior powers to humans who have large amounts of melanin in their skin. By extension, two other substances involved in animal pigmentation, P-MSH @-melanin stimulating hormone) and melatonin, are also claimed by some to confer extraordinary powers to people with dark skin.

    An active group, referred to here as the melanists, has been developing and publicizing the properties of melanin. There have been five annual melanin con- ferences held around the country. The talks presented have been widely dissemi- nated through broadcasts on African-American radio programs. The program Af- rican-American World View, on Detroits public schools radio station WDTR, has been particularly diligent in broadcasting most of the talks presented a t the var- ious melanin conferences, in addition to those delivered by the melanists in other forums. Some of these views have recently become available in writing. The mel- anists are a diverse group, with an unusually high proportion of psychologists and psychiatrists. The following list is not inclusive: Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, a practicing psychiatrist in Washington, D.C.; Dr. Richard King, a psychiatrist teaching at San Francisco State University; Dr. Wade Nobles, a psychologist at San Francisco State University; Neferkare Stewart, a San Francisco psycholo- gist; Dr. Leonard Jeffries, head of African-American Studies at City University of New York; Hunter Havelin Adams of the Chicago Lifeways Institute, formerly an environmental technician a t Argonne National Laboratory; Dr. Jawanza Kun- jufu, an educational consultant in Chicago and developer of a set of Afrocentric curricular materials; Anthony T. Browder, a Washington artist; Carol Barnes; Dr. Naim Akbar. None of these melanists has done or is doing actual laboratory re- search on melanin. Their obtain their information by searching the medical liter-


    ature as well as by referring to a diverse collection of literature on Egypt and the New Age.

    Much of the scientific evidence claimed for melanin comes from one long article by Barr (1983). Barrs scientific objectivity is somewhat doubtful because he is affiliated with the Institute for the Study of Consciousness in Berkeley, California, and his research was funded by the Institute for Noetic Sciences. The Institute for Noetic Sciences was established by ex-astronaut Edgar Mitchell to prove the ex- istence of ESP. Its scientific objectivity is on a par with the Institute for Creation Science or E. T. Krebs Committee for Freedom of Choice in Cancer Therapy or R. Houstons Foundation for Mind Research, which were set up to prove the value of laetrile. Barr attributes the beginning of his melanin theory to a series of ten intense archetypal dreams in 1975 (anonymous, 1983). Barrs paper has over 700 references; a herculean effort would be required to verify how accurately each reference is cited. A small sampling, however, is not encouraging. Most of the work in the area of melanin has been done on nonhuman species. In physiology and biochemistry it is very risky to extrapolate results from one species to another, particularly if they are not closely related. Compounds can have opposite effects in species as close as rats and mice. It is particularly inappropriate to extrapolate results obtained in rodents to humans without other supporting evidence. Barr continually speaks of properties of melanin as if they applied to humans when in fact the reference cited dealt with work done on rodents. Another characteristic is that Barr omits much of the tentative and cautionary language in the original references and presents results as if they were much more conclusive than they actually are. For example, Barr (1983:7) states that Kastin and Schally conclude that neuromelanin is not just a metabolic wastebasket but, on the contrary, ap- pears to have an important role in the functioning of the brain and nervous sys- tem. However, the article (Kastin et al., 1979) actually says, Because of the presence of melanin in the brain, even in new born rats, as well as its structural relationship to cathecolamines, we feel that it is likely that the melanin has an important role in the functioning of the central nervous system (emphasis added). It should be noted that Schally is referring to rats, not to humans. Barr also writes, Furthermore, these researchers believe that the function(s) of neuromelanin are due to a change in state rather than a change in concentration. This is a highly significant point which cannot be emphasized enough and should be kept in mind during the remainder of the paper. (Emphasis in original.) However, the original authors (Kastin et al., 1976) are much more circumspect, stating that If the melanin in the brain has a function, which intuitively seems reasonable, it is more likely to involve a change in its state rather than its concentration. This state- ment is a weak reed upon which to build an entire paper arguing for the univer- sality and importance of melanin. To his credit, Barr makes liberal use of words like perhaps, possibly, hypothetically, and may prove to be. None of these qualifiers appear in the work of the melanists. Therefore, the claims made for the properties of melanin in humans are twice removed from the actual laboratory experiment (usually performed on a rat) and suffer from a double deletion of cau- tionary statements. The melanists also omit and ignore Barrs repeated injunctions that neuromelanin is different from and unrelated to skin melanin, that the amount of neuromelanin is unrelated to skin color, and that the properties claimed are panhuman and not racial.

    Melanin is also used by some of the melanists to explain and justify (scientifi- cally) a theory that has circulated widely in the African-American community for a number of years, i.e., that there is a conspiracy (by whites) to destroy black men. The melanists have put forth a theory based on an erroneous description of the genetics of skin color. The theory purports to show why white men need to destroy black males (Welsing, 1991~). For example:

    The conspiracy to destroy black youth. . . . It has to do with the fact that in terms of genetics and genes that because Africans have dominant genes that it is very


    possible for Africans to annihilate the European population. And the best way to prevent the annihilation is to get to the root of the perpetrator who could do that. And that, of course, would be African men. Because it is men, specifically Afri- can men, that start the reproductive process off. For example, in looking at the four possibilities of sexual relationships. Of looking at those four there is only one possibility to produce a European child. If you have an African man with an African woman you will produce a child of color. If you have an African man with a European woman you will also produce a child of color. If you have a European man with an African woman that will also produce a child of color. European men can only produce a child that looks like them when they connect with a European woman. As the result of that, then, European men are very much afraid of African men and the conspiracy is directly centered at them. . . . And thats that conspiracy is synonymous with the word genocide, and genocide not only is gradual, it is collective (Kunjufu, 1989).

    Frances Welsing (1991a:4) makes the connection between melanin genetics and the conspiracy even clearer:

    The reason that the Black male . . . is and always has been central to the issue of white supremacy is clarified by the definition of racism as white genetic survival. In the collective white psyche, Black males represent the greatest threat to white genetic survival because only males (of any color) can impose sexual intercourse, and Black males have the greatest genetic potential (of all non-white males) to cause white genetic annihilation. Thus, Black males must be attacked and destroyed in a power system designed to assure white genetic survival. . . . The prevention of white genetic annihilation is pursued through all means, including chemical and biological warfare. Today, the white genetic sur- vival imperative, instead of using chemicals in gas chambers, is using chemicals in the streets-crack, cocaine, ecstasy, PCP, heroin and methadon [sic] (all designer chemicals).

    The basic premise in this formulation is that skin color is transmitted geneti- cally as a single-locus Mendelian gene pair in which the presence of melanin is dominant and its absence (which melanists equate with white) occurs only in homozygous recessive cases. This is not correct, as we will see below. Skin color in humans is due to an additive combination of at least six genes (and perhaps many more), which accounts for the wide continuum of human skin color ranging from deep black through varying shades of brown, bronze, and yellow to white (Stern, 1970). Mendelian traits are either on or off. Therefore, if the melanists were correct there would be only two skin colors, deep black and albino. The so-called conspir- acy to destroy black men has several corollaries. It is claimed that AIDS was deliberately developed by white males to infect and kill black people (Strecker, N.D.; Adams, 1988). If you attempt to understand the AIDS holocaust without understanding white supremacy, you will only be confused: and you may be dead. . . . This [AIDS] is not a monkey biting Africans and causing disease, but a weapon of biological warfare developed in laboratories by people who classify themselves as white (Welsing, 1991a294, 300). Claims are also made that the drug epidemic in African-American communities is also part of the conspiracy to destroy Black men (Welsing, 1991a:4, 1991b). Barnes (1988, 1991) involves mel- anin directly by claiming that melanin has a special affinity to cocaine; that in fact cocaine can copolymerize with melanin and remain in the body of black people for months.

    PROPERTIES ATTRIBUTED TO MELANIN BY MELANISTS Physical and chemical properties

    Melanin is a polycyclic polymer of high molecular weight insoluble in most solvents and extremely stable; it is found in fossils millions of years old (Robins, 1991). Melanists attribute an extraordinary range of properties to this compound.


    The principal function of melanin is to absorb ultraviolet (UV) light, but melanists expand this property to include most of the electromagnetic spectrum. Melanin can supposedly absorb light, sound, and magnetic energy and convert light to sound reversibly (Barnes, 1988). Adams (1988) also claims that melanin can convert magnetic fields to sound reversibly. It is claimed that melanin is able to conduct electricity without resistance, i.e., that it is a superconductor (Barnes, 1988, 1991; Adams, 1987), and that the ability of melanin to capture sunlight and hold it in a memory mode reveals that blackness converts light to Knowledge (Montgomery, 1989). This idea is extended even further by the claim that melanin granules are minicomputers that can respond and analyze reactions without interacting with the brain (Barnes, 1988).

    The ability of melanin to absorb UV radiation serves to protect the DNA of skin cells from radiation damage and eventual cancer (Pasteur and Toldson, 1982). There is wide agreement that melanin protects the body from UV radiation in the UV-B range (280-320 nm). Melanin protects by absorbing radiant energy and dissipating this energy as heat. Melanin is also a stable free radical and is capable of soaking up and neutralizing the very reactive free radicals produced in cells by UV radiation (Robins, 1991, Riley, 1988; Kollias et al., 1988). However, Pasteur and Toldsons (1982) claim that UV radiation can cause hereditary mutations and that dark skin can protect humans from this is erroneous. Mutations in skin DNA can cause cancer, but only mutations in the DNA of sex cells can cause hereditary mutations, and these cells are not affected by sunlight.

    Melanin has been shown to have semiconductor properties (McGinness et al., 1974), but these experiments were not done in vivo and often involved much higher temperatures (150C) than the temperature of the human body (38C). Part of the problem may be that the melanists are applying very specific and specialized reactions in a more general way. For example, the idea that melanin can have a memory and by extension that it can function as a minicomputer may be due to a misinterpretation of McGinness statement that Melanins respond at a critical applied electrical field by changing their conductivity. The nature of the response depends upon the hydration and temperature of the sample and, to some extent, on the external circuitry. The response falls into two categories: threshold and mem- ory switching. Threshold switching occurs when a sample cycles from an off (low conductivity) to an on (high conductivity) state at a critical electrical field level and returns to the off state when the electric field is removed. Memory switching, on the other hand, refers to a sample which remains in the on state when the field is removed, but can be restored to the off state by larger electric fields or currents. (Filatovs et al., 1976). This extremely limited and technical use of the term mem- ory in no way supports the idea that melanin has a memory in the usual sense of the word. Similarly, statements concerning reversible conversion of sound to light may be a misconstrual of the idea that coupling of phonons (vibrational modes of the macromolecular structure) to electronic states may be particularly efficient in melanin and the conversion between vibrational modes and electronically-excited states might proceed in both directions. (Lowry, 1984). However, it is unwar- ranted to extrapolate these data to claim that melanin acts as a minicomputer, that it analyzes reactions, acts as a memory molecule, or that it converts light to knowledge. There is absolutely no evidence that melanin can act as a supercon- ductor, and it is inconceivable that it could function at body temperature since the warmest organometallic superconductor to date functions at 13 Kelvin (- 260C) (Williams et al., 1991).

    The stable free-radical nature of melanin makes this molecule a potentially excellent electron acceptor and helps to explain the propensity of melanin to bind strongly to various drugs (Robins, 1991). Drugs like chlorpromazine (Basu et al. 1989; Robins, 19911, chloroquine (Lindquist, 19731, and atropine (Emiru, 1971) bind strongly to melanin. The binding of several metals, i.e., zinc, copper, nickel, and cobalt, has been investigated, but mostly in their roles in melanin synthesis (Pfeiffer and Mailloux, 1989; Potts, 1976). These valid experiments do not justify


    claims that melanin can bind and release most elements known on earth (Barnes, 1988:37). It is true that melanin can bind marihuana, cocaine, and am- phetamines, but there is no evidence for Barnes (1988:40, 71) claim that, people with melanin always have a positive test for marihuana . . . melanin can resemble a false positive test for marihuana, melanin increases addiction to marihuana.

    Melanin as regulator of mental activity Stating a number of claims about melanin put forth by the melanist proponents

    followed by a short commentary is an useful way of presenting this diverse mate- rial.

    Melanin is critical in the control of memory, motivation, mental maturation, mental organization, integration of sensation, dreaming, emotion, motor func- tion, anticancer agent, anti-immune system and anti-aging agent (Montgomery, 1989).

    Melanin causes altered states of consciousness and is responsible for shouting and speaking in tongues in black religious ceremonies, creation of jazz music, dancing and spiking the football (Barnes, 1988:39).

    Melanin helps in the processing of memory and how things are recalled and the memory state is irreversibly destroyed only by heating above 110C (Montgom- ery, 1989).

    Melanin and the pineal has its highest functionality in black humans (Mont- gomery, 1989).

    There is a need to distinguish between skin melanin and melanin in the brain, neuromelanin. Melanists have a tendency to conflate the two as if they were the same. As shown below, they have different structures, are made by different bio- chemical pathways, and have different racial distributions. Some of these claims seem to be more erroneous extrapolations of McGinness experiments, which were conducted in vitro on synthetic melanin and in which the term memory was used in a very restricted sense. There is no evidence whatever for the neurological and mental properties attributed to melanin.

    Melanin as the source of greater coordination and agility

    Melanin centers in the brain are responsible for coordinating and controlling body movements and controlling brain power (Montgomery, 1989).

    Dark eyed people have faster reaction times than blue eyed people attributable t o the presence of neuromelanin. (Pasteur and Toldson, 1982:33).

    Blacks have more melanin in their muscle cells as compared to whites. This coupled to its biophysical characteristics as a semi-conductor and its ability to trap free radical energy is the explanation for why Blacks run faster and Black athletic superiority (Pasteur and Toldson, 1982:33).

    The increase in the concentration of melanin with age in the locus coeruleus of the brain suggests that melanin plays a vital role in the highly spiritual nature of elders and their ability to communicate with our ancestors and experience various high energy states, seeing (Barnes, 1988:60).

    Many of these are fanciful exaggerations. No distinction is made between neu- romelanin and skin melanin. There is no evidence that there is any melanin in muscles. No clear function has been identified for neuromelanin: . . . the function


    Fig. 1. Copyright 0 1991 by Cambridge University Press, with permission of the publisher.]

    Melanocyte and contents. [From A. H. Robins, Biological Perspectives on Human Pigmentation.

    of non-cutaneous melanin remains obscure and even speculations are tenuously based owing to the lack of an established corpus of knowledge (Robins, 1991:93). Most importantly, as seen below, there is no relationship whatever between skin color and the presence and amount of neuromelanin. The genesis of neuromelanin bears no similarity to the development of the melanosomes within the melano- cytes. Its concentration in the brain is proportional to the age of the individual, and is totally independent of ethnic pigmentation (Robins, 1991:81 original emphasis).

    The melanin in the eyes and ears is synthesized by the same mechanism as skin melanin and the amounts do correlate with skin color. Eye color does seem to influence reaction times. Worthy (1974) found that dark-eyed individuals per- formed better at reactive activities, whereas light-eyed people were superior at self-paced activities. Several studies (Hale, et al. 1980; Landers et al., 1976; Tedford et al., 1978) showed that there was a correlation between dark eyes and faster reaction times in response to both visual and auditory stimuli, but none of the investigators were able to offer a satisfactory explanation for their findings (Robins, 1991). Albinos have diminished amounts of melanin in the inner ear and show evidence of auditory abnormalities (Garber et al., 1982; Creel et al., 1980). Even though albinos lack skin, hair, and eye pigmentation, they have normal amounts of pigment within the central nervous system (Robins, 1991). Before proceeding to more detailed claims by melanists it will be useful to review the whole topic of human pigmentation and its control mechanisms.


    The entire range of human color is due to the pigment melanin, which is syn- thesized within specific dendritic cells, called melanocytes (Fig. 1). Melanocytes originate in the neural crest of the fetus and migrate during development (Robins, 1991). Melanocytes are found in the skin, the uveal tract of the eye (which includes the iris but not the retina), the inner ear, mucous membranes (particularly the mouth), and the membranes enveloping the brain and spinal cord, called leptom- eninges (Robins, 1991). Melanocytes are not present in muscles or various organs. There is no correlation between the number of melanocytes and racial pigmenta-


    Fig. 2. Four stages in melanosome development. Note changes in shape and progressive darkening from stage 1 to stage 4. [From A. H. Robins, Biological Perspectives on Human Pigmentation. Copyright 0 1991 by Cambridge University Press, with permission of the publisher.]

    tion; whites, negroids, and even albinos have the same distribution of melanocytes. Racial skin color differences are not due to differences in the number of melano- cytes, but to the amount and density of melanin manufactured within them (Rob- ins, 1991). The biosynthesis of melanin takes place in organelles called melano- somes. The shape and opacity of the melanosome change with increasing deposition of melanin, classified as stages 1-4 (Fig. 2). After the melanin has been synthesized, the melanosomes are transferred from the basal layer of the skin to the surrounding keratinocytes, where they produce perceived skin color (Fig. 3). This is not just a passive process; feed-back is involved. Basically, the intensity of skin color is determined by (a) the total number and size of melanosomes within the epidermal melanin unit, (b) the rate of melanosome formation and melaniza- tion, and (c) the rate of melanosome transfer to keratinocytes (Robins, 1991:lZ).

    Basic skin color, as well as the intensity of the tanning response to UV stimulus, is determined genetically. Genetic control of human pigmentation is simpler than that of mice, which involves about 150 genes acting at 50 loci, but not as simple as the one Mendelian locus proposed by melanists. A number of studies have con- cluded that three to six pairs of genes are involved in the inheritance of skin color in humans, and their effects seem to be equal and additive (Stern 1970; Robins, 1991). Quevedo et al. (1987) argue that the variation in skin color among negroids and Caucasoids in the United States can be explained by the additive interaction of three to four gene pairs.2 Livingston (1969) used a computer model that, assuming four gene loci, found that the whole spectrum from black to white could have evolved in a period of between 20,000 to 40,000 years.

    Biochemical control of pigmentation Melanogenesis, the synthesis of melanin within the melanosome, is controlled by

    a copper-containing enzyme, tyrosinase. Two main types of melanin are produced within melanosomes (Fig. 4)-eumelanin, a black-brown compound, and phae- omelanin, a yellow to yellowish-brown pigment found in mammalian hair and chicken feathers (Robins, 1991). Our discussion will focus on eumelanin, which is the key pigment in skin. For our purposes, what is important is that eumelanin is

    2A reviewer pointed out that inheritance of skin color could be viewed as mimicking hundreds of genes if each of the amino acids of tyrosinase is viewed as a simple separate gene. If this is true, the melanist claim of a single Mendelian gene controlling skin color becomes even more untenable.


    Fig. 3. Epidermal melanin unit, showing the structural and functional relationship between melano- cyte and surrounding cluster of keratinocytes to which i t transfers melanosomes. [From A. H. Robins, Biological Perspectiues on Human Pzgmentution. Copyright 0 1991 Cambridge University Press, with permission of the publisher.]

    made from tyrosine (I) in a series of steps of which the dominant rate-controlling steps involve the enzyme tyrosinase.3 Although the structure of eumelanin is com- plex, there is a limit to the possible variability since it must involve copolymers of 111, IV, V, or VI.

    Albinism in humans is a Mendelian recessive trait, i.e., the albino must be homozygous for the albinism gene. There are two main types of human albinism- tyrosine-negative oculocutaneous albinism (tyr-neg) and tyrosinase-positive ocu- locutaneous albinism (tyr-pos) (Robins, 1991). Several different mutations a t the albinism locus on chromosome 11 will produce tyr-neg albinism in which no mel- anin is produced due to a lack of tyrosinase (i.e., the production of 11,111, or VI is prevented). In tyr-pos albinism no melanin is produced even though tyrosinase is present in the melanocyte, presumably due to a deficiency of dopachrome oxi- doreductase, preventing the formation of V (Hearing and Tsukamoto, 1991). Hu- man albinism is not due to a lower number of melanocytes or melanosomes but rather to a deficiency in enzymes essential to the biosynthesis of melanin.

    Neuromelanin Neuromelanin differs from oculocutaneous eumelanin in a number of significant

    ways. Neuromelanin is not produced by melanocytes. It is found in a column of

    3The precursor to eumelanin is the amino acid tyrosine (I). In a rate-determining step tyrosine is oxidized in the presence of tyrosinase to form dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA, 11). In a second tyrosinase-controlled reac- tion DOPA is oxidized to dopaquinone (111). At this stage a bifurcation occurs (see Fig. 4). If dopaquinone (111) reacts with the amino acid cysteine, a sequence of steps will eventually result in phaeomelanin. In the primary pathway cyclization of dopaquinone (111) leads to dopachrome (IV), which in turn is converted to 5,6-dihydrox- yindole, DHI (V) by the enzyme dopachrome oxidoreductase. DHI (V) is oxidized again by tyrosinase to indole 5,6-quinone (VI), which polymerizes to eumelanin (Robins, 1991; Hearing and Tsukamoto, 1991). This is a very simplified version of the Raper-Mason pathway since all the derivatives of dopaquinone (111, IV, V, VI), as well as other intermediates, can be randomly involved in the copolymerization (Fig. 5) to produce a very complex heteropolymer (Prota, 1980).


    Tymsine I


    Dopa I1 I Dopaquinone SH 111 I

    I S I I

    H o r n Dopachrome J Cysteine a 2 I CH

    / \ Oxidoraductase O D c o o H

    HO NH

    ,CWH Dopachrome

    Tyrosinase IV I

    Indole 5.6-Quinone o \ NH v1




    H O O C b S


    Fig. 4. Biosynthesis of eumelanin in skin melanocytes.

    H o m C O O H \ HZN - ~ ~ C O O H / HZN - o D C O O H HO



    E U MEL A NI N S I


    Indole 5,bQuinone VI

    DHI V

    Fig. 5. Copolymerization of intermediates in eumelanin biosynthesis.

    cathecolamine neurons along the brain stem, but is concentrated in two main areas, the substantia nigra in the midbrain and the locus coeruleus in the pons (Robins, 1991). Cathecolamine neurons are cells that contain the neurotransmit- ters noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and serotonin. Neuromelanin is found in nearly all mammalian species but is more abundant in primates, reaching a max- imum in humans (Marsden, 1961). Neuromelanin is synthesized in these neurons by a biochemical pathway completely different from that in the skin (Fig. 6) (Gra- ham, 1979). Cathecolamine neurons do not contain any tyrosinase. In these neu-


    HO Tyrosine

    Tyrosine Hydroxylase Enzyme not found in melanocytes Albinos have this enzyme I



    HO Autoxidation

    HO m --- X


    Autoxidation --- HO 0

    / XI Noradrenaline

    Autoxidation --- HO

    Adrenaline XI1 CH3 Ix

    Fig. 6. Biosynthesis of neuromelanin in cathecolamine neurons.

    rons tyrosine (I) is oxidized to DOPA (11) by a different enzyme, tyrosine hydrox- ylase, which does not occur in melanosomes, but is found in albinos. The important compound synthesized in these neurons from tyrosine (I) is adrenaline (epineph- rine, IX).4 In these neurons neuromelanin is only a by-product of the synthesis of adrenalin.5 Neuromelanin production will continue in brain tissue even after all the enzymes are inactivated by heat, which proves that the process is an auto- oxidation, as outlined in Figure 6 (Rodgers and Curzon, 1975).

    The concentration of neuromelanin in neurons increases linearly up to age 60, which is consistent with its being a waste product of cathecolamine metabolism in neurons that synthesize these neurotransmitters (Graham, 1979; Robins, 1991). Mann and Yates (1974) argue that this linear relationship between neuromelanin and age also suggests that neuromelanin is a by-product or waste product of cell metabolism rather than a metabolic precursor, or has a specialized function within the cell. Thus, the higher density of this pigment in humans compared to other primates may be no more than a reflection of the longer life span of humans. Robins (1991:81) clearly differentiates neuromelanin from skin eumelanin: The genesis of neuromelanin bears no similarity to the development of melanosomes within melanocytes. Its concentration in the brain is proportional to the age of the individual, and is totally independent of ethnic pigmentation. Albinos have as much neuromelanin as any other human and in fact an old albino will have more

    41n these neurons DOPA (11) is converted to dopamine (VII) by dihydroxyphenylalanine deearboxylase and VII is converted to noradrenaline (norepinephrine, VIII) by dopamine P-hydroxylase. Adrenaline (1x1 is made from VIII by phenylethylamine N-methyl-transferase.

    5Dopamine (VII), noradrenaline (VIII), and adrenaline (1x1 can be auto-oxidized without the need of an enzyme to the quinones (X, XI, XII) which eventually lead to neuromelanin (Graham, 1979). Studies by Barden (1969) and by Rodgers and Curzon (1975) have shown that DOPA (111, dopamine (VII), noradrenaline (VIII), adrenaline (1x1, and serotonin (XV) can copolymerize to produce the complex polymer neuromelanin.


    neuromelanin than a young black African. Neuromelanin also differs in structure from eumelanin. Human neuromelanin has been shown to contain lipid globules, probably the age-related lipofuscin, by electron microscopy. Neuromelanin consists of a core of lipofuscin upon which melanin substances are deposited (Marsden, 1983).

    Hormonal control of pigmentation This is an area in which it is particularly important not to extrapolate animal

    studies to humans because such assumptions lead to errors. Apparently, in the course of evolution, pigment-controlling hormones of the pituitary and pineal glands have lost their role in the control of the skin color of humans. It is also important to remember that in order for data to have significance regarding the questions that concern us they must involve hormones in normal physiological concentrations in humans and their role and effects at these concentrations. Ex- periments in which large amounts of exogenous hormones are administered or disease states in which abnormal amounts or products are produced are interesting and provide insights, but are not relevant to the question of differences between normal humans with different skin colors.

    Frogs have been often used in pigment studies because their skin contains mel- anophores, which can produce dramatic color changes by rapid and reversible changes in location. Thus, the observation that frogs immersed in pituitary ex- tracts became darker led to the discovery of melanin stimulating hormone (MSH). Humans injected with pituitary extracts also became darker (Robins, 1991). There are four known substances with MSH activity: a-MSH, P-MSH, ACTH (adreno- corticotropic hormone), and P-LPH (P-lipotrophic hormonel.6 One of the key errors involved in extrapolating animal results to humans in this area is that the adult human pituitary does not have an intermediate lobe (it is resorbed at the fetal stage), and this is the part of the pituitary that contains the enzymes that produce a-MSH and P-MSH from their precursors ACTH and P-LPH. Humans do not nor- mally have P-MSH or a-MSH present in their bodies in any significant amount (Eberle, 1988). Thus, whereas a-MSH is an important hormone in the rat, human a-MSH has never been characterized unequivocally because it could not be isolated in amounts sufficient for structure analysis (Eberle, 1988:22). It is now generally accepted that human P-MSH does not exist. Human P-MSH, which had been re- ported as present earlier, has been shown to be an artifact of the analysis procedure and to be non-existent in humans (Bloomfield et al., 1974; Brown and Doe, 1978; Eberle, 1988; Robins, 1991; Lowry, 1988).

    Even if human P-MSH did exist, recent research indicates that it would not be involved in melanogenesis because the mechanism of melanogenesis in humans differs from that of mice and rats.

    It is well documented that MSH stimulates melanogenesis dramatically in murine melanocytes both in vivo and in vitro. . . . This is mediated through binding of MSH to surface receptors and activation of protein kinase A activity . . . through CAMP. . . . In human melanocytes, which express surface receptors and respond to MSH by increases in CAMP . . . there is not accompanying in- crease in pigmentation. . . . It has recently been shown that human melanocytes can be induced to produce pigment by stimulation of the protein kinase C path- way, mediated through the diacylglycerol mechanism, thus the mechanism of melanogenic stimulation may be significantly different between human and murine melanocytes (Hearing and Tsukamoto, 1991; emphasis added).

    Robins (1991:34) states that: The role of pituitary pigment in hormones in the control of normal human pigmentation remains an enigma. Albinos have no

    The amino acid sequence of a-MSH is identical to the first 13 amino acids of ACTH and the amino acid sequence of p-MSH is identical to amino acids 41-58 of p-LPH, so that the smaller molecules are hydrolysis products of ACTH and p-LPH (Tepperman, 1980).


    Tryptophan xu1

    5-OH Tryptophan Semtonin xv

    Monoanune Oxidase

    I Normal Metabolic Pathway

    5-H ydroxy indole 0-Methyluansferase [unique to pineal]

    Melaionin XVII

    Fig. 7. Biosynthesis of serotonin and melatonin in pineal neurons.

    deficiency of these hormones. Negroid panhypopituitary dwarfs do not lose their pigmentation, nor does surgical removal of the pituitary gland in the Negroid reduce skin color. ACTH and P-LPH can cause hyperpigmentation only if present in abnormally high concentrations; under physiological conditions they do not seem to regulate skin pigmentation. A summary statement is provided by Lowry (1988): Despite the ensuing five years of intense scientific activity, little evidence has come to light of a convincing function for the pars intermedia and the melanotropins in mammals.

    Frogs fed pineal tissue undergo a fast and temporary blanching of the skin. The responsible agent, melatonin (XVII), was given this name because it de- creased color by causing an aggregation of melanosomes. The colorless hormone has no relationship or similarity to melanin. It is synthesized in the pineal gland from the amino acid tryptophan (XIII) in a pathway that includes serotonin (XV) as an intermediate (see Fig. 7). The synthesis of serotonin from tryptophan takes place in a number of loci including the cathecolamine neurons but the enzymes serotonin N-acetylase and hydroxyindole-0-methyltransferase, which catalyzes the conversion of serotonin (XV) to melatonin (XVII), are found only in the pineal gland (Robins, 1991). In lower animal species, particularly those whose reproduction or coat colors are tied to the season, the pineal and its hormone, melatonin, do influence reproduction and hair color. This effect is due primarily to the duration and intensity of daylight (Robins, 1991). Even here effects vary. For example, longer periods of darkness, which lead to elevated levels of mela- tonin, inhibit reproduction in hamsters but enhance the reproduction of sheep (Klein, 1984). In some species, the master time keeper may not be the pineal. The eyes and pineal glands of a number of mammals can be removed without affecting their circadian rhythmicity (Ralph, 1989). Ralph has also proven that the master pacemaker in the hamster is the suprachiasmal nucleus (a cluster of cells in the hypothalamus located above the point where the optic nerves cross). A number of species, including humans, have a suprachiasmal nucleus. For species, such as humans, that can control their exposure to light, melatonin has


    no impact on adult physiology, puberty, or skin color (Sizonenko et al., 1982; Hastings et al., 1989; Ebling and Foster, 1989).

    There is abundant literature showing the ability of melatonin to effect the release of pituitary hormones in rodents, but there are very few studies of the subject in humans. It was found that basal serum gonadotropin levels, luteiniz- ing hormone (LH) stimulated by luteinizing hormone releasing factor (LHRH), and the pulse secretion of gonadotropins in humans were unaffected by exter- nally administered melatonin (Waldhauser et al., 1984). There is very little similarity in the metabolism of melatonin in humans and in other animals. Large discrepancies were noted in the effect of various drugs on human mela- tonin compared to other mammals (Touitou et al., 1987). L-DOPA stimulates melatonin in rats, but has no effect on humans. The secretion of melatonin in humans was not induced by scopolamine, amphetamine, tyrosine-releasing hor- mone (TRH), LHRH, or a variety of other stresses (Waldhauser et al., 1984; Waldhauser et al., 1983). Melatonin has been reported to reduce MSH in rats and short-tailed weasels, but removal of the pineal gland did not alter MSH secretion from the pituitary, which perhaps implies extra-pineal melatonin (Eberle, 1988). Melatonin suppresses MSH in some mammals, but prolonged ingestion of 1 glday of melatonin had no effect on four of five hyperpigmented humans (Nord- lund and Lerner, 1977).

    From the review of the scientific and medical literature concerning neuromel- anin, eumelanin, and the hormones p-MSH and melatonin, some general con- clusions can be stated that apply to the claims made by melanists that imply that blacks have extraordinary powers which are correlated with skin color. There is no correlation whatever between skin color and neuromelanin. Therefore, no matter what properties neuromelanin may or may not have, they would be exhibited equally by humans of all skin colors. If neuromelanin conferred para- normal powers, it would do so equally for white and black humans. Whatever properties P-MSH may have, they are irrelevant because normal human adults, of any color, do not have any in their pituitary. Whatever properties melatonin may or may not have in rodents, they are irrelevant because melatonin and the pineal have no role in the control of circadian rhythms or the production of pigmentary hormones in humans. Even if melatonin were functional in humans, it is negatively correlated with skin color and with p-MSH. Higher levels of melatonin would be associated with whites rather than blacks, which is the reverse of what is claimed by the melanists.


    Dr. Frances Cress Welsing has made a number of extraordinary claims about melanin. One of these is that there is a correlation between skin color in African- Americans and hypertension:

    Fifteen years ago . . . I posited melanin, among other things, as a possible neurotransmitter and the skin melanocytes as the foundation of the sixth sense-the basis for the knowledge of the unseen, including a deeper knowledge of bad. I explained that if the melanocytes were sense receptors and melanin was a neurotransmitter, then the darker the skin, the higher the levels of hy- pertension found. Primarily, this is true because people with darker skins are more sensitive to the energy currents around them. If those energy currents are stressful, they will be more stressed, increasing levels of hypertension (Welsing 1991a:233).

    There is no evidence whatever that melanin is a neurotransmitter. Neurotrans- mitters are small molecules that move between synapses or across membranes. Melanin, a large insoluble polymer, would not be able to function in this manner. In any case, Welsings basic assumption is incorrect. Klag et al. (1991) conducted


    a rigorous study that controlled for a number of variables (obesity, blood glucose levels, uric acid levels, and sodium and potassium intake) associated with hyper- tension. They found that the association between blood pressure and skin pigmen- tation was statistically significant only in African-Americans of low socioeconomic status or who had not finished high school.

    Welsing (1987, 1991b) has also claimed that George Washington Carvers suc- cess at discovering the constituents of plants was attributable to his melanin.

    I further indicated that it was probably possible for melanin pigment to pick up and decode cosmic rays. Id liken the role of black pigment melanin to the func- tion of the green pigment chlorophyll in plants . . . special abilities of Dr. George Washington Carver, a very very black-skinned man, referred to as the wizard of Tuskegee. . . . He once said, All flowers talk to me, and so do hundreds of little things in the woods. . . . How was Dr. George Washington Carver able to do what he did? . . . He did it through his very very black color and the necessary levels of melanin pigment in his internal nervous system. He used or was able to use his black melanin pigment to decode the energy emanations from plants. Thus, they did talk to him . . . (Welsing, 1987).

    There is no correlation between skin pigmentation and neuromelanin. There is no reason to believe that Carver had any more neuromelanin than any white or black man his age. There is no scientific evidence for the existence of extra sensory perception or for communication between plants and people (Hines, 1988).

    A common claim among Afrocentric scholars is that the Dogon people of Mali were able to detect the presence of Sirius B, a companion star that is invisible to the naked eye (Adams, 1990; Welsing, 1987, 1991a).

    Perhaps the most remarkable facet of their knowledge is their knowing intricate details of the Sirius star system, which presently can only be detected with powerful telescopes. The Dogon knew of the white dwarf companion star of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. They knew its approximate mass (it is composed of sagala, an extremely heavy, dense metal such that all the earthly beings combined cannot lift it), its orbital period (50 years), and its axial rota- tion period (one year). Furthermore, they knew of a third star that orbits Sirius and its planet. The X-ray telescope aboard the Einstein Orbiting Observatory recently confirmed the existence of the third star. The Dogon with no apparent instrument a t their disposal, appear to have known these facts for at least 500 years (Adams, 1990:60).

    Griaule and Dieterlens (1950, 1965) work is the ultimate source for these claims, but a more probable source is Temple (1976), who maintains that the Dogon were given the information by visitors from another world. Several anthropologists with many years of field work among the Dogon deny that the Dogon generally are aware of or claim the knowledge attributed to them by Griaule (van Beek, 1991). The information concerning Sirius came from one individual with whom Griaule had long, intense sessions, and whom the critics believe may have been unduly influenced by Griaule. Adams (1990) does not explain how the Dogon gained the knowledge he attributes to them, but Welsing (1987) argues that their neuro- melanin functioning as a sort of infrared telescope allowed the Dogon to detect Sirius B.

    The people of the Dogon nation in Mali, formerly the French Sudan, . . . their priest had information concerning the system of stars, Sirius, which was really more than 5,000 years old, this information, was possessed by the ancient Egyptians in the pre-dynastic times before 3200 BC . . . how could men, with no instruments at their disposal, how could they know the movements and


    certain characteristics of stars which were totally invisible and a star which was only discovered by white-skinned people in the last century with the use of a telescope . . . very black-skinned Africans and Dogons, Dogons and Egyptians, used their black-pigment melanin to detect the energy information about this star-system . . . long long ago black black people, African people, were able to use the application of melanin in the pineal glands or other melanin centers in the body to make astronomical observations (Welsing, 1987).

    The pineal is not a center that contains neuromelanin. In any case, there is no reason to suppose that the Dogon have any more neuromelanin than white people.

    Welsing further argues that Sirius B was used by blacks as a retransmitting station for divination and precognition.

    . . . all of the activity, everything that occurs on the earth-everything is energy, see its just different frequencies of energy, we are all energy-and that energy goes up to Sirius B. That is why the Dogons also refer to it as the star of knowledge. Even further, I theorize that it is possible to tune into this star of all knowledge. This star thus becomes the place where souls return after they leave the human body. . . . So the ancient Egyptians, who knew how to use their black, knew where to place the people who could tune into Sirius B. So all of the information-tune into the information contained at Digitaria and thus could predict the future (Welsing, 1987).

    There is no physical evidence for the existence of ESP or psychic powers. Their existence, in fact, would violate several fundamental principles of physics. Roth- man (1988) points out that ESP would violate the Lorentz Invariance, i.e., that nothing can travel faster than light, and the Principle of Causality, i.e., that a cause must always come before its effect. Sirius is more than 8 light years away. In the case of an Egyptian oracle, either the psychic energy and the information would have to travel almost instantaneously, clearly violating the Lorentz Invari- ance, or the question and its answer would require 16 earth years to do the round trip even if they traveled at the speed of light (Rothman, 1988). Furthermore, parapsychologists claim that there is no diminution in signal strength with dis- tance, despite the Inverse Square Law, another principle of physics that requires a diminution of a force by a factor equal to the square of the distance from the source. Generating the amount of force needed to send a signal to Sirius, even if it were possible, would more likely cook the brain of the sender than anything else.

    Claims to black spirituality and pigmentation. A general argument is made that black people have more spirituality ((soul)

    than white people. This is attributed to blacks having greater amounts of neu- romelanin, P-MSH, or melatonin (although the last two have opposite effects) (King, 1990). This is based on the idea that either the pineals of blacks synthesize more melatonin or that those of whites have a decreased ability to make melatonin due to the damage done by greater amounts of calcification. Melatonin, then, stimulates increased production of P-MSH in the pituitary, and the P-MSH sub- sequently stimulates the production of both more neuromelanin and skin eumel- anin. Little distinction seems to be made among melanin, metatonin, and P-MSH and all are correlated with the amount of skin melanin (King, 1991a). The in- creased sensitivity and abilities possessed by blacks can be produced by either neuromelanin, P-MSH, or melatonin. This extra sensitivity rapidly becomes a parapsychological power (Nobles, 1989; Adams 1988). Some quotations will pro- vide a flavor:

    African scientists found that as a person develops a soul-eye [pineal] conscious- ness, the powers of perception become vastly magnified . . . the individual was reported to have developed god-like powers of intra and extra sensory perception, through amplification of each of the five physical senses. Moreover, by having


    complete control of the physical body, the individual with an operative soul-eye was reported to be capable of materialization and dematerialization (teleporta- tion) (King, 1990:72).

    This is African spirituality. . . . Since melanin is a superior absorber of all energy, it is essential to establish this understanding of God and all energy. The fact that the albinos (whites) lack melanin may also help to explain why they have quite a different understanding of God . . . and why, in the view of many non- white peoples, they [whites] lack spirituality and the capacity to tune in to, and thereby establish harmony and justice in the universe (Welsing, 1991a:171, emphasis in original).

    The answers can be found in an examination of the differences between those two races [white and black] and the presence, in the Africans, of a melanin derived chemical called melatonin. Melatonin can be described as a mentally or morally stimulating hormone produced by the pineal gland. It allows an indi- vidual to experience higher levels of spiritual awareness (Browder, 1989:91).

    . . . Melanin helps to heal wounds. That in fact it is central to the phenomena of spiritual insight. All the things that weve been talking about in psychology as parapsychological phenomena, and the powers of the mind, and forethought, and astral travel are probably critical and connected to this melanic capacity (No- bles, 1989).

    Higher levels of MSH produce higher levels of melanin. However, the pineal gland is calcified in only 5% of the black population as compared to 30-70% in white population. . . . Black pineals, by containing less calcium, secrete more melatonin and produce more MSH (King 1990:116-117).

    Elevated levels of pineal MSH are strongly implicated in extrasensory percep- tion and emotionality. The amino acid tyrosine, which is produced in the process of producing melanin, is also the precursor of coedine [sicl, murphine [sic], mes- caline, LSD, thyroxin, and norepinephrine. . . . These are chemicals that range from the psychedelic drugs mescaline, L.S.D. [sicl, D.M.T. [sicl, through the euphoric addictive drugs morphine and coedine [sic] (King 1990:120).7

    One can only repeat that there is no evidence for the existence of the paranor- mal; that there is no P-MSH in humans; and that melatonin has no function in humans, and in any case an excess would correlate with white skin, not with black.

    Whites are inferior because of calcified pineals There is evidence for an apparent genetic difference in the degree of pineal

    calcification, but increasing age is an even more dominant factor. Melanists, how- ever, postulate that the difference in calcification is directly related to skin color. They claim that whites are white because their pineals, due to calcification, pro- duce less melatonin and that this leads to less melanin in the skin. They also state that this increased calcification is the reason for the mental and spiritual inferi- ority of whites:

    Thus for African populations that remained in the ice-age Europe there was not only a decrease in skin pigmentation but also a decrease in pineal hormone output of the hormone melatonin. On a biological and physiological level this

    7From the number of spelling errors, of which this is a small sample, it is obvious that this book was put together very carelessly. This passage also has other errors. An altered state of consciousness is not extrasensory perception. The list of compounds supposedly derived from tyrosine is wrong. Codeine, morphine, LSD, and DMT are synthetic products not found in nature. Mescaline is a plant product, and thyroxin does not h y e tyrosine as a precursor. Finally, tyrosine is a precursor, not a product of the process of producing melanin


    change played a profound contributory role in the change of consciousness from the spirit-focused matriarchal African to the material-focused patriarchal Eu- ropean-African. Perhaps with only 112 of the melatonin key to unlock the locus coeruleus doorway to neuromelanin all Black Amenta (inner vision), many Eu- ropean-Africans with pineal calcification had access to only surface forms of things, such as materialism, their only real reality (King, 1990:58-59).

    This skin color difference with the assumed associated levels of neuromelanin, MSH, and melatonin is taken to the extreme of labeling whites as not truly human. Humans are commonly referred to by melanists as hueman (Welsing, 1991b; King, 1991a). An example by Stewart (1988) is He [white man] is aware, at some level, that to be hueman . . . to be hueman is to be a colored man. As opposed to being non-hueman, or non-colored. Nobles (1989) makes the biological inferiority of whites clear:

    That in the evolution of the species, in what some people call the ontogenetic evolution of humankind, that in the evolution of the species the human family separated in a sense that one branch of the family stopped its evolutionary path and simply depended upon the central nervous system as the total machinery for understanding reality. Whereas, the root of the family continued its path and not only evolved a central nervous system but developed what I called at that time an essential melanic system. And that I even went so far as to try to develop a little formula and suggested that CNS plus EMS equals HB. CNS (central ner- vous system) plus EMS (essential melanic system) equals HB (human being). That the central nervous system combined with the essential melanic system is what makes you human. That, in fact, to be human is to be black. To be human is to be black.

    Pineal calcium deposition occurs in a number of mammalian species. In humans this takes place as early as age 3 and the incidence as well as the amount of calcification increases with age. MacPherson and Matheson (1979) give the follow- ing percentages of radiologically detectable calcification: 2% (0-9 years), 32% (10- 19), 53% (20-291, and 83% (over 30). After the age of 30, the amount of pineal calcium is relatively constant with the calcification percentage being higher in females (Tapp and Huxley, 1971; Welsh, 1985). There are significant genetic vari- ations in the incidence of pineal calcium. Adeloye and Felson (1974) reported an incidence of 9.7% in black Americans and 16% in white Americans. These numbers are the average of all ages, but blacks and whites under 40 years old had the same incidence of calcification.8 Daramola and Olowu (1972) found an average of 5% for Nigerians, which also increased with age to 23% in the fifth decade. Mugandi and Poltera (1976) found an incidence of 53% for Ugandan Africans. The significant question, however, is not whether there is a difference in the amounts of calcifi- cation people have but whether there is a relationship between the amount of calcification and the activity of the pineal gland as shown by the production of melatonin. In short, the answer is no, there is not (Relkin, 1983; Dunbar J, per- sonal communication). Calcification does not lead to a decrease in cellularity of the pineal. Even in old age there may be some pineals with little calcium precipitation (Tapp and Huxley, 1972). Enzyme studies of pineals from subjects ranging from 3 to 70 years in age showed that the pineal retained the capacity to inactivate serotonin and histamine and to synthesize melatonin (Wurtman et al., 1964).

    There is a decrease in plasma melatonin concentration with age (Touitou et al., 1985). However, the biggest decrease is not in old age. Nocturnal blood concentra- tions of melatonin reach peak levels in childhood. They fall rapidly until adoles-

    Interestingly, Adeloye and Felson argued, a s I do, that since melatonin is a lightening agent, perhaps the greater incidence of calcium in whites is due to greater production of melatonin. This is the opposite of the claim of the melanists.


    cence and fall moderately after that, primarily in old age. There is some evidence from pineal and urinary melatonin data that indicates only moderate alteration in total melatonin production after infancy (Waldhauser and Waldhauser, 1988). A series of experiments on gerbils further weakens the melanin hypothesis. Gerbils that were injected daily with melatonin developed increased calcium deposits. Similarly, gerbils kept in the dark for longer periods, or blinded, which increases melatonin output, also developed more deposits. On the other hand, stopping the metabolic activity of the pineals of gerbils by severing their innervation stopped the formation of calcium deposits. According to Welsh (1985) these experiments show that, Contrary to the original belief that pineal concretions are an indicator of degenerative changes in the pineal gland, available evidence has made it quite convincing that the formation of pineal concretions is related to the functional activity of the gland.


    Melanists also invoke an important role or melanin in human evolution. Some, like Stewart (1988), go to the point of claiming that melanin was the essential element for the development of all life. Stewart claims that melanin predates DNA, was present in the first cells, and that by protecting them from radiation made life possible. Somehow the fact that the synthesis of melanin is controlled by enzymes, which in turn are coded by DNA, is not taken into account.9

    Melanists argue strongly that all of human evolution took place in Africa and particularly that all the important stages involved black individuals. No one de- nies that hominids originated in Africa. Recently a vigorous controversy on the question of a single versus a multiple origin for modern humans has occurred. Defenders of a multiple origin claim that Homo erectus led to modern humans in several areas (Thorne and Wolpoff, 1992). Based on the analysis of variation in mitochondrial DNA it has been proposed that all modern humans descend from a female in Africa, the mitochondrial African Eve, about 200,000 years ago (Cann et al., 1987). Melanists have seized upon this proposal of an African Eve as confir- mation of their beliefs (King, 1991b; Adams, 1990:7).1 Recent publications have, however, cast serious doubts on the validity of the mitochondrial Eve hypothesis, and one of the original authors has admitted that the analysis procedure in the original paper was in error (Hedges et al., 1992; Gibbons, 1992).

    King (1990,1991) claims that there are humanoid remains in Africa that date from 9 to 12 MYA.ll King (1990), citing Albert Churchward (1913), claims that . . . homo erectus [sic] is actually the so called Pygmy or Twa people, and that all humanity are children of the African Twa people (King, 1990:17).12 According to King (1991b) these individuals, though small brained, had ESP ability: This kind of man had direct communication with the invisible realm. Was able to have direct communication with the angelic forms, who did not even take on a material pres- ence. When these black Twa (Homo erectus, as well as their equally black Nean- derthal descendants) migrated to Ice Age Europe their color was maladaptive. King (1990) claims that there are many Twa and Neanderthal skeletons with rickets, but few Cro-Magnon skeletons with rickets, and that this proves that Cro-Magnon was white while the other two species were black. This adaptation, however, according to King, had a heavy price because white skin meant calcifi- cation of the pineal and a loss of the benefits of melatonin. The major event was


    gAdditionally, the first one-celled organisms developed in the primeval sea, and it is doubtful that they needed melanin for protection, to say nothing of precellular life.

    King erroneously states that modern humans lived in Africa from at least 250,000 to possibly 900,000 years ago. This is much earlier than Cann, Stoneking, and Wilsons proposal and would make modern humans contemporaneous with their own ancestor Homo erectus.

    These are much too old; the oldest hominids date to about 4 MYA. This is utterly wrong. Pygmies are modern humans, Homo supiens supiens, and not their ancestral and

    extinct Homo erectus. I t is strange that on a matter of paleontology, King would cite a book originally written in 1913 by a retired colonel of the Bengal Lancers who also believed in the existence of Atlantis and Mu (Williams, 1991).


    not just the ice age in regards to skin color. The major traumatic event was pineal calcification and loss of spiritual consciousness (King, 1990:64). This in turn had other consequences: . . . the psychological fall and change from African matriar- chal agrarian societies to ice age patriarchal nomadic societies (King, 1990:55). There are serious problems with Kings chronology since no agrarian society ex- isted anywhere until after the Ice Ages. Further, nomadic bands, the type that existed until the beginning of agriculture, are not patriarchal. All known band societies are quite egalitarian.13

    Other melanists focus on the mechanism by which white Europeans evolved, i.e., that whites were mutants produced by the mating of negroid albinos:

    White skin is a form of albinism. There is no difference microscopically speaking between the white skin of a white person and the skin of a person designated as an albino. My central thesis here is that white skinned peoples came into exis- tence thousands of years ago as the albino mutant offsprings of black-skinned mothers and fathers in Africa. A sizeable number of these Black parents had produced, rejected and then cast out of the community their genetic defective albino offspring, to live away from the normal black skin-pigmented population with the awareness of their rejection and alienation (as in leper colonies).

    The white tribes eventual migration northward, to escape the intensity of the equatorial sun of the Southern hemisphere, left the albinos eventually situated in the area of the world known as Europe-now recognized as the home of the white tribes. . . . Sexual intercourse between the isolated albino mutants pro- duced a white race-understanding race as an isolated population sharing a significant number of common identifying genes . . . (Welsing, 1990:24-25).

    It is here proposed that the H. sapiens sapiens population that survived during the last glaciation in southwestern Eurasia was largely a group of albinoids. . . . For all practical purposes, this group must have been genetically isolated from other human groups of prolonged periods. This would have promoted an inbreed- ing which would have allowed the recessive albinoid genes to express and per- petuate themselves. . . . We can sum up our analysis as follows: the Caucasoid type of humanity resulted from the appearance of albinoids out of an original Africoid stock in the ice-age environment of southwestern Eurasia because the whitened skin of the albinoids was better adapted to Vitamin D production (Finch, 1990:43).

    There are a number of problems with this proposal, including some basic mis- information about genetics. Welsing and Finch are both MDs and should know better. Whites can produce eumelanin, albinos cannot. Albinos, as we saw above, are homozygous recessives so that they could mate forever and not produce off- spring able to synthesize melanin.14 Finch proposes that this creation of the white race from albinos required 20-30,000 years. Even if such creation were possible, the time is too short.15 Welsings proposal that albinos born in Africa were shunned and eventually went to Europe where they survived and eventually produced white Europeans is also problematic. It is hard to form a community when only one

    13This type of unilineal evolutionism was in vogue in anthropology more than 120 years ago (Bachofen, 1861; Maine 1861). The idea of an early matriarchal state overthrown by males to create patriarchal societies was vkedup by Engels (1972 [18841), who may be the source for these Afrocentric claims. These arguments have

    14Conceivably a tyr-pos albino might cross with a tyr-neg albino and produce a heterozygous offspring, who would have melanin, but this would occur very seldom. The offspring would be heterozygous and further crossing with other albinos would again produce albinos.

    The frequency for the albinism gene is 0.01 in many populations. This means that, in the absence of assortative mating, one in 10,000 births is an albino. Dubinen (1975) calculates that it would take 25,000 years just to double the albino gene frequency as a result of mutation pressure and 2.5 million years to get a whole population to become albinos.

    een rejected by anthropologists for decades.


    in 10,000 births is an albino. Fifty thousand years ago, Africans lived in small nomadic bands and the population density was very small. This means that per- haps there were 50 albinos born each year in all of Africa, if that many. Further, it is very doubtful that albinos born in Africa would live long enough to reproduce. Robins (1991) reports that negroid albinos are highly susceptible and develop skin cancer at a very young age, die prematurely from skin cancer, and have a very reduced life span.


    Melanists attribute a number of unusual properties such as superconduction to melanin. They argue that blacks have greater quantities of the hormones melato- nin, f3-MSH, and the pigment neuromelanin and that these chemicals correlate with the amount of skin melanin of an individual. They claim that these compo- nents of the pigmentary system, in the amounts found in blacks, confer upon them paranormal powers, as well physical, mental, and moral superiority over whites. This Afrocentric scheme also includes a revisionist version of human evolution in which all hominid evolutionary steps in Africa involved black individuals and whites emerged only as mutants generated by the mating of negroid albinos who migrated to Europe from Africa.

    This entire scheme is pure pseudoscience, which distorts or misinterprets scien- tific evidence, advocates the existence of the paranormal, and utilizes anthropo- logical theories that have been discarded for a century. The idea that there are distinct races and that one is superior to the others is as racist and erroneous when it refers to high melanin levels as it was when it described low melanin levels (the Aryan master race). All humans have melanin. Whites, blacks, and albinos have the same number of skin melanocytes. Differences in skin color are due to the amount and aggregation of eumelanin, the skin melanin synthesized in melano- somes. This biosynthesis is controlled genetically by at least six gene loci and works primarily by controlling the key enzyme, tyrosinase. Albinism is a homozy- gous recessive mutation that leads to the inability to synthesize eumelanin in the skin, hair, inner ear, and parts of the eye. Whites are not albinos. Neuromelanin, brain melanin, differs in structure, location, and biosynthesis from skin melanin. Neuromelanin is made in cathecolamine neurons as a by-product of the primary biosynthetic pathway of these neurons, which manufactures the neurotransmitter, adrenaline. Tyrosinase is not present in these neurons and is not involved in the synthesis of neuromelanin. Therefore, albinos have as much neuromelanin as any- one and there is absolutely no relationship between the amounts of skin melanin, which is controlled by the amount of tyrosinase, and neuromelanin, which is formed by a non-enzymatic auto-oxidation of intermediates in the biosynthesis of adrenaline. Because of its status as a by-product, the amount of neuromelanin in the brain is primarily determined by the age of the individual, not by the color of the skin. This means that, even if all the claims made by melanists for the benefits conferred by neuromelanin were true, these gifts would be distributed evenly in all humans, primarily on the basis of age.

    Supposed differences in the other components of the pigment system are equally illusory. Melatonin and p-MSH have contrary effects in the pigmentation of any animals that respond to these hormones; it is illogical to claim that larger amounts of both of these lead to more melanin in humans. However, all these claims are moot because 1) adult humans do not have any P-MSH and 2) melatonin has no effect whatever on human skin color or the biosynthesis of any other hormones in humans.

    The problem posed by the melanists, apart from the sad spectacle of a revival of biological racism, is that they are tied to the current movement to infuse multi- culturalism in the public schools. Leonard Jeffries and Jawanza Kunjufu have been involved in developing multicultural curricula and Hunter Adams is the author of the Portland Science Baseline Essay in the Portland curriculum. Mel- anin theories have also been widely distributed among the African-American com-


    munity via African-American talk radio and Afrocentric bookstores. These theo- ries with their corollaries of a plot to destroy black men, as well as implications of the biological, paranormal, physical, and mental superiority of blacks will con- tribute to widening the gap between the races in this country. Others, such as Minister Farrakhan, make similar arguments, but there is an important differ- ence. Farrakhans arguments are religious or philosophical, but melanists claim to be scientific. This is an important distinction because science is the secular religion of the 20th century. In our society, scientific explanations have more epistemolog- ical credibility. This is why people, ranging from Madison Avenue hucksters to New Age channelers and followers of the Maharishi, cloak their wares in pseudo- scientific verbiage: to make their wares more credible.

    Multicultural materials used in the schools that argue that black Egyptians were the source of all civilization are validated by the scientific evidence of the melanists. Racist, paranormal, and pseudoscientific ideas are being introduced into the schools under the guise of multiculturalism. These ideas would clearly be excluded if they were labeled as religious, but are considered acceptable because they are based on science. There is a need for the anthropological community to be aware of the claims and arguments made by the melanists in order to be able to correct pseudoscientific or erroneous statements on these topics. We must also be aware of the misuse of anthropology that is occurring in the push to increase multicultural education in a number of localities.


    I thank Christopher Trey, Erich Martel, and Joseph Dunbar for their assistance in research. I also wish to thank my wife Ana for editorial assistance, and review- ers who pointed out some areas of potential misunderstanding.


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