Evolution and Multiculturalism

Note: This is the outline of an invited paper, “Multicultural Evolution,” that I gave at a session entitled “The Use and Abuse of Evolution,” at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Science February 20, 1994 in San Francisco, California. It has not been published before.

To begin, I would like to outline a creation myth.

1. Introduction

A. Aztec Creation myth (many variants but most common version).

The rise of the Aztecs was in no small part due to a cosmic vision of themselves as the “chosen people of the sun” destined to conquer the world and to maintain the universe in existence through human sacrifice. A common theme throughout Mesoamerica and in many Native American cosmogonies is the idea that the world has been created and destroyed several times. [1] Another common theme is that of a duality of contending forces.

a) Earth- tlaltonatiuh: 4-ocelotl: north: Black Tezcatlipoca
The first inhabitants were giants who ate acorns, fruits, and wild roots. These giants were destroyed when Quetzalcoatl sent down jaguars to devour them.

b) Wind-ehecatonatiuh: 4 ehecatl: Quetzalcoatl
Humans in this creation ate mesquite. Tezcatlipoca sent a wind to destroy humans, who were converted to monkeys but one couple was saved.

c) Fire-tletonatiuh: 4 quaiuitl: east (south?) Tlaloc
Humans ate cincopi. Quetzalcoatl sent down a rain of fire and humans were converted to birds.

d) Water-atonatiuh: 4 atl: south (east?): Chalchiuhtlicue
Humans ate acicintli (a precursor to corn). Tezcatlipoca sent down rain for many days. The sky collapsed, all was in darkness. Humans converted into fish.

e) Movement- ollintonatiuh: 4-ollin: center: Quetzalcoatl
Present day. Humans ate corn. Will be destroyed by earthquakes. Creation by gods in Teotihuacan. Self sacrifice by Nanahuatzin created sun and self- sacrificed blood from gods fed it and allowed it to move. Humans were created from pulverized bones of giants (1st creation) fertilized by blood from Quetzalcoatl’s penis. Quetzalcoatl retrieved corn and beans from Tonacatepetl to feed mankind. Rationale for human sacrifice, etc.

B. Definition of myth

1. First a very Eurocentric one. American Heritage Dictionary (1982). “1. A traditional story originating in pre-literate society, dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors or heroes that serve as primordial types in a primitive view of the world 3. A fiction of half-truth, esp. one that forms part of the ideology of a society.

2. Anthropological and/or comparative religion. “Authoritative accounts of great foundational forces that generate and govern the world (Paden 1988: 69).” or

Myth is a story–the theme is that emergence from the other time into human time, which brought about the origin of the world or the origin of something in the world; origin as foundation and origin as a beginning (López Austin 1993: 31). or

“[Myth] is a statement of primeval reality which lives in the institutions and pursuits of a community. It justifies by precedent the existing order and it supplies a retrospective pattern of moral values, of sociological discriminations and burdens of magical belief… The function of myth is to strengthen tradition and to endow it with greater value and prestige by tracing it back to a higher, better, more supernatural and more effective reality of initial effects (Malinowski 1931: 640-641).” i.e for Malinowski, “Myth functions in society as a “charter” a model for behavior that also explains the origins of the world, life on earth, death and all other experiences of human evidence (Lehmann and Myers 1985; 38).

This mythic charter thus justifies the “chosen” nature of the people who hold the myth, as was the case for the Aztecs cited above. But this is a general phenomenon-names of all kinds of groups (Dine, Inuit, Huron, Chippewa, Papago, etc) mean “the people,” Zhu/Twasi= “Real people,” Yanomamo= “True human beings.” Probably Neanderthals also called themselves “the people.”

C. Science as a secular religion.

All religions are based on myth, and therefore it is false to define them as pre literate or non-Western. The other key characteristic is that “myth can neither be proved nor disproved” as Tertullian said, “Creo qua absurdo” (I believe it, it is absurd). Myths are a matter of belief i.e. to falsify a literal version of Genesis is impossible because that would negate the existence of God, but also a fundamentalist cannot “prove” the literal interpretation of the Bible without referring to the Bible itself. For many years religious (mythic) explanations were the basis on which people explained the world. Even in the West, as in most places, religion was the prime explanatory source for both natural and supernatural phenomena. The success of science (or technology), and perhaps disillusionment with religion has led to an acceptance in the West of science as an explanatory source for natural phenomena, as a validation mechanism and perhaps even as a source of truth. [2]

Science has in fact become the secular religion of the West, but I mean this in a particular sense. Scientific illiteracy is rampant. Jon Miller, the director of the Public Opinion Laboratory at the University of Northern Illinois and a student of the topic, sets the rate of scientific illiteracy in this country at 95%, with similar results in other developed countries (Hively 1988). The net result is that, although many people believe in “science” as an explanatory mechanism of great prestige, because of their scientific illiteracy they believe in science as a religion, i.e. by faith not because they understand both the strengths and the weaknesses of scientific explanations. This has had unfortunate consequences because such people can be victimized (or deluded) by people who take advantage of this and claim the “prestige” of science by using pseudoscience or the language of science to support their claims. Madison Avenue sells bogus claims (concentrated stomach acid eats its way through metal and therefore will dissolve your stomach lining; 9 of 10 MD’s recommend; much of the gibberish used in advertising for cosmetics). Much of the New Age consists of putting old wine (mediums; chi; chakras) into the new bottles of pseudoscience i.e channeling, energy flows and the laws of thermodynamics and much use of “newspeak”.

Unfortunately, as my colleague Norman Levitt describes in his presentation, these efforts have been aided by the post-modernist view that all explanations of nature are equally valid, that science is the culturally biased product of patriarchal, materialistic white European males, and that native views and opinions should be “privileged” over other views when dealing with matters of their particular concern

D. Science and myth

One of my areas of study is the study of myth (Aztec, Mesoamerican), another is that of culturally relevant science but I don’t mix them. I teach Maya mathematics and astronomy separately from Maya myth, although they did not separate them. This is quite different from attempts to “legitimize”, or “validate”, myths by pretending to use science. That is, they use the current prestige of science to claim “truth”, or the validity of a myth. This is the same purpose of efforts by “scientific creationists” to get religious (mythical) beliefs incorporated into schools as “scientific.”

Political agendas are also involved in this. As we described above mythic charters often establish the superiority (physical, mental, or moral) of those who originated the myth over other people (remember “the people.”) The problem is that here claims of superiority are made on a “scientific” rather than a “religious” basis. Many of these myths refer to an idyllic past and resemble revivalism movements. [4] In the examples below, Argüelles harks back to the time of the Classic Maya; Pan- Indians in the words of Clement Meighan (1992) to, “their version of Indian History (all Indians were brothers living in peace and harmony, Indians are spiritual people, customs like scalping were introduced by whites, Indians lived in harmony with nature and never overexploited any resource)”; Afrocentrics to a matriarchal, horticultural, non-aggressive society, an African Garden of Eden or to a glorious Black Egyptian civilization.

II. Examples

A. Jose Argüelles’ (1987) Harmonic Convergence has a number of gorgeous examples of “newspeak” [5] and is related to the initial Mesoamerican cyclic creations described in the beginning. Argüelles inspired by visions (channeling?) got the insight “That Classic Maya was a civilization unparalleled in its accomplishment and unique in the self-termination of its accomplishment is owing completely to the mission which it was its duty to fulfill (p. 50).” This mission was to place the Earth and the Solar System in synchronization with the larger galactic community. In order to accomplish this task the Maya were transmitted from another star system to Earth in the form of DNA code information (p.59). He argues that the cyclic creation/destructions of Maya religion were real and that a worldwide crisis is coming as we approach 2012 A.D., the end of the current great Maya time cycle. In order to avoid this it is necessary for the people of the world to act on this harmonic convergence beginning on August 16- 17, 1987. If this were done, “Then it shall be ready. The unique moment, the moment of total planetary synchronization, on the beam will arrive–the closing out not only of the Great Cycle, but of the evolutionary interim called Homo sapiens [6]. Amidst festive preparation and awesome galactic-solar signs psychically received, the human race in harmony with the animal and other kingdoms and taking its rightful place in the great electromagnetic sea, will unify as a single circuit. Solar and galactic sound transmissions will inundate the planetary field. At last, Earth will be ready for the emergence into interplanetary civilization (p.194).”

B. Native Americans (Pan-Indian movement). In sharp contrast to Argüelles, to Afrocentrics, and to most other scientists, Goodman (1981) claims that there is evidence for the presence of modern humans 500,000 years ago in California, and that they migrated from there and populated the world (p.18). Goodman argues that the Hopi creation myth [4 cyclic creations, similar to the Aztecs, destroyed by fire, ice and water] can be verified geologically in the surrounding San Francisco Mountains (p.20). The scientific validity of the dig conducted by Goodman in Flagstaff, which he claims supports the Hopi myth and shows the presence of modern humans at least 125,000 years ago, is somewhat compromised by the fact that the site was chosen through psychic archaeology (Goodman 1981: 201; 1 977a; 1 977b). Similarly, Goodman’s proposal for a New World origin for modern humans according to Indian mythology is rendered less credible by his alternate suggestion that they came to the New World from the lost continent of Mu (p.191, 200). Finally, Goodman makes the usual extreme claims for the knowledge and contributions of Indians arguing that the Indians gave us the first domesticated plants and animals, freeze-drying, an applied understanding of the physics behind electromagnetics and Einstein gravity waves (pp.217-235).

There is practically unanimous agreement that ancestral Indians originated in Asia and reached North America by crossing the Bering Strait at some time during the last ice Age. There is some controversy about the date, newer evidence supports a crossing between 40 and 20 thousand years ago, but there is no controversy about the presumed origin (Lewin 190; Gibboms 1993). Nevertheless, Native Americans claim to have evolved in the New World and deny any migration from Asia. For example, the Declaration of First Nations (McGhee 1989) states, “We the Original Peoples of this land know the creator put us here… the creator gave us our spiritual beliefs, our languages, our culture, and our place on Mother Earth which provided us with all our needs. We have maintained our freedom, our languages, and our traditions from time immemorial…” These claims to the factual validity of native origin myths are being made by Indian community activists in Cleveland (Leppert 1993, pers. comm.) as well as in Indian Studies Centers in leading universities (American Committee for Preservation of Archaeological Collections 1993). Even professionals are succumbing to this post-modernist attitude of equal validity of all views. Dennis J. Stafford, Director of the Paleo-Indian program at the Smithsonian institution, planned to supplement exhibits about migration to the new World with Indian origin myths since, “our ideas may be myths too” (Horgan 1992).

This “privileging” of native views has reached the point that a widely used and influential text used in training multicultural teachers (Bennett 1990: 287) quoting a publication from the National Council for Social Studies urges that:

The unsubstantiated theories of white anthropologists should be treated as such. For example, native Americans are not Mongoloid…. there is not a shred of evidence linking Indians exclusively with any single race.

The Bering Straits migration theory should be treated with great skepticism since there is absolutely no evidence (except logic) to support it. Indian people generally believe that they evolved or were created in the Americas. This viewpoint should be respected although it is acceptable to discuss the possibility of migration as an alternative explanation [BOM equal time theory]. The point is that there is no empirical evidence to support any particular migration theory.

Indians should be treated as the original Americans and the first 20,000 years of American history must be discussed prior to any discussion of European, African, or Asian migrations to the Americas. Likewise, in the discussion of the pre-european period, data derived from archaeology should be supplemented by Indian traditional literature (as found in the Book of the Hopi, The Sacred Pipe, The constitution of the Six Nations, and other available paperback books) (Forbes 1973).

As Perry (1992) points out this is a dangerous position to take:

The sense of “timeless heritage” of “traditional peoples,” albeit respectful, is just a short step from the ethnic essentialism–and related ideas of inherent cultural qualities–that took a decidedly ugly turn in Germany earlier in this century. At its worst, this romanticism tends to blur the distinction between culture and race–a distinction that anthropologists thought we had established several generations ago.

C. Afrocentric

There is much more and more developed material available on this topic, and we must be more selective. Much of the underpinning of the “scientific” justification for the myths are claims about the properties of melanin. The fundamental tenet is that melanin has extraordinary properties, and that these properties confer great powers on people with a large amount of it[7]. Some of the properties attributed to melanin are: that it is a superconductor, that it absorbs all frequencies of electromagnetic radiation, that it can detect and be influenced by weak magnetic fields, and that granules of melanin can function as microcomputers and process information. Melanin is supposed to regulate all physiological and psychological processes in humans. Black athletes have superior coordination and reflexes because of their melanin. Melanin is also responsible for the superior intelligence, the potential extra-sensory ability and the greater degree of spirituality of Black people [8]. These properties of melanin provide a “scientific” validation for their mythic charter i.e. Egyptians were Black and the greatness of their civilization was due to the gifts that melanin conferred upon them. The spiritual properties attributed to melanin also validate the idea of an idyllic African pre-historic period:

There are racial differences in pineal calcification that broadly parallel the intensity of skin pigmentation. The darker the skin pigmentation the lower the incidence of pineal calcification…
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 change played a profound contributory role in the change of consciousness from the spirit-focused matriarchal African to the material-focused patriarchal European-African. Perhaps with only 112 of the melatonin key to unlock the locus coeruleus doorway to neuromelanin all Black Amenta (inner vision), many European-Africans with pineal calcification had access to only surface forms of things, such as materialism, their only real reality (King 1990:58-59).

In fact, the lack of melanin in whites renders them less than full human beings:

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 + EMS HB. CNS (Central Nervous System) + EMS (Essential Melanic System) = 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 (Nobles 1989).

Skin color, like intelligence or height, is controlled by a number of genes, and can exhibit a wide range of colors depending on how many genes are “turned on” to produce melanin. Afrocentrics, however, distort genetics by claiming that whites are “melanin recessives” or “albinos” (Welsing 1989; King 1991a; Finch 1990: 41-44). If this were true, it would mean that skin color could only be black or white, and that it is controlled by a single gene with simple Mendelian dominance / recessiveness. This claim is patently false since humans come in variety of colors, but, similarly to “scientific” creationists, Afrocentrics rely on the scientific illiteracy of the general public in order to have their claims accepted. This Mendelian theory of skin color is applied in two areas. It is used as a “scientific” explanation for the existence of a conspiracy of white men to destroy Black men (Welsing 1991:4; Kunjufu 1989).

…because Africans have dominant genes that it is very possible for Africans to annihilate the European population… Because it is men, specifically African 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…. 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 (Kunjufu 1989).

The second mythic use of whites as “melanin recessives” is in the explanation of the origin of the races. The “Eve hypothesis” of a single African origin for humans is accepted totally but with a particular twist. European whites derive from the mating of Negroid albinos to produce a melanin recessive type (Welsing 1991: 23-24; Finch 1990: 43).

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 existence 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 tribe’s 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 produced a white race– understand mg race as an isolated population sharing a significant number of common identifying genes… (Welsing 1991:23-24).

There are a number of similarities between the multicultural examples cited here and “scientific creationists.” They both attempt to use the prestige of science to validate myths and mythic charters. None of the various proponents actually conduct research on the topic. Research most often consists of culling the publications of others in the scientific literature for statements that seem to support the desired position. Often, data and results are misquoted or misinterpreted, and take advantage of the general scientific illiteracy of the public to avoid detection.


[1] Hopi mythology says that this world is the fourth because worlds have been previously destroyed by fire (volcanoes), ice, and water.

[2] There have been some excesses in this particularly in the case of physicists who try to talk about the origin of the Universe and such in metaphysical terms.

[3] A survey of college students showed that 38% believed that life began in the Garden of Eden, and 50% that evolution was directed towards a God. An 1985 Gallup poll showed that 55% of Americans believed that astrology works. (Hively 1988).

[4] A revivalism movement is a conscious, deliberate, organized effort on the part of some members of society to create a more satisfying culture… [The] aim of the movement is to return to a former era of happiness, to restore a golden age, to revive a previous condition of social virtue (Wallace 1972).

[5] I would challenge anyone to try to render these passages into clear, coherent, simple declarative sentences and then explain what the meaning is:

“The resonant body of Earth, the vibratory infrastructure that literally holds together the sense-perceptible body of Earth, is in a condition of intense “fever” called resonant dissonance. Remembering that the planets function as gyroscopes holding the frequency pattern of their particular orbits, we see that environmentally impactful events since 1945 have actually set in motion a dissonant vibratory wave affecting the overall spin of the planet. If the dissonance is not checked, then, similar to an uncontrolled nuclear reaction, the end-result would be the development of a wobble in the spin and a consequent shattering of the planetary form. The Earth could be broken up into smaller bodies not unlike the Asteroid belt.” (p.146)

“As resonant structures, symbols literally create, work with, and inform our light body. The light body is the electro-resonant galactic code bank that informs the genetic code bank. It is the stuff of imagination, insight, all true understanding–and more. While the foundation of our light body corresponds to the vibratory infrastructure of the DNA, it can only be activated through a knowing use of symbols. Nor should this symbol-thriving light body be seen as separate from what we call our physical body. Rather, the resonant light body underlies and interpenetrates all of our functions.” (p.89)

“Through the circuitry of the light body we can directly hook up to the solar power house. The electromagnetic pulsations picked up by our sensory radar system, channeled by our neural canals, refined through our chakra system, and mediated by our higher planetary guides–the archivists of the archetypes–are one and the same with the pulsations of the solar body, the Sun, our local star. The key to our flowering at this final stage of our evolutionary cycle lies in the simplicity of being in resonance. Even more, it is through remaining in resonance that the solar-psychic frequency, mediated by the terrestrial electromagnetic battery, is maintained;…(p. 184).”

[6] Argüelles claims that Homo sapiens emerged only 25,000 years ago corresponding to 5 Maya cycles of 5200 tuns [360 days] (p.175).

[7] Most of the properties assigned to melanin are illusory. In fact, there is no correlation between the amount of melanin in the skin and the amount of melanin in the nervous system. Albinos have normal amounts of neuromelanin. Two other substances alleged to have power in Blacks, beta-MSH and melatonin, either are not found in humans or don’t have any of the functions claimed (see Ortiz de Montellano 1993).

[8] Other claims can be quite extreme:

The people of the Dogon nation in Mali, formerly the French Sudan… had information concerning the system of stars, Sirius, which was really more than 5000 years old, this information it was possessed by the ancient Egyptians in the pre-dynastic times before 3200 B.C. … 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… The Cress theory on the Sirius mystery is that the 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 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).


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—– 1991. The Isis Papers. Chicago: Third World Press.