Wednesday, February 25, 2015

#1298: Hunter Adams

Though he has claimed to be a research scientist at Argonne National Labortory, Hunter Haviland Adams is, in fact, an industrial-hygiene technician (who “does no research on any topic at Argonne”) and whose highest degree appears to be a high school diploma (he calls himself "Professor"). Yet Adams has somehow managed to become a central figure in the pseudo-science and pseudo-history version of Afrocentricism (and just to be clear: we are not trying to bash Afrocentrism in general; we are calling out the pseudoscience that has sometimes been promoted in the name of Afrocentrism).

When the Portland, Oregon, school district published the African-American Baseline Essays in 1987, a set of six essays to be read by all teachers and the contents of which were supposed to be infused into the teaching of various subjects, Adams got to write The Science Baseline Essay (“African and African-American Contributions to Science and Technology”), a complete and utter display of sheer lunacy and imagination. The essay contains a mass of ridiculous claims supported by little or no evidence. It argues for the existence of the paranormal, advocates the use of religion as a part of the scientific paradigm, draws no distinction between information drawn from popular magazines, vanity press books, and the scientific literature, is riddled with unattributed and inaccurate quotations, and contains a a number of references to the existence and scientific validity of the paranormal in the context of its use by the ancient Egyptians. According to Adams, the ancient Egyptians were black and their culture ancestral to African-Americans. They also flew around in gliders and were the inventors of most of modern science, in particular the use of the zodiac and “astropsychological treatises,” which Adams implies is science. Furthermore, the ancient Egyptians were “famous as masters of psi, precognition, psychokinesis, remote viewing and other undeveloped human capabilities.” His essay does indeed claim that there is a distinction between magic, which is not scientific, and “psychoenergetics,” which supposedly is, but gives no basis to distinguish one from the other, rather defining psychoenergetics as the “multidisciplinary study of the interface and interaction of human consciousness with energy and matter.” Indeed, according to Adams Egyptian professional psi engineers, hekau, were able to use these forces efficaciously, and – for good measure – claims that that psi has been researched and demonstrated in controlled laboratory and field experiments today.

And, to repeat: The essay, endorsed by the school board, was aimed at grade-school teachers (who, by the way, are not themselves not necessarily particularly scientifically literate) to help raise scientific literacy among African-American students. Though widely distributed, the essay will of course do no such thing – indeed, according to Adams, African-American students should apparently replace the scientific method with an ancient Egyptian religious outlook (of dubious historical accuracy) that, according to him, is equal to science as a source of knowledge about the world (including commitment to a Supreme Consciousness or Creative Force, both material and “transmaterial” causal forces, and an emphasis on “inner experiences” as a source for acquiring knowledge). If the purpose is to remedy the fact that African-Americans are underrepresented in science, Adams’s essay is, in other words, not going to help.

Hundreds of copies of the Baseline Essays have been sent to school districts across the country. Carolyn Leonard, Coordinator of Multicultural/Multiethnic Education for the Portland Public Schools, has given more than 50 presentations on the Baseline Essays, and they have been adopted or been seriously considered by school districts as diverse as Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Chicago, and D.C., have been used for several years in Portland, and been adopted by the Detroit Public Schools.

Adams has also been associated with the magic melanin group, the promoters of the idea melanin gives dark-skinned people superpowers, and Adams is presented as a respected scholar for instance in books like the anthology Why Darkness Matters: The Powerof Melanin in the Brain (eds. Ann Brown, Richard D. King, Edward Bruce Bynum, & T. Owens Moore), which rivals for pseudoscience content. Although he never explained why he thought astrology was science in his Science Baseline essay, Adams did do so at the 1987 Melanin Conference. According to Adams melanin has an extraordinary ability to absorb and respond to magnetic fields, and “that movement [magnetic motion] is reflective of the movement of the sun, moon, planets, and stars. Thus, at birth, every living thing has a celestial serial number, or frequency power spectrum. This is the basis for astrology right here.” We’ll admit that it is probably as good a basis for astrology as any.

Diagnosis: As anti-science as your most desperate creationist, Adams’s bullshit is still being treated with respect for political purposes by well-meaning people who should know better, in the service of goals that his works will ultimately ensure cannot be achieved if taken seriously.


  1. This is incredible. For a while I was baffled at the things I began seeing black supremacists online saying, but now it all makes sense. This was all brewing offline for decades, and it's finally exploded.

    Absolute insanity...

  2. And yet, in a stranger turn of events, decades later, science catches up! at least on melanin and its benefits (and John Hopkins and the federal National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at least says Blacks hear better than whites):