The modern skeptic needs to be well armed to deal with the array of woo being spewed these days.  Biblical criticism is pretty much a solved game but the new-agers can toss out faux-facts faster than you can say, “Bullshit!”

One flavour making the rounds here recently has been the junk science of Terrence McKenna.  An incredibly articulate ethnobotanist of the late 20th century, he was able to public several books that garnered the attention of aging hippies and which seem to have renewed their popularity with contemporary new agers.  As a self-described psychonaut, his writing mostly revolved around his ever more desperate attempts to instill perceived empirical value to the observations he made of his own consciousness while higher than a kite.

His timewave zero and novelty theories tied into eschatological prognostications for 2012 – a prophecy failure that his devotees overlook as quickly as the adherents of Benny Hinn overlook his.  Perhaps the most entertaining of his drug-addled ramblings was his ‘Stoned Ape’ conjecture.

In his Stoned Ape conjecture, McKenna tried to convince himself that use of magic mushrooms was the catalyst that sprung homo-sapiens into existence from homo-erectus.  He starts by assuming that the magnificent shrooms appeared on the African savanna 100,000 years ago and made their way into the homo-erectus diet – both assumptions being supported by zero evidence.  He then misrepresents a scientific study about visual perception to suggest that use of these mushrooms increased visual acuity in our early ancestors – thereby making them better hunters.

Based on his first two unfounded assumptions and an outright fabrication he then jumps to the conclusion that the results performed a miraculous one-time instance of Lamarckian inheritance, altering the offspring of psilocybin-gobbling hominids enough to speciate them from surrounding populations of homo-erectus.  It just goes on and on, and he actually managed get published for it in 1992 - Food of the Gods.

I feel this load of malarkey is worth our attention, as skeptics, so we can be better prepared to counter the ridiculous claims of McKennites that we may encounter.  I know there is one with us lately and felt he might like to put his thoughts on display here for all of us to observe the workings of such a mind.

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This thread made me chuckle a little honestly, this is some goofy nonsense. To me they sound like nothing more then men who aren't smart enough to distinguish their hallucinations as just that. Similar to a little kid who has a bad dream, wakes up, and runs to mommy and daddy because he has no idea his dream was... just a dream.

As an example, DMT is one of the strongest hallucinogens known to man, and these people think it's a good idea to derive theories about reality from a trip on it. Brilliant.

As to 'shrooms' being an aid to hunting I would conjecture that the increased intensity of colors and other effects of the psyche would be a detriment to successful hunting. I have ate my share of shrooms in days long past and would not entertain the notion of hunting while under their effects.

The best condition for being a successful hunter of game is to do so with no food in your gut and the uncomfortable feeling of hunger pangs. It increases one's concentration for obvious reasons. 

I'm not going hunting with anyone who's under any kind of chemical influence, especially one which can induce halucinations. If I had to, I'd rather go hunting with someone with a booze buzz than someone who's on a mushroom high.

I'ld go hunting with someone who was on mushrooms but I would replace their rifle with one that fired nerfs - it's not as though they would know the difference.


"WOW, man. My bullets are bouncing off the elk! I wonder if he is a shape-shifted shaman?"

Damn, come to think of it, I want to go hunting, on mushrooms, with a nerf gun!

Guns that don't kill and lots of colors? Isn't that just paintball?

No - this way I get Elk and colours that hum.

First of all, it's "Terence McKenna," spelled with one "r" in the first name.

@Ed The increase intensity of colour actually occurs on an active dose to mid-range dose. What Terence was referring to when he was talking about the "visual acuity" caused by psilocybin, were doses so light that one could conceivably forget that they had taken it. You wouldn't necessarily get visual distortions on very light doses, but you'd get sharpened edges, a suspension of astigmatism, etc. 

@Kris Feenstra A lot of people misrepresent Terence McKenna's work. For instance, if Heather was more familiar with Terence's work, she'd realize he didn't take the Timewave zero theory too seriously. Furthermore, McKenna advocated what he called a "heroic dose," which I'd wager most people have not have, especially theists or atheists. If you're interested in a further distillation of the "Stoned Ape hypothesis," I'd recommend the talk which I'll post below:

Plants, Consciousness, and Transformation

Definition of astigmatism

1. cause of blurred vision: an unequal curving of one or more of the refractive surfaces of the eye, usually the cornea.
2. optical lens defect: a defect in a lens or mirror that prevents light rays from meeting at a single point, producing an imperfect image

Question: According to definition 1., which is the one which is most applicable, it would seem that astigmatism is a physical defect which a drug could no more fix than having one leg shorter than the other.

Thus all these changes and improvements supposedly due to the drug are much more likely changes in belief about their perceptions rather than actual changes in the perceptions themselves.

In other words, they're fooling themselves.

I am only an hour in, and while I can see why you might object to Heather's comments if they are taken as an overall characterization, the criticisms she raises are not entirely unfair. This first hour of presentation is more speculative than explanatory in nature apart from statements which are not particularly controversial (or specific to his specific views), so in order to evaluate some of his claims, I would have to go through the supporting studies; however, that still wouldn't be entirely redeeming. 

The 'heroic dose' raises more of an issue than it resolves regarding hominid evolution, to be honest.

Ed, I am sorry to say that hunger can be far more of a distraction than a measure of incentive and stealth. It tends to cause an anxiety, not a calm and resourceful mental status..  


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