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.

Views: 12251

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Well, Steve Jobs is just one example of many people who have taken "heroic doses" of a psychedelic compound and had their lives completely changed. You spoke about Buddhistic conversion. Well, there have been famous atheists who've taken psychedelics and had powerful experiences with them and have converted to Buddhism, in fact. To name a few examples, I'd say Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Richard Alpert.

It wasn't a simple typo, by the way, I replaced it with an entire phrase not to "crow over a typographical error," but to not confuse people who were reading that post. I replaced LSD with "double-helix form of DNA."

The so-called Francis Crick LSD claim

And if it sounds like I'm taking this personally, that's because I've had this experience, and it was something that to this day... I still ponder about, and probably will ponder unto death. It's just disheartening to hear people who've never taken these substances feel that their opinion on it is somehow valid. The modern approach which is "How little can you get away with taking, and still be one of the gang?" is even more insidious, because then feel capable of talking about these things. You know, there are people who feel that their opinions on the psychedelic experience should be weighed very carefully who have only taken MDMA or some piddling dose of psilocybin. Well, listen I've got news for you. I mean, that is to the domain Terence was talking about like a broken tricycle is to a Tessa Rosa Ferrari.


Yes or No Strega???


Thanks for proving my point Strega : ))

You dont have a damn clue

How childish

You have an inibility to be honest.


I start with the assumption that, with the possible exception of professional medical intervention, all psychoactive chemicals detract, in some way, from the ideal - a clear head. However impairment might not always be a negative thing.  I'll try pasting from something I said in another thread:

analogy I like to use: You're walking down your town's main shopping street. You look in the window of a sporting goods shop (or a shoe shop, if you're female ;-) and you form opinions about what you see. However 50% of the light that is actually hitting your eyes is reflected by the window - images of people walking behind you, of cars going by, of shops across the street. But because of the purpose you have of looking at the latest fishing reels or pumps, your mind filters out that other 50%. You don't even notice  it (unless you choose to). When tripping you "treat" all; the light the hits your eyes equally - judge nothing - have no purpose - just be aware. Seeing things as they actually are can be a real teaching experience. 


So what I'm saying is that your ability to judge what you perceive is impaired. Pot impairs something else. When straight you have the natural ability to switch "focus" quickly - maybe several time a second. When stoned that ability is impaired "allowing" you to concentrate on music or sex or food and dismiss whatever else is going on around you.

This still doesn't constitute Lamarck inheritance.  The mother's don't actually acquire a trait that then gets passed on - they damage their unborn fetus who then grows up to give birth to children with birth defects.

Theoretically, consumption of mushrooms may have caused this to happen at some point during our ancestry - in point of fact it most likely has occurred somewhere at sometime.  We are still left however, with a complete lack of evidence that our ancestors were regularly consuming psilocybin at the time we speciated to Homo-sapiens.  Furthermore, the 'acquired benefits' cited by McKenna (one of which was fabricated) were not the 'traits' that would have been passed along by selective pressures.

When these changes are inherited, scientists have found, the implications can be staggering. Part of your risk of disease may be determined by what your great-grandparents ate, not just the genes they passed on.

We can lose sleep over this (which is something we can't really predict, trace back, or do something about) or simply accept that—as has always been the case—we are actors on a stage with a set and props we simply have to live with because they are beyond our control. Lacking a script, we may do things today that affect subsequent generations, but not having a crystal ball we probably shouldn't think about something we can't think about.

here's a really interesting blog from Sam Harris that relates to the topic


Hi Nate : ))


Thank You for posting that article.. it IS really interesting. I skimmed it and I will read it properly later on. Christopher Hitchens has also written something about it.

I get so tired of these wonderful drugs being run down and mostly they are run down by people who have either never tried them or cannot appreciate them or, it just wasnt for them.

: )




@Angela I agree, Angela. I believe Heather has entirely misrepresented McKenna for purposes of just completely disregarding his work. I doubt she's ever had anything beyond a "recreational" dose of psychedelics, if she's had them at all.

I've elaborated on a topic that Aldous Huxley wrote about in his book "Perennial Philosophy" relative to psychedelics, and have put many links there concerning tryptamine-based hallucinogens, and I'll leave the link below.

God's Will and Human Freedom - Think Atheist thread

If anyone's interested, I'll post a few links below that give 'em a little more justice than someone simply telling you it's "bullshit." Terence McKenna would often say, "If you think what I'm telling you is bullshit, go and try five dried grams of psilocybin mushrooms, then come back and tell me I'm bullshitting you." Now, most people I'd wager, aren't going to take up that recommendation, but if you did, it's guaranteed that you will undergo a niagara of alien beauty, something absolutely profound and transcendental.

Sam Harris on "Altered States"

Graham Hancock on "DMT"

Alan Watts - The Smell of Burnt Almonds

Well, there's many factors to consider here, Gallup. You can't guarantee that this will have a positive effect on a person, but what you can guarantee is a colossal transformation of consciousness. This experience is often referred to as "ego death." I believe as long as you're gripping to ego, you will have an experience of "hell," but that means you haven't entirely undergone ego death. When you can finally let go of the ego, then that's when you get to a place beyond the psychological hell you've described here, and I've experienced what you've described. It's a kind of Edgar Allan Poe-ish nightmare, it is a kind of psychological hell, but I'm telling you, there is something there that is transcendentally profound if you can get pass the detritus of the ego.

"My thing is not about my opinion or what I saw in Africa or anything like that. This is, get it straight, this is about an EXPERIENCE, not my experience YOUR EXPERIENCE. It’s about an experience, which you have, like getting laid, or like going to Africa. You must do the experience, otherwise it’s just whistling past the graveyard. And we’re not talking about something like being born again, or meeting the flying saucers, or something like that where good works and prayer are the method. No, If you take a sufficient dose of an active compound it will deliver itself to you on the money. If it doesn’t work, take more! Nobody is in a position to dismiss this just because it didn’t work for them on one or two tries. This is an art, it's an art, It’s something you coax into existence. I mean, you have to learn to make love, you have to learn to speak English. Anything worth doing is an art that is acquired. This is part of our birthright, perhaps the most important part of our birthright. These substances will deliver. It is the confoundment of psychology and science generally, and that’s why it’s so touchy for cultural institutions, but you are not a cultural institution. You are a free and independent human being, and these things have your name written on them in big gold letters." - Terence McKenna 

However, it's true that these things can be dangerous, that's why I'd suggest studying these things before attempting to experiment. Perhaps you dove into this experience a bit more recklessly, Gallup. By the way, I mean, you said "five dried grams" is a "pussy amount." You know, five dried grams is well over a fist full, it's a plateful. And he only recommended that for a person who weighs about 140 lbs. So, obviously, there's other factors involved, the potency of the mushrooms, whether you've fasted that day (which you obviously did), environment, lack of sleep, etc., etc. However, at the dose range McKenna is talking about, you wouldn't have even been able to hike up a mountain on this dose level, let alone even walk, at that. That would have been totally out of the question. I'll leave a link below that goes over some precautions and what a typical experience of the sort McKenna advocated is described like.

Ideas such as "set and setting" and "LD-50" are important. The first link here goes over some of that stuff if anyone here is actually considering this endeavor.

How to take Psychedelics

Culture is Your Operating System

Reclaim your mind


Jimmy dont even bother with them .... This thread is a really poorly thought out set up ...  Hearher should have used a topic she knew something about...even just a little bit even ..

They've been given really good information and they still want to play ignorant ...

Does it remind you of another kind of closed minded group?

Im actually quite surprised at the ignorance.

If they think that Carl Sagan and Jill Bolte Taylor are liars - theres nothing more to say.

This whole thread is bait -

Dont waste your time with the Von Daniken set.

Let it go.


© 2018   Created by Rebel.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service