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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I'd have to respectfully disagree with this statement (quote: we've never found that people high on acid or psilocybin have anything particularly valuable to contribute to problem solving or even dialog (beyond some good laughs).). Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA while un.... Kary Mullis attributed his discovery that gave hime the Nobel Prize in chemistry to the use of LSD as a tool for scientific discovery. Kary Mullis interview. Studies have indeed shown that LSD can lend itself to problem solving. The War On Drugs killed a lot of research, and just recently has research on psychedelics started again. Have a look at MAPS.org for research being performed. 

Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of Dana while un... Kary Mullis attributed his discovery that gave hime the Nobel Prize in chemistry to the use of LSD as a tool for scientific discovery.

Most important discoveries are made by people who are 100% sober, high on nothing other than ideas. Because one dude was under some sort of chemical influence seems like a classic "exception that proves the rule." The rule being that you're far more likely to make a scientific contribution sober than trippiing on LSD, smoking crack (or marijuana), or after having finished a half bottle of Scotch.

Now, it's an effect of a lot of these psychedelic drugs that people feel different after taking them and want to attribute to them various insights and abilities. That doesn't mean anything. Coke makes many people feel invincible, too, for example, but it's a false perception.

Show me that LSD or shrooms turn a person of rather pedestrian intellectual skills into a genius with incredibe insights, and we'd be talking. Until then, I'm not buying.

The truth is, science got by very well without drug intoxication for a very long time and can continue to do so.

 

"The truth is, science got by very well without drug intoxication for a very long time and can continue to do so."

Hiya Unseen

I dont think thats the right way to think about it.

Its more about Neuro-typical brains and Neuro-atypical brains and as far as the science community is concerened I will hazard a (good) guess that a huge proportion of them are Neuro - atypical.

For example Temple Grandin.

As a person with autism, I have the typical profile of an area of great skill and an area of difficulty. Algebra was impossible because there was nothing to visualize, but I excelled at art. Thinking in pictures has been a great asset in my of designing livestock facilities for cattle. I can visualize projects in my mind before they are built. I observed that cattle often refused to walk over shadows, and they were spooked by sparkling reflections or shiny metal on wet floors. These things were obvious to me, but many previous designers had failed to see them.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Temple-Grandin-on-a-Ne...

 



You'll have to translate that for me.

I have read through Grandin's quote and it seems to me that what he's describing is nothing special. I'm in the visual arts (among other things), but I'm not autistic. I am very good at thinking in pictures and terrible at any math involving anything beyond the most basic numerical calculation. However, visualizable geometry like topology or plane geometry was always easy for me.

Anyway, a lot of much more creative thinkers than Grandin aren't autistic and have noticed things other people have not, so please tell me what the point is here. 

Did Grandin take LSD or what? (Not that that would mean anything to me.)

 

Temple Grandin is a she...

All I really mean by this is that we need all types of minds at work, not just typical ones.

I didnt say that she was the best either - She is just one type. Autism has many types.

I dont know if she has used LSD, I only know that she uses Prozac.

It doesnt take much of a search to read about the benefits that taking LSD has had for many people and their arts and inspirations.

LSD is not for everyone but thats no reason to poo poo it.

Dawkins wants to try something mind altering too but he is a big chicken.

It doesnt take much of a search to read about the benefits that taking LSD has had for many people and their arts and inspirations.

You're falling into the fallacy some call "the unavailable statistic." It's like coming to a fork in the road, once you take one fork you'll never know what awaited you on the other fork. Maybe you discover a $20 bill on the fork and feel lucky. On the other fork, maybe person who took that fork was attacked by a bear, or maybe they dropped into a garage sale and bought a Ming vase worth $1 million for $5.

So, neither you nor I know whether LSD benefited them or whether they might have made the same or even greater discoveries without it. If you have the evidence, trot it out.

There are plenty of good reasons for poo pooing people taking recreational drugs thinking they're going to improve themselves, if only because hearing that simply encourages idiots to try out other drugs thinking "LSD worked for so-and-so, maybe (fill in drug) will give me a towering intellect."

You're really coming off to me purely as a detractor. I'll agree that taking psychedelics drugs probably doesn't really aid much in terms of scientific discovery and intellect. However, the way you completely discredit anyone who has made personal observations whilst on these chemicals says to me you've in all likely-hood never tried them.

I've had experiences which could be considered "enlightening" while taking psychedelics recreationally. Not some sort of deeper understanding, but simply realizations about my own situations.Looking at one's self without the shield of our own emotions is an uncanny experience, and in particular one trip on LSD made me realize that I shouldn't have been satisfied as I was in my current situation, leading me to pursue self-betterment and a new career (which I am now very happy with).

I'd love to hear your reasoning as to why my drug-influenced conclusions were incorrect.

Well, obviously taking LSD makes you think something has happened. Unfortunately, since the experience happened while under the influence you have no way of being sure. Imagine a drug that made you feel sure about something, are you really sure or is it just a side effect of the drug?

For some reason there's no reply button under your later comment. Regardless:

"Well, obviously taking LSD makes you think something has happened. Unfortunately, since the experience happened while under the influence you have no way of being sure. Imagine a drug that made you feel sure about something, are you really sure or is it just a side effect of the drug?"

An increased sense of empathy and a loss of ego are both well documented occurrences from psychedelic drugs. There are studies which suggest the use of a mild dose of psychedelic mushrooms or LSD greatly help to combat drug addiction. Why are you so against admitting that there may be some positive in these drugs? You come off to me as intelligent, but too hardened in your views to take anyone else's into consideration at all if they don't coincide with your own.

First, the reason there is no Reply button is that the column has gotten too narrow to get any narrower because each reply is indented about 1/4". So, you do what you did, you go up to the first available "Reply" above and use it. If you fear your reply will appear in the wrong order use the @ sign to designate whom you're replying to. 

An increased sense of empathy and a loss of ego are both well documented occurrences from psychedelic drugs. There are studies which suggest the use of a mild dose of psychedelic mushrooms or LSD greatly help to combat drug addiction. Why are you so against admitting that there may be some positive in these drugs? You come off to me as intelligent, but too hardened in your views to take anyone else's into consideration at all if they don't coincide with your own.

I'm not opposed to academic laboratory research on any drug done in a respected scientific institution by researchers who are trying to prove their hypotheses false rather than trying to prove their prejudices true.

I am opposed to people using street drugs (drugs that are of uncontrolled manufacture, unknown strength, and not prescribed by a medical professional) to alter their minds.

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