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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We're talking about specifically DMT, Heather. You know, there were tests down in Brazil and blood samples taken from people who've spent their entire life imbibing ayahuasca, and they're perfectly healthy! 

@kOrsan I know I told you, I was aiming that question to MikeLong.

@Mike

"The idea that hallucinogenics altered human evolution SEEMS far-fetched, but I'm perfectly happy to be taught."

Me too?
Its an exciting claim worth exploring.

@ Jimmy

No - I quoted YOUR citation.  Do you have another?

Those are the citations, but they only refer to the research books they appear in, so they're not the direct quotes, which is I'm sure what you're looking for, but it looks like we're either going to have to pay to access these citations. So, since neither of us can directly quote from them, (but I assure you, they're there)... you said that you had other points to make if we disregard the "visual acuity," and I'm curious to hear what you have to say about that.

Fischer's paper is here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01965761#page-1

McKenna suggested that the paper supported an increase in visual acuity - which it did not.  This is the reason I say McKenna's bullshit is junk science.  All he did was get high and make shit up.  He didn't do research, and when he did he misrepresented the papers he cited rather than accepting the results he found.

We have evidence of ancient cultures using mushrooms - but long AFTER the appearance of homo sapiens.  His day dream that mushrooms were some how the catalyst of speciation from homo erectus is just that - a day dream.

The great embarrassment for evolutionary theory which can explain the tongue of the hummingbird, the structure of the orchid, the mating habits of the groundhog and the migration of the monarch butterfly. Nevertheless, the great embarrassment to evolutionary theory, is the human neocortex. Lumholtz, who was a pretty straight evolutionary biologist, described the evolution of the human neocortex as "the most dramatic transformation of a major organ of a higher animal in the entire fossil record."

Well, why is this an embarrassment? Because it's the organ that thought up the theory of evolution. So you know, can you say tautology? That's the problem right there. So, it is necessary in evolutionary theory to account for the dramatic emergence of the human neocortex in this very narrow window of time. Basically, in about two million years, they went from being higher primates, hominids, to being true humans, as truly human as you and I tonight. What the hell happened? What was the factor? The earth was already old. Many hundreds of higher animal forms had come and gone, and the fire of intelligence had never been kindled. So what happened?

Are you familiar with what mainstream biology says about this? Well, I described below why you wouldn't find archaeological evidence for mushroom use back that far, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a possibility or it's mere "day dream."

@Jimmy - I wouldn't call it an embarrassment, just an ordinary "don't know".  As with any major event, it must have had a number of causes. 

Well, it isn't as simple as that, but I ask to anyone if they know what mainstream evolutionary theory attributes to this "dramatic emergence"?

Try the 'dramatic emergence' of flight in birds.  Any scientific explanation required data, conjecture, modelling to test conjecture, discarding errors and developing that which works, then collecting more data - it goes around and around.  McKenna's approach?  Hmm, I like these mushrooms and I think they explain everything.  It's perfectly analogous to, "God did it."

Well, it isn't as simple as that, but I ask to anyone if they know what mainstream evolutionary theory attributes to this "dramatic emergence"?

This is the classic 'Argument from Ignorance' fallacy. The approach involves asking a question that cannot be answered. Then the asker tacks his answer to the ignorance. Any form of ignorance will do, although the origin of life is the most popular.

Crackpot: How do you explain X?
Me: I can't.
Crackpot: (Triumphantly) See! It has to be Z! There is no other explanation!
Me: Why does it have to be Z? Why can't it be something else we don't understand yet?
Crackpot: Um...

Admittedly, this is an original twist. Usually 'X' is life on earth and 'Z' is God. This time 'X' is consciousness and 'Z' is magic mushrooms. Still, the fallacious aspect of the argument is exactly the same.

I have the perfect response to this and others, but unfortunately, right now I have to go to work, but I will be back to point out how this is a false analogy.

If x = human civilization and z = aliens, solve for crackpot.

X^T/Z^G+X^O=crackpot

TsO^U-k/X = Crackpot/(G into rg into X)

Tsoukalos = Crackpot/Giorgio

Crackpot = Giorgio Tsoukalos!

Hey, it works!

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