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: 7191

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Well, perhaps I was misunderstood, because what I meant by it's "science's best shot" is that if M-Theory could continue to evolve as a theory to a point when we can finally put it to the test, then we will have a scientific model that represents reality, because as of yet, what other models are out there that have this as their goal? We've already thrown religion out the window. That's why I  typed that it's not that it cannot be tested, it's simply that it cannot be tested currently.

There is nothing to research and nothing to discuss [regarding the Stoned Ape theory]?

From a scientific standpoint, yes. Likewise for any theory regarding the chemical composition of gnome saliva. And for the same reason: there is no data. 

Folks, folks, science doesn't stop just because we have nothing to measure.

Of course it does, Jimmy. It's pseudo-science that persists when it has nothing to do. 

This, to me, just seems like the hypercorrection of atheists being caught up with what they may believe to be the "formality" of science.

It's not a matter of beliefs and formality. It's a matter of facts and reality, which are not hyper-anything, but are amazingly stubborn things. 

@Gallup's Mirror You know, there is a form of science that lies at the very frontier of science which doesn't require measure, but instead relies on extrapolation and huge leaps of logic, and that is string theory or M-theory. Perhaps you're one of those atheists that doesn't consider something like M-Theory "science" or maybe you believe it's more "junk science." I'm not sure.

Unseen is right when he points out that M-theory is controversial among scientists and it's for exactly the same reason: it cannot be tested. So you'll find a sizable crop of scientists that don't consider it to be science, either. The controversial aspect is that different models of M-theory actually can be tested, but only by using mathematical equations.

It's not that it cannot be tested, but it cannot be tested currently. That's all. And it's not like this type of fungi have become extinct. They're still here. So, it's not like gnome saliva at all, because psilocybin-containing mushrooms are still extant among us.

So, to this "sizable crop of scientists" that regard M-Theory as a form of pseudo-science, I doubt they even grasp the theory.

It's not that it cannot be tested, but it cannot be tested currently. That's all.

Here, in McKenna's own words, is the Stoned Ape "theory".

"TM: Whether the mushrooms came from outer space or not, the presence of psychedelic substances in the diet of early human beings created a number of changes in our evolutionary situation. When a person takes small amounts of psilocybin visual acuity improves. They can actually see slightly better, and this means that animals allowing psilocybin into their food chain would have increased hunting success, which means increased food supply, which means increased reproductive success, which is the name of the game in evolution. It is the organism that manages to propagate itself numerically that is successful. The presence of psilocybin in the diet of early pack-hunting primates caused the individuals that were ingesting the psilocybin to have increased visual acuity. At slightly higher doses of psilocybin there is sexual arousal, erection, and everything that goes under the term arousal of the central nervous system. Again, a factor which would increase reproductive success is reinforced."

Note that this cannot be tested currently, so it is neither a hypothesis nor a theory, and therefor by your own admission it is not science. But even if some special allowance were granted for every hypothesis which possibly could be tested in the future; how would Stoned Ape qualify? How could this ever possibly be tested in the future, short of inventing a time machine?

And it's not like this type of fungi have become extinct. They're still here. So, it's not like gnome saliva at all, because psilocybin-containing mushrooms are still extant among us.

It's not the existence of the mushrooms that are in question. It's the ability to verify what according to McKenna were seminal events in human evolution that occurred 100,000 years ago. And there are equal amounts of empirical data available about those events as there are available about gnome saliva: none.

So, to this "sizable crop of scientists" that regard M-Theory as a form of pseudo-science, I doubt they even grasp the theory.

I used the word 'controversial'. And of course the critics grasp it Jimmy. They're physicists; experts in particle physics, astrophysics, nuclear physics, etc. By a "crop of scientists" I didn't mean experts in dentistry and geology.

Except that psilocibyn does NOT increase visual acuity - he made that part up.  Jimmy wants to claim this is irrelevant to the theory, yet it is the basis of the theory.

Increased sexual arousal also does not increase reproductive success.  Humans can only reproduce every 9 months and there is nothing in our biology to suggest we have ever been prone to trying to procreate less often.

Even if shrooms did manage to increase our ability to kill & fuck - that is a far cry from causing selective pressures that would lead to increased consciousness.

You're forgetting the third factor, which is the most important one of all, and does propel one into a kind of "higher consciousness."

And you are forgetting that that would require Lamarckian inheritance -> completing the triumvirate of Stoned Ape bullshit.

You're forgetting the third factor, which is the most important one of all, and does propel one into a kind of "higher consciousness."

Define a "higher consciousness". What exactly does this mean? Be specific. Because it sounds like a smattering of McKenna's woo-woo.

And if "higher consciousness" is the most important factor, why didn't McKenna mention it more prominently than better vision and hotter sex (rather than failing to mention it at all) when asked to summarize his theory about the role of psilocybin mushrooms in human evolution?

I think I know the answer to that one.

First of all, Lamarckian inheritance has long since been discredited, so that's absolutely irrelevant…

All right, now to define "Higher consciousness." This is something I've mentioned before, but I didn't use that phrase. I would equate it, since you want me to be specific, to this phenomenon in consciousness that I've been talking about. The phenomenon of "ego  death." Now, it's had many names throughout history, as I've mentioned, but I won't repeat myself. I'll just leave a link to another thread where I have vigorously attempted to describe this. 

God's Will and Human Freedom

You, like McKenna, seem unable to understand that this 'altered consciousness' is a chemically induced state - not a genetically acquired change that can be passed along.

As I said, at every level the Stone Ape conjecture is nothing but junk science - if one can even qualify it as junk science; perhaps hallucination induced drivel would be more appropriate.

So 'higher consciousness' means 'ego death'. So what does ego death mean? Google it and take your pick. "The extinction of the self." "The merging of mind and universe." One poster defined it using the riddle below.

Question: What did the Buddhist monk say to the New York City hot dog vendor? Answer: Make me one with everything.

And with that non-explanation-- which ignores the part where I asked for specifics-- one bit of woo-woo is used to "describe" another. It still doesn't hold up Stoned Ape, which was never science to begin with.


@Heather No, actually, this is the part where I ask Gallup to describe his experience. You don't think it's possible to lie about one's experience? It's also possible to miss the mark. There was something I posted on page 19 of this thread where I  talked about two experiences I've had relative to psilocybin mushrooms, in both instances, I had taken a measured dose of 5 dried grams, but only one of them elicited this phenomenon. 

So, it's possible to receive mushrooms that have a low potency, but that's just one factor. McKenna always recommended that one should fast for about 5 to 6 hours prior to ingesting the mushrooms. There's many factors involved, and just because you take the "measured recommendation" doesn't ensure that you'll hit the mark. 

I'm also going to re-post a quote that I originally posted on page 10, and here goes: 

"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 

@Gallup So, Gallup's Mirror, would you be so kind as to describe your experience, did you experience any hallucination, etc.?



An Atheist Time Capsule

Started by Belle Rose in Small Talk 24 minutes ago. 0 Replies

9 dead, 46 wounded by gunfire in Chicago

Started by Unseen in Society. Last reply by matt.clerke 1 hour ago. 2 Replies

Questions from an old member who hasn't been around in quite awhile...

Started by Rocky Oliver (LotusGeek) in Small Talk. Last reply by Rocky Oliver (LotusGeek) 9 hours ago. 3 Replies

New site

Started by umar in Announcements. Last reply by Beth 7 minutes ago. 54 Replies


Blog Posts

My Purity Ring

Posted by Michelle Varni on July 5, 2015 at 7:18pm 4 Comments

Services we love!

Advertise with

© 2015   Created by umar.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service