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: 6593

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion


"or one that doesnt depend on a woo-woo concept like 'ego death'".

*quietly tip toeing in - dropping this .... *

The (Only) Five basic Fears We Live By

#5 - Ego-death - fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self; fear of the shattering or disintegration of one's constructed sense of lovability, capability, and worthiness.

Why is it woo?

*and running away now very fast ...*

Why is it woo?

Well, let's re-cap.

McKenna claims that psilocybin mushrooms gave humans better hunting through improved vision, more babies through hotter sex, and consciousness itself; thus psilocybin mushrooms played a major role in human evolution 100,000 years ago. I asked Jimmy to provide supporting scientific evidence that these events actually occurred. He admitted there is none. I asked Jimmy if there is any way to test this hypothesis. He admitted there is not. Thus, since science requires both evidence and testability, Heather's position that McKenna's theory is not scientific (i.e. that it is junk science) was confirmed and the "debate" was essentially over.

The woo-woo part had to do with Jimmy's (still unclear) claims regarding psilocybin mushrooms and the origins of human consciousness. He said, "You're forgetting the third factor, which is the most important one of all, and does propel one into a kind of "higher consciousness."

I asked Jimmy to define "higher consciousness" and explain exactly what this means. He said 'higher consciousness' is "ego death". Then I asked him to explain 'ego death' and he said one had to experience a psilocybin mushroom "ego death" to understand it.

Thus Jimmy is insisting upon using a subjective definition for ego death, one that he not only refuses to state unambiguously, but one that according to him requires a psilocybin mushroom trip to understand. And that's in addition to being distinct from the definition provided in Psychology Today and the hundreds of other definitions and explanations that come up in a Google search. Yet, somehow, human consciousness arose from 'ego death', a concept which apparently has no single objective definition at all. (Have you spotted the woo in this picture?) How we get to consciousness from there-- an actual explanation of the process involved-- so far hasn't even been touched.

That's how you know it's woo-woo: ask for specifics. Ask what it means or how it works. Nobody gives you a straight answer. You'll get another round of woo-woo as an "explanation" for the previous round of woo-woo. Sometimes you'll get a personal attack. Anything but an explanation. And don't bother asking for pesky things like evidence or testability. Woo-woo is made of thin air.

Woo-woo doesn't mean anything. So when the woo-wooer is asked to explain what the woo-woo means, or is confronted with some contradiction in the woo-woo, or some other aspect of the woo-woo that makes no sense, he simply rearranges the woo-woo. 

That, Angela, is woo-woo. And that is why it is woo-woo.


 Thank you Gallup - I get the drift.




@Gallup You still haven't really responded why this third factor is "woo." You, instead, re-capped on everything we've already established and completely avoided my question which I asked in my previous post. The definitions you grabbed from Google on "ego death" were both accurate and synonymous with each other, but they simply didn't make sense to you. Why? Because it's quite obvious you have never had this experience. That's why I asked those questions, because if you question someone closely who claims they've taken "well beyond the heroic dose", then a person who's actually undergone this experience can discern quite easily if the person making the claim truly has had this experience or not.

I also linked you to a thread where I give a more in-depth and detailed description of "ego death," did you, by any chance, take a look? It was the "God's Will and Human Freedom" thread. I suppose I can link it again, but I'm not even sure if you're going through any of this stuff or are just concerned with criticism as Heather was. Anyway, here's the link:

God's Will and Human Freedom

And so, judging by your responses, it's quite obvious you don't grasp that which Terence was trying to say. Did you take a look at any of the links I posted here regarding "Stoned Ape" or have you been just trying to pick up the gist of it simply by reviewing the posts here? Hmm…

The only psychology that isn't woo is the psychology that can be measured and tested and turned into data in the form of functional relationships between cause and effect.

The rest of psychology is pretty much a La La Land of conjectures. Ideas that work sometimes and sometimes not, which is the definition of a non-functional relationship.

@Unseen Well, when people under the influence of a psychedelic compound are under an fMRI, there is heightened brain activity in the temporal lobes, and the portions which light up have even been dubbed "The God Spot," not to be confused with God Particle or Spirit Molecule or anything like that, these are very different things. But of course, it's one thing to look at an image of a brain that's lighting up like a Christmas tree, it's another thing to actually be the person experiencing this phenomenon.

Burden of proof, Jimmy. You are making the claim. So it is incumbent upon you to explain how psilocybin mushrooms gave rise to consciousness (which you have not done), prove the process actually occurred (which you cannot do), and then test the hypothesis in a way which can be falsified (which you also cannot do). It does not fall to me explain how your theory works, or why it cannot work, or prove that the process never happened.

That disqualifies Stoned Ape as a scientific hypothesis. The conversation is over in that regard. It's so 'over' that it never really started in the first place.

You still haven't really responded why this third factor is "woo."

Of course I have, Jimmy. I explained in the short paragraph above, as I have explained repeatedly before. The rest is just you, resisting, and finding new ways to avoid high scientific standards (like clear explanations, proof, and testable falsifiability) by stooping ever lower to rearrange the woo-woo.

That's why I asked those questions, because if you question someone who claims they've taken "well beyond the heroic dose" closely, a person who's actually had this experience can discern quite easily if they truly have or not.

Right on cue, the woo-woo is rearranged yet again, this time into a 'No True Scotsman' fallacy.


I can see how it may seem like a No True Scotsman, but I've written an entire page on another atheist forum as to why it's not, and I could link you, if you'd like, but again, you've avoided the question. I've already said that there is no way to prove this concept, but that doesn't mean that it's not plausible.

Are you going to answer the question or are you going to insist on the false claim that it's a "No True Scotsman" fallacy?

I can see how it may seem like a No True Scotsman, but I've written an entire page on another atheist forum as to why it's not, and I could link you, if you'd like,

Please do provide the link. An entire page of this stuff, Jimmy? I can hardly wait.

but again, you've avoided the question. You still haven't really responded why this third factor is "woo."

Yeah, actually I did. And as I said, asking me was an intellectually dishonest attempt to shift the burden of proof from your shoulders to mine. It does not fall to me to show your claims are false. It falls to you show your claims are true.

I've already said that there is no way to prove this concept,

Then you concede the argument to Heather. Her point all along was that McKenna could not support his position as a scientific argument. There is no proof. No way to test it. So right there, it's over. You can call Stoned Ape whatever you like-- ego death or pepperoni pizza-- but don't call it science.

but that doesn't mean that it's not plausible.

Plausibility has no bearing on what is true and what is not true. If it sounds like it might be true, it could still not be true. Or if it sounds like it might not be true, it could still be true. How do you know either way? Without science it's a guessing game, or as Heather called it: junk.

Are you going to answer the question

Asked and answered. You just didn't like the response.

or are you going to insist on the false claim that it's a "No True Scotsman" fallacy?

I'll consider your counter-argument that you're not just rearranging your woo-woo into a 'No True Scotsman" fallacy. But based on what I've seen so far of your ability to think clearly, I'm expecting a higher woo-woo density than I'd encounter at a Three Stooges film festival.

No, I asked for you to describe your "beyond heroic dose" experience that YOU claimed you had, which once again you've avoided. And I'm not trying to "shift the burden of proof," I'm simply curious to hear what you have to say about your experience, if you did, in fact, have one that is. While Terence did present this idea to biologists, Nobel laureates, geologists, archaeologists, etc., he did understand that it was something that couldn't be scientifically investigated, so Heather's argument was moot from the beginning, because if you're going to say Terence attempted to somehow scientifically prove this, that's untrue.

Oh, and here's the link as promised. I interject the notion of "Perennial Philosophy" which was a take on this phenomenon that Aldous Huxley entertained after he had undergone his experience of "ego death." The "No True Scotsman" thing is mentioned on page 3, but I start the discussion on Perennial Philosophy on page 2. You'll find that it's met by a bit more open-mindedness than I've received when I mentioned here on the "God's Will and Human Freedom" thread.

They recently made it so you have to be a member to view the page, so if you don't want to take the time to sign-up, you may borrow my ex-girlfriend's log-in. I don't think she uses it much anymore.

Think God thread @ forum


Password: master1

Jimmy, you do realise that is also her email account login password, don't you? 

It's not, so it's okay for Gallup to use it. I trust he's not going to troll with it... I hope.


Blog Posts

Out of the fog

Posted by Belle Rose on March 1, 2015 at 6:27pm 1 Comment

Kids Logic

Posted by Mai on February 28, 2015 at 5:33am 7 Comments

Services we love!

Advertise with

© 2015   Created by umar.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service