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: 5852

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Heather, you said "some of us had the experience," I'm not sure who you're referring to. Obviously not yourself. The only people that claimed to have this experience were Gallup and there was another I felt in his description of his experience was on the precipice of having the full-blown psychedelic experience. Gallup, whom I asked repeatedly to describe his experience because he claimed he had "beyond the heroic dose," never gave me a reply, but I'd wager considering his nescience surrounding this experience, that he never had it.

So, you see, it's not about a "full ritual to a religion," but what's an actual physiological threshold, these things must past the blood-brain barrier within the effective dose range to elicit this experience, and if you can manage to do that, you're GUARANTEED to have this experience. It doesn't care whether you believe in it or don't believe in it. There was a quote that goes to this criticism you posed, Heather, and I believe I've posted it before, but to save you the trouble of finding it, I'll post it again, because I don't think you thoroughly understood it: 

"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 

 

@MikeLong Well, even a person like you who seems simply content with their life, even though they might not find importance it, could still find insight in this experience, I believe. 

You're sort of let in on the joke, in a way. You see beyond the egoic entity to the grander scheme of things. Hindus have always referred to it as "higher consciousness," but I think because these things have, as Sam Harris has pionted out, only been described in religious terms, they have been overlooked in a contemporary format. So, that's why I try and steer away from the religious vocabulary, as useful as I think it may be, because in our society, there is no institution that really discusses these things. Even in a psychology course, psychedelics are but a footnote in your studies, if not even that, they're completely ignored. 

You know, it's not as though you're going to have your professor say, "Okay, class, we're going on a field trip to Brazil to experiment and explore the effects of ayahuasca." There's nothing like that in our society that offers knowledge about these things, that's why I think people that live where these thing are illegal take it up amongst themselves for various reasons, whether it be simple curiosity or the search for genuine religious experience.

Hey Jimmy - I thought you might like to see this.  A lot of the site is annoyingly goofy, but Reena knows what she's talking about.  

http://www.reenagagneja.com/about/

When she says

"All meanings that had meant something were now empty. The Reena I had known myself to be and portrayed to the outside world was now phoney and unreal. I did not know who I was anymore."

- I think that's where things like DMT and LSD come in handy.  

"I do not claim to understand or be able to explain this Greatness, only to know that I, and all people and things, are of it, and arise within It, and that It is quite Marvellous. It is basically anything and everything. It is Nothing giving rise to the reality we see all around us, but it is essentialyy No Thing. It is not easy to put into words, but the joy is in the trying."  

- I've pinned it down. 

Well, thanks. Yes, that's it, Simon, but you see, others don't seem able to grasp that. It's instead met with intense disgust and close-mindedness, ironically enough. That's why I feel to truly criticize it, you should have the experience for yourself. Then, you have an avenue which to truly speak from.

@Jimmy - I think her story is fascinating.  I'm collecting stories of enlightenment.  They all seem to have a lot of factors in common. 

Is your lengthy absence of a retort due to a lack of opportunity to respond or is it because you don't want to retract your statement about having "beyond the heroic dose"? Hmm…

We have already demonstrated repeatedly, and you have conceded repeatedly, that McKenna's 'Stoned Ape' is not science. Since that was Heather's original point, the conversation is over. 

And really Jimmy: childishly baiting me into resuming the debate by quibbling over how many grams of shrooms I ate back in college? (Which is irrelevant to you explaining Stoned Ape anyway.) Moaning that my refusal to use your ex-girlfriend’s account on another site is stopping you from explaining away the No True Scotsman woo-woo? (Which is also irrelevant because Stoned Ape is not science, as we have seen, and as you have admitted.) 

So please, Jimmy. You might as well be selling me phrenology, craniosacral therapy, or healing crystals. I gave you your shot. I'm not buying it. Now I'm moving on.

But don't mistake my future lack of response for having stunned me into an awed and deferential silence. Stoned Ape is absurd. The case you've made to support it (or rather, the lack thereof) is as feeble as the case for astrology.

Yes, but you don't understand that you keep saying that "the conversation is over" when this entire thread has been misleading. Terence never said it was science, Heather assumed that, so you see... It never proved Heather's original point, because her original point was false to begin with, and yes, I've repeatedly said this, but you repeatedly failed to grasp it.

So, yes, the repetition of points have been made, and I did point out that I was curious in your explanation of your experience as such, as my own curiosity, and I even added (even if you think it's entirely irrelevant), but you continue to point out these things we've already been over.

Stoned Ape is absurd maybe to you and Heather, but the only reason why it's not science IS because there is no way to prove it. However, that doesn't mean it's not plausible, it's simply that simple-minds cannot see how it is plausible.

And if you want me to post in this thread why the "No True Scotsman" fallacy doesn't apply, I will. Since you obviously won't take the time to view it yourself, but maybe I might be wasting my time since you've already taken the "intellectual high ground" which apparently here at ThinkAtheist forums or chatroom simply means "moving on," shutting your ears and eyes, and avoiding the topic. A very theist-like reaction, if you ask me.

Only a simple mind dwells on the plausible over the likely - simple minds or brainwashed minds of devotees.  You seem to be a bit of both.  All religion is met with disgust here - even yours.

When he's not presenting, promoting, or defending speculative science, pseudoscience, or technoquackery, Jimmy is spouting about Eastern religions. 

This is a board where skepticism is based on scientific rigor not Cartesian doubt. It's also an atheist board. His Eastern religion horseshit won't find fertile ground here, either. He's welcome to present it, but he shouldn't expect many conversions.

Well, the visual acuity was just one component, and I maintain, the most trivial of McKenna's speculation. The dose range isn't recorded in micrograms in the study, but they used dried mushroom material and weighed that. It's hard to say how much psilocybin is in each dose, but for the most part, a gram or less is considered a "low dose." I've mentioned it before, but I suppose it's worth mentioning again, McKenna would often say "doses so low that you could conceivably forget that you had taken it." So, half a gram or less should do that.

What should also be taken into account is that psilocybin is broken down to psilocin once it passes the blood-brain barrier. Another note, Terence was excellent friends with Roland Fishcer, and I don't believe misrepresenting Fischer's work is what Terence was doing. Even if that was the case, like I said, the "visual acuity" factor was just one step involved in a series of steps that he thought were occurring simultaneously so many years ago. The third step is definitely the crux of this so-called "theory." There's a link I submitted earlier in a post, but if you're really going to judge this stuff, there's a couple of things you can do aside from ingesting psilocybin yourself, and that is searching "Plants, Consciousness, and Transformation" on YouTube. In the first hour of that talk, he completely distills this rap quite thoroughly.

I think anyone who doesn't have direct experience with this stuff will definitely jump on Heather's bandwagon. I think it's safe to say you have no direct experience with psychedelics, because most people who approach this stuff coming from a straight perspective, and by straight, I mean never having taken something like psilocybin or N,N-DMT, usually tend to criticize the meager and trivial aspects of Terence's speculation.

@Unseen, who said I'm trying to convert anyone? I simply find eastern philosophy an intensely interesting subject, as I'm sure other atheists might find it so, too. That's all and you're welcome to think about it what you like, and in fact, please do. Who's this Brian Akers guy, anyway? Is it Heather trolling?

I think anyone who doesn't have direct experience with this stuff will definitely jump on Heather's bandwagon. I think it's safe to say you have no direct experience with psychedelics, because most people who approach this stuff coming from a straight perspective, and by straight, I mean never having taken something like psilocybin or N,N-DMT, usually tend to criticize the meager and trivial aspects of Terence's speculation.

That's a twin to the religious argument that until you have the experience of meeting God of course you won't be a believer. I'm sure heroin addicts make converts with similar arguments (and no, I'm not some dummy who thinks psychedelics are addictive...they just make people dumb).

@Unseen, who said I'm trying to convert anyone? I simply find eastern philosophy an intensely interesting subject, as I'm sure other atheists might find it so, too. That's all and you're welcome to think about it what you like, and in fact, please do. Who's this Brian Akers guy, anyway? Is it Heather trolling?

I find all religion fascinating, but I don't go around pretending it's true or that it really means anything in a factual way.

Akers, like you, is another member of TA.

Unseen, you misunderstood me. I wasn't saying that unless you had a psychedelic experience, you're not going to "believe." I was pointing out a pattern amongst individuals who haven't had the psychedelic experience, they always seem to criticize the wrong points. Coincidence? I don't know.

Akers is a very recent member, who by the looks of it, signed up simply to respond to this thread. Took about 45 minutes typing out a response, so I thought I should reply.

RSS

Blog Posts

My Dad and the Communist Spies

Posted by Brad Snowder on August 20, 2014 at 2:39pm 2 Comments

Breaking Free

Posted by A. T. Heist on August 20, 2014 at 9:56am 5 Comments

Services we love!

We are in love with our Amazon

Book Store!

Gadget Nerd? Check out Giz Gad!

Advertise with ThinkAtheist.com

In need a of a professional web site? Check out the good folks at Clear Space Media

© 2014   Created by umar.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service