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'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."

But alcohol is all good, right? As I've said elsewhere, it's documented that alcohol is in fact of the the most damaging and dangerous drugs.

I get that there's a level of uncertainty with "street drugs", but what of those reliably sourced and of known strength? I don't think the lack of medical prescription holds much water when the free way in which alcohol may be consumed is taking into account.

It's documented that alcohol is in fact of the the most damaging and dangerous drugs.

Personally, I don't have a strong opinion on what other people put into their bodies, but I am curious how this evaluation is weighted.

But alcohol is all good, right? As I've said elsewhere, it's documented that alcohol is in fact of the the most damaging and dangerous drugs.

I get that there's a level of uncertainty with "street drugs", but what of those reliably sourced and of known strength? I don't think the lack of medical prescription holds much water when the free way in which alcohol may be consumed is taking into account.

When you drink alcohol (unless you're a 15 year old drinking your dad's supply) you understand what it is and its consequences. You can also look at the bottle and know the strength. You buy something on the streetcorner? That's the wild west. Also, alcohol is so ingrained in the culture there's no way to remove it. Psychedelics may become that way, but we're not there yet, and when that point is reached, they'll be manufactured in standardized dosages and strengths, just like alcohol. They'll be regulated.

"When you drink alcohol (unless you're a 15 year old drinking your dad's supply) you understand what it is and its consequences."

Implying all users do not understand what they are doing. I am not referring to people blindly ingesting chemicals they have no knowledge of

"You can also look at the bottle and know the strength. You buy something on the streetcorner? That's the wild west. Also, alcohol is so ingrained in the culture there's no way to remove it. Psychedelics may become that way, but we're not there yet, and when that point is reached, they'll be manufactured in standardized dosages and strengths, just like alcohol. They'll be regulated."

There are ways to be responsible about it, and I never once advocated buying anything off the street corner. Believe it or not, it is possible to obtain drugs of known strength and quality.

@Kris Feenstra

"Personally, I don't have a strong opinion on what other people put into their bodies, but I am curious how this evaluation is weighted."

Here you are: Quantifying the RR of harm to self and others from substance misuse...

@Worst  Believe it or not, it is possible to obtain drugs of known strength and quality.

How so?

@Unseen There are ways to find known sources with verified product. I'll leave it at that.

I see. Thanks for the link. I have some concerns regarding the methodology or at least with understanding how to interpret its result, but I supposed it's a pretty difficult comparison to run. This is not to say I take any real issue with the rankings on the charts; it's just that it reveals what certain relevant professionals think as a numeric value with little insight as to why.

@Worst  @Unseen There are ways to find known sources with verified product. I'll leave it at that.

Without naming any sources, how could I trust the evaluations of some anonymous users? When I go shopping for something on Amazon, for example, I have to be cautious reading the product reviews and take them with a grain of salt because I don't really know the reviewers or the motives behind their picks or pans. Why would dealing with such a source be any more reliable?

Crick on LSD when he discovered LSD = BULLSHIT

Mullis claims LSD inspried him - but that is anecdotal.

Where are the empirical studies of increased problem solving skills or increased 'creativity' while under the influence of hallucinogens?  Psychonauts try to objectively document their highs - but how objective can their observations be when they are also the subject?  Give me a break.

 

"Where are the empirical studies of increased problem solving skills or increased 'creativity' while under the influence of hallucinogens? Psychonauts try to objectively document their highs - but how objective can their observations be when they are also the subject? Give me a break"

Howdy

Can you explain how this woman knows what she’s talking about? …   

http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_ins...    

This is an example of self disclosure about something that was happening to her brain – she is the subject.

Please watch it – it’s unbelievable and I promise you will love it – Her name is Jill Bolte Taylor. I think Jimmy also suggested her. This Ted talk has had over 10 million viewers. Its famous.

Then I want you to tell me why I should not believe her account of this?

Also - Barry James Marshall http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Marshall  Injected himself with a bacterium to prove the cause of Peptic Ulcers.  He won a Nobel Prize for that.

So these are two examples of how objective some people can be when they are their own subjects.

 

'

 

http://www.pnas.org/content/109/6/2138

Back there a few pages I posted something that Carl Sagan wrote about his personal experiences with psychotropic drugs.

Why shouldn’t I believe him?  

Is he a liar?

Tell me why I shouldn’t believe Lester Grinspoon?

Is he a liar?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lester_Grinspoon

These aren’t just people off the street.

 We know about this stuff now – it’s elementary.  

I don’t know about Terrence McKenna or Crick or those other people your talking about but if its 'Junk Science" dont read it ...

Why are you so interested in this stuff anyway if you’ve never tried it?

Why do you care?

 

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