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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"Good happy mood = good happy trip"

Well that's true of many drugs including LSD, but I think LSD is a little more complicated.

I mentioned that it impairs your ability to make judgments. It's like your brain has all these connections representing associations that you've made over your lifetime. Acid short-circuits them. You're not able to think correctly. It seems as if your senses are enhanced. I think mostly it's that your ability to make sound judgments on what you sense is impaired.

What this means is that, if you're required to make these judgments and find yourself unable to do so, you may be on your way to a bad trip. I would ensure that the subject's whole trip revolved around experience - without trying to evaluate what you experience. Complicated experience, like personal interaction with people you don't know, or worse don't trust, is to be avoided.

So I would attempt to fill 8 hours with grooving on watching walls and buildings bend and colours flash and stir and thence to a relaxing, totally stressless environment for the landing.

(Even walls bending and colours flashing are seeing it as it is. I believe this is caused by the motion of the fluid in your eyes and the dilation of the pupils (things all your life you've learned to filter out) .

On later trips you begin to be able to judge more complicated personal interactions - but again with most filters disabled. So you are able to take in these things "as they actually are" as well)

How come you're so mad at Heather and Strega? To me they're logical, kind, and a good writers.


"How come you're so mad at Heather and Strega? To me they're logical, kind, and a good writers."

@Mike - Past behaviours - Its a trust issue ...

 I think its called Intellectual Dishonesty


I don't know. I don't have any real problems with junk science - as long as you recognise it as such. It can be fun. Is Terence McKenna interfering in any way with "real" science? Or is he just selling books?

I have nothing against opium dens, however I do know that when the kids in my hood were dropping acid, they were also ostracizing me for working my way through college and skippin the shroom juice at parties. Seems they opened theirs minds up enough to live in poverty, get themselves killed, or go to prison, and hey that's Okay, just not for me. They would describe their trips, but not very well and no "Alice In Wonderland" or "Opus No. 7" ever materialized. I am highly imaginative, so I knew  I would end up in the hospital.

Hey, man, you don't talk to "the McKenna" You listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet-warrior in the classic sense. I mean, sometimes he'll, uh, well, you'll say "Hello" to him, right? And he'll just walk right by you, and he won't even notice you. And suddenly he'll grab you, and he'll throw you in a corner, and he'll say "Do you know that 'if' is the middle word in life? 'If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you'..." – I mean, I'm no, I can't – I'm a little man, I'm a little man, he's, he's a great man.

"Do you know that 'if' is the middle word in life?"

Typical druggie insight. Do you know that "hi" is the middle word in "shit"?

...that's a line from "apocalypse now"- Dennis Hopper talking about the crazy colonel. i just stuck McKenna in there for fun, seemed appropriate

Wow - of course this discussion has to take off when I'm in the middle of working 12 hour shifts.  To that end, I'm just going to make a general reply to a trend I'm seeing in some answers.

Why wouldn't I believe someone who said LSD gave them the insight the needed to formulate some wonderful, creative idea?  The same reason that I don't believe drunks who claim their drinking improves their driving.  The same reason I don't believe cocaine users who claim cocaine increases their sex appeal.  Not only are the 'observers' biased by being the subject of their own observations - they are intoxicated and every study I've ever seen on intoxication shows perceptions being distorted rather than improved.

Personally I think drug use can offer some great recreational experiences.  I also think it can lead to life destroying addictions if one follows the wrong path.  Experiments have been done on the effects of various recreational drugs and I have yet to see such an experiment that observed sharpened perceptions or increased skills of any kind.

Link me up then - or is this another case of not being able to understand unless I'm a member of your cult?

Oops, double post. See a few posts down for the full reply.

Reporting personal experiences that only you can have but cannot share with others isn't science. This is different from, say a chemistry experiment where if you mix liquid A with liquid B it instantly turn into a solid. 

People who don't understand science may think it's the same thing if two people take a drug and have similar reports of strange perceptions or feeling more capable in some way, but reporting a private sensation that only an individual can have isn't the same thing as two people performing the same experiment with anyone who cares to watch observing and sharing in the result. It's entertainment, not knowledge.

Even if I grant that someone might have done some of their best work "under the influence" of psilocybin, that doesn't recommend the drug any more than saying that Hemingway wrote a lot of his best stories with a glass of bourbon by his typewriter recommends using alcohol to facilitate writing fiction.



I'm opting out - I'll agree to disagree on the subject.

So once again I ask you for evidence and you have nothing.  I'll just assume so from now on.


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