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.
@Unseen Aspirin, you do realize, hasn't been around that long. It's probably less than 100-years-old! Most pharmaceuticals today leave society as the guinea pigs for their long-term effects. Why do you think you see so much commercials about pharmaceuticals that are being banned, and lawsuits that are taking place due to these horrible side-effects?
Psilocybin mushrooms, on the other hand, have been used for millennia! So, I think it's been well established that you can take these things responsibly in a shamanic setting, etc. Richard Dawkins talks about it, Graham Hancock, etc.
@MikeLong You know, the tribes in the Amazon have a completely different attitude towards these substances, and it's even considered a rite of passage for 13-year-olds to take ayahuasca for instance. Tests have been done, and it's been found that these people are perfectly healthy even after years of taking ayahuasca.
Instead of replying to all these latest posts, how about a reply to my last couple of posts containing information on the effects of psychedelics on problem solving and scientific discovery? I've provided some information that's very relevant to this discussion, but you seem to ignore it. I'm not having at you, by the way, just trying to shed some light on the facts of the discussion. Let's not make this contrived Psychonauts VS Science discussion.
Robert - you have provided brilliant information.
I wonder why its being (deliberately) overlooked.
Do you think that the increase in problem-solving abilities could be related to the removal of mental associations? Going on the assumption (wild, I admit) that chemicals only impair, could it be that problem-solvers, when under the influence, were able to follow trains of thought that, when straight, they thought were fully-explored and therefore closed?
I've been reading your posts and haven't disagreed with anything except for the fact that you're right about how people are making this out to be a "psychonauts vs. science" discussion.
Heather has said that no one has made "specific claims" about psychedelic. Well, I directed people to another thread on this forum entitled "God's Will and Human Freedom" where I do precisely this and even mention the work of Dr. Rick Strassman that he recorded in his book "DMT: The Spirit Molecule."
DMT is something, by the way, that not even "The Atheist Experience" show as ever addressed.
You have to remember that peer-review has to follow a certain degree of politics, and so, because these substances are illegal, not only for you and I to experiment with, but illegal also for scientific study, you won't find much peer-review studies on these things. There has been peer-review studies over the compounds themselves, as in the structure of DMT, how is psilocybin synthesized to psilocin, etc., but you won't find anything concerning their effects on psychology by peer-review because it simply hasn't been done.
Plenty of studies were done in the 60's, however - and found NONE of the effects being claimed by McKenna. On to of that there is ZERO evidence that his beloved shrooms appeared and disappeared when he claimed - and as is necessary for his stoned ape conjecture - nor evidence that our ancestors were consuming shrooms during that period of time.
Scientific studies can be, and often are, conducted with controlled substances. The question, however, is why would any study be conducted into the effects of psilocybin? What empirical results would one expect? Great personal experince, ok, but that is readily available and not going to cure cancer.
I don't think there's anything wrong with pursuing scientific studies of psilocybin or any other psychedelic substance. Knowledge is a worthy end in itself. However, it should be done by real scientists and not psychedelic cheerleaders. A scientist will formulate a hypothesis and then do his/her best to prove it FALSE, not prove it true.
Another way to test a hypothesis, especially with human subjects, is to use a test group and a control group. For example, put a hundred people in fighter jet flight simulators flying straight and compare them to a hundred people flying on LSD or psilocybin and then see which group crashes their plane more frequently. I think I know the outcome in general terms but I'm ready to be surprised. One could do the same thing with simulations of automobiles in various high-risk situations.
If these drugs heighten one's perceptions, they should result in a lower disaster rate.
Exactly, Unseen. The trouble is that McKennaites don't want to make any specific claims about what they believe hallucinogens can intrinsically offer. It's all about conspiracies to disempower the masses coupled with vague claims that somehow psilocybin was integral to our development as humans.
It seems they just want a fig leaf allowing them to have fun with drugs. They don't really want a truly scientific study because they anticipate the same results you and I would, and that would spoil the fun.
Angela even tried to poison the well of medical information about the ill effects of drugs by attempting to portray it as a Christian tenet that drugs have postential ill side effects. Unfortunately, playing that card, as attractive as it may sound, doesn't play well in a board populated mostly by skeptics.
For me that would just take all the positives out of getting high. Sure, it can be a 'transcendental' experience - but that's a rather ethereal claim that holds no more meaning than 'groovy'.
If there are health benefits then I expect they'll be akin to the health benefits of red wine - which have nothing to do with why I drink wine or the amounts that I drink.
"Angela even tried to poison the well of ...... "
Pardon Unseen? ...
What sort of junk are you two spinning now?
Do you feel sorry for Heather Unseen . is that why your playing bully games with her?