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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Once again, the magical thinker can't engage any critique of her rhetoric but must instead assume a conspiracy against magical claims.


"Angela even tried to poison the well of ...... "

Pardon Unseen? ... 

What sort of junk are you two spinning now?

You did say something like whenever you tried tried to find any information on the bad side effects of psychedelics you always came up with Christian websites, didn't you?


Unseen - if your not quite sure about comments .. then dont repeat them...

Well, if you don't think my characterization was fair, here are your exact words:

"Ive been searching around for some negative opinions on LSD - the only place I can find anything is in places like Christian Forums."

I live in a farming area. I see cows eat the funny mushrooms all the time. Smart as hell, them cows. ;)

@Unseen ...

"You did say something like ....."

Ahh here we go ... the bullies minion appears.

Unseen - if your not quite sure about comments .. then dont repeat them ...

Have you noticed how much you have to dumb yourself down whenever you play with that Heather bloke?



@Unseen ...

"Well, if you don't think my characterization was fair,"

So - now you want me to walk you backward through those comments and then explain to you what I meant just so you can misrepresent me - again? 

Nahhh - You and your mate are just too dishonest.










Gimme some of that milk 

Yes, but these studies weren't looking for McKenna's claims, as McKenna didn't make them public until the '70s when all these were made illegal. They were asking all the wrong questions in the '60s.

Just now are studies being taken off concerning psychedelics such as psilocybin and they have been found to have tremendous therapeutic potential, tremendous potential to launch people into confrontations with aspects of their personality or their history that they're denying. The people that hold that these psychedelics substances have no application have very little actual personal experience with them. It's the old story of, "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with facts."

The only problem is that McKenna used one such study, by Robert Fischer, to support his claim that psilocybin increased visual acuity.  You can go look up Fischer's paper - I've already given you a link to it in chat - and find that visual acuity is not noted as having increased in any of the subjects - this is why I call McKenna's 'work' Junk Science.

His Stoned Ape conjecture is just as much junk science as his eschatological Novelty prognostication which is just slightly more laughable than his time wave zero bullshit.  This is the stuff this guy contributed to 'science' while surfing his own mind on shrooms <- and although that's just anecdotal, my point here is that McKenna was a hack who now has a posthumous cult of personality full of devotees like you.

I think you mean Roland Fischer, not Robert Fischer, and the visual acuity portion was just one aspect in this theory, it wasn't a central component. That's why I left all those links to Terence distilling the theory himself that way people can get a better understanding of it and so judge for themselves. But I doubt you listened to a single one. You never really gave it a chance in the first place, as your shallow grasp of it has allowed your indignation to run rampant.

Fischer's citation

If you're trying to claim that McKenna is misrepresenting Fischer, I think you'll have to do more research. Terence McKenna knew Roland Fischer personally and had a thorough understanding of the work Fischer was involved with.

So, I think Angela's point still stands, that your entire thread is a ridiculous pasquinade aimed at McKenna and those that actually have taken an open-mind to, at the very least, consider what he had to say. It's mere lampooning as Angela so rightly pointed out.

You keep ignoring the fact that I didn't hear about McKenna from you - I was reading his bullshit while you were still learning long division; but let's take a look at your link, shall we?

And I quote:

g'reg, TM did make that claim, it was central to his "stoned apes"/evolutionary origin of H. sapiens theory (or fairy tale in theory's clothing). It seems to have achieved status as an article of faith, a doctrine automatically accepted and believed by many if not most in his audience -- based on so many unquestioning comments about it I see, far and wide. As if it’s just understood as 'scientific fact' or 'proven' true.


The Abstract for one of Fischer's articles ("Interpretation of visual space ..." by Hill and Fischer --1971, Agents and Actions 2: 122-130) says "ergotrophic arousal inducing drugs" like psilocybin interfere with counter-adaptation to visual distortion. This differs from "trophotropic arousal inducing drugs" (like chlorpromazine, an anti-psychotic), which enhance counter-adaptation.

The counter-adaptation response is a gradual adjustment to the presence of a distorting sensory stimulus, like coke-bottle lenses. The distortion is noticed strongly by a subject at first. But over time 'counter-adaptation' response sets in, compensating, minimizing it . The subject's visual perception adjusts or adapts, normalizing their sense of sight. HIll and Fischer report psilocybin "interfere(s) with counter-adaptation to optical distortion ...".

That doesn't sound like enhanced visual acuity, or anything adaptive (such as a "stoned apes" theory might require). So far however, I've found only one passage in Fischer's research on psilocybin and visual perception, that directly addresses the adaptive or selective significance of what he and his colleagues discovered. See: "Induction and Extinction of Psilocybin Induced Transformation of Visual Space" (Pharmakopsychiat. 6: 258-263). It says:

"There is a 'natural' tendency to misjudge the position of the visual as compared to the gravitational vertical. A 160 µg/kg psilocybin-induced accentuation of this misjudgment ... is reported." Also: "Psilocybin ... consistently increases the natural misjudgment of the AVV." (Apparent Vertical Visual).

On page 263 they state: "At its worst, such disorientation may be compared to a 'jammed computer' state, a condition which MAY NOT BE CONDUCIVE TO THE SURVIVAL OF THE ORGANISM" (my capitalization, for emphasis).

Not only does Fischer report nothing consistent with what TM’s “enhanced visual” bit-- his findings contradict TM, invalidating his use of Fischer's work.

Obviously videos are your strong side - and reading/looking up citations is not.  Had you ever looked up the citation, you would realize McKenna was a fraud.  Had you read Food of the Gods rather than just watching videos, you would know that the visual acuity claim was central to his Stoned Ape conjecture.


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