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: 7318

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

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.

Thanks Heather.

Thanks for summarizing instead of just linking. (Damn you must be a fast reader.)

It's gratifying when literate people reach scientific conclusions which I've only reached (guessed) purely by personal observation. ("psilocybin "interfere(s) with counter-adaptation to optical distortion ...".")

"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"

Yike. That's the kind of stuff I equate to a fish in the ear - fun, but who would take it as science?

The citation uphelds what I've been saying all along, and you obviously have misinterpreted this citation, as it's referring to visual acuity at different dose ranges. McKenna emphasized that when Roland Fischer gave his volunteers extremely low doses, doses so low that one could subtly notice any effect, then did the visual acuity occur. Of course, when you raise the dose, you begin to have greater and greater distortion. 

I mean, simply by experiencing this for yourself you can prove that this is so. Take about less than half a gram, and then wait about an hour. I mean, that would end this argument right there and then. Reading citations is definitely not YOUR strong point, perhaps you read through it to fast without paying much attention to detail. 

You quoted someone's response, you see, where they put "it was central to his 'Stoned Ape hypothesis.'" Untrue. That was not the central point, it was perhaps the most trivial of the dose ranges, as to have this occur you'd have to eat literally less than half a gram! If McKenna's hypothesis holds any weight at all, then do you think one of our hungry ancestral apes would have stopped at half a gram? I don't think so.

The central point to his conjecture occurs when you have the "full spectrum" dose which he spent a lifetime trying to articulate and advocate. 

Fischer didn't note any change in visual acuity.  You are a theist who worships Mckenna, c'est tout.

The citation is there, but even if you want to dismiss it, Heather, like I pointed out, this is just one causal effect in a series of factors that work into McKenna's hypothesis, and as I mentioned, the "visual acuity" portion isn't central to his hypothesis.

Even if you were to disregard "visual acuity," you'd still have a slew of other factors involved, most important of these is the "full-spectrum dose" which McKenna felt was the catalyst that prompted us into human consciousness, the so-called "mystical experience," the boundary-dissolving "ego death" experience. I'm not sure what you're attempting to do here, because the hypothesis isn't as simple as, "Oh, early apes ate low doses of mushrooms, acquired visual acuity, and so therefore this allowed them to flourish and have better adaptive/survival chances, etc. etc., which eventually led somehow to evolve to human consciousness, etc." It's not that simple, but you don't seem to grasp that.

I quoted your citation - it proves you wrong but apparently you are too high to see it.

No, you quoted a post on the forum, not the actual citation. -_-


© 2015   Created by umar.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service