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: 5003

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

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?

 

 

 

 

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

@Angela  

"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?

@Angela

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. ;)

RSS

Support T|A

Think Atheist is 100% member supported

All proceeds go to keeping Think Atheist online.

Donate with Dogecoin

Members

Videos

  • Add Videos
  • View All

Services we love

We are in love with our Amazon

Book Store!

Gadget Nerd? Check out Giz Gad!

Into life hacks? Check out LabMinions.com

Advertise with ThinkAtheist.com

© 2014   Created by Dan.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service