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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I need to add a caveat. I have NOT tried  "heroic doses" partly because of the real dangers associated with these drugs. I can't really see how such doses would make the effect fundamentally different - just stronger.

Perhaps I'll try again with the 8-hour talk (it's not a video so I CAN do other things while listening). But he's not what I would call an exciting speaker. I only got about ten minutes in before giving up.

Oh, it is different. It's like night and day. Raising the dose range makes the drug seem like an entirely different drug altogether. That's why I recommend to atheists DMT, because DMT only lasts about 5 minutes. Surely, you've got 5 minutes to invest in an experience that would alter your entire ontological foundation.

Well I guess I'll have to take your word for it. Here in New Zealand we don't have illicit drugs. ;-)

You've asked why others are unwilling to admit that there might be some positive effects. Are you willing to admit that there are potential negative effects? Some of the links I've followed claim ZERO ill effects on subjects. Isn't it true that a percentage of "subjects" can suffer quite profound ill effects - some permanent? I have no figures on this but this does not strike me as unlikely knowing, as I do, the power of even small amounts.

(Let me preemptively acknowledge that the possible ill effects of alcohol may dwarf those of LSD.)

I don't think anyone would claim that there are no potential negative effects. However, I've not heard any verified stories of permanent damage from one psychedelic experience, and I believe the positive far out-weighs the negative.

The main thing is mind-set. I have seen people have bad trips (thankfully have never had one myself), but they are usually people who went in with a level of apprehension and uncertainty, and these drugs tend to amplify senses and emotions.

At least most alcohol users (myself included) are willing to admit its destructive aspects. The proponents of psychedelics don't like to talk about bad trips, flashbacks, etc.

"At least most alcohol users (myself included) are willing to admit its destructive aspects. The proponents of psychedelics don't like to talk about bad trips, flashbacks, etc."

I disagree. Understanding the real pros and cons are important before trying any substance, and none of the advocates of psychedelics that I know would deny that there is always the potential for a scary or negative trip. It comes with the territory.

There haven't been very many admissions of the downside of psychedelics here. In fact, you are about the first I can recall.

I don't think anyone DENIED there are downsides though. I think they were just arguing the positives, as I think everyone already knows there are negatives.

You yourself have not admitted there can be positive effects, on the other hand (as far as I've seen, at least).


"The proponents of psychedelics don't like to talk about bad trips, flashbacks, etc"

Well I mentioned bad trips (Ive never had one) earlier in this piece, I have no problem talking about them, why would we not like to talk about them?...  and flashbacks arent necessarily a bad thing either.

What do you understand a flashback to be?

A lot of the negative experiences are mostly brought on by panic.


He does have a voice that can put you to asleep, especially in that 8-hour video, but one emphasis he will make is that dose range does, in fact, make a difference. If you had a low dose of psilocybin and you compared that to a high dose of psilocybin, these experiences would be orders of magnitude different from each other. In other words, you cannot extrapolate the low dose to imagine  what the higher dose experience may be like which is what I feel you're doing here.

And the "heroic dose," by the way for something like psilocybin if you weigh about 140 lbs is, as a general rule, 5 dried grams. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that if you have 5 dried grams and you weigh about 140 lbs you will have the "full spectrum" experience.

In my own experience, I've had 5 dried grams on two separate occasions spread across years. The second time around, I didn't even experience hallucination. The experience MUST cause hallucination. After all, these things are called "hallucinogens." I believe it may be because the second time around, I may have gotten a batch that wasn't very potent. So, there's many factors involved here, but Terence McKenna points out that the "heroic dose" is well away from the "toxic" or "fatal dose." In order to reach a fatal dose, you'd have to eat nearly a pound! Perhaps even more than that of psilocybin-containing mushrooms. So, imagine, there's approximately 144 grams in one pound, the "heroic dose" is about 5 dried grams.

Most experienced psychedelic users know it's not your mortality that you must fear for in these experiences, but your sanity. So, the precautions to take are things like "set and setting," meaning the setting or environment you take these things in, and "set," meaning the mindset you're in at the time of the experiment. You don't want to be severely depressed or anything like that, etc. 

And concerning "ineffability." I mean, it's often said this experience is "ineffable," nevertheless there are some people that attempt to say something about it. Contemporarily, the phenomenon in consciousness that the "heroic dose" can elicit has been called "ego death." Maybe you could wiki that, but I have gone over this a little more thoroughly on another thread on the forums here, and I'll link you to that, and I'll also link to the infamous Bill Hicks' description of the "heroic dose." 

God's Will thread

Bill Hicks - Gifts of Forgiveness


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