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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@Jimmy - I wouldn't call it an embarrassment, just an ordinary "don't know".  As with any major event, it must have had a number of causes. 

Well, it isn't as simple as that, but I ask to anyone if they know what mainstream evolutionary theory attributes to this "dramatic emergence"?

Try the 'dramatic emergence' of flight in birds.  Any scientific explanation required data, conjecture, modelling to test conjecture, discarding errors and developing that which works, then collecting more data - it goes around and around.  McKenna's approach?  Hmm, I like these mushrooms and I think they explain everything.  It's perfectly analogous to, "God did it."

I have the perfect response to this and others, but unfortunately, right now I have to go to work, but I will be back to point out how this is a false analogy.

If x = human civilization and z = aliens, solve for crackpot.


TsO^U-k/X = Crackpot/(G into rg into X)

Tsoukalos = Crackpot/Giorgio

Crackpot = Giorgio Tsoukalos!

Hey, it works!

"evolutionary theory attributes to this "dramatic emergence"?"

I hypothesize: Language

The ability to form abstract concepts, to form, say the concept of "rock" and realize which objects it applies to and recognize new instances of rocks as being "rocks". 

Very closely related to language.

Curiously, animals seem to be born hard-wired with some concepts (the ability to classify some objects as a certain type despiite wide disparities in appearance). My cat can recognize that a dog is a dog, be it a chihuahua or a doberman. Arched back, ears laid back, hissing. That is rather remarkable if you think about it.

You may say that perhaps that is just her response to an unfamiliar animal, but I doubt she'd respond that way to a sheep and she certainly wouldn't respond that way to a squirrel. She'd respond as a predator would. She can somehow recognize other predators.

Disagree. You can form all the abstract concepts you want while gazing at your belly button. Actually being able to communicate those concepts is what counts from an evolutionary perspective. To me the first people who were able understand that "Uh Uh" means, "don't go down that path - a tiger lives there" and that "uh huh" means, "yes,  there's a grove of berries and scantily-clad females that way", would be more likely to propagate their bigger brain power.

Well, Terence didn't take Timewave zero as seriously as you guys are panning out, and it was never considered hypothesis, it was a theory of McKenna's.

The only hypothesis that Terence ever made was the "Stoned Ape" concept of his.

And the only reason she's calling it junk science is because she's under the impression she has found a fault in it, and is attacking probably the meekest portion of the hypothesis, there are other factors involved in it, you do realize? Well, I'd also point out Dr. Rick Strassman's work that he publicized in a little book entitled "DMT: The Spirit Molecule," which I think supports the other factor which I mentioned of the "heroic dose," which McKenna spent a lifetime emphasizing, but which is obviously overlooked in this thread.

And furthermore, the reason you cannot find archaeological evidence of mushroom use over 40,000 years ago is simply because mushrooms are soft-bodied and dissolve quite easily. However, I say 40,000 years, because there has been evidence at least that far of mushrooms being preserved in honey.

There is nothing to research and nothing to discuss? Folks, folks, science doesn't stop just because we have nothing to measure. This, to me, just seems like the hypercorrection of atheists being caught up with what they may believe to be the "formality" of science.

@Gallup's Mirror You know, there is a form of science that lies at the very frontier of science which doesn't require measure, but instead relies on extrapolation and huge leaps of logic, and that is string theory or M-theory. Perhaps you're one of those atheists that doesn't consider something like M-Theory "science" or maybe you believe it's more "junk science." I'm not sure.

"Disbelief in The Scientific Method"

Many top theoretical physicists regard string- and M-theory as pseudoscience. Unfortunately for them, doing standard science is boring compared to conjuring up unproveable "huge leaps of logic." This is why Michio Kaku, Brian Greene and others get TV time. 

It's easy to stir up interest with wild theories. You'll get people's attention. The lay public's attention isn't held for long by boring discussions critiquing exciting speculation. It's not good TV.

This may be why the supposed benefits of psychedelics can get people interested enough to buy books and watch videos: it's a lot more exciting than work that might be true and it gives their personal interest in recreational drugs a kind of fig leaf.

You see, a lot of of what's asserted about the benefits of psychedelic drugs and string theory isn't true. It's not even false. This is because the relevant assertions are basically unfalsifiable. The logical basis of scientific investigation has a requirement that must be met before an assertion even makes sense: it must, at least in principle if not fact, be disprovable. If you're asserting something that isn't falsifiable, you're really not saying anything at all. 

String- and M-theory are just speculation for now, and may remain so forever. They are not quite on a par with assertions having no connection with science, like a belief in God, but for now they are just things to talk about until/unless some way is discovered to test them.


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