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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You're forgetting the third factor, which is the most important one of all, and does propel one into a kind of "higher consciousness."

And you are forgetting that that would require Lamarckian inheritance -> completing the triumvirate of Stoned Ape bullshit.

You're forgetting the third factor, which is the most important one of all, and does propel one into a kind of "higher consciousness."

Define a "higher consciousness". What exactly does this mean? Be specific. Because it sounds like a smattering of McKenna's woo-woo.

And if "higher consciousness" is the most important factor, why didn't McKenna mention it more prominently than better vision and hotter sex (rather than failing to mention it at all) when asked to summarize his theory about the role of psilocybin mushrooms in human evolution?

I think I know the answer to that one.

First of all, Lamarckian inheritance has long since been discredited, so that's absolutely irrelevant…

All right, now to define "Higher consciousness." This is something I've mentioned before, but I didn't use that phrase. I would equate it, since you want me to be specific, to this phenomenon in consciousness that I've been talking about. The phenomenon of "ego  death." Now, it's had many names throughout history, as I've mentioned, but I won't repeat myself. I'll just leave a link to another thread where I have vigorously attempted to describe this. 

God's Will and Human Freedom

You, like McKenna, seem unable to understand that this 'altered consciousness' is a chemically induced state - not a genetically acquired change that can be passed along.

As I said, at every level the Stone Ape conjecture is nothing but junk science - if one can even qualify it as junk science; perhaps hallucination induced drivel would be more appropriate.

First of all, Lamarckian inheritance has long since been discredited, so that's absolutely irrelevant…

I believe that's the point being made. The progression from early hominids to modern hominids is genetic, and this stoned ape speculation doesn't seem to account for genetic changes at all absent some previously unobserved biological mechanism.

In one of the talks you linked for us, McKenna mentions mutagenic properties of plants, but I didn't really grasp the relevance. Lots of things have mutagenic properties, so the statement itself is not so problematic, but it's not like mutagens transfer the properties of the mutagenic agent to the affected individual.

Other points of the talk are odd as well because the throws out a bunch of dots and offers no connecting lines. He describes our ancestors as foragers and scavengers, but at some point psilocybin facilitates our hunting? Something about lions? 

He talks about ego death and the effects on consciousness, but in order for that to be true, it seems to require some sustained level of consumption of a somewhat specific dosage across a very long indefinite period of time and geography (millions of years? hundreds of thousands of years?).

And did the consumption of mushrooms enable the state of consciousness required to understand the relationship between mushrooms and 'higher consciousness' along with the knowledge of how to refine the dose?

I haven't read his book, which may or may not explain things in clearer terms, but thus far it seems like a bunch of disconnected ideas based on some hefty assumptions, few of which are supported by any empirical evidence or even formulated in a cogent hypothetical framework.

It should be noted that I am being a little bit glib.

So 'higher consciousness' means 'ego death'. So what does ego death mean? Google it and take your pick. "The extinction of the self." "The merging of mind and universe." One poster defined it using the riddle below.

Question: What did the Buddhist monk say to the New York City hot dog vendor? Answer: Make me one with everything.

And with that non-explanation-- which ignores the part where I asked for specifics-- one bit of woo-woo is used to "describe" another. It still doesn't hold up Stoned Ape, which was never science to begin with.


@Heather No, actually, this is the part where I ask Gallup to describe his experience. You don't think it's possible to lie about one's experience? It's also possible to miss the mark. There was something I posted on page 19 of this thread where I  talked about two experiences I've had relative to psilocybin mushrooms, in both instances, I had taken a measured dose of 5 dried grams, but only one of them elicited this phenomenon. 

So, it's possible to receive mushrooms that have a low potency, but that's just one factor. McKenna always recommended that one should fast for about 5 to 6 hours prior to ingesting the mushrooms. There's many factors involved, and just because you take the "measured recommendation" doesn't ensure that you'll hit the mark. 

I'm also going to re-post a quote that I originally posted on page 10, and here goes: 

"My thing is not about my opinion or what I saw in Africa or anything like that. This is, get it straight, this is about an EXPERIENCE, not my experience YOUR EXPERIENCE. It’s about an experience, which you have, like getting laid, or like going to Africa. You must do the experience, otherwise it’s just whistling past the graveyard. And we’re not talking about something like being born again, or meeting the flying saucers, or something like that where good works and prayer are the method. No, If you take a sufficient dose of an active compound it will deliver itself to you on the money. If it doesn’t work, take more! Nobody is in a position to dismiss this just because it didn’t work for them on one or two tries. This is an art, it's an art, It’s something you coax into existence. I mean, you have to learn to make love, you have to learn to speak English. Anything worth doing is an art that is acquired. This is part of our birthright, perhaps the most important part of our birthright. These substances will deliver. It is the confoundment of psychology and science generally, and that’s why it’s so touchy for cultural institutions, but you are not a cultural institution. You are a free and independent human being, and these things have your name written on them in big gold letters." - Terence McKenna 

@Gallup So, Gallup's Mirror, would you be so kind as to describe your experience, did you experience any hallucination, etc.?

And so you do exactly as predicted - just obfuscating with verbosity to hide the universal message of the theist, "Just continue in the faith until it becomes sincere."  Thank you.

I assure you, Heather, it's not the theist's defense that you're attributing it to. Psychedelics, when done in the shamanic fashion, will deliver. What's so wonderful about psychedelics is that there is no faith necessary, as McKenna said, if you take a sufficient dose of an active compound, it will deliver on the money. There's a certain threshold that must be exceeded necessarily to elicit this phenomenon. I could get more detailed with my question to Gallup. Did he fast that day? Did he get any sleep? Did he weigh the dose? etc.

In other words you can get more detailed in your excuses as to why he isn't a convert and you are.  Exactly like any other theist.

Why don't you tell me exactly what you expect will happen if everyone takes the 'heroic' dose?  Suddenly all our free energy schemes will work, the population will level out at sustainable rates, fruit will blossom from every tree?  What?


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