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.
@Heather No, I'll get more detailed in my responses to you, because you obviously haven't a clue.
And I've often repeated that this experience isn't truly understood until one has it for him/herself. You see, it's like the example I gave earlier of someone attempting to describe an orgasm to someone's who's never had an orgasm. What would you say? If you attempt to describe it, and say something like, "Oh, well, it feels like your genitals are sneezing." It doesn't matter how articulate and flowery your articulation of this orgasmic act may get, your description will never pay justice to the splendor of this experience.
Well, describing the psychedelic experience is very much like that, but it's even worse, because... anyone who hasn't had this experience cannot have anything to base it on or to extrapolate upon. So, that's why I believe it's necessary, in order to truly understand this experience, to have it for yourself.
So it delivers nothing other than an overwhelming urge to talk about it or create bullshit equations for the end of the world. Doesn't sound very interesting.
No, it creates a phenomenon in consciousness that, if you were to undergo this experience, you'd spend the rest of your days pondering it. Yes, you, Heather, with all the "straight, unstoned science" that you've imbibed would have no better explanation than I attempting to describe what's going on.
Terence McKenna once said, "There are two types of people in this world: Psychedelic and clueless." You seem to fall heavily in the latter portion.
"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."
Well, your skepticism is quite understandable as it's perfectly normal for someone who's never had this experience to doubt it. As I said before, we're in a way intellectually set-up to doubt this, and that's fine. Because you see, it is a tried-and-true phenomenon in consciousness that most people, theists and atheists alike, do not realize exists. Most people don't know it exists. It's something that if I hadn't experienced for myself, I would most likely share your skepticism. It's also called "non-duality" in Hinduism. I have elaborated on this more thoroughly on another thread on this website, so instead of just repeating myself, I'll link you to the thread, but if you have any more questions about it, I'd be glad to answer.
Well, your skepticism is quite understandable as it's perfectly normal for someone who's never had this experience to doubt it.
It's not the doubt of the experience that presents such a problem, at least from my perspective; it's the transmissibility of the benefits of a fairly insular experience across a grand scale of time and impact to the entire species. That's certainly not the only issue which concerns me with your explanation, but it would take quite some time to list them all.
Well, your skepticism is quite understandable as it's perfectly normal for someone who's never had this experience to doubt it. [...]if you have any more questions about it, I'd be glad to answer.
There is no need, Jimmy. As I explained to you earlier in this thread, I have consumed psilocybin mushrooms and at a much greater dosage than even McKenna recommended.
I do not doubt the effect of the mushroom, only McKenna's (and your) portrayal of the meaning and significance of that effect and how it applies to Stoned Ape.
This is the part where he'll just say you couldn't possibly have taken the dosage of him or his guru or you would also worship the guru - exactly like Christians who'll tell you your prayers never worked because you didn't have as much 'faith' as them, otherwise you would have as much 'faith' as them.
@Kris Feenstra I at least appreciate that you've met this with a little more rationality than the rest of the gang here. You're absolutely right about this aspect of human experience being a kind of insular thing, however...
If you look into art history, you'll find plenty of evidence of early civilizations worshipping mushrooms. It's no mystery that civilizations that existed before the Mayans had an entire cornucopia of hallucinogens that they used, an entire complex of entheogens, so I think it's simply now that we find a world that has lost connection to this original bridge to the so-called "divine," but I know words like that muddy a conversation like this because they've been so tainted by contemporary religion.
@Jimmy Living things can be divided up in many different ways. Some divisions require hard choices, however. In terms of common English usage, if not biological taxonomy, mushrooms and other are plants. Outside the biology classroom or lab, in everyday language, the choice is between plant and animal.
Mushrooms from space. There's the next big summer blockbuster.
The whole idea of mushrooms from space is just flat out ridiculous. Could an asteroid deliver a virus? Maybe. A bacterium or something like one? I doubt it, but can't rule it out. However, a plant forming somewhere VERY far away that can fit into Earth's ecosystems really stretches plausibility to the limit. While life is possible on other worlds, it would be hard to imagine that they'd be sufficiently adapted to life on earth to survive here.
Mushrooms aren't plants, and spores can actually survive very cold temperatures, temperatures you'd find in space, in fact. The organic casing of a spore approaches that of a metal, and the violet exterior can withstand high amounts of radiation, and so forth. Why isn't it plausible to think that spores can drift through a kind of Brownian motion like cosmic dandruff?
Mushrooms are, however, eukaryotes and as such share some basic genetic similarities with every other eukaryote on the planet. The evidence that they evolved here, with us, from a common ancestor is overwhelming to everyone except theists. Don't be fucking ridiculous.