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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Again, this is not about whether or not shrooms exist, or whether or not the offer an experience that seems like 'heightened consciousness'.  It's about whether or not they could have driven the evolution of consciousness.  Not only is there no basis for that claim - there is no mechanism to support it.

And again, I ask you - what is it that you are claiming that psilocibyn can offer society?  Why do you insist it drove our evolution contrary to every known mechanism of selective pressure?

Your dogmatic assertions of McKenna's drivel are EXACTLY akin to religion.  Even though his explanation for origins of consciousness are based on false claims and misunderstanding - you simply point to your own ignorance of evolution and say, "therefore mushrooms did it."

NO, it's just that you just choose to close-mindedly ignore everything I've laid out here. Did you pay attention to the third step involved? Apparently not. Your intractable attitude is quite parallel to religious people when they shut their ears and only hear what they want to hear. So, you see, I could say the same for you.

If you truly want to criticize this concept, maybe you should listen to "Plants, Consciousness, and Transformation," because you're not grasping it at all.

Please concisely layout step three then - because all I'm seeing is more drivel about how mushrooms made us better hunters (based on a false visual acuity claim, disregarding perceptual distortions unconducive to hunting), who had more children because of being more horny (doesn't work that way), and ultimately caused some genetic change that gave us higher consciousness (lamarckian fallacy).

It's not a Lamarckian fallacy, and the only reason you think it is, is because you don't understand it. I mean, I've typed out enough explanations, I've left dozens of links. I mean, I don't know what else is there to do... Should I send you 5 dried grams in the mail or something? Because you're clearly not getting it. 

It's not simply a genetic change, the third step gives way as a catalyst for the imagination. They are catalysts for the imagination, they catalyze thought. Thought becomes more baroque, it reaches deeper into reality for data, and so what it does is by some degree transferring chaos into the mental world, it creates a much richer dynamic.

 So thought processes become more complicated, and in a sense language becomes the behavior which expresses the imagination. Recall the glossolalia portion of Terence's shtick that I typed in the previous post. It can be expressed in a limited form, through dance, through gesture, and of course it can be expressed very well through painting.

 If you’ve reached the stage where you have painting and are not chipping rock, or are not drawing in blood in the sand, and stuff like that, if you have a really rich technology behind your artistic intent, but that rich technology would have never arisen without the intercession of language.

 And so, these two things which make us unique among nature's productions on this planet, imagination and language seem to be almost like the exterior and interior manifestation of the same thing, the same phenomenon. What it is, is it’s a facility with data, an ability to connect it in novel ways, and so Terence believed that psilocybin is catalyst for the imagination, but the third step is actually something that cannot be described, it is a boundary-dissolving, colossal, God-like experience and it was was probably the presence of the hallucinogenic experience  in the life of early man that laid the very basis for the idea of spirit.

However, that is only a portion of it, if I can find some time, I'll try and find the links that elaborate on this third step, because it is definitely the most important of the three, the other are actually trivial in comparison.

Why not just type out the 'third step' clearly and concisely?  How did a chemically induced state lead the selective pressure that passed on 'higher consciousness' to offspring?  That is Lamarckian, plain and simple.  If there is a non-Lamarckian mechanism there, then please elaborate.

The simple response, Heather, is that the dietary pressure that canopy-dwelling hominids underwent forced them to forage and adapt to the African veldt where ungulate mammals that also occupied this environment left behind excremental abodes for coprophilic fungi that a ravenous ape could not resist, and once digested, forcefully bestowed a catalysis of consciousness... That's it in a nutshell.

But like I said, if you fill your belly full with psilocybin, it's not going to be very easy to describe what follows. But, I am collecting videos on this phenomenon, and I will have a more elaborate response on it.

We already know that we moved onto the savannah and can use that data to find selective pressures for walking upright.  We do not, however, have any evidence whatsoever that our ancestors were any more likely to be eating shrooms than any other species on the savannah.

Even if we did, we would be left with the question of what selective pressure that would introduce towards increased brain function.  What is the selective pressure that you are suggesting here?  Oh, I forgot, you don't know the difference between selection and Lamarckism.

Not to interrupt what appears to be a passionate debate, but if these mushrooms were spread around and as available as you suggest, why was it only hominids that partook?  why don't we have other intelligent creatures?

I've already answered this question (not your question Strega, but I also find it interesting), but I think you, Heather, need to heed your own words, because it is you that doesn't know the difference. If psilocybin is the catalyst, then this would account for increased brain fuction. It's even accounted for in studies that have been done with psilocybin that you have increased functioning in the temporal lobes, and this is what I mean by extrapolation, we build upon what we know, and it's a good thing that we still have these things within our presence. 

I don't think we couldn't have these things not in our presence. In other words, I don't think it's a coincidence that not only is DMT part of our natural neural chemistry, but it's also ubiquitous in nature.

Full circle done - thank you for documenting the bullshit philosophy of Terrence as understood by one of his devotees.  Have a nice day.

It's *Terence* McKenna, with one "r," and thank you for once again giving me another narrow-minded  response. You've proven that you're just as close-minded as any theist. I'll have a nice day, but I don't know if I could say the same about you.

@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?

Of course it's possible to lie. People pull things out of their asses all the time.

That is the reason why the scientific method requires proof and testability. That is the reason why the scientific method excels at determining what is true from what is not true. That is the reason why whatever approach that fails to meet this high standard has failed to meet the scientific standard. Heather called this 'junk science', remember? And that brings us to McKenna, not to my past drug use.

McKenna offered no evidence that the events in human evolution as he depicted in Stoned Ape ever occurred. On that basis alone, Stoned Ape it is not a scientific hypothesis. And as Christopher Hitchens once said, claims made without evidence may be dismissed without evidence. Moreover, McKenna's Stoned Ape hypothesis cannot be tested. On that basis as well, Stoned Ape is not a scientific hypothesis.

So the "debate" on Heather's original point-- that McKenna engaged in junk science-- is essentially over. Indeed, there was never any debate on the point at all. Stoned Ape is not science. McKenna (and you) simply draped baseless conjecture with scientific terminology in an effort to claim the credibility of empirical science.

You frame this falsely as "you don't/refuse to understand" but this simply isn't the case. I understand the "theory" as McKenna explains it-- better vision and more fucking-- so there is no need to belabor the point with repeated explanations as though I am resistant to it. I'm saying the theory is not up to scientific standards (junk science) so it is worthless to me as a scientist.

Beyond that, I don't understand what "ego death" has to do with Stoned Ape-- let alone how this is supposed to work in the formation of consciousness-- but my lack of understanding isn't because you have presented a sound scientific explanation that is somehow beyond my grasp. It's because what you're saying is complete rubbish, in addition to not being scientific. That is, you haven't provided an explanation of any kind, let alone a sound one, or one supported by evidence, or one that may be tested, or one that doesn't depend on a woo-woo concept like 'ego death'.

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

I've already been kind, Jimmy. You read one such description I posted earlier in this thread-- including a tactile hallucination-- and spontaneously proclaimed for all to read that my bad trip was actually an 'ego death'. I was the one who said you were full of it, remember?

But I'm sure this sudden reversal and pants-on-fire routine has no connection with my persistent non-purchase of the woo-woo. That wouldn't be very kind at all, would it?

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