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.
Crick on LSD when he discovered LSD? I think you meant to say the "double-helix form of DNA," not LSD. Albert Hofmann discovered LSD.
Steve Jobs once said,
Steve Jobs. The guy who probably killed himself by eschewing traditional medicine and trying "other side of the coin" alternatives. I believe he admitted as much in his final days.
I think you meant to say the "double-helix form of DNA," not LSD.
The transposition of the three letters DNA and LSD seemed obvious to me as well, Jimmy.
If you're here to make a case for McKenna's work I'm prepared to listen, but if that includes crowing about typographical errors, you're already taking the subject too personally. I suppose the poignancy is about your conversion to Buddhism after having a psychedelic experience.
Steve Jobs once said, “Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”
And this means what toward showing the science behind McKenna's work is sound? That's what Heather is examining here.
And by the way: I'm not glad Steve Jobs is dead, but I'm glad he's gone. He didn't create a lot of things, but he sure stole a lot of ideas. And what a load of crap that making money wasn't important to him.
More than anything, Jobs was a marketing genius who created a legion of blind followers. He also had good design sense. His stuff looks cool even if it isn't any better than stuff costing half the price. He made it easy for people don't know diddley squat about how computers work to feel cool buy simply owning one. They are the same sheep who have to have the latest whatever-it-is in order to validate themselves.
Well, Steve Jobs is just one example of many people who have taken "heroic doses" of a psychedelic compound and had their lives completely changed. You spoke about Buddhistic conversion. Well, there have been famous atheists who've taken psychedelics and had powerful experiences with them and have converted to Buddhism, in fact. To name a few examples, I'd say Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Richard Alpert.
It wasn't a simple typo, by the way, I replaced it with an entire phrase not to "crow over a typographical error," but to not confuse people who were reading that post. I replaced LSD with "double-helix form of DNA."
And if it sounds like I'm taking this personally, that's because I've had this experience, and it was something that to this day... I still ponder about, and probably will ponder unto death. It's just disheartening to hear people who've never taken these substances feel that their opinion on it is somehow valid. The modern approach which is "How little can you get away with taking, and still be one of the gang?" is even more insidious, because then feel capable of talking about these things. You know, there are people who feel that their opinions on the psychedelic experience should be weighed very carefully who have only taken MDMA or some piddling dose of psilocybin. Well, listen I've got news for you. I mean, that is to the domain Terence was talking about like a broken tricycle is to a Tessa Rosa Ferrari.
Yes or No Strega???
Thanks for proving my point Strega : ))
You dont have a damn clue
You have an inibility to be honest.
I start with the assumption that, with the possible exception of professional medical intervention, all psychoactive chemicals detract, in some way, from the ideal - a clear head. However impairment might not always be a negative thing. I'll try pasting from something I said in another thread:
analogy I like to use: You're walking down your town's main shopping street. You look in the window of a sporting goods shop (or a shoe shop, if you're female ;-) and you form opinions about what you see. However 50% of the light that is actually hitting your eyes is reflected by the window - images of people walking behind you, of cars going by, of shops across the street. But because of the purpose you have of looking at the latest fishing reels or pumps, your mind filters out that other 50%. You don't even notice it (unless you choose to). When tripping you "treat" all; the light the hits your eyes equally - judge nothing - have no purpose - just be aware. Seeing things as they actually are can be a real teaching experience.
So what I'm saying is that your ability to judge what you perceive is impaired. Pot impairs something else. When straight you have the natural ability to switch "focus" quickly - maybe several time a second. When stoned that ability is impaired "allowing" you to concentrate on music or sex or food and dismiss whatever else is going on around you.
This still doesn't constitute Lamarck inheritance. The mother's don't actually acquire a trait that then gets passed on - they damage their unborn fetus who then grows up to give birth to children with birth defects.
Theoretically, consumption of mushrooms may have caused this to happen at some point during our ancestry - in point of fact it most likely has occurred somewhere at sometime. We are still left however, with a complete lack of evidence that our ancestors were regularly consuming psilocybin at the time we speciated to Homo-sapiens. Furthermore, the 'acquired benefits' cited by McKenna (one of which was fabricated) were not the 'traits' that would have been passed along by selective pressures.
When these changes are inherited, scientists have found, the implications can be staggering. Part of your risk of disease may be determined by what your great-grandparents ate, not just the genes they passed on.
We can lose sleep over this (which is something we can't really predict, trace back, or do something about) or simply accept that—as has always been the case—we are actors on a stage with a set and props we simply have to live with because they are beyond our control. Lacking a script, we may do things today that affect subsequent generations, but not having a crystal ball we probably shouldn't think about something we can't think about.
here's a really interesting blog from Sam Harris that relates to the topic