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Offlinesycodelix
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The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci
    #25931894 - 04/13/19 06:41 AM (2 months, 5 days ago)

https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/stoned-ape-return



The return of the 'stoned ape' theory
A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consciousness is revived.
ROBBY BERMAN
11 April, 2019
Terence McKenna first proposed psychedelic mushrooms as the trigger for our rapid cognitive evolution.
McKenna's theory was called the "Stoned Ape Hypothesis."
The hypothesis is being revisited as a possible answer to a vexxing evolutionary riddle.
There seems to have been a profound difference in cognitive abilities between early Homo sapiens and our immediate predecessor, Homo erectus. Sure, erectus stood upright — a big, um, step forward — but with the emergence of Homo sapiens, we see traces of art, pictography, and tool usage, and we believe humankind made its first forays into language.

In the early 1990s, psychedelic advocate and ethnobotanist Terence McKenna published his book Food of the Gods in which he surmised that homo sapiens' cognitive leap forward was due to their discovery of magic mushrooms. The scientific community never took McKenna's theory very seriously, considering it mostly trippy speculation — these days, his ideas have largely been relegated to the spacier corners of Reddit. Now, however, the idea has acquired a new advocate, psilocybin mycologist Paul Stamets, who's suggesting McKenna was right all along.

The stoned ape

Terence McKenna. Image source: Jon Hanna/Wikimedia

In McKenna's Stoned Ape hypothesis," he posited that as humans began to migrate to new areas, at some point they came upon psychedelic mushrooms growing in cow droppings, as is their wont, and then ate them. After ingesting them, and more specifically the psilocybin they contained, their brains kicked into overdrive, acquiring new information-processing capabilities, and a mind-blowing expansion of our imaginations in the bargain. Many modern users of psychedelics claim the world never looks the same again after such an experience. As McKenna put it, "Homo sapiens ate our way to a higher consciousness," and, "It was at this time that religious ritual, calendar making, and natural magic came into their own."

The return of the stoned ape

Image source: Chris Moody / Shutterstock / Big Think

Regarding this theory, Stamets presented "Psilocybin Mushrooms and the Mycology of Consciousness" at Psychedelic Science 2017. In his talk he sought to rehabilitate McKenna's hypothesis as a totally plausible answer to a longstanding evolutionary riddle. "What is really important for you to understand," he said, "is that there was a sudden doubling of the human brain 200,000 years ago. From an evolutionary point of view, that's an extraordinary expansion. And there is no explanation for this sudden increase in the human brain."

Why not mushrooms? Stamets portrayed a group of early humans making their way through the savannah and happening across "the largest psilocybin mushroom in the world growing bodaciously out of dung of the animals." It needn't have been unusually large to have its effect, of course. In any event, he invited the crowd to suspend their disbelief and admit that McKenna's idea constitutes a "very, very plausible hypothesis for the sudden evolution of Homo sapiens from our primate relatives," even if it's an unprovable one.

The audience's response was reportedly enthusiastic, though it's fair to note that these were people attending a conference on psychedelic science, and thus pre-disposed toward such chemicals' importance.

Just tripping?

Image source: Apple2499 / Shutterstock

Certainly, there's general agreement on the mystery Stamets cited, if not so much on timing details. And consciousness, the "hard problem" even in its modern form, is an area rife with unanswered questions. What is consciousness, anyway? Is it a simple enough thing that it could have a single root cause as McKenna and Stamets say? Many experts suspect our brains gained new capabilities as the result of early community ties and the requirements of social interaction, but when?

Anthropologist Ian Tattersall tells Inverse that the where seems obvious enough: Africa, "For it is in this continent that we find the first glimmerings of 'modern behaviors'. . . But the moment of transformation still eludes us and may well do so almost indefinitely."

There are other researchers who've studied early humanity's use of drug plants but who are skeptical of the stoned ape notiion. Elisa Guerra-Doce, an expert in the field, considers the idea too simplistic, potentially a reduction of a complex evolutionary process into a single "aha" — or maybe "oh, wow" — moment. She's also troubled by there being little evidence of such a pivotal moment, or of drug use at all, so early in the archeological record.

Amanda Feilding of the psychedelic think tank Beckley Foundation says, however, that the stoned ape theory is at the very least a valid reminder that humans have always been drawn to and fascinated by mind-altering substances: "The imagery that comes with the psychedelic experience is a theme that runs through ancient art, so I'm sure that psychedelic experience and other techniques, like dancing and music, were used by our early ancestors to enhance consciousness, which then facilitated spirituality, art, and medicine."

Just how early our love affair with hallucinogenic states began may have something to say about the plausibility of McKenna's hypothesis, but, alas, we don't know when that would have been. And, as the saying about the 1960s goes, even if any of these people were still around to ask, anyone who was really there wouldn't be able to remember.


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Offlinesearching
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: sycodelix]
    #25932004 - 04/13/19 07:49 AM (2 months, 5 days ago)

The stoned ape theory is a stoned idea. It's only a half formed hypothesis.

McKenna said it increases visual acuity which gives an increased chance of survival and a reason for humans to continue to take mushrooms. He also said at high doses it can make people have orgies and reproduce at increased rates.
OK but how does use of psilocybin increase brain size? What is the mechanism of action that would produce such results?  Why didn't all of the other animals that came into contact with mushrooms also have an increase in brain size?

"The imagery that comes with the psychedelic experience is a theme that runs through ancient art, so I'm sure that psychedelic experience and other techniques, like dancing and music, were used by our early ancestors to enhance consciousness, which then facilitated spirituality, art, and medicine."

Or maybe since humans have created this art for generations, we have those ideas in our brains already and psilocybin allows us to see those images.

I think the brain size increased because we used reasoning and communication as a means for survival in combination with our unique ability to manipulate the environment. (walking upright giving 2 free hands with opposable thumbs) This goes in line with all other cases of evolutionary advantages. A bigger brain allowed us to outsmart our prey, and use tools to kill them. Nowhere else in evolution did an external factor literally cause the change onto an organism, which is what the stoned ape theory says.


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OfflineHappySloth
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: searching]
    #25932024 - 04/13/19 07:57 AM (2 months, 5 days ago)

I thought the human brain size increase was because we learnt to talk?


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OfflineHolybullshit
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: HappySloth] * 3
    #25932048 - 04/13/19 08:15 AM (2 months, 5 days ago)

I think the stoned ape theory gains more steam when combined with genetics. Psychedelics alter gene expression. Over many generations, especially consumption during gestation, could lead to long-term changes in neurochemistry and synaptic plasticity that could have the ability to profoundly influence both perception and behavior.

It wouldn't even need to be wholly responsible for the large increase in brain size, just enough to get the ball rolling. If these changes lead to increased use of tools, communication and language, artistic expression, and the increased expression of filial emotions...natural evolutionary development could take over from there.

Also, we've already seen the positive effect on problem solving that psychedelics can have, even at low doses, and that doesn't even involve changes in gene expression or long term changes. It's easy to see how this could influence a high primates use of tools to acquire food, and once one adopts the habit of using tools and manipulating ones environment their development follows suit.


Edited by Holybullshit (04/13/19 08:20 AM)


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Offlinecbeveridge3
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: Holybullshit] * 1
    #25932277 - 04/13/19 10:45 AM (2 months, 5 days ago)

I think an essential part of support of this hypothesis that is not discussed which I thought up when reading Dawkin's book an Evolution, The Ancestor's Tale. So one big part of evolution if Sexual selection. It is hypothesized that bipedal walking in apes might have evolved basically because it was "cool". One badass male ape starting doing that just because he was cool like that. Then all the lady apes were like dam he is soo cool, I want to bang him. So then it became part of chimp culture and then it became part of the chimp genetics because those chimps that naturally walked more bipedally because of their genes got more monkey puss. This explanation given by dawkins explains how something seen as "cool" by a species can cause evolution.

This could then explain how psychedelic mushrooms caused evolution. It because really cool and part of the culture, and more naturally psychedelic apes reproduced more. A more psychdelic ape would be more intelligent, creative, and could utilize senesthesia to create language.


Edited by cbeveridge3 (04/13/19 10:48 AM)


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Invisiblesplit_by_nine
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: cbeveridge3]
    #25932836 - 04/13/19 04:56 PM (2 months, 4 days ago)

very compelling argument, cbeveridge3


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OfflinePsilosopherr
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: split_by_nine]
    #25933088 - 04/13/19 07:53 PM (2 months, 4 days ago)

I've been saying for years, some researchers need to start feeding monkies mushrooms. :lol: Maybe over the course of several generations

Only way to kinda test this I can think of, everything else is speculation, albeit interesting/fruitful speculation

Big question on my mind lately, why did only one animal on earth evolve anywhere close to our level of intelligence? And its an interesting point somebody else in the thread brought up, why didn't other animals get a cognitive boost from the mushrooms?


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Offlinecbeveridge3
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: Psilosopherr] * 1
    #25933350 - 04/13/19 11:12 PM (2 months, 4 days ago)

I don't think this kind of testing will show anything, if this hypothesis is true, it is likely the case the evolution occurred over hundreds of thousands of years of trippin balls


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OfflinePsilosopherr
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: cbeveridge3]
    #25934223 - 04/14/19 01:10 PM (2 months, 3 days ago)

sweet contribution. anything to add?


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InvisibleBill_Oreilly
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: searching]
    #25934547 - 04/14/19 03:55 PM (2 months, 3 days ago)

Quote:

searching said:
The stoned ape theory is a stoned idea. It's only a half formed hypothesis.

McKenna said it increases visual acuity which gives an increased chance of survival and a reason for humans to continue to take mushrooms. He also said at high doses it can make people have orgies and reproduce at increased rates.
OK but how does use of psilocybin increase brain size? What is the mechanism of action that would produce such results?  Why didn't all of the other animals that came into contact with mushrooms also have an increase in brain size?

"The imagery that comes with the psychedelic experience is a theme that runs through ancient art, so I'm sure that psychedelic experience and other techniques, like dancing and music, were used by our early ancestors to enhance consciousness, which then facilitated spirituality, art, and medicine."

Or maybe since humans have created this art for generations, we have those ideas in our brains already and psilocybin allows us to see those images.

I think the brain size increased because we used reasoning and communication as a means for survival in combination with our unique ability to manipulate the environment. (walking upright giving 2 free hands with opposable thumbs) This goes in line with all other cases of evolutionary advantages. A bigger brain allowed us to outsmart our prey, and use tools to kill them. Nowhere else in evolution did an external factor literally cause the change onto an organism, which is what the stoned ape theory says.





It increases brain size because it helped them hunt so they ate more protein and such. And mckenna said that during high doses, sex is out of the question and your stuck in the trance.


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OfflineHolybullshit
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: Psilosopherr]
    #25935670 - 04/15/19 08:57 AM (2 months, 3 days ago)

Quote:

Psilosopherr said:
I've been saying for years, some researchers need to start feeding monkies mushrooms. :lol: Maybe over the course of several generations

Only way to kinda test this I can think of, everything else is speculation, albeit interesting/fruitful speculation

Big question on my mind lately, why did only one animal on earth evolve anywhere close to our level of intelligence? And its an interesting point somebody else in the thread brought up, why didn't other animals get a cognitive boost from the mushrooms?




Without opposable thumbs they couldn't possibly take the same developmental path, and unless they are omnivores they would be lacking the proper nutritional profile to develop larger brains. For all we know other species evolution could have been altered in some way, but unless the consumption of said mushrooms was widespread across the species and became a regular inclusion in their diet the effect would be smaller.

Hominoids neurochemistry could have predisposed them to chronic mushroom consumption. While their opposable thumbs and methods of communicating, and diets rich in protein, fish, but also nutritious fruits/nuts, could all be pieces of the puzzle. Other species may have been affected differently, or to a lesser degree.

It was largely our use of fire which allowed us to develop larger brains, cooking enabled us to eat a LOT more food than we would otherwise be able to. So, as I referenced in my earlier post, if mushrooms gave us a large enough boost to begin playing with fire or somehow inspired us to, they wouldn't need to be directly responsible for the dramatic increase in volume.


Edited by Holybullshit (04/15/19 09:09 AM)


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OfflineAcidPope
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: Holybullshit]
    #25935826 - 04/15/19 10:41 AM (2 months, 3 days ago)

Drugs have long given man epiphanies they've built upon. We probably got a few things from chowing down on shrooms, it's not disputed we ate them or that psychedelics can give you an epiphany. Makes sense, it's documented. I'm thinking our brains got the biggest boost from agriculture or civilization. A steady source of calories and the ability to let your guard down so you can focus on your imagination instead of not being eaten or where is my next meal coming from is huge.


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InvisibleBill_Oreilly
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: Holybullshit]
    #25937017 - 04/15/19 08:46 PM (2 months, 2 days ago)

Quote:

Holybullshit said:
Quote:

Psilosopherr said:
I've been saying for years, some researchers need to start feeding monkies mushrooms. :lol: Maybe over the course of several generations

Only way to kinda test this I can think of, everything else is speculation, albeit interesting/fruitful speculation

Big question on my mind lately, why did only one animal on earth evolve anywhere close to our level of intelligence? And its an interesting point somebody else in the thread brought up, why didn't other animals get a cognitive boost from the mushrooms?




Without opposable thumbs they couldn't possibly take the same developmental path, and unless they are omnivores they would be lacking the proper nutritional profile to develop larger brains. For all we know other species evolution could have been altered in some way, but unless the consumption of said mushrooms was widespread across the species and became a regular inclusion in their diet the effect would be smaller.

Hominoids neurochemistry could have predisposed them to chronic mushroom consumption. While their opposable thumbs and methods of communicating, and diets rich in protein, fish, but also nutritious fruits/nuts, could all be pieces of the puzzle. Other species may have been affected differently, or to a lesser degree.

It was largely our use of fire which allowed us to develop larger brains, cooking enabled us to eat a LOT more food than we would otherwise be able to. So, as I referenced in my earlier post, if mushrooms gave us a large enough boost to begin playing with fire or somehow inspired us to, they wouldn't need to be directly responsible for the dramatic increase in volume.





I think we came from a descendent of the raccoon. I knpw it sounds utterly ridiculous but they got opposable thumbs and seem to be overly friendly with humans.

People used to throw jabs at me in highschool saying i look like a raccoon. I never took it as an insult because they are really cute IMHO


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I do not receive PMs. I can't read them so don't bother. If you need to get in touch with me or ask me anything go to my bio and get my email address


The transcendental object at the end of time. The ruler of all. It can make it rain and bring tears too your eyes. It is holy. It is made of mind, syntax, and data. It is the alpha and omega...the philosophers stone. It is our end-state. Have you seen me? 👽



RIP JVELLS


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OfflineHighersyStems
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Re: The return of the 'stoned ape' theory A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consci [Re: sycodelix] * 1
    #25938688 - 04/16/19 07:13 PM (2 months, 1 day ago)

Just a bunch of hopeful bluster. 

Psychedelic experience and/or advantages do not drive mutations in sex cells which would need to happen to develop a bigger brain among other human traits.  There is absolutely no science supporting or even suggesting this could happen.  Give regular doses of psilocybin into any population of bacteria, fruit flies, rats, or monkeys and you will find unimpressive (if any at all) changes in the DNA. 

Note that many whales have brains much bigger than humans (sperm whales have the biggest at 6x our brain size).  They are intelligent, but I don't see whales making Landworld and teaching humans to do tricks for snacks any time soon. 

Humans stand alone in our self-sentience and meta-cognitive abilities. Evolution fails to account for this on many fronts for many reasons.  Perhaps the conclusion we're attempting to avoid is a simple one, yet more intimidating; maybe we didn't evolve from lower lifeforms at all.


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