Pseudoscience: The Most Dangerous Game
By Nobleman Nash Hollowhill - December 21, 2009
It is no coincidence that the majority of the Western scientific establishment would look down upon a lot of the content of Neurosoup, and indeed any and all sources of spiritually-oriented information, with scorn. Terence McKenna holds an infamous position that is not encouraged by the scientific community, but surprisingly not entirely due to his obsessions with psilocybin mushrooms as a catalyst for early hominid evolution, boundary dissolution, U.F.O.’s, DMT Machine Elves, Fractal Timewaves and Eschatology, and so forth, though his position in the scientific community was certainly not helped by these ideas. No, Terence, like Jung before him, was a victim of the very seductive phenomenon of déjà vu, synchronicity, quasi-dream states, and all-around coincidences that interfere with and sometimes rule our lives. For one, he believed that these came in close association with entheogen use, and I personally agree with him.
This contradicts the position of science because that which cannot be systematically proven in a laboratory in accordance with humane ethical standards and through rigorously peer-reviewed publications of hypotheses, methodologies, conclusions, and areas for further experimentation which can then be duplicated by anyone with the proper materials and funding, simply takes the position of being overlooked by the scientific community as irrelevant, and freakish by the very nature of its occurrence. Ghost stories, trans-dimensional contact, telepathy, mystical states, spiritual channelling, religious ecstasy, and other ordinarily extraordinary occurrences are never reported under laboratory conditions, except in patients diagnosed with acute schizophrenia, or those who have recently taken a “hallucinogen,” which is regarded by science as producing delusions and false conceptions of reality. Thus the experience never moves beyond the subject and into the personal realm felt by the scientist, and no basic comparison can be made to rationalize these ideas and explain their origins. As Terence puts it, a light particle that falls on the back of your retina is completely unique to itself, and cannot be compared to a light particle that falls on the back of another person’s retina. By these standards, there is absolutely no way of generalizing one person’s subjective reality in terms of the collective experience.
This is as good a reason as any to take anything that science says, which is based on repeatable circumstances, with a grain of salt. Clearly, all repeatable circumstances are fundamentally illusory in their appearance as being such. To take this to the extreme, the notion of the repeatable experience is a preconceived delusion that scientists have for the nature of their reality, which biases their conclusions, and to innocent bystanders like you or me, this delusion seems to be a phantom plaguing the scientist’s mind, forcing him or her to behave in certain ways that he or she deems rational and expects nothing out of the ordinary to occur, but to us these behaviors may seem spiritually devoid or purpose, ethically unsound, or against the laws of nature and karma. To experienced entheogen users like myself (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zI2tdI-6syU) and Krystle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XlQuTG9O7Y) to name a couple, the timeless loop of insanity that comes with a high dose of LSD, salvia, psilocybin, etc. shows all of the symptoms of a true scientific experiment: flawlessly repeating circumstances and results to a maddening extent, during which delusions may occur and limit our thought processes, preventing us from making spiritual progress or seeing the whole picture.
However, one difference between the scientific setting and entheogenic madness, is that (in my experience) during the drug state it is possible to hear voices of ancestors encouraging you to persevere through the experience and reassuring your faith in yourself. The scientist is not receptive to this information, it does not fit into the working scientific paradigm of the universe, and so if this experience occurs, it is either ignored, denied, or, at the expense of the experiments, the scientist seeks psychiatric help from yet another dogmatically “rational” scientist. The first scientist is then told to decrease his stress levels (which may or may not include discontinuing experimentation,) or, if the symptoms can be reliably reproduced under laboratory settings, the first scientist is diagnosed with schizophrenia or some similar condition. Upon this diagnosis, the (now) patient is given further psychiatric help, or if the symptoms interfere with the patient’s daily life, making self-actualization impossible through any means, the patient is admitted to an asylum, which as Terence points out, is almost certain to exacerbate the condition.
Now back to the area of pseudoscience, because this is also a very tempting area of belief. Because the occurrences Terence associates with entheogen use play on the immediacy of personal experience, it is very easy for him to collect listeners. People who have had the same experiences, whether drug-induced or not, and feel in their heart that the words spoken by Terence are true, seek to identify with other people about these things. It is obvious that although Terence weaves his sentences with the lyrical stylings of a bard, he is not speaking from his brain, but from his heart. He truly believes these experiences have a practical application in daily life, and that their realm of use lies in spiritual development, not the furthering of science. It would be ideal if science would take these theories seriously, but since science is solely concerned with the repeatable, a position that needs to remain valid in order for the structure of society to remain intact, this possibility lies not within the opinions of the silent majority of the scientific community.
Fringe scientists like Stanislav Grof, Ervin Laszlo, Dirk Laureyssens, Robert K. Wallace, John Keely, Walter Russell and others believe that consciousness is one of the primary elements, if not the singular element which constructs the fabric of reality and the cosmos. In fact, many ideas proposed by these real scientists, who base their conclusions on repeated experiments under laboratory conditions, involve some of the most recent and puzzling aspects of quantum physics, such as nonlocal interaction, the particle/wave paradox, quantum tunneling, and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. These ideas are fascinating in that, although having initially been uncovered by scientists like Einstein, they display many holistic qualities such as requiring an observer in order to behave like matter in the first place. Einstein called these behaviors “spooky” and Terence McKenna believes them to be hallucinations, something which reminds me of my experiences with LSD. Whichever stance you take, you are nearing the cutting edge of a modern, rational scientific explanation, and may be leaping headlong into the unknown.
One quality of many pseudoscientific claims which are based more on intuition than on hard facts, is the ability to use parallels that have never been discovered before to make saltatory conclusions. I admit to having done this a number of times, in opinionated articles I’ve submitted to Neurosoup involving concepts and experiences I felt were too strange to look at rationally and using my well-worn material reductionist mindset to try and dissect the grey areas and turn them into cohesive models for my mind to rest on, rather than attempting to prove anything outright. Many of my conclusions are heavily influenced by my drug use, some are heavily influenced by my spiritual practices, and I dare say, the majority come from the two in combination. This leaves me in a position that is alien to the scientific community, because I believe elements of these experiences to be just as valid as (if not moreso than) those which I observe in sobriety, and these notions are not reflected in the realms of the repeatable and rational. However, the ability to form connections between seemingly unconnected ideas is not a gift. It can come from absolutely anyone, from a pure genius, to a deranged lunatic. The ability to come to conclusions about how things are related is not an indication that these conclusions should be taken seriously.
This is what makes Pseudoscience the most dangerous game. I use the word game in two ways: To some, it can seem like folly, an enjoyable chase toward an end that may or may not gain a reputation for being respectable. But to others, the conclusions are taken so seriously that they are hunted voraciously and mercilessly, to the detriment of the scientific community and an individual’s respectability and sometimes sanity. In The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, the game in question is man, for he has the ability to reason, making him the most dangerous creature to hunt. A man, when hunted, can in fact become the hunter. This adds, for the hunter, to the thrill of the chase because he may soon be fearing for his life. The opposite is true for pseudoscience: Namely, pseudoscience dabbles in regions which lack reason. This makes it a dangerous pursuit for the hunter (the rational scientist whose reputation and/or sanity is at stake) and a wildcard which may endanger the foundations of science itself. Descartes’ house of cards may come tumbling down with the sudden realization that his followers in science have devoted their lives and funding to their intuitions about the solely unprovable. The conclusions based on pseudoscientific claims may turn on and hunt down the sanity of those who choose to pursue them. I feel like this is the most important message that could be stated on Neurosoup.com because these fringe ideas, (my own are some of the most suspect,) may be dangerous and impossible to rationalize.