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Did psychedelic mushrooms and group sex play a role in human evolution?
Psychedelic mushrooms may be the explanation to how the human neocortex experienced a dramatic evolutionary change from early hominids to homo sapiens.
Psychedelic drugs “expand" one's mind: this is how many people describe the changes in sensory experiences elicited by psychotropic drugs. A psychedelic trip can be good or bad, but it ultimately ends once the drug's effects wear off. According to the American ethnobotanist Terence McKenna, however, psilocybin-containing “magic" mushrooms had a profound and lasting influence on the course of human evolution.
“The great embarrassment to evolutionary theory is the human neocortex," says McKenna. He argues that there is no explanation for how such a major organ was dramatically transformed in complexity in a narrow window of time to create the jump from hominids to humans.
What lit “the fire of intelligence"? McKenna's answer lies in the hominid's diet. He essentially thinks that “we ate our way to higher consciousness."
McKenna's “Stoned Ape" theory of human evolution breaks the process into three stages. In stage one, around 40 to 50 thousand years ago, early hominids in Africa, like Homo Erectus, were forced to abandon their canopy-dwelling lifestyle due to the desertification of the African continent. As they were forced to find new sources of food, they followed herds of wild cattle in whose dung they found insects that became part of their diet. Also in the dung were magic mushrooms that often grow in such environments.
As they started to eat these mushrooms in low doses, early hominids improved their visuals acuity and became betters hunters and survivors, giving them an advantage over those who did not consume the shrooms.
Stage Two of how the psilocybin diet impacted the human brain under McKenna's theory took place 20 to 10 thousand years ago, as hominids discovered the aphrodisiac qualities of ingesting the shrooms. According to McKenna, at higher doses, the mushrooms caused increased male potency and led to group sexual activities. “Everyone would get loaded around the campfire and hump in an enormous writhing heap," half-jokingly posits McKenna.
Causing greater genetic diversification, these orgies also had the effect of creating the first societies, where males could not trace paternity and as such did not identify children as personal “property," raising them as a community.
These orgiastic sessions also led to the development of symbolic functions in hominid cognitive abilities via early art creation and dance.
The last stage of how psychedelics changed the brain came from taking higher doses of the mushrooms. McKenna argued that when doses doubled, psilocybin affected the language-forming region of the brain, causing vocalizations that became the raw material for the evolution of language. This also led to the first human religious impulse.
Challenges to McKenna's theories have mainly revolved around the lack of evidence for a number of his assertions. Many scientists have dismissed his ideas as “a story" rather than an explanation based on proven facts. Yet, there has been a growing amount of evidence about the lives of early hominids that provides some corroboration to McKenna's work.
In particular, evidence has been found that Stone Age humans ate mushrooms. German anthropologists discovered mushroom spores on the teeth of a prehistoric woman who lived around 18,700 years ago.
In 2015, the Spanish anthropologist Professor Guerra-Doce published a paper outlining the use of hallucinogenic plants by early humans. Additionally, Neolithic and Bronze cave paintings that resembled psilocybin mushrooms were found in the Italian Alps and in Villar del Humo in Cuenca, Spain.
Cave paintings that feature a row of mushroom-like objects from Villar del Humo, Cuenca, Spain. CREDIT: Giorgio Samorini
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.
- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
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Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?