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Thoughts on psychedelics influencing the evolution of mankind.

Phaxius

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The evolution of society and culture is based on an intricate relationship between a vast array of factors. It seems major rapid change may be catalyzed more by the introduction of experiences and concepts in a way that promotes a large population to reevaluate and change the structures we have created.

One example is the expansion of technology. Personal computing was an idea that was scoffed at by many in its early stages, but led way to the internet. Now even most representations of money are basically a number on a screen. 30 years ago a computer was more a curiosity for hobbyists.

Even so, generally the restructuring of society is based largely on aspects of what has already been built. Even more profound change may come more from those things over which we as individuals have little or no control (widespread deadly epidemic, global catastrophe, major war, etc).

For altered states of consciousness to have a dramatic and rapid effect on the evolution of society may be quite unlikely on its own. One person can affect global change to some extent, whereas another may have little effect in any noticable way. Even so each of us has some effect on the whole, even if those implications are totally unseen.

Psychedelics certainly can catalyze dramatic change within an individual, but then so can a lot of things. These are not so much in and of themselves anything more than what we make them. Just like no cell outside the body is itself the body as a whole, so too individual experience is but a small part of what may bring change to society.
 
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TruffulaTree

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haha I just read McKenna's Food of the Gods. I liked a lot of his thinking but to be honest I think the notion of mushroom use catalyzing the evolution of consciousness is at best a stretch and at worst ludicrous
 

BenzosBudOrBooty

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Hmmm ... not sure about this one. Leaving aside for a second the fact that sudden (versus gradual) is highly contextual...

From a biological perspective, it seems that evolutionary changes actually do occur suddenly. That, unlike Darwin's version of continuous and gradual change, evolution tends to come in bursts. (I don't have links handy, but I'd bet you could throw together a google search using a few of those words in order to bring up a range of thought on this.) Basically, we see biological "complacency" for generation after generation after generation ... followed by biological "revolution."

And relatedly...

From a socio-political perspective, I kind of doubt that the increasing popularity of LSD in the '50s/'60s and beyond or the development of the mobile phone over the last few decades can really hold a candle to revolutionary upheaval. That is, I don't see how anyone could say "there are no sudden shifts" when we look at Russia in 1917, Spain in 1936, Hungary in 1956, Cuba in 1959, Chile in 1973, Poland in 1980. (Again, I don't have links handy, and some of my dates could be off by a year or two -- although I hope not!) Would anyone be comfortable going back in time and telling a resident of Havana in late-1958 that "there are no sudden shifts"?

I know there's a temptation to say that 1917 seems like a million years ago. But, there's really no precedent to believe that, simply because the world has experienced a certain event or another, that we've left a mode of thinking behind. Quite to the contrary, actually.

Now ... with respect to psychedelic (and other drug) use and the possibility that such could lead to anything from the development of cool tech gadgets to a revolution in a Central American jungle, it seems to me that there's the following (probably fatal) idiosyncrasy: the people most interested in drug taking tend to be adolescents and young adults who typically have very low or no social capital or influence; and the people who do have social capital and influence (namely, wealthy adults) tend to age out of drug taking and start focusing on more pragmatic, lucrative, and "socially responsible" endeavors. Folks like me -- a 40-year-old frequent psychedelic user -- are something of a rare species that many of my generational peers would deem growth-stunted and pathetic.

I would love to agree with the OP's observation on the "recent paradigm shift" -- I really would! Again, though, it seems problematic. Even though I wasn't present, I'm sure that millions of similar conversations took place all throughout the Summer of Love. And then came the 1968 election. (Another "sudden shift" perhaps?) In the end, anyone who takes a position like the OP's really has to explain some very unfortunate turns of events ... in order not to repeat them, perhaps?
you're the better man. I feel psychedelics have increased intuition? Talk to any eighty year old they're much less intuitive than psychedelics have maybe forced our culture to become. And you don't lose intuition over time. Damn I can't wait to do Shrooms again.
 

Phaxius

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Since psychedelics give us temporary access to information our consciousness normally filters out, it seems plausible that some level of awareness of information normally filtered out may remain after the effects wear off. A "reconfiguring" of filters as it were. There is no way to know for sure if any of the subtle long term effects are specifically attributed to the usage of psychedelics or if these attributes would develop without ever having that experience. I personally agree that the use of psychedelics has the potential to facilitate a greater sensitivity to normally filtered stimuli (outside the realm of hppd), but then this is still just personal belief or conjecture with out empirical proof. Due to the subjective nature of consciousness, the scientific method has a difficult time coming to objective conclusions about it.
 

lovepsychadelics

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I wonder what traditional cultures have used for tens of thousands of years in order to gain deeper spiritual connection with their external environment and internal belief system?? Answer: Mushrooms, DMT, LSA and other plant/animal based hallucinogens/psychedelics. What has changed aside from technology? Indeed technology has expanded societies knowledge of such practices. Technology has enabled drugs such as LSD to be synthesized from previously deadly toxic mold growing on rye. Technology has allowed the Chinese to manufacture RC's and sell them to the west in a reverse of the 19th century "Opium War". I mean how did many of the hippies discover mushrooms? Thanks in part to a Native American tribe who had shared their knowledge with a group of scientists in the 50's. Add printed scientific publication on said experience that was available in many universities at the time and that is an example of technology increasing social awareness of mind expanding substances.

So why the increased interest? Pretty fucking simple it's on TV in books, newspapers, film and has basically become integrated into elements of popular/contemporary western culture via these vectors. For most European/Western cultures consumption of hallucinogens died out with the Romans and the introduction of Christianity. The renewed interest in such things was well advanced in Victorian times (mid-late 19th century) with mushrooms and peyote being popular among the wealthy as was the increased interest in "spiritualism". An example of this is the life of Aleister Crowley a rather amusing character in early 20th century history and "father of modern satanism" lol.

Other much more ancient examples include the following examples: Several mesolithic rock paintings from Tassili n'Ajjer have been identified by author Giorgio Samorini as possibly depicting the shamanic use of mushrooms, possibly Psilocybe. Samorini, G. (1992). "The oldest representations of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the world (Sahara Desert, 9000–7000 B.C.)". Integration 2 (3): 69–78. Bernardino de Sahagún reported ritualistic use of teonanácatl by the Aztecs, when he traveled to Central America after the expedition of Hernán Cortés. Hofmann A. (1980). "The Mexican relatives of LSD". LSD: My Problem Child. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 49–71. No doubt psychedelics have influenced the cultural development and religious beliefs and practices of certain ethnic cultures so there is little doubt human evolution in some form has been influenced by these substances. However if the belief is that by doing so we will eventually evolve into psychic beings and have extrasensory perception etc. probably not... otherwise we'd already have developed those abilities a long time ago.
 
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pmoseman

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I believe the rise in popularity of psychedelics is because of the general change in consciousness in humans (as in human kind, not in human individuals).
Psychedelics are a symptom, just like the Internet...
I think the perceivable rise is due to your interest alone, whatever you focus on you will see more of. The dreams we have now, we will build in the future. But simply dreaming does not create, man dreamed of flying long before succeeding. There is no guarantee we will ever see another galaxy. It does not work like that, nothing is destined. Otherwise there is simply no point to it. And the pint has been made already, man's dream that Earth was the center of the stars turned out to be garbage.
Have we established we are at the dawn of some sort of new age for humanity? I personally don't think so.

Human culture is constantly evolving. There's nothing new other than the exponential acceleration of innovation.

Have you looked into the study of memetics? It's about how ideas are held in the cultural consciousness.
I think we have seen some world wide changes that explain our current positions. Definite technological advantages have kept coming since the dark ages. We are the same humans, we just have to learn to live in the modern times, and there is a lot of catching up for each of us to do to understand the history behind what we perceive as modern. Unfortunately there is a lot of lost history. What I think the most important aspect of humans though is not technology. What defines us is the story of our cultural history. Lessons learned from the past propel us forward.
You cannot simply rework our morals, the stories we tell have a great deal of significance.
In our world where everything is fake, is hyped, where everything comes with a hidden agenda, it makes a lot of sense to take a substance...
You are not seeing all the positive aspects and opportunities in your life. Plus you are making the error of thinking "substances" are any different. If anything is fake, hyped, with a hidden agenda it is drugs. If you do not like the world, be the change; don't just hide away.
Different problems in different places.
Since psychedelics give us temporary access to information our consciousness normally filters out, it seems plausible that some level of awareness of information normally filtered out may remain after the effects wear off. A "reconfiguring" of filters as it were. There is no way to know for sure if any of the subtle long term effects are specifically attributed to the usage of psychedelics or if these attributes would develop without ever having that experience. I personally agree that the use of psychedelics has the potential to facilitate a greater sensitivity to normally filtered stimuli (outside the realm of hppd), but then this is still just personal belief or conjecture with out empirical proof. Due to the subjective nature of consciousness, the scientific method has a difficult time coming to objective conclusions about it.
Claims put forth without evidence are as good as lies.
 
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elucidator

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Psychedelics had absolutely no role in the evolution of humanity as far as I'm concerned, eating a 5-HTa2 agonist had nothing to do with the emergence of our bipedal existence.
I LoL'd at that first bit, you can't be serious? you may be right about that 2nd bit, though I believe they had a *lot* to do with the emergence of self reflection and general pondering about things that weren't thought about previously.


TruffulaTree;[U said:
[/U]12061813]haha I just read McKenna's Food of the Gods. I liked a lot of his thinking but to be honest I think the notion of mushroom use catalyzing the evolution of consciousness is at best a stretch and at worst ludicrous
Yes, Terrances Stoned Ape theory could have been spot on if he had dedicated more actual research to it. It has a few inherent flaws that arise from the fact the theory has no solid basis to start from. I believe he is close to the truth though.


Since psychedelics give us temporary access to information our consciousness normally filters out, it seems plausible that some level of awareness of information normally filtered out may remain after the effects wear off. A "reconfiguring" of filters as it were. There is no way to know for sure if any of the subtle long term effects are specifically attributed to the usage of psychedelics or if these attributes would develop without ever having that experience. I personally agree that the use of psychedelics has the potential to facilitate a greater sensitivity to normally filtered stimuli (outside the realm of hppd), but then this is still just personal belief or conjecture with out empirical proof. Due to the subjective nature of consciousness, the scientific method has a difficult time coming to objective conclusions about it.
I have personally experienced this "reconfiguring of filters"
many times, (excellent way of putting it). As we are all connected, I feel that any incremental evolution of intuition on a personal scale, is also implemented on the collective consciousness on a larger scale. (as within, so without)
Yes, it is pretty much futile to try to come to objective conclusions on something that is essentially subjective.


Cool collection of pics, Parappa, thanks.
 

lovepsychadelics

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The stoned ape is better than the mushroom being an extra terrestrial entity that is actually sentient and colonized planet earth all those millions of years ago just so humans could eat them and experience expanded consciousness that connected them to the cosmic "mycelium". Which is basically a gigantic sentient mushroom root system colonizing entire galaxies. The other possibility being that they designed by aliens in order to influence human evolution... and people say he (T. McKenna) wasn't completely fucking mad! I enjoy his publications but they are, for me at least, more light reading. They give me a good laugh and insight into what a few to many "heroic dose" trips can lead to. Using this theory could not DMT containing plants also have come from outer space??? Phaxiu's theory is pretty solid, McKenna's mushroom aliens... looks pretty shaky at best.
 
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elucidator

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I wonder what traditional cultures have used for tens of thousands of years in order to gain deeper spiritual connection with their external environment and internal belief system?? Answer: Mushrooms, DMT, LSA and other plant/animal based hallucinogens/psychedelics. What has changed aside from technology? Indeed technology has expanded societies knowledge of such practices. Technology has enabled drugs such as LSD to be synthesized from previously deadly toxic mold growing on rye. Technology has allowed the Chinese to manufacture RC's and sell them to the west in a reverse of the 19th century "Opium War". I mean how did many of the hippies discover mushrooms? Thanks in part to a Native American tribe who had shared their knowledge with a group of scientists in the 50's. Add printed scientific publication on said experience that was available in many universities at the time and that is an example of technology increasing social awareness of mind expanding substances.

So why the increased interest? Pretty fucking simple it's on TV in books, newspapers, film and has basically become integrated into elements of popular/contemporary western culture via these vectors. For most European/Western cultures consumption of hallucinogens died out with the Romans and the introduction of Christianity. The renewed interest in such things was well advanced in Victorian times (mid-late 19th century) with mushrooms and peyote being popular among the wealthy as was the increased interest in "spiritualism". An example of this is the life of Aleister Crowley a rather amusing character in early 20th century history and "father of modern satanism" lol.

Other much more ancient examples include the following examples: Several mesolithic rock paintings from Tassili n'Ajjer have been identified by author Giorgio Samorini as possibly depicting the shamanic use of mushrooms, possibly Psilocybe. Samorini, G. (1992). "The oldest representations of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the world (Sahara Desert, 9000–7000 B.C.)". Integration 2 (3): 69–78. Bernardino de Sahagún reported ritualistic use of teonanácatl by the Aztecs, when he traveled to Central America after the expedition of Hernán Cortés. Hofmann A. (1980). "The Mexican relatives of LSD". LSD: My Problem Child. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 49–71. No doubt psychedelics have influenced the cultural development and religious beliefs and practices of certain ethnic cultures so there is little doubt human evolution in some form has been influenced by these substances. However if the belief is that by doing so we will eventually evolve into psychic beings and have extrasensory perception etc. probably not... otherwise we'd already have developed those abilities a long time ago.
Thanks to everyone for these excellent replies. I had not realized how complex this is on so many levels. There is little chance of it all being explained completely in one thread, but hopefully we can get a few ideas.

The original inspiration for me to start this thread was a rant in my favourite movie Waking Life that interested me greatly.
Transcript of the scene here
NSFW:




Eamonn Healy said:
If we're looking at the highlights of human development, you have to look at the evolution of the organism and then at the development of its interaction with the environment. Evolution of the organism will begin with the evolution of life perceived through the hominid coming to the evolution of mankind. Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man. Now, interestingly, what you're looking at here are three strings: biological, anthropological -- development of the cities -- and cultural, which is human expression.

Now, what you've seen here is the evolution of populations, not so much the evolution of individuals. And in addition, if you look at the time scales that are involved here -- two billion years for life, six million years for the hominid, 100,000 years for mankind as we know it -- you're beginning to see the telescoping nature of the evolutionary paradigm. And then when you get to agricultural, when you get to scientific revolution and industrial revolution, you're looking at 10,000 years, 400 years, 150 years. Uou're seeing a further telescoping of this evolutionary time. What that means is that as we go through the new evolution, it's gonna telescope to the point we should be able to see it manifest itself within our lifetime, within this generation.

The new evolution stems from information, and it stems from two types of information: digital and analog. The digital is artificial intelligence. The analog results from molecular biology, the cloning of the organism. And you knit the two together with neurobiology. Before on the old evolutionary paradigm, one would die and the other would grow and dominate. But under the new paradigm, they would exist as a mutually supportive, noncompetitive grouping. Okay, independent from the external.

And what is interesting here is that evolution now becomes an individually centered process, emanating from the needs and desires of the individual, and not an external process, a passive process where the individual is just at the whim of the collective. So, you produce a neo-human, okay, with a new individuality and a new consciousness. But that's only the beginning of the evolutionary cycle because as the next cycle proceeds, the input is now this new intelligence. As intelligence piles on intelligence, as ability piles on ability, the speed changes. Until what? Until we reach a crescendo in a way could be imagined as an enormous instantaneous fulfillment of human? human and neo-human potential. It could be something totally different. It could be the amplification of the individual, the multiplication of individual existences. Parallel existences now with the individual no longer restricted by time and space.

And the manifestations of this neo-human-type evolution, manifestations could be dramatically counter-intuitive. That's the interesting part. The old evolution is cold. It's sterile. It's efficient, okay? And its manifestations of those social adaptations. We're talking about parasitism, dominance, morality, okay? Uh, war, predation, these would be subject to de-emphasis. These will be subject to de-evolution. The new evolutionary paradigm will give us the human traits of truth, of loyalty, of justice, of freedom. These will be the manifestations of the new evolution. And that is what we would hope to see from this. That would be nice.
It explains the telescopic nature of evolution quite well.
 

elucidator

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The stoned ape is better than the mushroom being an extra terrestrial entity that is actually sentient and colonized planet earth all those millions of years ago just so humans could eat them and experience expanded consciousness that connected them to the cosmic "mycelium". Which is basically a gigantic sentient mushroom root system colonizing entire galaxies. The other possibility being that they designed by aliens in order to influence human evolution... and people say he (T. McKenna) wasn't completely fucking mad! I enjoy his publications but they are, for me at least, more light reading. They give me a good laugh and insight into what a few to many "heroic dose" trips can lead to. Using this theory could not DMT containing plants also have come from outer space??? Phaxiu's theory is pretty solid, McKenna's mushroom aliens... looks pretty shaky at best.
Some of McKennas theories are laughable at best, as they have been derived on heroic doses, which we all know, isn't the most coherent states of consciousness to put it lightly. Lol at super intelligent alien fungi. That being said, I think he was an incredibly intelligent man who had his heart in the right place, but happened to interpret too many drug induced delusions as being the complete truth, when they are probably closer to vaguev individaul aspects of the complete truth.
 

lovepsychadelics

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No they are not, that is completely wrong.
A theory is just that an idea that lacks sufficient evidence to be classed as a fact. Other words that may be used in place of the word theory include: hypothesis, thesis, conjecture, supposition, speculation etc. Don't think I need to go much further than this for you to understand that your wrong. There usually is some basis (strictly speaking a basis is not necessarily evidence) to a theory. I assure you McKenna's mushroom theory had some basis namely that only "psychedelic mushrooms" created this state of mind experienced post consumption however he had little else to support his claims. The mushrooms sure as hell were not getting up and telling the world they were the key to cosmic understanding, unless one consumed them and the results are entirely subjective anyway.

So theory equals speculation. An example in popular culture would be the big bang theory when Sheldon Cooper drags the other three guys to the north pole for his string theory but finds no data to collaborate his claims and the guys fake the data so they can go home. This leads Sheldon to think his theory is validated and has become fact.
I'm thinking I should just post in the neuroscience science forum and AusDD less kiddy crap.
 

Phaxius

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In terms of claims without evidence, everything we deem objective proof stems from a fundamental belief that what we are experiencing is real. For this, the only evidence is subjective due to the fact that we cannot attempt to prove anything without it passing through our perception. With this in mind, how can we claim with certainty that we are in fact interacting with other people in our day to day life? We could ask several other people if they perceive someone to be there, and thus objectify the existence of that person, but we cannot prove that any of those people exist either outside of our subjective experience of them.

I think it fair to say that more people believe that we exist (in some shape, form, or fashion) and are interacting with each other on a daily basis than the alternative. Even so this is something that cannot be proven in a conventional sense because our fundamental way of gathering irrefutable evidence is based off of the basic assumption that all of this is real.

Theories are meant to provoke thought and give direction to exploration to help increase understanding of what we call reality. Without unsubstantiated lines of thought no one would have any reason to do any of the research that has been done to help us better understand ourselves and how things work. Even so, there are many things that may never be possible to quantify. Some may call empirical data objective, I use this term but still prefer collective subjective.

The mystery of consciousness is perhaps one of the most attractive pulls towards the use of psychedelics, as it allows us to step outside everything we thought we knew and gain new perspective on how we perceive everything.
 
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lovepsychadelics

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^ Now that is some interesting thought process going on right there! Much more entertaining reading about someones beliefs on a subject vs someone coming along and talk about how everyone else is wrong and then actually contraindicates them self. Quantify or qualify do we need to compare the objective data or do we need to explore the subjective experience? Theories are meant to provoke thought and reflection and they do so irrespective of motive. Do we wish to disprove a theory or prove it? The entire psychedelic experience is a subjective one and therefore only qualitative data has any real meaning. The physiological aspect is the quantifiable data such as adverse physical effects on the individuals health are the substances in question fairly benign physically?

I feel subjectively like I have taken a psychedelic substance. I am experiencing changes to my visual perception. Have not slept for 30 odd hours and am fascinated by this thread yet I have abstained for almost a week from substances new years day being the last time I consumed any psychedelics. This is not HPPD. Perhaps there is some validity to the claim psychedelics do change our intrinsic thought patterns? Enough revelations for one evening time for sleep. :)
 
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pupnik

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so, as regards evolution, use of psychedelics is not exactly an adaptive behavior that is used by a large enough section of the population to see an effect on the species nor is there any selection going on that eliminates a significant population in the species due to use of psychedelics.

however
our societies are in a kind of maintenance mode.
if you consider the caste system in India
or The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else,
we note that there is similarity in the stability of class structures
things we thought were feudal concepts persist
they were feudal
somehow that fits the shape of this species (not me) like hills fit ants, and hives fit bees,
and we may note that one of the classes or subclasses is Priesthood or Shaman caste (with several sub specializations (maybe me)).
In many societies this class does not breed, which is not significant as there are always members to fill the void, and children of shaman types often do not have the phenotype to be shaman type people (mine seem to have it).

So I would say that the idea is more about social stability
and that the effect is on a small bit of population that shifts (i.e. not necessarily genetic for the most part).

Note: evolution is observed and measured on geological time scales so we can not likely see it in our species, although extinction can be seen (in endagered species) and that may have inspirational influence on genetic diversity, such as in attempts at racial cleansing (which never really seems to work as expected - even the neanderthals are still in our midst).

also
to try to see us as unique among appreciators of inebrients is too small minded.
reindeer love to eat amanitas and will even eat the urine soaked snow of other reindeer if the yellow patch smells of amanitas.
cats like catnip etc...

I think some of us really like psychedelics and there seems to be a place for us in the world - we just have to find that place carefully and individually.
 

pmoseman

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A theory is just that an idea that lacks sufficient evidence to be classed as a fact. Other words that may be used in place of the word theory include: hypothesis, thesis, conjecture, supposition, speculation etc. Don't think I need to go much further than this for you to understand that your wrong. There usually is some basis (strictly speaking a basis is not necessarily evidence) to a theory. I assure you McKenna's mushroom theory had some basis namely that only "psychedelic mushrooms" created this state of mind experienced post consumption however he had little else to support his claims. The mushrooms sure as hell were not getting up and telling the world they were the key to cosmic understanding, unless one consumed them and the results are entirely subjective anyway.

So theory equals speculation. An example in popular culture would be the big bang theory when Sheldon Cooper drags the other three guys to the north pole for his string theory but finds no data to collaborate his claims and the guys fake the data so they can go home. This leads Sheldon to think his theory is validated and has become fact.
I'm thinking I should just post in the neuroscience science forum and AusDD less kiddy crap.
I am correct.
As a technical term, theory is not what you or phaxius thinks.
A theory does not graduate to being fact.
 

Vurtual

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Nooooooooo
my vague recollection (without googling) is that a hypothesis is more what was being described above as a theory (that is a speculative theory ready for further testing) - if wider testing doesn't eliminate the hypothesis and there is general agreement it graduates to a theory, which is more solid than a hypothesis. The theory (or aspects of it) should still be falsifiable by further experiment, so can't be described as fact, but is closer to a 'fact' than a hypothesis in the general sense i think. The theory doesn't graduate to fact, just becomes the current theory until disproved.

(sciencey-types correct me please)
 

Phaxius

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Indeed, hypothesis would be more technically correct in this case. I will say, however, that a statement such as "Claims put forth without evidence are as good as lies" has no real basis in fact for it to be correct or incorrect. That statement falls into the realm of opinion. At any rate, arguing semantics is not the purpose of this thread and just muddies the waters.

There has been some work done regarding neurogenesis and psychedelics. I am at work right now, but will post a bit more on this later with references even :)
 
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