In scientific reasoning, a hypothesis is an assumption made before any research has been completed for the sake of testing. A theory on the other hand is a principle set to explain phenomena already supported by data.
“How early humans developed consciousness remains shrouded in mystery. There are of course, many theories.
Who was Terence McKenna?
Terence McKenna (1946- 2000), was an American ethnobotanist, author, lecturer and psychedelics advocate. In 1992 he published a book called ‘Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge— A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution’. Hailed as a ‘modern classic on mind-altering drugs and hallucinogens’ (Washington Post) it contained the radical ‘Stoned Ape Theory’.
What is ‘Stoned Ape Theory?‘
Firstly, for all you sticklers for accuracy, the ‘Stoned Ape Theory’ is not technically a theory. A theory is a hypothesis (a proposed explanation or idea) that is backed up by proven evidence. As there is currently no concrete factual evidence for this idea, it remains a hypothesis. So! The ‘Stoned Ape Hypothesis’. What is it?!
It is thought that between 2 million and 700,000 years ago Homo erectus brains doubled in size. Their descendants, Homo sapiens (that’s us!) brains proceeded to triple in size somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 years ago. There is, currently, no agreed upon theory for such a dramatic evolutionary development.
Enter the Mushroom…
McKenna proposed that these massive accelerations were due to an unexpected source— magic mushrooms.
Imagine the scenario: early human has descended from the trees. Leaving the leafy canopy behind they begin, in groups, to track and domesticate herds of animals. In the manure left by the animals, mushrooms begin to grow. Specifically psilocybin, or magic mushrooms. Munching together, on the shrooms, they begin to feel the psychedelic effects. The psilocybin in the mushrooms, behaves exactly as it does today, opening the minds of its consumers. This process kicked into overdrive the ability to process information, imagine and think abstractly.
As McKenna put it, ‘Homo sapiens ate our way to a higher consciousness’.
The Birth of Language
Even the development of language can be linked with the hypothesis. Psilocybin can induce a brain state similar to synesthesia— where different senses, such as vision and sound, get paired together. This could explain how humans were able to begin to create association with the things they saw and the noises that they made with their mouths— thus language was born.
Strengthening of Community
Feelings of interconnectedness and empathy that shrooms encourage, would have strengthened community— which is one of the secrets to humanity’s success. In fact, McKenna also maintained that increased sexual arousal due to ingestion of shrooms (this has not been proven) would have further benefited the growth of population. Additionally, early religious and ceremonial ritual may have been based upon the psychedelic experiences induced by the magic mushrooms.
The Psychedelic Relationship Continues
Today, McKenna’s hypothesis has been widely debunked as being too simplistic an explanation for the mystery of human consciousness. Despite this, it remains a compelling argument to consider in relation to a question that may never get a definite answer. Meanwhile, McKenna should remain lauded for recognising what science is only beginning to take seriously now— that psilocybin is a revolutionary tool for brain wellness. With more and more promising results from psychedelic studies, even if shrooms didn’t create human consciousness, in the near future they could play a big part in improving it.”
The aquatic ape hypothesis (AAH), also referred to as aquatic ape theory (AAT) or the waterside hypothesis of human evolution, postulates that the ancestors of modern humans took a divergent evolutionary pathway from the other great apes by becoming adapted to a more aquatic habitat.
The hypothesis was initially proposed by the marine biologist Alister Hardy in 1960, who argued that a branch of apes was forced by competition over terrestrial habitats to hunt for food such as shellfish on the sea shore and sea bed, leading to adaptations that explained distinctive characteristics of modern humans such as functional hairlessness and bipedalism. Elaine Morgan’s 1990 book on the hypothesis, Scars of Evolution, received some favorable reviews but was subject to criticism from the anthropologist John Langdon in 1997, who characterized it as an “umbrella hypothesis” with inconsistencies that were unresolved and a claim to parsimony that was false.
The hypothesis is highly controversial, and has been criticized as pseudoscience. The hypothesis is thought to be more popular with the lay public than with scientists; in the scientific literature, it is generally ignored by anthropologists.