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On the Evolution of Consciousness

Why Are We Unique in Thought?
Mushrooms with psychoactive elements may be the cause of Humanities dominant evolution.
Rob Frank
Mushrooms with psychoactive elements may be the cause of Humanities dominant evolution.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest among researchers and scholars in the potential role of psilocybin mushrooms in shaping the evolution of human consciousness. While the idea may seem far-fetched to some, proponents argue that the consumption of these psychoactive fungi may have played a significant role in the cognitive development of early humans.
Psilocybin, the active compound found in certain species of mushrooms, has long been known for its powerful hallucinogenic effects. In ancient cultures around the world, from the indigenous tribes of the Americas to the indigenous peoples of Africa and Asia, psilocybin-containing mushrooms have been used for spiritual and shamanic purposes for thousands of years.
Dr. Terence McKenna, a renowned ethnobotanist and advocate for the exploration of consciousness, famously proposed the “stoned ape theory” in the 1990s. According to this theory, early hominids in Africa may have consumed psilocybin mushrooms as part of their diet, leading to profound alterations in consciousness and cognition. This is supported by the fact there is considerable overlap in the areas where early humans emerged and where these mushrooms occur naturally. Proponents of the stoned ape theory argue that the psychedelic experiences induced by psilocybin mushrooms may have contributed to the development of human creativity, language, and social cohesion.¬† They suggest that these mind-altering experiences could have facilitated novel ways of thinking, enhanced pattern recognition, and fostered a deeper sense of interconnectedness with the natural world.
A map showing the hearths of early Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis
Mushrooms containing Psilocybin are native to many common areas humans evolved from, shown here (Gartz J )
While the stoned ape theory remains controversial and speculative, recent research has provided some intriguing insights into the potential cognitive effects of psilocybin. Studies conducted at institutions such as Johns Hopkins University and Imperial College London have found that psilocybin therapy can lead to profound experiences, long-lasting improvements in psychological well-being, and the creation of new neural pathways. However, it is essential to approach the subject with caution. Psilocybin is a potent psychedelic substance that can induce intense psychological experiences, including both positive and negative effects. Moreover, the legality and ethical implications of using psychedelics in research and therapeutic settings remain complex and contentious issues.
Unfortunately, because of the taboo behind psychedelics and drugs in general, research on this subject is extremely limited and has only begun to be conducted in recent years. The little experimental research that has been conducted does point to supporting the theory that if early humans had been dosing mushrooms with psilocybin in their diets for generation, it could cause the development of the millions of neural connections we can attribute to consciousness. It may seem out there to some people – but so is the concept of consciousness. If you’re quick to dismiss this thought, ask yourself: why is it that we, we and none other, decide to look up at the stars and see stories? Why is it unique to humans to strive for comfort beyond survival? What makes us think about meaning¬†and purpose? Why¬†is it we wonder?
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