Creativity, Evolution, Psychedelics: Richard Doyle and Altered States

Through a Facebook post by Christopher Knowles, previously interviewed here at TheoFantastique, I was made aware of a piece titled "Creativity, evolution of mind and the 'vertigo of freedom.'" This is a "A DIALOGUE BETWEEN JASON SILVA AND TECHNO-ECOLOGIC SCHOLAR RICHARD DOYLE." The exchange is interesting as the topics of evolution and psychedelics are brought together. The introduction to the dialogue describes Doyle as, "An explorer of the exciting and confusing rhetorical membrane between humans and an informational universe, he argues that in co-evolution with technology, we find ourselves in an evolutionary ecology that is as vital as it is unexplored."

In his new book, Darwin's Pharmacy (University of Washington Press, 2011), Doyle puts forward two claims that undergird his main thesis:

(1) Ecodelics [psychedelic plants] have been an integral part of the human toolkit, so suppressing them is like suppressing music, jokes or other aspects of our humanity. (Here I am following Samorini, Siegel, and others)


(2) As integral parts of the human toolkit, ecodelics are best modeled as part of sexual selection - the competition for mates and the leaving of progeny. A careful look at Charles Darwin's writings on sexual selection will show that sexual selection works through the management of attention - what we would now call "information technologies." Think birdsong, bioluminescence ( the most widespread communication technology on the planet), poetry.  The peacock is managing and focusing peahen attention with his feathers, so what we have called "mind" has been involved in evolution for a very long time. Mandrilles eat iboga before competing for mates.

As I read this exchange I could not help but be reminded of the great but largely neglected science fiction film ALTERED STATES (1980). This film stars William Hurt as a scientist using psychedelics in combination with a sensory deprivation tank which eventually changes his genetic structure causing him to regress and later progress in evolutionary development. ALTERED STATES also includes some interesting passing visual references to religion and mystical experiences, including depictions of apocalyptic imagery from the Book of Revelation, as well as the Genesis creation story with the first humans standing hear the Tree of Life, with an interesting twist in that it appears to be a mushroom tree, raising questions as to whether humanities woes are better explained by psychedelic experience and gnosis rather than a restored relationship with a personal Creator.

The dialogue with Doyle is interesting as it brings together evolutionary science, psychedelics, mysticism, and gnosis, and as it also dovetails somewhat with a great 1980s science fiction film

Related post:

"Avatar: Psychedelics and Shamanism"

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