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Scientists are not qualified to study the effects of DMT

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

February 5, 2023

iewed in a certain light, there is something almost offensive about the way modern scientists try to pick apart the DMT experience by referring it to brain waves and neurons and the limbic system and the structure of the paramammalian cortex. Imagine a scientist in the ancient Indus Valley hooking up the locals to an encephalograph to see what was going on in their brains when they ingested the religion-inspiring medicine called soma1. The very implication of such an experiment is that the divine experience that people are having on soma is "nothing but" a scientific phenomenon that can be readily explained - which to a materialist at least means it can be readily "explained away."

It's as if the scientist had just seen Jesse Owens run the 100-meters in 10.30 seconds2, and instead of asking how he overcame racism to achieve such a goal, the scientist asked: "Exactly how did his tibia and fibia work together with the menisci and bursae to produce such a result?" That's an interesting question to a pedant, perhaps, but misses the whole point in the living-breathing world of the athlete.

In both cases, the scientist is implicitly shouting, "Nothing to see here!" when it comes to subjective wonders. "It can all be explained by physical phenomena that could not have functioned otherwise."

But the problem with scientists studying the DMT experience is that they are not qualified for that task. They are not qualified to study an experience whose results depend on user subjectivity, for subjectivity is the ultimate no-no of science. Of course, many scientists today claim that science can involve subjectivity, and in a good way, as it were, but it does not involve subjectivity where it counts. For while Galileo was content to evict God from the laboratory as a subjective belief not susceptible of scientific proof, modern scientists have evicted teleology in general from the lab, to the point where those who believe in deeper meanings behind life are often, in practice, dismissed as Christian fundamentalists. That was the fate of researchers Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe, proponents of the Intelligent Design hypothesis, a fate which atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel called "manifestly unfair" in his politically incorrect 2012 book entitled "Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.3" Even to this day, Wikipedia's "objective accounts" of these researchers libel them as "pseudoscientists."

Sure, the scientist is somewhat subjective in deciding WHAT to study and who to include in trials and so forth, but the scientist qua scientist is always interested in eradicating subjectivity whenever possible.

Consider the comments of drugs researcher Chris Timmermann in the book "DMT: Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule." He worries that his DMT studies may be compromised because the participants had all used a DMT-containing substance prior to these most recent trials and therefore might have preconceived ideas about the experience that they are going to receive4. And yet that's the whole point: the outcomes of using psychoactive substances are always influenced by the preconceived ideas of the users, and even crucially so. That's why full disclosure is necessary in such tests. You cannot ethically administer a psychedelic to a study participant without at least warning them that they may be receiving such a drug: otherwise, the "objectivity" of a drugged participant will be purchased at the price of their shock and confusion as to what the hell is suddenly going on with their mind!

If a scientist enforced complete objectivity by keeping the participant in the dark about the nature of the drugs that they will be receiving, the results would be a lot of bad trips. Logically speaking, the scientific method would force us to attribute those bad trips to the drug that was taken, whereas the real culprit would be the "objectivity" itself. Why? Because the results that amaze us, the results that we wish to study, are actually produced thanks to the subjectivity of the user - except in cases where someone has, in effect, "slipped them a roofie." To put it another way, there is no psychedelic experience per se; there is a psychedelic experience for a given person with a given mindset. The latter cannot be extracted from the former without deforming the very phenomenon that we wish to study. Subjectivity is a crucial part of the psychedelic experience.

But enough about subjectivity. My real fear about the scientist's involvement in these matters comes from asking myself the following question: how are materialist scientists going to use the data that they glean from their encephalograms and MRIs of folks who "take" DMT?

Are they going to come up with more "miracle drugs," like the mind-numbing antidepressants of the 1970s, upon which 1 in 4 American women are now dependent for lifeF5? You can be sure of one thing: if they do come up with such drugs based on their reductionist study of psychedelics, they'll be sure to weed out all the euphoria and visions that the substances would normally generate. After all, they need to produce a product that is easily marketed and therefore attractive to Big Business, a drug that can be placed on drug-store shelves as a one-size-fits-all treatment - right beside the stool softeners and the handy six-packs of Pepto Bismol.

You might ask, then, who SHOULD be studying the effects of DMT use?

The answer to me is obvious: modern philosophers. Those who want to visit Plato's cave, not just talk about; those who want to learn from the shamans of non-Western societies; those, in short, who wish to follow up on the tantalizing ontological investigations of William James.

The problem, as usual, is the Drug War, which actually outlaws such philosophical investigations - leading me to again ask, when are philosophers going to stand up and fight for the freedom of their profession? Not in 2023, apparently, since the UK is now getting ready to ban laughing gas, James' drug of choice, and yet I seem to be the only philosopher on the planet who is protesting that move on the grounds of intellectual freedom.

CLOSING NOTE. Of course, scientists can and do contribute to our understanding of the subjective DMT experience, but they do so precisely to the extent that they renounce the materialist reductionist presupposition that the whole is simply a sum of its parts.

Author's Follow-up: February 5, 2023

The materialist explanation of DMT states is not credible. The materialist believes that we human beings are the product of a purposeless evolution created by random processes guided by evolution. It's already a stretch to say that evolution can account for the entire evolutionary process, as Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe have demonstrated with Thomas Nagel's blessing, based on the mathematical analysis of William Dembski in the late '90s -- notwithstanding the ongoing attempt of an organized Wikipedia materialist "hit squad" to libel as "pseudoscientist" anyone who pursues these angles. (Look up the Complex Specified Information of William Dembski online and see all the hate speech that Wikipedia passes off as "fact.")

But now we're saying that this random meaningless process has led to fantasy worlds of elfin creatures that want to teach us things about reality??? Or, take my trip on peyote, wherein I saw a slide show of mesoamerican imagery: Is this all to be explained with reference to the brain only? A scientist in the DMT book mentioned above tells us that, "well, these things can't happen without a brain" -- but then that's what "primitive people" might say about a television set in which they see a TV show for the first time. "That show couldn't happen without a TV," they will say, and they'll keep maintaining that naive viewpoint until someone flies them to a TV studio to see the creation of the shows that they insist reside within the boob tube itself.


1 Jenkins, Philip, Synthetic Panics: The Symbolic Politics of Designer Drugs, New York University Press, New York, 1999 (up)
2 Cohen, Jay S., For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health, Tarcher/Putnam, New York, 2011 (up)
3 Burns, Eric, 1920: The year that made the decade roar, Pegasus Books, New York, 2015 (up)
4 Gootenberg, Paul, Cocaine: Global Histories, Routledge, New York, 1999 (up)
5 Szasz, Thomas, Interview With Thomas Szasz: by Randall C. Wyatt, (up)

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