Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

sprocket comments on The Apologist and the Revolutionary - Less Wrong

161 Post author: Yvain 11 March 2009 09:39PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (91)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: sprocket 26 April 2009 07:27:57PM *  14 points [-]

First of all: Hi all.

I've been thinking about Ramachandran's theory a lot since reading first about it. One of the things it does very neatly, is offer a possible explanation of why psychedelics work the way they do.

Let me explain what I mean. One of the things that has always baffled me about psychedelics such as LSD, LSA or psilocybin (the active ingredient of "magic mushrooms") is that their actions seem far too specific to be caused by a simple substance.

The effect I am referring to is that for some people and in some contexts, they cause what is often called a spiritual experience, i.e., experience that is deeply meaningful to the user and possibly long-term world-view (and behaviour) altering.

Look for example at this study

There's also this active study which is the object of a 12 minute report available on Youtube

From my limited experience, and from what I observed in friends, I would say that psychedelics can be used to increase rationality, specifically by eliminating those sources of irrationality stemming from self-deception. They seem to allow the reexamination of deeply ingrained beliefs about the self and the world, that are beyond everyday reach.

I've always wondered about how the actions of such drugs could be so specific. Of course, this specific action is less suprising when you take for granted that simple "ear-flushing" can have similar effects, even if this applies only in connection with brain damage. The main idea of my post can be summed up as follows:

Maybe psychedelics tap into the same mechanisms that are involved in Anosognosia.

Did anybody else follow this train of thought? Or maybe a related idea concerning meditation (which is associated with a similar realm of experience as psychedelics)?

Comment author: eris 27 April 2009 12:07:21AM *  4 points [-]

I also thought of this, yes. But it was more along the lines of psychedelics being extremely hit or miss. The only drug I know of that is ritually mass-prescribed for spiritual insight is ayahuasca, which I understand is also rather unreliable.

If I were to suggest a drug for denial-busting, it would be MDMA, hands down; it removes fear barriers. (I have no idea why people decided to use it for dancing, of all things.)

Comment author: nickdevlin 28 October 2010 06:53:30PM 19 points [-]

Because people are afraid of dancing!

Comment author: sprocket 27 April 2009 05:26:40PM *  7 points [-]

I think if you make sure that there is no adverse "set and setting", the hit-chances might be pretty good.

Two quotes from an article describing a study.

"Twenty-two out of the 36 volunteers described a so-called mystical experience, or one that included feelings of unity with all things, transcendence of time and space as well as deep and abiding joy."


"In follow-up interviews conducted two months later 67 percent of the volunteers rated the psilocybin experience as among the most meaningful of their lives, comparing it to the birth of a first child or the death of a parent, and 79 percent reported that it had moderately or greatly increased their overall sense of well-being or life satisfaction. Independent interviews of family members, friends and co-workers confirmed small but significant positive changes in the subject's behavior and more follow-ups are currently being conducted to determine if the effects persist a year later. "

This is from a study where drug-naive participants received psilocybin. I think its the same study I linked to earlier.

Comment author: hajh 27 April 2011 02:47:40AM 4 points [-]

maybe that's because you fail to see how dancing might be connected to those parts of the brain that break down barriers in society