Future Fossils with Michael Garfield
88 - Dennis McKenna on Psychedelics as Scientific Instruments

88 - Dennis McKenna on Psychedelics as Scientific Instruments

This week we’re blessed to chat with living legend, ethnobotanist Dennis McKenna – one of the most rigorous scientific intellects working with psychedelics in the modern era, responsible with his late brother Terence for popularizing the techniques for cultivation of psilocybin (“magic”) mushrooms, co-author of numerous books on psychoactive plant and fungal medicines and their curious effects on consciousness, and an outspoken advocate for cognitive liberty psychedelic research.

(Dennis has appeared, subliminally, on nearly every episode of Future Fossils – one of his talks was sampled by my original co-host Evan "Skytree" Snyder for his track “God Detector” – in which I also appear as a guest guitarist – which I still use as the intro and outro music.)

In this conversation we push into a DIFFERENT kind of conversation about psychedelic science – not the science of psychedelics as a tool for therapy, but science using psychedelics the way we use telescopes or MRI machines – to let us see in ways we ordinarily cannot, and maybe answer some of the most pressing and persistent questions about human consciousness and the nature of reality.

I hope this episode will magnetize the worldwide community of people interested in the possibility of psychedelic science…if you have a story you would like to share in confidence, feel free to email me at futurefossils@protonmail.com where we can talk encrypted! I’ve been thinking about this stuff for my entire adult life – we discuss some of that in this episode – and would love to have more conversations with people who have been thinking similarly…

Dennis McKenna’s Links:




We Discuss:

How can the psychedelic experience in all of its weirdness inform deeper, more rigorous experiments and scientific paradigms?

Meet (and then disrupt) the source of all your problems: the default mode network.

“The ego…thinks it’s controlling everything, which of course it’s not, but it helps the delusion to think that it is.”

Disabling the filters to find aspects of reality you’ve never noticed.

The necessity of GROUP psychedelic research from within the altered subjectivity of non ordinary consciousness.

The ontology of entities, as studied by the scientific method.

What kind of QUESTIONS and what kind of FACTS come out of a psychedelic science for which “real and unreal” is insufficiently nuanced?

Crossing the boundary between the easy problem of consciousness and the hard problem of consciousness.

Book: On Becoming Aware by Varela, et al.

Michael’s initiation into psychedelic science.


Synchronicity & Coincidence.

The Internet is a psychedelic substance.

Book: Hyperobjects by Timothy Morton

Are waking life and psychedelic consciousness closer now than they used to be?


The Simulation Hypothesis, The Drake Equation, The Copernican Principle, Occam’s Razor (is fractal)

How do you step outside the box?

Telepathy & Meta-Individuality

Book: Nexus by Ramez Naam


“Our cleverness is out of synch with our wisdom.”

The wise deployment of technologies.

The difference between the past and the future. (???)

Concerns about the specter of the collapse of the biosphere.

“I’m a science fiction fan, so I assume our destiny is in the stars, right? If we leave the Earth, it would be nice to leave a garden and not a toxic waste dump. There’s no reason why that can’t be so.”

The history and future of the ESPD, the Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs. (!!!)

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Future Fossils with Michael Garfield
Join paleontologist-futurist Michael Garfield and an avalanche of amazing guests for deep but irreverent discussions at the edge of the known and knowable: on prehistory and post-humanity and deep time, non-human agency and non-duality, science fiction and self-fulfilling prophecies, complex systems and sustainability (or lack thereof), psychedelics as a form of training for proliferating futures, art and creativity as service and as inquiry. New episodes on a roughly biweekly basis. Get bonus material and support the show at patreon.com/michaelgarfield or michaelgarfield.substack.com