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To The Best Of Our Knowledge
June 8, 2019
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Let's Talk About The 'Stoned Ape Theory'

Magic mushrooms

Photo illustration by Mark Riechers

Every so often I come across an idea that’s so remarkable, so playful, so wildly improbable that it could almost be true.... and I have to take a deep dive down the rabbit hole. The "Stoned Ape Theory" is one such idea.

Essentially: Did the ancient consumption of psychedelic mushrooms actually rewire the brains of our hominid ancestors so they learned to talk and think symbolically?

The legendary psychonaut Terrence McKenna talked up this theory several decades ago, though as you’ll hear in our radio story, his younger brother Dennis claims that he first came up with the idea.

The history of magic mushrooms goes back to the Mesoamerican mushroom cults. Later, they were rediscovered by Gordon Wasson, who wrote about his own experiences in a lengthy article in Life magazine. That Western interest can be traced all the way to our own time, as a new generation of scientists studies psychedelic therapies that might treat depression, addiction, and trauma.

We had a lot of fun putting together an entire radio hour about mushrooms — and most of all, discovering the world of mushroom obsessives who travel around the world to find rare and tasty mushrooms. Some of them really believe that mushrooms can save the world.


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Did Magic Mushrooms Shape Human Consciousness?

Magic mushrooms and our primate ancestors
Magic mushrooms go way back in human history. People have been eating them, and tripping, and even worshiping mushrooms for millennia. Some people even believe psychedelic mushrooms helped create human consciousness. We examine the "Stoned Ape Theory."
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Humanity? It All Started With The Raven and Fungus Man

A drawing of a carving by Charles Edenshaw in the late 1800s depicting the Haida myth of the origin of women. Fungus Man is paddling the canoe with Raven in the bow in search of female genitalia. (Courtesy of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago)
The Haida First Nation people in British Columbia have a myth about the origin of humanity coming from "Fungus Man." And that myth contains plenty of truth — we do owe our past and future existence on Earth to the kingdom of mushrooms.
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Your Best (Or Worst) Experience With Getting Together In Person

We'd like to hear from you for an upcoming show about meeting in real life.
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From Candy Caps To Morels: Notes From A Mushroom Hunter's Cookbook

Ricotta and Marinated Mushroom Pie (Eugenia Bone)
Writer Eugenia Bone’s obsession with mushrooms began with her love of eating them and she goes to great lengths to hunt for mushrooms in the wild. She shares notes from her hunts for morels as well as three recipes for how to best enjoy fungal delicacies.
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A Former Child Pop Star Performs America’s Songbook

Nikka and Strings
When Nikka Costa was ten, she was a pop sensation in Europe. In her 20s, she was Britney Spear’s opening act. But she’s left pop music behind and now she’s performing songs by some of the musicians she’s known, including Prince and Frank Sinatra.
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Philip Glass Asks 'Where Does Music Come From?'

Philip Glass
Philip Glass the avant-garde composer has composed operas, symphonies, film scores. He also wrote a memoir called “Words Without Music.”
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Why America's Teachers Are Burning Out

Caryn McKechnie didn’t like high school, but now she’s a college senior working on her teaching certificate. She went back to her high school to interview her favorite teacher. And that teacher? He left the public schools altogether.
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Touching The Sound Of Everyday Objects

Evelyn Glennie (Caroline Purday)
Evelyn Glennie is an award winning solo percussionist and composer who performs with great orchestras and popular artists. She's also deaf. She talks with Steve Paulson about touching sound.
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How One Man Became Two Musicians

Wendel Patrick/Kevin Gift (Via Artists' Websites)
Kevin Gift is an acclaimed classical pianist. Wendel Patrick is a rising hip hop artist. And many people have no idea as they’re the same man.
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Hip Hop as Diplomacy

Toni Blackman
When it comes to crossing musical borders, hip hop artist Toni Blackman has crossed so many and traveled so far, she ended up at the US State Department as its first ever Hip Hop Ambassador. Here’s what she sounded like live in our studio.
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