When science intersected with the counterculture, things got wonderfully weird


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/07/25/when-science-intersected-with.html


#2

While it’s important for science to pursue lines of thought that diverge from the mainstream, it’s even more important to maintain the rigor required by the scientific process, or you’ll otherwise be taken advantage of by the likes of Uri Geller or be thoroughly discredited by the likes of James Randi.


#3

I’m not sure where this stereotype comes from, hippies as science-haters, but everything I read from the era is the opposite. Look at the Whole Earth Catalog some time, it’s filled with instruments and gadgets. Jefferson Starship, baby!


#4

I checked the index. The book doesn’t mention that Lilly’s research (and several other similar “groovy projects” were funded by Reed Erickson - the pioneering transsexual philanthropist)

" In 1964, Reed Erickson launched the Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF), a philanthropic organization funded entirely by Erickson himself. The Erickson Educational Foundation’s stated goals were “to provide assistance and support in areas where human potential was limited by adverse physical, mental or social conditions, or where the scope of research was too new, controversial or imaginative to receive traditionally oriented support.”

The EEF had three main foci of funding over the twenty years during which it was active. One of its earliest and longest running recipients of financial support was the early homophile organization ONE Inc. of Los Angeles, founded in 1952 and still operating today, which received the benefit of over US$2 million dollars of support from Erickson. Another major area of Erickson’s interest was what have come to be called New Age Movements. The EEF funded what was possibly the first English-language publication on acupuncture. It supported research into homeopathy long before it became well known. Erickson’s money helped to support the work of Robert Masters and Jean Houston and their research into non-drug-induced altered states of consciousness and Stanley Krippner’s dream research. The Erickson Educational Foundation also helped to support John Lilly’s early research into dolphin communications systems and funded the first edition of A Course in Miracles. However, the main centre of Erickson’s attention through the EEF was transsexualism."

His work funding some of the first trans medical conferences & the Guidebooks for transsexuals (Legal Aspects, Religion. For Family etc - were groundbreaking and of immense import for this community. His funding of LGB causes was erased from history for quite some time.

In 1964, Reed Erickson launched the Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF), a philanthropic organization funded entirely by Erickson himself. The Erickson Educational Foundation’s stated goals were “to provide assistance and support in areas where human potential was limited by adverse physical, mental or social conditions, or where the scope of research was too new, controversial or imaginative to receive traditionally oriented support.”

A. H. Devor, Ph.D. of the Sociology Department, University of Victoria, Canada has the scoop.

http://web.uvic.ca/~erick123/


#5

Sometimes the anti-war feelings of the counterculture led to anti-science actions, though. Like when a group blew up the physics building at UW-Madison (killing a researcher who had nothing to do with defense research) because some research had defense applications.


#6

One of the things I remember from my childhood (eta: early 70s) was hanging out in the computer center of my dad’s university, and I recall the computer people were mostly longhairs. I also remember Creative Computing magazine had some pretty out there culture stuff, including cartoons by Crumb and other odd people.


#7

Dr. Lilly’s own writings are pretty fascinating. He invented the sensory isolation tank. Although we hear about his use of LSD (especially because the film Altered States is supposedly about him), his go to drug from the late 70’s until his passing in 2001 was Ketamin. He had a belief/encounters through Special K trips in the tank revealing “solid state beings” which he viewed as a threat to humanity and would probably say this has manifested in today’s communication technologies (though he wasn’t above using them). His earlier scientific writing is thorough. On a book jacket I think he is over-estimated though when described by the NY Times as “a walking one man syllabus of Western Civilization.”

I haven’t done either of those drugs, but I have used the tank and much of what he says is useful. What for some is part of a meditation routine he calls (and there’s a book title) “programming and meta-programming of the human biocomputer.” In short, something that ails you or a condition within your self that you want to improve, you can send signals into your subconscious when in these deep states which will benefit you when you are later functioning outside the tank.

A lot of things have been added to isolation tanks like light displays, audio etc. I think it defeats the purpose but would be up for doing it with pulses intended to induce brainwave states, or possibly after taking something to dampen the ADHD noise. But that was part of the fun in the tank.

On the darker side… working for the War Dept. or whatever it was called at the time(s), he set up brain triggers for animals to do our dirty work, hammering sleeves with probes into the skulls of mules so they could be directed over hill paths remotely. I believe he’d been working with dolphins to carry out sabotage with bomb vests. He also dissected a LOT of cetaceans. But I think his goal of interspecies communication was not so far sighted and, like SETI, is worth further study.


#8

As if my appreciation of James Randi could be any greater! He really knew how to play the long con on flimflam artists.

"In early 1983, Randi called a press conference at the offices of Discover magazine, ostensibly to announce the first example of true psychic abilities. When introducing the two, Randi casually asked how it all worked. Edwards replied “To be quite honest we cheat”.


#9

The one thing that kinda freaks me out with those things is that you are essentially floating in your own pee for long periods of time.


#10

It’s probably more crucial to avoid having a “mainstream” in the first place.


#11

I think that the “mainstream” occurs naturally, but it’s important to approach it and other streams with scientific skepticism in keeping with the rigor required by the scientific process.


#12

Only if you pee.


#13

I think holding it in too long might defeat the purpose of sensory deprivation. Especially the sense of pressure on your bladder that doesn’t go away with just letting your thoughts drift.


#14

Blowing up a physics building isn’t necessarily an anti-science action. That’s like saying blowing up a church is synonymous with satanism - it’s drawing connections that don’t necessarily exist in order to retain a certain good/evil narrative framework.

That being said, most hippies were against the use of science to do harm, and some of the more violent anti-war groups were willing to attack DARPA labs even if it meant innocents suffered (their somewhat dubious rationale being that even more innocents suffered from the American war machine).

But it’s not anti-science to be against war research, just as it’s not anti-religion to attempt to murder a pedophile priest (to further belabor my earlier metaphor). A lot of people saw the actions of University researchers who were funded by the military as a betrayal of the fundamental tenets of both science and education.


#15

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