Professor Richard Dawkins is best-known as a vociferous critic of religion and a champion for the cause of science. So much so that he is often attacked for being dogmatic himself, in believing only his own preferred worldview should triumph. Some thought his latest book, The Magic of Reality – aimed at children, and explaining the scientific truth behind primitive mythologies – had gone beyond the pale in preaching literalism as the ‘one true way’.
More than a few times I’ve heard people say “what Richard Dawkins needs is a good hit of LSD”. Surprisingly, Richard Dawkins appears to agree with that view. Late last year, Dawkins visited the British city of Bath to promote his most recent book, doing a reading at the city’s library. In the question and answer session that followed, local resident Graham Hancock – best-selling author himself on topics including ‘alternative history’ and shamanism – asked if Dawkins would be prepared to take a hallucinogenic drug.
Hancock framed his query in terms of how ancient cultures believed in a spirit world through their use of psychoactive plants for shamanistic purposes, and whether Dawkins – as a scientist, and critic of religious and mystical views – would be interested in using such substances to give him direct experience of the worldview he so often attacks. “As a scientist,” Hancock asked, “have you ever seriously engaged such techniques to have first-hand experience of what they’re talking about, and perhaps even to challenge your own concept of what is real?” He suggested that Dawkins might want to try the (DMT-containing) shamanic brew from the Amazon, ayahuasca.
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