JREF forum is a great place, if not for it's moral stance on various issues but for the standard of education of the members; compared to most forums it has a startlingly good signal to noise ratio. The currency of respect at JREF seems to be your adherence to a skeptical philosophy about all claims made by people in similar positions as randi himself but with less integrity, people who make a dubious living by deceiving people with magic tricks (often couched under the guise of religion, alternative therapies or 'newagey' terms) Randi is essentially a conjurer, just he is an honest conjurer and admits this is his profession whilst educating the public on popular ways they are deceived. One way is by advocating internet based eduction of the general public through the forum.
The fact that randi has no scientific credentials to assess himself what classifies peudo-science from real science becomes redundant since the forum and members provide a interdisciplinary safety net against accusations made against his person or organization; a discussion of the cynical scientific philosophy of JREF deserves a new post in itself, there is too much to continue discussion about it in the context of this blog, and depends on how long the ban is for. I have received no information about the length of the suspension/ban or reason for the ban. I have received no previous suspension, or even warning, relating to similar type posts in the past. I have assumed it was for the last thread I started. My password simply stopped working one day.
I was banned for asking if anyone knew of an ayahuasca clinic in the UK similar to the one I had legally used with the UDV in Brazil. Such clinics are legal in the USA and many other countries. The purpose of them is primarily social and, if you choose to, medicinal as well. I found one, it took me two days, and surprisingly was only 50 km from home. It was a humbling experience.
The stated mission: “JREF has always placed education at the core of its mission to promote critical thinking and provide the public with the tools needed to reliably examine paranormal, supernatural, and pseudoscientific claim". A noble goal. However if you take into consideration the central role science and maths play as the forum driving force this leads to a paradox, as the scienctific evidence is in support of the position I took and firmly against the culture of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, on well proven health grounds. For a forum that prides itself on skepticism a bit more skepticism of the law as it relates to drug prohibition and the driving forces behind the industry would be a great start to creating a more user friendly environment based on concrete science, especially as it relates to rule one.
When thinking about drugs culturally we tend to focus on episodes of intoxication, but many drugs are used in sub-threshold or maintenance doses; coffee and tobacco are obvious examples in our culture. The result of this is a kind of 'ambience of intoxication'. Like fish in water, people in culture swim in the virtually invisible medium of culturally sanctioned yet artificial states of mind. Culture is more a habit of a social group constrained by the media of choice than a reality, the fossilized version of which would be religion, which for the west is pathological monotheism.
The ways in which humans use plants, foods, and drugs cause the values of individuals and, ultimately, whole societies to shift. The effect of drink culture is all too readily becoming apparent to our health services. Eating some foods makes us happy, eating others sleepy, and still others alert. We are jovial, restless, aroused, or depressed depending on what we have eaten. Society tacitly encourages certain behaviors that correspond to internal feelings, thereby encouraging the use of substances that produce acceptable behaviors with little side effects whilst discouraging destructive compounds.
As it applies to drugs and the law JREF rule one becomes largely redundant on an international forum; the distinction between what is and what isn't illegal in a country varies considerably. Different countries have different levels of cultural programming dedicated to anti drug 'just say no' eduction and thus legislation, this is not dependent on definite health and science based rules but circumstantial situations under which certain classes of drug were deemed 'good' or 'bad' some 50-60 years ago now by random politicians who long ago left office. Many countries, such as Portugal, have decriminalized drug use all together.
The União do Vegetal in Brazil (UDV) is a fine example, which is the most well known case of exceptions to international drug laws being made for a culture, as even though one of the active drugs found in their psychoactive brew is illegal they were able to show based on empirical science that the positives outweigh the negatives, allowing them to legally use the brew in Brazil. Many members of the UDV were themselves physicians, psychiatrists, or had other kinds of medical expertise, and so were most receptive to the notion of conducting a biomedical study of ayahuasca when it was proposed to them by Luna and McKenna.
Besides the opportunity to satisfy scientific curiosity about the human pharmacology of hoasca, the UDV had a political motive for carrying out such a study; they wanted to be able to demonstrate to the Brazilian health authorities that the long-term use of hoasca tea was safe, and did not cause addiction or other adverse reactions. They won an unprecedented case recently at the U.S. Supreme Court allowing the legal use of ayahuasca throughout the USA, they tend to win cases against governments all around the world for members of their community based on this precedent. In the UK due to this the UDV centres are left alone by law enforcement based on the precedent in the USA, giving them legal immunity to the usual 'ayahusaca laws' that govern the rest of the population (never a jail sentence for it's use alone in the western world to date though, odd little fact for you). The hypocrisy is sickening, and the fact the media have still not once informed the general US or UK population about this odd bias in the law makes the situation of the 'war on drugs' even more a cultural illusion maintained only by cultural institutions with a vested interest in maintaining fear icons in the general population; it's certainly not a war based on science, skepticism or a shred of evidence. This is what I got suspended for inquiring about (I think?), asking if there were UDV groups in the UK and where I may be able to find one.
Yes kids you heard right, the same drug that's proven efficacy and safety enables legal use, is in the same drug schedule/classification as socially destructive drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The system is rigged, strongly against all scientific evidence and basic scientific literacy, and also in terms of it's perceived goal; to reduce harm to the public. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17382831)
Lets take a further look at rule one as it relates to it's stated goal in the context of drugs.
"1. You will not post anything that can be considered to be potentially criminal. The posting of computer viruses, child pornography, or links to computer viruses or child pornography is strictly prohibited. As are posts made under circumstances indicating a considered likelihood of inciting a violent or felonious act, or an intention or knowledge that its content will be used for, or in furtherance of, any criminal purpose. (Such posts will be moved offline and referred to the appropriate authorities.)"
'Potentially criminal' is an extremely broad sweeping term that could be extremely easily abused, I presume the severity of the breach is decided by the moderating team, who generally do a good job ; I do not wish to cast aspersions on the moderating team, as they are good intended and before my ban they always seemed reasonable.
'inciting a violent or felonious act' drug use is inherently not violent, nor is necessarily even linked to crime. Alcoholism on the other hand shows a marked correlation to crime. A felonious act is also a rather ambiguous term to define as it relates to drug use, for the following numerous reasons.
Many prescription drugs are in fact class B or schedule II substances people are legally allowed to possess, if you have ever had opiate based painkillers or ritalin like substances you have the same schedule drug as someone with cannabis or amphetamines. Recent studies into many drugs previously considered 'drugs with no medicinal use' (Schedule I or class A) is rapidly leading to the reappraisal of this label as premature, mainly for the category of hallucinogens known as Indole based hallucinogens.
MDMA has been shown in the last few years to not only be a treatment for soldiers for PTSD, but a one dose miracle cure for it in 40% of subjects. A recent study at John hopkins on psilocybin mushrooms also showed similarly remarkable results, the magic mushrooms also appear to produce long lasting positive effects after just one adequate clinical dose. "One month after sessions, a majority of the volunteers (61 percent) considered their psilocybin experience during either or both of the two highest dose sessions to have been the single most spiritually significant of their lives, and most (83 percent) rated it as among their top five." This article links to the research. The same has been shown for DMT many times (why they win every court case), I linked to some studies conducted in mexico, brazil the UK and the USA a day before my account stopped working in the science section in response to someone asking me for evidence in ayahuascas clinical efficacy in treating addictions.
Additionally, the perceived severity of crime punishment in a culture is usually more severe than it actually is, for instance GBL is a class C drug here in the UK (it's a prodrug to GHB, a natural human metabolite and a nutrient found in fish) yet there have yet to be any law authorities to charge a user in the uk with its use since it's often used by garages (legally) to clean alloys, so complicates the classification and economic market. Similarly to ayahuasca, since a group is allowed to use it legally, there is, in effect, a 'silent law' that it's not prosecutable, especially in high profile cases where the more expensive lawyer knows basic legal shortfalls of drug laws. The circumstantial use of a drug and how rich the or clever the person being prosecuted or their lawyer is, plays a central role in law now, much more than it used to. The same is true also with cannabis, a class b drug here. Police will take cannabis off users, issue warnings or a fine, but tend to only charge the dealers with a felony. Christopher Hitchens did some research into this before he sadly left us and could not find a single case of a person in the UK in jail for possession of cannabis alone, commenting further: "Marijuana is a medicine. I have heard and read convincing arguments and had convincing testimony from real people who say that marijuana is a very useful medicine for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and for glaucoma. To keep that out of the reach of the sick, it seems to me, is sadistic." I am not one for arguing legalization of drug use personally, as it's already largely in place (in the UK, at least), I will let the paranoid stoners get on with arguing that pointless debate with the corporate shills that want to impose order on a population that are determined to alter states of mind and dissolve traditional cultural paradigms.
Which gets to a key point, why people use these illegal drugs at all and if the growing rise in mental health issues in the west correlates to the growing rise in use of short acting recreational drugs in the west. If so, even if not so in fact, they are in dire need of a more clinical reappraisal: recreational drugs are culturally sanctioned medicines for the mind that lack the typical three stage clinical trials that typically define a successful medicine, they pass a cultural test of safety, reliability/repeatability and efficacy instead of a clinical one. If a recreational drug has bad health effects or produces damage to health it will not gain long term cultural acceptance, and thus will likely not be studied clinically to pharmaceutical drug standards. For example, a spout of 2c-t-7 related deaths was reported in the 1990's and was enough to drop it's use ten fold compared to other 2c-x compounds, it virtually took it off the market.
Clearly the self administration of psychoactive substances, legal or illegal, will be increasing worldwide as a part of the future unfolding of global culture; in fact the stats show this pretty much worldwide, to varying degrees. By JREF coming down on the harsh side of the law by banning users who make drug related posts without even a suspension to warn them what they did wrong first, they not only are turning their back to a rich counter culture that has spent decades building up a database of harm reduction science for recreational drugs which would be an invaluably more friendly environment for posting members and readers, but it increases the risk of adding to the damage done by anti-science based drug education (confusion might be a better word). It would enable a productive dialogue to ensue about recreational drugs, their health effects, their side effects, etc, rather than what often happens, some of the more intelligent posters just wondering what they are allowed to post and not even risking posting valid information. I can not remember ever having a specific warning about posts that could be interpreted as drug related, I in fact asked for a couple of my own posts to be moved to deep storage retrospectively myself as I was not happy with making some of my pharmacology knowledge so public, most of my cautions were for posting images and hijacks, if I recall correctly.
This a change to the rules that I'm sure would not even raise an eyebrow online as it's already largely in place, drugs-forum.com ( a purely medicine/drug forum that had always erred on the side of caution with site rules being in accordance with 'international law' ) is now adopting a change to the site rules that allows admitting use of and planned use of drugs, much to the amusement of the spectrum of drugs forums that have been using first person prose since the beginning. It turns out that after speaking to people running drug related forums for nearly a decade not one of them has any evidence that posts made on a forum even attract the attention of drug law enforcement agencies, let alone compromise the security of them (the days of operation web tryp and the hive are long gone). The main forum rule to enforce seems to be not letting users reveal any more precise geographical information than city level in drug related posts and banning discussion of the price of drugs (it can can look like advertising).
Now I'm sure some are thinking 'you can't let kids learn about drugs online', which is only correct to the extent that some psychedelics might react badly with their wellbutrin their adderal their energy drinks their venlafaxine etc. The kids are on drugs already, the problem is they are on the wrong drugs and lack the unbiased scientific eduction to make informed adult decisions.
There is also an element of cultural responsibility here to honest education, it's now proven beyond doubt that drug laws do not correlate to the harm of the substance and that many many illegal drugs in fact have legitimate scientific application and medicinal use (recent studies into MDMA and PTSD, psilocybin and wellbeing, development of a rational scale to assessthe harms of drugs of potential misuse [the lancet, 2011] etc) so an educational forum that prides itself on evidence should not act as sycophants to a purely political ideology lacking any scientific evidence in its favor. The natural ahahuasca brew that I inquired about in the thread that resulted in the banning is also a drug with no deaths worldwide, proven clinical benefits (I posted these in the science section in reply to roborama) and cliclinically significant effects on habits and addictions. It would immediately put a poster who had a degree in psycho-pharmacology in an extremely surreal situation: either help educate people about his chosen discipline by sharing his knowledge (which no doubt sometimes is going to look like advocating drug use) or get banned. The fact that I wrote in the thread I got banned for in large capital letters 'I am not advocating it's use' seems to have been missed.
For example I would have followed up my post about ayahusaca with the following information and queries if had I known there was going to be an issue.
Asking where you can find the correct local environment for highly psychoactive catnip for your cat that loves it would surely be allowed here? Or even where I may find a grass field with phalaris grass in, an abundant worldwide genus of grass which contains DMT. The work of Festi and Samorini in 1994 documents every newly found alkaloid the grass has, the possibility that there are still a myriad of similar and legal tryptamine compounds to be found therein remains an exciting possibility.
Now I make this point only to demonstrate that the idea “He was asking where he could get psychoactive drugs in his area” is spurious at best, as most people can get this particular one instantly from their natural environment (17+ dominant strains of canary reed grass) I would never be asking to source a chemical fully available to me for free from my garden or local field within a few hours of cursory chemical competence on an online forum, the post was literally about the UDV context of the trip to get the set and setting correct. I have spoken about this relentlessly in the science section (without ever informing people how to do it, of course). Similarly if I was asking on JREF for the location of a rave the chance of substances will be consumed is very high, I will likely either drink ethanol or GHB or do 5-meo-MIPT or 5-MAPB (the legality does not even effect the choice for most people, the science speaks for itself), however asking for where the rave is located, or stating that you enjoyed yourself last time you went, as far as I can tell, is not against the rules. Thus asking for the location of a UDV center in the UK and stating that I enjoyed the last one I went to is in exactly the same territory, the ayahuasca or ethanol use is a secondary or tertiary event to locating the group organizing the event.
Anyone can get DMT, and they need not even get out of bed to get it; as it's been unavoidably located inside all mammalian blood in trace amounts, so our bodies are seemingly seekers, users and even producers of this psychoactive drug, even before the mind has sought it out. Every time we mow our lawn, or even dream when sleeping, our bodies effectively harvest this drug. Just one method produces a heck of a lot of green waste as a by product with no gain in blood concentration. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22371425)
If I was asking for a group that is notorious for using crystal meth I could maybe understand the banning. As it stands I got banned with no warning or dialogue ensuing for asking if there is a group in the UK that uses something that to date there has never been a prosecution for due to their rich cultural history. The sad irony of the sudden banning is that the person who decided to do it was probably metabolizing more DMT than I was at that time, so was even more on the foul side of the law than me (assuming they were in the USA, have normal melatonin levels and our cardiac rhythms were on normal daytime cycles)
It’s role is to bind to The sigma-1 receptor, which has an alkylamine core like N,N-dimethyltryptamine, and research has shown DMT to be an endogenous agonist for the sigma-1 receptor. (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/323/5916/934.abstract)
So what I am saying is that DMT is the most interesting of the psychedelics because more scientific issues are raised by it than any other. Lets run over a few of them; DMT is the strongest hallucinogen there is, if its possible to get more loaded than that, I don't want to know about it, keep it away from me. It's also the shortest acting, DMT when smoked most people are back to normal within 10-20 minutes. People that think there is nothing to this should invest these ten minutes to find out what its all about, which is probably worth more than 20 years of academic pharmacology, art history, psychology or neurophysiology. Another very interesting thing about it is that it occurs naturally in the human brain, and all mammalian blood. So I'm saying that the strongest drug, the fastest drug and the most profound is the most natural drug. It means you don't have to sail off into 4-hydroxy-4-pyroldeindole-N-methyl-rhubarb-berrubistik to get into the exotic realms, no, a simple human metabolite which takes only ten minutes to undergo it's entire exfoliation and quenching is the strongest of all.
Our bodies containing this active psychoactive, is highly illegal according to the state definition. Lock yourself up, you would almost certainly fail a blood test for DMT. Anyone with phalaris in their garden is technically producing this scheduled drug. Science is a lot more accommodating, and it's been deemed a fruitful area of scientific inquiry, even though work has only begun properly a year or so ago into it’s possible role and effects. Cultures like the UDV that have used it for centuries know exactly what it’s about,even legality in the USA. I merely queried if anyone knew of UDV groups in the UK that use the brew that elevate the levels of this natural neurochemical.
'(Such posts will be moved offline and referred to the appropriate authorities.)' if this applies to drug related posts then said authorities will use the same policy they do with all drug related internet posts, ignore them as if they were invisible and not admissible in a court of law (which they generally aren't, not one forum out of 10 drug based forums has one account out of 1,000,000 users of their forum posts being used by law enforcement).
Languages appear invisible to people who speak them, yet they create the fabric of reality for their users. The problem of mistaking language for reality in the everyday world is only too well known, people who read a lot will tend to read nature even when they lift their eyes from their books; they do not see nature. As Feynmann said "I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something." Plant use is an example of a complex language of chemical and social interactions. Yet most of us are unaware of the effects of plants on ourselves and our reality, partly because it's been largely forgotten by modern culture that plants have always mediated the human cultural relationship to the world at large, severing any potential symbiotic relationship we may have had. It's been nearly 20 years since Lovelock came up with his gaia hypothesis, a wonderful cultural addition to the scientific world view, which is easiest described as the general term for seeing Earth as a living organism comprised of complex feedback loops and relationships rather than an external mechanical thing. In Gaia theory, tipping points, chaos theory and fractal topologies dominate over linear maths, scientism and the illusory disciplinary boundaries between academic subjects created by institutionalized science.
In a nutshell: We have had a mind-programming exercise, called "the war on drugs" for the last 40 years, which has been designed to create an internal enemy in our societies and convince people that there are these evil, wicked groups who are doing these terrible, sinful things, smoking these drugs and doing this and that. A very dark image has been created around this and people get very upset irrationally about this whole issue. As Huxley said "LSD is a drug that can cause psychosis in people who have never taken it".
By all means some drugs are bad and toxic, to society and the individual, and their recreational use should not be entertained, it's lack of accurate education of the science in this field in the face of cultural pressures that cause the addiction issue we see rampant around the world. Societies with massive underground drug addictions that simply don't know any better, as they never differentiated between a dose of mushrooms and a dose of crystal meth.
And actually what's been forgotten in all of this, is that when the state sends us to prison for essentially exploring our own consciousness this is an grotesque abuse of human rights. It's a fundamental wrong. If I as an adult am not sovereign over my own consciousness then I'm absolutely not sovereign over anything. I can't claim any kind of freedom at all, and what has happened over the last 40 or 50 years under the disguise of the war on drugs, is that we have been persuaded to hand over the keys of our consciousness to the state. The most precious, the most intimate, the most sapient part of ourselves, the state now has the key ... and furthermore they have persuaded us that that's in our interests! This is a dangerous situation, we are giving power over to the least among us.
Hopefully JREF will change its use of rule one, an instant banning without even asking the poster of the intent behind the post is simply leaving far too much room for subjective errors. If no change occurs the global internet culture promptly being erected before our very eyes will pass JREF off as just another insular online community.
As much as I like the community for teaching me everything it has I just don't like the anti science political overtones that (apparently) come bundled into the rules. Saying that, I remember speaking numerous times quite openly about it in the science section, and have started a fair few threads on the subject. One post in the science section about the UDV was nearly identical in content to the one I started in the community subforum that resulted in the banning, it seems that the rules apply differently to different subforums, depending on who reads the post first, how they interpret it, and depending on how many scientific references you supply. Since I had no idea some of my cautions were breaches of rule one anyway (I thought they were nearly entirely for posting images and hijacking) I would have been nice to be informed of this at some point in a private message from a moderator, or even by a suspension. And considering the use of the brew in the context I queried about is totally legal, I hope the moderators have enough integrity to lessen the length of the suspension.
It's amazing how much you learn playing devils advocate on a forum, retrospectively JREF forum is probably the worst to do it on. Getting coherent non reactionary ripostes was like trying to squeeze water out of a stone sometimes. Dinwar was uber amazing at giving great long and informative replies. Some users were absolutely useless at explaining their argument or shooting down my various perspectives in a productive fasion, which gave me free reign to post all sorts of hyperbole to try to induce eductional posts. No, I don't think Sheldrakes dogs are psychic. No, I don't think plasma cosmology (in it's current form) is a viable alternative to the Big Bang Theory. No, I don't think 9/11 was an inside job. And no, I'm not Eric Lerner.