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#1 Sleepy House

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 12:30 PM

I can come up with no conceivable way that a fungus could independently devise a chemical so specific and sophisticated that it does what it does to one of the most complex wonders of the world—the human brain. Are there any evolutionists that can shed some light on this?

How does such a chemical come to exist in specific fungi? How did it develop?

I see that this is not so different from asking how certain foods release endorphins or certain plants have healing properties on our body, but specifically I am interested in how psilocybin came to be from an evolutionary standpoint.

#2 piasan

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 05:22 PM

Welcome to the group, Sleepy.

 

With regard to your question, I have no idea.  That kind of biochemistry is way beyond me.



#3 Sleepy House

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 06:48 PM

Thank you, Piasan.

I don't have a great understanding, either.

This particular question interests me deeply, and I am sincerely hoping someone with an explanation can shed some light on it.

#4 Mike Summers

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Posted 08 June 2017 - 11:59 AM

Hello and welcome. Like everything that exists it was created by the intelligent being.



#5 Sleepy House

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Posted 09 June 2017 - 07:59 PM

Thank you, Mike. I fail to see how such a thing as psilocybin could come about by anything other than intelligent design. No evolutionists are stepping up to the plate for this one, and of course I can understand why.

#6 piasan

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Posted 09 June 2017 - 08:28 PM

No evolutionists are stepping up to the plate for this one, and of course I can understand why.

So you understand that there is little research into the minute details of things like this.  The biochemists who research this stuff are busy working on bigger problems  than how hallucinogens evolved. 



#7 Sleepy House

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Posted 09 June 2017 - 08:58 PM


No evolutionists are stepping up to the plate for this one, and of course I can understand why.

So you understand that there is little research into the minute details of things like this. The biochemists who research this stuff are busy working on bigger problems than how hallucinogens evolved.

I'm not interested in minute details; a general explanation would be fine. I don't need to be a chemist to understand how to bake a cake. A child in 4th grade science doesn't need to delve into the minute details of gravity to understand that a cannon ball will hit the ground before a feather when dropped from a great height.

I noticed that you said that biochemists are working on bigger problems. Do you consider the evolution of hallucinogens a problem? If so, why?

#8 piasan

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Posted 09 June 2017 - 11:00 PM

 

So you understand that there is little research into the minute details of things like this. The biochemists who research this stuff are busy working on bigger problems than how hallucinogens evolved.

I'm not interested in minute details; a general explanation would be fine. I don't need to be a chemist to understand how to bake a cake. A child in 4th grade science doesn't need to delve into the minute details of gravity to understand that a cannon ball will hit the ground before a feather when dropped from a great height.

 OK .... I see a lot of creationists that would want a mutation-by-mutation list of how just about every feature of life evolved.

 

Of course, the 4th grader would think the feather fell slower than the cannon ball because it's lighter.

 

I noticed that you said that biochemists are working on bigger problems. Do you consider the evolution of hallucinogens a problem? If so, why?

A problem?  Not necessarily. 

 

I suspect those chemists who specialize in how substances react in the brain are more interested in precisely how they work and how to apply them to other medical applications than how they, or the reactions to them evolved.

 

The evolution of psychoactive drugs is way down the list of priorities for those researching chemical origins of life.

 

My guess is that the evolution of that kind of chemical probably falls thru the cracks.  But it's a guess, nothing more.



#9 Goku

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 04:13 AM

I can come up with no conceivable way that a fungus could independently devise a chemical so specific and sophisticated that it does what it does to one of the most complex wonders of the world—the human brain. Are there any evolutionists that can shed some light on this?

How does such a chemical come to exist in specific fungi? How did it develop?

I see that this is not so different from asking how certain foods release endorphins or certain plants have healing properties on our body, but specifically I am interested in how psilocybin came to be from an evolutionary standpoint.

 

Just a quick google search revealed two things that I think are relevant.

 

First, psilocybin is metabolized into psilocin by the body, and it is psilocin that has the psychedelic properties. It is thought that this is achieved by the psilocin being able to partially bind to serotonin receptors in the brain.

 

Second, it appears the leading evolutionary explanation for why some mushrooms have psilocybin is that it acts as a deterrent against animals that want to eat the mushrooms. An animal eats the mushroom, gets a bad 'trip', and learns not to eat those mushrooms.

 

Although, I went to one pro-mushroom forum and someone postulated that the psilocybin acts as an attractant to animals making them want to pick the mushrooms and thus distribute the spores like fruit on a tree is picked by animals in order to have the seeds distributed. While it appears this idea is largely dismissed, apparently reindeer do eat mushrooms containing ibotenate which metabolizes into the psychedelic compound muscimol, and theoretically get 'high'. There are some amusing coincidences between psychedelic mushrooms and Santa; like the flying feeling often associated with the drug which the reindeer eat, and that this specific mushroom species is red with white dots and often grows underneath or around evergreen trees, and that Siberian shamans would give these psychedelics as presents during the winter. Disturbingly, these shamans are also known to drink the urine of the reindeer after the reindeer eat these mushrooms in order to 'trip out' themselves; apparently directly consuming the mushrooms is highly toxic for humans. Ibotenate/muscimol is different than psilocybin/psilocin, so there may be different evolutionary explanations for different mind altering substances found in nature.

 

I don't know about psilocybin specifically, but I do know fungi produces various chemicals to inhibit or destroy various bacteria and competing fungi. So from an evolutionary perspective it may be that psilocybin is or was some sort of antimicrobial/antifungal substance.



#10 what if

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 05:38 AM

why this particular alkaloid?
there are a large number of poisonous plants, some of them downright deadly.

there is no other reason for these substances to "evolve" other than the cells biochemical needs, or excreted as a byproduct of such.

#11 Goku

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 07:47 AM

why this particular alkaloid?
there are a large number of poisonous plants, some of them downright deadly.

there is no other reason for these substances to "evolve" other than the cells biochemical needs, or excreted as a byproduct of such.

 

Drugging your predators so they don't want to eat you seems like a reasonable evolutionary strategy. Mushrooms can't exactly run away or put up a physical fight.

 

Why this particular alkaloid? I assume it has something to do with being able to partially bind to serotonin receptors, and serotonin is used by various animals, plants, and bacteria.



#12 Sleepy House

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Posted 11 June 2017 - 06:16 PM

It's also of note that Viking berserkers in the dark ages used amanita muscaria to enter a battle trance/frenzy. Some were designated to eat the mushrooms and suffer the very unpleasant effects, while the berserkers drank the urine. I have come across a few of these mushrooms in my travels, both fly algaric and panther caps, but never sampled any.

Anyway, I am not asking this question to goad evolutionists into giving explanations that I will poke holes in. Even if you gave me a step-by-step mutation, I would not understand it. Of course I know that no such guide exists in anyone's library.

It makes perfect sense from an evolutionary standpoint that plants would develop chemical or physical defences (poison, thorns, bitterness) and also traits that entice (sweetness, bright color).

My main goal here is to understand how something like psilocybin could develop, because it requires interaction with other organisms and in a more complex manner than how a flower needs flying insects for pollination. It literally alters the most complex organ on earth in a very specific way. Billions of neurons interacting with this in an indescribable dance.

Could it be that after being ingested by animals, the seeds or spores have a memory that they pass on? This seems unlikely.

But I can't think of any blanket generalization. Does anyone have any ideas?

#13 MarkForbes

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 02:15 PM

Thank you, Mike. I fail to see how such a thing as psilocybin could come about by anything other than intelligent design. No evolutionists are stepping up to the plate for this one, and of course I can understand why.

They'd argue in the following way:
1.  First there were some predecessor fungi (or organisms) that had no psilocyb.n.

2. Then there had be a lot of mutations. One fungi had genetic changes (mutations) that started to produce psilocybin.

3. The psilocybin conveyed some advantage over the fungi that didn't produce it. And hence, there is now species that produce it. 



#14 Sleepy House

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 09:35 AM


Thank you, Mike. I fail to see how such a thing as psilocybin could come about by anything other than intelligent design. No evolutionists are stepping up to the plate for this one, and of course I can understand why.

They'd argue in the following way:
1. First there were some predecessor fungi (or organisms) that had no psilocyb.n.
2. Then there had be a lot of mutations. One fungi had genetic changes (mutations) that started to produce psilocybin.
3. The psilocybin conveyed some advantage over the fungi that didn't produce it. And hence, there is now species that produce it.

If that's how they'd argue that then this thread is pretty much over. What I'd rather hear is how those mutations happened in relation to what they alter. At what point in the mushrooms evolution did it understand a mammalian brain enough to develop a chemical that makes it react in such a way?

#15 aelyn

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 02:03 PM

 

 

Thank you, Mike. I fail to see how such a thing as psilocybin could come about by anything other than intelligent design. No evolutionists are stepping up to the plate for this one, and of course I can understand why.

They'd argue in the following way:
1. First there were some predecessor fungi (or organisms) that had no psilocyb.n.
2. Then there had be a lot of mutations. One fungi had genetic changes (mutations) that started to produce psilocybin.
3. The psilocybin conveyed some advantage over the fungi that didn't produce it. And hence, there is now species that produce it.

 


If that's how they'd argue that then this thread is pretty much over.

 


Why would you think that isn't how they'd argue? MarkForbes offered a pretty default evolutionary explanation there. It seems you think it is uniquely unbelievable in the case of psilocybin but I wonder why. There are tons mushrooms producing all kinds of molecules and there are tons of molecules that do all kinds of things to the human brain (usually by having parts that resemble parts of molecules the human brain uses, which is how they end up messing with it); the idea that one would hit upon the other eventually doesn't seem more unbelievable to me than, say, the evolution of flight. Let alone pollination.

I also disagree that evolving psilocybin requires interactions with other organisms more complex than for pollination. In the likely case that, like most alkaloids, it's a deterrent to things that would eat the organism, then the only interaction is "Animal eats a mushroom. Animal becomes less likely to eat mushrooms like it again." Waaay simpler than the co-evolution involved in pollination.

Of course MarkForbes "default explanation" elides two big issues: first, it's an adaptationist explanation and those aren't always correct (sometimes traits appear by chance, or as a side-product of another adaptive trait), and second if the adaptationist explanation is correct then the question becomes why fungi that produce psilocybin have an advantage over those that don't. It could be that it's a deterrent for other animals who react to it differently than we do. Or there could be an advantage that's purely about the mushroom itself (in which case the effect of psilocybin on humans would indeed be a chance side-effect, though not a too unlikely chance either; molecules exist in families and often have effects similar to each other, so if a mushroom modifies a molecule from a psychoactive family to serve a function for itself, it won't be surprising if it also happens to be psychoactive anyway). Or there is a direct advantage to being psychedelic to human-like brains that nobody's thought of.

 

It isn't clear from quick googling that biologists know the answer to that, which is likely why you haven't had the evolution-based responses you were hoping for.
 

What I'd rather hear is how those mutations happened in relation to what they alter. At what point in the mushrooms evolution did it understand a mammalian brain enough to develop a chemical that makes it react in such a way?


Do you think mushrooms understand mammalian brains, or do you just think evolutionary biologists think that?



#16 Sleepy House

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 08:06 AM

Before I begin with the quote boxes, I'll address why I chose this particular alkaloid. I chose it mostly at random—it's the evolution of hallucinogens in plants that is puzzling to me. How or why would it develop such a thing? It doesn't have as easy an explanation as poison. Animal eats mushroom, animal gets sick or dies, animal no longer eats mushroom. From an evolutionary standpoint that makes perfect sense, but it doesn't really for psychedelics. Just for fun, let's look at the San Pedro cactus. It has mescaline, which is a hallucinogen. However, the cactus already has spines as a defense. Further, it is extremely bitter and disgusting to eat; no one would really eat it on purpose for sustenance unless they were starving. Also, no effects happen if the cactus is eaten raw, it must be boiled or heated for a long time to get the effects. Another property of hallucinogens is that they have diminishing returns. If you prepare a footlong cactus and ingest it, you would need two feet the next day for the same effects, and three the next, and so forth. So we can't really say mescaline in the San Pedro evolved so it would be eaten. Nor can we say it evolved not to be eaten. Why would it have it all? That's an unfair question, because I wasn't really asking why, but how.

 

 

It could be that it's a deterrent for other animals who react to it differently than we do. Or there could be an advantage that's purely about the mushroom itself (in which case the effect of psilocybin on humans would indeed be a chance side-effect, though not a too unlikely chance either; molecules exist in families and often have effects similar to each other, so if a mushroom modifies a molecule from a psychoactive family to serve a function for itself, it won't be surprising if it also happens to be psychoactive anyway). Or there is a direct advantage to being psychedelic to human-like brains that nobody's thought of.

 

Easily it could be a deterrent for animals that react differently to it, however I don't see the effect it has on our brain being a likely chance side-effect. I don't have the knowledge of chemistry or biology that you have, though. On the level of biochemistry, I can't argue with this in any convincing way.

 

Do you think mushrooms understand mammalian brains, or do you just think evolutionary biologists think that?

 

I like the way you word things. I suspect evolutionary biologists think that mushrooms do not understand the mammalian brain, and this is based on the responses I received on this thread. I came in thinking that because the effect is so specific and sophisticated that there must have been some way the mushroom "understood" (for lack of a better word) how the brain works, and that there was a general explanation for this symbiosis, but your explanation of molecule families and modification thereof tells me that the effects on humans is considered a purely an accidental side effect. Not only that, that it is less complicated than other examples of co-evolution. I still don't even know which came first in the evo handbook: male or female; flying insects that need flowers, or flowers that need flying insects; so on and so forth.



#17 aelyn

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Posted 21 June 2017 - 11:42 AM

 I suspect evolutionary biologists think that mushrooms do not understand the mammalian brain, and this is based on the responses I received on this thread. I came in thinking that because the effect is so specific and sophisticated that there must have been some way the mushroom "understood" (for lack of a better word) how the brain works, and that there was a general explanation for this symbiosis, but your explanation of molecule families and modification thereof tells me that the effects on humans is considered a purely an accidental side effect. Not only that, that it is less complicated than other examples of co-evolution. I still don't even know which came first in the evo handbook: male or female; flying insects that need flowers, or flowers that need flying insects; so on and so forth.


The thing is, I don't know that you're wrong to think the evolution of psilocybin is mysterious and harder to explain than symbiotic relationships. It's not just knowing the answer to a question that requires understanding the field, even knowing whether a question is hard to answer or not can really vary depending on our knowledge of the problem. I can think of plenty of cases where people with little to medium knowledge of a field think a particular result is trivial but experts see it as very surprising and mysterious.
 
So I haven't been trying to say in my answers that the answer to how psilocybin evolved is as simple as "it deters herbivores". I do think that as far as I've been able to find, such a simple explanation cannot be excluded, which is relevant to your original question, but that doesn't mean one of them is correct. Your cactus and mescaline example is a cogent example of why "it deters herbivores" isn't as straightforward as one might think, but even that doesn't rule it out - maybe that cactus has an insect predator or parasite that ignores the spines and is immune to all the other deterrent chemicals it produces, but is vulnerable to that one chemical in the raw form? That's what I mean when I say an expert might find this surprising where a layperson might not: if I were an expert on cactuses I might know that no such insect exists, and that the chemical in the raw cactus actually does nothing to anyone. But I'm not, so I don't, and so I can't know how surprising or mundane the evolution of mescaline is.
 
Same thing with how specific the effect of psilocybin is on the brain - as a non-neurologist I know that plenty of chemicals have a variety of effects on the brain, that related chemicals often but not always have similar effects, that this relies on them having commonalities with molecules the brain uses to function, and neurologists can often break down the effect of the chemical into effects on various parts and functions of the brain in ways that account for the subjective effects on consciousness.
 
All this to me means that hallucigenic compounds might be easy to come by "by accident" in evolution. Molecules often have varieties of uses, one organism could use one for a purpose that's similar to another one that's used by another organism for another purpose. Molecules resembling the molecules our brain uses to function could have any effect at all on the brain, including interfering with our senses and sense of reality. But I don't know enough to turn any of those coulds into are; by the same token I don't know enough to turn them into aren't.
 
 
When you say "is considered" to me that suggests the consensus opinion of experts in the field, and given how little I or anyone here has been able to find I'd say the takeaway isn't that "it's considered a side-effect"; it's that either there is no consensus opinion, or that consensus opinion is "we don't know". (or that consensus opinion is "this question is so trivial that we don't discuss it much, so it has a low Google profile", but I doubt that's the case; having this much knowledge about a question of evolution and neurology would be noteworthy on its own).
 
 
I'll leave you with this book link I found when trying to find more information, that illustrates the layperson/expert issue well because it suggests an explanation for the evolution of hallucinogens that hadn't occurred to me for a millisecond when I was listing plausible explanations, and if it were true then it would give credit to all the reasons you gave why it's surprising hallucinogens would evolve for the sake of the mushroom/plant containing them.
 
Seeking the Sacred with Psychoactive Substances: Chemical Paths to Spirituality and to God;  see around page 355 for the relevant parts.
 
The argument one of the authors makes there is that psychedelic substances didn't evolve to be psychedelic to us, we evolved to react in a psychedelic way to them. Not from nothing I assume; they talk about the small but apparently significant differences between chimanzee and human serotonin receptors and say that psychedelic substances also have effects on other animals, but claim that humans react much more strongly. They also make an argument that the effects of psychedelic substances on humans are adaptive.
 
I don't know how credible this hypothesis is; the author (Michael Winkelman) seems to believe that psychedelics had a vital role in the development of religion, maybe even consciousness. Their specialty seems to be spirituality/shamanism/religion and the articles go into details of neurobiochemistry but it doesn't sound like they have a strong background in evolutionary biology. Still, it's an interesting idea, so there's one more hypothesis for you!



#18 Blitzking

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 09:02 PM

Thank you, Mike. I fail to see how such a thing as psilocybin could come about by anything other than intelligent design. No evolutionists are stepping up to the plate for this one, and of course I can understand why.


Don't worry.. There are plenty of things that evolutionists don't dare to "Step up to the plate" for.. For example, my latest OP on this website asking for a "Plausible or Conceivable" Order for Man's (Or his "Ancestor's) Interdependent, Interlocked Vital organs..

http://evolutionfair...accidentalists/

Only ONE Evolutionist (Whibble) even TRIED to "Step up to the plate" as he consulted a worldwide expert who wrote the book on the "Evolution" of Organs" And forwarded the question in my OP to him..

His answer:

"It is quite difficult for me to give you advice, because the topic "evolution of organ systems" is so broad that you can only outline rough schemes in first place, which might not satisfy a creationist (if anything you say satisfies him at all).

So the World Wide Expert simply dodges the question completely, while asserting that creationists can't be convinced and evolutionists dont need convincing... (Very convenient of him LOL) A so called "Expert" on the "Evolution of Organs" who wrote the book on the subject is reduced to such a humiliating statement. This no longer has anything to do with science and is ONLY about propping up the belief of Godless Metaphysical Naturalism.. An old Pagan religion that dates back millennium..

Just like when I asked a Catholic Priest if he could give me scientific evidence for Transubstanciation.. His answer was EXACTLY THE SAME as the "Expert" on the evolution of organs..

This is what the priest said to me.

"My son, For those that believe in the Holy Sacraments, No explanation is necessary, For those that DONT, No explanation is possible..

And that is EXACTLY what we are seeing with the Religion of Chucky...

"Darwin's theory of evolution is the last of the great nineteenth-century mystery religions. And as we speak it is now following Freudians and Marxism into the Nether regions, and I'm quite sure that Freud, Marx and Darwin are commiserating one with the other in the dark dungeon where discarded gods gather."

(Dr. David Berlinski)




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