Fountain of Youth, continued...

Rob Conklin conklin at
Thu Aug 29 17:41:28 EST 1991

I very much appreciate your response.  Would you consider posting it
to the net?  My comments, to your comments, below...

> Rob,
>      You wanted a response - here it is...
> >I personally approach the subject with a very open mind, and real
> >enthusiasm, because it seems reasonable to assume that the human
> >mind is at least partially, if not entirely subject to the ordinary
> >laws of physics/chemistry.
> >If one accepts this premise, it is hard
> >to imagine that the many thousands of researchers throughout the
> >world that have spent many years peering through electron microscopes
> >and identifying various aspects of the chemistry that underly brain
> >function could have failed to recognize some of the principles that
> >might lead to the development of nutrients/pharmacuticals that might
> >enhance this functioning.  
> These guys are looking at BRAIN chemistry.  There is no MIND chemistry.
> Many chemicals affect brain function, some beneficially, some not.  The
> brain is not the mind, contrary to popular belief.  It may be the
> physical matrix for thought, but it is no more the mind than the 
> Kremlin is the government of the Soviet Union.

Well, this is certainly a question for the philosophers...You are making
a somewhat dogmatic assertion here, attempting to dissociate the 'mind'
from brain on a metaphysical level.  I wouldn't quarrel with you for
your belief on this matter, but it would be interesting to know your
line of reasoning.  Personally, I spent several years in oriental studies,
so I am at least open to the idea that there may be a spiritual aspect
of mind that transcends any purely material basis.  But to be honest,
it seems to me that scientific, materialistic explanations have been
making good progress towards what will eventually be a comprehensive
undertanding of mental processes in terms of physical phenomenon.

> >The problem for me, as a layman in this area, is trying to sort out
> >fact from fantasy.  I have read several books, including Durk
> >Pearson and Sandy Shaw's book "Life Extention" and Morganthal's
> >book "Smart Drugs and Nutrients".  Both these books site numerous
> >"scientific clinical trails" from what appear to be scientific
> >journals both in the U.S. and Europe.  On the other hand, a recent
> >story on the NBC nightly news featured a research scientist from UC
> >Irvine stating that no valid scientific research exists that would
> >indicate that "smart drugs" are effective in increasing
> >intelligence in humans, and that in fact, a recent double-blind
> >experiment showed that the drug "Hydergine" was completely useless
> >in this regard.  (I thought the NBC news feature was very poorly
> >done.  There was no attempt to site research sources, or to dig
> >beneath the surface of the issue.  Advocates of the "smart drug"
> >phenomenon were young, rather uncredible lay-people, and the
> >anti-advocate "expert" was a distinguished looking PHD in a white lab
> >coat. 
> What you need to do is go to a university library and do a keyword search
> on the topics which interest you.  Don't depend on NBC or the popular
> press.  These are the same people who put Scientology books in the
> Psychology/Science section of the bookstore :-).

Admittedly I am being lazy at this juncture -- by writing this article
and posting it on the net I am attempting to contact individuals who
might have already done some research here.  I am trying to take a
short cut, as it were, to the information.  An additional problem is
that I probably don't have the necessary educational background to
sift intelligently through the medical/clinical literature.  Also,
in my opinion, it is very important that these questions get a 
public airing out.  I am attempting to raise the questions not just
for my own information, but for the benefit of a public which is
exposed to a lot of publicity, on a very superficial level, to 
the claims of both advocates and critics of smart-drugs, life
extention possibilities, et...Admittedly, USENET does not really
comprise the general public, but it is a step closer than the 
confines of research laboratories.  I would like to see electronic
forums like usenet used to help refine and extend inquiry into 
subjects of this type.  That would seem to a large part of the 
potential for electronic networks.

I don't feel that I am "depending" on the popular press.  On the contrary,
I am as suspicious of the popular press as you yourself seem to be.

> > I would essentially chalk the report up to the "drugs are bad"
> >mentality which will dismiss any new developments in positive health
> >through the ingestion of synthetic substances out of hand).   
> Why?  Was that bias introduced in the broadcast?  In general, this is a
> false statement.  Hundreds of new drugs are licensed each year, all of
> which are new synthesized substances.  Doctors use thousands of synthetic
> compounds.  There is no bias against synthetic drugs per se.

My point here is that almost all the drugs that are liscenced intended 
to treat people who have desease.  I am refering to classes of drugs
that might be of benefit to perfectly healthy individuals.  I do feel
that there is a negative bias here that has two basic origins:

1.) Western medicine's inclination to define "health" in terms of
the absense of desease, rather than in terms of the optimal function
of all physiological systems (including the brain/mind).

2.) The western preoccupation with Calvinism, which (to paraphrase
broadly), asserts, among other things, that the only way to improve
oneself is through hard work (the no-pain, no-gain theory), and that
if God had wanted us to be more intelligent, he would have made us
that way, i.e., individuals are predestined to certain characteristics
by their creator, and that the individual should not tamper with
nature because that would iterfere with the work of the deity.  Almost
all the critics of the smart-drug phenomenon that I have heard 
resort to some such statement as "the idea that people can get
more intelligent from a bottle of pills is just baloney..." and I 
believe this attitude derives from Calvanistic attitudes, a mistrust
of science, et., which I believe are derived from our WASP heritage.

I think that the LSD controversy in the 60's illustates some of these
principles in action.  Although it is certainly debatable that LSD
in any way improves cognitive functioning, there was substantial
clinical evidence (which I HAVE read), that it was very useful under
controlled circumstances for psychotherapy.  Most of the really
good research here was done at Stanford.  It was given to healthy
persons under the close supervision of pychiatrists with the aim in
producing for these individuals insights and intregal spiritual
experiences.  In many, many cases, these aims were accomplished to
the satisfaction of both the clinicians and the patients.   

At the same time, anyone who lived through the period knows that the
"establishment", i.e., the broad class of individuals in position
of authority and influence in the major institutions of the
country, reacted to the LSD movement as a total anathema, (as
something more or less daemonic), made it an illegal substance, and
made the leader of the movement, T. Leary a political prisoner.

Although I haven't the time for a detailed analysis here, I think
that thoughtful analysis of the LSD movement and the reaction to
it in our society would bear out my statement that there is some
fairly strong bias in our society against chemical ingestants that
might "change" people's conciousness in some way.  This may be
simply the natural "conservative" functioning of the social mind,
and/or attributable to the mechanisms I desribes above. 

> >I can't think of an issue that would have more profound
> >implications for more people than this one. 
> Well, nanotechnology, maybe?
> > And yet, it IS clear to
> >me that the FDA and the very conservative US medical establishment
> >would be inclined to view positive developments in this field with
> >an undue skepticism, as it tends to run contrary to the
> >establishment line about psycho-active chemicals in general.
> Why?  They don't argue about drugs used to change people's moods, even
> those which purposely change someones brain chemistry.  Also, why should
> an intelligence enhancing drug be psycho-active?  I understand psycho-
> active to indicate hallucenogenic and/or perception-altering (generating
> sounds, textures, colors, etc.)

See comments above.

As for the use of the term psychoactive.  I guess it is just an assumption
on my part that enhancing what I would broadly call intelligence would
include the expansion of awareness of sense-phenonmenon.  I think that
one of the things that intelligence has reasonably been associated with
is delicasy and refinement of perception, as in, the fine arts, poetry,
et. al...And in fact, some of the claims made on behalf of "smart drugs"
very much include subtle effects of this class.  

> >  (For
> >example, outlawing the use of marijuana as a pharmacutical even
> >though it has been PROVEN to be highly effective treatment for
> >chemotherapy nausea and glaucoma, and as an aid for people with AIDS
> >to regain there apetite for food -- ((you don't even need a clinical
> >trail to know about the "munchies")!). 
> understanding is that THC IS administered as a pharmaceutical.
> Either the law has changed - which I doubt - or you have been lied to.

The LAW here HAS been changed.  My source of information: Dr. Dean Edell's
radio talk show.  Has rages about it at great length on a nearly daily
basis.  He is in mass media, but is one person I tend to trust.  I
am sure that he knows the facts on something like this.

> WHOA!  Hold on!  What is "consciousness"?  Do you mean cognition,
> sensory input, neurotransmitter generation, what?  This is an
> incredibly imprecise statement.  It makes you sound as if you have
> an agenda...

See comments above.  Yeah, I do have an agenda.  I would like to see
a promulgation of the idea that scientific research could deliver
breakthough pharmacuticals that would radically enhance the quality
of life for healthy individuals. (And length of life).  I believe 
that this idea threatens the "establishment" because the establishment
an anti-intellectual bias and for the reasons discussed above.  There
are a number of reasons to suppose that the government does not want
people to live a long time.  I have seen quotes from an outgoing
head of the FDA declaring that research on longevity should not
be heavily funded by the Federal government until it is clear that
sufficient funding can be arranged to support large numbers of
elderly people. (And in fact, the  Federal government devotes
the vast percentage of research dollars on gerontology for the
study of the socioeconomic impact of aging in the US, not on life-extension

> >Because of this obvious bias, which pervades the government, the
> >media, and interpersonal, social forms of communication, I am
> >personally very much inclined to want to give a very fair hearing to
> >the advocates of the life-extenders and smart-drug people. 
> So because some drugs are outlawed, these advocates are more credible?
> This is the logical reduction of your claim...

I think you are not getting my point here.  I am not saying anybody is
credible.  I am trying to ascertain credibility.  I am only maintaining
that there is a substantial bias against the ideas of the life-extenders
and the smart-drug people, as there always is against radical innovation.
This is clear through the whole history of mankind.  

> >RESPOND TO THIS ARTICLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
> Hmmm...I suppose there is an agenda behind this.  No matter.  If you 
> want to know more, take some basic courses in cognitive science,
> neurophysiology and the like.  Talk to people doing research at the
> school.  DON'T depend on "popular" books or magazines to get your
> information.

I definitely regret having put this in.  The capital letters are
particularly incindiary.  However, your comment partially bears out
what I mean by it.  The so called "popular" media is controlled by
what I call the "establishment".  And many people, most people, DO
depend on it for the information they have about science and 
technology.  This is why, if the type of bias that I assert does 
exist, the potential for suppression of thought and information DOES
> Oh yeah...if you lose the anti-WOD rhetoric, you will get a more balanced
> set of responses.  If I were a researcher and saw this, I'd NEVER post
> a response.  Why?  Because you demonstrate a bias more than a questioning
> nature.  And I would not want to deal with someone who might go ballistic
> unexpectedly.  Prejudging things ALWAYS puts people off.

Well, I hope that you are incorrect here.  I hope some researchers do
respond.  I don't think I have prejudged the questions I am asking about
smart-drugs, life-extention.  My prejudgements are more in the area
that concerns government regulatory agencies (FDA) and the establishment
controlled media.  I am just interested in the FACTs as concerns the
scientific questions...
 Again, thanks for your response, and please write again if you have
more comments.  

ALSO, I would LIKE to post this to the network.  I will not do so
without your permission.  Please let me know.

> My $.02, I suppose.  Take care,
> 				David Pipes
> ..!uunet!srg!spica!dpipes

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