I first met Danny at the original Breaking Convention conference in 2011. Some time after that I bought the second volume of his Apocalypse series - Neuro-Apocalypse, took it home and read it. Then recently my review copy of this book, Science Revealed, arrived. I read it, certain that I hadn’t read it before, and went to my bookshelves to hook out the other Nemu’s End volume and compare it. Dear reader, imagine my surprise when I discovered I did not have Neuro-Apocalypse, but another copy of Science Revealed. Almost as if the one book had transformed into the other… I have no ready explanation for this, and I’m in no hurry to find one; it’s a bit of magic that is pointing the book out, like a big neon forefinger. The reasons for this may become apparent in the course of this review.
Science Revealed consists of essays on what seems at first like a wide range of topics - Occam’s Razor, violence and conquest, the idea of scientific progress as rationality, mainstream medicine, the nature of sin and evil, our relationship to non-human life forms that bite us, Jesus and Exu, and some pictorial sections which I think are meant to be enjoyed non-linearly. This span of discourse actually holds together very well. I shall write about some of the chapters in order, but save till the end Chapter 4’s argument about mainstream medicine, because it’s what led me to take so long to review it. (Apologies, dear Psychedelic Press!)
The first chapter opens with a drunken adventure in Bavaria, introducing Occam of Razor fame, the razor which ‘cuts away but … gives nothing back’ and concluding that the knowledge gained by its use must be left behind when we ‘cross the abyss to the infinite’ (p7). So we scrutinize all beliefs, all ‘philosophies’, leave no ‘philosophy’ in place that has ceased to move on. This is a via negativa, a bit like RAW’s agnosticism, but one that’s aware of the limits of purely negative, critical thought.
The second chapter focuses on the violence and conquest of imperialism, and examines why Protestants seem to be ‘more skilled at genocide’ than Catholics.
The third attacks the idea of science as a purely rational process, showing how scientific progress depends on vision, dream and altered states.
The fifth starts with some of the evils of that absurd narrative the ‘War On Drugs’ and proceeds into how wrong the State can be. This includes the infamous uses of the War on (Some) Drugs as a tool of racist governance, as an example of the uses of ‘science’ for suppressing the poor and championing racist narratives. He quotes Nixon’s sidekick Ehrlichmann (p 77): ‘’… we could disrupt these communities… arrest their leaders, raid their homes… Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.’
This is familiar anarchist territory, but then Danny digs deeper and examines the history of written laws, which appear in 8th C BCE Israel and 7th C BCE in Athens. This is law as something bad: ’These coded-up cultures hybridized and developed into the litigious civilization that is still shitting out morons to govern us 3 millennia later.’
This leads us into the nature of sin and evil. This is very interesting, he digs deeper still, asking What is evil? It seems that it’s just what keeps us in the world; he quotes the Talmud: ‘Were it not for the evil inclination, a person would not build, would not marry, would not have children, would not engage in business.’
This chapter’s full-on argument for anarchy is particularly relevant now; with the BLM protests happening in the USA people ask: What would it be like without laws and police? Well, what’s it like now? People roam the streets maiming and murdering, and most of them are paid for out of taxes.
The chapter titled The Monk, the Mystic and the Mosquito opens with the morality and spiritual dimensions of killing mosquitoes while meditating. This leads into the role of mosquitos in keeping us out of the jungle places which we are messing up so badly.
Well it certainly works for me. One of my fantasy superpowers is a field around myself which would fry biting insects. I can’t imagine a climate worse than one which encourages the bastards.
This though is a good point, and it ties into the core idea in Swamp Thing, which I’ve been enjoying the Netflix version of lately. The rogue scientist becomes fused with the Green, the vast, collective intelligence of the plant world, so that he can help it fight back against human depredations.
The last of the linear, verbal chapters is Exu’s Journey, a very nice theological discourse which shows that Exu the Trickster and Jesus are not so very far apart. I like this (p138):
‘…Exu has boundary issues. He disturbs the peace and questions assumptions. His truths are half-lies, his manners are dreadful, and he can’t be trusted any more than you can.’
I’ve saved till last what took me so long to think about: Danny’s blistering rejection of mainstream medicine in Chapter 4, The Politics of Truth. He traces some of the evidence trails in modern medicine then (p53) tells us about what seems very much like a heresy persecution against scientist Jacques Benveniste, who not only produced evidence for the effects of very dilute medicines which back up the claims of homeopathy, but whose results were replicated in three other labs. The ‘trial’ included a ridiculously high-pressure bit of lab theatre overseen by the editor of Nature, a heavily-biased ‘study’ which also involved the notorious fraud ‘Randi’. The notion that someone’s work is not worth properly investigating because it would require a new explanatory framework is a disgrace to science, but is altogether too common. Science columnist Ben Goldacre a few years ago railed against experiments on ‘psi powers’ because ‘we know there aren’t any’, or words to that effect. Science here is replaced by its insane bastard sister, Scientism.
What took me aback was Danny’s argument on vaccines (p64). He presents a small sample of approximate numbers and uses it to dismiss pretty much all modern medicine, especially vaccination. There’s a touch of the contamination-by-association style of argument in his stats on iatrogenic illness in the USA as if to slyly hint that it’s all caused by vaccines.
He then talks about how healthy his family are, even though they never see doctors, and shows us how this is part and parcel of where he’s coming from by telling us he’s been a shampoo-dodger since the age of 14.
Then his big health story: this is a man who got a horrible flesh-eating parasite called leishmaniasis when he was in the jungles of S. America, and, refusing Western type medicine, cured himself completely with the help of traditional plant medicines. So he does know whereof he speaks.
Or at least, he knows for himself; Danny has found his own way of staying healthy. I’m not sure everyone would fare so well if we all had to do without mainstream medicine for all our complaints. My own approach is both, not either: I left the queue for a hip transplant nearly 10 years ago as a result of discovering how much difference a supplement (GLME) made to my then-crippling osteoarthritis. Soon, I was back walking a few miles a day, kept up the exercise and the supplementation and broke the worst of it. But I still happily use prescription painkillers when the pain is too much for the weed and meditation Danny restricts himself to to handle it.
Don’t get me wrong, self-care is great. Kids should be taught it in primary school. But to valorize such successes is for some people a way of dismissing universal healthcare. Gordon White has recently turned an argument for including all forms of healing in healthcare into an argument against universal healthcare.
I get the point: in an ideal world we’d all have access to all kinds of healthcare. But to oppose universal healthcare on that basis is just saying ‘Your life got destroyed? Ah, tough shit mate, you were downstream. Shoulda got some ideological purity inside you.’ Anyone who thinks that opposing tax-funded universal healthcare will land us anywhere better than the shameful and absurd US system needs a serious reality check.
But all this has made me think about vaccines again; I never seriously doubted them before this, and all the anti-vaxxer stuff I’d read had been pathetic - the lies of has-been scientists with bad records and worse attitudes, mostly written for the psychopath wing of the tinfoil hat brigade So I went and dug out a few histories, making sure they weren’t all written by drug companies and their allies.
To sum up, many vaccines are a massive boon and have been for more than a few years. With some, we’ve developed true herd immunity and basically eliminated some nasty pathogens from large areas of the world. Others, such as flu only work (and then not that well) for a year; flu is a class of viruses that mutate very rapidly, which is why they’re always a step ahead of our vaccination programmes, and no true herd immunity is possible. In those cases, it could be argued that the main beneficiaries of such vaccines are the pharma companies. Covid is similar; a vaccine will buy us only a brief respite. The best public health approach would surely be to pool data on drugs and treatments that mitigate or cure this type of disease, using existing, already licensed drugs, natural and synthetic; but that of course wouldn’t generate as much cash for the drug barons.
This is a very good book with an enviably vivid style of writing; I aspire to that level of user-friendliness! Danny manages to give Scientism a right good kicking, which is always OK in my book; this toxic religion should have had its day. A psychedelicist I corresponded with on and off eventually damaged himself with some extreme magico-psychedelic experiments and seems to be suffering from some kind of dark flip-over in his thinking, the main symptom being a fanatical Scientism, the most passionate of that flock I have ever come across. I wish all such people would give this book a go (though I’m not sure how much difference it would make in his case).
Yes, buy this book. Danny is a trickster, who kicks things in order to wake you up, but like Exu, he can’t be trusted any more than you can. And that’s just fine.