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Francis Crick is reported to have claimed that he experimented with LSD, commonly known as acid, during the time in which he and James Watson worked to determine the structure of DNA. This he apparently told to his colleagues at the time, though there is no transcript of him confirming it. There are, however, many other scientists who have danced with Lucy since Albert Hoffman first synthesized it in 1938.

Now obviously scientists like Francis Crick don’t arrive at double helix models by doodling in their notebook and picking out the shape that looks the coolest. To do what Crick did requires an insane amount of analytical, theoretical, and spatial thinking. It’s not like Crick dropped out of high school and then used acid to turn himself into a supergenius.

Crick was a fan of Aldous Huxley’s (yes, author of Brave New WorldThe Doors of Perception, a study of the human mind which was undertaken like all good studies–hanging out in Los Angeles while tripping on mescaline. Huxley wrote that the sober mind has a series of filters on it that basically prevent abstract thought, but that drugs like mescaline and LSD could temporarily remove those filters. So rather than melting his mind into a lava lamp of trippy shapes, Crick probably used LSD to get unfiltered access to a part of his brain most normal people rarely use.

Steve Jobs has said that LSD was “one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life.” Kary Mullis, innovator of the polymerase chain reaction, has said that he “took plenty of LSD,” going so far as to call his experimentation with psychedelics “much more important than any courses [he] ever took,” even musing, “What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR? I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.”

Physicist Richard Feynman and neuroscientist John C. Lilly are among the other prominent scientist advocates for LSD. Isn’t it about time that we lay aside our preconceptions of lazy, brain-fried hippies, and consider the idea that acid can in fact “expand the mind” and lead to insights that the sober mind could never reach? Ending the ban on psychoactive drug research is the most effective way that we could at least begin to understand the effects of LSD and other mind-altering substances.

-Reeser Ferguson

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~ by fergusrd on March 17, 2014.

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