Paul Stamets is great in that he has made mycology a little more accessible to laypeople, BUT please understand that the man is a snake oil salesman who presents his own half-baked theories as scientific truths. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t better resources out there for non-scientists to learn more about mycology, especially if you’re interested in learning about fungi that aren’t mushrooms. I hope to change that, someday, when I am not being consumed alive by grad school, but in the meantime here’s a list of decent intro to mycology books (which are relatively technical but don’t let that scare you).
Some of you have asked me to explain, and I’m proud of you for doing so because I wouldn’t expect you to take my word more than anyone else.
Paul Stamets is clearly a smart person, and his passion for mycology is intoxicating, but it’s important to keep in mind that at his roots he is a businessman.
My problems with Stamets boil down to the scientific method and how to decipher scientific results. I do believe that science is something that should be broadly accessible to everyone, regardless of whether or not they passed through the ivory towers. HOWEVER if you are going to do science and then bring your results into the public’s eye (in his case, via TED Talks, books, movies, etc.), even try to SELL your results as some miracle cure, you must do more rigorous science. When people’s health is relying on the robustness of your methods, you must do more rigorous science. Science is messy. Sometimes things that have worked in one condition, never work in any other condition (see this paper debunking one of his claims). Stamets inflates his results and then tries to sell them as a product. There is no accountability. His products and claims aren’t evaluated by the FDA.
I don’t want to be a gatekeeper. I am thrilled that Stamets has gotten so many people interested in mycology, but he’s gotten them interested in the pseudoscience rather than the actual science.
He’s a sensationalist and romanticizes the way fungi work. If Stamets has brought you over to the beauty and wonders of mycology – welcome! This is such a fascinating realm to enter, even if you’re not a scientist! You belong here, and you deserve to get joy from this as a hobby.