Biologist Merlin Sheldrake on the mind-bending world of mushrooms

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The fungal world is mind-bending. Mushrooms may look like plants, but taxonomically, fungi are more closely related to animals. They go inside their food to eat it and “play games with individuality,” says biologist Merlin Sheldrake, author of “Entangled Life.” One underground fungal network in Oregon spreads over four square miles, but genetically, it’s a single organism. As Sheldrake says, “they are everywhere at once and nowhere in particular.” He talks with Steve Paulson about his lifelong fascination with fungi, his experiments with ancient recipes for fermented alcohol, and the maverick Stoned Ape Theory, which claims that magic mushrooms sparked the evolution of human consciousness.

Human identity cannot be separated from our nonhuman kin. From forest ecology to the human microbiome, emerging research suggests that being human is a complicated journey made possible only by the good graces of our many companions. In partnership with the Center for Humans and Nature and with support from the Kalliopeia Foundation, To The Best Of Our Knowledge is exploring this theme of "kinship" in a special radio series.

To learn more about the Kinship series, head to ttbook.org/kinship.