So I sat down and watched all of Hancock's talk just now. In the event you haven't seen it, you can watch it here (via TLM).
There are several points to raise:
1. TED does misrepresent Hancock's comments. Particularly:
He states as fact that psychotropic drug use is essential for an “emergence into consciousness,” and that one can use psychotropic plants to connect directly with an ancient mother culture.He actually says that the period of 'transcendent cave-art' is the essential point of the emergence of consciousness. He never actually mentions using drugs to access any sort of 'mother-culture,' but I could see how you could change his comments into something along those lines. Further:
He seems to offer a one-note explanation for how culture arises (drugs), it’s no surprise his work has often been characterized as pseudo-archeology.He doesn't do that. He does imply the truthful factor of drugs and their influence on cultures, however he doesn't specify the arrival being created by drugs. Rather, he refers work by a researcher that may indicate (I'll need to check it out, and may even post about it here) that drugs were an important phenomena in the emergence of consciousness.
Where TED is correct that Hancock seems to stray into 'psuedo-Archaeology,' but couldn't be fucked to set down (apparently) involves his reports on Kykeon and Soma. He references the 'Amanita Muscaria' theory of Soma penned down by Wasson. It has been called into question and is by no means the primary, or even accepted theory regarding the divine drink.* There is no evidence that I know of that Kykeon was actually utilizing an entheogen, but at least one theory points towards Ergot (the fungus from which LSD-25 was synthesized) as a potential candidate. This might make the substance an entheogen, or at least involve one. It could also be, and I do mean this, incorrect. I would love for proof of ergot being included in Kykeon; I just have yet to see any compelling enough to be labeled as such. These factors and others are probably enough to call his talk into question, but it seems odd that TED didn't specifically pinpoint his statements and provide us with a full account of why they pulled his talk. That's bad form on TED's part, and their comments are hardly worth of merit (at least regarding their actions) and in a few places just plain wrong.
* Recently, in 1994, Viktor Sarianidi claimed to have discovered physical evidence of Soma left at the BMAC complex (he claimed it was Ephedra, Cannabis, and Opium). Subsequent retests of his findings have also been found to be questionable. I had a few other links on the matter, but they've also gotten mis-sorted in my bookmarks. I really held out hope for Sarianidi's findings, as physical evidence that could be linked to the culture that produced Soma/Hoama would have finally settled the debate of 'entheogen - or not?!' Unfortunately, those hopes were apparently premature.
[EDIT] I'll be periodically adding links as I grab them from the depths of my bookmark folders, and try to keep the info as legit as possible, the wikipedia references aside. I know they aint, like, reputable. The subject of Soma is just over-run with buy muscle relaxers from Mexico! links and shit, which bogs down the ability to find useful information. Most kykeon searches dead-end with a billion drug forums that are... are... I won't even go there. Thus they're (wikipedia, that is) an easy place that you might be able to glean a generic basis of understanding. Remember that I am not a scholar, and what I trade in is information and sheer madness, and not like, 100% reputable sources myself.
A discussion on the possibility of Ergot as an ingredient in Kykeon in Pharmakon by Michael A. Rinella.
Wasson (oh, hey there!) and his initial comments on Ergot and Kykeon in The Road to Eleusis.
The Soma-Haoma Problem by J.E.M. Hoube. (Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies.)