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Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization

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Drunk elegantly cuts through the tangle of urban legends and anecdotal impressions that surround our notions of intoxication to provide the first rigorous, scientifically-grounded explanation for our love of alcohol. Drawing on evidence from archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, and genetics, Slingerland shows that Drunk elegantly cuts through the tangle of urban legends and anecdotal impressions that surround our notions of intoxication to provide the first rigorous, scientifically-grounded explanation for our love of alcohol. Drawing on evidence from archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, and genetics, Slingerland shows that our taste for chemical intoxicants is not an evolutionary mistake, as we are so often told. In fact, intoxication helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. Our desire to get drunk, along with the individual and social benefits provided by drunkenness, played a crucial role in sparking the rise of the first large-scale societies. We would not have civilization without intoxication.  From marauding Vikings and bacchanalian orgies to sex-starved fruit flies, blind cave fish, and problem-solving crows, Drunk is packed with fascinating case studies and engaging science, as well as practical takeaways for individuals and communities. The result is a captivating and long overdue investigation into humanity's oldest indulgence—one that explains not only why we want to get drunk, but also how it might actually be good for us to tie one on now and then. 


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Drunk elegantly cuts through the tangle of urban legends and anecdotal impressions that surround our notions of intoxication to provide the first rigorous, scientifically-grounded explanation for our love of alcohol. Drawing on evidence from archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, and genetics, Slingerland shows that Drunk elegantly cuts through the tangle of urban legends and anecdotal impressions that surround our notions of intoxication to provide the first rigorous, scientifically-grounded explanation for our love of alcohol. Drawing on evidence from archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, and genetics, Slingerland shows that our taste for chemical intoxicants is not an evolutionary mistake, as we are so often told. In fact, intoxication helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. Our desire to get drunk, along with the individual and social benefits provided by drunkenness, played a crucial role in sparking the rise of the first large-scale societies. We would not have civilization without intoxication.  From marauding Vikings and bacchanalian orgies to sex-starved fruit flies, blind cave fish, and problem-solving crows, Drunk is packed with fascinating case studies and engaging science, as well as practical takeaways for individuals and communities. The result is a captivating and long overdue investigation into humanity's oldest indulgence—one that explains not only why we want to get drunk, but also how it might actually be good for us to tie one on now and then. 

30 review for Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    A book extolling the virtues of drunkenness in 2021 had better be unimpeachable. As Edward Slingerland acknowledges, society has turned its back on alcohol, becoming an intolerant prurient shadow of the thousands of years since alcohol was tamed and made part of civil society. His book, Drunk, travels the globe and plumbs history in a multitude of societies to prove its worthiness of our consideration. If not for all the negatives we’ve had drummed into us, it seems it would be an easy case to m A book extolling the virtues of drunkenness in 2021 had better be unimpeachable. As Edward Slingerland acknowledges, society has turned its back on alcohol, becoming an intolerant prurient shadow of the thousands of years since alcohol was tamed and made part of civil society. His book, Drunk, travels the globe and plumbs history in a multitude of societies to prove its worthiness of our consideration. If not for all the negatives we’ve had drummed into us, it seems it would be an easy case to make. In this upbeat, chatty book, it is our big differentiator and critical to our survival. The active chemical in alcohol is ethanol, and the yeast in plants makes ethanol to fend off bacteria that compete for the nutritive value of many fruits and vegetables. Man has stretched the limits of fermentation, trying, and succeeding to greater or lesser extents, with everything from grass to potatoes and cactus. If it has green, it can be grog. Alcohol found its way into human lives even before we adopted agriculture. It was, it seems, a higher priority than even bread, usually thought of as the end of hunting/gathering. Every civilization figured out early how to ferment fruits and vegetables, and drink whatever disgusting fluid resulted, purely for its intoxicating effects. More recently, we have learned to multiply those intoxicating effects through distillation: layering more and more alcohol into brandies, vodkas and such. This has created a selection of alcohol so powerful our ancestors wouldn’t know how to cope with it, and to an unfortunate extent, neither do we. Alcohol has swung back and forth between sacred and damned, with damned the current fashion. The very word alcohol comes from the Arabic. These days Muslims wouldn’t touch the stuff in accordance with their religion. But even that is a recent change. The Middle East used to do business over alcohol much as everyone else did, with sometimes elaborate rituals, structured events, and mandatory trials before trust and negotiation could take place. It used to be that everyone drank. For one thing, water was so filthy, it was far safer to drink beer and wine if you had any hope of making it to adulthood. Today, it is just the opposite. No alcohol until well into adulthood because it could kill you (or you could kill someone else). Religions are full of references to alcohol, and most require it in various ceremonies from the blood of Christ to a glass of wine for Elijah. Jesus’ very first miracle was turning water into wine. Nobody complained. Slingerland’s longest and best arguments are over bonding and creativity. Strangers bonded over drinks at the local, which does not even exist in North American society any more. If someone stopped drinking, they became suspect, and people guarded what they said around him or her. Drinking beer allowed the locals to speak freely, lower barriers between them, get secrets out in the open where they would do no more harm, and promote agreement. It was a major de-stressor over ages when there were no other regular distractions. It was both social and therapeutic. On the creative side, drink produces ideas and collaboration. Slingerland says when a pub finally opened near the campus of his university, the resulting socializing among professors and students led to all kinds of new projects, awards, grants, and recognition. None of it would have happened in the office, the conference room or the hallways. Much as psychedelics cut off the barriers to connection in the brain, alcohol numbs the prefrontal cortex into submission for a period of time. The prefrontal cortex consists of the frontal lobes above the eyes, the biggest and newest part of the brain. They develop late, in fact last, not fully formed until the age of 21. They then start taking over, organizing thoughts and priorities, restricting connections that are not focused and goal-oriented, and generally killing the child in each of us. Taking temporary control away from the straitlaced grip of the prefrontal cortex is the magic and attraction of alcohol, psychedelic mushrooms and LSD. Wonderfully, the effect is temporary, produces no damage, lasting or otherwise, and has been a blessed relief for all mankind from the very beginning. Slingerland calls the sum of these factors creative, cultural and communal, and they are present worldwide, fueled by alcohol everywhere. They are the key to differentiating humans from other primates, as well as the key to our success. Back inside the brain, teenage drunks are the wildest, because they don’t have the regulation provided by a fully developed prefrontal cortex. Nor do they know when to stop. The result is often ugly and sometimes fatal, even if just to the drinker alone. Some societies get this more than others, as age restrictions vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The book examines the rituals, processes and effects in numerous societies throughout history. The Japanese salary-man is probably the biggest proponent today, getting massively drunk many nights after work, barely making it in the next day. It supposedly builds lifelong friendships and appreciation for who others in the group really are. Historically, the Vikings seem to be world champions, getting so overwhelmingly drunk they could lose battles. The glorious Beowulf was famous in his own time because he could get stinking drunk without killing any of his friends. This was a unique and miraculous accomplishment for a Viking, never mind a king. Alcohol consumption today is mutating, and not necessarily for the better. It used to require a trip to a place. Now homes are stocked with vast quantities and varieties, totally unknown in past civilizations. No one drank at home; it was a social lubricator. No one drank alone; it was a community facilitator. No one simply imbibed alcohol. It was an accompaniment to food. The key to drinking in the famously alcoholic countries of southern Europe is that the wine went with the food and not an evening boozing. Getting drunk at home, alone without a great meal would make no sense to most throughout history. Today it is the norm. And the alcohol is far more powerful now. Man has learned to up the alcohol content of beer to 6% and wine to 15%, when throughout history they were high if they were in the two range. Hard liquor is off the charts. Slingerland saves the downside to nearly the end. He rushes though the horrors of addictive alcoholism, the killings from drunk driving, and the early deaths from liver damage, and lands on the discrimination. Those who do not drink are not so welcomed into drinking circles. They don’t get the creative, cultural and communal benefits. They are not a part of the in crowd. Can people who don’t drink even be trusted? How much has our civilization lost because these others were excluded when ideas took real shape? To this extent alcohol is not a uniter but a divider. This may not be a fatal downside to drinking, but it is a factor few talk about. Inequality in boozing holds us back. Slingerland pleads for more acceptance of alcohol. The evidence he provides is irrefutable. Drink seems irreplaceable. Whether it outweighs the negatives is for society to decide. For Slingerland, “We could not have civilization without intoxication.” David Wineberg

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Boissonneault

    People love to drink. More specifically, people love to drink or otherwise become intoxicated from all corners of the globe and in virtually every civilization throughout history. This underappreciated human universal—one that has surprisingly been ignored by most scholars—is practically begging for an evolutionary explanation. In philosopher Edward Slingerland’s latest book, we finally get one. In this humorous and wide-ranging book, Slingerland explores the history, biology, psychology, and so People love to drink. More specifically, people love to drink or otherwise become intoxicated from all corners of the globe and in virtually every civilization throughout history. This underappreciated human universal—one that has surprisingly been ignored by most scholars—is practically begging for an evolutionary explanation. In philosopher Edward Slingerland’s latest book, we finally get one. In this humorous and wide-ranging book, Slingerland explores the history, biology, psychology, and sociology of intoxication, and, in particular, the intoxicating effects of alcohol. He notes how, contrary to the popular view that drinking serves no useful evolutionary purpose—the equivalent of our brain hijacking our love for sugar to produce life-span-shortening twinkies—drinking actually facilitates social cooperation, and may even be responsible for the emergence of civilization itself. The argument is quite extensive, but essentially goes like this: humans are a species of primate—which are in general selfishly individualistic—yet require massive levels of cooperation (found most prominently in insects) to survive, due to our unimpressively weak physical makeup. Thrown into the wild, a single human could never outcompete other animals, but in groups, we dominate the world. Humans have therefore come to occupy a very specific ecological niche that requires three things above all others: creativity, cultural learning, and cooperation. Slingerland’s contention is that alcohol, along with other intoxicants (but primarily alcohol), works to enhance all three of these human necessities. Combining historical examples with modern research, Slingerland—formally trained in the history of religion and early Chinese thought—demonstrates how alcohol enhances creativity and openness to experience, reduces stress, improves mood, and facilitates cooperation, all by downregulating the prefrontal cortex and temporarily shutting down our overly-analytical minds. Rather than an evolutionary mistake, then, alcohol is essential to the formation of the types of human bonds and large-scale cooperation necessary for survival. There’s even some evidence, as Slingerland describes, that the human discovery of brewing beer came before the invention of agriculture, for example in Göbekli Tepe. While the reader might sense some exaggeration here—in the absence of beer, agriculture and civilization probably still would have arisen—alcohol is nevertheless a critical social factor that has long been neglected. This is all great news for wine and beer-lovers everywhere. In the debate over whether or how much we should drink, we can skip the disputes over the existence or not of minor health benefits if the act of becoming intoxicated is the key to the emergence of civilization and to the amplification of all the qualities that most make us human. This has the dual benefit of legitimizing our love for alcohol and also explaining its ubiquitous use. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. While alcohol has its place in the modern world, we would be unwise to ignore its costs. As Slingerland wrote, “The American Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that, from 2006 to 2010, excessive drinking led to 8,000 deaths annually, 2.5 million years of potential life lost, and $249 billion in economic damage.” When we drink alcohol, we are essentially ingesting a poisonous liquid neurotoxin that impairs our cognition, slows our reaction times, diminishes our judgments, and damages our livers, placing us at substantial risk. Weighed against the benefits, there’s some debate as to whether or not it’s all worth it in the end. But the enormity of these costs only strengthens Slingerland’s main argument; if there were truly no benefits to drinking, biological or cultural evolution would have eliminated the practice long ago. It’s not just that we enjoy drinking for the sake of drinking (although this should count for something), but that the building of social solidarity and the enhancement of creativity are real and extensive benefits of intoxication that we would be equally unwise to ignore. So, on the side of continued alcohol use is the fact that it is pleasurable, that it reduces stress, and that it is an evolutionarily beneficial way for us to enhance our skills in lateral thinking and social cooperation. On the side of abstinence is all of the associated health problems, risk of dependency, and economic costs of intoxication and excessive drinking. Both sides seem to have a strong case. But by understanding alcohol’s deeper evolutionary function—and better delineating its benefits—we can not only understand its popularity but also recognize that alcohol is not simply an evil that we’re forced to tolerate, and that responsible, moderate, and social drinking may in fact lead to desirable benefits that far outweigh the costs.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    A fabulously well done and interesting research novel that underscores the idea that all things ought to be studied and understood within both historical and social contexts. Found my way to this book after reading an article in The Atlantic and while on a personal journey to change/understand my drinking habits. I’ve been critically thinking about my own alcohol assumption after a family member was diagnosed with liver issues despite benign alcohol use for most of their life. This book was illum A fabulously well done and interesting research novel that underscores the idea that all things ought to be studied and understood within both historical and social contexts. Found my way to this book after reading an article in The Atlantic and while on a personal journey to change/understand my drinking habits. I’ve been critically thinking about my own alcohol assumption after a family member was diagnosed with liver issues despite benign alcohol use for most of their life. This book was illuminating, fun, and critically done. I appreciated how the author, though obviously an enthusiastic supporter of drinking, took great care to boldly outline and confront the dark sides, down sides, and serious issues (health and social) that can/do arise from drinking/the wrong kind of drinking. I particularly was fascinated by his kong discussion of the role of alcohol in fusing human societies via bridges of open, honest trust, and the analysis that suggested why people who don’t drink are often viewed with hostility or distrust. It helped me understand and gain perspective on why some of my social interactions grow awkward or even resentful when I started declining alcohol in situations where I previously had not. All in all, the author is a little TOO over the moon about drinking and other hallucinogenic substances for me, but his work is solid and well fleshed out and this book is a really, really educational read that posits great theories, supports them with excellence, and manages to discuss all sides of a thorny issue with aplomb and respect.

  4. 4 out of 5

    James Lang

    "People like to masturbate. They also like to get drunk and eat Twinkies. Not typically all at the same time, but that's a matter of personal preference." If you like your nonfiction writing to combine this kind of humor with wide-ranging and insightful surveys of research from many different disciplines, this is the book for you. I couldn't get enough of it. Slingerland writes with sharp wit and a curious brain, ranging over many fields and texts. You're as likely to find diagrams of molecules "People like to masturbate. They also like to get drunk and eat Twinkies. Not typically all at the same time, but that's a matter of personal preference." If you like your nonfiction writing to combine this kind of humor with wide-ranging and insightful surveys of research from many different disciplines, this is the book for you. I couldn't get enough of it. Slingerland writes with sharp wit and a curious brain, ranging over many fields and texts. You're as likely to find diagrams of molecules as you are to find lines from Chinese poets and descriptions of essays from anthropology journals. The point of it all is that intoxication has played a starring role in advancing human culture, community, and creativity, and that we should celebrate--mindfully and in moderation--the positive role that Dionysus can play in our lives even today.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Kingston

    Slingerland, who I'd previously only come across for his work in Chinese Philosophy has done something very different and has set out to tackle the role of alcohol (and a few other intoxicants) in human life. Framed in a way that will probably appeal to Jared Diamond/Sapiens fans - it's a riotous, enjoyable and engaging read into getting out of your mind. This might sound like a very broad topic, and it is. Covering topics from the ritual aspects of religious experience to the role it plays in so Slingerland, who I'd previously only come across for his work in Chinese Philosophy has done something very different and has set out to tackle the role of alcohol (and a few other intoxicants) in human life. Framed in a way that will probably appeal to Jared Diamond/Sapiens fans - it's a riotous, enjoyable and engaging read into getting out of your mind. This might sound like a very broad topic, and it is. Covering topics from the ritual aspects of religious experience to the role it plays in social binding and even the evolutionary encounters we had with fermented fruits on the forest floor this is a wild ride through human history and beyond. The author's research has been nothing short of incredible with the newest scientific and anthropological developments rubbing shoulders with quotes from Chinese poetry and personal experiences of LSD. That said in a way this is almost the only weak spot, at times you come across a page that is "as Mr XYZ says...As Dr ABC says" but on the whole this is more than balanced out by the excellent quality of these quotes. Very worthwhile read that I'm sure I'll return to. Does leave you feeling a bit thirsty though...🍻

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I picked this book up after I heard it mentioned in a blurb for an article in July/August 2021 Atlantic titled "Drinking Alone" by Kate Julian. I agreed with all of the book except for his main point and primary purpose of writing, which says a lot. He argues that drinking has been a part of human history since before there was history and that it has helped us overcome the vicious side of our primate linage by helping quiet the demands of our prefrontal cortex to unlock creativity, cultural sha I picked this book up after I heard it mentioned in a blurb for an article in July/August 2021 Atlantic titled "Drinking Alone" by Kate Julian. I agreed with all of the book except for his main point and primary purpose of writing, which says a lot. He argues that drinking has been a part of human history since before there was history and that it has helped us overcome the vicious side of our primate linage by helping quiet the demands of our prefrontal cortex to unlock creativity, cultural sharing and community. He also explores how social drinking in moderation can increase our happiness and advocates for a style of drinking like that in Italy (home and meal based) while warning against the dangers of distilled liquor and drinking alone, both of which seem to increase problem drinking and alcoholism while not providing any of the positive effects of alcohol. All this is quite interesting and helpful. I also liked how his background in religious history helped him see both drinking and religion as evolutionary advantageous. However, he is also a big fan of ecstasy in human life and believes drugs like alcohol and hallucinogens are a short cut to achieving it. He had meaningful acid trips in college and believes getting totally hammered once in a while is a good idea and worth the negative side effects. I figured out in college that getting drunk was a really bad idea and didn't work for me, and I have have seen tooo many people ruined by drugs ()including a younger brother I buried last year) to view them as positively as he does. As I read the parts of the book that praise overindulgence I kept thinking of that brother and of Brock Turner, the college student whose life was probably ruined when he raped an unconscious girl when they were both totally drunk at a college party (and no, I am not ignoring the terrible damage to the girl.) I think the price of excessive drinking exceeds the benefits. Read the article instead. it is shorter and you don't have to wade through the nonsense.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stven

    The author has only one point to make, and he makes it over and over and over for the entire course of the book. Intoxicants can improve human fellowship and creativity. That's it. Maybe there's someone out there whose life is improved by having this point hammered in for 300 pages. Maybe there's someone who only starts to believe it after the 300th citation of another anthropologist, another psychologist, another technician, another historian, another poet. But maybe not. You've heard the expre The author has only one point to make, and he makes it over and over and over for the entire course of the book. Intoxicants can improve human fellowship and creativity. That's it. Maybe there's someone out there whose life is improved by having this point hammered in for 300 pages. Maybe there's someone who only starts to believe it after the 300th citation of another anthropologist, another psychologist, another technician, another historian, another poet. But maybe not. You've heard the expression "piled higher and deeper." That's what's been achieved here.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Poet Charles Baudelaire is quoted to have said "With wine, poetry, or virtue as you choose. But get drunk." The author takes what our ape ancestors - and loads of other members of the animal kingdom - discovered, namely that over-ripe fruit ferments and gives a slight buzz. Of course, since we are rather hedonistic, we like that pleasurable feeling bestowed by the piece of fruit so we search for more as well as finding a way to have the intoxicating sensations at all times. So wine and beer and m Poet Charles Baudelaire is quoted to have said "With wine, poetry, or virtue as you choose. But get drunk." The author takes what our ape ancestors - and loads of other members of the animal kingdom - discovered, namely that over-ripe fruit ferments and gives a slight buzz. Of course, since we are rather hedonistic, we like that pleasurable feeling bestowed by the piece of fruit so we search for more as well as finding a way to have the intoxicating sensations at all times. So wine and beer and mead were born. As well as other intoxicants like mescaline, kava, pulque, chicha and of course, alcohol. Slingerland gives not only a historic look at our fascination with alcohol and other intoxicants but talks about the physiological, anthropological and sociological impacts that intoxicant imbibing makes on our bodies and minds. How drinking with fellows, co-workers and friends grease relationships within our community. Even to this day, the non-drinker - for whatever reason be it religion, health, or just choice - is often looked down upon or pushed out of the social circle. Although he does go into the benefits of sharing a drink with friends and co-workers - the loosening of guarded personal walls enabling collaboration and creativity when working 'outside the box' - he also goes into the negatives. Not merely the health or economic costs but personal effects on the people surrounding the one who partakes in intoxicants. It's an interesting set of viewpoints. I was originally thinking this would be more of the history of alcohol - wine, beer and distillates - but it provides a look into our brains and how our prefrontal cortex can be affected by intoxicating substances (he doesn't limit it to just alcohol) but how drinking in moderation actually has benefits that are cast aside when viewed by the rather bias government and medical community. Slingerland also has a wry sense of humor that peeks out in some turns of phrase which makes what could be a rather 'dry' work into a amusing and fascinating view into the allure of intoxicants. 2021-155

  9. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Veinott

    This book is entertaining. The premise is interesting and novel: that alcohol could have been adaptive in human history. The problem is that humans are clever, and as we've learned to refine sugar and hydrogenate fats, we've learned to distill alcohol, which packs too much punch. It's an evolutionary mismatch, but now the genie is out of the whiskey bottle. It's a fun anthropological survey and full of anecdotes. I think he glosses over the societal costs of alcohol abuse a bit too flippantly, b This book is entertaining. The premise is interesting and novel: that alcohol could have been adaptive in human history. The problem is that humans are clever, and as we've learned to refine sugar and hydrogenate fats, we've learned to distill alcohol, which packs too much punch. It's an evolutionary mismatch, but now the genie is out of the whiskey bottle. It's a fun anthropological survey and full of anecdotes. I think he glosses over the societal costs of alcohol abuse a bit too flippantly, but it is a interesting little read about human's favorite drug.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Corey Moore

    One of the most insightful, interesting, and entertaining books I have read in awhile! A must read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Xavier

    Both a sustained argument for the long-standing and continued importance of alcohol to human societies and a meditation on humans as a social animal, this book is engaging, well argued, and very much worth a read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Black

    Slingerland does an excellent job of creating a scholarly work on alcohol that reveals both its virtues and its demons.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Kidd

    A good read. I have a gut sense it could have been organized or scoped a bit differently- there was throughout a sort of oscillation between speaking very generally about intoxicants and very specifically about alcohol, which I'm not sure did either justice in the end. Also, the last section about the dangers of alcohol specifically deserve a book or two of their own. The author touched on some good points in contrast to the "why getting messed up is a good thing" discussion earlier in the book, b A good read. I have a gut sense it could have been organized or scoped a bit differently- there was throughout a sort of oscillation between speaking very generally about intoxicants and very specifically about alcohol, which I'm not sure did either justice in the end. Also, the last section about the dangers of alcohol specifically deserve a book or two of their own. The author touched on some good points in contrast to the "why getting messed up is a good thing" discussion earlier in the book, but did not spend much time there at all.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jung

    Drunk and why we must approach alcohol mindfully. So, drinking. Thousands and thousands of years ago, some hapless, apish ancestor of ours discovered the pleasures of drunkenness, perhaps after eating one too many fermented fruits. This was an accident. But the fact that we’ve continued drinking for millennia is no accident at all. Drinking has benefited our species in many important ways. It helped us become creative, communal, and cultural – the three C’s that enable us to occupy our ecological Drunk and why we must approach alcohol mindfully. So, drinking. Thousands and thousands of years ago, some hapless, apish ancestor of ours discovered the pleasures of drunkenness, perhaps after eating one too many fermented fruits. This was an accident. But the fact that we’ve continued drinking for millennia is no accident at all. Drinking has benefited our species in many important ways. It helped us become creative, communal, and cultural – the three C’s that enable us to occupy our ecological niche. In fact, drinking may have fueled the formation of our ecological niche, both driving the transition to agriculture and easing that transition’s attendant stresses. Since then, it’s helped us access our more playful, emotional, Dionysian side, which is good for community bonding and creativity, the cornerstones of cultural innovation. In short, alcohol has played a complex social and cultural role throughout human history. And it continues to play this role. However, there’s no denying the harm it can inflict. Today, 15 percent of the population is susceptible to alcoholism – although some countries have more of a problem than others. The rate of alcoholism is lower in countries like Italy and Spain, where alcohol is a part of everyday social life. In these “Southern drinking cultures,” a glass of wine or beer is a normal element of mealtime, and children are exposed to alcohol at a young age – so there’s no taboo surrounding it. Binge drinking is frowned upon, as is drinking alone, and distilled spirits aren’t especially common. Meanwhile, in “Northern drinking cultures,” like that of Russia and Finland, people drink less often – but when they do drink, they binge. Drinking is considered a primary activity, and distilled spirits are common. Drinking alone is not as stigmatized – and the rate of alcoholism is high. Alcoholism is also rampant in the United States, with its culture of extreme individualism, and scattered, suburban living. Unless you reside in a big city, having a local bar or cafe is rare. Social drinking is inconvenient or impossible for many Americans; it’s much easier to pick up booze at your local convenience store and drink it at home. This privacy around drinking encourages taboo – which makes young people more likely to abuse it. Alcohol balances a fine line between order and chaos. So, when it comes to certain situations, it might be time to replace it with other PFC-disarming tools. Microdosing psychedelics could provide the creativity boost we need without causing addiction or liver damage. And maybe office holiday parties would be better off as breakfast affairs with one-mimosa maximums. Making the case for alcohol in the modern age is complicated, considering how it can ravage individual lives and communities. But since it’s probably not going anywhere for a while, we must at least ensure that our debates about its role are informed by our best scientific and anthropological scholarship – not moralism and debunked science. By acknowledging both the dangers and benefits of alcohol, we can practice getting drunk mindfully – so we can continue to thrive as the bizarre, successful species of ape that we are. --- Why do we get drunk? It helps us be creative. Getting drunk isn’t the only way to disable the PFC. It can be disabled by many intoxicants. But alcohol is the undisputed king. It’s easy to consume, easy to make, easy to store, easy to dose. It’s also easy for our bodies to break down and eliminate. And as though all those perks weren’t enough, it pairs deliciously with food. What’s more, unlike other intoxicants – like, for instance, cannabis, which usually produces a more introverted high – alcohol promotes extroversion and group cooperation. Furthermore, it’s biphasal. That means that, at first, it instills a sense of mild euphoria – similar to the effects of cocaine. Then, as blood alcohol levels peak and start to descend, the PFC goes offline. That’s when we stop processing fear and other negative emotions, and we’re less affected by abstract consequences. In other words, we release our inhibitions and let our minds wander. Intoxicants provide a brief rupture from our everyday reality, a break from our Apollonian mind. As you know, ditching Apollo and embracing Dionysus can help us set aside our purely rational, purely selfish impulses, making it easier for us to access our emotional side. This is important for making human connections, for building community. But this isn’t all it can do. It can also drive cultural innovation by making us more playful and creative. Exactly how does drinking accomplish this? Well, have you ever wondered why children are so open, creative, and trusting? Here’s the answer: their PFC isn’t fully developed. The PFC is the part of the brain that takes the longest to mature. And there’s a reason for that. From birth, most other species are perfectly programmed for survival. But not us. Other animals might appear to create things – maybe you’ve seen those crows that are able to fashion a hook from a stick, which helps them catch worms – and, yes, this looks like a form of ingenious creativity, but, really, they’re following a script that’s in their DNA. We humans invent truly new things, things that transform the world. If a crow was like a human, it wouldn’t be satisfied with a hook. It would invent worm farms. Unlike other species, our survival is dependent on our insights and innovations, on our creativity. We’d be helpless without it. This is why the development of the PFC is so slow. As children, we have to acquire a lot of accumulated culture before we can stick it out in the real world as adults. So the PFC takes its time to mature, allowing us to remain cognitively flexible and open for as long as possible – so that we can absorb a staggering amount of information from the people around us. Thanks to their immature PFCs, children are terrible at planning and they’re not very rational or efficient. But openness and out-of-the-box thinking? That’s where they shine. These are also the qualities that keep our species growing, evolving, and innovating. So how can we channel our inner child and tap into our creativity? Well, one study showed that adult subjects performed better on creativity tasks when their PFCs were temporarily zapped into submission with a transcranial magnet. But transcranial magnets are recent inventions. Plus, they’re unwieldy, they’re expensive, and they’re not exactly party-friendly. So, for now, we’re stuck with the PFC-disabling technologies we discovered thousands of years ago – foremost among them, alcohol. Creativity is what drives cultural innovation, and so the ideal human is a person who can remain on task and delay gratification – but who can also take on, for brief periods, the mind of a child. In other words, the ideal human is an adult who sometimes gets – whether literally or figuratively – drunk.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    Obviously well researched, the author tries to have fun with the idea that getting drunk is not a social ill, but quite the opposite is a evolutionary desire of humans and society. The book comes off as equal parts dissertation and attempt to emulate Mary Roach (including the one word title). I wanted to love this book, but the repitition of metaphors and ideas made reading it become more and more of a chore than a joy. I found myself, more than once, starting to skim the book instead of really t Obviously well researched, the author tries to have fun with the idea that getting drunk is not a social ill, but quite the opposite is a evolutionary desire of humans and society. The book comes off as equal parts dissertation and attempt to emulate Mary Roach (including the one word title). I wanted to love this book, but the repitition of metaphors and ideas made reading it become more and more of a chore than a joy. I found myself, more than once, starting to skim the book instead of really take it in and to be shocked at how little I would feel like I had progressed after an hour or more reading. That being said, if you like to see history, sociology, evolution, and psychology all bright to bear on an activity that most around the world engage in, this would be a good book to church out. I would suggest reading the sections according to what you want to know more about than go front-to- back thrift the whole thing. The sections make this easier and might make the read more enjoyable. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    In vino veritas: “In wine there is truth” Nunc est bidendum: “Now is the time for drinking” Main argument: Chemical intoxication helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. These pros must be included when waging the obvious physical health cons. CHAPTER ONE — Why do we get drunk? Hijack theory = Chemical intoxication induces positive emot In vino veritas: “In wine there is truth” Nunc est bidendum: “Now is the time for drinking” Main argument: Chemical intoxication helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. These pros must be included when waging the obvious physical health cons. CHAPTER ONE — Why do we get drunk? Hijack theory = Chemical intoxication induces positive emotions that give a false signal of a fitness benefit. This signal hijacks incentive mechanisms of “liking” and “wanting” and can result in continued use of drugs that no longer bring pleasure. Hangover theory = Desire for ethanol / intoxication originally served an adaptive purpose but has now outlived its purpose. The original adaptation was a taste for overly ripe fruit or its pharmacological effects. Fermentation concentrates calories so this was high quality nourishment. It also serves the role of a natural preservative. It is pretty pungent so it wouldn’t have been hard to smell and seek out either. Another old purpose of alcoholic fermentation was to convert contaminated water into potable liquids. Beyond these theories If hijack or hangover theories were true evolution would have selected for alternatives by now that don’t have the obvious costs alcohol consumption does. We are built to process ethanol, using two enzymes in the process. This wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t some purpose for this. If this ability had lost its benefit we would expect evolution have to abandoned it long ago (not same as hijacks like masturbation or junk food because they don’t have the same high costs that alcohol consumption has). If intoxication had overall negative effects on cultural groups, we would expect anti-intoxicant norms to become universal or at least more prevalent, especially since cultural evolution moves much faster than genetic evolution. CHAPTER TWO — Leaving the door open for Dionysus (PROS) Alcohol is in many ways the perfect drug. It is easy to dose, and its cognitive effects are relatively stable across individuals. It is the easiest way to down regulate the prefrontal cortex and enhance mood. The prefrontal cortex is the enemy of creativity, cultural openness, and communal bonding. Lateral thinking (gauged by the Remote Associations Test) has been shown to improve after a few drinks. Intoxication also helps with the demands of humans’ ecological niche, making it easier for us to coexist in close quarters with others, keep up our spirits in collective undertakings, and be more open to connecting and learning from others. (Also shown to decrease stress) CHAPTER THREE — Intoxication, ecstasy, and the origins of civilzation Beer before bread theory = Large-scale alcohol fueled feasting that brought far flung groups together began well before settled agriculture. At the earliest known sites the tools being used were more suited to making beer than bread. Summarized: By enhancing creativity, dampening stress, facilitating social contact, enhancing trust and bonding, forging group identity, and reinforcing social roles and hierarchy, intoxicants have played a crucial role in allowing hunting and gathering humans to enter into the hive life of agricultural villages, towns, and cities. CHAPTER FOUR — Intoxication in the modern world A being that is self-aware, cut off from the undifferentiated, animal flow of experience by the curse of the self, requires release. We are an odd, sad species of ape, trying to make our way in societies organized on a scale we are not genetically equipped to negotiate. CHAPTER FIVE — The dark side of Dionysus The NIH estimates that alcohol is the third highest preventable cause of death after smoking and lack of exercise. Two major innovations that should affect our views on alcohol: advent of distilled liquors, drinking outside social and ritual control (isolation) *The cultural norms and context surrounding intoxication matter a lot. Southern drinking cultures (Italy) have a healthier relationship with alcohol where it is confined to mealtimes, whereas Northern cultures (Russia) often times drink in isolation.* While hangover theories may be off base with beers and wines, it may be a valid argument when pertaining to distilled liquors because on an evolutionary time scale distillation arose very recently.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cole Nesselson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Evolutionary hangover: desire for calories over nutrients. Evolutionary hijack: tap into pleasure systems designed originally to reward other evolutionarily beneficial behavior-masturbating instead of sex Evolutionary mistakes persist because natural selection hasn't caught up yet. intoxicants target the prefrontal cortex, compromising our abaility to remain concious and making decision. There are good evolutionary reasons we get drunk. alcohol intoxication is very costly so there must be a reason Evolutionary hangover: desire for calories over nutrients. Evolutionary hijack: tap into pleasure systems designed originally to reward other evolutionarily beneficial behavior-masturbating instead of sex Evolutionary mistakes persist because natural selection hasn't caught up yet. intoxicants target the prefrontal cortex, compromising our abaility to remain concious and making decision. There are good evolutionary reasons we get drunk. alcohol intoxication is very costly so there must be a reason why it stayed. Alcohol is yeast's defense against bacteria-scent first identified in ripe fruit. religion seems wasteful at first but it must serve some other social cohesion purpose. Alcohol is not a "path dependence"–defined by poor evolution that occurred to get from one evolutionary place to the next. If liking alcohol was a mistake, those that don't like it or react negatively (asian flush) would be at an advantage. This is not the case: asian flush is very limited and occurs so that when ADH builds up acetaldehyde ALDH in the liver can't keep up to convert it into Acetic acid . Perhaps evolved to kill fungus on old rice. The primary adaptive challenge for humans is social cohesion, not the phsyical environment. Humans are so dependent on culture we are wildly more vulnerable to exploitation than chimps are. We are pathetic as individuals. Trade off between narrow competence and creative flexibility. Humans have extended childhoods for the three C's: creative, cultural, communal We need creativity simply to function-we are helpless without tools maturation occurs from neural pruning-the elimination of uncessary neural connections. occurs when amount of white matter increases over grey matter. There is a decline in laterla thinking(creativity)The PFC is deadly to creativity. Creativity wants the mind to wander. The ability to share insights is key to survival. Culture is the collective brain. idea of the lone genius doesn't reflect humanity. The PFC cannot run procedural skills–it often messes these up. PFC makes you impervious to new knowledge and skills. Ants are like the individual cells fighting for the collective survival of the hide. Ant is to hive as skincell is to body. Defection= tragedy of the commons. emotions resolve cooperation dilemmas. emotions are the precommitment when the rational mind tries to betray us. (interesting because I've always heard the opposite that emotions betray us and that the rational mind has our best interest at heart. Play requires trust and builds connection- alcohol is used to advance human creativity-makes us child like. Alcohol affects all parts of the brain unlike other more targeted drugs. Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) tells you when the PFC should take over auto pilot. runner high mimics intoxication. deactivate the PFC because there is kore energy diverted to the necessary organs. More endorphins more dopamine and less PFC activity. Alcohol gives us childlike ability to communicate and lose self conciousness-crucial to have balance between sober self and drunk self. Alcohol caused agriculture and civilization.- the first large gatherings centered aroudn feasts with booze. Lying uses different facial muscles- we pick up on this when we determine how trustworthy someone is. We see disingenuousness. cheating and lying requires coginitive (PFC) control -wine is truth serum. "bridal" comes from "bride ale" "ecstacy" - "standing outside oneself" communal alcohol consuption drives innovation psychadelics cause entropy-afterwards, the shaken brain resettles to a different configuration that can inspire radical change and progress. Our unconcious self is better at detecting lies. alcohol loosens barriers to singing and dancing. both release endorphins. Friendship nullifies limitations of self and time. Alcohol is a tool to turn off concious self awareness. All experiences are chemical so why is alcohol any different from spiritual activity-both release endorphins. Fallacy of mind and body dualism Get drunk on whatever you want: wine, poetry, flow activity, etc. "No longer be the martyred slave of time" be transported away from yourself. S

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    I enjoyed the book overall. I was expecting something along the lines of “A History of the World in 6 Glasses” by Tom Standage, but found this book to be a little less “for the masses” and more academic than the aforementioned book, despite the funny introduction and section titles. (Note: There are endnotes and citations galore! My perception of this book may be skewed by actually having read the hard copy of this book versus listening to the audiobook of “6 Glasses.”) There is also a lot more n I enjoyed the book overall. I was expecting something along the lines of “A History of the World in 6 Glasses” by Tom Standage, but found this book to be a little less “for the masses” and more academic than the aforementioned book, despite the funny introduction and section titles. (Note: There are endnotes and citations galore! My perception of this book may be skewed by actually having read the hard copy of this book versus listening to the audiobook of “6 Glasses.”) There is also a lot more neuroscience that is not directly related to alcohol’s effects on the brain than I expected, but Slingerland explains it all well enough that I, as a layman, was able to understand and connect it to what he was trying to explain overall. The more cultural-centered portions of the book are more what I was expecting, and these are done well. Slingerland also goes into different intoxicants around the world, such as kava and peyote, and uses a large variety of sources and examples to back it up. However, I was expecting more on alcohol through the ages, rather than waffling between prehistory and now with very little in between until chapter 5, which I think could have used more examples of historical drinking practices. Also, what about when coffee houses became popular in Europe? Did wine drinking decrease, and how did they affect creativity? I’ve always heard that coffee houses were hotbeds of creativity, so did the caffeine provide a similar socially lubricating effect as alcohol? A description of various drinking habits over the centuries would have been nice, but this book spends too much time advocating the use of alcohol for its social effects. One real problem I found while reading this book was that there are numerous mistakes that better proofreading would have eliminated. Apart from some grammar mistakes (probably the result of partially editing a sentence), one mistake stood out enough for me to point out: on page 160, Slingerland wrote “...coronary heart disease,323 apparently...” I’m quite certain that the “323” doesn’t belong there. There’s a similar mistake on page 283. If there is some way of editing the book before it comes out officially, that is one mistake I would correct. (The extra “e” in Baudelaire’s ode title on page 221 is another obvious one.) Also, I think some of the endnotes don’t correlate to the numbers in the text. For example, endnote 18 in chapter 4 is about the COVID pandemic, but the text is a poem by William James. Endnote 20 is a James citation. The text around endnote 17 is about the COVID pandemic. A bit aggravating because I like to look up endnotes while reading, but it could be a potential major problem if one wants to validate sources for academic reasons. Basically, from what I can tell, they’re off by one. The last endnote for chapter 5 is blank, but the first endnote for chapter 6 doesn’t have a number. A factual (maybe) mistake: On page 166, Slingerland cites Iain Gately in describing the Japanese “water trade.” While “water trade” is the literal translation of “mizushoubai,” this is one example where direct translations (and Google Translate) don’t really work (for example, “butt dial” and “booty call” mean different things due to context even though each word separately translates to the corresponding word). “Mizushoubai” actually means something more along the lines of bar/club/restaurant businesses or cabaret entertainment, not the mandatory after-work drinking sessions attended by Japanese salarymen (which are better described, but not exactly, as “nomikai” or “drinking party”). I don’t know if this was Gately’s mistake or Slingerland misunderstanding Gately, but I wanted to point this one mistake out. There’s more on the Japanese “water trade” in chapter 5, but the use of the word “mizushoubai” as the practice of mandatory drinking instead of the hospitality business is also there. TLDR: It’s a good book overall, and I liked it, but it could use some more editing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    After reading this book my husband thought I would also enjoy it. He was, more or less, correct. Slingerland takes almost 300 pages, complete with a hefty set of notes at the end of the book, to make his case that, overall, drinking is a necessary component of human existence. Keep in mind, he is a self-described "philosophical hedonist" (p. 212) and already had a pro-alcohol bent, which may, indeed, be what caused him to become interested in tracing the history and benefits of alcohol usage. Sli After reading this book my husband thought I would also enjoy it. He was, more or less, correct. Slingerland takes almost 300 pages, complete with a hefty set of notes at the end of the book, to make his case that, overall, drinking is a necessary component of human existence. Keep in mind, he is a self-described "philosophical hedonist" (p. 212) and already had a pro-alcohol bent, which may, indeed, be what caused him to become interested in tracing the history and benefits of alcohol usage. Slingerland begins by noting that in our current iteration "we are required to be creative, cultural, and communal." By enhancing creativity, dampening stress, facilitating social contact, enhancing trust and bonding, forging group identity, and reinforcing social roles and hierarchy, intoxicants have played a crucial role in allowing hunting and gathering humans to enter into the hive life of agricultural villages towns, and cities. He prefaces this by sharing a history of alcohol and other stimulants, delineating how they have been used since earliest times to create group cohesion and feelings of shared ecstasy. As he notes, these are neurotoxins, which are defined as toxins that act upon the nervous system. While Slingerland may be a philosophical hedonist, I am not a fan of drinking. I've never liked the taste of beer, and am a petite framed female so it doesn't take much wine to give my head an uncomfortable buzz. I have also witnessed the deleterious effects of distilled liquor. To Slingerland's credit, in this five chapter book he devotes one chapter to discussing hard liquor, going so far as to suggest that hard liquor should have different age limits and rules governing its usage. What I appreciated about this book is the compelling history of how and why humans have utilized a variety of brain-impacting stimulants. What is relatively new in this history is the advent of distilled liquor and its many unsavory side effects. While my understanding of alcohol usage has been expanded, I won't be changing my drinking tastes anytime soon.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Artiom Karsiuk

    The usual case of my expectations being unrealistically sky-high and the book [as good as it was] falling short of them. You see, I am a big fan of drinking. A mighty big fan, me. I believe the common terminology is "alcoholic". It's only natural, as I was born in the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic: I don't think I need to explain that "soviet" and "vodka" are basically synonyms and when it comes to "Lithuanian"... well, let's just say our country is not only known for it's basketball play The usual case of my expectations being unrealistically sky-high and the book [as good as it was] falling short of them. You see, I am a big fan of drinking. A mighty big fan, me. I believe the common terminology is "alcoholic". It's only natural, as I was born in the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic: I don't think I need to explain that "soviet" and "vodka" are basically synonyms and when it comes to "Lithuanian"... well, let's just say our country is not only known for it's basketball players: in 2016 we took gold in the WHO's ever-so-competitive "Pure alcohol consumption among persons (age 15+) in liters per capita per year" category. Suck it, South Korea! Since boozing is one of my long established hobbies, I decided to read up on it. What I expected the book to be is this fun roller-coaster ride through inebriated history of how our forefathers used to [scientifically speaking] get shitfaced. However, the book was far more science than entertainment, which only makes sense, considering the gravity of the subject and the number of lives ruined when moderation is abandoned. The content of the book is pretty solid - I mean, it is well researched with countless studies with sources cited - but I didn't find it engaging. It was simply boring and offered no stunning revelations.- Drinking is a social lubricant; - Drinking helps cultivate trust between people (bonding); - Drinking is fun.It felt like the author spent 350+ pages trying to validate these... pretty well known and universally accepted truths. With all due respect, ever other chapter I was going "No shit, Sherlock". What I craved were some stories or anecdotes from ancient times on how alcohol affected major historical events or how iconic historical figures like Winnie Churchill and Peter The Great leaned on heavily on booze to stumble through decades of achievements. Didn't get that. Nope. Need to get my expectations under control going forward.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Why do humans love alcohol? What is the purpose and benefits of drinking? Slingerland argues that far from being an evolutionary mistake, it helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. It was our ancestors love of alcohol that played a huge role in allowing us to live in large-scale societies. Civilization is dependent on it. Why I sta Why do humans love alcohol? What is the purpose and benefits of drinking? Slingerland argues that far from being an evolutionary mistake, it helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. It was our ancestors love of alcohol that played a huge role in allowing us to live in large-scale societies. Civilization is dependent on it. Why I started this book: This was one of my three suggestions for my Book Club after listening to the author being interviewed on a podcast, and it was the book selected for July's discussion. Why I finished it: This book was a little more anthropological in nature than I was expecting and there was plenty of overlap between the introduction and the first chapter, but then it picked up steam and was off to the races. It was an interesting question to ask, what is the benefits of intoxication? And why are humans so drawn to it? Slingerland divorces alcohol from religions' judgements and also highlights the societal wins. And instead of hammering on the acknowledged harms of alcohol, he highlights that drunken social gatherings are far to frequently used to solidify the group against the marginalized. He recommends companies and groups think about inclusion before they pour out the drinks and everyone stops thinking. I am excited to talk about this book, especially with my friends that drink, to get their perspectives.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Karen Cohn

    This is a fascinating treatise on the idea that the reason that humanity has used alcohol and other intoxicants for so long is that the benefits derived from their use outweigh the negative effects on the body. Alcohol and other intoxicants, the author posits, both provide social connections and release the controls that maturity places on creativity and innovation once the prefrontal cortex matures. Alcohol, being the easiest to regulate in terms of reaching and maintaining a specific level of This is a fascinating treatise on the idea that the reason that humanity has used alcohol and other intoxicants for so long is that the benefits derived from their use outweigh the negative effects on the body. Alcohol and other intoxicants, the author posits, both provide social connections and release the controls that maturity places on creativity and innovation once the prefrontal cortex matures. Alcohol, being the easiest to regulate in terms of reaching and maintaining a specific level of intoxication, is the most widely used, with other substances taking its place when alcohol is not available. The research underlying the central idea is interesting, and based on a compilation of experiments and historical research; however, if any one of the underlying ideas is ever disproven, the entire thesis may fall. If the author is correct, as other, technologically-based methods of releasing the controls the prefrontal cortex place upon creativity and innovation come more to the forefront, the use of alcohol and other intoxicants may fall, but that is a long-term evolutionary process that we are unlikely to survive to see. Much of the anthropological data is based, as such things usually are, on supposition, and while it appears to hang together well, future research may change the interpretation and thus the conclusions. Written in a readable and often humorous way, with many pop culture references, this volume will certainly make one think about the ways alcohol and other intoxicants have impacted innovation throughout history, and may continue to do so in the future.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    My thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for an advanced copy of this book. In wine there might be truth, but an overabundance can lead to health issues, unpleasantness in front of friends and loved ones, possible crimes, and even death. But how different would civilization be without he juice of the grape and the barley. In Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, Edward Slingerland covers humanity's love of intoxication, mostly alcohol, but mentions of ph My thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for an advanced copy of this book. In wine there might be truth, but an overabundance can lead to health issues, unpleasantness in front of friends and loved ones, possible crimes, and even death. But how different would civilization be without he juice of the grape and the barley. In Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, Edward Slingerland covers humanity's love of intoxication, mostly alcohol, but mentions of pharmaceutical and other natural feel goods are mentioned. Mr. Slingerland's approach is both historical, distilling might have come before agriculture in gathering people and tribes together. Also he covers the affects and effects of alcohol on society and on a human being, the physiology, the human brain, and also how it helps or hinders creativity, social bonding and understanding. A night out with the gang or some co-workers might be better for a person, and career than suspected. The book is interesting and well written. Mr. Slingerland covers his themes from both sides but never beats the reader over the head. Imbibing and abstaining can do this, or that. He leaves it to the reader to either go beyond their preconceptions, or not. The facts, personal stories, even poems from various cultures and eras all meld well and make this a very enjoyable read. Perfect for a burgeoning brew master or a gift for the host that always seems to have the best parties.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Art

    Not that I was ever contemplating a move toward abstention.....but this book, through its thorough overview of the history and societal role of imbibing, clearly makes the case for my continuing to thoroughly enjoy alcoholic beverages. Even the occasional excessive evening is ok as long as you don't harm yourself or anyone else. The assumption these days is that anything that doesn't contribute to longevity or reduce our odds of getting cancer is bad....so don't drink, don't eat red meat or eggs Not that I was ever contemplating a move toward abstention.....but this book, through its thorough overview of the history and societal role of imbibing, clearly makes the case for my continuing to thoroughly enjoy alcoholic beverages. Even the occasional excessive evening is ok as long as you don't harm yourself or anyone else. The assumption these days is that anything that doesn't contribute to longevity or reduce our odds of getting cancer is bad....so don't drink, don't eat red meat or eggs, don't eat pasta........we're moving toward asceticism.....and what the hell fun is that! Truth is, drink helps us deal with our lives and what's happening around us...and that improves mental health. So pick your poison, abstain, live long and be miserable......or drink a little, let your pre-frontal cortex run rampant....and be happier. And for those who abhor those of us to enjoy wine and bourbon.....piss off! That having been said......the book could have been about 70 pages shorter and still made the case.

  25. 5 out of 5

    George

    Fascinating overview of the role of alcohol and other intoxicants in human societies ancient and modern. The author’s convincing thesis is that humans’ love of alcohol, often in excess, isn’t an evolutionary quirk that is counterproductive to our health and our communities’ well-being, but is in fact a beneficial and necessary ingredient of humankind’s development. The author acknowledges the downsides & damage associated with alcohol, but argues that it still serves a useful societal purpose... Fascinating overview of the role of alcohol and other intoxicants in human societies ancient and modern. The author’s convincing thesis is that humans’ love of alcohol, often in excess, isn’t an evolutionary quirk that is counterproductive to our health and our communities’ well-being, but is in fact a beneficial and necessary ingredient of humankind’s development. The author acknowledges the downsides & damage associated with alcohol, but argues that it still serves a useful societal purpose...plus, it’s good simply because it’s pleasant. I wish I could better convey how much of a fun read this book is. One way to get that across: It’s got a very entertaining bibliography, including titles such as “Thinking chickens: A review of cognition, emotion, and behavior in the domestic chicken,” “Beer goggles: Blood alcohol concentration in relation to attractiveness ratings for unfamiliar opposite sex faces in naturalistic settings,” and “Sagas of the Solanaceae: Speculative ethnobotanical perspectives on the Norse berserkers.”

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Fascinating book that tackles the urban legends and cultural mores surrounding the use of alcohol and comes around firmly on the side of tying one on from time to time. Rigorously researched with discussions on archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, genetics and evolution, he concludes that our love of intoxicants is not an evolutionary mistake. It does serve important purposes: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal Fascinating book that tackles the urban legends and cultural mores surrounding the use of alcohol and comes around firmly on the side of tying one on from time to time. Rigorously researched with discussions on archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, genetics and evolution, he concludes that our love of intoxicants is not an evolutionary mistake. It does serve important purposes: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. Our desire to get drunk, along with the individual and social benefits provided by drunkenness, played a crucial role in sparking the rise of the first large-scale societies. We would not have civilization without intoxication. Brilliantly written and hilarious too. Highly recommend

  27. 4 out of 5

    Florent Diverchy

    Why are men drinking alcohol since the beginning of civilization when there are no physical advantages in doing so? When alcohol can bring a lot of problems? Why has evolution not favored genes preventing us from doing so? The interesting hypothesis of Edward Slingerland is that alcohol (when used in moderation) tunes down our Prefrontal Cortex, which brings several advantages : more honesty, more social skills and bigger ability to solve lateral thinking problems. Hence the 'beer before bread' the Why are men drinking alcohol since the beginning of civilization when there are no physical advantages in doing so? When alcohol can bring a lot of problems? Why has evolution not favored genes preventing us from doing so? The interesting hypothesis of Edward Slingerland is that alcohol (when used in moderation) tunes down our Prefrontal Cortex, which brings several advantages : more honesty, more social skills and bigger ability to solve lateral thinking problems. Hence the 'beer before bread' theory, stating that agriculture was invented to fullfill our alcohol needs before our food needs. An interesting analysis, with entire chapters on both the positive and negative aspects of alcohol.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I really enjoyed this one. I thought it was just going to be about the "Beer before Bread" theory of why agriculture arose, and it does spend a lot of time on that, but it went quite a bit beyond, exploring ways that inebriation and intoxication have enabled social bonds to form and therefore, quite literally, leading to civilization as we know it. Although the author does spend the last chapter (titled "The Dark Side of Dionysius") on the social problems and drawbacks to overuse of alcohol and I really enjoyed this one. I thought it was just going to be about the "Beer before Bread" theory of why agriculture arose, and it does spend a lot of time on that, but it went quite a bit beyond, exploring ways that inebriation and intoxication have enabled social bonds to form and therefore, quite literally, leading to civilization as we know it. Although the author does spend the last chapter (titled "The Dark Side of Dionysius") on the social problems and drawbacks to overuse of alcohol and drugs, he probably could have spent more pages on the detrimental health effects caused by drinking, even in moderation. As enjoyable and informative as this was, I felt it may have been a little too "Yay Beer!" to truly come across as a serious scientific/historical study.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike Cross

    This is an instant classic! From the title and subtitle you expect the usual fare of history of drinking throughout the ages. What you get is a cultural evolution of alcohol (and other intoxicants) and how the fit into society, both good and bad. Insanely fascinating, well-written, and educational. It will change the way you think about intoxication (for the better) and will entertain at the same time. What a superb book!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mike Strickland

    Interesting read, and I’d recommend it. However, it seemed longer than it needed to be and unsure of whether it wanted to be an academic or mainstream book. Consider starting with this article from The Atlantic, which was primarily influenced by this book. If you find the article interesting, you’ll probably get some enjoyment from the full book also. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/... Interesting read, and I’d recommend it. However, it seemed longer than it needed to be and unsure of whether it wanted to be an academic or mainstream book. Consider starting with this article from The Atlantic, which was primarily influenced by this book. If you find the article interesting, you’ll probably get some enjoyment from the full book also. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...

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