Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why you owe your existance to beer

Hey, George Will wrote a column I agree with!

Basically he examines the theory that we owe the very existence of our civilization to alcohol because it allowed us to take in fluids that weren't crawling with dysentery and cholera and other things that like to live in water and kill city dwellers by the boatload. Pretty interesting read but here's a sample if you're too lazy to read the whole thing. Which you should because who doesn't love to know a little more about why things thousands of years ago cause things today to be the way they are?
Johnson notes that historians interested in genetics believe that the roughly simultaneous emergence of urban living and the manufacturing of alcohol set the stage for a survival-of-the-fittest sorting-out among the people who abandoned the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and, literally and figuratively speaking, went to town.

To avoid dangerous water, people had to drink large quantities of, say, beer. But to digest that beer, individuals needed a genetic advantage that not everyone had – what Johnson describes as the body's ability to respond to the intake of alcohol by increasing the production of particular enzymes called alcohol dehydrogenases. This ability is controlled by certain genes on chromosome 4 in human DNA, genes not evenly distributed to everyone. Those who lacked this trait could not, as the saying is, "hold their liquor." So, many died early and childless, either of alcohol's toxicity or from waterborne diseases.

The gene pools of human settlements became progressively dominated by the survivors – by those genetically disposed to, well, drink beer. "Most of the world's population today," Johnson writes, "is made up of descendants of those early beer drinkers, and we have largely inherited their genetic tolerance for alcohol."

So, I think the lesson is that if you don't like to drink beer get out of our gene pool or something. And always drink the beer and not the water in Mexico.



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