The Evolution of Drunkenness
No kidding; an evolutionist is trying to figure out why humans evolved into the stoned age. “What Would Darwin Say About Drinking?“ reads the title of an article on WineSpectator.com: “Some Scientists Believe Humans Evolved to Enjoy Alcohol.” Reporter Jacob Gaffney proposes the strange idea that survival of the fittest produced alcoholics: “your desire to drink could be the result of an evolutionary hangover.”
“The subject generated enough interest to be the focus of a symposium at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology’s conference earlier this year,” the article says. Robert Dudley, a professor at UC Berkeley (where else) and colleagues are “exploring the possible evolutionary origins of drinking, hoping to shed light on the relationships between humans, alcohol and health.” Gaffney quipped, “This Darwinian approach to medical science has fermented debate in the research community.” Is that a euphemism for sending scientific discussion reeling in a drunken stupor?
The tale has some missing links, one being that no primate in the wild is known to get drunk, though there are anecdotal reports of some birds and wart hogs becoming inebriated from overripe fruit. “There are still gaps in the hypothesis,” admitted Doug Levey (U of Florida), speaker at a symposium on the subject, “such as how one makes the leap from low-level consumption of ethanol in wild fruits to the drinking habits of modern society to full-fledged alcoholism.” Not everyone is impressed with Dudley’s line of argument. Katharine Milton, a Berkeley primatologist, doesn’t think drunkenness provided any evolutionary advantage to our ancestors. “You can’t afford to have even a mild sense of euphoria when you are a primate, because you will get eaten or fall out of a tree and onto your head.”
This is cartoon material and calls for a contest. Send in your joke or caption to CEH Feedback.* Should we have titled this The Evolution of Drunkenness, or the other way around? Dar-wine must be popular in the Berserkeley faculty lounges. So what would Charlie say about drinking, then? Probably, “Nobody knows how dry I am.” If these “scientists” want to test their hypothesis, undoubtedly they will find plenty of willing experimental subjects in the campus zoo, otherwise known as the dormitory.
*Join the fun: add your joke to our reader’s entries:
- If a man can get so drunk that he makes a monkey of himself, then what the problem with a monkey getting so drunk that he makes a man of himself?
- How much proof do you need for evolution? Apparently 80 proof will do.
- [from Austria]: I am not dry, I am a darwinist, drunken by my ability to tell you and me “just so” stories. It’s a selective advantage for me in the present day’s biosciences.
- Your entry here.