Beer: It's What's For Dinner

"So let there be no more loose talk — especially not now, with summer arriving — about beer not being essential. Benjamin Franklin was, as usual, on to something when he said, 'Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.'" That's George Will on the funnest consequence of the cholera epidemic, which is to say, people like me who think people who don't like beer haven't properly evolved. Click the pic for the key passage. [Wash Post]

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 four 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."

Yeah, this doesn't really explain that super-species of excessively-cerebral alcohol-allergic people you encountered in college who are now entirely too accomplished to hang out with you, but, you know, fuck 'em, right?

Earlier: Who's Sabotaging Your Relationships? It Could Be Darwin, But You're Probably Too Distracted To Care