Beer and the Origins of Civilization

Craft Brewers Conference 2023
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Speakers: Edward Slingerland

Drawing on evidence from archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, and genetics, this talk will argue 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. Beer, as the oldest documented intoxicant, the most widespread and safest form of alcoholic beverage, plays a particularly central role in this story.

Learning Objectives:

  • Why our taste for alcohol is likely not an evolutionary mistake What the social and individual functions of chemical intoxication are What the "beer before bread" hypothesis argues What the advantages of beer, as opposed to other forms of alcoholic beverages, are

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