Sunday, March 17, 2013

Beer's Social Contribution To Civilization

Reducing Social Anxiety

The Lubrication Of Civilization: 
"Once the effects of these early brews were discovered, the value of beer (as well as wine and other fermented potions) must have become immediately apparent. With the help of the new psychopharmacological brew, humans could quell the angst of defying those herd instincts,"  says Jeffrey P. Kahn, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. [Art Credit: Anders Nilsen; Source: NYT]

An opinion piece ("How Beer Gave Us Civilization"), by Jeffrey P. Kahn, in the Sunday edition of The New York Times says that beer had both a creative influence on humanity and a way to cause independent thinking and action, thus reducing the importance of the herd instinct.
But then, these same lifesaving social instincts didn’t readily lend themselves to exploration, artistic expression, romance, inventiveness and experimentation — the other human drives that make for a vibrant civilization. To free up those, we needed something that would suppress the rigid social codes that kept our clans safe and alive. We needed something that, on occasion, would let us break free from our biological herd imperative — or at least let us suppress our angst when we did.
We needed beer.
Luckily, from time to time, our ancestors, like other animals, would run across fermented fruit or grain and sample it. How this accidental discovery evolved into the first keg party, of course, is still unknown. But evolve it did, perhaps as early as 10,000 years ago.
Current theory has it that grain was first domesticated for food. But since the 1950s, many scholars have found circumstantial evidence that supports the idea that some early humans grew and stored grain for beer, even before they cultivated it for bread.
Brian Hayden and colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Canada provide new support for this theory in an article published this month (and online last year) in the Journal of Archeological Method and Theory. Examining potential beer-brewing tools in archaeological remains from the Natufian culture in the Eastern Mediterranean, the team concludes that “brewing of beer was an important aspect of feasting and society in the Late Epipaleolithic” era.
 Of course, beer consumption can often be over-indulged, as is evident on many American college campuses; this is often a case of young adults drinking beyond the need to become less shy and break down inhibitions. There is no creativity in boorish and loud behaviour. Yet, a glass or two of beer on a hot summer day is both refreshing and a good way to better social intercourse.


You can read the reast of the article at [NYT]


  1. There was no beer in ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. There was wine, to be sure. But getting drunk is more a part of northern societies and is less common in the lands where civilization seems to have emerged.

    1. That's an interesting observation; Is there a reason why this is so? Is it related to culture and religion? climate?


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