Only Here For The Beer

Satoshi Kanazawa, writing at Psychology Today, discusses an interesting scientific finding, namely that intelligent people drink more alcohol.

Over at Mangan’s today there is an engaging discussion about his essay. Dennis’s commenter Pat Hannagan takes issue with Kanazawa’s assumption about the correct order of precedence as regards beer-making and agriculture:

Kanazawa says:

The production of beer, which relies on a large amount of grain, and that of wine, which similarly requires a large amount of grapes, could not have taken place before the advent of agriculture around 8,000 BC and the consequent agricultural surplus.

This is a common error in our thinking. The theory goes 1) there was an agricultural revolution 2) things arose out of that revolution, like beer production.

The truth is the opposite as follows: 1) man discovered beer (should be a worldwide national holidays for that great event), 2) in order to produce beer the agricultural revolution was the consequence.

A worldwide holiday hardly seems sufficient, but yes, it would be a start.

Mr. Hannagan continues:

In another context, as Lee Harris notes, “Intellectuals tend to forget that ethical ideals do not pop up out of the human head but first manifest themselves in practice.” Harris’ example is that of the modern notion that Adam Smith “invented” capitalism whereas, what happened was that when Smith discussed the manufacture of pins, in The Wealth of Nations, “he is delineating the essential component of an actual process that had evolved as a way of making more pins in the same amount of time.”

So, just as Smith did not invent capitalism, but rather he noticed it about him and wrote about it (rather well of course), the agricultural revolution did not invent beer production, but was as a result of beer production.

From beer comes all Western civilisation. Mock it, deride it at your detriment, for it is the root of all we have achieved. Beer makes, and made, us human!

As Oz Clarke describes it, in his and James May’s excellent series which I highly recommend Oz & James Drink To Britain (you can watch it here on YouTube):

That, means, that people actually started living in places, in communities, not because they wanted to do things like having houses and things but because they wanted…to brew…beer. And once they were in communities they then wrote poetry, and symphonies, and invented the steam engine and started going on caravan holidays. That! …is civilisation, and the reason for civilisation is because we wanted…to drink…beer!

True or false, it’s as good a creation myth as you could ask for.


  1. Kevin Kim says

    “Intellectuals tend to forget that ethical ideals do not pop up out of the human head but first manifest themselves in practice.”

    This is consonant with Huston Smith’s insight that people danced out their religion before they thought it out.

    Posted October 12, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink
  2. Kevin Kim says

    Then again, if “practice” and “dance” don’t originate in the head, where do they originate?

    Posted October 12, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Permalink
  3. Sue says

    Lee Harris on ethics – oh puleez. The man is a fully fledged barbarian!

    Of course vast amounts of prime agricultural land are used to produce all of our usual socially acceptable drugs. And vast amounts of edible food-stuffs too.

    Tea, coffee, cocoa, alcohol, tobacco, SUGAR

    Posted October 12, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    But ethics do arise from practice, I think.

    The main attraction here, needless to say, is the idea of beer as the cause of civilization.

    (I’d probably say: ALCOHOL, COFFEE, cocoa, sugar, tobacco.)

    Posted October 12, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Kevin, I think an awful lot of what we think we invented by thinking was something like an OEM software bundle.

    Posted October 12, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Permalink
  6. JK says

    I actually saw somthing very similar – civilizations wouldn’t exist without human gathering in clusters, gathering graine fruit,etc then myabe lightning or something:

    aT somePoint later (as ah unnerstooded it – monkeys began eating fruit. Apes unnersood munkies the coutry of Texas needed textbook reformation us thun Conservatives were borned. And then just like Generus said was gonna happern, Moses delivered some rocks that a bush took a welding torch to and melted the worsd,

    “Shooken Nup Stirruped.”

    And thus physivilazation was fromed. Some dude named Duff still living in England invented the steamford incandescent engine, global warming and ineffective hurricanes started happening – Pat Buchanan started getting listened to, and people began clicking, “Click A
    Random Post.”

    Then Sarah Palin got elected, named Goober her inspireation, sent Alan Greenspan to the Democrap fold, put the “One-Eyed Man” in the regular hold, and except for TSA everything went back to normal.

    Well, except for that guy in the UK posting about “licking Sarah.”

    Posted October 13, 2010 at 12:13 am | Permalink
  7. Kevin Kim says


    Good point. Sociologist Peter Berger (author of The Sacred Canopy) would probably agree (as would Huston Smith) with the OEM software notion: Berger’s classic schema is “externalization, objectivation [sic], internalization.” We display the behaviors; we rationalize and codify the behaviors (often in terms of rules and laws); we then internalize what we’ve schematized, making conscious what was originally unconscious, and governing the subsequent behaviors we display.

    Posted October 13, 2010 at 5:16 am | Permalink
  8. Dom says

    Very good points, JK. Don’t change a single comma. Should be everyone’s quote of the day.

    Posted October 13, 2010 at 7:53 am | Permalink
  9. the one eyed man says

    In Heaven, there is no beer.

    That’s why we drink it here.

    When we’re gone from here, our friends will be drinking all the beer.

    Posted October 13, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *