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Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization

Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization

by Edward Slingerland
Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization

Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization

by Edward Slingerland


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An "entertaining and enlightening" deep dive into the alcohol-soaked origins of civilization—and the evolutionary roots of humanity's appetite for intoxication (Daniel E. Lieberman, author of Exercised).

While plenty of entertaining books have been written about the history of alcohol and other intoxicants, none have offered a comprehensive, convincing answer to the basic question of why humans want to get high in the first place.

Drunk elegantly cuts through the tangle of urban legends and anecdotal impressions that surround our notions of intoxication to provide the first rigorous, scientifically-grounded explanation for our love of alcohol. Drawing on evidence from archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, and genetics, Drunk shows 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.

From marauding Vikings and bacchanalian orgies to sex-starved fruit flies, blind cave fish, and problem-solving crows, Drunk is packed with fascinating case studies and engaging science, as well as practical takeaways for individuals and communities. The result is a captivating and long overdue investigation into humanity's oldest indulgence—one that explains not only why we want to get drunk, but also how it might actually be good for us to tie one on now and then. 

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316453387
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 06/01/2021
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 64,902
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Edward Slingerland is Distinguished University Scholar and Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia, with adjunct appointments in Psychology and Asian Studies, as well as Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture and Director of the Database of Religious History.
Slingerland is the author of two trade books, Trying Not to Try (2014) and Drunk (2021), as well as multiple academic books, translations, and edited volumes. His work has been featured in major media outlets, and he has done numerous interviews on TV, radio, blogs, and podcasts, including NPR, the BBC, PBS, CNN, the CBC, and the Joe Rogan Experience.

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

1 Why Do We Get Drunk? 17

Brain Hijack: Porn and Sexually Starved Fruit Flies 23

Evolutionary Hangovers: Drunken Monkeys, Liquid Kimchee, and Dirty Water 27

More Than Twinkles and Porn: Beyond Hangover and Hijack Theories 31

A Genuine Evolutionary Puzzle: An Enemy in the Mouth That Steals Away the Brain 35

A Genetic Mystery: We Are Apes Built to Get High 41

A Cultural Mystery: Prohibition's Strange Failure to Take Over the World 49

Pickles for the Ancestors? 58

2 Leaving the Door Open for Dionysus 61

The Human Ecological Niche: Creative, Cultural, Communal 65

The Creative Animal 71

The Cultural Animal 80

The Communal Animal 87

Regaining the Child's Mind 95

The Drunken Mind 97

Leaving the Door Open for Dionysus 103

3 Intoxication, Ecstasy, and the Origins of Civilization 107

A Visit from the Muse: Intoxication and Creativity 111

Chemical Puppies: Turning Wolves into Labradors 116

The Chemical Handshake: In Vino Veritas 124

Puking and Bonding 134

Liquid Ecstasy and the Hive Mind 141

Political Power and Social Solidarity 150

Cultural Group Selection 156

4 Intoxication in the Modern World 159

Whiskey Rooms, Saloons, and the Ballmer Peak 162

Truth Is the Color Blue: Modern Shamans and Microdosing 171

Why Skype Didn't Eliminate Business Travel 177

Office Parties: Pros and Not Just Cons 182

Long Live the Local 187

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder: Sex, Friendship, and Intimacy 192

Collective Effervescence: Tequila Shots and Burning Man 199

Ecstasy: Vacation from the Self 204

It's Only Rock-n-Roll: Defending the Hedonistic Body 211

It Is Time to Be Drunk 217

5 The Dark Side of Dionysus 223

The Puzzle of Alcoholism 226

The Problem with Liquor: An Evolutionary Mismatch 232

Isolation: The Danger of Drinking Alone 239

Distillation and Isolation: The Twin Banes of Modernity 244

Drunk Driving, Bar Fights, and Venereal Disease 247

Beer Goggles and Violence Against Women 251

Outsiders and Teetotalers Not Welcome: Reinforcing the Old Boys' Clubs 254

Solace or Wedge? Reinforcing Bad Relationships 261

Drunk on Heaven: Getting Beyond Alcohol? 264

Taming Dionysus 270

Living with Dionysus 280

Conclusion 283

Acknowledgments 293

Bibliography 297

Notes 323

Index 351

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