Monday, July 14, 2008

Beer--key to civilization


…Every time HA thinks George Will is fast-tracked to assisted care, he comes up with something interesting.

…Latest example: His column on how beer is the reason well…why you exist to read this.

…He was disturbed by the intention of a Belgian brewer to take over Anheuser-Busch (incidentally from HA’s hometown, St Louis), and especially by the observation that despite the economy, beer sales were not declining.

…Well, DUH!

…He quotes from a book titled The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson. The epidemic was cholera…and this is where Will gets drifty again—the connection is the search for potable water is key to survival.

…But to Will, the kicker was Johnson’s contention that instead of making water potable, many civilizations drank alcohol instead.

…Beer! Then wine.

…This Johnson guy jauntily remarked that dying of cirrhosis in your forties was better than dying if dysentery in your twenties.

…Deliberate manufacture of alcoholic beverages, Johnson contends in this book, allowed people to group together in towns. Over time, he says, some people became the “fittest” and developed enzymes to handle the alcohol, others did not and could not hold their liquor, as it were.

…Most of us today, he says, come from those guys—the ones who could drink.

…He also extends this hypothesis to more sequestered tribes, such as Native Americans and aborigines, who supposedly did not pass this enzyme thing along.

…This swooping genetics lecture aside, Will quotes Ben Franklin, who said, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

…Now, God is involved. Oh, well…cheers!

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