In the Pleistocene there was no beer

If we were to clone up some Neanderthals, they would almost certainly have a strong tendency to become alcoholics.  Teetotalers or drunks.

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32 Responses to In the Pleistocene there was no beer

  1. You say that like it’s a bad thing

  2. Fancypants says:

    Im Pleistocene gibt’s kein Bier, Drum trinken wir es hier.

  3. Xenophon Hendrix says:

    Could we give them the genes to tolerate alcohol? It seems like it would be the right thing to do.

  4. reziac says:

    Yeah, but there was still fermenting fruit, which all sorts of animals have learned to get drunk on (and some wild-type apples produce big crops). Surely proto-humans can figure out what moose and squirrel find obvious.

  5. Chimp Alcoholics says:

    How do chimps deal with alcohol? Anyone ever checked? Probably the stuff of mad science I suppose, but back in the early 20th when such things were not deemed unethical.

    • says:

      “alcoholic monkey stealing drinks”

      It said that some monkeys like human are averse to alcohol as they have weak mutated genes that make them sick if they drink alcohol and that make them teetotalers. However alcoholic monkeys have “leadership quality”. Since alcohol is known to interfere with nerve cells connections the population with such fraction might on average gain a few average IQ points. The trouble is some of them can adapt to the averse reactions and as as results China has 50% of the global cases for esophageal cancer. The average national IQ of East Asian countries correlate positively with the pop fraction with the mutation. Interestingly the Ashkenazis also have significant such mutations. European has zero such mutation. European might gain IQ points through the lactase persistent genes (positive correlation, for getting better nutrition) which on average the East Asians have none.

  6. Coagulopath says:

    To Indians, it was firewater. To Neanderthals, it would be thermonuclear.

  7. Steve in Greensboro says:

    So Neanderthal ladies were cheap dates? That explains the miscegenation.

  8. Rosenmops says:

    Are there any populations descended directly from non-farmers that don’t have a lot of problems with addiction? I’ve heard there is terrible addiction in Mongolia. I think they were herders.

    I suppose you need a fairly organized farming society to produce a steady supply of alcohol and a period of several thousand years for the alcohol to do its work of winnowing out addicts, I imagine that this would work easier on women, since their babies might have FAS, and if they were drunk most of the time the newborn wouldn’t have much chance.

    But why are there still a portion of alcoholics in the farming populations? Maybe isolated groups were too poor to make alcohol. Especially in northern Europe. Or did they get alcohol later than people further south, and it didn’t have enough time to act .

    Please don’t yell at me if none of this makes sense.

  9. AppSocRes says:

    Professor Cochrane:

    This is almost entirely off topic except for a vague relation to Neanderthals but I thought you might be interested:

    I’m currently reading two books dealing with the evolution of the human capacity for language. One is a a frothy book by Tom Wolfe, “The Kingdom of Speech”. The other is a slightly more technical text, “Why Only Us: Language and Evolution”, by Robert C. Berwicjk and Noam Chomsky. Both suggest that explaining the evolution of human language is a major challenge to evolutionary theory.

    Berwick and Chomsky claim that Chomsky’s theories in this area, the latest instantiation of which is the so-called Strong Minimalist Thesis (SMT), resolve the problem. Among other things, SMT suggests that the capacity for language first arose in AMH about 80,000 years ago and has hardly evolved since then. IOW, a reasonable conclusion would be that Neanderthals didn’t have language but AMH have had the same underlying structures, which have given the species the same capacity for language for most of the species’ existence.

    The linguist, Daniel L. Everett, the world’s leading – and perhaps only – expert on the language of the Piraha (pronounced something like Pidaa-aaa), claims that his decades of fieldwork studying their language call into question Chomsky’s thought’s on the evolution of capacity for language. As a result he’s been condemned, thrust into the outer darkness, and since ignored by Chomsky and his acolytes.

    Is this whole contretemps anything in which you have any interest?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Not a lot, but the 80,000 B.C. figure has to be wrong, since the Bushmen split off around 300,000 years ago, and yet they talk.

      Chomsky probably doesn’t know enough about evolution to have anything coherent to say on this topic.

      • Rainforest Giant says:

        Bush men must of picked up some genes from their neighbors in 300,000 years. Wouldn’t they be well on their way to separate species status if they didn’t get a little something, something on the side from time to time?

      • AppSocRes says:

        Thank you. The point about the Bushmen puts a major monkey wrench into Chomsky’s theorizing.

      • Cloveoil says:

        The bone remodeling of the Kebara 2 hyoid shows its owner could speak.

        Where exactly does the Palaeoafrican fit into this nowadays?

    • Anuseed says:

      Both suggest that explaining the evolution of human language is a major challenge to evolutionary theory.

      How so? Do they claim that language couldn’t have evolved gradually? Well, that’s crap.

    • Ivan says:

      Chomsky, the famous Khmer Rouge genocide apologist, is as much of a historical linguistics expert as was Joseph Stalin with his oeuvre “Марксизм и вопросы языкознания”.

    • Bob says:

      Chomskyan linguistics is accepted and taught as dogma in American linguistics departments. Anyone who challenges it, like Everett, is ignored, shunned, or condemned and attacked as a heretic.

      Many conservatives regard Chomsky as a linguist who falters out of his field. Unfortunately, they are giving Chomsky too much credit. Chomsky’s linguistics are as warped as his politics…

      Prior to Chomsky, linguists engaged in a lot of data collection to understand the diversity of human language. I’m vehemently anti-PC, but in this case, I think the word ‘diversity’ is justified. There’s a lot out there, and someone’s got to catalog it.

      However, Chomsky rejected this approach. He wanted to look into something ‘deeper’ (academese for ‘pretentious and nonexistent’). So he invented something called ‘universal grammar’ which is somehow programmed into us at birth. Now it is obvious to anyone who’s studied a foreign language that there is no such thing as ‘universal grammar’: there are a lot of differences between any two languages’ structures. How does Chomsky account for these differences? He claims that we formulate ‘deep structures’ in our heads using ‘universal grammar’. Then we use ‘transformations’ to change these (invisible, nonexistent) ‘deep structures’ into ‘surface structures’ (which are what we actually say and write). There are innumerable problems with this. For starters:

      1. Where did this ‘universal grammar’ come from, and how did it end up becoming part of our biology? Not many Chomskyans are interested in evolutionary biology. ‘Universal grammar’ simply IS. (I myself suspect that there may be a universal grammar sans scare quotes, but I doubt that it has much in common with Chomskyan ‘universal grammar’.)

      2. How can we see this ‘universal grammar’ and ‘deep structures’ if they are hidden behind ‘transformations’?

      3. How can we see the ‘transformations’?

      4. How can any child learn the ‘transformations’ (which are extremely complex and often counterintuitive, even to university graduate students in linguistics)?

      Since no one can see ‘universal grammar’, ‘deep structures’, or ‘transformations’, one can imagine ANYTHING and create a maze of rules to convert ghost forms into what is actually being said and written. The Chomskyan approach to grammar is oddly English-like, even though many languages are UNlike English. This has absurd but dangerous consquences…

      2. This (let’s be frank) *junk science* is very convenient for lazy academics who do not want to do real research but want to appear ‘profound’. Chomskyans compete to create ‘deep structures’ that are the furthest from reality and the most complex ‘transformations’ possible. Never mind that neither of these non-entities can be depicted or tested except in a circular manner: “This transformation Z exists because it is needed to change deep structure X to surface structure Y. Deep structure X exists because if you take surface structure Y and undo transformation Z, you can see X underneath.” I know of NO hard science (e.g., neurological) evidence for any of this. But the jargon sure looks impressive. This site parodies Chomskyan obscurantist writing by generating unreadable prose worthy of the master himself:

      3. The combination of junk science and junk politics has made Chomsky an attractive – and unstoppable – juggernaut in the academic world. Academics – mostly left-wing to begin with – agree with his politics and assume his linguistics are as ‘good’. Linguists who reject the Chomskyan paradigm such as myself are often either marginalized or shut out of the profession entirely. And not a few of Chomsky’s linguistic opponents agree with his politics, I’d bet. I am the only linguist I know of who rejects both.

      The late Nicholas Poppe, a Soviet emigre who was a master of Oriental linguistics, had this to say about Chomskyan linguistics in the US (_Reminiscences_, p. 207):

      “Unfortunately, _true_ academic freedom, freedom to adhere to a scholarly theory of one’s own choice, is often lacking in American universities, and scholars who do not comply with currently fashionable theories have little chance at a university. This makes an American university somewhat like a Soviet university: in the Soviet Union it is Marxism, in the United States it is, say, a currently obligatory method in linguistics.”

      Poppe does not specify what the “current obligatory method” of lingustics was. It was, and is Chomskyanism. Edublogger Joanne Jacobs was forced to learn it – and she hated it:

      “Structural linguistics was required for a degree in English at Stanford. I put it off till my last semester; finally I had to take the class. It consisted of uncritical worship of Noam Chomsky. I kept disrupting class by asking questions: Why do we believe this is true? Just because Chomsky says so? How do we know he’s right? Why is this class required?”

      She asks precisely the right questions. Chomsky is not a scientist. He is a prophet who demands that people believe him. I call him ‘Noamuhammad’. Since his claims cannot be proved, they have to be taken on faith.

      And too many place their faith in him. Jacobs took her course in the mid-70s. Little has changed in a quarter of a century. Chomskyanism has been the dominant paradigm in linguistics for nearly forty years, and its major competitors share some of its weaknesses. Even if Chomsky’s own version of nonsense dies out, others will continue to pump out ‘junk science’ that contributes little or nothing to language learning, language teaching, or intercultural understanding.

  10. Space Ghost says:

    So what you’re saying is that if we ever resurrect Neanderthals by averaging out their genome (thus producing Space Seed super hominids), the way we fight them is by getting them roaring drunk.

  11. pyrrhus says:

    No beer–how can people live like that?

  12. Qualitat says:

    Ha, I am naming my next batch of homebrew “Pleistocene Pilsner”!

  13. Bob says:

    I don’t know about those poor dumb bushmen 300,000 years ago, but it seems close enough that Great Great … Grandpa Neanderthal managed to cling on long enough to get a beer. He probably waited until those goofy proto-farmers went out to poke at the ground with sticks and then snuck in for his first taste of sin. Chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug. Ok, so then he got all drunk and rapey and the villagers killed him, but by that time the deed of shame was done and here we are.

    evidence of farming in Mideast 23,000 years ago

    existing until around 24,000 years ago

  14. R. says:

    Why clone neanderthals when we can clone János von Neumann?

    Like, why?

  15. FkDahl says:

    Using rugby scrum forwards as a proxy for Neanderthal (and Polynesians for Denisovian) my research shows an excellent tolerance for huge amounts of beer!

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