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Why Were Humans Suddenly Able to Drink Liquor?

One drinker's haphazard, irresponsible, and drunken theory.

Photo by Andreas Haslinger / Unsplash

Alcohol and the arrival of the feeling that "There must be more."

Humans gained the ability at the last stage of our evolution from the primates.

"About ten million years ago, the enzyme our bodies use to detoxify alcohol, known as alcohol dehydrogenase, or ADH4, underwent a single mutation that left it forty times more efficient. The mutation occurred in the last common ancestor we shared with gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos. Without a modified ADH4, even small quantities of alcohol are poisonous. With a modified ADHL4, alcohol can be consumed safely . . ." Merlin Sheldrake, Entangled Life, p. 216.

Did the mutation occur at the same time as the "missing link." It's my (admittedly limited) understanding (and ChatGBT's) that the "missing link" between humans and primates exists at the latest stage of development between apes and humans.

We had apes then, voila, we had humans . . . and there's a jump in the biological record that science can neither detect nor explain.

I've heard it speculated that the jump occurred when humans first got souls. When ensoulment occurred, humans became humans . . . and thereby left their primate ancestors behind, but because ensoulment can't be biologically measured, the "link" can't be found through science.

Disclaimer about the Missing Link. The concept of the missing link isn't used much as a helpful theory anymore. The missing link takes a one-line (linear) view of evolution, but science is now appreciating that evolution is more complex than that, that evolution progresses in nuanced ways and on many fronts (kind of like how fungi spread, Sheldrake would probably argue). As a consequence, the concept of a "missing link" isn't helpful, but that doesn't mean there isn't a missing link. There still is. Further disclaimer: Science ain't my bag. I welcome any corrections.

But if the missing link is explained by the moment of ensoulment, what does that say about the alcohol mutation that occurred at the same time that the missing link walked the earth?

At one moment, our last ape ancestors couldn't drink a drop of alcohol without dying. The next moment, our first ancestor ("Adam") could.

Perhaps it means humans are meant to drink alcohol.

With ensoulment, comes a heavy existential burden: We are thrust into the metaxy.

The metaxy is hard. It creates tension: We are pulled between heaven and earth.

We are the only creatures that commit suicide. It's because of the existential burden that is life in the metaxy. Although our existence in the metaxy gives us our greatness due to its connection to transcendence (and corresponding appreciation of beauty (art), appreciation for truth (philosophy), and appreciation for goodness (holiness)), that same connection can also create malaise, a general sense of anxiety, depression, the sense that life makes no sense.

On top of that, life on earth is hard. Our earliest ancestors had to hunt and gather, never knowing when they'd get food again, living day-to-day.

Today, we have to go to the office every day and deal with mounting bills.

While at the same time getting accosted constantly by the feeling that there's "something more" to life.

It's tough.

Alcohol makes it less tough.

In the words of world-class drunk Charles Bukowski,

“When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat.”

When we drink, we gain perspective. We calm our over-active brains (specifically, our left hemispheres . . . more on that later) and appreciate transcendent things (which are appreciated by our right hemispheres, which are allowed to operate better when the left hemisphere is sedated).

It's why I only half-jokingly refer to alcohol as a "sacramental" and never give it up for Lent. I tend to limit myself to four or five drinks a week, but I still drink.

I think it's a gift, possibly bestowed on our ancestors at the exact moment God knew they'd need it.

He knew we'd need alcohol to deal with the metaxy.

Metaxy - The Daily Eudemon
The Daily Existence Eric Scheske The Hemisphere Hypothesis Reconnecting to the Tao and Full Reality


"In the context of human evolution, the term "missing link" has historically been used to refer to a hypothetical intermediate stage or transitional form between earlier ape-like ancestors and modern humans. This hypothetical missing link would represent a crucial piece of evidence in understanding the evolutionary path that led from our common ancestors with other primates to the emergence of Homo sapiens." Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization eBook : Slingerland, Edward: Kindle Store
Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization - Kindle edition by Slingerland, Edward. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization.

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