How Beer Facilitated the Development of Civilization

One of the most popular alcoholic drinks the world over, beer remains a timed-tested beverage of choice for those who desire to kick-back and relax.

This fact was well known to the ancients who managed to turn fermented fruit and grains into alcohol sparking a revolution that facilitated the development and maturity of human civilization.

But what made beer such a vital aspect in the development of modern civilization?

How did a product of fermented fruits and grains become one of the great lubricants of civilization?

The answer lie in human nature.

Human beings are by nature social creatures, however, our very social nature is balanced by social constraints that evolved with us to better help us survive.

The latter trait, however paradoxical to the fundamental social nature of human beings, proved vital in the development of key aspects of human civilization.

Social constraints gave structure and strength to the development of human social units while allowing members a social rank and motivating us as a species to do the jobs we needed to do to survive.

The downside of these social constraints, however, is that they undermine key drivers of the human experience including exploration, artistic expression, romance, inventiveness and experimentation all of which paved the way for human civilization.

Enter beer, a beverage that greatly facilitated human creativity by temporarily suppressing the rigid social codes that helped our ancestors to survive.

Beer allowed us to express ourselves as individuals temporarily freeing us from the very social constraints that kept our kind alive for thousands of years.

Beer has consequently become an important aspect of human societies.

Some researchers even go so far to argue that grain was first domesticated for making beer rather than food — an insight that puts the current understanding of the domestication of grain on its head.

This domestication of grain and the subsequent development of beer made human beings more expansive in their thinking as well as more collaboratively creative.

Some evidence even suggests that alcohol also facilitated constructive social deliberation.

In early medieval Germany and ancient Persia collective decisions of state were made after beer was consumed.

Beer was so important to some civilizations that it became a central unit of payment and penance as was the case with the Code of Urukagina, one of the first legal codes in the world.

In contrast to today’s beer, however, the beer of early antiquity would have had a much lower alcohol content.

The brewers of antiquity only began to bring up the concentration of alcohol in beer approximately 2,000 years ago.

However helpful beer was in the past in lubricating our creative tendencies, the positive aspects of beer today have come to be somewhat overshadowed by our modern era of anxiety.

Today many individuals err on the side of drinking too much in order to temporarily quell various forms of anxiety and panic attacks —essentially ramped up manifestations of the herd instincts that helped us to survive as a species.

Dark side in mind, beer has played a potent role in the development of civilization.

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Thomas O'Donoghue

Thomas O'Donoghue

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