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The Drunken Monkey

The Drunken Monkey: Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol

Robert Dudley
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 178
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  • Book Info
    The Drunken Monkey
    Book Description:

    Alcoholism, as opposed to the safe consumption of alcohol, remains a major public health issue. In this accessible book, Robert Dudley presents an intriguing evolutionary interpretation to explain the persistence of alcohol-related problems. Providing a deep-time, interdisciplinary perspective on today's patterns of alcohol consumption and abuse, Dudley traces the link between the fruit-eating behavior of arboreal primates and the evolution of the sensory skills required to identify ripe and fermented fruits that contain sugar and low levels of alcohol. In addition to introducing this new theory of the relationship of humans to alcohol, the book discusses the supporting research, implications of the hypothesis, and the medical and social impacts of alcoholism.The Drunken Monkeyis designed for interested readers, scholars, and students in comparative and evolutionary biology, biological anthropology, medicine, and public health.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95817-3
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    If you walk into any large bookstore and browse in the self-help/recovery section, you will find a number of books about alcoholism. Similarly, a keyword search of books on Amazon will yield in excess of 10,000 items published about the disease. Some are memoirs, others are more clinically oriented, but they will have one major thing in common. All of these books are primarily concerned with the symptoms and management of the disease, rather than with the basic causes of alcoholism. Psychological, sociological, and occasionally physiological underpinnings do receive some attention in these books, but the basic motivation to drink...

    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Many of us like to drink alcohol, and some of us drink to excess. Why do many people enjoy at most one or two drinks per day, whereas others routinely get plastered? What motivates some college students to drink to the point of passing out or even death? And why do people regularly drink and drive? We have all witnessed examples of both alcohol use and abuse, and perhaps we have wondered why close relatives and friends, when drunk, can behave in aberrant and destructive ways. Alternatively, creative acts of expression and genuine inspiration can result from a glass of...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Fruits of Fermentation
    (pp. 11-33)

    Rental car companies no doubt have to deal with many kinds of customers and problems, but it was nonetheless surprising, having rented a car at the Kuala Lumpur airport, to read the following notice in our vehicle: “Tariff will be doubled if pungent odor of durian pervades the vehicle.” The large and infamous durian fruit of Southeast Asia exudes a powerful smell reminiscent to some of rotting garbage, and to others of sherry trifle. Like so many tropical fruits, the flavor of the pulp is rich and sensuous, albeit with hints of fermentation if not actual decay. It’s clearly attractive...

  8. CHAPTER THREE On the Inebriation of Elephants
    (pp. 34-50)

    We are all familiar with the human drunk, and with the full range of her or his behaviors. These can range from the merely entertaining to embarrassing, damaging, and even death eliciting. But are there comparable outcomes in the animal kingdom? An Associated Press story published online in 2002, for example, relates elephants marching through villages in Assam in search of illicit stills, which they broke open in order to quaff home brew. They then ran amok in a drunken rampage, even killing villagers. Similarly, numerous accounts of inebriated mammals and birds relate the consumption of either fermenting foodstuffs (such...

    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER FOUR Aping About in the Forest
    (pp. 51-68)

    Eating, much like breathing and going to the bathroom, comes naturally and often without too much thought. In the industrialized world, we tend to specialize on a core subset of preferred food items, relative to a much broader range of available cuisine. Much of what we eat involves fermented and microbially charged products such as bread, cheese, yogurt, cured meats, and even the coffee beans that we grind up for a daily cup of joe. These and other food preferences derive primarily from what we grew up with and learned to eat as children and adolescents. As the proud father...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE A First-Rate Molecule
    (pp. 69-87)

    Alcohol is a popular molecule in many human societies. We drink either alone or together in a wide range of circumstances: at home, in restaurants and bars, at parties, and sometimes in religious ceremonies. The amounts of booze used for all of these purposes are huge. The alcoholic beverage industry in the United States produces billions of liters of beer, wine, and spirits annually. (Ethanol production for varied industrial processes and for transportation fuel is even greater.) Equally of interest are the remarkable patterns of cultural variability in behavioral and social responses to alcohol as recorded by anthropologists over the...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Alcoholics Aren’t Anonymous
    (pp. 88-114)

    Alcoholism is a widespread, long-term, and highly damaging disease. Millions of people worldwide suffer directly from its consequences, and the indirect effects on friends, family and, in many cases, unrelated individuals are equally tragic. Although many people drink regularly with no adverse consequences, a substantial fraction will experience negative effects with varying levels of impact to themselves and others. These drinkers, and indeed many of those classified clinically as alcoholics, are often well-known socially as heavy consumers of alcohol. Others drink secretly, although family members and close friends are often aware of the problem. As a consequence, most alcoholics are...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Winos in the Mist
    (pp. 115-136)

    The drunken monkey hypothesis proposes that our contemporary responses to alcohol, both positive and negative, are in part inherited from our primate ancestors. In science, as distinct from many other philosophical and cultural enterprises, the ultimate test for any given claim about reality is falsifiability. Data can be systematically collected in the real world to test the likelihood that any hypothesis posed a priori is, in fact, wrong. In this chapter, I discuss future research directions that can test some of the key ideas and predictions presented throughout this book. In the wild, what are typical fruit-alcohol concentrations? To what...

  14. Postscript
    (pp. 137-140)

    Drink in hand on Barro Colorado Island (and in emulation of the bonobo portrayed in plate 12), I contemplate our conflicted relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, drinking can positively enhance many aspects of our social and personal lives. Alcohol can also result in substantial health benefits when consumed in moderation. On the other hand, excessive drinking ruins lives over the long run, including those of the alcoholic and her or his family members, along with the innumerable victims of drunk driving and other senseless acts committed while under the influence. In his comical yet insightful statement, Henny Youngman...

    (pp. 141-148)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 149-154)